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Undead Son

On the hillside you'll hear my roar. . .

9/20/16 03:36 pm - Athena Leonidas

Athena Card 2 copy
Athena is the daughter of General Leonidas, a respected war hero long retired to his country estates.  Now nineteen years old, Athena has grown up in the countryside, with only a few visits to the city, and mostly she is happy that way.  She loves the easy pace of country life and the friendly people, and she has all the free time she needs to pursue her passion for inventing.

A brilliant and unconventional engineer, she spends a great deal of her time immersed in her experiments with electrical and mechanical devices.  She began by trying to improve her father’s prosthetic arm, and has carried her works to a high degree of proficiency, even if she’s not always restrained by practicality.  People think she is strange for her focus on her hobby, but they tolerate it.

Tall and athletic, she loves to ride and hike when she is not buried in her workshop.  She can be abrupt and difficult to deal with, but she is savagely loyal to her friends and family, and she often demonstrates much more courage than good sense.  Her temper, when roused, can be spectacular.

Born in the aftermath of war and the end of the monarchy, she has been largely indifferent to politics, content with the world as it is so long as it leaves her alone.  But once her country falls under the power of the Tyrant, her unwillingness to be intimidated will lead her inexorably into danger.

The campaign is off to a sllllooowww start.  Come and help me make it a success!

9/16/16 12:53 am - Pitching

One of the hardest, most important things you need to learn to do as a writer of any kind is pitch, and nobody teaches you how to do it.

You would think it would be something taught, along with summarizing, but it isn't.  Classes will teach you how to write, how to clean common errors and infelicities out of your style, how to avoid split infinitives, passive voice, and needless words.  You can learn how to plot a hit novel, how to pace it, how to build in the right structure and develop your characters, how to increase tension in act two and build toward a satisfying climax.

But once you have written your novel, and have it in a form that you think is good enough, then you enter a strange new world.  Because every single person to whom you might show your work in hopes of publication will want two things: a pitch, and a summary.

A pitch is just that: something quick and fast you toss to someone.  Something like "Die Hard on a Train", or "Buffy the Vampire Slayer, only with Aliens".  Usually you have more than that, but a pitch needs to be short, to the point, and encapsulate everything you think is good about your book and why it is different and worthy of note.  Pitches have no set length, no real rules.  It often helps to think of them as the "back cover" blurb on your as-yet-unprinted book.  What would a publisher put on the book to encourage people to read it?

A summary is much harder, moreso because there are no hard and fast rules for it.  Almost every agent or editor will want a summary of some kind.  Some of them want a short, one-page rundown of the plot, some of them want something more involved.  When sending out a raft of packages to agents or publishers, you will prepare a baker's dozen different kinds of summaries to fit all the different criteria.  In theory, over time, you will get good at it.

I think I am getting okay at pitching, and I have found it helps to have a pitchable idea.  Some ideas and stories just pitch better than others.  They have easy archetypes and concepts that are variants on well-known tropes.  They pitch well.  You can say "Pirates of the Caribbean, only with time travel" and people know what you are about.  Some ideas are harder.  They ask for more involved concepts and setups.  Deep worldbuilding is hard to sum up in a quick pitch.  You have to elide and sketch.

Summarizing is something I very much struggle with.  I get caught up in recursive loops of "Oh, but there's this other thing. . . and I have to mention this character. . . and let me explain these complex magic systems and religions and. . . look just read the book, okay?"  I have a terrible, terrible time with it.  I get asked for a one-page summary and I produce three pages.  With footnotes.  I get asked for a paragraph and I come up with ten annotated pages.  It sucks and I suck at it.

And I wish it was something more people addressed.  Summarizing and pitching is a huge part of the process of getting published, and most guides to publishing treat it as kind of en passant - like when you look up a guide to a boss battle you can't get past and the only advice is "first you kill these guys" with a casual lack of awareness that this is a hard-assed thing.  After spending a lot of time building up your art, you are suddenly asked to whittle it down.

Anyway, I think my pitching is ok.  If you want to click over to my current novel campaign and check out the pitch, I could sure use the help.


9/12/16 05:37 pm - New Campaign!

Black Card 4 Smol

Athena Leonidas lives a simple life in the countryside, far from the crowds and decadence of the city of Achillea. The daughter of a retired general, she has the status and freedom to pursue her passion for inventions and devices, and she doesn’t care if people think she is strange.

But then comes a day when the sky goes dark. Black warships descend like the night, capturing the city in the name of the legendary Tyrant, and when Athena’s father returns to Achillea to help defend it, he vanishes.

Athena travels to the city for news of her father, only to find him imprisoned and sentenced to die with the leaders of the resistance. Seeking his release, she confronts the terrible Beast – the monstrous minion of the Tyrant who led the attack and now controls the kingdom. He offers her a bargain: if she will be his slave, her father will be spared. Desperate, she agrees.

Fitted with a strange collar to make her obedient, she is subjected to the animalistic lusts of the conqueror. Yet, save for the collar, she is not restrained, and while she debases herself at his command, she manages to slip away to save those targeted for arrest and death. She masks her face and names herself the Rose as she fights the occupation with sword, pistol, and all her formidable intellect.

But time is running out. The Tyrant himself will soon arrive to inspect his new conquest, and when that day comes the streets will run with blood. Athena must find a way to free her country from the yoke of tyranny. She must find a way to kill the Beast.

But Athena has discovered something she never expected: within the monster is the heart of a man. She alone sees the humanity hidden beneath horns and claws. What does she feel for him? What does he feel for her? What will happen when the Tyrant arrives, and all must be laid bare and fought for—won or lost?

New campaign is LIVE!  I am not too pleased about having to launch a few weeks before I normally would, but I don't want to be still campaigning through the end of October in the frenzy before election day.  Noooo, I think not.  So here we go!


9/4/16 10:10 pm - Coming soon...

Black Card 4 Smol

8/20/16 12:27 pm - Goodbye To All That

Well, on Wednesday I went down to the courthouse and closed the book on a big chapter in my life.  Naamah and I have known we were getting a divorce for several years now.  It was just a bit of a process to get it all done.  Plus there didn't seem to be any cause to rush through it.  First I had to find a new place and move out, which you may recall occupied the first part of my year.  On the 7th of March I relocated to my new place, and after that it was only a matter of time.

We had one of the easiest divorces to go through.  If you have kids it is a major undertaking, but without children and with nothing that we needed the judge to divide up, it was pretty painless.  We filed, waited, I filed my "waiver" to indicate I did not need to be Served, and then it was just a matter of taking the last forms down and seeing the judge.

I haven't spent a lot of time in courtrooms, so it was stressful for me.  It's not pleasant to sit in front of a person with so much power over your life.  The judge was nice, looked things over, and signed.  I took the form down to the clerk and filed it, and 21 years of marriage was done.

I spent a little while afterward feeling like I was going to puke or cry, and ended up doing neither.  I was prepared for this.  I knew it was coming and I know it is for the best.  But that final moment still stings.  Narratively an easy divorce is unsatisfying.  Naamah and I spent years seeing one another when our relationship was not really approved by anyone, we married young and struggled.  The wedding was an event.  To end all that without some kind of drama seems improper, but it was as drama free as this kind of thing gets.

So that's the end of that.  More than two decades of memories.  Good ones and bad.  The most serious, significant relationship in my life.  Now I am 44 and I have to see where life takes me.

7/6/16 03:31 pm - Soooo

I had to extend the campaign by a few days (hopefully enough) as it was just not going to make it today.  I hate doing that, as it feels dishonest.  (Last minute - psyche!) but what can you do?  I hope 4 extra days will make it work.

Rough weekend.  I spent all of Friday driving my dad around, getting him a new car.  Now I can worry he is going to have another accident.  I was out of the house for 13 hours and driving for 5 of them - it took me all weekend to recover and I am not really sure I have entirely recovered now.

Saturday was my (our?) 21st anniversary, and looks to be our last.  Naamah found one of those cheapie divorce places and got the ball rolling.  We're not contesting anything so it should go easy.  But it is still a downer.  Not where I thought I would be at this age.

And Hathor died.  She was my favorite of the 3 snakes I had left.  At one time, over a decade ago, I had almost 40 snakes.  Now it is just 2.  She was old, for a snake, though not fantastically so.  She was beautiful, and I loved her, and it hurts that she's gone.  Spent Monday night digging a grave in the backyard to the sound of firecrackers.

Life changes.  It doesn't warn you, it just goes.

7/5/16 03:27 pm - It's the Final Countdown ba na naa naaaa!

Title Card 4

Last day of the campaign, with just $600 more to go!  Help me make it!


6/28/16 12:03 pm - Karkemish

K Card

The southlands of Umar have long been a dangerous place. Wild, uncharted deserts, isolated villages in wadis and oases, and the ruins of long-dead glories cover the landscape. Once this was a fertile land fed by rivers, home of a grand dynasty, but that was long ago. Now it is a harsh place inhabited by outlaws and wanderers, home to tribal peoples who herd goats and sheep. Fierce nomads who defend their independence with sword and spear.

Time and again, leaders have arisen in this desolate place. A warrior who gathers tribes to his standard, who begins to form a nation of horsemen to threaten the settled, sedentary north. These men rise and fall, and now is the rising of Karkemish. A mysterious figure, without family or past. He seems to have sprung whole from the empty lands. They say he is a sorcerer, with dark powers and darker knowledge. The chieftains fear him, and follow his word. The warriors all but worship him, and pledge their swords to his purpose.

He is said to be of ancient noble line, born of the old kings, a man from another age, risen from the dust of fallen dynasties, come to reclaim the kingdoms with fire and sword. Stories tell of his power, and that he will lead his people out of the waste and into a new age of conquest and glory. An age of dreams.

Campaign still needs your help!

6/28/16 12:22 am - Still Going

Had a fruitful weekend, and the campaign for The Dragon Throne is at 51%, which is a big improvement.  But with just 9 days left it is still cutting it close.  Got to pay my mortgage next week, and then things are going to start to get tight around here.  If you can help out, please do.

Taking my dad in to get his second cast off this Friday - hopefully.  He is going stir crazy stuck at home so much, and he is desperate to get a new car and be self-sufficient again.  I like seeing more of him, but all the driving just wears me out.  Would be nice not to have to do it all the time.  Get a break.

6/23/16 06:16 pm - Horizons

Horizons Card

Azera left the war council in anger.  She was sure they noticed her exit, but all the same she was just as sure it did not trouble anyone - her father least of all.  He brought her on this expedition, and then he did not listen, no matter what she said.  She found she actually trembling she was so furious.

The halls of the fortress were empty save for the guards who stood rigid when she passed them.  The floors were of ancient stone, and they had been swept but not very thoroughly.  Kerak was a border stronghold, and not often occupied by an army.  It had a threadbare feel that was not reassuring.

She could not stand to have her slippers on any longer, and she kicked them off and left them behind.  She half saw her maids scurry to gather them up and restrained herself from shouting at them.  They were not the targets for her frustration.  Barefoot, she felt the sand gritting under her feet and it pleased her, made her feel closer to the barren soil outside.  This place felt closer to the real world than her polished chambers far away in the palace.  It was invigorating and alarming at the same time.

There was no more hallway, and so she opened the narrow door and found herself in a tight stairway winding upwards.  She climbed, took three turns and came to another door.  Her robe dragged and caught at the stone and she gathered it up, pushed through the door and out into the sun.

She flinched, quickly drew her veil down over her face.  The sun was setting and the light was both faded and more intense, colors bleeding through.  She squinted, and she almost turned back, but then she heard the heavy exhalation of a dragon.  A voice said “akan soke” and a shadow fell over her.

Azera blinked and looked up, saw the scaled bulk of the beast crouching on the battlements, one wing extended to drape over the wall and shade her from the sun.  The dragon was a deep russet – almost red – with jagged black stripes like lightning bolts down its back.  It lifted its head from the warm stone and looked at her sleepily, the black membrane sliding away from the dark eye.

The rider stepped from the shadow of the wing, his face as dark as basalt under his helm.  “The sun is fiercest at sunset, Highness.  You should keep your skin hidden from it.”

She almost reprimanded him for presuming to instruct her, but she stopped herself.  “I thank you for the shade, dragon master.”

He looked out from the walls.  They were on the upper wall of the inner keep, and below them the outer wall looked very small indeed, like a toy fortification.  Beyond it the desert glowed red and black, the shadows sharp as blades.  Close by the ground was rocky, the formations shaped by the stone quarried from them to build the fortress.  Beyond they became all undulating forms, the immortal sands that seemed to go on forever.

“I was born in lands like this,” he said.  “But I do not like them very much.  It is not a place for men.”

“What is your name, dragon rider?” she said, curious.  It was unusual for the men to speak to her so easily.

“I am Shabako,” he said.  “Highness.”  He smiled, his teeth very white in his black face.  “Forgive me, I do not speak to lords, so the courtesies do not come easily to me.”

Azera stepped closer to the battlement and leaned on the stone, feeling the heat radiating from it, the long breath of the desert afternoon.  “It does not seem like a place for men, or for anyone.  I wonder that anyone could live here.”

“Yet they do, the nomads and their allies,” he said.  “We will see them soon.”

She sighed.  “My father says we will wait here for them to attack.”  She was almost talking to herself.

“Yes, Master Arik said that as well,” he said.  “He said they do not know how to siege a fortress - they are horsemen, so they will be useless when they attack us here, and the dragons will burn them away and scatter their mounts.”  He stroked the heavy scales on his beast’s foreleg, ran his hand over one long claw.

She looked at him, wishing she could take off her veil.  “And what do you think of that?” she said.

He shrugged.  “Me?  I am not experienced in these matters.  I have never been to war, have you?”

“No,” Azera said, annoyed by the fact.  “But I have studied all our past wars.  I have read everything I can read.”

“So what do you think?” he said.  She almost did not notice he had not answered her question.

“I do not like being bottled up in here,” she said.  “We have too many men forced into too small a space.  If they lay a siege, we don’t have enough food or water for very long.”  She sighed.  “But he is probably right.  With the dragons overhead, they will not stand a siege.  They will attack the walls and be repulsed, the dragons will scorch them, and when they break and flee we will chase them down.”  She rubbed her hand on the stone and brought it up, feeling the grit between her fingers.

She looked at him as he took off his helmet and put it down on the stone parapet.  He was younger than she had thought, sweaty from the afternoon heat.  He took a cloth and wiped at his brow.  She found him agreeable.  He did not seem to hang on her every word, or secretly wish to get away from her.  “What do you think about it?” she said.

He shrugged again.  “No one asks me, Highness,” he said.  “But I hear stories of this war-lord that leads them.  Karkemish, they name him.  They say he is a sorcerer, and even if I do not believe that, his followers will.  They will go where he leads.  I have heard the stories of the attacks he made on Naqua, and on Edon.  Walls did not stop him there.”  He paused to take a drink from his waterskin, and then he offered it to her.

Startled, she took it from him, noticing how he looked at her pale hand, but not too long.  She considered the ill propriety of this for a moment, then she decided she was thirsty and lifted her veil enough to take a few swallows.  The water was warm and tasted of leather, and it had a heady smell.  She gave the skin back.  “You think he has some plan,” she said.

Shabako slung his waterskin over his shoulder and picked up his helmet.  He tucked it under his arm and looked out across the desert.  “I think if it were a wild tribe come to raid, this would work.  But this one?  This one has plans.”  He shook his head.  “I think he would not come here, unless he was ready.”

Azera nodded, squinting as the sun burned down over the horizon.  There was a darkness there, like a storm just at the edge of the sky.  “Then you and I are thinking alike.”

Hope you like this little sample scene.  The book still needs to be funded!  So click here and help!
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