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Preview: best minimum wage job a middle aged guy ever had

best minimum wage job a middle aged guy ever had

Updated: 2018-04-24T12:22:16.685-07:00


Writing too fast?


I usually impose a 2000 word limit on writing. If I do 1000 or 3000, that's fine, it all evens out. I just try to make sure that I do that almost every day. To me, that isn't an extraordinarily high number, especially if I devote the entire day to it.

I came on this number after a lot of hit and miss. Basically, I decided that it was a productive number and also rested the creative brain for the next day.

But every once in a while a book explodes out of the gate and I just grab on and ride it to wherever it wants to go. There is no sense not letting inspiration take over when it comes along.

So with this new story, "Fateplay," I wrote nearly 30,000 words in four days. I'm not sure that's the fastest I've ever written, but it's up there.

Thing is, to me it reads just as well as my slower written material--if not better. The excitement, the forward momentum shines through.

Two things help. It's a first person story and it's told sequentially. What usually fouls me up in a story is getting the plot timing all sideways and backward. Writing from a first person perspective usually keeps this from happening. Writing from first person is just easier somehow, you're inhabiting the main character and just letting things flow.

Of course, it needs some editing, but no more than usual I believe.

In other words, I don't think writing this fast is a bad thing unless I'm forcing it. I'm trying to be careful about not forcing it. I want it all to feel fresh and in the moment.

I had to work the store yesterday, so didn't write a word. I'm not upset by it. I had reached a natural break point. But if this book gets entirely written in 10 days or something like that I'm not going to freak out about it.

Then again, I may get blocked and I'm not going to freak out about that either.

The story is what the story is.

Once again, there are some basic plot problems that arise from the original premise that don't become apparent until I'm well into the book. It's rare that I don't have these kinds of second thoughts. But I'm not messing with it. To me, it reads really well. It's only when I intellectually pick it apart that I see the problems.

Four big problems I see:

1.) the main character wins the lottery--big bucks, which he invests into Larping conventions.

Winning the lottery is kind of lame as a story device, and yet--it's really what made it fun to write. The "what if" daydreaming side of it really propelled the first part of the story.

2.) The basic McGuffin is that the good guys and bad guys are fighting over control of---control over a corporation. Over stock shares, essentially. Which is super lame. But there are bigger stakes.

3.) the plotting is a little awkward, a little live scene I added to the front, then the "telling" of his winning the lottery and what he does. Then he meets his mentor, and all the stakes are revealed, and then he has a chapter where he remembers meeting each of the five biggest shareholders, one after the other. Intellectually, almost none of this works. But I think it reads really well. Maybe I'm just kidding myself.

4.) the story involves cosplay and larping, and while as a comic shop owner for so many years I have a bit of awareness of this world, it really isn't MY world. I've set the action 15 years in the future so that I have some leeway with my imagination, but I'm going to need to delve into this world when I'm done writing to add to the verisimilitude.

These are doubts I'm shoving to the side and pressing forward.

Why? Because I'm having so much fun. That has to mean something. 

Blowing through this book.


23,500 words in three days.

But yesterday I definitely hit a wall in the afternoon. Wracked my brains for another story thread but nothing came. Lay down and napped three or four times, wandered around asking myself questions, went to sleep last night puzzling over it, hoping to prime some dreams.

The story started off so fast and breezy that it's a little alarming for it to screech to a halt.

Part of it is that the further into a story, the more the needs of a plot dictate what you write. You can't just go off half-cocked and see where it leads as much.

But today I'm going to try to recapture the tone and not worry so much about the plot. The tone basically comes from the characters, so I just need them to lead the way. But I don't want to force it. It needs to be inspired. If I have to wait a couple of days, so be it.


Took and shower and Bamm! The ideas started flowing. There's a moment when something just "clicks," when you know you've got it.

It's a mystery.

So the next section of the book is pretty much figured out.

From the beginning premise, I more or less set up five Herculean tasks for the hero, but I've already blown through four out of the five and I'm only a third of the way through the book. I was going to pull a little trick and have the last task fragmented into another five tasks, and I'll probably still do that, but the next section is a bit of a detour. An interesting detour, hopefully, that brings in the larger theme of the novel so that it will have sufficient impact at the end.

But most importantly, I'm looking forward to writing it, that inner excitement to signals a fruitful writing session.

FATEPLAY, a new story.


Spent four days not writing, not sure what I wanted to write next.

On the fifth day I woke up with the first 3 paragraphs of a story. I sat down and eight hours later I got up having written 10,000 words. Yes, 10,000 words. Got up the next day and wrote 8000 words.

Crazy. I absolutely love it, and not only isn't the speed of writing not hurting the story, it seems to be helping it. 

Linda says, "This one seems to have a little extra umphh. I can follow and see it all. It has a life."

The tentative title is "FATEPLAY," and it involves a future world of Larping and Cosplay where just about everyone goes about their daily life dressed as a character and Larping conventions are a very big deal.

It is a total daydream. I'm sort of learning to do what I want, if that makes sense.

Thing is, while I'm a nerd, I never could quite get into role-playing. For one thing, it always seemed to me to be the same energy I use for writing and the first time I saw D & D, I was already a writer.

The Cosplay is a little too out-there for me. I'm a very buttoned down person, not terribly flamboyant. My usual desire is to fit in.

But because of owning a comic/pop-culture store for 35 years I'm somewhat conversant with all the little bits of nerdism that are at play.

Specificity of Larping is going to be a bit of a problem, but I'm setting it twenty years in the future so I'm giving myself the ability to flat out make it up.

For details, I'll be going on Youtube and researching it online.

But, right or wrong, I'm writing the story first--I'll add in the specific Larping sessions later.

It really comes down to character and tone, and this story has those in spades.

MOREGONE, complete.


All the chapters of Moregone have been posted on my blog. A little over 30,000 word novella.

This is how a first draft looks, more or less in real time. It's all mostly there, with typos and inconsistencies and all the rest. It was a joy to write, my fourth complete "Tale of the Thirteenth Principality."

As I've mentioned, I intend to write a bunch of these before I officially publish them, because I'm fleshing out the world and want to spread all that over all the stories.

This is my entree into fantasy since I couldn't face building a whole world in advance. This way I world-build and tell stories at the same time.

MOREGONE, a blog story, Epilogue (the end.)


Epilogue.) The time came for us to leave. I made my way to the great tree where the torn down shed once stood. It appeared to be nothing more than an ancient but healthy crabapple tree. The villagers had erected a small shrine at the base, but I ignored it. Seed to me was a friend, not a God.I touched the bark with the palm of my hand. “Farewell, Seed. For what is a person but the sum of their memories? You have returned myself to me. Thank you.”There was no answer nor did I expect one. The giant tree had not moved sense the day of the battle. Yet…I felt something move up my hand and down my arm and into my heart. A lightening of my burdens, just a little. *  *  *We found the two bags of gems, and since we had extra room on the pack mules, we loaded up what artichokes we could harvest from the neglected fields. To our great surprise, the crop proved to be almost as lucrative to the expedition as the precious stones. While we were gone, the shortage of artichokes had finally been noticed, and they were considered a precious commodity.Also remembered was the Eleventh Principality. No one looked confused when we mentioned Moregone, and no one seemed aware that they had ever forgotten.The path to the Tenth Principality was clear and straight, and followed the contours that I remembered. In the end, I was able to convince all the backers of the caravan to accept smaller percentages than originally agreed. That it was still a very profitable enterprise helped. The merchant, Jonder Maze, who had so loved artichokes that he’d financed half of the expedition, offered me great riches if I would bring back artichokes cuttings to be grown in the Fifth Principality. I respectfully declined, for I had learned my lesson.As the members of the caravan told their stories, they were disappointed to find that no one believed them. To most of the inhabitants of the principalities, Moregone had never been missing, therefore it never needed to be found. No one believes the story about Shatterspawn the dragon; everyone knows dragons are extinct. At the same time, all talk of an “outside” is—as has always been so--instantly dismissed and forgotten.Not forgotten were the memories the Beginning Tree granted me. I had always been known as The Eternal Wanderer. It was at this time that I gained another title: Keeper of Memories.Now everywhere I wander people ask me questions, and I answer when and where I think it is helpful and decline to speak where it isn’t. Most people accept this mystery, just as they accept the other mysteries of the Thirteen Principalities. Though I rebuilt my vacation home in Carsan. The Beginning Tree never seems to grow very large, and only occasionally bears fruit. But the orchards surrounding are thriving and the crabapples, which had once been an afterthought in the Thirteen Principalities, were now considered a delicacy. I wander the lands, the Keeper of Memories, and wonder when the Mirror God will once again emerge to wipe clean the memories of the people of this land. I intend to be here afterwards to remind them of what they’ve lost.The poppy fields are gone and forgotten, replaced by artichokes, as it should be.Every once in a while, a bright red flower pops up among the fields, plucked by the people of Moregone as weeds. They are a reminder to me, if no one else, that outside the Thirteen Principalities is a world outside that would overwhelm us if it could.It is up to the Keeper of Memories to keep that from happening. The End[...]

MOREGONE, a blog story, 24.)


24.) As I reached the open area between the orchard and the shed, I stopped running. My people were outside, lined up against the rough planks. The Outsiders were formed in a firing line of bowmen, and Martin was to one side, his hand raised. The villagers surrounded both groups, watching helplessly. They looked defeated, demoralized.When I appeared, I saw both alarm and relief in the eyes of my people. I walked confidently up to Martin and Carter.“I’m ready to tell you what you want to know,” I said.Martin shook his head. “Too easy, boss. Put a few arrows into his people and see what he says then.”“If you do that, I won’ttell you anything,” I said. For a few seconds I tricked myself into thinking I’d turned the blackmail upside down.Carter eyed me. Then he walked up to me and punched me in the stomach. I bent in half and retched. Exposed, he slammed his boot into my face. When the pain faded, I was on my back and the big man was looming over me.“Too bad you didn’t tell me what I wanted to know last night,” Carter said. “Now I’ve got to make an example of you.” He motioned for a couple of his men to lift me to my feet. “Put him against the wall. Move aside people.”I saw the will to fight in Marston and Tomber’s eyes. But since their hands were still tied, I shook my head firmly. I was slammed against the loose planks, managed to stay on my feet. Martin chose three of the bowmen to face me. Memories flooded my mind as they had when I was falling from the mountain, but instead of being confusing, each image was distinct and yet part of the whole, each following the other, fitting neatly into the story of my life. It should have taken hours, days, or weeks for so many memories to unfold and yet in that time, I saw Martin just beginning to raise his arm.I’m not sure why I wasn’t afraid except I saw how little my own life mattered.Not only my own memories were gifted. I was given a true history of this world from its beginning, for the Beginning Tree—or the Being that inhabited it—had been alive from the beginning of life. So I learned everything that had ever happened.My human mind couldn’t contain it all. But these memories existed outside of me and I could dip into them and see them any time I wanted.  Distantly, I heard a murmuring sound. It was coming from the villagers, who were turning away and looking outward. Martin hesitated, then put his palm out and slowly lowered his hand. “Form a line!” he shouted. He grabbed several of the bowmen and turned them around to face the new threat.The villagers parted. Seed had grown into a tree, tall and broad, branches thick and strong, dark blue green leaves with sharp edges. Roots sprouted from beneath the trunk, and the roots moved as if they were legs. If I had not known Seed perhaps I wouldn’t have seen the eyes far up the trunk, or the knot where his nose had been, or the slash in the wood that would be his mouth.  He walked slowly but gulped up the ground in great strides. Arrows flew toward the brown behemoth, most bouncing off, some managing to penetrate the bark. Seed didn’t seem hurt. He reached the first of the Outsiders, swept down with a leafy branch and the humans tumbled away, lacerated by the leaves, shouting until they landed and then lying quiet. Seed stopped and stared down at the Outsiders, many of who were dropping their bows and their swords and backing away.The villagers had watched with open mouths as Seed approached, nowturned on their imprisoners, who were quickly overwhelmed. Most of my people had freed themselves and were joining the fray.Carter had neglected to tie my hands, secure that he had me firmly in control. As one of the guards backed away from the carnage, I stripped him of his sword and ran at the big man, who turned in time to ward off my first blow.Martin was a few feet away, fighting a swirling red dervish. Lady Favor[...]

MOREGONE, a blog story, 23.)


23.) Hands tied, we were led to a large shed on the other side of the poppy fields, which hadn’t been visible from Carsan. It was crudely built and the slats were loosely fitted. The most work had been done on the roof, which looked sturdy. There were long benches down the middle of the open interior, where the extracted sap of the poppies was being refined.The sun was falling below the horizon, but it was still possible to see. As soon as I was pushed to the dirt floor, my back to the wall, Carter and Martin stood over me, discussing our fate. Those who’d sat at my table were separated from the rest of my crew, who where at the other end of the shed. Marston, Favory, and Tomber were tossed down beside me.  It was clear that our captors didn’t care if we overheard. It was probably meant to intimidate. As far as they were concerned I was a coward, who’d given up at the first sign of a fight.Maybe I was a coward, but there was no way we would have won that battle, and even if by some miracle we’d came out on top, many of us wouldn’t have survived.“What do we do with them?” Martin asked. “Put them to work, of course,” Carter said.“I don’t think these people are like the natives. Look at Evard—he looks like he wants to roast us over that spit.”“We’ll give them some of the product,” Carter said, shrugging. “That’ll tame them.”“We do that and they’ll be useless. Have you tried this stuff? It’s got half our own people addicted. I’m ready to send them back over the mountains.”“They work or they starve. What else are we going to do… kill them?”Martin didn’t answer. As the truth began to sink in, a third man burst into the shed. He nearly ran to where Martin and Carter were standing.“Look at this!” he shouted. His hands were trembling as he opened them. With the light slanting through the slates, I saw flashes of red and green. “There are two bags full of this stuff!”Carter knelt down beside me, grabbed me by the neck and wrenched. “Where did you get these?”“You can have them,” I said. “Just let us go.”“Oh, we’ll keep them all right. But there have to be more where these came from.”I didn’t answer. I wasn’t going to let them find Inhut, nor did I want them anywhere near the Thirteen Principalities. Moregone was a mystery to them, but these men hadn’t quite figured out yet just how far they were from their normal world.“We are going to find out,” Martin said, his voice calm and measured. “There are twenty-three of you. I don’t think it will take long before one of you gives it up. So why don’t you just save us the time.”It was Marston who answered. “Even if we tell you, you’ll never enter.”As soon as he said it, I knew he was right. The Goddess of the Gate was between them and the Thirteen Principalities and she would never let them pass. But that wouldn’t keep them from trying. “Let me think about it. Let me talk it over with my people.”“You’ll tell us now,” Martin said.“Let him think on it,” Carter said. “Too late to do anything today anyway. Giving you a chance, Evard. Don’t blow it.”They left us alone with the guards. No one said anything. Darkness descended and even the flickering light of the campfires faded. Despite the discomfort of the ropes around my wrists and ankles, I fell asleep.A sharp tug on my leg woke me. Something was crawling toward me. I almost cried out, but the shadow somehow looked familiar. “Seed?” I whispered.He opened his mouth in a smile, and his jagged teeth seemed to absorb all the available moonlight. He bent down over my hands and started chewing at the bindings. I realized my legs were already free. Seed made short work of the ropes.  “Come with me,” he whispered.I sat up, looked around for the guards. If they were in the shed, they were sleeping. Everything was quiet. Seed[...]

MOREGONE, a blog story, 22.)


22.) It is a tradition with the force of law in the Thirteen Principalities that one does not bring a weapon when invited to a meal. Nevertheless, I took aside Favory, Tomber, Marston, and Toug and told them to secrete a knife on their persons.Toug grinned and removed his meat cleaver from his pack mule. “I don’t go anywhere without my tool.”Tomber took his sword and sheath and shoved it down the leg of his pants. His legs were so long, he only had to limp a little. Farvory wore a long dress and gave me a wink. And Marston, well, he always wore his long knife no matter where he went. I wore a coat, with my knife tucked into my belt at the back.Viccare stood behind Favory, so quiet that you wouldn’t know he was there. From somewhere, he’d produced a blue cloak again. He apparently thought he was a Blue Pilgrim once more. I gave him a questioning look.“I have no need of the weapon. What I possess, I give freely.”I stared into Viccare’s weather beaten face, so different from the callow young man I’d first met. There was fervor in his eyes that made me uncomfortable. “They who are weak, shall also be strong,” he added.Favory rolled her eyes, but put her arm around him protectively. He didn’t shrug her off. Apparently, he’d forgiven her—or she’d forgiven him—I wasn’t sure which was the more likely.All my people owned weapons of course; knives, staffs, bows, and a few old battered swords handed down through the families. Since whatever bands of brigands we were likely to confront on a expedition were not any better armed, our caravan was left alone. I’d learned the hard way that any party of less than a dozen was vulnerable, under twenty-five might be attack by surprise, but over about thirty armed caravaners and most ill-doers thought better of attacking.But I saw no way to warn the rest of my people without the secret getting out, so they went to meal dressed in their finest, excited to be in civilization again, even if merely a rude village, and they went as guests, unarmed.I immediately had second thoughts upon reaching the village center. There were at least twenty of the foreigners, all of them men, and all of them rough looking. They were openingly carrying swords and bows. I caught Marston eyeing the bows, for they were like nothing he’d have ever seen—nothing he’d have ever dreamed of, made of materials he wouldn’t recognize, more powerful than any bow made of natural materials.But I’d still bet on Marston in an archery contest; especially if my life depended on that bet.I was angry with myself. We weren’t in the Thirteen Principalities, or rather, Moregone seemed to have forgotten—these strangers neither knew nor cared about our traditions.A large boar was roasting on a spit at the center of the square and crude tables were set up around it, some just planks of wood set at varying levels of support. Toug immediately broke off from the rest of us and approached the cooks pouring seasonings over the meat. He pulled out his cleaver and the two men backed away; Toug was a menacing sight at the best of times. Whatever Toug said to them seem to placate them.Carter was at the biggest table and motioned me and my immediate circle over. As we took our seats, I noticed that none of the Moregonians would look us newcomers in the eye. In fact, only a few were sitting down—most were moving about slowly, occupied in the tasks of preparing and serving the meals. A loud clatter, followed by an angry shout, came from one of the homes surrounding the square. A woman came flying out of the doorway, landing in the dirt and rolling. One of the Outsiders came out and stood over her yelling, his fist clenched. It was as if the entire village of Moregoneians tensed at that moment, most of them staring at the ground, picking up the pace of their chores.They’re slaves. None of the [...]

MOREGONE, a blog story, 21.)


21.) I took the lead this time, alongside Marston. When Favory saw what I was doing, she jostled her way to the front. I had a sense of urgency—not danger so much as time was passing and with it our chances of finding the truth.As I crossed the natural bridge, Tomber emerged from the waterfall, drenched, his long hair dripping. He looked surprised to see us.“How did you get here so fast?”“You’ve been gone for over a day,” I said. “But I…” he looked back into the cave, as if the answer lay there.“What did you find?” I asked, as he trailed off.“There is an exit on the other side. As soon as I saw a crabapple tree, I returned.” Again he looked back into veil of the waterfall as if confused. “I was only inside for a few minutes.”More memory tricks. But whether from whatever afflicted Moregone, or from the Mirror God, or the Goddess of the Gate was impossible to tell. No doubt they were all linked. I saw no choice be to go forward if Moregone was near.The cave behind the waterfall was wide and low, mostly natural though it was clear that tools had shaped parts of it. We had no lanterns, so within a short time, we were in the dark.“I don’t like this,” Marston muttered. “We’re likely to walk right into a crevasse.”I drew my sword and poked it ahead of me, hoping it would give me at least a small warning. But the path was smooth and straight, as if it had been designed for traveling blind, which was reassuring. I’m not sure how long we’d been walking, all of us silent. The huffing of the mules, the squeaking of leather harnesses, footsteps upon stone, that all we could hear. At least we’d be able to hear someone coming, or so I thought.A flash of light seemed to burst behind my eyeslids. It was as if a flashlight had been directed into my eyes.Flashlight…I knew what that was. I knew it was artificial, what would seem magic in the Thirteen Principalities but was coming from where I came. Another flash of light struck me, and I remembered my childhood home—a huge house, almost like a palace, with gables and balconies and wide windows. I’m young, looking outside, as a carriage approaches—and the carriage isn’t drawn by animals but propels itself.A loud boom sounded in my ears, the sound of a gunshot, of a backfire, of machine parts. I stopped dead in my tracks. It was clear no one else had heard it.“What’s wrong?” Marston asked.“Don’t you feel that?”“I feel a small breeze coming toward us, which is reassuring,” Marston said, sounding puzzled. I realized that my voice had been tight, alarmed. Favory said, “I feel homesick. Let’s turn around, Evard. Let Moregone remain lost…who cares?”“We cannot go back,” Viccare’s voice floated through the air like a ghost. “The Mirror God wills it.”Memories of two worlds assailed me, equally familiar, equally fresh. It was as if I stepped outside myself—no, as if there were two of me standing side by side. I was paralyzed by the contradictions, not sure which body to animate, but finally I took a step and my legs merged, another step and we were joined at the waist, another step and I was one again.The memories of both worlds were still there, but not all at once, not in full force. I could access them as I willed.As we continued on, I thought of both of my pasts—and one thing became clear to me. Despite the miracles and inventions of my first life, I far preferred my life in the Thirteen Principalities. Despite the quarrels between realms, nothing rose to the harshness of that first world, the wholesale slaughter of life; vegetable, animal, and most of all, human. Destruction on a grand scale, such that would horrify even the martial inhabitants of the First Principality, who felt it was their destiny to rule over us all. I understood suddenly why there was a Goddess o[...]

MOREGONE, a blog story, 20.)


20.) As soon as the entire caravan was safely past the scree slope of the cliff, I called a halt and gathered my leadership crew around me.“Where are we?” Marston asked. “Is this Moregone?”We were on a mountain meadow, surrounded by large trees, with very little underbrush. Below us were low foothills and beyond a narrow valley with a river meandering through it. I didn’t recognize anything.“I’m not sure,” I said. “I don’t think so.”“Then what is this place?” Tomber asked. “I don’t remember any of this being on the maps.”I grunted. “Maps near the Shield Mountains are useless. The terrain appears to shift every time I visit.”“How is that possible?” Favory said. “How can mountains and rivers change?”“When you lived as long as I have, everything changes, even the land itself. But I don’t know if that is what’s happening. Maybe its location hasn’t changed but our memory of where it is has.”“That would seem even more worrisome somehow,” Tomber muttered. “I would have said the same thing before we set out on this journey, but we are discovering is what is real and what is imagined; what is firm in our memories and what are illusions. It has probably always been this way, but we simply notice it this time because our objective.”To my surprise, Toug spoke up. I was always surprised how high pitched his voice was; but that didn’t affect the gravity of his words. “My memory doesn’t change just because the Mirror God wills it. I know what I know.”I turned to him, ready to explain how unreliable our recollections were, especially here at the edge of the forgotten land, but the look in his face was stubborn.He continued, “I have been here before. This is part of the Tenth Principality. That is the River Mortall. By the authority of Prince Selonos, no one is allowed to live here. It is to be kept pristine in perpetuity. In the summer his royal court comes here to camp.”I didn’t think Toug had that many words in him. I didn’t ask him how he knew—Toug’s services were in demand throughout the principalities. There wasn’t a prince who wouldn’t hire him; he could live where and how he wished, and often explored in pursuit of new dishes, new plants and animals. Such curiosity was why I was able to secure his services in the first place.“Which direction is Moregone?” Marston asked.“I never inquired,” Toug said. Marston waved the answer off irritably. “Then where is the Tenth Principality?”Toug pointed downriver. As one, we turned in the opposite direction. The top of a high plateau was barely visible on the horizon, with a thick mist covering the lower reaches. There were still several hours of daylight and I was anxious to be underway, but my crew was already sprawled about the meadow, prostrate from nervous exhaustion. Besides, we weren’t going anywhere until we found and buried our companions. Instead I gave the orders to set camp. I pulled Tomber aside. “Scout ahead. Follow the river.”He nodded. “I’ll be back by morning.”I camped at the base of a large tree. It was of a kind I’d never seen before, with needles a foot long and tiny cones. The bark had an almost bluish tinge. The branches started far up the trunk, and were thick and wide, giving a roundish appearance to the evergreen. Lying near the campfire to drive away the last of the mountain chill, I closed my eyes.It was dark when my eyes popped open, a small snap still echoing from out of my sleep. Two eyes stared down at me from the trunk of the tree. When Seed saw that I was awake, he scurried the rest of the way down and came to my side.“What is it?” I whispered.“Moregone is hidden from me,” he said, shivering. I took my extra coat out of my pack and draped it over his shoulders. He stood and tied the[...]

Transferring five books to Crossroad Press!


If anyone has considered reading my self-published books for free on Amazon Prime, now's your last chance.

I'm going to be moving Blood of the Succubus, Gargoyle Dreams, Freedy Filkins, Faerie Punk, and I Live Among You to Crossroad Press.

I've always felt these books were just as good as any of my publisher books, but my previous three publishers always seemed overwhelmed, so I put them out myself.

Crossroad is not only willing, but eager to publish them, which is pretty cool. I like all these books and I'm hoping more people will find them.

You can imagine how much I'd appreciate it. (image)

Anyway, if you've ever had the urge, here's where you can go.

MOREGONE, a blog story, 19.)


19.) The winds swirled around us. In the distance I saw a hawk approach, flying rapidly toward me as if it was about to smash into the cliff. At the last second, the raptor glided. It shot straight upward, levitating in the updraft. The same upward flow made the footing even less steady for those of us without wings.Ironically, the laden mules handled the task better than the humans. They plodded step by step, as if the cliffs did not exist. As I reached the curve in the mountain that would take me past a view of the tunnel above, I saw Toug emerge and I wondered if the big man would even fit on the path. But Toug stepped out without hesitation, looking sure-footed, guiding his five mules. I spied the square outline of Seed’s crate against the hornizon, then stepped around the last curve and out of sight.The sky cleared, but instead of reassuring, it made things worse. Now, instead of clouds swirling not far below, we could see all the way into the bottom of the valley. It seemed to grow colder, as well, despite the bright sun. The white snows reflected the light back into our faces, and dazzled our eyes, until everything took on a bright halo. I turned my face away from the sun, stared at the path, and my vision slowly cleared.I heard a yell from above, a shout of defiance, and heard rather than saw someone tumble down the cliffs, striking an outcropping with a loud thud, silencing that last utterance of disbelief. This time the caravan didn’t stop to reflect, but kept moving, as if to deny the danger.I estimated we were halfway down before I heard another scream. I glanced back, saw two figures this time descending into the clear cold air, their arms waving as if trying to fly. They became dots, still descending, disappearing.I couldn’t help myself—I calculated how much money I wouldn’t have to pay, and then despised myself for thinking it. I’d yet to complete a caravan without losing someone, and I’d hardened my heart to the thought, and yet when it happened, it always shook me. I retreated into math, into the logistics, as if people I knew hadn’t just died. I didn’t know who had fallen, their descent was too swift and chaotic to make out features, but I would know them, for I knew everyone I’d hired, and was friendly with most. The snow and ice on the path was starting to melt, but this only made the footing even more treacherous. Stay vigilant, I thought. Then I said it aloud: “Stay vigilant.” The woman behind me was named Jona, one of the first muleteers I’d hired. She muttered, “Stay vigilant,” her eyes on the path. Moments later, I saw her foot slip, her hands scrabble against the rocks. I reached out for her, but she was already past. She let go the reins of her mule, which froze in place and let out a strange sound. Jona didn’t scream, she dropped away and was gone.Had I distracted her? I wondered. As if in answer, Delane, the next muleteer in line said aloud, “Stay vigilant,” and then the next person repeated it, and the words kept being repeated down the line until I couldn’t hear them anymore. I took the reins of Jona’s mule and kept going.I believe that would have been the worst of it if we’d been left alone. “What’s that?” Delane said, behind me.I looked out, saw six large birds flying rapidly toward us. Then I realized they weren’t birds.There were six griffins in the drift, probably a family. Each adult the weight and bulk of two men. In the Fourth Principality, they actually rode the creatures, though the captive version, raised in safety and well fed, were larger. The griffin’s wings and head, when viewed from the front looked like an eagle, but as they drew closer, the body and tail of a lion became more apparent. Griffins didn’t usu[...]

Book sales momentum.


One of the first things I did when getting published was to research the sales momentum on books. What really jumped out was that most books have a peak selling period of between three and six months. Most often about four months, beginning to drop off on the fifth month.Ideally, then, you'd want a new book to come out every fifth or sixth month to keep the momentum going.One thing I'd learned by owning a comic shop was--if you have a good title and you are consistent about it coming out, the comic will do well. If you delay, the book will suffer, sometimes fatally.For "Led to the Slaughter," I was very aggressive in promoting--at least, aggressive for me. I pointblank asked people to buy it. That seemed to work. It was my first book, I was pretty proud of it, and people were supportive. It got excellent reviews.  There's a graph I can access through Amazon that shows the sales history on my books.If I go back to the beginning, when my first two Virginia Reed books were published, along with The Vampire Evolution Trilogy, the squiggly line is high and tight. Good sales, strong momentum.Right up to the moment when the third Virginia Reed book was due to be published. Unfortunately, my publisher procrastinated for months, almost a year.The graph line noticeably starts to fray. Becomes not quite so high, not quite so thick.Looking back on it , I should have self-published something at that moment, but the publisher kept reassuring me that the next book was coming out soon and I didn't want to step on it. Eventually, he did publish an ebook version, but never did get the paperback out.A year or so later, "Tuskers I" comes out from a different publisher, and again the graph is high and tight for about a year as "Tuskers II" comes out right on time. Again, I was somewhat aggressive, and people were supportive. Audio buys Tuskers and puts out a version. Then this second publisher announces they are going for national distribution and Tuskers III will be delayed for at least a year.This time, I do self-publish some of my finished work, but without a publisher, it's harder for me to promote. The graph frays again, starting to become loopy.So I turn to a third publisher for "Snaked." Again, I am ready to be more promotional than usual, because this publisher really seemed to have things on the ball. Then he too announces he's going for national distribution. The book takes quite a while to come out.The book is published... and nothing. Two months later the publisher decides he doesn't want to publish "creature" books anymore.And the graph frizzes out.Meanwhile, I keep writing. Meanwhile, I do believe my later books are as good or better, but I'm not willing to be aggressive on my self-published stuff.For instance, as an experiment, I merely announce that I've published "Faerie Punk." Sales are non-existent. Meanwhile I sold a ghostwritten book under the name of a best-selling author, which hasn't come out yet, and I'm not sure if it is ever coming out, but if it does, I'll be extremely interested in seeing how it sells. My hope was that this would turn into a regular gig, that I'd have a big publisher doing the promotional work. But it's like my first career with the bigger publishers, they take forever to answer if they bother to answer at all--what I used to call "sending my books into the void." I'm still in the thick of writing, still feel like I'm getting better, but I'm just over here doing my thing and not paying much attention to anything else.So I decided to just write.I'm still in that mode, pretty much.I have three new publishers, all of whom seem solid. The graph is starting to look better again since my books are coming out again on a regular basis, but pretty clearly I lost the momentum thr[...]

MOREGONE, a blog story, 18.)


18.) “You will have to leave your wagons behind,” Marsianne said. “We can’t do that,” I said, immediately thinking of Seed. “Then you will never reach Moregone.” From her tone of voice, I knew that she was right. I looked up at the steep mountains that surrounded us. It had always been a faint hope that we wouldn’t have to leave the wagons behind.We loaded what we could to the pack mules. As we lined up to leave, Marsianne led Tomber’s two pack mules over to us. “The Goddess wishes to pay for the wagons and supplies you leave behind.” I opened the top of a pack and saw glittering red, green, blue, and white stones. There had never been any real hope that this expedition would pay for itself--until now. I looked around at the Inhutians who were gathering to see us off. Many of them wore the cheap trinkets and beads Tomber had brought. I shook my head, not understanding. Any village that could mine such gems should be wealthy beyond measure. “We serve the Goddess,” Marsianne said, as if reading my mind. “We have no need of riches.Two mules had drawn the applecart and I needed but one to carry my personal supplies. I took the largest crate from the back of the cart and tied it to the extra mule, then led it over to the back of the train, where Toug was loading the four mules that had pulled the dinner wagon. “You may load this mule as well,” I said, “but leave room for the crate.”Toug never questioned orders. He didn’t so much as raise an eyebrow but simply nodded as much as his enormous neck would allow him to nod. I went to the middle of the newly configured caravan, which was my usual position. Tomber was in the lead, with Marston astride Splittooth beside him. To my surprise, our guide was Marsianne. The other Inhutians were ignoring us now, as if we weren’t even there.The mayor strode to the side of Tomber, and looked back at me, as if to ask if I was ready. I motioned my arm forward. As we started out, jostling, trying to find a rhythm where we didn’t stumble over each other, I looked back. The last mule in line was the one I’d given Toug, the crate riding high. I saw a flash of brown, the crate shivered, and then it was still. Everyone else was looking ahead and no one saw it, even Toug. To my surprise, we turned away from the mountains upon leaving the village. Marsianne led us downhill for a time, then turned north along a high ridge. The ridge ended at the side of a tall cliff. It looked like a dead end from where I was, but then Marsianne and Tomber disappeared from view, as walking into the rock face.Rows of gigantic boulders were at the base of the cliff and the path led around them. The trail wound its way between the boulders and the cliff side, until turning abruptly into a large crevice, which led steeply downhill. The light rapidly diminished as my eyes struggled to keep up. I bumped into the rear of the mule ahead of me, which hawed indignantly. The train started moving forward slowly, and as it turned a corner, I saw flickering light ahead, which grew brighter as I approached. It was only in the last few yards that I saw that there was a small cave entrance, about as tall as a man astride a mule, and just barely wide enough to accommodate its girth.  Marston was at the side of the entrance. Along the trail leaned a row of torches, which he was bending over and lighting one by one, handing them to every other member of the party and then ushering them into the darkness beyond.When I reached his side, he handed me the torch without comment. I knew that the man hated confined spaces and suspected he’d volunteered to hand out the torches as a way to avoid the inevitable until the last momen[...]

MOREGONE, a blog story, 17.)


17.) Something round and hard was shoved into my mouth. I awoke, almost choking on it. Seed hovered over me, his eyes wide in the moonlight.“Eat!” he hissed.I bit into the apple without thinking. The crabapple was green and tart, and my mouth puckered from the sour flavor. Along with the bitterness came memory. It was as if it exploded into my brain, everything I’d ever forgotten, the absolute truth of every moment. It was almost too much.“Eat it all, stem and seed,” my tormentor insisted. As I chewed, the vivid memories receded but didn’t disappear. I knew they’d be there if I called upon them. Instead, I remembered the last few days.I stood up, ready to do battle, but Seed pulled on my hand. He motioned for me to be quiet, and then proffered a sack to me. I opened it and saw round shapes and I knew what he wanted me to do.Seed had a second sack of crabapples in hand. At the doorway, he turned left and I turned right. In most of the houses, the residents looked up when I entered and shrank against the wall. In one or two they actually tried to stop me. With the delusions gone, I was easily strong enough to hold them back. Several of men and women I fed crabapples to spit them out, but I patiently handed them another apple and told them to chew them down, “stem and seed.”By the time dawn broke, we were armed and ready, ordered in lines down the center of the town. Most of the denizens didn’t come out, though a few scurried along the sides of the houses before ducking into different doorways. Finally, as I expected, Mayor Marsianne emerged and slowly approached. She seemed older and more crooked than the day before.“What will you do to us?” she asked.“The gems you offered Tomber…are they real?” I asked.“They are. Take them and go.”“I wish I could, Marsianne. But that is not why we are here. Do you remember what Tomber asked when he first arrived?“What Tomber wanted is impossible. No one is allowed to gate through the gate.”“The gate?”“The Gate of Memories,” the mayor said. “It is impossible, for upon leaving you forget why you wanted to leave and return. It is a gate to nowhere.”“What about Moregone?”She fell silent for a moment, looking around her as if there was an answer in the air. “Why do you insist on remembering? Moregone wants to be forgotten.”“Then how is it youremember?”“We do not follow the Mirror God. We answer only to the Goddess.” She suddenly straightened, the crook in her neck disappearing, and fell to her knees. She lowered her head to the ground.I looked behind me. At first all I could see was a glimmer of white light, from which shadows slowly emerged, the outline of a woman. For a brief moment I thought it was Lady Favory, but instead of red hair, this woman had pure white hair down to her waist. Her face was unlined, her figure an hourglass. She was clad something that shimmered blue, then white, then blue in the morning sun.The Goddess.I almost fell to my knees, but caught myself and merely bowed my head. “Greetings, Edward. It has been a long time.” Edward. That had been my name, which over the centuries had morphed into Evard.The tartness of crabapple rose on my tongue and with it a long lost memory. “Good morning, Melete.”I was too annoyed to use her title: Goddess of the Gate.”“I wondered if you would ever return, my love.” Her voice was husky, as I remembered it. I also remembered how she sang, the deep and melancholy sound of it. A wave of nostalgia washed over me, from when I was young, the first time I saw and heard this land, the intensity of innocence.“I told you I would come back someday, Melete.”“I am surpr[...]

MOREGONE, a blog story, 16.)


16.) It appeared to me that every citizen of Inhut was there, just a few more people than belonged to our caravan, perhaps numbering fifty. They were gathered in the enclosure at the center of the town. The houses were square and unadorned, built in a circle and side by side with a wall between each one. None of the buildings were taller or wider than the others.The people were small of stature, both men and women, and there were few children in sight. Perhaps they were hidden away. They wore clothing that were various shades of brown and gray, blending in with their surroundings, both natural and manmade. I saw neither grazing livestock, nor plots of gardens in the rocky soil, and I wondered how these benighted people survived the cold and windy highlands. Both the town and the surrounding landscape were bleak, devoid of vegetation or color.Tomber looked like a giant among them, half again as tall as most of the adults. His grin was infectious though, and I felt my heart lighten at the sight of him. He would know if there was danger, and to see him so relaxed was encouraging. He stepped out and shook my hand, then turned and motioned toward a small, delicate woman, who was wrinkled and bent. “Marsianne, this is Evard Just, the man I told you about.”She wrinkled her forehead looking up at me, as if I was an alien creature.“Evard, this is Marsianne, the mayor of Inhut.”I bowed to her and she appeared amused at the gesture. “Welcome to our home,” she said, her voice crackling like dry paper. “We have prepared a banquet as a celebration of friendship.”She turned and lifted her hand. Moments later, the inhabitants of Inhut were scurrying about, setting up tables and chairs in the courtyard. The food they brought out from the houses appeared to consist of mostly stews and soups.“Allow us to contribute to the festivity,” I said. I looked over at Toug, he nodded and quickly took command.In the end, we provided more than half the food for the “banquet,” which we were more than glad to do. The expedition was nearing its goal, and it wouldn’t hurt to lighten our load before we attempted the mountain passes.It was fortunate that Toug was able to scrape together a meal so quickly, because what the Inhutians offered was pretty thin gruel, though I had little doubt it was the best they could provide. Despite an obvious effort to restrain themselves these poor people couldn’t hide their craving for the provender we provided. This was obviously a poor and backward village, with citizens who were ignorant of the outside world. When I mentioned the Thirteen Principalities, only Marsianne seemed to know what I was referring to.The children came out of hiding for the meal. They looked malnourished, which explained the stunted stature of the adults. They stared at us with wide eyes, as if we were mythical creatures. They were especially interested in Lady Favory, who was a head taller than any woman of the village, and who seemed to glow in health and vitality. She also stood out because she had changed into a bright scarlet dress for the banquet. The young ones approached her shyly, and touched her raiment, and then ran away. One young boy said “Goddess” before he scurried off.Favory seemed to take all of this attention as her due. I saw her glancing over at Viccary a few times, as if to say, “See what you’re missing?”Above us, clouds swirled through the high peaks, and I could hear the winds beyond the walls, but within the circle, it was still and quiet, except for the murmur of talk. By design or accident, the two groups were blended, with alternating seating. My people appeared[...]

The ending comes.


Went on my walk yesterday with the vague intention of thinking about the ending to Moregone, but didn't really expect much.

Sure enough, about halfway through the walk, it started coming to me.

How does that happen? It's hard to reconstruct the thought process, because it is so vague and uncertain.

I know that it usually starts by posing the question: sometimes specific, sometimes general.

I knew in this case that the whole theme of the story was memory. I knew that the protagonist was moving from the known world into the forgotten realm by the way of a mist-filled cave. So I knew that something affecting his memory needed to happen.

But what?

I thought about coming back home to look up quotes about memory, Wiki entries, philosophy and science, to see if anything was sparked.

As often happens when I'm stumped, the answer was the exact opposite of what I was pondering; It isn't that the protagonist forgets something but that he remembers. 

There was then a quick leap to the ending, things I'd been setting up all along. Getting them to all mesh into a single story line that resolves all the different threads.

This is why I write, I think. The satisfying solution to a plot.

MOREGONE, a blog story, 15.)


15.) “It is the Mirror God’s will, Lady Favory.”She sat at a small fire away from the rest of us. Ironically, on the far side of the main fire, Viccare had also started his own campfire.  I used her title to soften her resistance to my words. “Unlike the Crucified God, the Mirror God seems to be paying attention.”“Viccare means nothing to me,” she said coldly. “He is already suffering. That is enough.” I didn’t believe her, but decided not to argue. That morning we’d sent Benene off with her laden pack mules. The blue cloak hung loosely about the little woman and she appeared dazed and vulnerable, but with the golden bell hanging around her neck I did not fear for her safety. I’d never heard of a female Blue Pilgrim, but apparently that was Man’s stricture not the Mirror God’s. We spent the day steadily climbing the foothills, which were tall enough to obscure the Shield Mountains beyond. The path became nearly invisible but Marston, riding his mule, Spittooth ahead of me, seemed to know where it led so I followed him.It was slow going with most of the wagons, but surprisingly—possibly because it was so light compared to the others—the applecart handled the slopes readily. I ordered the heavier laden wagons to discard any supplies not completely necessary. Halfway up one particularly steep hill, I heard someone climb into back of the cart. I looked behind me to see Viccare slumped against the wooden crates. He glared at me as if challenging me to object. I shrugged. As we reached the top of the hill, Viccare cried out. “What have you got in the crate?”I turned around as the boy reached for the largest of the crates, his fingers inadvertently slipping through the slates. He yelped, pulling back his hand. “It bit me!”“Leave it alone,” I said. Even from were I sat I could see the row of bite marks, welling blood.“What manner of creature are you carrying?” At that moment, the side of the crate fell open and Seed crawled out. He seemed to grow in size as he emerged, his long knobby legs and arms untangled, his black hair wild and tousled. I was surprised to see him. There were tall forests on both sides of the trail, but I suppose even Seed needed to rest once in a while.He reached out with long fingers and grabbed Viccare’s hand. The pilgrim was too surprised to react. Seed leaned down and licked the wound.“Hey, stop that!” Viccare shouted. Then he fell silent and stared down at his now unblemished hand. He leaned back and stared at Seed as if seeing him for the first time. “They who are cursed, shall also be blessed,” he said.Seed smiled broadly and said, “They who are foolish, shall also be wise.”The defrocked pilgrim looked as if he was trying to decide whether to be insulted or flattered.“Viccare, meet Seed. I’m not sure what he is or why he’s along, but there it is…” “The Mirror God has chosen,” Viccare said, finally. “It is not for me to judge.” He reached out tentatively to touch Seed, who dodged him and scrambled into the seat beside me, leaning against my leg, looking around excitedly. I felt an unfamiliar feeling come over me. It was as if the boy was my son. From that moment on, Seed stayed at my side, sometimes upright, sometimes scrambling on all fours. Once, when someone dropped a heavy sack with a loud thud, he seemed to vanish, moving so fast he was a blur, until looking down at me from a high branch of the nearest tree. When he saw that it was safe, he scrambled head first down the trunk, and resumed his presence by my side as if nothing had ha[...]

Oops, an ending.


The downside of writing to explore is that I don't really have an ending when I start. I'm trusting that the story will lead me to an ending.

Sometimes it does--but sometimes it doesn't.

This is the second Tale of the Thirteenth Principality that I've gotten more then 2/3rds of the way into the story and then got stumped.

With "The Wyvern Riders," I was distracted by the necessity to do something else, and I figured I'd just come back to it. My plan is to read the story from the beginning and see if an ending reveals itself.

With "Moregone," I'm going to take a couple of days to mull it over and hope a killer ending comes to me.

I could write an ending, there is no doubt. But I sort of want it to be inspired, so I'm willing to take the chance to wait for that to happen.

MOREGONE, a blog story, 14.)


14.) In the morning, my encounter with the Toad King seemed a dream. It was not until I asked Marston and he confirmed meeting Horense that I believed it. Myths and legends coming to life!Of course I knew there were legends about me as well—the Eternal Wanderer, I was called. But of course, other than my long life, there is nothing remarkable about me. I knew the myths to be but myths. But if reality is so hard to determine, how can memories be reliable? If every memory is part of a story then how are we to know the truth? Or does the story become the truth because that is all that is remembered?If Moregone is forgotten, will it have ever existed? Does it matter? These and other such imponderable thoughts filled my mind as the hours passed. It rained most of the next day, but we stayed dry beneath the broad branches of the pine tree, repairing our gear, gathering fodder, mending clothing, and resting. At dinner that night, Marston plopped down next to me and gave me a measuring look. “Have you deciphered all the riddles, discovered the ancient truths, and solved the eternal dilemmas?”“What’s that?” I realized that I’d been staring into the fire…for who knew how long? My own voice sounded sluggish, half asleep.“Finally, you respond to a question!”“Does it not bother you that the Mirror God can erase the past?”Marston shrugged. “They who forget, shall also remember.”“How convenient that the Mirror God asks that of us. It is the Oath that has always made the least sense to me. Why does he not want us to remember?”“As much as I respect you, Evard Just, I’m not sure that I believe that. But even if it is true, there is not much I can do about it.”“Oh, it’s true…” my voice trailed off.“You’ve been in a mood all day. The journey over the mountains will need all our wits.”“If it can be done at all. What if the legends are true—what if they can only be crossed on the back of a dragon?”“Then how did you get here, Evard?”That was just it. I didn’t remember a thing about the trip, only that I believed it had occurred. “What if I made it all up in my mind? What if it didn’t happen?”He snorted. “I for one have no doubt that you are a stranger to these lands...and getting stranger all the time.”I stared into the fire. What if, despite my long life, I have forgotten most of it?  Isn’t that just another way of dying? “There you go, drifting off again,” Marston brought me back, his voice was sharp, intrusive. “It would be good if you were back among the living when we leave tomorrow.”“I’ll be ready,” I said. But for a brief, bewildering moment I forgot why we were there and where we were going. “Don’t worry, I’ll be there.”*  *  *“NOooooooo!” A scream split the darkness. I was on my feet in an instant. I’d chosen to sleep by the fire, fully clothed, secure in the shelter of the tree. For a moment I couldn’t figure out where the scream was coming from; it seemed to echo around the tree until it doubled back on itself, seeming to stretch on forever. Then one of the tents shook and a naked man emerged, his hands toward the skies in supplication. After a long deep shuddering breath, the scream rose into the sky a second time. He looked like he’d been struck by lightning, blond hair darting skyward, blue eyes splintering like broken ice.I couldn’t figure out who the figure was at first, then realized that it was the Blue Pilgrim. His member was fully erect despite his terror. Moments after he[...]

Huge fantasy tomes / huge series of huge fantasy tomes.


I don't know if MOREGONE is good, bad, or indifferent, but I'm enjoying the hell out of writing it.

In 1966 when I was fourteen years old, I wanted to live in Middle Earth. This was long before the genre of fantasy was established, at a time when few people I knew had read LOTR's.

Finally, fifty years later, I've found a way to live, not in Middle Earth, but in a fantasy world of my own making.

It is extraordinarily fun and fulfilling.
I think I've finally found a way to indulge my love of fantasy. Unexpectedly, it's by writing novellas, instead of full novels, and most especially by not trying to write huge fantasy tomes that are part of a huge series of huge fantasy tomes.

I'm fleshing this world out little by little, stand alone stories that can be read in any order, each different in tone and approach. I so far have several 3rd person stories, (SAID THE JOKER, TO THE THIEF; THE WYVERN RIDERS; THE GRIFFEN CORP, MOTHER SALI) one 1st person story, (MOREGONE) and--the only time I've tried this--one 1st person, present tense (for THE TOAD KING.)

By the end of this month I'll have written 150,000 words in this world. A couple of more and I'll have the equivalent of one of those huge tomes.

Personally, I'm pretty much done with reading huge fantasy tomes, huge series of fantasy tomes. I've been burned too many times by the authors not delivering in a timely manner and from most of them being Tolkien retreads.

It doesn't matter in my approach to TALES OF THE THIRTEEN PRINCIPALITIES. I have so many stories inside me and I want to tell them in so many ways that writing 30,000 words stories makes much more sense for me.

When I've written enough of them, I'm going to try to construct an outline of the Thirteen Principalities, including maps, graphs, and so on. Which, I'm hoping, will allow me to write even more stories.

All these stories probably need some rewriting, but it will be with a light touch, because the whole point of them is for them to be fresh and immediate. 

MOREGONE, a blog story, 13.)


13.) Tomber’s sign was carved on the side of a giant pine tree that loomed over the Prince’s Road. I was puzzled, for there didn’t seem to be a turn-off. Behind the huge trunk were two parallel lines, the barest hint of a wagon road.Also behind the tree was a campsite, with a single occupant hunched over a fire, cooking a meager meal. He stood, unafraid. “My name is Horense. You are welcome to stay for the night. It will soon be raining hard. The trees boughs will give you shelter.”The caravan soon circled the tree. Miraculously there was room for all of us. When it started to pour down a deluge, few drops reached us. Toug cooked the last of the dragon meat and I invited the stranger to eat with us.After the meal, most of the party went directly to their tents or their wagons to sleep. The rain was a respite. During the meal I announced we would stay for a day to do repairs and to rest. Soon enough, Horense and I sat alone by the fire.He was a strange looking man, with most of his bulk in the top half of his body, two scrawny legs that seemed bow legged holding him up. The moment I saw him, I knew who he was.It is said that the Toad King meets you at the crossroads at those moments of your life when you are the most vulnerable. Despite his ugliness, he charms you, disarms you, and when the meeting is over, you find that you have been stripped of everything of value, except the tale—of how you met the Toad King. For meeting the Toad King, strangely enough, was considered good luck. It meant the road you were traveling on was the one you were supposed to be on. He was rotund and appeared to be missing a neck. His eyes were so wide it was as if they were on either side of his head. When he talked to you, he faced you squarely, and the two eyes angled inward as capturing you. I half expected a tongue to lash out and suck me in. I was sure who he was from the first moment I saw him, and I was also certain it was not a coincidence. “I would ask you not to take anything,” I said.He looked at me shocked, then he dropped the façade and shrugged by lifting the top half of his body. “So you do recognize me. You needn’t worry. I would not steal from someone who has fed me such a magnificent supper. Nor would I insult Evard the Just.”“Merely Evard Just—it is a name, not a title.”He tried to look at me sideways, then turned his entire body to accommodate. “You don’t remember, do you? We’ve met before.”“I suppose creatures of the Abyss don’t forget like the rest of us.”“Indeed…we ‘creatures of the Abyss,’ as you call us, forget very little. Then again, most of us have very little to remember.”“But not you,” I ventured.“I am cursed to remember everything.”I suddenly realized my opportunity. Never make deals with the Toad King, the saying goes. But I didn’t see any harm in asking.”“You remember when I first arrived in these lands?”He bobbed his head, or rather, his entire body. “Perhaps you could fill in some blanks in my past,” I said. “I appear to have forgotten a few things.”“Would you believe what I told you?” I hesitated. This was the Trickster God, who led men astray for the enjoyment of it.“I trust that I would know you were lying.”He weaved back and forth and I realized it was the same as a shake of the head. “Your life story is the story you tell yourself, Evard the Just. Nothing I can say will change that for the better.”“Evard,” I corrected. “…the J[...]

MOREGONE, a blog story, 12.)


12.) I sent Tomber off immediately with two pack mules loaded with trinkets to prepare the village of Inhut for our arrival. It was fortunate Tomber was gone because the next time I saw Viccare, he was sitting behind Favory on the red stallion, arms wrapped tightly around her middle, the golden bell hanging and tinkling from the saddle horn.The final reach of the Seventh Principality was a high desert, with low shrubs and grasses that extended for as far as the eye could see. As we left the last copse of timber, I called a halt.“But we still have half a day’s light,” Marston muttered. For some reason, he rarely rode his own mule these days but preferred to sit next to me on the applecart, so quietly that I sometimes forgot he was there. “Are you in a hurry?” I asked. “We could all use a rest.”He gave me a suspicious look. As a man who couldn’t help tell the truth, he seemed to sense when someone wasn’t being completely honest. Than again, I wasn’t being completely dishonest either, so he let it pass.The next morning, as I climbed up onto the buckboard of the applecart, I heard a scurrying sound in the back. Satisfied that Feed had managed to find a hiding place, I gave the signal to start.The desert was cold and dry, the winds unhindered. Gusts of sand and twigs blew into our faces. It was a miserable crossing, but eventually a dark green line appeared on the horizon. As we approached, we saw that there was a deep canyon between the desert and a thick forest beyond, crossed by a rickety bridge. I led the way across by example, not taking a breath until I reaching safe ground. As we entered the Eighth Principality I once again told my arms men to be alert, for this land gathered into its wilds most of the creatures that emerged from the Abyss; mountains nearly as tall as the Shield Mountains, with deep gorges and thick forests.At the very back of the caravan, Toug’s cook wagon often stopped and foraged for fodder. I’d assigned a squad of arms men to keep watch over him, though Toug always managed to catch up with the rest of us in time to cook meals.  The first I knew anything was wrong was when I heard a rapidly increasing scream behind me, saw one of my arms men sprint past; his scream receded as he kept running.“Draaaaaa…..gonnnnnnnn!” “Did he say dragon?” Marston asked.Since dragons had been extinct for several hundred years, that seemed improbable. But that is what I had heard too.“Probably a wyvern,” I said, though wyverns rarely attacked humans. They were shaped like dragons, but much smaller, with spade tails and without the ability to spew fire. There had still been dragons around when I first arrived in the Thirteen Principalities, though I never had a chance to see one before they were gone. I had eaten one once, though, at Prince Rorbar the Great’s Fiftieth Jubilee. The legend was that the old man had gone out alone to slay the last dragon of his realm. I was much younger then. I actually believed the story. “Mind if I borrow Spittooth?” I asked, motioning to Marston’s mule, which was tied to the back of the cart.“Be my guest.”I rode back as fast as the old mule would take me, which was slow enough to make me wonder if I wouldn’t have gotten there faster running. Then again, I still had my breath when I arrived on the scene.For a moment I believed that dragons still existed—and then I saw that it was more like a crumpled up picture of a dragon[...]

MOREGONE, a blog story, 11.)


11.) Every morning and every night, Toug cooked for thirty-three people. Most of the food was scavenged along the way or hunted by Marston. Toug had a genius for discovering edible plants and animals, seasoned by herbs and spices he plucked from the side of the road.As Sooma the slug munched happily on the remains of the pilgrim wagon, Toug marched to the rear of the creature with a cleaver and hacked off several feet of glistening meat. The creature barely seemed to notice. “I’m not eating that glop,” Marston commented. He ridden up to see what the delay was about. He sat next to me in the applecart as we waited for the slug to finish feeding.When every scrap of wood was slurped up, Sooma sloughed off the side of the road and disappeared into the woods. It took another couple hours to cut away the fallen trees blocking the road. We traveled only a few more miles that day before turning off at a river crossing. The slug meat served for dinner was as savory as a steak, a slightly fishy taste accented with dill. Marston looked at me from across the campfire and rolled his eyes, as if to admit that his earlier reluctance had been foolish. A long moon shadow fell over me. I didn’t look up as Tomber sat next to me, his plate filled with Sooma steak. I’d never seen anyone eat as much as Tomber—none of which seemed to stick to his bones.“By the Mirror God, Evard, even if you did not pay so generously, I would volunteer for your expeditions as long as Toug was cook.”“You’re lucky I don’t send you back right now,” I answered.“Sooma is harmless,” Tomber said. “It was just a joke.”“Tell that to the pilgrim…and to Favory. I’d be watching your back if I were you.”He grinned. “She’ll screw me over no matter what. By the end of the trip I’ll have done something to make her mad. I just decided to get it out of the way early.”“You know what kind of woman she is,” I said. “Why do you keep coming back?”He stopped chewing for a moment, his long Adam’s apple bobbing. He glanced down at me. “The question is…how did you manage to walk away?” “It was that…or strangle her.”“Yeah.”The conversation around us got steadily louder. I’d allowed one of the barrels of spirits to be opened in hopes that everyone who was spooked by today’s incident would forget it all the sooner. “Where did you find the slug?” I asked. “Sooma? Oh, I discovered her many years ago when she was not much bigger than the piece of her I’m eating now. I was ambushed by some bandits while scouting the borders of the Seventh Principality in service to old Prince Stamberg. I dove into a tree well and there was Sooma. I probably would have squashed her under my boot if she hadn’t looked up at me with those cute little eyes.”“Cute?”“Well, believe it or not, she was a lot more cuddly in those days. We were stuck together for several days. Somehow she always finds me when I’m traveling in these parts, and each time she’s a little larger. She seems to understand what I’m thinking, somehow. I asked her for a way across the Shield Mountains and damn if she didn’t lead me right to one.”“What did you find?” I said, setting my plate aside reluctantly. I’d never imagined I’d eat a meal of slug--and that I’d like it. “I traveled as far as the border of the Tenth Principality. It is possible, even likely, that there are more passes further on[...]

MOREGONE, a blog story, 10.)


10.) I should, of course, have seen the trouble coming. To expect Favory to be discreet or for Tomber to be tolerant was foolish of me. Before setting out, I’d sent Tomber to scout ahead. I vaguely remembered overgrown paths branching off from the Prince’s Road leading toward the Shield Mountains. Small villages dotted the foothills, mostly ignored and isolated, places out of time whose inhabitants still believed they lived in Stronghold or whose traditions were even older.These remnants of the past were the forgotten among the forgotten, living their small lives in an eternal day-to-day struggle but who also lived in a state of blissful ignorance and relative peace. Visitors to one of these small hamlets were treated one of two ways. Either they were feted as long lost royalty, come to claim their heritage, or as interlopers, unwelcomed and shunned. Or worse.At the same time, they were repositories of history, if you will forgive the paradox. Because they are so neglected—even by the Mirror God--they also retain some memory of their past. More than once I’d wandered into those hills in order to reconstruct lost history.It was at least possible they remembered the passes over the Shield Mountains, which would save us a great deal of searching. We neared the borders into the Seventh Principality, which under Prince Marcusal was a clean and orderly realm, safe for travelers. I started to relax, making the mistake of closing my eyes and leaning back. I might have even napped.The applecart bucked beneath me and the air shook. A huge hemlock lay across the road directly in my path. The forest to the right of the road quaked, the branches screaming, leaves quivering as if trying to escape. The pilgrim’s cart shattered in front of me as a second tree slammed into it, cleaving it in two. The forest parted as if the giant trees were mere shrubs. The creature was indistinct at first, a huge blob of glistening skin, undulating onto the road. Out of this gelatinous mass rose two long and curved horns, a mouth rimmed with teeth shaped like daggers. It seemed to move slowly, casually, but that was an illusion, for my mind saw it as a slug or a snail. In truth, its undulant pace bolted out of the forest and onto the road. It rose up, swaying, and from the front of the shattered cart I heard Viccare’s screams and Favory’s defiant shouts.The creature came down, slapping onto the broken wreckage. What I’d thought was a long tall antenna was a tall man, hanging onto the horns. I bolted from the cart, and ran toward the monster, waving my hands.The giant slug rose again. The two mules and the red stallion were running down the road away from us. The cart was completely flattened and Viccare and Favory were gone. Then, out of the roadway, rose two figures covered with slime, dazed and staggering.  The creature’s serrated mouth started to come down again. I tackled Favory, reaching out for Viccare with outstretched arms. My hands slipped off of their slick bodies, but they lost their balance and we tumbled off the roadway.The ground shook as the creature landed, and then there was the loud sound of razor sharp teeth grinding. I dared raise my head, saw that the slug was munching on the shattered wood.Even above the loud chomping I heard Tomber’s laughter as he slid off the slug’s back.“Don’t worry,” he said when he finally caught his breath. “So[...]