Monday After Monday After Morning After

Is it the End of the World as We Know it? Do we feel fine?

I can’t say I do. This whole year has been a dumpster fire that just will not go out. Most of it preventable, or at least the embers tamped down. Yet the people in charge can’t do anything and the people who could aren’t in charge. Sort of a perfect storm of SNAFU. I don’t feel fine. But I’m enduring, which feels like a win.

 

When the book’s finished I’ll likely put together some kind of price promotion for the first in the series, The Long Look. In the meantime, here’s a snippet of the The Seventh Law of Power, submitted with absolutely no context nor explanation. You’re welcome.

 

“I admit you’ve lost servants in a short order before,” Bonetapper said, once he was back in his raven body. “But you outdid yourself this time.”

“She was never my servant,” Marta said. “Not really. I thought I was acting according to the precepts of the Arrow Path, but I never felt the connection, the bond. Now I think it was no more than our interests coincided for a while.”

What can’t be taken, can be given. The Second Law. So perhaps according to the Laws, but not the Path?

Marta hadn’t thought of it in those terms before, but it was clear to her now that the Laws and the Arrow Path were not the same. The latter was simply a map to the first. If anything, her time with Dessera had proven that.

“Whatever else she intended, Dessera did me a favor. I’m beginning to understand something now that I did not before.”

“So am I, or I never would have realized the nature of my curse. You did me a favor, too.”

Dessera stood before them once more, a ghostly shimmer in the firelight.

Marta smiled a wistful smile. “I never expected to see you again.”

The ghost sighed. “Nor I you. Toban apparently had no questions about his next course. I’m embarrassed to admit I have no idea what should come next for me. I don’t feel imprisoned in this place now or indeed any other, yet I do not know what stage of existence or oblivion awaits me.”

“True of most of us,” Bonetapper offered. “Yet we assume, when the time comes, we’ll know.”

“I cannot help you with that,” Marta said. “I honestly wish I could.”

“I know. But would you mind if I traveled with you a while longer? I can be useful, and perhaps it would help me sort the matter out,” the ghost said.

Marta thought about it. It wouldn’t be the first time someone traveled with her as a companion rather than a servant; she rather missed it. And Dessera wasn’t formally asking for her help as would fall under the Arrow Path strictures, after all. She was simply asking a favor, as one person to another.

What can’t be taken, can be given. I believe this too is covered by the Second Law.

“I have no objection,” Marta said. “What about you, Bonetapper?”

The raven looked startled. “What? I actually have a say in this?”

Marta demurred. “Say rather you are free to express your opinion, as you always do. Just as I am free to ignore it.”

“That’s what I thought you meant. Fine. Just try not to get us killed.”

“Always,” Marta said.

 

More Progress

Chapter 4 of The Seventh Law of Power is in the can, or would be if it was a movie from thirty years ago. Everything’s digital and the can is a metaphor. Chapter 5 is begun. Only about 11,000 words in and Marta has already discovered the 6th Law of Power.

Frankly, I hadn’t expected this to happen so soon. But as the end of Chapter 4 came into view and I reviewed the seven laws, I realized I’d set  it up perfectly. Which would have been very clever of me if I’d realized this was what I was doing, but of course I didn’t. Neil Gaiman once said something to the effect that the real purpose of a rewrite/edit was to go back and fix the details so it looked like you knew what you were doing all along.There’s a lot of truth in that. Even so, I like it better when I get it right in the first draft.

Even if I didn’t realize this was what I was doing.

Still plenty of time to get things wrong. And I’m certain beyond a reasonable doubt it’s going to take Marta the rest of the book to find the 7th Law. Would be even more of a surprise if this particular event happened sooner. As with the discovery of the 6th Law, Marta and I are always open for surprises.

Confession Time

I am a writer, so it should go without saying that I’m a reader. Show me a writer who didn’t start as a reader and I’ll show you someone painting by numbers and connecting the dots.

On the other hand, or foot, or whatever—there’s more than one kind of reader. Most true readers start as the voracious sort, and I certainly did. Once I learned that those black ink spots meant something, there was no stopping me. Storybooks, philosophy, cereal boxes, whatever. Put it in front of me and I’d read it. I wouldn’t always understand it, mind, but at the time this hardly mattered.

That’s fairly common among readers. Later, after that initial insane rush, we start to specialize…or drift, depending on your point of view. We start to recognize that certain forms “speak” to us more. It may be a phase, it may be lifelong. I started with books and later moved to an intense affair with comics when I had a bit more discretionary income and could, you know, acquire things that weren’t already in the family library. I came into that about the time Jack Kirby moved to DC and started the New Gods series. But all good and bad things come to an end, and if you’re lucky, new good things appear (and bad, whether  you’re lucky or not) and by college I was back to books. LOTR and The Earthsea (at the time) Trilogy. Fritz Leiber, Clark Ashton Smith and those echoes of the pulp era. HPL, REH.

And then…well, my true bent manifested. Turns out I am a butterfly. I go to whatever catches my attention. I am not focused. Some readers make it a point to, say, read the Romantics and ignore everything else until they’re done, then move on. I can’t do that. I go back, I go forward. I read collections and novels by current writers. I go back to things I’ve missed. Bear in mind, this is for pleasure. There’s also writerly research, which is another subject entirely. It can be and often is pleasurable, but that’s not the reason you go there. You need to know about something and try to find out what you don’t know. You go where you think that information is.

Just another way of saying I am haphazard in the extreme. For instance, I’ve managed to read ULYSSES, but not FINNEGAN’S WAKE. I’ve read Eddison’s THE WORM OUROBOROS but not Morris’ THE WELL AT WORLD’S END. You get the idea.

So the confession part. I, a fantasist, have never read George Macdonald. At all. This is something I feel a sharp need to address. So I’ve acquired copies of THE GOLDEN KEY and PHANTASTES.

Which, at the very minimum, will tell me what, if anything I’ve missed. Other than, you know, almost everything.

Progress Report and Some Minor Rebranding

Since one or two of you expressed interest, I’ll start off with a brief progress report on the 4th (and I think final) book in the Laws of Power series, working title The Seventh Law of Power. I mean, there are seven laws total and Marta’s looking for number 6 and 7. Once she finds the 7th, well, the point of the whole thing will finally be made manifest. And there will be a point, I promise. That’s the plan. A lot is going to depend on how the next few sections go. As it stands, I’m approaching the end of Chapter 3. Marta’s getting a new servant with a lot of baggage. About 200 years of it.

And Tymon the Black is coming out of the retirement he was never really in.

I still plan to post at least a few opening chapters along the way, but not until I’m far enough along that I know I won’t be doing major cuts/rethinks to the first few.

Other Business.

I really don’t like the word “rebranding,” as it implies I’m a brand. Which I’m not, for yay or alas. But every now and then revisions must be made, and not just in stories. One of my earlier books, The Ghost War, only has one review, and it’s a crappy one, mostly because the reader looked at the cover, assumed it was something in my Yamada series, and was disappointed. While a quick scan of the description should have knocked that idea down, to be fair I see the point. While I think it was a very nice and evocative cover, some of the armor being worn certainly shows a far east influence. Here was the original cover:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I changed it to something which still fit the story (the main character soul-casts into a raven’s body at several points) but couldn’t possibly be mistaken for a Yamada story at first glance, like so. This isn’t about which cover any of us might prefer. The point is if the cover was misleading anyone, it needed changing, so I did. Here’s the new one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Problem, if not solved, perhaps prevented from propagating. Here’s the thing though—I’m still showing what I still think is a pretty decent book (while I was cleaning up the text for the re-release, I read a few scenes I didn’t even remember writing, and thought “Dang, this guy can write. Ego? A little.). And yet here it sits with one 2 star review. Not very enticing.

So here’s the request: Anyone who’s read the book but never left a review, would you consider it? I’m not asking for anything more than an honest review, but at least this time let it not be about the cover. That would be a pleasant change.

Tote That Barge

Today I’m posting an excerpt from The Seventh Law of Power (working title) which, if everything works out as I expect, will form Book 4 and finish the Laws of Power series. When I’m far enough along to keep up I’ll likely post draft chapters weekly as I did with Power’s Shadow, but that’s still a little ways off yet.

Oh, and absolutely no context provided. It is what it is:

 

 

 

Tymon, sat on a broken stalagmite studying a stalactite. While he understood, in terms of geologic era, practically no time at all had passed since he had taken up residence and looking for infinitesimal differences was profoundly silly, he still felt the compulsion to do just that.

Then again, five hundred years living in a cave could have that effect on a person.

“Five hundred years a hermit? I expected you to go insane. Instead you’re as focused and dramatic as ever.”

Tymon had been expecting the manifestation. The cool air in the cave had been almost charged with anticipation for the last three days. When a Power’s attention was focused on a person, that attention always revealed itself, if one knew how to look. Now Amaet perched on a broken stalagmite, looking beguiling. One would think she was nothing more than a winsome young woman, if one didn’t already know she was neither young nor a woman, and she didn’t glow like a newborn ember. Tymon knew she chose her appearances carefully for the effect she wanted. The current manifestation was designed to keep him both beguiled and off-balance. There was a time, half a millennium gone, when it might have worked.

“Amaet. To what do I owe this honor? Or rather, what do you want?”

“How do you know you’re not already giving it to me? Oh, honestly. I’ve so missed teasing you.”

“Then why did you leave me in peace all this time?”

“I’d have left you in peace now, save that you’re becoming interested in the world again.  That is, you’re combining interest with action.”

“Because you removed your curse of immortality and replaced it with the curse of knowledge, and thus I am twice punished. The Long Look. I see the future. Again.”

“Not so grandiose, spellcaster. One possible future.”

“One I have to prevent. You knew what I would do.”

She looked at him. “Of course I did, silly. What I don’t know is why.”

Tymon took a slow breath. “If I can prevent disaster and choose not to act, the lives destroyed belong to me. I cannot escape that. Now, the real question is, why did you give me the Long Look again?”

“Because I knew what you would do. Isn’t this fun?”

“Fun? To save what little remains of my humanity, you force me to serve you again?”

Amaet scowled. “Serve me willingly and you could avoid all that.”

“’You only worship a god. With a Power, you negotiate’ as a wise woman once said. I prefer to keep our relationship the way it is.”

“Fair exchange then. I get what I want, you get what you need. Why do I want it? Aren’t you even a little curious?”

“I’m curious about many things, Amaet. First there’s the Long Look, which, whatever else it may do, serves your purposes, not mine. Then there’s the Arrow Path, far more structured and yet every much as goal-oriented as my own curse which, I think it’s safe to say, did not give you everything you wanted yet or why give it back? Nor apparently, has the Arrow Path itself. I do wonder how Marta fits into it all.”

“There are many Arrow Path witches, Tymon.”

“I know. Yet none save for her mother, Black Kath, progressed so far as she has. I do know of your special interest in Marta so don’t bother denying it. I also know what she seeks, but your ultimate goal? Yes, it’s fair to say I am very curious about that.”

“You have had a lot of time to think about this, haven’t you? Still no closer to an answer?”

“I do know, whatever you do, it isn’t out of kindness.” Tymon met the beautiful, terrible creature’s gaze. “I really hate you, you know.”

“I know. And that serves me as well.”

Amaet vanished, and Tymon the Black, the most evil wizard of all time, shrugged. “I was happy when the world forgot about me. Now I have to remind them.”

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights reserved.