On the Road to Shalas

Lots going on in the world, but nothing I want to talk about. So instead I’m offering a snippet of the WIP. Marta is returning to Shalas after the events of Power’s Shadow, and the vague “he” referenced is a person she doesn’t know she knows, and that’s all the context you’re going to get, because that’s what the book’s for.

The next morning Marta reclaimed her horse and set out on the road south. Dessera had tucked herself out of the sun and into some quiet crevice of the saddle bag. Bonetapper rode on Marta’s shoulder, sound asleep. He’d spent the night scouting the southern road until it reached the sea and turned east toward Shalas and didn’t return until just before dawn.

“Didn’t see anything or anyone at all until I reached the sea road,” he reported. “Traveling merchants, one or two wandering priests. Not much else. Either he didn’t go that way or he’s better at hiding than I am at looking.”

“Interesting, but not very reassuring. No matter; we have to take this route if we’re going to reach Shalas before winter.”

That was the end of the discussion and Bonetapper nodded off soon after. Marta rode on, enjoying the silence. She was tempted to turn west when she reached the sea road; it was the most direct route to Lyksos and home. Yet circumstances had dictated that she leave her cart and pony in Shalas, and she was not inclined to abandon either. As for home…was there really any point in going there at all? She would only have to leave again when the Arrow Path relented and showed her the path to the Seventh Law.

Assuming it ever did.

This possibility was one Marta did not enjoy considering. The Arrow Path asked a great deal, whether you were the witch following it or the one who incurred the Debt because of it. Those who accepted the bargain an Arrow Path witch offered did so freely if not always wisely. They weighed the value of what they received against what they gave up, and for them the scales balanced. For those who followed the Arrow Path, the bargain, both in terms of value and loss, was not so clear. Yes, it led them to the Laws of Power without which they would be unable to meet their obligations, with the promise of both power and the freedom to use it however one saw fit at the end of it all. That was the lure that brought so many to it. But was this ‘promise and hope of mist and smoke,’ as the child’s rhyme went?

Has anyone ever found all Seven Laws?

Perhaps her mother had done so. She was, after all, widely regarded as the most powerful witch in the Seven Kingdoms. But if she had found it, why had nothing changed for her, in all the time Marta had known her? And then there was the undeniable fact that Marta’s own discovery of the Sixth Law owed more to dumb luck than guidance and she did not feel any pull from the direction of the Seventh Law at all.

We had a bargain, Amaet. Me, my mother, and every Arrow Path sorceress who ever lived. Are you going to honor it? Or have I, after all I’ve been through, misunderstood everything the Arrow Path was supposed to be?

It was a careless thought which Marta regretted immediately when the voice echoed through her skull like a bad memory.

“Smart girl,” said the familiar voice. “Would you be surprised to know your mother asked the same question? It’s true. And she had her answer. Will you have yours? The anticipation is delicious.”

“And when will I know?” Marta asked. “Will you tell me that much at least?”

“Certainly, because it’s something I need you to understand when the time comes.  You will have your answer,” Amaet said, “When you find the Seventh Law of Power.”

“But—” Marta didn’t bother to finish. The silence in her mind told her not to waste her time.

(c) 2021 Richard Parks

Almost There…

In the movie reference sense. Will the Deathstar(tm) (45’s Admin) finally blow up? Will the new year be better than 2020? Danged if I know. It’s hard to imagine much worse, and I have a fairly decent imagination. Yet reality continues to surprise me…one of the wonders and drawbacks of being in touch with reality, even if you don’t always live there.

So here we are. Either at the tail end of chaos or just getting started. I’m optimistic enough to remain cautiously optimistic, and we will see.

It reminds me of a discussion of The Uncanny Valley (TUV) over on FB(and a previous post https://richard-parks.com/2012/10/15/yeah-though-i-walk-through-the-valley-of-uncanny/). For those who don’t know, TUV is a metaphor, usually applied to computer graphics. At the point where, say, a CGI rendition of a human becomes no longer “cartoonish” but yet not quite completely lifelike, not quite “right.” This is the Uncanny Valley, where many people might react to the image with unease and even fear, though they might not know why. Never had that problem myself, but I understand the reaction. Possibly there’s an evolutionary advantage, where a dappled patch of sunlight in the tall grass is actually a lion waiting to pounce, but the fact that it looks slightly “off” might prod an ancestor to avoid it, and thus live to reproduce.

Or maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with evolution at all. It occurs to me that TUV may be uncomfortable because it is, in the truest sense, a liminal space. A transitional condition between one thing and another thing, and thus not quite either one. This tends to put us off balance, and also explains why some people have aversions to such mundane things as bridges and thresholds. Ask yourself: are you more comfortable in a cozy room with a nice chair or walking down a long hallway?

And that’s what we are rapidly approaching. The end of one thing but not yet the start of another. Probably the reason our forebears thought the veil between worlds was weak this time of year. From now until 2021 is a liminal space. Something ending (we bloody hope) and something new beginning (we also bloody hope). A tricky time, for everyone, but hang on.

Almost there.

Let’s Take This Show on the Road

“Where Strange Drinks and Even Stranger Clients Meet.”

Which might somewhat describe the newsletter, except for the drinks part. You’re on your own there.


Crossed fingers and held breath, I think I have everything together. If not, I’ll be the second to know. Regardless, the image to the left is the cover for the prize I’ve arranged for those signing up for my newsletter, Tales From the Black Dog.

What is The Black Dog, you might ask? I’ll summarize it thusly:

“The Black Dog is an odd little pub, with strange drinks and an even stranger clientele. Sometimes it’s there. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes you’ll find it, and sometimes you won’t. Just don’t hit on the bartender or the bouncer, whatever you do. She’s a Banshee and he’s a Redcap. It won’t end well for you.”

The book itself is a collection of eleven flash pieces I wrote mostly for fun about the pub and the mix of humans and non-humans who inhabit the place. Those who have read Little Fire and Fog may recognize some of them. Those who have read much of mine may notice some of my themes and interests come up. Those who haven’t, I think it’s a fair if brief introduction to what I’m about. It also includes the only real Tuckerization I have ever done, though who? Ain’t telling. They know what they did. The individual pieces have appeared only in a very small (maybe 20 people) private FB group. This collection appears nowhere, period (except on your computer if you so choose), and won’t for the foreseeable future. It is my gift to you, and I hope you like it.

There will be a link on the main page, but I put one here also where you can sign up for the Newsletter.

The list asks for your email address (duh), name, and country you’re in. The name is just how you like to be addressed (Grand Moff of the Galaxy? You do you), and the country in case I need to do anything special to comply with EU rules. After that you’ll be given a link to the download page where you can choose the ebook format you prefer and have at it. Couldn’t be simpler. Well, it could, but it’s still pretty simple.

For those who do sign up, let me know how it went. I’m new at this.

Ringing the Changes

Not inaccurate but incomplete. I’m thinking more of an addition rather than a change (although I’m likewise considering some tweaks to the website. Lord knows it could use a refresh).

Ahem. Excuse the tangent. The point I’m getting to is I’m seriously considering starting an email newsletter. And by “seriously considering” I mean yeah, it’s very likely going to happen. Not today, but not the distant future either. Such things require planning to do right which requires time which you’d think I’d have tons of, being largely confined to the house except for necessary errands, and you’d think wrong. There’s always something else I need to be doing aside from what I want to be doing. So it goes…

Sorry. Tangenting again. So here’s the thing: Why a newsletter? What’s wrong with the blog?

Well, lots of things, but that’s not the point, even if the blog isn’t going away. There are advantages to a private email list that a blog doesn’t have, and not just for me. For a start, what if I want to give actual readers a heads-up on a special promotion or giveaway or preliminary book cover, but am not ready to or don’t want to broadcast it to the world? That’s a newsletter’s job.

I’ll give you another example. When I sold “The Fox’s Daughter” to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, I announced it here and over on FB. One of the biggest fans of the Yamada series didn’t see the post, even though we’re FB friends (FB is like that). It took a share from another reader to bring it to their attention. Whereupon they were somewhat put out that they weren’t immediately informed, and can’t say I blame them. When I mentioned a newsletter? They demanded to be signed up first, and when the time comes, so I shall. People are less likely to miss stuff that might interest them that way.

Frequency? Probably once a month or so, at most. And when I say “private” email list, I mean exactly that. I will not sell it and I damn well won’t share it. This is just for you and me, for however many iterations of “you and me” there are. That’s for you all to decide.

There will likely be some bonus for signing up. Haven’t decided what yet. Likely an original work before it’s available anywhere else, that kind of thing. Something else to think about.

So what do you think? Hate newsletters? Love them? What’s a newsletter? Speak now or I’ll likely just do what I want. Very dangerous, that.

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.