Patreon and an Update

While I haven’t gotten tons of writing done this week, I did get more plotting done for the second Grimluk book, which will help. The book’s coming along at near 15,000 words, almost a fifth of the 80K goal. And in only a month a half, that beats the hell out of my pace for the first book.

In other news though, it’s Friday and September so it’s time for a new story. “From Tusk Til Dawn” is now up on Patreon. Part of me kind of hates doing this because I really really want folks to read this story and realistically, putting it as backers only means few people will, buuuuut I’m also trying to be a professional here. So, for those who haven’t heard, this story is about a lady orc wanderer who ends up having a close encounter of the fanged kind.

https://www.patreon.com/ashearmstrong

Why Pro-Wrestling Made Me A Better Storyteller

A hush falls over the crowd in anticipation of what’s to come. The lights go out and a great gong rings out. Everyone in the building erupts as the organ hits and the funeral dirge begins. Blue light and artificial flashes of lightning fill the dark as a tall figure emerges, clothed in a long coat and a wide-brimmed hat. Smoke billows around his feet as he stares down the aisle at his opponent in the ring. He walks, slowly, deliberately, even somberly down to the ring, letting the tension build. As he ascends the steps to the ring, he stops at the top, pausing for a moment before slowly raising his arms, and with them, the lights of the arena. He steps into the ring and after another pause, he reaches up slowly and removes his hat, contorting his face into a grim and demonic visage of strength and intimidation. AND HIS NAME IS JOHN CENA! The Undertaker is ready to fight.

For those of you unfamiliar with that scene, you can check it out one of the more recent versions here, from Wrestlemania 27. The Undertaker is probably my favorite wrestler of all time and without a doubt, one of my favorite characters ever. Sure, little Ashe was a Hulkamaniac. Much in the same way that kids love John Cena, it was an inescapable part of being a kid who loved wrestling. But I also loved the Macho Man and Jake the Snake and The Undertaker (the former two I learned to appreciate even more as an adult, while Hogan…well, let’s just say Hulkamania finally died). And Undertaker, along with his early manager, the late, great, ever spooky, Paul Bearer (ooooooh, yes!), stayed with me the most.

Here was a man whose gimmick was that he was Dead. Supernatural. An otherworldly gravedigger who would hand-build you a coffin before putting you in it. Now, if you’re not a fan, you’re probably saying, “Ashe, wrestling isn’t real and it’s for children, grow up.” And to that I say…I don’t care. The character was amazing. He was spooky and powerful and stood out. Where most wrestlers had flashy outfits and yelled their promos, Undertaker rumbled gravely words of threat at you while Paul Bearer hyped him up. In the ring, he would surprise you by moving quick, striking fast and hard, and sitting up and staring his opponent down after they hit their finisher.

But that’s just one character. I spent years watching WWE. We all look fondly back at what is now called the Attitude Era. You may know this as the era that brought us Stone Cold Steve Austin and the most electrifying man in sports-entertainment today, The Rock. Not to mention the height of Mick Foley’s career, the creation of D-Generation X, and the now infamous Monday Night Wars with WCW. The mid-to-late 90s was a helluva time for a wrestling fan.

But characters…theatricality…stories…this is what I really want to talk about. You’ve seen the theatricality of the Undertaker. It goes beyond just entrances though. In ring, the performers tell stories with their bodies. There are tricks to the moves for safety, sure, and they plan the high spots out in advance but they can still get hurt and they do. But they tell their stories with brawling and technical moves and power moves and whirling, breath-taking moves. It’s theater, it’s ballet, it’s goddamn kung fu movies but live and with no wires! Watch enough and you develop a strong sense of flow with action. I credit wrestling with helping me write actions scenes that reviews have commented weren’t overdone or too long.

On top of all this, you take a teenage me, the internet, and online roleplaying and you get to e-wrestling. This most definitely helped me way early on at learning some things about writing and storytelling in a more general sense. When I started, I was garbage and I wanted my character to basically be Raven, except a powerhouse. Then he became Kevin Nash but less of a dick. THEN I reintroduced his cousin who was metalhead version of Raven with a side of Bill & Ted. Again, garbage all around but the latter bit actually saw me step my writing attempts way the hell up. And you worked with the other RPers. You could, conceivably, plan huge storylines with someone else (which I did twice and had plans to do so with another person before she disappeared and I got bored).

And these weren’t just promo pieces like you see on TV. These combined with episodic storytelling. We wrote mini-stories. We might write about house show matches (the shows that aren’t on TV or pay-per-view) and a promo, or do a whole thing that had nothing to do with your next match and was completely ridiculous and silly. You got to win matches by entertaining the moderators the most. It’s really hard to just do that with your basic promo when you are completely in charge of your own storylines. So you tried shit and like the real thing, sometimes you’d drop something cause it sucked or didn’t work right or you got sick or whatever. It was great practice and, again, like the real thing, when it was good, it was damn good.

So, I guess my ultimate point here is that this is why wrestling is still important to me. I’m much, MUCH more critical of the WWE these days and primarily only keep up with the NXT roster (which is well worth the 10 bucks a month for a WWE Network subscription), but it still hits me and I’m still impressed with great matches and great spots and it still helps me. If you’ve read A Demon in the Desert, I actually had Grimluk clothesline someone and powerbomb someone else. I also outright wrote in the Wyatt Family because Bray Wyatt single-handedly got me to come back to watching wrestling last summer.

If you want the tl;dr version of all this, then basically, watch the following video. And also remember that Max Landis is a giant toolbag but he nailed wrestling in his video.

Things I Learned Writing A Demon in the Desert

I’ve been bouncing this idea around my head for a few weeks now, and especially after reading one of my kickstarter-backer reviews, and seeing the latest version of this from an author guest posting on Chuck Wendig’s blog, I figured it was time to get it out. There was a colossal amount of learning involved in this book. So I’m going to attempt to run through all of it. Some of it will be about kickstarter, some about writing a whole goddamn book, and some aspects of the business of being an author-publisher. I hope it’ll be helpful for any hopeful writers. So, let’s do this.

Writing

  • This will sound cliché, and it is, but after seeing various writers get the question (and me ASKING one or two), I feel it deserves first billing here. Do the writing. Ass to chair, fingers to keyboard. But here’s the thing some of us might not realize about doing The Work: you don’t have to bang out 1000 words a day. Especially if that’s not normal for you. If you have any sort of mental illness, it’s probably safe to say that this will be a struggle for you. It was for me. Some nights were easier than others. Some nights were outright battles just to get two sentences out. Which leads into the next point…
  • Set a minimum goal. When I started the book, it wasn’t even a book. It was a short story (or at least, I thought that’s what it would be). For the first couple of months, my daily goal was, believe it or not, just two sentences. Most of the time, I flew past my daily goal but having that goal was good. Cause Ass-to-chair and a daily goal adds up. And you can increase it as you’re able. I was still struggling a lot with depression, so two sentences was good. It was achievable, it gave me little bits of momentum, and they add up. You do The Work and it adds up. You write two sentences five days a week, sure, it’s not a lot over a month, but that’s not the point. Word count can be important but it’s not a taskmaster. You’re the writer, so if you feel like you’ll struggle at first, start small. There’s no shame in it. Each day, you’ll have more words than you had the day before. That’s how stories get done.
  • On the flip side though, you absolutely cannot force yourself. There were nights where I sat down and my brain was static. I could squeeze a few words out and each one felt wrong. Those are the nights where it’s better for you to just step back, go get a snack, and try to just relax. Especially if you have to deal with health issues. It’s important to realize that sometimes, you just need a small break. Related to this is that some nights, you get stuck and you gotta step back and chew on the story some. There were plenty of nights where I had ideas but when I started moving forward, I got stuck. One thing that helped me a lot was something Ed Erdelac recommended, though I’m not sure if I followed exactly like he suggested. When I got stuck, I’d drop down from the story and make plot blocks. I’d write out where I wanted to go in the most bare bones manner. “Jack meets Jill. Jill shows Jack the hill. A demon escapes the well at the top of the hill and pushes Jack and Jill down it. Jack’s corpse becomes the new home for the demon.” I was surprised at how much headway I made doing that.
  • And after all that, it does get easier once you start finding your stride. I was unable to focus on writing last June and December but once I got going again, I regained my momentum. By the time March rolled around, I felt like I was busting my ass, in a good way. I was hitting 500-1000 words a night and that does feel good. You learn tricks as you go, like the plot blocks, and you learn to recognize your work habits. Just keep going. And remember…
  • FIRST DRAFTS DON’T HAVE TO BE AMAZING. Yours might be, mine wasn’t. Mine was garbage. But it was a start.

Kickstarter

  • I’ve said this to everyone who would listen because, quite frankly, I jumped the Kickstarter gun way too damn soon. DO NOT start your campaign unless you have at least two drafts done. Bare minimum, if you just can’t stand it, or if you’re actually experienced with everything BUT running a crowdfunding campaign, make sure you have a finished first draft. I know that this sounds incredibly obvious. “No duh, Ashe, who’s that dumb?” Hi. I am that dumb. My first draft wasn’t even finished when I started my campaign. Hell, I didn’t even write The End til March this year. This hurt the book because…
  • I vastly underestimated how much work I had to do when I started the campaign. Originally, I had planned to release A Demon in the Desert in March. That is freaking ridiculous. That is…unreal. But by the time I figured that out, I’d reached 100% funding somehow and then I was stuck. Now, I know that my friends would’ve understood if I’d said “I can’t release the book til late summer” but my friends would’ve been thrilled (and were thrilled) to read my poo poo first draft. But between how much work I had left and the fact that I had to orchestrate a move from Tulsa, OK to Auburn, AL meant that there was no way I would meet a March deadline period. So I begged forgiveness and said I’d shoot for a late June release.
  • So you’re gonna start a kickstarter campaign. Are you 100% prepared? No, no you’re not. And there’s no way to be 100% prepared but you can get close. You can set a full campaign up without making it live. And if you’ve never done one before, you’ll definitely want to do this since you’ll have to set up an Amazon Payments account to receive the funds should you hit 100% funding. That can take a few days to a week to process. And what about promotional material? Do you have a cover? Do you have promo art? Do you have reading samples? Are you prepared to make regular updates? Have you planned out your rewards and prices? Do you have a budget? Did you then factor in the processing fees that Kickstarter and Amazon take out? You’ll want to do that. I set my goal for $850 dollars and ended up with $775 after processing. Now, I ended up doing things a little different than I originally planned so it worked out but trust me, it’s better to be over-prepared. And while we’re on money…
  • You’ll still need more than you think when you’re setting things up. Because if you’re new to the whole concept and business like I was (and still am), there are things you didn’t think about or factor in. Have you looked at editor costs? I had no idea about freelance editors. Not one. And editors don’t just make sure you use the right words or make sure the grammar’s correct. The full editing process involves a professional helping you hone the story, sharpening into a finely crafted weapon of feels. And what about a cover artist? Despite “don’t judge a book,” people absolutely do judge a book by its cover. And if you’re writing sci-fi, fantasy, or horror, you want, you need a good cover. You can find artists to fit all kinds of budgets (and editors too), but trust me, you want to include that in there if you can’t afford it out-of-pocket. I was fortunate enough to get the cover before the campaign because I already knew what I wanted it to look like and my mom was nice enough to help me pay for it. Someone said recently that my goal seemed “reasonable.” Making a book is actually pretty expensive and I undersold myself. Be transparent about the costs too. Budget breakdowns are helpful to backers.
  • So you’ve started the campaign, how do you get backers? Well, you definitely don’t run around anywhere you can find posting about it. I have learned much about self-promo and the biggest aspect of doing it is presentation. When you’re a newbie, you have to rely on friends, and family if you’re able, and then you have to go out and you have to find your audience as best you can. And you’re gonna want to focus if you can. If you decide to take to goodreads, like I did, don’t join any and every group that has some connection to what you’re writing. Pick one that lines up the most and then, before you promote at all, engage the group. Get a feel for them, learn the rules. Cause, believe it or not, lots of authors (and I definitely hold myself accountable here) show up to goodreads groups like locusts. Don’t do that. Pick your avenues carefully and deliberately. Then realize that you’re probably going to get ignored a lot. Here’s some good tips on self-promotion in general from Michael J. Sullivan.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to do EVERYTHING. If you offered signed paperbacks as a reward, give yourself time to sign them, and box them, and label them, and ship them. Give yourself time to finish the project. Six months post campaign end isn’t unreasonable. You might want to say longer and hey, if you’re ready sooner, then everyone gets a pleasant surprise.

The Business

  • You want an editor. You need an editor. Yes, they’re expensive, I know, it sucks. I had no idea at first but it’s not uncommon for an 80,000 word book to cost $2000 for editing. Thankfully though, there are freelancers who understand and will offer payment plans. Though if you’re going the kickstarter route, this is one more reason to have at least that first, complete draft done. You’ll have a word count, which will give you an editing price, which will be a number you can slap on your budget for your campaign goal, which lets your potential backers know what they’re funding. Before I go on, I just want to make it clear that I am extremely proud of the work I did on this book. Is it a 5-star debut? Hell no. But I don’t think it would’ve been even if I’d had an editor. I had written on and off at various points in my life but this was the first time I really threw myself into it whole hog. So Grimluk’s first outing could’ve used a hard round of developmental edits on top of the proofing. But, that’s what this is all about: Things I learned.
  • Self-promotion is always hard. You have to find a balance for how much you do it and how and where and there are a lot of folks who don’t want to be told about your book from you. There are plenty who do though. I’ve come across plenty of folks in the orcs tag on tumblr who’ve shown huge interest in the book once I made them aware. But like I said earlier, that’s because I focused. Shotgun promotion just does not work. Which also means…
  • It’s gonna take for you to build an audience. It just is. Unless you can somehow hit the right buttons (or wrong buttons as the case may be) on your first try, you’re gonna spend a long time finding readers. The best thing you can do is keep writing and keep getting better and keep releasing stuff.
  • It’s okay to read reviews of your book but you have to keep something in mind about them: Even if it’s one of your crowdfunding backers, reviews are NOT for the author. They are for other readers. You can use them to become better but they are not attacks on you or for your ego. That way lies madness.
  • There is no setup for pre-orders via Createspace. You can set up pre-orders for the Kindle edition (and on Smashwords), but there is no pre-order for the paperback. And the whole process goes faster than you think. So, if you have a specific date in mind as a self-pubber, don’t release til that date. Get everything ready, order your proof copies, make any corrections that need to be made, and then wait til your allotted time. If I remember right, processing for the paperback and the Kindle took about 24 hours each once you hit “SUBMIT.”
  • And what about getting paid? Well, Createspace/Amazon payments take a while. Basically, you don’t get paid for three months, starting from the release day. Thankfully, once your pay cycle finally starts up, and you get your first royalties, it’ll be monthly thereafter.
  • I bought my own ISBN instead of using the free ones. I bought them directly from Bowker because $99 for one ISBN is ridiculous and a pack of 10 is less than $300. A pack of 1000 is less than $600 and would last you a very long time, especially if you only release via Createspace/Kindle. You have to have an ISBN for each format of your book, and since I put up an edition on Smashwords, I used three ISBNs. Ultimately though, ISBN is up to you. I read a few things that convinced me I should go that route but it is entirely up to you. The biggest thing about having your own is that you get to assign your Publisher, instead of it defaulting to whoever provided the ISBN (ie- “Published by Createspace Publishing Services 2015”).

Bits and Bobs

  • Michael J. Sullivan gave me a bit of advice one night in March: If you’re in the US, focus on Createspace/Amazon, cause that’s where you’re gonna make all your money. Originally, I had planned to have an extra edition through IngramSpark, in hopes of getting into bookstores. Honestly, there’s not a huge reason to do that anymore. Sure, it’d be cool to see yourself in a bookstore but it’s so easy to set up online now and you can always order a box of your books to sell yourself elsewhere.
  • If you do a print book, you should ABSOLUTELY make use of the Kindle Matchbook program and offer that bad boy for free. It’s how it should be at this point. If you buy a movie these days, it comes with a digital copy. You can rip any CDs you buy for later use, but there hasn’t been a way to do that with books until now. You don’t HAVE to do this, of course, but it’s a practice readers appreciate. Especially for the bigger books. There’s also a service called BitLit that’s designed for this as well.
  • To start with, you might look at other authors as “competition.” But here’s the thing: We’re not competing with each other. We’re all writing different things. Yes, we’re writers, but there are millions of people out there and you can find an audience. And the indie community is small. We’re not competitors, we’re a community. Support your fellow writers. SA Hunt tweeted one night that it’d be cool to start seeing indie writers recommend each other in their books. Fantastic idea! Utterly brilliant. So I did. I picked six folks, including Sam, that had helped me or encouraged me or that I had enjoyed reading (or some combo) and added a recommendations page to the back of the book. The ebook even has links to their websites. Cause we’re still readers too. We still get excited about reading a good story, so why not share that with your readers? It costs nothing and it builds good will all around.
  • Straight up: Being an author-publisher is not fucking easy. It’s not. You have to learn every aspect of the business. There are new sites and services now that can help you though. I’ve heard lots of praise for Draft2Digital from folks who either don’t have the time or can’t quite get their head around formatting a manuscript. I’m planning on using Rock and Hill Studio for the next Grimluk book (and probably every other book I publish) after talking to Matt Davis. He totally sold me on their services, which includes full editing, formatting, AND a cover, and the desire to elevate self-publishing as close as it can get to traditional publishing.
  • Beta readers CAN be helpful. You’ll have to figure out how many you can handle and how many notes you want from them yourself though.
  • If you use openoffice instead of Word, disregard every Word-based tutorial you find (which will be every Official tutorial). I found this tutorial very helpful: Part 1 & Part 2. Similarly, for formatting a paperback in openoffice, you want to save it in the default format, ODT I think. Here’s why: It saves your page styles. That is very, very, very, VERY important. Once you have everything formatted for print, export it to a PDF. Trust me. I fought with this for weeks before I figured out the problem. Using the ODT means all of your formatting stays put and gets locked down in the PDF.
  • You can, however, still use a DOC format for ebooks. There is no page formatting, only paragraph styles, and those stay put just fine.
  • Again, self-publishing is hard. If you don’t want to do it, that’s understandable. Polish that manuscript, read up on writing agent queries and cover letters, and start sending out queries. That will be hard too and you’ll need to send out A LOT of queries before someone bites (that’s why we have the advice “Get use to rejection”). They’re both hard but they’re different kinds of hard. And remember that just because your agent gets you published, it doesn’t mean you’re gonna get a huge advance. You might only get $5000, as opposed to $50,000.
  • Please remember that artists deserve every bit of what you pay them. I know that $200 seems like a lot for artwork for just the front cover, but a good cover can get you sales and backers and that artist works just as hard as you do. And like you, they’re probably underselling themselves in order to make any money at all.
  • My final bit of advice is that even if you want to do everything yourself, exert your independence like an independent motherfucker, you need to remember one thing: You cannot and should not do everything alone. You need support. You need editors. You need cover artists, and maybe a different person to design the cover layout. If you feel like you have it in you to tackle lots of what’s required to publish yourself, go for it, but be mindful and don’t be too proud to admit when you need help. Cause you will need help. Plan accordingly, do your research (whether for the story or the business side), be respectful and professional (you can still say “fuck” gratuitously), and don’t bite off more than you can chew unless you flourish that way.

I hope that all of this makes sense and helps anyone hoping to enter the world of pro-writing. This is just all the things I learned. Your mileage may vary and you may learn a whole other swath of things that I missed. I also may have forgotten something but I think I got the important stuff. Ultimately, traditional and self-publishing are tools. Neither is better than the other but self-publishing is harder if you’re not prepared. Good luck, and thanks for reading.

IT’S RELEASE DAY

cover imageFEAR RELEASE DAY, MORTALS.

That’s right. A Demon in the Desert is done and up for release. For my kickstarter backers, you will be getting your digital copies within the next 24 hours, and the paperbacks will arrive next week. I’ll get to work signing them and shipping them as soon as I have them.

For everyone else, well, you have several choices. For paperbacks, there’s the Createspace store, which nets me the most royalties.  Then, there’s Amazon, which has the advantage of Kindle Matchbook, which means you can get the Kindle version for free to go with the paperback. Word of warning at the moment though, the formats are still in the process of merging so if you order as soon as you see this, it might take a day or two to claim the digital copy. I’ll try to make sure everything’s aligned this week.  Your final option for purchasing a digital copy is Smashwords and the avenues they distribute with. So, for instance, you could find the book on Apple, Kobo, Scribd, and (sometime after this posts) Barnes & Noble. Some places are still getting set up.

Hopefully, for my European and International readers, Book Depository will have it fairly soon. That will ultimately be the best option for anyone outside of Europe because of their free international shipping. It’s also one of the venues I don’t have any control over.

I’m proud and a nervous mess but hopefully I wrote a story you’ll enjoy. And I guaran-damn-tee the next Grimluk will be bigger and better. In the mean time, if you’re more interested in shorter stories, check out my Patreon. I’ll be running a promotion this month too. The first 5 patrons for level 1 can claim a request for a flash story (max of 1000 words) for any topic. The first 2 patrons for tier 2 or tier 3 can request anything they’d like for a longer story (max of 5000 words).

Happy reading everyone!

Writing Meme

On facebook this morning, Ed Erdelac​ tagged me for a SEVEN UNKNOWN THINGS ABOUT MY WRITING PROCESS meme going around.  So, I came up with seven things.

1) I have to get into the mood sometimes with music.  Sometimes, it’s just turning on something to click into writing mode and sometimes I have to set the mood with scene/story appropriate music.
2) I tend to write best with music.  I tend to favor instrumental stuff.  The God of War 2 soundtrack is a big one.  Karl Sanders’ solo albums, Saurian Meditations/Exorcisms are definitely ones I use a lot.  And years ago, I made a Deadlands playlist that consists of a lot of Ennio Morricone and various other artists.
3) I think this is fairly normal but I can’t really get going if someone can look over my shoulder or be up and moving around me.  I can counter this in public if I have a corner booth or something against my back or I’m using a notebook.
4) I have a leather journal that symbolizes a true, earnest start to being a writer.  I have two of my first short stories in it (“Dead Blood” and “System Crash”) as well as various little bits of note or scribbles.
5)  At first, I wanted to do all my first drafts in the journal but I’ve since grown comfortable with banging everything out on the keyboard and not editing as I go.  I was always bad about that when writing on the computer.  I’d get out a paragraph and then start changing it, derailing myself.
6) For new writing (new story, new section, new pagraph), sometimes it’s excruciating getting the first couple of sentences out.  But once I do, I usually start moving pretty easily.
7) This isn’t really “writing process” but I really feel like I’ve grown considerably in skill over the past year.  I’ve written more than I ever have and I’m reading stories from new friends and peers and I can feel myself growing much more confident and starting to find my own voice more.  It feels so good.

Welp, that’s me.

Snippet #5 – Spacial Terrors

We come now to the end of March and snippets from A Demon in the Desert.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the little excerpts and background info.  April should see me busting my ass at a new level with the help of Camp Nano.  I’m almost done with rewrites and then the serious editing can start.  I’m hoping to have the thing as close to done by May as I can.  I’ll probably post Camp Nano status reports, maybe weekly.

Anywho, I was trying to think of a last snippet to post and I think I’ll go with another nightmare.  This one in particular is very near and dear to me as it will be one of the nightmares/hallucinations that I suffered from.  They lasted a long time too.  I didn’t really stop having them til I was 25.  I call them “spacial terrors.”  In this scene, Grimluk is talking to a local Halfling named Thomas and asks him to give him an idea on what things have been like in Greenreach Bluffs through Thomas’s story.  As always, this is not the final edit.

“I guess the best place to start is to say that I never had any sleep problems before all this. Occasionally, you eat somethin’ that don’t sit well and you have a weird dream but that’s normal. Natural even, right? I didn’t even notice the dreams at first. Figured it was just somethin’ I ate. Shrugged ’em off. Now…” He downed half his pint and belched. “It’s like the world goes wrong. Sometimes I see things while it’s happening but mostly, it feels like reality’s been pulled inside-out and gone tipsy. Everything, and I mean everything, goes far away but not. You ken it? The whole world skinny, stretches leagues away. It’s all still close enough to touch though. And touching, gods.”

A small moan escaped Thomas’s throat.

“The size of things goes wrong. If you were near when I had one of these, you’d be my size but you’d be so much bigger too. Like you’d shrunk but grown to the heavens all at once. All wrong. And everything feels that way. A splinter feels as big as a the biggest tree. A pebble would sit in my hand and feel like I was holding a mountain. The only thing that seemed to fight it off is light. So I’d light my lamp back up. Or try to. Some nights, it’s all too much and…and…I just lay there. I use to scream at it. The madness of it.

“It’s all worse now though. I avoid the bed but that’s just making it worse. I said I see things sometimes and I do and the things is worse. I think I see glowing eyes sometimes. Or some sort of light. It’s so hard to tell but sometimes it feels like something’s watching me. Sometimes, when everything stretches out to eternity, I can see…gods damn it, things. I don’t know what to call them but things. I can see them in the dark edges of everything.”

Thomas sighed heavily. “Fuck,” he croaked. “It’s so much worse than I thought. Sayin’ it all like that, out loud.”

He swallowed hard and for a moment, it looked like he would start crying. Grimluk remained silent. He wanted to let Thomas catch his breath. Everything had tumbled out of him like the rush from a broken dam. The Halfling laid his head down against the table and sucked in a deep breath.

The Sliver stood silent save for the sound of the wind that slipped through the windows every so often and the sound of light snoring coming from behind the bar. Grimluk and Thomas sat in the quiet and drank their ale.

“Thank you,” Grimluk said when he felt Thomas had recovered.

Snippet #4 – Souffles and Jackasses

This little section introduces two of the main characters.  What you see here is a little silly but after, things start getting serious again.  The original scene was just Grimluk showing up at the door.  I hadn’t created Trilgor yet.  Hadn’t even named the Mayor yet.  I knew I wanted a little Halfling woman though and then I got the idea of her yelling at Grimluk and it made me laugh so out it came.  Enjoy.

As the pair reached the gate of the mayor’s house, a big gust of wind blew through the town, sweeping down from the bluff behind the house. It kicked up several dust devils and with several more gusts, they spun harmlessly through the center of the town. Trilgor unlatched and pushed through the gate as another gust threatened to take Grimluk’s hat off. The hunter lifted a hand and kept it in place.

The courtyard was pitiful. Dry, overgrown grass jutted out of planters with the occasional, sickly-looking group of flowers. The purple petals of one flower in particular could be pretty in the right season but in their current state, looked more like leaves made of dried blood.

The house was built in similar fashion to the Silver Sliver. It started in stone and peaked in wood. The foundation was much bigger, appearing to have been built up from a basement or cellar. It was three stories in all and, like the Sliver, had an ironwood door as well, though much more ornately carved.

A small set of stone steps lead up to a wooden porch. The Orcs stepped up to the door and Trilgor gave two, strong knocks. After a minute or two, the door ripped open. There stood a Halfling woman, red-haired, hazel-eyed, glaring up at him.

“You ruined my souffle, you jackass!”

It caught Trilgor off guard.

“I’m sorry, Sadie. How was I supposed to know?”

“The hell do you want, comin’ up and bangin’ on doors like you’re comin’ through?”

Grimluk stood there a moment, surprised at the ferocity of the tiny woman and her anger at a deflated souffle.

“I need to speak with Selbie,” the young captain said with a sigh. “I found a new hunter.”

He motioned towards Grimluk. The hunter touched the brim of his hat.

“Hullo, miss.”

Sadie looked the hunter up and down, like she was sizing him up.

Then, without warning, she slammed the door in their faces. They stood there, unsure of what just happened, and waited.

“Is she always like this,” Grimluk asked Trilgor.

“Actually, yes. Whatever issues Sadie’s suffered, she’s one of a few who hides it well.”

The door ripped open again as he finished speaking. This time, a older man with graying hair and round spectacles stood next to the irate baker.

“Here are the dummies,” she almost hissed before she disappeared back into the house.

Grimluk grinned to himself. He couldn’t recall anyone ever calling him a dummy, much less someone small enough he could pick up with one arm.

Snippet #3 – Monster threatens to eat backer’s kid

Two snippets down, three to go.  This week’s snippet involves one of my kickstarter backers.  Mr. Somma, with his very generous backing there at the end, requested I name a character after his son, who wanted to be an Elf.  Somehow, I got it in my head that I needed to model the character after his son as well.  It actually worked out, as Ajay is Indian and I had originally written in a family of Elves with dark skin.

I actually combined two ideas for the section.  The first was a series of nightmares my mother told me she’d had as a kid, about a man in a red coat chasing her.  The second, was The Grundel, from Extreme Ghostbusters.  If you read the Grundel page, you’ll see some controversy about the dialogue sounding like a pedophile.  Given the subject, it’s a little hard to avoid even in my version.  I just wanted to put that out first.  I’m going to be editing the scene further once I finish the current draft though, so that potential angle will be cut down quite a bit.  Enjoy!

The pair’s second stop was a father and his son, Rhim and Ajay. Elves, brown-skinned with shaggy mops of black hair falling over their pointed ears. Rhim’s honey-brown eyes were bloodshot. Ajay refused to look anyone in the eye. They were quiet and polite but short with Grimluk. Rhim was visibly hesitant to speak with the hunter. His body language told Grimluk he was wound up enough he wanted to bolt. Sadie saw she needed to step in, as the hunter had known all too well, and persuade Rhim to talk.

She was surprised when her simple confirmation that Grimluk was there to help allowed Rhim to relax some. The man clearly needed some sleep but he relaxed enough to talk.

Most of what they’d been through had happened fairly recently. They had paid no mind to the cycle of nightmares at first but at some point, the nightmares refused to stay in their dreams and invaded their waking lives.

Rhim had jolted awake from a particularly disturbing dream involving a man in a red coat luring Ajay away. When father had went to check on son, his heart had frozen. Ajay was gone. The window was open. Rhim took off for the Watch. Despite the night Watch’s best efforts, he had demanded that Trilgor inspect the scene personally. Trilgor followed him, armed, ready, and very much wanting to know where a teenage boy could disappear to in such a small town.

There was no disappearance though. Rhim and Trilgor scared Ajay half out of his skin. The window was closed and the boy had clearly been sound asleep.

A few days later, it all started back up though. This time, Ajay woke in the middle of the night to the man in the red coat tapping at his window. Ajay had told his father that it looked something like a man-sized ogre. The face was long and gaunt with a huge and grotesque jaw. Rotten teeth filled a huge mouth. Orange eyes locked onto the boy’s. A sonorous voice beckoned Ajay to come with him.

Ajay screamed. The whole building bolted awake.

Ever since, the thing in the coat had been torturing them both. If it wasn’t tapping at Ajay’s window, it was appearing at the foot of Rhim’s bed to tell him of how he would feast on the boy. Flesh and soul consumed in a banquet of eternal pain.

Grimluk let himself out as Rhim broke down into tears. A few minutes later, Sadie joined him, her own eyes looking watery, like she was going to cry as well. She sighed deeply.

“Is this what you always have to deal with?” she murmured.

“Yes.”

“How?”

“By finding the thing causing it all and stopping it. When you’re ready, we can continue.”

Sadie looked up at the hunter. Concern shown back. Her chin quivered but she held the tears back.

“You’re a good man, Grimluk.”

A small smile crept to his lips. “I try.”

Snippet #2

This whole scene is from the first draft.  I really love it and wanted to edit it and keep it.  This is the current version of it, which starts off chapter 2.  A friend who’s serving as a beta reader demanded (with much love) that I expand on the first sentence and I fully plan on it.  In any case, I hope you enjoy the current iteration and that it gets you excited to see the finished book this summer!

Grimluk emerged from the sandstorm like a phantom. Several yards ahead of him lay the town’s entrance, guarded immediately by two Human men. The hunter walked slowly towards them, covered from head to toe with a thick coating of pale dirt, which he endeavored to beat loose from himself. He stopped within talking distance, and allowed the Watchmen to observe him. The dust fell from him in great showers. After clearing himself as best he could, he held up his hands in peace, letting them know he was real and awaited their response.

“Charlie, you see this too,” the watchman on the right asked the watchman on the left.

“Big fuckin’ Orc-man,” Charlie remarked.

“Aye. We both see him them. Reckon we should ask what he wants.”

He stepped forward, holding a rifle, and shouted at Grimluk.

“We both see ya, so you’re real. What you want, Orc?”

Grimluk lowered his arms and spoke.

“I was hired to fix your demon problem” he said plainly.

The Watchman looked back at his peer before turning back to the green-skinned wanderer.

“How do we know you’re really a hunter? How do we know you ain’t a harrier?”

“You’re a Wastes town. That means you have a barrier, correct?”

“So it’s said,” the Watchman replied.

Grimluk stepped forward slowly. He could feel energy ripple as he approached. The hunter reached out his left hand and touched the barrier. It rippled and shimmered like a soap bubble, humming lightly in resistance to the Orc’s hand. The Watchmen looked at each other, curiosity and confusion washing over their faces.

Grimluk pushed his hand through the barrier.

Charlie’s rifle was up against his shoulder and aimed squarely at the Orc’s head in an instant.

“Hold back, Orc,” Charlie shouted.

Grimluk held his right hand back up and pulled his left hand back from the barrier.

“Yeah, okay…you’re true,” the other Watchman said.

The trio stood silently.