I thought it would be fun to post a little holiday related piece I did last year. It's technically the epilogue for Book 3, but it's pretty self-contained. Enjoy.
"All right, Thomas. I'm gonna need you to explain this to me one more time."
"The elves are on strike. Their list of grievances is posted online, all very reasonable."
"That I get, no one likes to be treated like garbage. What are they doing here and where the hell is the fat man?"
"I suppose after they destroyed the factory they realized they needed to deal with me next. I'm betting they don't know about you, M."
"You? Why you?"
"I'm Nicholas's only living friend."
"What? How do you know Santa?"
"I helped him build the first factory and set up relations with the elves, back when he was St. Nicholas."
"And now they want out?"
"They don't want out, they want what everyone else wants: hourly pay, vacation time, benefits."
M snorts. "Since when did Santa start turning a profit?"
"Since he started selling the rights to his name and image to everyone and anyone."
"Where is he anyways? This is his problem not ours."
"Vacationing in Florida. The moment the elves came to town, they became our problem."
"What about Mrs. Claus, where is she?"
"Divorced. The last I heard, she was living south of Los Angeles and married to a plastic surgeon."
"Yeah, she goes by Gloria now, looks completely different after the liposuction and facial augmentations."
"Maybe, I don't know. I've known her forever. I introduced her to Nicholas."
"How did you meet him?"
"First counsel of Nicea."
M looks at me blankly and then shrugs. "Okay. So why are we eating here? Shouldn't we hunt the elves down and end this?"
"They wanted to meet."
"To meet? They flew all the way here to talk? That makes no sense. It's not like you have anything to do with their problems."
"Then you think it's an ambush? Is that why all the roads are closed?"
"You got it."
M smiles. "Kill, or capture?"
"Capture if you can. Kill if you must."
M pounds his fist on the table. "Added challenge, awesome. So, what do they look like?"
The ground trembles and I point over M's shoulder. "I'll give you one guess."
In the empty intersection a block away stand two gigantic, metal, domed feet. Dirtied and scratched from use, they have left giant craters in the street where they landed. I follow the feet up the ridged legs and over a blocky, broad chest, to a boxy head and oversized eyes.
"That is a big ass robot. I'd be a lot more concerned if this thing didn't look like it was from the 50s. Where's the guns, lasers, rockets? It's nothing more than a giant toy," M says.
We stand up and start walking towards it. It's here for me, not to destroy town. We don't have to hurry.
He points upward. "What the heck is that and what's up with the hat?"
On top of the robot's head rests a red cone-shaped hat, but where the white ball should be is a long, metal pole.
"Probably an antenna. I bet it's controlled remotely. The hat is the symbol of the Northern Elves."
"Oh, the cowards didn't even show up to fight, they sent in a ringer?"
"Northern Elves are exactly what the stories make them out to be: short little people that are good with their hands, but have little access to technology."
"Fair enough." M cracks his neck. "All right, let's do this."
"You take top, I take bottom."
"I'll see you in the middle."
I take off at a jog, checking the runes on my fingers and loosening each of them like a pianist. From my fingertips, I pop off a couple lightning bolts at the robot’s legs. They connect, but only leave scorch marks behind. Hoping the attack did more than I can see, I send off a couple more in rapid procession. Each one ends with the same result.
The robot steps towards me and I hear a loud boom that has me look up just in time see a very large, metallic hand sail through the air and crash into the building next to me. So much for the elves not destroying the city.
I finish the last dozen feet in a sprint and use the robot's leg to shield me from the building and office debris. The robot makes no indication that it knows I'm here. M is doing a fantastic job of distracting it. Seeing as I have an opportunity to do some real damage, I set my hands in position and torch the robot's leg in fire. Maybe I can melt the damned thing. I watch the skin on my fake hand melt away: there goes that plan.
* * *
"I'll see you in the middle," is all I have time to say before Thomas advances on Santa's Little Slayer.
Waiting for the perfect moment, I watch the combatants with complete focus. Distractions and ambushes are in need of precision, of perfection. Without both, it all ends in failure and for naught. Waiting, waiting, waiting, now. With but a thought, I launch into the clear skies at the head of the metallic monster, like a bolt from William Tell.
The robotic giant takes notice and lifts its arm against me. Boom! The hand explodes through the air, but my speed is misjudged. The five-fingered death shot ends its journey with a three-story explosion of chairs, desks, stone and mortar that rains down on the city street like a bad day.
My partner makes it through unharmed and unnoticed. He goes to work on the legs of this towering toy of terror as I slam into and through its head like a bullet. Electronic innards explode out of its new cranial cavity behind me. I twist, spin and plant myself feet first into the building behind the Meccano-man. Exploding into the air once again, my push shatters the shatterproof office window as I set forth for its back.
* * *
The flames turn the metal leg red-hot and it’s dripping with molten iron. The spell begins to drain me mentally and physically as the heat draws sweat from my head; the stench of burning metal doesn't help either. On the bright side, my new heart is taking the stress without complaint. As M explodes through the robot's head, it teeters slightly from the impact, but remains on its feet. I turn the heat up and begin to melt holes into the robot's hollow leg. Exposed wires begin to liquefy and sever their connections with the foot. I cut off the flames and shoot electricity up the wires of the leg. Maybe I can short it out.
I never find out if it will work. M slams into the back of the robot and sends it face down in the street, barely missing the buildings on either side. The force of its landing bounces a car up in the air.
M lands lightly next to me and grabs the partially melted, partially torn foot and rips it off the rest of the way. Hopping on its back, he bashes it with his bare fists over and over, leaving the robot's body looking more like Swiss cheese and less like a robot. He hops off the back of the robot and smiles.
"Kick it while it's down."
"Nice to see you finally learned that." I look back at what's left of the robot. "Although I think it might have been overkill this time."
"Excuse me!" a voice says.
Running out of a building adjacent to the smoking robot are a reporter and his cameraman. They stop in front of us, catching their breath and facing each other.
"Okay, phew. Let's go, Bart on 3... 2..." The reporter takes a deep breath. "A fantastic battle has ended today here on Troost and Arland between two unknown men and a giant robot." The reporter turns towards me and asks, "Sir, what is your name?" He puts the microphone to my mouth.
The reporter shoves the mic in M's face. M looks at me and back at the reporter. "Um, M."
The reporter looks at us, puzzled, and continues on without missing a step. "Thomas, can you tell us what has happened here? Was the robot going to destroy the city, or was it here for you?"
"It was here for me."
"Why would someone send a robot to murder you?"
"Santa's elves are on strike. They thought I could be a threat."
The reporter stares at us for a moment. "Are you saying that Santa Claus is real?"
He turns to M. "That was a spectacular fight, good work taking down the giant robot."
M scratches the back of his head. "Thanks, I guess."
"How did you learn to fly? Have you always been able to?"
"Um, I just, sorta... jump really well."
"How did you manage to fly through the robot? Are you super strong?"
"Is there anything you would like to tell the public?"
M looks at me and I shrug. "Kids, don't do drugs."
M and I walk away from the reporter and towards our car before the reporter can say anything else. I can't help but laugh.
"What?" M asks.
"Don't do drugs?"
"Isn't that what you're supposed to say?"
I think about it. "I honestly don't know."
"Why did we even talk to that guy?"
"It's time we went public. We're going to need help with what's coming. This seemed like a good time to do it."
"Yeah, shit's about to get real!"
I am now stepping out of the long history of the Tungri dwarves and introducing Aeneas, Wynda, Lorna, Tavin and Tavon: The Five Man Midget Death Squad. It's kind of nice to be able to write in a modern tone, but it was equally interesting to go through the journey that got me there.
Early on I wanted to present the dwarven world as they saw it. Since that equated to spoken word (a trait we humans held as well) that meant that I was (re)telling these stories as fables. If you go back far enough in any culture, fables/lore are what make up their history. It might not have always been the most accurate, but it def had its own way of going about things. For example, there was little to no dialogue, descriptions were brief, or nonexistent and it was typically kept short. There are exceptions to these trends and that can be seen in this book as well. Most of these stories run 500-2500 (2-10 pages), with the occasional important story hitting the 5000 (25 pages) mark. Right now, I've got about 10 completed, first draft, chapters.
The Death Squad chapters will def make up the bulk of this title and I think we will all be glad for this. It's hard to get behind and enjoy the characters in fables. They are rarely described well, lack depth and tend to be there just to make a point. I tried to not do this too much, as I still want it to be enjoyable, but I thought it would be fun to have a progression in the story telling style, as well as developing a history and culture for an entire race. In a way, I'm building an entire world (the Tungri) within a world (Chronicles of M), which also lives within a world extremely similar to our own, albeit hidden and mysterious.
Hopefully, that made sense to someone besides myself. I tend to write these blog posts not to simply say BUY MY BOOK, but to give some strange insights on what I'm trying to accomplish. Is this knowledge needed to enjoy the book(s)? Absolutely not. Think of it as a behind the scenes. At most, this is here to entertain and maybe bring to light things you might not have noticed in the stories. After all, who would really read this book and notice the slight changes in story telling until it had long since past?
I may be getting a little to artsy with this book, but hopefully the steam punk adventures of the Death Squad will round that out for everyone. :)
Word Count 10,200.
I don't know what has drove me to do this, but at the beginning of the month I decided to see if I could write this entire book by the end of the month. So far, so good. Do I really think it's going to happen? No, but I'll def give it a shot! It's been a fun writing experience so far, one that I can talk about at length without giving any sort of spoilers....which is an oddity for me.
Something I feel I should clarify is that it won't be entirely about the Death Squad. It's technically a historical piece on the Dwarven Tungri clan. Google "Tungri" and you'll get an idea where their story begins. I'm guessing about 1/2 the book will be historical pieces, initially written as fables that eventually develop into a modern story telling technique and carrying on about the Death Squad, up to the point of meeting M for the first time in book 4 "Consequences." So, it's a standalone that enhances the CoM world, as I have stated before.
Rather than have a simple series of folk tales/lore with no real continuity, I decided to use the author of the document (Uhler, of CoM fame) as a narrator between the stories to fill in the gaps. I also plan on using some Scottish folktales to build stories around, in the same way I did with Mai's past in "Hitori." I will not outright steal an existing piece and claim it as my own, but re-use their idea of something (let's say, what the Scots consider a vampire) and develop a story around that idea. It's just one of my little ways of making the book more believable. I've always liked the idea of a piece of fiction that seems plausible, so I try to whenever I get a chance.
On a side note, I'm really enjoying the writing process of this book. As much as I enjoy character development and dialogue in CoM, it's really interesting to write entire pieces with absolutely no dialogue (so far) and to not only build a series of characters, but to build an entire history for a people. A history that, if I do this properly, will grow and develop with each passing generation/chunk of story.
Let's get the good stuff rolling first. Book 4: Consequences was sent off to the editor about an hour ago. So, that book should be out by the end of the month, providing something terrible doesn't happen between now and then. In total, book 4 is sitting at 68k words so I was close in my 70k estimation. It'll be priced around the same price as the rest of the series and will be available everywhere the others are: amazon, itunes, kobo, nook, smashwords, etc.
Because of a 4 day head cold that kicked me around, nothing was accomplished as far as writing is concerned. Not a huge problem, but it does mean I have to buck up and kick some arse for a few days to compensate. The plan is to get the Five Man Midget Death Squad book done by Feb, writing here and there on book 5 of the main series, which I'd like out around March, maybe April. It's all pretty up in the air at this point, but at least you know I'm doing something!
The mockup down below is roughly what the cover of book 5 will look like. Initially I was going to revamp the covers of books 1-3 with something more consistent with book 4, but I've changed my mind. Book 1 is selling, people seem to be cool with the cover and according to my absurdly detailed stats, about half of the paying customers who pick up book 1 continue on to book 2. So, the story is keeping people interested.
At the moment I'm playing with the idea of Book 5 being called "The Lord Wars: Part 1" but I haven't decided. I do know that book 5 and 6 will have nearly identical covers, with some very obvious differences that allude to the story itself. I'll just leave it at that for now.
Give me your thoughts on the cover, it's all done on the computer, so I'm happy to toy with it.