(This is not my best cover, but it was the best I could do on the budget I had at the time. I spent a ridiculous amount of time finding the right font to make it look as good as possible, anyway. And the print book does look pretty good, I have to admit.)
This one was hard to pick an excerpt from, as my favorite bit is very near the end and would be a major spoiler. I narrowed it down to three possible scenes and Jaye chose this one. Enjoy!
The trip to Mugdar was uneventful after that, for which Jake was grateful. He wanted very much for this whole thing to go smoothly so he could go back home and retire as planned. I’ve gotten too old for adventures, he thought as they docked at Mugdar’s main spaceport.
His audience with the emperor wasn’t until the next day, so he decided to spend some time playing tourist. Zardel was quite happy to show him around the empire’s capital city, being somewhat familiar with it as she had family who lived there. After several nulaire spent at museums and such, she suggested they get some drinks at a nice little bar she’d discovered the last time she was there.
“Don’t worry. I won’t let you get too drunk,” she said.
Jake shrugged. “Just a couple of drinks won’t hurt. You order for me though; I wouldn’t want to accidentally call someone something rude.”
She laughed. “Your Mugdaran is nowhere near that bad. Just keep your order simple and you should be fine.”
He stared at the drink menu and finally had to concede defeat. He could speak Mugdaran still, but he hadn’t thought to worry about whether or not he could still read it. “Zardel, what do you recommend? I can’t make heads or tails out of the menu,” he finally asked, quietly, not wanting his ignorance to be obvious.
Fighting back a smile, she said, “Order the zitka. It should be mild enough for a Human.”
He sipped at his drink after getting it. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t something he was in any hurry to drink again. Tastes like cinnamon mixed with pepper, he thought.
The evening was passing uneventfully, and then, as Jake was just about to suggest leaving, a crowd of young Mugdarans in uniform came in. One of them saw him – the only Human in the place – and grinned. “Hey, Human,” he said, in rather good Galfarran, poking Jake in the shoulder.
Counting to twelve first, Jake replied, “Yes?” He pretended not to notice Zardel reaching for the knife at her belt, ready to jump to his defense at any time.
“What you doing here?”
“I was having a drink with a friend. I’ll be leaving in a moment though,” he said, and started to stand.
The young Mugdaran grinned big enough that his fangs showed. “Nuh-uh. You hang out in a Mugdaran bar, you got to prove you could be a Mugdaran, right?” His friends all cheered and nodded agreement. Jake suspected from the general look and demeanor of the group that this wasn’t the first bar they’d been to that night.
Zardel growled. The young man looked her over appraisingly. “What’s this pathetic Human got that I don’t, sweetheart?”
“A brain?” she ventured.
“I got better than that,” he said, gesturing to what he meant.
She rolled her eyes. “Jake isn’t my lover. He’s my commander. He’s been the equivalent of a hulvim since you were nothing more than a dream of Belthis’.”
“So he’s old. Thought he might be. Looks out of shape,” one of the pest’s friends added.
“Sir.” Zardel warned as Jake stood up the rest of the way. It wasn’t, he assured people often, that he was sensitive about his weight. He knew he was heavier than he’d been in his youth. He just resented people assuming it meant he was too old and out of shape to still kick ass when called upon to do so.
The young Mugdaran laughed. “How adorable! The elderly Human wants to fight me!”
Zardel said, “Jake …” with a warning tone, but it was too late. He’d already landed the first punch.
Jake may have been in the later years of middle age; he may have been overweight; he may have been drunker than he should’ve gotten as Zardel had been a bit confused about how high the alcohol content of zitka was, but he could still fight. Alas, the young Mugdaran was no slouch in that department either. As those two fought, proving that a lack of honor is not unique to Humans, two of the young man’s friends tried to attack Jake too. Needless to say, Zardel didn’t stand for that. Nor did many others in the bar. In Mugdaran culture, there are very strong concepts of right and wrong. To violate those once you have passed the tagreeth and thereby proven you’re an adult is to invite the wrath of all. Making a fight unfair is one of the wrongs.
When the fight was over, the young men – those still conscious anyway – admitted the error of their ways and promised to refrain from such behavior in the future, or they’d turn themselves over to the gethane
and accept their punishment without complaint. Jake had one eye swelling shut and a nasty bruise forming on his jaw. Zardel had bloodied her knuckles on the belt of one of the youths but otherwise was pretty much unscathed. “Well, that was fun,” Jake quipped.
Zardel sighed and chuckled. “I just can’t go anywhere with you, can I? C’mon, let’s get back to the ship and let Angel take a look at you.”
“Hey, look on the bright side: Neither of us is in jail this time,” he said, referring to what had happened on Gressit after his previous first officer, Gerard, had accidentally been rude while propositioning the king.
And here are the links to where you can get your very own copy of this story! It’s free! And, while I can’t guarantee it’s free from spelling and punctuation errors – I know of one extra comma and one missing one at least – I do promise it’s got less errors than “Once A Hero, Always A Hero” has.
This novella – and the short story in the book as well – are under a Creative Commons, Attribution, Non-commercial, Share Alike license . . . which basically means you can do whatever you want from it, just so long as you don’t charge for it.
Also, an expanded version of this story should be coming out at some point in the next year or so, so if you want to wait for it, that’s cool. The story is still the same, the main changes have been switching it to first person and adding more scenes from Emperor Kristark’s point of view to give a better perspective on what was going on back on Mugdar.
I’m also planning – and have a partially completed first draft of the first few chapters of the first book of – a series following Jake’s life, starting with him as the kid of an impoverished ranch hand on a world that is a multi-week trip from Sweytz. My working title for the first book is Little House on Perlithis, which should tell you everything you need to know about it.
Enjoy. If you want to know why I wrote this, it’s at the end of the story.
It was hard to be the youngest pet in the household, Zarillia often thought. Every time something got broken, it seemed like she was the one who got blamed. The people in the house never acted like the dog or arino could have been responsible. They certainly never considered the thought that one of the older cats might have done it when Georgia and Serena brought Tiger Lily and Hamadryad over.
It’s not fair, the beautiful young cat thought one day as she sat under the dining room table, cleaning her paws. I’m the prettiest, yet I’m the one everybody’s always mad at. I should do something about this.
She was pondering exactly what she should do when Candy — who Zarillia was quite sure was the loudest, most boisterous dog ever — ran in, followed by the equally loud and boisterous youngest of the many, many children that lived in the house. Candy, who was under the mistaken impression that Zarillia was her best friend, rushed over to kiss her.
Ugh! thought Zarillia, backing out of reach of the dog’s tongue. Dog slobber. Ew! I’m going to smell horrible now.
The dog looked upset for about half a piclano, then took off, following the child who was leaving a trail of cookie crumbs.
Zarillia wished her person was home. Viktor was nice to her. Unless she played with his sleeves . . . or his earrings . . . or his hair.
Come to think of it, she realized, he’s not very nice to me either. She walked to the kitchen to see if any bits of the lizard she’d smelled earlier had appeared in her bowl. They hadn’t yet, but Tera was in there, doing something with the lizard on the counter, so Zarillia jumped up to investigate.
“Get down,” the Human scolded. “You know better.”
“Mrrrow!” Zarillia told her, indignant.
“Well, you do,” Tera said, turning her attention back to the lizard.
No one loves me, Zarillia thought as she went to the living room. She jumped in Quinn’s lap.
“Hello,” he said, looking down at her. “I was about to get up, dear.” He very carefully removed her claws from his leg when she tried to convince him that nothing he was planning to do could possibly be nearly as important as holding her and set her on the couch next to him as he stood up.
Her most pathetic expression had no effect on the hard-hearted man.
A few saenead later, when he went out the front door, she darted out behind him. An idea had come to her. She had, of course, been outside before. But — because the people she lived with were horrible and determined to keep her from ever having fun, she was sure — she wasn’t supposed to go outside without being invited.
A lemyrkûn chirped down at her. Obviously it wanted to play. In a heartbeat, she was halfway up the tree. The lemyrkûn had jumped to another tree and was up at the very tippy top. Zarillia yelled at it for not playing nice. No one is ever nice to me, she thought as she headed further up the tree.
Renata, who Zarillia was not particularly fond of right then because of a misunderstanding over the ownership of a particularly comfortable blanket a little bit earlier, looked up. “Zarillia! Get down from there, you damned cat!”
Zarillia ignored her, walking along a branch that led her away from the blanket stealing Human. I wonder what else is up here, she thought, carefully investigating every leaf and flower. There were so many neat sights and smells in the tree! And the dumb Humans are on the ground! I’m so much smarter than any of them, she reflected as she daintily made her way along, ignoring Renata’s tirade about how much trouble she was going to be in if she didn’t get down.
“Zarillia, I mean it! Get down here, right now, or someone’s coming up after you!” Renata yelled.
Zarillia looked at her disdainfully and climbed even further up the tree. Today was the day she’d been dreaming of her whole life: the day she saw what was at the top of the tree!
“I can climb up after her, Momma!” Elizabeth said, eagerly.
“Do it. Don’t hurt her though, young lady,” Renata said to her daughter. Elizabeth would never intentionally hurt a pet, Zarillia knew — the people she lived with were cruel, but they were careful to never hurt her deliberately, at least. Elizabeth, though, sometimes got too enthusiastic and had injured the wonderful kitty’s paw so badly the other day that she’d limped for ages . . . all the way from lunch to dinner! Viktor had been quite sympathetic and given her some super tasty organs from his plate. For a person, she thought, he is pretty nice.
Zarillia sincerely doubted a person could climb a tree as well as a cat, so she ignored the child scrambling up after her and continued her journey to the top of the tree. Maybe I’ll just stay up there, she thought. Those flying lizard things are sure to be tasty. I’ll eat them, and play with lemyrkûns, and not have to deal with bossy people who won’t let me have fun ever again! It was the best idea she’d ever had.
Alas, she had underestimated Elizabeth’s climbing prowess. Before Zarillia quite reached the top, a sudden tug on her tail let her know the child had caught up with her. She hissed in distress.
“Well, if you’d hold still for half a piclano I could grab you by something besides your tail!” the child fussed, scrambling up beside the cat and grabbing her around the mid-section. “I got her, Momma!”
“Good. Thank you. Now, take her inside. If you come back out, make sure she doesn’t follow you,” Renata commanded.
Always so bossy, thought Zarillia. Then she saw her person coming out of the mysterious building in the distance, the one she’d never been allowed in except inside a horrible, torturously small cage. She was quite certain that the people kept all manner of exciting things in there that they were jealously guarding. Someday, she promised herself, someday, I’ll see what’s in there!
But for now, she just wanted her person. Viktor would understand that nobody else loved her. He wasn’t perfect. If he were perfect, she’d get to play with the pretty dangly things in his ears and bat at the lace on his sleeves without getting fussed at, but he was the best person she’d ever known. If anybody was going to take pity on a poor, unloved kitty, it would be him.
As soon as Elizabeth was a safe distance down the tree, Zarillia jumped from her captor’s arms and ran to the best person ever, meowing pathetically.
“I understand you came outside without permission, young lady,” he said to her. She knew he couldn’t really be mad at her, though, so she rubbed against his legs and purred. “You know better,” he went on, picking her up and snuggling her. “Let’s get you back inside. If you can behave, I’ll let you come out with me after dinner, okay?” She purred and snuggled against him. He wasn’t perfect. But he was her person, and he did love her.
And how was she to know that he didn’t want to share the lizard bits on his plate at dinner with her? Tomorrow, she thought from the hiding place under a bookcase that she’d scurried to when she’d been yelled at, tomorrow, I’ll show them what happens when you don’t treat a wonderful kitty like me right.
Where the heck did something like this come from, I’m sure you’re asking. Well, I saw someone requesting stories for a cat-themed sci-fi anthology, and this is where my brain went. I, in case anyone cares, am not submitting to said anthology because the anthology was being put together by a blogger with about the same number of followers as this one who was counting on a successful Kickstarter happening to actually make the anthology happen. I’m pretty sure the odds of that are somewhere between slim and none, and my story is barely sci-fi anyway, so I decided to just share it with you guys. Hope you enjoyed it!
(Why is bubble wrap a suggested tag for this post?!)
I’m doing these, in case anyone is curious, to make revising a little less tedious and boring. Today I will not be revising No More Lies, however. I will be revising a short story about a horribly unloved cat (Her people won’t let her on the counter and the dog kisses her! Can you imagine such a terrible life?!) that I’ll probably post in a few days. Yes, it’s silly.
“Oops.” (I used Undo one time too many and undid pasting the text into a new document.)
“The . . .”
“Zuh-rill-ee-uh.” (I suddenly couldn’t be sure the cat’s name was spelled in a way that made the pronunciation clear, so I had to say it slowly.)
“What the hell is going on now?!” (Okay, this one was more at the computer than the manuscript, but since it looked like my word processor might’ve suddenly locked up for no fucking reason, it counts.)
And that’s it for that story. That hardly took any work. This either means I wrote a pretty clean first draft — possible, it’s barely over 1000 words so there’s not much room to make mistakes — or I missed a lot of really obvious shit.
So, moving on to one of my favorite bits of No More Lies:
“Oh, I spelled that right!” (Associate. It looks wrong.)
Lots of sighing because my timeline in this bit is tying my brain in a knot.
“Ow, that sentence!”
“‘Was’, ‘was‘, what the hell?!”
I laughed very hard at this bit, which is just . . . this is Bobby at the beginning of this story, in a nutshell:
I was trying to figure out what to do with a bra I’d just found in my couch. And wondering whose it was. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a woman over.
“‘Staring to sound’ . . .?”
“I love Bobby.”
(Conversation with cat: “Would you not grab my lips while I’m talking?!” “Mrowwww!!” I think that means “Fuck you, I’ll grab what I want.”)
“‘Her tone’, no.”
“‘Despite’ . . . yeah, ‘despite being a drug dealer.'”
No, I was wrong. This is early story Bobby in a nutshell. This is his girlfriend he’s talking to here:
“I’m not going to catch any rare, communicable, incurable diseases from your bathroom, right?” She sounded sincerely worried. That hurt some.
I decided to try to put her at ease by making her laugh. “None that you haven’t already caught from me,” I said with a smirk.
And now I’m at the end of a scene and tired of the cat grabbing my mouth every time I read a bit aloud to make sure it works, so I’m done for now.
(WARNING: I HAD CAFFEINATED TEA WHILE WRITING THIS AND THIS GOT REALLY FUCKING RAMBLY IN PLACES BECAUSE OF THIS.)
The problem is, to find an excerpt to post I had to re-read it.
I found half a scene I liked enough to share with the world.
Yeah, that’s in a book I’ve published.
And here’s where I relate an embarrassing anecdote, one I’ve alluded to before but never really talked about:
Years ago, as it became clear that there was no publisher who wanted stories of the type and length I write (the market for novelettes and novellas for an unpublished sf author is basically non-existent), I started reading advice on self-publishing. I found out about a blog that was highly regarded at the time. The author of said blog advocated writing and releasing quickly instead of aiming for perfection . . . handling things like the old pulps did (according to him, I’ve since learned this wasn’t universally true), in other words.
The author’s advice — and this was an author who was self-publishing and upfront about how much he was making, so I assumed he knew what he was talking about — boiled down to “write and publish lots of things very quickly, and the money will start pouring in, so long as your stories are pretty free of basic grammar and spelling errors.” (I later learned that he had been trad published and gotten a bit of a fandom years before, which makes his sales atypical.)
It was phrased in a way that made his advice seem logical instead of fucking stupid. And, Jesus Motherfucking Christ, I just realized I fell for a con artist, basically . . . he offered $500+ workshops on various aspects of writing and marketing too. I think maybe his shitty advice, cleverly phrased, was mostly just a way to convince you to take his workshops and buy his writing advice books which were updated and re-released just about every fucking year, so you could learn why the money wasn’t pouring in yet.
Also, I’d spent over a fucking year working on just the original version of “Once A Hero, Always A Hero”. I was so sick of the story by the time I released it that I couldn’t even tell if it was good or not any more. (And that version wasn’t good. The new one isn’t great, but at least it’s good.) The idea that the right way to handle things was to write fast, do one editing pass, publish, and then move on to the next thing sounded fucking awesome. (I should probably mention that at the time I was much more concerned with making money from my writing than I am now for all sorts of reasons that I’m not getting into here.)
In case you haven’t realized it from other things I’ve blogged about, one thing I constantly deal with is the conflict between my being a perfectionist and being utterly fucking lazy. It takes forever for me to get around to doing things, but once I do them, they are going to be done right, goddammit! I’d finally published “Once A Hero” when I ran out of places where I thought I needed to fix the punctuation.
Yeah, I should’ve thought about places where I needed to fix the story instead. I think, honestly, I was so thrilled to have finished something for the first time in a decade that I didn’t even consider the possibility that the story might not have been that good. My beta readers were useless. One knew that she didn’t like it much, but couldn’t figure out why. The other had the weirdest advice, like telling me to use a word that was one syllable shorter in a fight scene so it would move faster, and a tendency to get so caught up in explaining what some of my grammar and punctuation errors were that my eyes were glazing over by the time I got to their feedback on the next sentence. (For future beta readers, your explanation of why I need to use a different verb tense somewhere shouldn’t be over a paragraph. Also, if it keeps showing up in one character’s dialogue, assume maybe it’s deliberate!)
So, anyway, I found the advice that said to, basically, turn myself into a story factory and thought it sounded good. So it took only two months — maybe a little less — to go from a finished draft of The Crown of Eldrete to the product you can buy.
How did I revise it so quickly? I pretty much didn’t. I read through it a few times and fixed the worst errors. There is very, very little difference in the first draft and the version I put up for sale. (I think I’ve made more changes to this post in the past fifteen minutes than I made to that whole novella between first writing it and publishing it.)
This is fine for some authors. Louis L’Amour, who usually only did a single draft, wrote so quickly that he convinced his publisher to put out two of his novels a year instead of the industry standard one. And he’s never been out of print.
But, J. R. R. Tolkien released very few books in his life, and he’s still in print too.
So which is the best way to do things?
There isn’t one. Any author can only answer what’s best for them. For me, that seems to be a quickly written first draft that gets the plot and characters and such in place — maybe more of a zeroth draft, as I’ve seen some call a dashed down first draft that pretty much serves the same purpose as an outline — and then a series of end-to-end revision passes until it doesn’t suck any more. And then another proofreading only pass because, holy shit, I overuse commas. (My wife leaves commas out a lot. I joke that every comma I delete from one of my stories, I add to one of hers.) I hope to streamline this process in the future so I need less drafts because I’ve got so many works-in-progress at any time that I sometimes feel like I’m never going to finish anything, and I’ve done some experimenting with a method that might help — fixing the worst problems while writing my first/zeroth draft — but since none of the stories written that way have gotten revised at all yet, it’s too early to tell if it really will.
But, I stress for the several-th time in a recentish blog entry, I’m not in this for the money. If you’re in this crazy ass career for the money, then I think your best bet is to write and publish formulaic romances as fast as you can. Hell, I’ve considered doing that. More money would be nice, I admit. But I couldn’t look myself in the eye if I did. Maybe, hell, probably, I could do it if it was a choice between that or starving. It’s not, so I can’t bring myself to do it. I understand that this, in the eyes of some, makes me a pretentious ass. Apparently an artist should always be willing to do anything that makes them money from doing what they love. I think that sounds a little too close to prostitution for my liking.
Anyway, the point of this long ass rambly thingy was to say that I’m going to take The Crown of Eldrete down soon, so if you want it, go grab it now. Someday it will get redone in some fashion or another, or the bits of it I like will get incorporated into something else.
If it had sold well, I wouldn’t do this; I’d assume that it had found a market even if it didn’t include me. But as it is, I can account for all but two of the copies that haven’t been free downloads. And there have only been about 100 free downloads . . . many of which, I think based on one site where I can see what it’s frequently bought with, were from people who download every free thing in their favorite genre. Right now, it’s an embarrassment to me that’s probably hurting the chances those 100 people will ever read my other stuff. (The print version will still be available because it’s print-on-demand and it’s, from what I’ve read, a wretch to get CreateSpace to take something down. But I’m pretty damned sure no one but my mother has bought a print copy, so that shouldn’t matter.) So it’s going away.
(This is non-negotiable, by the way. Quite frankly, I don’t give a fuck what you thought about the book. I consider it an embarrassment, and I’m the one whose name is on it. And, because I know there are corners of the internet where any time an author takes down a book with mostly bad reviews, especially an author as unabashedly leftist as me, it’s seen as a sign the author is a sensitive snowflake who can’t take criticism, something something triggered, something something safe space, I feel I must state outright that I’d have made the same decision if all the reviews were five stars. It’s called integrity, something your side of politics is supposedly big on.)
Jake’s Last Mission, which I’m sure most of you have realized by now I consider the best of my published works, is presently #84 on Amazon’s Top Free Kindle Space Opera list. Also on that list are books by E. E. “Doc” Smith, Andre Norton, Edgar Rice Burroughs, M. C. A. Hogarth, and Eric Flint. Okay, they’re all above my book, but I don’t care. I’m on the same best-seller list as five of my favorite authors!
JLM is also #90 on the military science fiction list. There it’s in the company of books by David Weber, John Ringo, David Drake (ahead of one of his!), and Michael Z. Williamson (also ahead of his . . . which is right and proper as I’ve tried to read the book in question repeatedly and never finished it.). None of them are authors I’m particularly fond of (well, like Weber’s fantasy, but I can’t get into the Honorverse books for some reason), but I’m sure they’re authors every sf fan has heard of, so it’s still awesome to be on the same list as them.
JLM is also #92 on the 65 to 100 pages, Science Fiction and Fantasy list. There it’s in the company of H. G. Wells! The first sci-fi novel I ever read — unless you count TSR Endless Quest books — was The War of the Worlds, so he holds a very special place in my heart.
(I know a lot of trad published authors say Amazon lists don’t count; I don’t give a fuck what they think. Their goals and my goals aren’t the same. If they were, I’d be writing novels instead of mostly novellas and doing the whole submitting to publishers and getting rejection after rejection thing.)
So, I did Nanowrimo this November, as I previously mentioned. I said I’d do a blogpost about why, but I don’t recall what I was going to say in one because my reasons basically boil down to the atmosphere on their forums had changed to be much more friendly and less stupid, so the community aspect wasn’t horrible any more, and I needed a kick in the pants. I had minor pneumonia at the very beginning of the month and still managed to get 55,000 words. I was only aiming for 25,000 because of the way the month started. So I kind of blew way the fuck past that.
In December, I used http://pacemaker.press to track my progress because it has the ability to customize your chart for days you won’t be working and such. I was aiming for 30,000 word and only got 24,000. I’m okay with this, though, because most of the difference was because I took a longer break at Christmas than I’d anticipated.
Last month, I tried not tracking my progress in any fashion, deciding I’d add everything up at the end of the month and see how if tracking it has any influence on much I write. I also ended up not writing anything new besides blogposts — which I had been counting in my word count in November and December. I made a lot of blogposts and, not counting the “Things I said while revising” ones because those are just typing statements I made aloud, those total around 8000 words. This is an inflated number, I know, because two of those blogposts contained lots of text from stories I’ve already written.
I also ended up revising about 9000 words of No More Lies. It’s becoming common author practice, at least on Nanowrimo and related communities, to count one hour of revision or editing as 1000 words. But since I usually write between 1400 and 1800 words an hour, it seems to me I’d be selling myself short to do that. Also, I don’t pay attention to how long I’ve spent revising or editing. I do a scene and then another scene and then another until I run out of creative energy. Some days after two hours and not quite finishing one short scene, I call it quits; others I can do four long scenes and totally lose myself in what I’m doing and have no fucking clue how long I’ve been at it. It’s too variable a thing to have any sort of time = words ratio, in my experience.
Of course I also don’t edit “right”, according to a lot of the same people who swear by the one hour = 1000 words thing, since every editing pass I make, save the final spelling and grammar one, is an end-to-end revision. Apparently you’re first supposed to go through and fix overuse of certain words, then scenes that aren’t in the right spot, and then thematic issues and so on until you’ve gone through the story about ten million times and never fixed that typo you noticed in the first line because it’s not time to fix it until the final pass. (Yes, seriously. I’ve seen so many authors saying things like “What’s the point of fixing typos if that sentence might not end up in the final draft?” Uhmmm . . . because if you keep seeing the typo you risk becoming inured to it?! Your brain knows what you meant there, after all. Take the two fucking seconds to fix it! Especially if you can’t/won’t hire a proofreader.) I start at line 1, page 1 and go through it time and again until I’ve got a story as perfect as I can make it, fixing every problem I see each pass . . . like I’m pretty sure most authors did for most of history. I really don’t see how some of the “This is how you have to do it” things authors come up with these days could ever possibly have worked pre-computer. I’m pretty damned sure people who handwrote their books weren’t ignoring their spelling errors until they produced the final draft, you know? (Of course, some of the same people saying editing must be done this one way are also the same ones who swear you can’t write a novel unless you use novel-writing software. I sometimes wonder if they’re aware computers are much, much newer than the novel.)
Sorry for the digression. My point was that it does seem like tracking my word count increases my productivity . . . but I have to wonder about the validity of that conclusion given that I spent a great deal of last month watching in horror as President Trump did horrible thing after horrible thing, so I lost a lot of writing and revising time to that AND I did more roleplaying than I have in ages, which uses the same bits of my brain (and I, unlike one of my favorite authors, absolutely fucking refuse to give up rpgs so I can write more, for enough reasons that I’m not getting into them here.). So the experiment’s results are inconclusive.
This month I’m going to go ahead and make a plan on Pacemaker because — even though, as I just said, I can’t prove it — I feel like I’m more productive when I’ve got a chart showing me how far ahead or behind of where I want to be I am. I’ve also just discovered I can set it to track progress by scenes, so I’m going to see how many I did last month and add a few to that.
Again, home alone except for the cat.
“There we go! Turn the sleaziness up!”
“Nah.” (This and the above were about the same line I’d just added. And said about five seconds apart. I changed my mind as soon as I finished typing it.)
“Arrggh! That made it worse!”
“Fuck. I don’t know how to spell that.” (Surreptitiously . . . which I apparently DO know how to spell!)
I laughed at my spelling “relief” “refiel” and then “refief.”
“‘Kind rough’? Really, Shannon?”
“Argh! Oh my god.”
“Oh my god.”
There has also been lots of sighing. Past me needs smacked for how vague some parts of what I edited today are.
Then I had to go search for tasteless tattoos to fix the vagueness in one spot. I love my protagonist, really.
“Much better.” (I decided the tattoo is best not described. I’m picturing something that crass.)
Only 4.5 pages done, but two hours of work, so I guess it’s just going slowly in this section.
This is another thing from that list of blogposts that wasn’t totally stupid.
“Make a list of great first lines from books,” it said. So, here is a list of five first lines that I really like, in no special order:
- All children, except one, grow up. — Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
- It is given to few people in this world to disappear twice but, as he had succeeded once, the man known as James T. Kettleman was about to make his second attempt. — Flint by Louis L’Amour
- In submitting Captain Carter’s strange manuscript to you in book form, I believe that a few words relative to this remarkable personality will be of interest. — A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
- The open-air mall was bustling with early afternoon shoppers walking to and fro. — Tsar Wars: Agents of ISIS, Book 1 by Stephen Goldin
- Delyn Laquilavvar laughed in farewell and let the mists claim him. — Swords of Eveningstar; The Knights of Myth Drannor, Book 1 by Ed Greenwood
That was going to be a list of ten, but it was harder than I thought to find first lines that I loved. I could find lots of first paragraphs that were incredible, but very rarely was I impressed with the very firstest line of a book. I think this shows that, perhaps, too many wannabe authors stress way too much about their first line being perfect.
I’m not sure I could even bullshit an explanation for why most of those first lines appealed to me so much, so I’m not going to bother, except for explaining #4 which doesn’t really seem that interesting by itself. What makes it stand out to me is that it’s the first line of a space opera. Yes, that’s right: a space opera that’s first sentence could be in a contemporarily set book. This got my attention because it led me to suspect I wasn’t going to be reading yet another book in Ye Generic Space Opera Setting. (The book in question didn’t disappoint, by the way. You can read my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/946388032?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1).
I’m not sure what the point of this blogpost is supposed to be. Is it to show you what sort of first line you can expect from me, maybe? If so . . . yeah, that’s probably setting your expectations a bit high. I put a lot more work into making sure every line is good enough to make you read the next than worrying about having a killer first line/first paragraph/first 200 words/whatever-the-magical-amount-is-today. But, what the heck, here are the first lines of my published works and some of my works-in-progress that have completed drafts.:
- From the piclano I’d walked into Scorig’s house, I’d known something was wrong. — “Once A Hero, Always A Hero”
- “You’re a guardian faeshir, aren’t you?” Lyndsey asked, seeing the expert swordsmanship of the rebel woman fighting by her side. — The Crown of Eldrete
- The klaxons blared, awakening Mithoska Jake Kavaliro from his sleep. — Jake’s Last Mission
I took a deep, centering breath before walking into the High Chancellor’s office. — No More Lies
“Did I overhear you saying you’re looking for someone to look after your pets while you’re gone?” I asked Renata as she sat cleaning her sword. — Ren and Quinn, Hopefully Final Version (My working titles are awesome, aren’t they?)
I was up, dressed, and buckling a knife around my waist before the person at my door hit the buzzer a second time. — Jake’s Last Mission, Expansion
“This better be your twisted idea of a joke,” I said, glaring at Quirino. — Jake Becomes Mithoska
Based on just first lines, I don’t think I’d be interested in any of those. But, based strictly on the first line, even The Hobbit doesn’t fare well. It’s actual first line is just “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” The rest of what people quote all the time as its first line? Those are separate sentences!
So maybe there’s something to the first paragraph theory. Let’s see how my first paragraphs look:
- From the piclano I’d walked into Scorig’s house, I’d known something was wrong. The little Zeipieran was constantly flitting his eyes to the windows or door of his tiny, one room shack and jumping a bit every time there was a sudden noise. From Vik’s body language, I could tell he’d noticed too. I tried not to worry about it. I was out of the saving people business. Karen and the kids had talked me into retiring from SDFSF about a year and a half before. I was there to complete the insanely intricate ritual required before we could get permission to serve Scorig’s brandy and then go home. Someone else could deal with whatever he was worried about. — “Once A Hero, Always A Hero”
- “You’re a guardian faeshir, aren’t you?” Lyndsey asked, seeing the expert swordsmanship of the rebel woman fighting by her side. And a Kavaliro, or at least someone who learned from one, at that, she thought, but didn’t say in case she was wrong. — The Crown of Eldrete
- The klaxons blared, awakening Mithoska Jake Kavaliro from his sleep. He pulled his clothes on, as he ran to the comm, thinking his new second-in-command was just being jumpy again. “What’s the problem this time?” — Jake’s Last Mission (Yes, I see the unneeded comma. I fixed one punctuation error in that sentence and seem to have created another that no one caught. Oops.)
I took a deep, centering breath before walking into the High Chancellor’s office. I was scared – no, I was fucking terrified – but there was no way I was going to let him see that. Not today, not with the rumors I’d been hearing. By the time I approached His High Assholeness’ desk, I was the very picture of a calm, collected, highly trained assassin. — No More Lies
- Ren and Quinn, Hopefully Final Version’s first line is the entire first paragraph.
I was up, dressed, and buckling a knife around my waist before the person at my door hit the buzzer a second time. “Come in,” I said, hoping I didn’t look or sound as half-asleep as I still felt. — Jake’s Last Mission, Expansion
- Jake Becomes Mithoska’s first line is also the entire first paragraph.
Hmm . . . based on just the first paragraphs, I’d read “Once A Hero” and No More Lies for sure. Still doesn’t look like my stories have the best beginnings though. One more experiment, this time looking at the first 200(ish) words (which is frequently given as the amount of words you have to hook or lose a reader. I think this is because this is the number of words the average person reads in a minute.):
- From the piclano I’d walked into Scorig’s house, I’d known something was wrong. The little Zeipieran was constantly flitting his eyes to the windows or door of his tiny, one room shack and jumping a bit every time there was a sudden noise. From Vik’s body language, I could tell he’d noticed too. I tried not to worry about it. I was out of the saving people business. Karen and the kids had talked me into retiring from SDFSF about a year and a half before. I was there to complete the insanely intricate ritual required before we could get permission to serve Scorig’s brandy and then go home. Someone else could deal with whatever he was worried about.
Of course things couldn’t stay that simple though. We were barely through the second nulaire of the ritual when suddenly three large Humans bust down the door. “Lerexit is out of brandy,” one of them said, a bald guy with a large knife on his belt and a blaster that I bet he thought was hidden making a bulge in the back of his jacket.
“I told you! I have no more! Come back next gheli!” Scorig squeaked as his mottled pink skin began to ooze a clear fluid. — “Once A Hero, Always A Hero”
- “You’re a guardian faeshir, aren’t you?” Lyndsey asked, seeing the expert swordsmanship of the rebel woman fighting by her side. And a Kavaliro, or at least someone who learned from one, at that, she thought, but didn’t say in case she was wrong.
“I was the junior guardian faeshir at the local temple until these bastards took it,” she paused as she sent yet another foe to meet the spirits. “Name’s Taliza Kavaliro.”
Lyndsey grinned as she dispatched two more of the Neo-Imperialists. “Lyndsey Katherine Kavaliro-Blue, at your service.” She inclined her head slightly as she said it, the closest she could come in current circumstances to her usual bow with a flourish.
Taliza’s smile broadened. “Cousins, then?”
“Probably of some sort. I’m Kalem’s great-great-granddaughter, ” Lyndsey said, stabbing a foe in the heart.
“And I’m Mina’s … Kalem’s sister,” the young faeshir said as she disemboweled the final Neo-Imperialist. “Messy. I always hate doing that.”
“The way he was coming at you, what choice did you have?” Lyndsey asked, wiping her blade carefully before sheathing it.
“True,” Taliza said sadly as she recited prayers over their fallen foes. Lyndsey stayed respectfully quiet, though she followed a different religious path herself. — The Crown of Eldrete
- The klaxons blared, awakening Mithoska Jake Kavaliro from his sleep. He pulled his clothes on, as he ran to the comm, thinking his new second-in-command was just being jumpy again. “What’s the problem this time?”
Jevan, the new second-in-command, looked nervous. “I thought I could handle it,” the much younger man muttered, not looking his commanding officer in the eye.
“You thought you could handle what exactly?”
“There’s a Mugdaran ship with its weapons trained on us,” Jevan said.
Jake’s glare got even more intense. “Mugdaran? You sure?”
“Yes. A Telikmid, to be exact.”
“Tell me the rest when I get there.”
Jake darted to the bridge surprisingly fast for a man of his size and age. “Weapons ready?” he asked his weapons officer as soon as he stepped in the door.
As the Quilloid trilled an affirmative, Jake turned to Jevan. “Start explaining and make it quick.”
“They came out of hyperspace about fifteen saenead ago and didn’t try to hail us first or anything. They just pointed their weapons at us. I tried to hail them, but they aren’t responding. I sounded the alarm after they ignored my third attempt.” — Jake’s Last Mission
I took a deep, centering breath before walking into the High Chancellor’s office. I was scared – no, I was fucking terrified – but there was no way I was going to let him see that. Not today, not with the rumors I’d been hearing. By the time I approached His High Assholeness’ desk, I was the very picture of a calm, collected, highly trained assassin.
“You wanted to see me, High Chancellor?” I asked. He was expecting me to try something stupid, that was clear from the blaster he had casually laying in front of him. He knew me too well. I said a quick, silent prayer for patience and self-control.
“Yes. I have a mission for you, a very straightforward one: Arrange for Kenshin Kenodori to meet with an untimely demise. Immediately.” He didn’t yell the last word, that wasn’t his style, but it was a near thing.
“Kill Kenshin?” I asked incredulously, calling on years of training to keep worry and fear from showing in either my voice or expression. “What kind of joke is this?”
The High Chancellor smiled evilly. “Oh, I think you know this isn’t a joke, taverlot. You know exactly what he’s been doing, don’t you?” — No More Lies
“Did I overhear you saying you’re looking for someone to look after your pets while you’re gone?” I asked Renata as she sat cleaning her sword.
She nodded. “Yeah. Why? You know someone who could?” She studied the blade and frowned at something I couldn’t see.
“It just happens that I do. And that someone also could use a place to stay for a bit,” I said, smiling endearingly.
She rolled her eyes. “Really? Would this someone happen to be a sexy Ruvellian noble who just got kicked out by the last person whose place he was crashing at because he . . . let’s see, how did it go? Oh, right. Because he ‘is a picky asshole who’s always giving relationship advice, whether it’s wanted or not’?”
I had the decency to look a bit ashamed of myself. “Yes, that would be the very person I had in mind. Altair exaggerated a bit, by the way. I never gave him relationship advice. I merely pointed out — one night when he was complaining about a very long lack of female companionship in his life — some things he could do to improve that situation.” I paused, still confused by his response. “Apparently I was supposed to ‘be a supportive friend’ and not give advice.” — Ren and Quinn, Hopefully Final Version
I was up, dressed, and buckling a knife around my waist before the person at my door hit the buzzer a second time. “Come in,” I said, hoping I didn’t look or sound as half-asleep as I still felt.
Bowing his head reverentially, the emperor’s aide at my door said, “Your Majesty, your presence is requested in the palace at once.”
I must still be dreaming, I thought. I shook my head hard, trying to clear sleep from my mind . . . or force myself to wake up if this was a dream. “Repeat that. I must have misunderstood you.”
“Your presence is requested in the palace at once, Your Majesty.”
No! I’m not ready! I thought treacherously. Hoping my face hadn’t shown my momentary doubt that I deserved the honor of being Emperor of the Mugdarans, I said, perfectly calmly, “Lead the way.”
At the door of the palace we were challenged by two guards and a priest. “Who dares come at this sacred time?” the priest asked as the guards half drew their blasters.
I spoke as clearly and loudly as I could as I said for the first time the title that I would bear until my death. “Emperor Kristark Zadeem Hulvim kir Pladeen zakir Vethane shakir Nelvidi.” — Jake’s Last Mission, Expansion
“This better be your twisted idea of a joke,” I said, glaring at Quirino.
“I’m afraid it’s not, Jake,” he said. “Rosanna’s ship was destroyed before anyone could get to escape pods. So, you’re the mithoska of the fleet now.”
“Why me? What about—”
He interrupted me. “Because you’re a bossy son of a bitch and damned good at making Dichidian ships fall out of the sky.”
I couldn’t argue with that. If I hadn’t been a bossy son of a bitch, I wouldn’t be commanding the best ship in the whole damned fleet. If I wasn’t good at destroying Dichidian ships, I wouldn’t be there to have this conversation with him. “Well . . . fuck,” I said, running my hand through my hair. “I was supposed to be going home for a bit over Winter Fest, you know.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, sounding sincere. Hell, he probably was. I was pissed at him right then, but he is a damned nice guy.
“Vali ain’t gonna be happy.”
“Hey, beautiful,” I said, trying to force a smile when I managed to get a call through to her a few nulaire later.
“Hi,” she said, sounding about as downcast as I felt. “I heard about Rosanna’s ship. You’re the new mithoska, aren’t you?” — Jake Becomes Mithoska
Now, to be bluntly honest with myself, I wouldn’t keep reading “Once A Hero” . . . I’ve already seen too many little things that bug me. (I’m not revising it again. I’ll fix the spelling errors and some of the most glaring punctuation ones, but that’s it, lest I go full George Lucas and never fucking stop tinkering with the damned thing.) I can’t judge The Crown of Eldrete fairly because I know what the beginning could (and should, arguably) have been instead of what it is, but if it was somebody else’s book, I’d probably keep reading. I’d keep reading Jake’s Last Mission, No More Lies , and Jake’s Last Mission, Expansion for sure. I might keep reading Ren and Quinn and Jake Becomes Mithoska, depending on my mood. But . . . and here’s where I break with convention author wisdom . . . just because I say that based on the first 200 words doesn’t mean I’d keep reading until the end. It also doesn’t mean I’d even read to the end of the sample. Which means it definitely doesn’t mean I’d necessarily buy the books. That’s why every single word counts. Make them all as good as you can, not just the first whatever.
So, out of curiosity, which of my works would you want to read, based on the first 200 words?
Before I start this one, I should probably warn you that this one is not about writing, fiction, or any of the other shit I normally rant about here. This one is about me, Shannon Haddock the person. So if you’re just here for writing stuff, you probably want to skip this one. (Also, I’m writing this at 4am while seriously pissed off, so my spelling and grammar may be more flakey than usual. Sorry.)
In case there’s anyone reading this who didn’t know it, I’m nonbinary. (I don’t care what pronouns you use for me. Life is too short to give a fuck about shit like that, in my opinion.) This, I’ve just learned, according to a bitchton of people who comment on YouTube videos that mention the word . . . or androgyny or genderqueer or anything else that implies the existence of more than two options for human gender . . . means that I’m actually delusional and/or just want attention.
Now, to be fair, I do think there are some people who claim to be something out of the “normal” two genders who are just wanting attention. But you know what? I don’t give a fuck. They’re usually really fucking obvious because they’re doing things like inventing things that disobey all rules of every known language to use as their unique gender and pronouns. And so I treat them the same way I did all the pagans who were inventing shit out of nowhere in the late 90s/early 2000s: roll my eyes and ignore them.
But me? I CRIED WHEN I FIRST READ A DEFINITION OF NONBINARY THAT DESCRIBED ME. I was thirty-five-goddamned-years old and FINALLY had found a word that described my gender. Thirty-five! Thirty five years of being a bit uncomfortable with being seen as a female, but only slightly less uncomfortable with being seen as a male (People who only know me online tend to assume I’m male. I guess I write like a guy?). (And experiencing more discomfort with being seen as female is partially internalized misogyny, I’ve realized recently, and maybe someday I’ll manage that blogpost . . . been working on it for several months.)
I knew I wasn’t trans . . . I’m perfectly happy having the body parts I do. But I’d be just as happy with the other choice.
Many years ago, I took an online gender predictor test and scored dead center. That led to me researching androgyny and this new concept I learned about in the process, “genderqueer”. The thing was, aside from one mention of “psychological androgyny,” all the discussions and websites and whatnot seemed to be about how to make yourself look like Ziggy Stardust era David Bowie. That wasn’t what I wanted. I like my huge boobs. The shortest my hair has ever been is a couple of inches past my shoulders, and that was because a stylist was an idiot. The shortest it’s ever been on purpose is the middle of my back. There’s no way in fucking hell that I’m ever going to cut it shorter than that just so people look at me and can’t tell what gender I am . . . besides, that’s fucking stupid. I’ve had male friends with hair longer than mine.
I, for years, periodically told people when it was relevant that I was psychologically androgynous but, understandably, most people were confused by the concept. I looked undeniably female, albeit tom boyishly so. How could I possibly be androgynous?
Then I stumbled on the idea that gender was just a societal construct. I loved this! If gender weren’t really a thing, then I’d just missed out on some societal programming! That worked for me just fine. I mean, I’d somehow grown up in the Bible Belt without picking up on the normal belief in the omnipotent dude who sent his son to Earth to die . . . and, more surprisingly, without an appreciation for football. I could easily believe I was reading or daydreaming when I should’ve been learning how to be a girl or a boy.
So I happily let people see me as a female in real life and a male online and felt smug about how I’d missed the programming they’d gotten. Yeah, I’m an ass sometimes. Aren’t we all, though?
Then a close friend came out as trans. This was someone I knew was brilliant, more brilliant than I am, truth be told. How could they care about something as silly as gender?
Yeah, that led to some horrible conversations. On the bright side, I only made them cry a couple of times . . . as I said, I’m an ass sometimes. Eventually I came to realize that they weren’t stupid; I was just fucking weird. (And probably a bit stupid.) Having a strong feeling about being either male or female really does confuse the shit out of me.
For reasons that I still can’t manage to put into words, I found myself looking for a word to describe my gender identity. This is the thing that I find time and time again in “How did you know you were nonbinary?” posts, especially those from people who, like me, are in their thirties or later before they find the word: We’d always felt weird, never quite like a girl or a boy, and were just looking for a word for what the fuck we were. Validation, I guess. In my case, I never thought I was mentally ill for it — I had the good fortune to grow up with a mother who is far from the most femme woman — but many do. I just . . . like I said, I can’t put the reasons it mattered to me into words, but it did matter.
And I found lots of definitions that didn’t apply to me. I don’t want to have no genitals, like some of the weirder definitions say is the case. I’m not male or female, not asexual, thank you very much. But I found one that did. And, like I said, I cried. Because finally, FINALLY, I knew what I was. (And then, more importantly, I found people like me using the term to describe themselves, which means that the definition I found wasn’t a fluke.)
And that, I think, is why I was nearly in tears after seeing those YouTube comments tonight. I don’t want special attention. I’m not claiming to be anything. I am nonbinary. I didn’t decide to become nonbinary, any more than I decided to be attracted to both masculine men and femme women. (Yeah, I’m nonbinary and attracted to the extremes of the binary. The irony of this is not lost on me.) I finally found a word that describes who the fuck I am, and these assholes have the motherfucking audacity to say that that’s not a thing that exists?! Fuck them.
So what if most of the people suddenly realizing they’re nonbinary are teenagers?! Good for them! If I’d known it was a thing when I was a teen, I have little doubt . . . okay, I probably still wouldn’t have called myself nonbinary until I was in my twenties, and then possibly only after someone else pointed it out to me. Teen me was such an idiot she didn’t consciously realize she was bi while she was crushing on a female friend. I somehow managed to convince myself I just wished I was as pretty as her. It was the 90s in Arkansas, okay? (I have done a “representation is important” post before, right? Hell, even if I have, remind me to do another one some day. It’s that important.) But, well, look at it this way: I tried identifying as psychologically androgynous in my early twenties. So clearly I knew by then that I didn’t have a female mind.
And before anybody says it, this has little to do with my preference for jeans and t-shirts over dresses, nor with my staunch refusal to carry a purse for years, or wear makeup, or do any other typically “girly” stuff. It does come into play there in weird ways that I’m not quite sure how to put into words, but moreso that’s the internalized misogyny I referenced earlier and, in the case of the makeup and a great deal of the caring about my clothes much, laziness is really the main culprit.
And, just in case I need to reiterate it, I’m a polyamorous, bisexual, nonbinary, Odin-worshipping, democratic socialist, space opera author with OCD and anxiety. None of these are open for debate. I finally, at thirty-six-years-old, am perfectly comfortable with who I am. If you have a problem with anything I am, that’s your problem, not mine.
And, finally, a song about making peace with who you are:
Like I said, not all of the suggestions for things authors should blog about were stupid. This one, in fact, I’m surprised hadn’t occurred to me: excerpts from your work. So, here’s an excerpt from “Once A Hero, Always A Hero”, the first Universal Nexus short story. This is from the revised edition. If you read it before fall 2014, please grab a copy of the new version. It’s much better. And it’s free everywhere I can control the cost and Amazon! (It was free on Amazon UK, but now isn’t. Sorry. I have no control over that.)
First, the cover. I really like this one. It took me practically no time to make, if I recall correctly, once I finally found a picture to use.
Now, the excerpt. WARNING: My starting point for what Dichidians did to slaves was to read about Auschwitz and then come up with stuff that the guys who ran it would call sick. Also, this is far from my most polished work; it’s got some “first story”ness going on. (I fixed the spelling errors referenced in my previous post here, but they aren’t yet fixed in the ebook. They will be someday; I just have about ten million things on my to do list ahead of them.)
“Pardon? My hearing must be going because I could’ve sworn I just heard a Kavaliro suggest not doing something rash,” Viktor said, seeming legitimately confused. I supposed he had reason to be. My family history isn’t exactly full of people who lived calm, peaceful lives, minding their own business, and dying of old age in bed. Instead we’ve got generations – millenia if some tales can be believed – of guardian faeshir, elite guards, and soldiers, and many, many tales of those ancestors’ lives ending like my great-grandfather’s, one man with only a sword against over a hundred with blasters and armor. And my sister and I aren’t exactly exceptions. Ren was a fighter pilot, so of course she was insanely reckless – there is something wrong with people who enjoy getting shot at while only a tiny ship separates them from the vacuum of space. And me, well, the reason Karen and the kids had wanted me to retire so badly was because of how often my ego and bravado had outstripped my skill and gotten me hurt.
I smiled as I said, “I know it’s the last thing you ever thought you’d hear me say, but I don’t like this. A Dichidian working with Humans instead of … well, you know what they usually do with us.” I couldn’t bring myself to say it, especially in front of a man who had a mark on his arm that said “Property of Drochslem”.
“I do. Entirely too well,” Viktor answered, looking like he was about to cry. “It’s not unheard of for them to work with those they consider … cattle.” He’d had to force the last word out. “They bred the intelligence out of some species so they could help keep others in line. I never heard of them doing so with Humans, unsurprisingly considering …” He trailed off, looking away as he relit his pipe and fought for control more than I think he realized I noticed. Dichidians consider Human children a delicacy, the younger the better. I didn’t know what Vik saw during the six korvare he was Drochslem’s slave; I’m pretty sure I never want to know for sure. What I do know is that whenever he hears about bad things happening to pregnant women or infants he has to leave the room for a bit to compose himself, which tells me plenty.
After a moment he spoke again, sounding more frustrated than anything else. “It doesn’t make sense. Anyway, there are no authorities to call. The Tezarin are busy dealing with a much bigger problem on the other side of the galaxy; Zeiper is an independent world, so no one else’s military can officially help; and I’m not going to bother Darrien over one Dichidian. So, that leaves us.” A ghost of a smile appeared on his face. “Besides, thanks to you, my reputation is on the line. The Slayer of Drochselm has to be able to deal with this vitollik, or people would have to accept that he’s no hero, just an ordinary man who did something bloody stupid and got lucky.”
I felt a bit ashamed of myself for getting him into this. Before I could say anything though, he spoke again.
“Scorig said it would probably take two days for Lerexit to get here. I’m sure he’ll have more of those delightful hired thugs with him. I don’t suppose our friend,” Vik gestured to the man I’d knocked unconscious, “is waking up yet?”
I glanced over at the man, even though I was pretty sure that’d been a rhetorical question. “Nope,” I said, just in case I was wrong and Vik had wanted an answer.
Viktor nodded. “Right. Well, then, let’s work from what we already know. Between the two of us, unless you’ve got more than I know about, we have three knives, a few shuriken, and, courtesy of those vitollik, three unreliable blasters. And, of course, our hands and feet. And, as I should very much hope you’ve noticed after all these years, I only have one good leg. Did I miss anything?”
I thought. I shrugged before saying, “Any locals we can convince to fight, I guess.”
Viktor inclined his head slightly in agreement. “But we can’t count on that being any of them. They were, as Scorig said, nearly hunted to extinction by Dichidians. They were reduced from a spacefaring race to one struggling to avoid slipping into another stone age. Look around you. This is what it’s taken them twenty years to get back to. They have reasons better than mine to be terrified of Dichidians.”
I thought of the small mud hut I was standing in, the dozens of others that made up this community, the outhouses behind most of those. Then I thought of the large memorial we’d passed on our way to Scorig’s house from the landing strip that was the closest thing Zeipier had to a spaceport. I hadn’t thought about it at the time; I’d never been to a Vortonian world that didn’t have a large memorial to those who’d died at Dichidian hands during their several Human generations long war of conquest. This one though … I realized there were probably more people listed on that memorial than currently lived on this continent. I smiled, savagely. “Let’s kill this hurnith.” The Zeipierans didn’t deserve to live in fear.
And here are the links to where to download it. Remember, it’s free! For free, you can put up with some spelling errors (and overuse of commas, I’m pretty sure) right?
There is no physical version of this one because it would cost ridiculously much for how short it is. It might be included in a short story collection I’m planning, however.
(And I’m totally fucking up that self-promotion thing again, aren’t I?)
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/once-a-hero-always-a-hero-shannon-haddock/1112806579?type=eBook
And — as I’m honestly not sure if I’ve ever mentioned here — this story, like all Universal Nexus content, is under a Creative Commons, Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike license . . . which basically means you can write, draw, or whatever you want to do with the story and its characters so long as you don’t charge for it and don’t claim to have created it, and share what you did under the same license. In other words, Jaye and I can make money from it; no one else can, but other than that, I don’t give a damn.