And the Gods, They Gathered
The following is an excerpt from the beginning of the next book in the TLOK series. It is still a rough draft, so changes may be made. Still, this scene will set the stage for the remainder of what I have begun to refer to as Legendary story arc. Please enjoy this little teaser as we learn just a little bit more about the mysterious bard Jonathon, and his plans for Kimberly.
Jonathon watched Earth fade away as he stepped into Auviarra, the attorney’s office fading away like a dream. The clean, unpolluted air of Auviarra smelled almost sweet to him; it was one of the nicer planes of existence he had traveled. He stood in the forests surrounding the elven nation, the floating island visible just over the tree line. An elvish patrol passed by, unaware of his presence. He studied them intently; he had yet to see the elves of this world. Tall and well toned, their ears stretched back, curving just slightly. Through all of the worlds he walked, the ears were always the same. It made him ponder if they were children of a prime race, much like humans were, similar shadows existing throughout the different pages of existence.
Shrugging away the thought, he focused on the island, several miles away. With a single step, reality ripples around him, his feet alighting on cold hard stone. Not wishing to miss what would happen next, he looked at the giant, decorative dome of the Great Hall. Reality rippled again, and he stood atop it. Sinking to his knees, he peered through the decorative glass. Three people and a fox stood in the hall. One of the figures, a young woman with brown, shoulder length hair and startling purple eyes, looked down at the fox beside her. Cheers from the elven people were largely silenced by the dome, so Jonathon sank through the glass, the protective enchantments bending around him as he fell several stories to the marble beneath. He landed softly, standing between the figures in the center of the hall. His delicate ears could hear every heartbeat in the room, distinguish every voice, his mind processing information like water through a sieve. Though the noise was deafening, it was if the words she spoke for him alone.
“Ah, crap,” Kimberly said, staring at her pet fox Ip. “I screwed up, didn’t I?” Ip, the ever supportive fox that he was, barked in agreement.
Jonathon smiled, shaking his head. Yeah, she had screwed up. There had existed six possibilities to this outcome, one he had foreseen the moment the elves had found her. This one hadn’t been the most likely, but it would have to do.
The elves began preparations for the celebration to follow, rushing everywhere. Trey whispered angrily in Kimberly’s ear, causing the poor girl to turn red in the face, but Jonathon took no notice, for they were words he had foreseen. He stepped around the milling crowds as they passed by him, a shadow amongst leaves. The sounds in the room began to distort, stretching out to impossible lengths as the flow of time shifted around him. Motion in the room slowed, ceasing completely as Jonathon walked, unseen, between and around the elves. Standing in the middle of the room, his ears popped as time came to a complete halt.
Well then, he thought. This wasn’t entirely expected. He turned around, surveying the room. Fuzzy silhouettes surrounded him, forming a circle to prevent his escape. They emerged, stepping into the light wearing vaguely humanoid forms.
The gods of Auviarra had arrived. The room filled with a heavy presence, each god exuding high levels of magic. Simply by putting them all in one place, the rules of nature that governed Auviarra had created a fracture in time, a moment that would stretch eternally until they all disbanded. Should they choose, the whole world could remain frozen for thousands of years, the denizens oblivious to their frozen plight as the gods conferenced with one another. Feeling improperly attired, Jonathon willed away the trenchcoat, letting the fabric shift its weave into a comfortable cloak. It was a remarkable piece of fabric, allowing him to blend in anywhere. The gods murmured to each other in strange whispers, their words lapping along the floor and echoing off the halted landscape.
“He still breathes.” A deep, rumbling voice came from a man whose body was composed entirely of rocks. He had diamonds for eyes, diamonds that sparkled from the inside with immense power. He blinked, his rocky lids making a noise like grinding rocks.
“And he should, if his identity proves valid.” A woman composed entirely of fireflies stepped between the Lord and Lady Goreander, who were still standing at their throne. Her movement was unnatural, a result of the fireflies shifting places to provide the illusion of walking. “He does not feel like anything I have ever felt.”
“He exists beyond my own domain.” A little boy of perhaps three sat on the steps leading up to the throne. His shadow circled eerily around his feet, moving at a rate of once a minute. The pupils of the child’s eyes were shaped like hourglasses, sand trickling down their centers.
“Indeed I do.” Jonathon spoke. He counted the men, women, and beasts who watched, noting that only twelve were present. “I believe that we are missing someone.”
“I am here too, Walker.” An elf stepped free of the throng, movement returned to his limbs. His pupils were gone, his white eyes glowing with inner light. “Though, you must understand that I have good reasons for speaking to you from afar.” The elf smiled, the skin stretching eerily wide as its body struggled to contain Zor’s essence.
“Zor.” Gygas, god of the earth, greeted the elf with a small bow. Little flecks of dirt fell free from his shoulders. “Well met.” The others muttered greetings to the latecomer.
“A coward’s entrance.” Jonathon waved dismissively. “Even if you had showed up, I wouldn’t have taken action against you.”
“What would prevent such an action?” Lyndas, the firefly goddess of the forest, spoke with a voice like whispering leaves. “Why not end this?”
“Zor knows why.” Jonathon scowled at the possessed elf. “In a way, I am bound by rules.”
“He misspeaks,” the elf sneered. “These rules that bind him are as flimsy as the rules that keep a woman from drowning her own child.” The gods murmured to each other telepathically, but Jonathon ignored their uttering. Best if they didn’t know he could hear them.
“Zor speaks carelessly, and he knows it.” Jonathon crossed his arms. He turned to face Hydel, master of the Underworld. Hydel was built like a gorilla, his body covered in scars. His face was blackened with soot, and he carried a massive hammer. “And what would happen to such a woman?”
“She would be judged.” Hydel leaned on his hammer. “Centuries spent in agony.”
“As would I. There are rules that bind me, rules that were put in place to prevent others like me from traipsing around and doing whatever we want.”
“And who would judge you?” Hydel asked respectively.
“Others like me. Let’s just say that I’m not exactly on good terms with my own kind.” Jonathon relaxed his arms. “A spell was cast, once, by the most powerful of my kind. This spell, which trickles throughout the cosmos as you understand it, is meant to detect what may exist beyond the natural order of things, namely our own interference. This powerful magic protects all of existence from thos who would harm it. Currently, much to the chagrin of my enemies, such a ripple is the only way I can be detected.”
“And what would stop us from summoning these others?” Fira’Eskedal, snake goddess of fire, hissed from behind the thrones. The air around her sizzled with heat as she stood up straight, towering over Lord Goreander. “You create much trouble already, we would do well to be rid of you.”
“Trouble for some of you.” Jonathon smiled. “Many years ago, a wizard of your land discovered such a spell for summoning those like me. Such a spell would be easily cast by any of you. However, I was the only one who chose to follow my curiosity, stepping forth into the land of Auviarra. Why not cast such a spell again? Simple; maybe no one would answer. Or worse yet, those who hunt me do so out of fear. If you were to call one, upon my discovery, others would be summoned. Desperate to pin me down, they would burn your world to the ground, just in the hopes of flushing me out. Our battles would be glorious, leveling contents and boiling away seas. Your best hope lays in her.” He placed his hand on Kimberly’s backside. “Perhaps they would see her as a potential bargaining chip, hoping to gain my surrender.” Jonathon shrugged. “Should you be so desperate to see all that you know snuffed away like a candle’s flame?”
“Lies.” Gygas growled. “Even the gods themselves could not accomplish such a feat.”
“Who said I was a god?” Jonathon scowled. “Zor will tell you that such power is available to a being such as me.”
“And who are you exactly?” a woman dressed in white asked. It was the Sea Mother, her hair green like kelp. With every breath, the air in front of her filled with mist and the smell of the ocean breeze, bringing old memories to the forefront of Jonathon’s mind.
“I am only what I appear to be, but have traveled under many names. I am the Rider of Storms, He Who Rides the Wind, the Unifier of Nations, the Peacekeeper.” Jonathon lowered his voice. “I am also known as the Slayer of Worlds, the Harbinger of Darkness.”
“Lofty titles, indeed.” Zakas, the god of battle, chuckled. He stood twelve feet tall, his skin a golden hue. He drew a massive blade from the air, thunder filling the room. “Let us test it.”
Jonathon relaxed, letting Zakas cross the space between them with a single step, swinging his giant weapon overhead with both hands. Jonathon drew his own blade casually, catching the attack. The folds of his cloak billowed away under the pressure of Zakas’s swing, clearing the space around him of dust. Jonathon’s blade resonated like a bell, letting out a single musical note.
“I suggest you resist your ego, Zakas. Auviarra will find a new god of battle, otherwise.” Jonathon could feel the immense power building in the room as some of the gods readied magical assaults, ready to test him. The musical note persisted, shaking the blade in Zakas’s hand until he finally withdrew it. Jonathon silenced his sword with a thought. “It is well within the natural order of the Universe to defend one’s self from harm. You have been warned.”
“What would you have of us?” Lyndas asked, her form flickering.
“I am here to kill him.” Jonathon pointed at Zor’s puppet. “I would ask one of you to do this for me, but I am painfully aware of the pact you once made, a pact that, if I remember correctly, Zor suggested.” Zor’s puppet shrugged. “Unfortunately, unless he attacks me first, striking him dead will likely result in the death of your world. This world has much potential for good, and Zor knows well that I would not choose to end so many lives just to appease my own intent.”
“Indeed.” Zor pursed his lips. “He uses the girl as his puppet.”
“In a way.” Jonathon gestured at Kimberly, her cheeks still reddened by Trey’s remark. “Let’s cut to the chase. You are all in the middle of a new game, a game Zor himself has started without your knowledge. I have entered a player of my own, with the sole purpose of killing Zor. Now, you may all feel free to interfere with my player; you are not bound by the same rules that I am. However,” he walked behind Kimberly, “any direct attempt by you to harm her will be met with, and harshly. Kill my player in this manner, and I will devote the rest of my time here to eliminating those who were complicit in such a deed. So don’t let Zor talk you into something foolish; make him do his own dirty work.” He stepped in front of Kimberly, gazing into her eyes. “This girl is from Earth, and that is why I may use her as my own pawn in this game. Her lineage is such that I may guide her choices, though I may not make them for her. I am not, however, allowed to interact freely with your players in this game. Should your agents end her life, then I would have no choice but to leave, my feud with Zor temporarily ended. In reality, I play this game giving only my guidance and protection.”
“And how would she go about killing me?” Zor smiled oddly. “She is, after all, simply a mortal.”
“It’s a surprise.” Jonathon smiled back. “I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending of this story for you.”
“And if she attacks me?” Zor approached Kimberly. “Would this be considered against your rules?”
“As long as she knows your true identity beforehand, then I would respect your battle.” Jonathon sighed. “I would not interfere, allowing the girl to fall to her fate. All I ask is a fair chance to play this game with you, Gods of Auviarra. I wish to be treated no differently in these matters. Besides, no matter what happens, your God of War will find plenty of blood to satisfy his lust. A war is coming, one that will mark Auviarra with its scars for many years to come.”
Zakas nodded contently, a look of grim respect on his face, before vanishing from sight. The other gods, complacent with the terms, also vanished. Eventually, the elf possessed by Zor was all that remained.
“Your game is foolish,” Zor said. “You are unaware of the power I possess here. The girl will not live long. I have untapped resources at my disposal that you would never dream of.”
“You will underestimate her, and she will kill you because of it.” Jonathon crossed his arms. “As fate unwinds her strings, I gently pluck them that the song they play pleases me, until the day your corpse is little more than food for the bugs beneath our feet. Even they may turn up their noses at such a poor feast. Let our game begin, you festering excuse for a god.”
Zor sneered, his skin bursting into flame. Jonathon watched in anger as the body of the elf was reduced to ash. Jonathon waved a hand, dispersing the remains from view. He faced Kimberly.
“You can do it. I believe in you.” Moving out of the way, he watched as time started once more.
I hope you enjoyed the Prologue of TLOK 3. Leave comments below!
Legend of Kimberly sitting pretty in the top ten teen fantasy section.
So, a couple of weeks back, I began trickling out free copies of Inheritance through the ebook market. Eventually, Amazon caught wind, and price matched it. As of sometime on Friday, The Legend of Kimberly was price matched "Free" at Amazon. Shortly after, the website http://onehundredfreebooks.com/ was digging through the mucky muck and hand picked TLOK as one of their books of the day. Please view the attached photo to the left for a visual aid that explains what happened to my sales rank as a result.
Now, I was unaware of what was going on. To be honest, I was carpet cleaning cat pee (my cat had a UTI, which has been bad news for my carpet) and only knew when the author coordinator of the site dropped me a line to inform me. I didn't think anything of it until I checked my sales. In the last 24 hours, I have seen over a thousand downloads.
The reason this is so important to me is I will finally get to see my book stand on its most important quality: its story. Supposedly one thousand people will read this tale, and if ten percent of that thousand really like it, I will see the sequel become moderately successful as well. If that is the case, I am one step closer to living out my big dream of writing full time (and maybe a movie series and a toy line by Todd McFarlane).
So, how does one get their book picked by a website like http://onehundredfreebooks.com/? Well, according to the owner, that's a secret. Suffice to say, when it came time to choose which books were featured, having a professional looking product mattered a lot. Even though the website is devoted to free ebooks, they still need to make sure they are putting a quality product into their viewers hands. As I have said, time and again, have your story edited, proof-read, and have a cover that attracts attention (in a good way). It may cost money, so start saving up your holiday scratch now. A big thanks goes out to the nice people at Onehundredfreebooks.com for helping to introduce so many new readers to Auviarra and the stories of Kimberly. Check them out for free reads on your Kindle, they won't let you down!
So, for the foreseeable future, my paperbacks will only be available on Amazon. While it wasn't an easy choice, it became necessary.
I distribute through Createspace, an affiliate of Amazon. Opting for expanded distribution, I had to raise the price just to make certain that I could actually distribute. After createspace took their cut, and the affiliate (like Barnes and Noble) took their piece, I was making 10 cents a book. Because of the higher price, I made much more if I sold on Amazon. To put things in perspective, I would have to sell 10,000 books on B&N compared to 500 on Amazon to break even on production costs. Yeah, that's pretty huge.
Now, maybe some people think that such a decision would make me greedy. Keep in mind, though, that I had to raise the overall price a whole dollar just to ensure that I could actually distribute. I was pricing my paperback at 7.99, which was higher than I wanted. However, by dropping expanded distribution, I was able to drop the cost of the book a dollar.
Now, a dollar doesn't sound like much to most people, but I really want to make sure that I provide a great product at a great price. 6.99 isn't that price, but it is the lowest I could go if I ever want to see a return on my investments. Yes, I do make more on the eBook version of Inheritance, and that is priced at 2.99, the lowest I can go and still make back my returns.
Now, you keep hearing me say returns, and let me tell you why they are so important. Right now, I am in the middle of writing my third novel. I am far from popular, and my sales have, so far, been just enough to afford a nice dinner. Since I pay for editing, cover art, and everything else associated with a book, it comes out of my pocket to write my books. One of these days, I hope to start making enough on my current books to continue producing new work without dipping into my own pockets. Once this happens, I hope to find a better means to distribute, hopefully at a better price to the consumer.
For anybody coming here who wonders why my book is no longer available in paperback everywhere, that is the reason. I will, however, ensure that the eBook versions of my work will be available for the eReader of your choice for as long as the market will allow it.
As a last aside, for those of you seeking bargains and kind enough to read all the way through, my books are all part of the Summer sale at Smashwords, so get them while they are free! (Sale ends July 31st, 2012)
In between typing and job hunting, I took the opportunity to sign up for Operation eBook Drop. The short version is that deployed troops get ebook versions of my novel for free. If you think that you would like to contribute or benefit from such a service, more information can be found here.
Our troops, whether you approve or not, really do put a lot on the line. I don't know how I could ever thank them enough for the simple liberties that we take for granted each day, but I figured that doing this was a start.
The latest news and my opinions.