The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 65

“We are what is left of a group of adventurers who went on a mission given by the Gods themselves.”  She quickly sketched out the bare bones of their travels and misadventures, trying to gloss over as many of the finer points as she could.  Rrayu sat quietly and listened, her eyes getting wider as the tale progressed.

“After killing that thrice cursed squid Connor managed to hold the ship together until we could debark and then we made our way here.”  She finished.  “We’re looking for survivors to see if we can gather assistance to somehow turn the tide against the Taken or reverse the magic that is causing the plague to happen.”

“You’re fighting for the Gods.”  Rrayu said, a bit of awe in her voice.  “I thought them all but gone.  Betimes prayers would be answered in the past but with all that’s happened and them letting it happen I’d all but lost hope.”

“It’s not like they’ve been much help to us either.”  Vilhylm said wryly, “Almost more of a hindrance in most ways.”

“You said your swordmaster is Luftin?”  Rrayu asked, looking at Callindra with such an unabashed look of wonder that she began to feel uncomfortable.  “You’ve met him?  And Jorda?”

“Well, I didn’t know who he was.”  Callindra said, “I was pretty awful to him at first and he didn’t seem much like a god.  Jorda was a much different story; she was much more like what one would think of as a goddess.”

“Not everyone looks upon the gods with reverence.”  Vilhylm said with a frown, “We must ask you to keep this bit to yourself.”

“What are you hoping to find here?”  Rrayu asked, looking between them.  “This city is lost, most of the people here are dead, why would you come to a place like this?”

Again they all looked at Callindra and she said for the first time something she had been mulling over ever since she saw Luftin devoured by Cerioth.  She took a deep breath and forced her left hand to relax on Shadowsliver’s hilt.

“An ally told us there was some power center for the Abyss here, I want to find that gods bedamned dragon and get some answers.”  She said, “It ate my Master, it destroyed this city, it has been present at many of the worst moments in this war.  If anything knows what Morde’s plans are it does, and I have heard it comes and patrols Starvale.”

The room fell silent as they all stared at her.  Even her companions seemed stunned by her words.  “We should also look at those spheres.”  She said, pretending not to have noticed their reaction.  “Anyone powerful enough to have created those is likely powerful enough to fight well against the Taken.”

Connor nodded slowly, “I also want to look at those things.”  He said, “Perhaps we can find more information about how they resist the power of the Taken and of that dragon.  Could be that there’s a way for us to harness that protection for ourselves.”

“You’re off yer nut.”  Reed said, “You wanna fight that bedamned dragon?  What do you think we can do that a whole city of mages couldn’t?”

“We can talk more once we’ve had time to think about it.”  Callindra said, refusing to give ground.  “For now I think we need to go be seen if we’re to keep in Ellen Eth’s good graces.”

“You can’t be seriously thinking about fighting that dragon.”  Kain said, “You won’t have a dam to collapse on this dragon will you?  I don’t know if we’ll get that lucky again.”

Rrayu’s mouth dropped open in shock.  “You’ve already killed a dragon?”

“I might have left that part out of the tale.”  Callindra said with a shrug.  She hadn’t wanted to mention Terevelen, since most people wouldn’t understand making an alliance with a necromancer.  “Perhaps that’s a story for another time.  Right now I believe we need to be seen downstairs.”

“I say we give ‘em a show.”  Reed said with a grin, “Enter with style, buy ‘em all a drink and talk a good game.  All we gotta do is get Ellen Eth’s attention, sounds like being flashy is the way to go.”

“Only if you all promise to only tell tall tales about yourselves and leave me out of it.”  Callindra said, “I have enough to deal with trying to be this ‘Lady’ you’ve all talked me up to be.

“Wouldn’t dream of doing otherwise.”  Reed said, not fooling anyone who knew him with his innocent expression.

The Angel Murders Part I

“Whaddya got for me?” Inspector Purdue ducked under the crime scene tape, lighting a cigarette.  “I was just about to eat dinner, this shit had better be good.”

“Right up your alley Inspector.” The uniform holding the tape said, “Your wife will forgive you.”

She took a deep drag on her smoke and looked at the figure sprawled in the snow.  “The fuck she will. Terese hates it when I don’t eat her home cooking. I hate it too.”

The boy was laying with his hands covering his face, the school uniform marking him as a middle school student from Carson, a prestigious local academy.  Purdue flicked the cherry off her cigarette and tossed the butt into a trash can. She sighed and pulled her phone from her breast pocket.  

“You did right to call me in, Jackson.  This is obviously related.” She began taking pictures of the corpse, and more importantly the outline of wings that projected from the body.  They were drawn in blood, presumably the victim’s blood, although the boy didn’t appear to have any visible wounds.

“Ya think?”  Jackson said, quirking an eyebrow.   “The chief said to bring you in on any of these fucking wing things.  Any chance you’re gonna tell me what the fuck is going on?”

“Whenever I figure it out, you’ll be on my goddamn list.” She said, bending to look closely at the body.  “Has anyone touched the corpse?”

“No.  I mean orders have been clear from the top down.   When we see the wing murders we block it off, take photos, and keep our hands to ourselves.”  He said, shoving his hands into his pockets.

“As long as you’re sure.”  She said, taking a pair of gloves from her kit and pulling them on. “I don’t want to report something falsely.  We don’t want someone to go down for this who doesn’t deserve it.”

Reaching into the boy’s mouth with a pair of tweezers, she pulled an ancient-looking piece of parchment from under his tongue.  She unfolded it and scrutinized it for a moment before placing it in an evidence bag and sealing it.

“Jackson, get this to the lab.”  She said and waited until he had gone before taking an amulet from around her neck and placing it on the boy’s forehead.  For a few moments, the tiny golden rosebud sat perfectly still, and Purdue was just about to let out a breath of relief when the petals began to quiver and open.

“Shit.”  Purdue rocked back on her heels and took another cigarette from the pack with shaking fingers and watched the flower bloom.  A flutter of motion caught her eye, but when she glanced at it she didn’t see anything moving. “Is this the one?”

She crushed the cigarette out and flicked it at a trash can.  The shaking of her hands made her miss. Cursing, Purdue walked over and plucked the butt from the sidewalk.  A gasp made her spin around. The boy was sitting up with wide staring eyes.

“He. Is. Coming. For. You.”  The blood leaking from the twin holes just beneath each of his shoulder blades connected him to the shimmering outline of the bloody wings gently fanning around his body.  He collapsed sideways, the blood splattering down behind him.

“That’s not very helpful.”  She said, plucking the charm from his forehead,  “You’ve fucked over my crime scene too.”

“I sent that paper off for analysis.” Jackson paused, “What the hell happened?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”  Purdue lit another cigarette, “It doesn’t matter anyway.  Goddamnit, I’m dead anyhow.”

“What?”  He had his gun in his hand in a heartbeat,  “Did you find something on the body? Are you getting threats again?”

“Easy killer.”  She exhaled twin streams of smoke from her nostrils, “Some things you can’t stop with a bullet.  Nobody is gonna kill me today, I’m just embracing the inevitable.”

“So what happened here?”  He demanded, holstering his pistol.

“The demon possessing half my soul awakened this boy’s last breath.  It was supposed to allow him to tell me who killed him or at very least give me valuable information about how to put a stop to it.”  Purdue lit another cigarette from the butt of her current one, “All he told me was that his murderer is coming for me. Hardly the most helpful statement since we don’t know who the FUCK has been doing this.”

“Jesus.”  Jackson shook his head, “If you didn’t want to tell me you could have at least made something halfway believable up.”

“Yeah.”  She shrugged, “Let’s go get some coffee and a doughnut.”

‘Chocolate with bacon sprinkles.’ Nebecenezer demanded.

On Writing: Editing

On writing: Editing.

I don’t have a professional editor.  I’m sure this comes as not even kind of a shock to anyone who has read my writing… but honestly after reading books that I’m SURE must have had a professional editor, I’m not completely convinced it’s necessary.

That’s not to say my writing wouldn’t benefit from one.  I just can’t afford it.  I had an aspiring author who hasn’t even published a single book yet condescend, “I just read the sample of your book that you have available on Smashwords.  My suggestion is to hire an editor right away and to work on basic grammar and punctuation.”  Apparently, he has not one, but TWO editors as well as a publicist, a web developer and probably a stylist.  I haven’t read his book though.  It’s not done yet.

I’ve read books published by major publishers with misspellings, bad grammar, awful sentence structure, and worse but still loved the book.  I’ve also read books with perfect grammar that were just awful train wrecks… so to what extent is having a perfectly edited book necessary?  I suppose it probably means more to English majors, literary agents, book nerds, and publishers than it does to your average reader.

I dunno, but every time I read one of my books I re-write at least some of it.  Every time I re-write something in one of my books it usually gets better.  I know that’s not really ‘editing’ like normal people do it but there it is.

I’ve used Grammarly for all my books now, so at least I can be marginally sure that they all meet minimum spec for “Remember to put a comma instead of a period at the end of a sentence that’s a character talking if the sentence isn’t finished,” which is IMO the monocle, top hat, white-glove, raise the pinky while drinking your tea version of who gives a shit editing.  I mean 50 Shades of Grey sold millions of copies.  Did you ever read the dialogue in that pile of rancid rat droppings?  How’d that pass muster?

I’d love to have a dedicated editor who I could pay to argue with me over story consistency, sentence structure, and that horrible accent I want the street urchin to have.  Sadly, at this point, I’m stuck to just hacking at it with a dull hatchet and hoping the rough-hewn timbers of my stories don’t give my readers too many splinters.  I just can’t afford it.

May your edits be swift, may your intuition be spot on, may the fees be small, and may the royalties flow freely.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 64

“One more thing,”  Rrayu said, opening a drawer and removing a small case.  “Sit please My Lady.”

Callindra sat, giving the box a dubious look.  Rrayu opened it and pulled a few small pots and brushes from it.  With careful strokes, she applied subtle shading to Callindra’s face, just a hint of charcoal to her lashes and gentle pigments to highlight her cheekbones.  Although the changes were only minor ones, the effect was striking.

“I don’t know if I like it.  I look so different, like a beautiful, fragile delicate thing.  She smiled ruefully, “I suppose that’s the point.”

“You look presentable.”  Rrayu said, “Barely presentable, but yes, you begin to understand that there’s power in being feminine.  Yes, the clothing and the face paint has changed the way others will see you, but you are like an unpolished gemstone.  You can be beautiful and command the attention of a room while dressed in rags, and I can show you these skills.”

Three polite knocks on the door heralded the arrival of Holt.  He was looking quite dapper in a forest green velvet trousers and jacket with a white doublet underneath.  His hair was braided into twin tails tied off with silk cords. With his beard trimmed neatly, clean and dressed he looked decades younger.  Vilhylm cleared his throat and Callindra realized she’d been just standing there. Holt’s eyes widened slightly in surprise and she realized he’d been staring too.  

“I look ridiculous.”  She said, feeling a slight blush threatening to rise up her cheeks.  “But at least I’m close to meeting the expectations your little performances gave the locals.”

“I think you look wonderful.” Holt said, “But I generally do.”

To her frustration, Rrayu touched her shoulders and her chin, forcing her to a more regal posture.  “A Lady does not stare at her feet when presenting herself. She must be confident and poised.”

“Rrayu says I need to make an appearance for dinner.”  She said, looking over Vilhylm’s typical black attire. It was obviously new but looked very similar to what he had been wearing before albeit clean and not ragged.  Reed was wearing grey tunic and trousers with gold embroidery and Kain looked surprisingly urbane in dark blue, even his Mohawk looking like it fit. “Keep it civil and by the gods and demons don’t do anything to inflate their expectations any more than you already have.”

Reed gave her an innocent look that she didn’t trust for a second.  “Before we go shouldn’t we try and ascertain how to present ourselves?”  He asked.

“Well, we shouldn’t be too obvious about why we’re really here.”  Vilhylm said, “I’m not certain if there are any other groups of survivors here or not, but something tells me if there are they won’t be looked upon with friendly eyes.”

“There are some rumors of other enclaves.”  Rrayu said softly, “I’ve even heard that there have been some attempts to penetrate the floating sanctuaries, but I’m not sure what the results of those were if they actually happened.”

“What methods did they use?”  Connor asked, his eyes sparkling with interest.

“I apologize, Mage Connor, I do not know what methods they employed or indeed if the attempt is more than a rumor.” Rrayu didn’t meet his eyes but kept nervously glancing around the room instead.  “If it’s not too intrusive, may I ask who you really are? I am likely to be associated with you simply because of proximity.”

Callindra crossed her arms and gave her maid a level look.  “I offered to send you away and you begged me not to. Now you’re worried about being associated with us.  Something doesn’t smell right about this.”

Reed moved on silent feet to stand behind Rrayu, also placing himself between her and the door.  Her other companions moved slightly, ready to draw a weapon or line up a spell. If Rrayu tried to run or was something more than she had pretended to be she would be dead in seconds.

“Being sent away would be worse than being your maid.”  She said, talking quickly. “I will not lie, it is my intention to pass at least some of the information I gather from you along to whoever tries to get it from me.  I won’t tell them anything you have specifically asked me not to, but if I tell them nothing they will be certain we are working together toward some nefarious end.

“Please understand, I do not wish to betray you but I must find a balance between keeping your secrets and keeping them satisfied.  This city is not kind to those who displease her.” Rrayu met her eyes, giving her a pleading look.

To her surprise, Callindra saw all her companions turn to look at her.  It was just hours ago that her instructions had been completely ignored, but now they were all waiting for her leadership.  She thought about what Rrayu had done for her thus far and how honest the other woman had been just now. Weighing everything in her mind, she made her decision.

On Writing: Rejection

On Writing: Rejection

As any author will tell you, rejection is probably the biggest part of being one of these crazed idiots who thinks that even one tiny iota of the filth we squeeze onto the page from the deepest darkest dregs of our creative subconscious is anything any sane person would enjoy reading.  I trust this first sentence sets the tone.  You will get rejected.  It will happen a lot.  In fact, literally the only response I have received from any literary agent, publisher or independent purveyor of literature in any way shape or form has been rejection.

Ok, quick redaction, I did have a letter to the editor published about 8 years ago, and my first book which was written chapter by chapter for a weekly horror blog was also technically accepted.  Well, if someone taking my work and putting it on their blog counts?  I mean … eh … I guess she didn’t say no?  Anyway, back to the doom and gloom.

Where was I?  Right.  Rejection.  It is my opinion that like job applications these days, there is some secret formula that each literary agent or publisher has that your submission query must meet.  It’s different for every one of them and probably doesn’t have any basis in judging the quality of the work but in some ability of the writer to market themselves.  For me, this is a problem.  I suck at marketing.  I suck at writing synopses of my books.  I apparently also don’t write good query letters.

So where do you go from there?  Well.  You pick your shit up and go again when you feel like it.  One of my issues is that most of my novels are series, so if the first one gets rejected, I have a lot fewer options since nobody will accept resubmissions.  Also, I write multiple genres and many literary agents are very genre-specific.  This is what often makes me think about starting another series.  This is dangerous.

(I’ll probably write another one of these about rejection later.  This one’s kind of all over the place.  Meh.  I’m throwing it out there anyway.)

There’s also one other option.  Self-publishing.  We’ve all done it.  Hell, we’re doing it right now.  Of course, that also links back to what I suck at.  Self-promotion.  But I’ll get to the whole self-publishing debacle next time.  Until then, keep your heads up, your glass full, your fingers on the keyboard and may your loose plot threads tie themselves into perfect twist endings.

Waking Fever Dreams at 12:45 in the Morning

Rambling thoughts of a feverish writer at 12:45 in the morning.  Created from real live notes written on a notepad illuminated by cellphone screen, for whatever that’s worth.

~

Wearing pajamas for the first time in thirty years, huddled under every blanket I could steal from the linen closet I absently wondered why I was shivering.  Even though my immune system was flooding my veins with magma in a Scorched Earth campaign against the viral intruders, I could not get warm.

Well, that’s not quite true.  I was warm.  The digital thermometer’s frantic beeping had notified me that my temperature was 103.1 five minutes ago.  I knew I needed to exhume myself from my mountain of wool, felt, and fuzzy acrylic to get more ibuprofen but every time I poked my nose out of my little cave the chill of the seventy-degree air on my skin made me shake uncontrollably.  So I retreated and tried to come up with a better plan.  Nothing useful came to mind.

I stayed curled up, waiting for the shaking to go away from my last fruitless attempt to venture forth and spent those moments cheering on the tiny soldiers who were attempting murder me by boiling my brain in order to eradicate the enemy.  Was my brain aware that it was trying to kill us?  I’m guessing not.  I appreciated the effort anyway.  At least someone was doing something.   I was pretty useless all things considered.  I couldn’t even get out of bed.

Inspiration struck.  I remembered that I had put a pair of socks at the foot of the bed.  Socks make me too warm all the time.  Maybe if I could find those socks with my toes I could get them to my hands and put them on.  Surely that’d allow me to make the twenty-foot super marathon to the medicine cabinet.  I sent my right foot, the one with the most prehensile toes questing about and to my amazement located them easily.  This must be a sign.

After armoring my feet against the chill of the hardwood floor, I finally slithered out of bed and washed down a pair of tablets with a mouthful of cold water.  By the time I managed to get my carcass back beneath the blankets I was shaking uncontrollably, but victory had been achieved.

Within a few minutes, I went from being chilled to the bone to frantically shedding layers.  The drugs had made my brain realize its possibly deadly mistake and instead of shivering it was time to sweat.  Finally, after removing my socks and all the coverings but the flannel sheet I prepared for sleep hoping my legions of faithful defenders would rest and be ready to offer a less violent and self-destructive resistance.

Before I could sleep I reached to the side table where my faithful notepad waited.  Notes from this great battle must be recorded.  For posterity, and so I could share my near delirium with you, my faithful readers.

(Author’s note, I did go to the doctor today and got antibiotics for my fucking bronchitis.)