Thursday, March 27, 2014

Merlin's Legacy, Chapter 6 part 1

Not much to report on the last couple of days. Been working through the Valiant RPG stuff, discussing a few things with other writers involved, and finally coming to a decision about how to complete this task. Nothing new on African Firestorm, beyond how I'm going to write the next chapter. Still researching though.

Now, for the next part of Merlin's Legacy:
(Edit: Sorry, the formatting was a bit off and I needed to fix it after I posted this entry)

***
        Donella took me into town for my shopping trip.
We’d driven back to the Nesbille house, where Charlie dropped us off. He said he had a couple of legal matters to finish up, but he’d be back in time for dinner. I was going to go into town on my own until Donella said, “I’ll go with you. If you’re going to be living here, you might as well get to know the locals. Besides, I know where everything is.”
I agreed, and after going inside to tell Abby where we were going, we got in her car and drove into town.
We parked in the town square, near the hardware shop. We got out and looked around. There were a few more people around, all the businesses were open, and all the charm of small-town life were on display.
Despite it being August, the air was chilly. I looked over at Donella. “Is it always this nippy this time of the year?”
“Its’s been below average for several weeks,” Donella replied. “Where to first?”
“Hardware store,” I replied, looking at the business in question. WIHITE HARDWARE, it read over the door. Danella gave me a puzzled look, but shrugged and followed me.
We walked across the road and into the hardware store. The smell of wood and oil tickled my nose as we walked in. There were four parallel aisles of hardware and equipment, stocked with the sort of items you would expect to find in a hardware store. 1950's era music was playing over the store’s sound system.
A counter was to out right as we came in. An older man was behind the counter. He was taller than me by several inches, and thin. His graying hair was nearly combed, but his eyebrows were in major need of a trimming. Dark brown eyes gazed out from behind a pair of thick glasses two decades out of date. “Donella!” he said cheerfully. “It’s been awhile. How’s Abby?”
“She’s fine,” Donella replied agreeable. “Mister Wihite, I need to introduce you to someone. Roger, this is Mister Wihite, who owns this store. Mister Wihite, this is Roger Merlin, Lucian’s great-nephew.”
I saw Wihite’s eyes light up with interest. He held out a boney hand. “Welcome to Pilgrim’s Cove, Mister Merlin,” he said. “When did you get into town?”
“Last night,” I replied.
Wihite nodded. “Lucian was a good man. He left this world far too soon, and he’ll be missed. Staying in town long?”
“It looks like I’m going to be around for a while.”
       He nodded. “Good. Hope to see more of you. If you’ll excuse me.” Another customer, Another thin fellow with little hair and a beak for a nose, came to the counter while we were talking. I stepped back and let Wihite handle the customer. I grabbed a cart and chose the aisle farthest away from the counter. Donella followed. “What’s wrong?” she asked softly. I leaned in. “I’m competing with Lucian’s ghost,” I whispered. “Everyone loved him, now he’s gone and they’re expecting me to pick up where he left off.”
She placed a hand on my arm. “You,” she said firmly, “worry too much.”
“But I’m not Lucian Merlin!”
“Then be Roger Merlin,” she said, his eyes locking with mine. “I don’t think you were raised too differently than he was.” I found myself staring into those eyes, losing any objections I had. We blinked at the same time, and Donella said, “Let’s get what you want and get out of here.”

***

We spent the next ten minutes going around the store. A radio, two bundles of firewood, matches, and a lantern (with extra batteries) went into the cart. Donella began frowning when I added a hatchet, a baseball bat, a six-foot tall, one-inch diameter dowel rod, and a few wooden stakes to the cart. “It’s just a night in the house,” she said.
“I’m not taking any chances,” I replied.
“You realize how childish that sounds?”
       “Yep.”
“Do you care?”
“Nope.”
“Are you planning to sleep?”
“Not if I can help it.”
“You’re overreacting.”
“Tell that to my bruises.” I tossed in a couple of large packages of beef jerky and a large bag of trail mix into the cart. “I’m going to be in a large house, all by myself, and there’s people who have twice tried to kill me, or at the very least, tried putting me into the hospital. I would prefer to over prepare and not need everything then to be under-prepared.”
“Donella!”
We both turned and saw Margaret Teague walking toward us. She was still wearing her business suit from this morning, though she had a basket on one arm. She gave me a brief, disapproving look, then beamed at Donella.
“Margaret!” Donella said brightly. “Oh, I don’t know if you’ve met—”
“We’ve met,” Margaret and I said at the same time.
“Oh.”
Margaret looked at the items in my cart. “Going camping?” she asked.
“Sort of,” I replied.
Margaret looked at Donella. “I’ve a new selection of collage brochures you you to look at.”
“I don’t know,” Donella said. “I really don’t want to leave Aunt—”
“Nonsense!” Margaret said. “Abby is able to take care of herself. It’s time you started living your own life, and the first step in that path is college.”
Donella sighed. “I don’t know if college is right for me,” she said.
“College is important!” Margaret said. “You are a bright and hardworking woman who will go far in the world. Or do you want to stay here and marry someone like him?” she waved a hand at me.
“I don’t want to discuss—”
“Is the estate wired for the Internet?” I asked.
Both women looked at me. “Yes,” Donella replied.
“Why not take some on-line courses?” I said. “Pick a couple of classes that’ll transfer to any college and take them. If you feel comfortable, then you can transfer to a college in person.”
“I don’t think—” Margaret began.
“I’ll think about it,” Donella said quickly. “If you’ll excuse me a minute, I just remembered that I need to pick up some hooks for Aunt Abby.” She hurried off.
I watched Donella until she disappeared, then turn back to find myself staring into a pair of green eyes. Only they were not playful, but hard and unyielding. “I will tell you only once, Merlin,” Margaret growled. “If you ever harm Donella in any way, I will make sure they never find your body, is that clear?”
My temper flared up, and instead of backing away, I leaned in, so we were nose to nose. “You listen to me,” I growled. “I do not hurt women, in any way. I would cut off my right arm before I would willing hurt her. Do I make myself clear?”
There was a brief flash of surprise in Margaret’s eyes, and she pulled back. “Maybe Lucian didn’t make a mistake,” she murmured, then smiled. “It may come down to doing that, Merlin. Enjoy your ‘camping trip.’” She turned and walked away, though the walk was more of a strut. I merely shook my head and continued shopping.
***

Craig

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sorry about yesterday......

For the first time in two and a half months, I missed a blog post....

Simply put, I forgot about it. I've been working on the Valiant RPG, trying to find any scraps of information I can use for the characters I'm responsible for. That means lurking around Valiant message boards, podcasts about the comic lines, and any wiki I can find. The 90s versions of these characters are vastly different (Including one that doesn't exist in the previous era!), and can supply little more than a quote or two and some minor details that I can use. Still, I've got most of the characters stats laid out, and I hope my approach to the background that has to combine three versions of the same character into one will meet with Valiant's approval.

I've also been googling stuff for African Firestorm. Locations, vehicles, weapons, and even language. Every detail I need to I need to write what I hope will be a great action thriller. The outline is complete through Chapter 35, and I'm still on course for my estimate. It's a bit of a challenge, as this is the first time I've done an outline in such detail before.

And so to make this a post worth reading, (Laugh now if you need to), here's another scene from Merlin's Legacy, Chapter 5!


***

We took Charlie’s Lincoln up to the house, some three hundred years in the opposite direction from the Nesbille house. The house was hidden by trees until we were almost on top of it, but when the last trees were past, it showed an unusual and somewhat foreboding, house.
My first thought when I saw it was “Castle.” Two large round towers were connected to each other by a square middle section, all made from the same stone I’d seen in the other buildings on the estate. The windows were narrow and each one barred with a single iron bar running lengthwise and one width-wise set into the stone.
Charlie parked the car in front of the middle section. We got out and I craned my neck to look up. “Wow,” I said.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” Charlie said.
“Yes, in a highly mediaeval way.”
“The view from the tower top is breathtaking,” Donella said.
Without warning, a pack of dogs appeared from every direction and surrounded us. All were large, well muscled animals, Pit Bulls, Mastiffs and a couple of other breeds I didn’t recognize. Then as one, they sat and stared at us.
A large man came around the side of the house. And I do mean large. He was pushing seven feet and broadly built. His face was broad with shaggy dark hair and half-closed eyes. His scowl was fearsome, and he held a stick that would be a baseball bat in anyone else’s hands. His clothing consisted of a shirt, army jacket, cargo pants tucked into hard-worn work boots. He stopped behind the dogs and glared at us.
Donella stepped forward. “Leal,” she said softly.
“Miss Donella,” Leal said gruffly. He looked at the Lawyer. “Mister Charlie.
he looked at me. “I don’t know you.”
“That’s Roger Merlin,” Donella said. “He’s the new owner of the estate. Lucian left the estate to him.”
“I want to see the ring,” Leal said, his voice sounding like it was coming out of a cave. “Mister Lucian said that the owner of the estate would be wearing the ring.”
I held up my right hand. “This ring?”
Leal stared at it for a few seconds, than dropped his head. “Yes,” he said.
Donella stepped between two of the dogs, who sat and watched her, and stood before the giant. “I know you don’t want things to change,” she said softly. But Lucian’s gone, and we can’t change that.”
“I know,” Leal said, his voice higher and more child-like. “But I miss him.”
Donella reached out and placed her hand on Leal’s chest. “I miss him too. We all do.”
Leal raised his head and looked at me. Gone was the firce glare. Instead, a lost child looked back at me. “I want to stay,” he said. “I can take care of this estate all by myself. Mister Lucian knew I could do it.”
I looked at Donella, who nodded. I looked up at Leal. “Leal, if you want to stay, you are welcomed to do so. If you keep this estate in the shape I’ve seen so far, than I’d been a fool to let anyone else do it.”
He smiled. “Thank you, Mister Roger. I promise to keep doing good work.” He looked at the dogs. “Come!” he barked. He turned and strode away. As one, the dogs leapt to their feet and followed Leal. We watched him walk away until he disappeared into the trees, surrounded by the dogs.
“That’s Leal, huh?” I said.
Donella turned and walked back toward me. “Yes, and he does good work, as you can see.”
“Then I see no reason to change anything,” I said.
“Let’s get this over with,” Charlie said.
We followed Charlie up to the front door, which were actually a pair of large, iron-reinforced wooden doors. He took a large, old fashion key from his pocket, unlocked the door with a heavy “thunk” and opened both doors. The doors opened silently, instead of the creaking I half-expected. Charlie stepped to one side and with a flourish, motioned us forward. “Your castle, Mister Merlin.”
We entered a hall large enough to play a full court game of basketball in, including a two story high ceiling. A set of stairs were on the left side of the hall, leading up to a balcony that ran along the back of the hall. Three sets of mediaeval-style wooden doors lead deeper into the home. One set was to our left, near the base of the stairs, another set was to out right, and the last set straight ahead of us, under the balcony. The walls, floor, staircase, and ceiling were all stone. There was plenty of light, coming from several skylights, but there were a pair of chandeliers handing from the ceiling for other times.
Furnishings consisted of a large blue and white carpet in the center of the hall, and a large coat rack to our left with enough hooks for a couple of dozen coats. A pair of full-sized suits of armor stood sentry next to the doors on out right and left. and several paintings hung on the wall.
Charlie walked into the hall and faced us. “Lucian made it clear in his will that the south tower,” He motioned to the doors on out right, “is yours to furnish as you see fit. It’s empty, but it’s move-in ready.”
“How many bedrooms?” I asked.
“A total of six,” Donella replied. “Four in the south tower, and two in the center hall here. The kitchen is through there.” She pointed at the doors under the balcony.
“What’s in the north tower?’ I asked.
Windicott walked over to the doors and opened them. “Come see,” he said, and stepped inside. “Lucian requested that you leave the tower as is, for the entire time you live here.”
We followed him and in the doorway, Charlie turning on the lights as he walked into the room. I stopped short and stared at amazement.
I love books. I love puttering around bookstores and libraries, seeing what they have to offer. I have nearly fifteen hundred books in my personal collection and have been teased by a few friends for having so many of them.
But this —
The library took up two entire floors of the tower, floor to ceiling bookcases built into the circular walls of the tower. The second floor of the library was accessible by a staircase built into the wall that rose to a balcony that ran around the tower’s circumference and the bookcases located there. The only breaks in the books were four narrow windows in each floor, the staircase, and a large oil painting of a man leaning and a pedestal. In the center, a massive four sided fireplace sat, a block column rising up through the ceiling holding the chimney. Half a dozen chairs and a trio of couches were scattered around the room, forming small conversation areas. Three large lights hung from the ceiling, and there were a few lamps on side tables near the conversation areas.
“Wow,” I whispered.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” Charlie said. “This is the most magnificent room I have even been in.”
“Lucian loved to read,” Donella said.
I turned and went over to the nearest bookcase. One shelf held leather-bound classic, while the shelf below it held modern hardback novels, including several authors I knew and loved. The next shelf held paperbacks and a few graphic novels, and even a few volumes of Manga.
“Fiction is down here,” Donella. “The non-fiction books are on the second floor. Somehow, Lucian knew where every book went, but I don’t know how he kept track of them all.”
“Amazing,” I said. I looked at the painting, which was hanging between a couple of bookcases. “That’s Uncle Lucian,” I said.
“He was very proud of that painting,” Charlie said. “He had that painted right after the war. He said that a concentration camp survivor painted for him as a thank-you for rescuing the artist and several hundred survivors from a concentration camp.”
I walked over to it. The man looking out of the painting was only a little older than me, wearing a bomber jacket, military trousers, and boots. The man was smiling, but there was a sadness in his eyes, and falseness about the smile. On his hand, he wore the same dragon ring that was on my finger right now. “What did he do in the war?”
“I really don’t know,” Charlie replied. “He mentioned very little about his service, but I always got the impression it was still classified.”
“Even after all this time?”
Charlie nodded, then looked at his watch. “I haven’t shown you the most unusual room,” he said. “It’s on the third floor.”
I followed Charlie and Donella up the stairs, past the balcony and up to the third floor. Charlie flipped on the light and I found myself in a museum.
Display cases lined the wall and were scattered around the chamber. The stone column that held the chimney ran up through the center of the room. As with the library below, there were four narrow barred windows paced evenly around the room.
I felt the hairs on the back of neck rise. I could feel there was something in this room, subtle, complex, and just beyond my reach. Something was going on here, but I didn’t know what.
“What is this place?”
“Lucian called it his ‘Museum of Light,”” Charlie said. “He rarely talked about it.”
“I looked at the display case closest to the stairs. It had a beaded head dress wrapped around a mannequin’s head. A small printed card laid in front. “HOPI MEDICINE MAN’S HEADBAND, GIFTED, JUNE 15, 1955," it read.
“Lucian traveled the world,” Charlie said. “Sometimes, he came home with items like that. I can’t tell you where he got some of these things.”
I walked around the room. There were a few weapons, most looking as lethal as they day they had been made. But most were mundane items, ranging from a bible used by a fifteen century saint to hairpins of a eighteen-century French courtesan. Everything was displayed and carefully mounted. After one circuit of the exhibits, I looked at Charlie. “Are these insured?”
“I don’t know,” Charlie replied. “Vikki Spiro handled all of Lucian’s insurance needs. I’ll give you her phone number in the morning.”
“Fine,” I said, looking around the room. “It’s just wow.”
“There’s one more thing you need to see,” Charlie said. “It’ll be a bit windy, but worth the effort.”
We went back to the stairs and went up. At the top of the stairs, the door had two strong springs keeping it close. Charlie unbolted the door and pushed it open.
The wind was strong, a constant strong breeze that smelt of salt spray. The tower roof was flat and surrounded by a waist-high wall and crenels that rose higher than my head. I moved to one of the opens and was struck with a blast of moist wind.
Charlie was right — the view was magnificent. I could see far out into the ocean. I moved to my right and could see some of Pilgrim’s Cove, through I could have seen more of it from the other tower. Another ninety degrees to the right and I could see several miles inland. And the final quarter showed mostly forest, couple of roads, and a few houses.
I turned and looked at Donella and Charlie. “Incredible!” I shouted with joy.
“We’d better get inside!” Charlie shouted.
I nodded and we went downstairs to the library. We spent another half-hour looking at the rest of the house. The kitchen was large, with plenty of places for food and cooking supplies, with an attached dining room large enough for twenty people. The second floor of the center hall had two bedrooms, a study (With an actual window!) and a sitting room. The south tower was an empty, three-story structure with enough room for a family of six. Behind the house, a courtyard lead to a second courtyard that looked out across the cliffs to the ocean. The wind was constant, but on days of calm, this would be a nice place to have a party.
When we returned to the main hall, Charlie glanced at his watch. “It’s about four-thirty,” he said. “Abby won’t be serving dinner until about six. So, what do you want to do until then?”
I thought for a moment. “Shopping trip,” I replied.

***

I'll try and be on time Thursday!

Craig

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Brief Updates, and Yes, still more of Merlin's Legacy!

Well, my writing for the Valiant Comics RPG stands at @1,500 words. My subject isn't the most documented character in the universe (At least, not this time around). Need to go looking for any scraps of data I can find about this character.

As for Outcast Ops: African Firestorm, I've got the plotting up to Chapter 32, setting the scene for the big finale! Lots of explosions and daring-do in the making!

And now, for the start of Chapter 5 of Merlin's Legacy.

***

        My first look of the estate called Camelot was the tall, stone-gray walls surrounding the grounds.
        I followed Donella back into town and then north onto a two-lane road called Bayfront. As soon as we cleared the town, the walls appeared on my right, while the left was thick woods. The walls were ten feet tall, topped with black iron spikes that bent outwards. Several minutes later, Donella slowed and turned right, into a driveway bordered by two large, heavy-looking black iron gates, with closely set bars. I followed Donella through the gates and up a long driveway.
        Trees groves and grass bordered the driveway. Near the gate, on my left, a small, single-story house sat, made from the same colored stone the estate’s walls were made from.. A larger building sat next to the house, a barn, from the size of the doors on it. I saw a couple of large dogs in the yard looked up as we passed them, and in the rear-view mirror, I saw them rise to their feet and follow.
        A large pond appeared on my left, surrounded by a few trees. Just past the pond, Donella turned right onto another driveway. I followed, and saw a small, near-looking, two-story house, again, made from the same stone as the estate’s wall and the house we’d passed on the way in.
        To my left, I could see the Atlantic Ocean. The ground between the driveway and the cliff was the length of a football field, mostly grass and open until it reached a few trees that helped screen the near-constant wind coming off the ocean. Beyond the trees, the rolling whitecaps of the sea water sent up sprays of mist.
        The driveway flared out into an area large enough for several cars to park side by side. There were already two cars there. One, like Donella’s was an older Honda, while the other was a late-model Lincoln. I parked next to Donella, who parked next to the Lincoln.
        There was a chill in the air as I got out. There was a wind coming in from the ocean, and despite the trees near the cliffs, it cut through my windbreaker as if it wasn't there. Despite the sun, I felt cold.
         I followed Donella to the house. The house had a solid permanence to it, but there were a few softening touches, like the well-tended flowerbeds and potted plants. A porch ran along the front and the right side of the house, not as wide as Doc’s but enough for several people to stand together without crowding.
        Donella opened a screen door, then a door that looked thick enough to stand in for armor plating. “Aunt Abby!” she called out as she entered. “I’m home and I brought a guest!”
        “In the living room, dear!” a female voice called out. I followed Donella into a small, neatly furnished sitting room. With the exception of a big screen TV against one wall and a phone on another wall, the room could have been transported as is from the 1890s. A pair of overstuffed chairs, another pair of love seats, a sideboard, two end tables and a bookcase were the major pieces.
         There were two people in the room, sitting on different love seats. One was a woman in the late fifties, early sixties, wearing a purple sweater over an ankle-length skirt. Next to her, a black cat laid curled up in a ball, watching me. Her hair was brown, shot through with gray, done up into a ponytail. Wrinkles around the eyes and corners of her mouth were the only sign of age on her face. Clear brown eyes swept past Donella and locked onto me. She looked me up and down, then smiled. “Hello!" she said. “And who are you?”
        “Aunt Abby, this is Roger Merlin, Lucian’s great-nephew,” Donella said, shrugging off her jacket. “Roger, my aunt, Abigail Nesbille.”
        The other person turned around and I saw it was Charles Windicott. “Roger!” he exclaimed, getting to his feet. “Are you all right? I ran into Sheriff Walker at the courthouse right before I came out here and told me you’d been attacked!”
        “I’m fine,” I replied.
        “What happened?” Abby asked.
        “Several masked men tried to beat on me when I visited Uncle Lucian’s tomb,” I replied. “I managed to drive them off.”
        “Oh, dear!” Abby said, rising to her feet. “Are you all right?”
        “A few bruises, but nothing serious. Doc Weatherbee says all I need is a week of rest and to avoid any contact sports.”
        "Well, come sit down!” Abby said. “Would you like some tea?”
        “Thank you, tea will be fine.” Abby left the room through another doorway. I sat down next to Charlie, while Donella went over to the other love seat, picked up the cat and sat down, with the cat in her lap.
        ‘Tell me what happened,” Charlie said. “When Sheriff Walker told me what happened, he didn't go into any details.” I gave him the same basic story I gave the sheriff and Donella. He sank back into his seat and shook his head. “My god,” he whispered. “I never realized how much trouble you’d been in.”                 “Somebody doesn't want me up here,” I said.
        “Do you want to postpone the night at the main house?” Charlie asked.
        “No,” I replied. “I’m not about to throw in the towel. I’ll go through with the stay tonight, as planned.”           “Good!’ Charlie said.
        The cat hopped off Donella’s lap and onto the floor. It padded over to me and I reached down to present my hand to it. It sniffed my hand, then sat down and looked at me. I looked back. The cat’s eyes were large, pale yellow, and strangely intelligent.
         Donella laughed. “That’s Cachmawri,” she said. “He belong to Lucian, but we've been taking care of him.” I leaned back and tapped my thigh. Cachmawri jumped onto my lap and laid down.
        Just then, Abby came back into the room with a tray and collapsible stand. She opened the stand and put the tray on top of it. “Here you go,” she said. “Cream and sugar?” She filled and passed out the teacups, then returned to sit down next to Donella. “Now,” she said, looking at. “Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?”
        “Antie,” Donella said in a warning tone. “he’s not a suspect. Be nice.”
        “I just want to find out more about him, dear,” Abby said. “Lucian did mention him a few times over the years and I want to know a little more about him.”
        “Uncle Lucian mentioned me?” I asked. “He spoke favorably about you several times.”
        “I didn't know.”
         Donella looked at her aunt. “Neither did I.”
        “Lucian and I had coffee many times when you were at work,” Abby replied. “Lucian mentioned his family a few times and Roger in particular. I just wanted to see what sort of man he is.”
         Donella frowned, but before she could say anything, I said, “There’s not much to say.” I recited the same background I’d told Donella in the car. She asked a few family questions, mostly about who the members of the family were, making a couple of mistakes that I corrected her on. She moved the conversation onto other subjects, and we spent forty-five minutes talking about local issues. Cachmawri laid on my lap, eyes closed in sleep.
         Finally, Charlie looked at his watch. “I think we’d better cut this short,” he said. “I want to show Roger the main house before tonight.”
         “Of course,” Abby said, rising to her feet. “But I insist that both you and Roger here come to dinner tonight, and I will not take no for an answer.”
        “Turn down one of your dinners?” Charlie said with a smile. “Perish the thought, Abby.” He looked at me. “Roger?”
        “I have no plans for dinner,” I said.
        “Good!” Abby said, picking up the tray. “Donella, why don’t you go with them? You know the house better then Charlie does.”
        “But you need help with dinner!” Donella said.
        “Nonsense!” Abby snapped. “I’ll be fine.”
        I reached down and scratched Cachmawri’s head. “What about you?” I asked the cat. The cat opened his eyes and looked up at me. He got up slowly, stretched and hopped off, landing on the floor and striding away, tail head high. “I guess that answers that,” I said.

***

Until Monday!

Craig

Monday, March 17, 2014

The CGL project has been announced and the Rest of Merlin's Legacy, Chapter 4

Well, the project I'm working on for Catalyst Game Labs has been announced:

http://www.catalystgamelabs.com/2014/03/17/valiant-catalyst-partner-for-comic-book-based-tabletop-games/

So, I need to find out as much as I can about the one title I'm responsible for. The problem is I have only the current series to draw from (the previous series can't be considered, as there are major differences between the two series, even though they're about the same characters.) The current series is short, and the latest I can't draw from for several reasons. The fun of being a writer....

Anyhow, the least I can do is leave you something to read, so here's the rest of Chapter 4 of Merlin's Legacy:

***

        Donella’s car was a six-year old Honda that still looked in good shape. As she drove me out to the graveyard, she told me a little bit about herself. Both her parents were dead, and her Aunt Abby, her father’s older sister, had taken the young girl into his care and taken a desk job to give her niece some stability. Once Donella had graduated from high school, Abby retired from the FBI and moved to Pilgrim’s Cove. Instead of going to college, Donella had chosen to come with Abby,”to help settle her in.” That had been three years ago.
        “What happened?” I asked. “Why did you stay?”
       “Aunt Abby’s the only family I have left,” she replied.  
       “How did you end up at Camelot?”
       “The owner of the house we were renting wanted to sell it. Aunt Abby made an offer, buit the owner didn’t want to sell it at that price. Then Carlton Brackett bought the house and gave us thirty days to get out.”
       “Damien’s Dad?”
       Donella nodded. “Aunt Abby was mad and went down to the bank to give Carlton a piece of her mind. She ran into Lucian, told him the story and he offered her one of the houses on the estate. We’ve been there two years. But enough about me. What about you?”
        I gave her the same Cliff Notes of my life I’d given the Sheriff the night before, and added a few details I’d left out. My parents were retired, my older sister worked for the Department of Defense, while my younger brother was a sophomore at the U of MD. She listened to me talk about the few times I met Lucian. “He was the last of four children,” I said. “Grandpa, Great-Aunt Evelyn, Great-Uncle David, and Great-Uncle Lucian. Between them, they had twelve children and twenty-two grandchildren. Now, they’re all gone.” I closed my eyes and exhaled slowly. “All we have left now are memories. And I have so few of Uncle Lucian.”
         I felt a hand on mine, I opened my eyes and looked at Donella, who gave me a soft smile before looked back at the road. “I miss him too,” she said.
        Three minutes later, we reached the cemetery and drove through the gates. Dorsey was near the gate. Donella slowed the car and rolled down the window. The older man smiled when he saw who it was. “Afternoon, Miss Donella,” he said. “What can I do for you?”
        Donella motioned to me. “Just here to drop Roger off to get his car.”
        “Ah,” Dorsey said, tipping his cap and leaning down to see me. “And how are you sir?”
        “I’m fine,” I replied. “I gave more than I received.”
        “Aye, that you did,” he said. He looked at Donella. I was driving up after I called the cops, and I got to the top there,” he motioned to the top of the hill, “When bam! All four toughs go flying like twigs in a high wind. Then they got into the van and drove off.”
        “Did you see anything else?” I asked. “Something you didn’t tell the sheriff?”
        Dorsey took off his hat and scratched his head. “Funny you ask that sir,” he said. “I could have swore there was a fifth person there. I didn’t see their face, on account they were facing away from me, but the were wearing a long black cloak.” He inhaled slowly. “But it could have been a freak shadow, because by the time I got close, it had vanished.”
        “Okay, thanks,” I said.
        “We’ll be out of here in a few minutes,” Donella said. “I’ll see you later, Dorsey.”
        “You too, Miss Donella.”
        Donella rolled up the window and drove away. As she made the turn to head up the hill, Donella asked, “What was that about?”
        “What?” I replied.
        “Asking Dorsey if he’s seen anything he didn’t tell the sheriff.”
        “It’s nothing.”
        “I don’t believe you.”
        “It’s had to explain,” I said. “And I don’t want to say anything until I have more evidence to convince me what I thought happened, did.”
        “You’re not sure what happened?”
        “I’m sure what happened, but it doesn’t make any rational sense. Until I can make sense out of it, I’m not saying anything.”
        Donella shrugged. “All right, but if the sheriff finds out you didn’t tell him everything, he’s going to be mad.”
        “If I told him what happened without proof, he’d be even madder, and I would be branded as a crank.”
        Donella rolled to a stop behind my car. “All right,” she said. “We’re here.”
        “Could you come with me for a moment?” I asked, unbuckling my seatbelt.
        Donella narrowed her eyes. “Why?”
        “Because I want to try something.”
        She sighed and put her car into park. “All right,” she said. “Let’s get this over with.”
        We walked toward Lucian’s tomb. I noticed the burnt rubber on the road from the van’s sudden stop and start. I looked around, but saw no traces of the fight, beyond some torn-up grass.
        “I haven’t been here since Lucian’s funeral,” Donella said.
        “I didn’t get the letter notifying me of Lucian’s death until last week, several days after the funeral,” I said. “Charlie Windicott said he had a break in and his files were messed up which delayed the letter by several days.”
        “I see.”
        We reached the tomb. It looked untouched. I went up and placed my hand on one of the  stones that had been used to fill in the doorway. I felt the power under my fingertips. “Could you come here for a second?”
        Donella walked over. “What?”
        “Could you put you hand on the stone?”
        Sighing in resignation, she put her hand on the stone and gave me a “Why are we doing this?” look. After a few seconds, her expression changed to puzzlement and she pulled her hand away from the stone. She put her hand on the stone again. “I feel something,” she said.
        I nodded and took my hand off the stone. “Like a generator?”
        “Yes.” she frowned. “But that doesn’t make any sense.”
        I glanced at my watch. “We’d better get going.”
        The removed her hand from the stone. “Yes,” she said, looking at the tomb. "Come on, you can follow me.”

***

That's all for now -- Let's see what I can get done by Thursday!

Craig

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Merlin's Legacy, Chapter 4, Part 2

Well, African Firestorm is up to Chapter 30 in the outlining stage, but I'm going to have to downgrade priority on that, as I've got a writing assignment from Catalyst Game Labs that's due April 1st (no joke), for my first non-Battletech game writing assignment. It's time to expand my writing experience into another area. This is for a new RPG, which should be announced Monday (That's what Randall says in his tweet, at any rate).

In any case, it'll give me a chance to do some more research for African Firestorm, as I have to locate a good place for a pirate base for the major set piece that starts the final third of the novel. I plan on staying as close to reality as I can, location-wise and culture-wise.

And to keep you coming back, here's more of Merlin's Legacy, Chapter 4!

***

  They didn't catch the van, but did put an APB out for it. Sheriff Walker, who was leading the rescue force, insisted that I be checked out by the town’s doctor. He drove me back into town and soon I was sitting on and examination table, waiting for the Doctor.
Doc Weatherbee came in, He was in his mid-50s, and strongly resembled a beardless Santa Claus. His hair was snow-white, but still thick and full, and wore rimless spectacles on a bulbous nose. His lab coat was bright white, but the Hawaii shirt and shorts he wore under it did make him look a little odd.
“We can fill in the paperwork later,” he said in a low, rumbling voice. “Let’s take a look at you. Shirt and shoes off, please.”
I removed my shirt, shoes, and undid my pants. Doc raised an eyebrow when he saw the old bruises and the new ones. “Looks like this isn't your first scuffle with someone.”
“Three masked thugs jumped me in my apartment last week. Just now, four tried it. I’m expecting five next week.”
“Well, you still have a sense of humor. That’s good.” He spent a few minutes poking and prodding me, going “hmmm,” and asking questions like “Does this hurt?”
I had to answer “yes” to the shot I’d taken across the stomach in the arm and the graze I’d taken on the other arm. He also looked at my other bruises and seemed satisfied that they were healing. After twenty minutes, he said, “looks like you have a few more bruises, but nothing’s broken. I suggest you avoid any bar brawls, mosh pits, or reenactments of the battle of Hastings for the next couple of weeks and let these bruises heal up before you add any more.”
“It’s not my fault,” I said.
There was a knock at the door and Donella walked in. “Doc,” she said, staring down at a clipboard, “I need—” She looked up and stopped when she saw I was half-naked. “Oh.”
I grabbed my shirt and covered myself feeling a bit embarrassed. From the way she was reddening, I wasn't the only one.
Doc looked from me to Donella and back to me again, raising an eyebrow. “He’s all right, Donella,” he said. “He could stand to lose about twenty pounds, but he’s healthy and fit.”
I don’t know who was redder, me or Donella. I couldn't see myself, but if Donalla was as red as I was, we could have stood in for red lights at intersections.
Doc chuckled, then went over to Donella and said gently, “Why don’t we wait outside and let the poor boy get dressed?”
They left and I scrambled into my clothes as fast as I could. I had finished button up my shirt when there was a knock on the door and Doc stuck his head in. “Sheriff wants to talk to you,” he said.
"Here?”
“Out on my porch.”
I glanced at my watch. It was nearly one o’clock and my stomach rumbled. Doc’s eyebrow went up again. “I’ll see about getting you something to eat, too,”
“That’s all right,” I said “I—”
“Nonsense, my boy,” Doc said. “You need food to help heal those bruises. Go on, son. I’ll bring you out something in a minute.”

***

        I didn't see Donella as I walked out of the examination room and out into the hall. The waiting room, a large open area across the hall from the examination room was currently empty. There were a few antiques scattered around, but most of what I could see was designed for modern business.
        Doc’s office was also his home, a trim blue Victorian, so when I walked out the front door, I found myself on a porch that was probably larger then a few New York City apartments. The porch wrapped around the fronts and sides of the house. Sheriff Walker was sitting in a rocking chair near a porch swing. He waved at me to come over.
        I walked over to the porch swing and sat slowly, mindful of the new pain. Walker stopped rocking. “Okay,” he said, tell me what happened.”
        I told him almost everything, except for the Nazgul specter and the energy wave. He listened as I told him about the attack. “You know martial arts?”
        “First degree black belt,” I said. “And unlike last week, I wasn't surprised.”
        He nodded. “You think those thugs were the same one who attacked you in Maryland?”
        I nodded back. “The head thug told me that I should have given them the letter back then. It sounded like the same guy.”
        “I see. I’ll place a call with the local detective in Maryland handling the case and see if he has anything I can use.” He looked at me. “You seems to be attracting trouble.”
        “Lucian’s estate seem to be what attracting the trouble,” I replied. “I just happen to be the poor sap in the middle.”
        “Who knew you were going out to visit Lucian’s grave?”
        “I got the directions out of Charles Windicott, in the lobby of his office.”
        “Do you know who else was in the office at that moment?”
        “Well, Myself, Charlie, Margaret Teague, Cathy, Damien Brackett, and Mister Blount. I never saw Blount, as he stayed in his office and was starting an appointment with Damien. Everyone else was within earshot.”
        Walker nodded. “All right, Roger. What are your current plans?”
        “I have to be up at Camelot by three, because Charlie’s showing me around the estate, then I have a few hours to prepare because I’m going to be spending the night alone in the main house.”
        The sheriff frowned. “Is that wise?”
        “It’s part of the will.”
        The front door open and Donella came out with a tray and walked over to us. “Doc says to eat this,” she said, handing me a large sandwich one a plate and a large glass of lemonade.
        I took the plate and lemonade. “Thank you,” I said.
        She handed Walker a plate with a slice of cake on it. “Carrot cake,” she said, “In case Sandra asks.”
        “Thank you, Donella,” Walker said gratefully. “It’s been a while since I've had some of Doc’s carrot cake.”
        “He knows.”
        “Donella, could you sit for a moment? I need to ask you a favor.”
        I moved over to give her some room, and she sat down on the porch swing. “What do you need Sheriff?”
       “Roger here is meeting Charlie Windicott at Camelot at three, but we left his car back at the cemetery. I’d run him back out there, but I have to go see Pastor Breisch about some vandalism he’d just discovered at his church.”
        “Another one?” Donella said. “That’s what, the third incident?”
        “Fourth,” Walker replied, taking a bite of his cake.
        “Problems?’ I asked.
        “A few of the local churches have been hit by vandals,” Walker said. He paused to take another bite of his cake. “Kids probably, but it’s becoming a problem. Anyway, Donella, could you run Roger up to the cemetery to get his car?”
        “Sure, Sheriff.”
        “Thanks.”
        “Sheriff,” I said, “Can I ask you a question?”
        “If I can.”
        “Did Lucian ever strike you as being odd?”
        Another bite of carrot cake disappeared into his mouth, “In what way?”
        I told him about what Charlie had told me about the will and the stipulations I had to follow. “No one seems to know what Lucian did for a living except he was some sort of consultant. He cut all connections to his relatives, yet names me, not my dad or either one of his brothers, or any of the other relatives as sole heir. And even before I find out I’m Lucian’s heir, I’m attacked, because someone didn't want me up here. And I've just been attacked again for the same reason. So who is Lucian Merlin and what did he do?”
        Walker was silent for a few moments, eating his cake. Finally, he said, “I can’t tell you Roger. Lucian was a private man who always kept his distance, yet when someone needed help, he was the first person there. He did a lot of good around here, and that’s what people will remember him for.”
        “He was lonely,” Donella said. We looked at her. “The sheriff’s right, Lucian was a private person, but there was a sadness in him. If you were around him long enough, you could see it. When I was thirteen or fourteen, I asked him why he was sad. He looked at me and said that he walked a path few can travel, and when he found someone to walk that path with, he lost her during the war. He said he never found another, but I think he never looked.”
        Walker put his now-empty plate down and stood. “I have to get going,” he said. “Roger, I’ll be in touch if there’s any developments or if I need to talk to you again.”
        “Of course, Sheriff.”
        “Good day to both of you.”
I watched him walk away, then took a bite of my sandwich. Ham, cheese with tomato and lettuce, all topped with honey mustard. After the sheriff drove away, I chewed and swallowed, then looked at Donella. She looked back at me, and I felt myself begin to lose myself in her eyes.. We broke the gaze by mutual consent. “So,” I said. “Are gangs a problem up here?”
        “Not really,” she said, “but there have been a number of unsolved crimes over the last six months. The Sheriff’s feeling the heat from the town council.”
        “What sort of crimes?” I asked, taking a bite of my sandwich.
        “Well, four of the local churches have been vandalized. From what I've know, they did a real number on the altars, wrecking them so they can’t be used. There’s been a rash of farm animals disappearing, including several cows. A couple of weeks ago, they found the remains of a cow up on Table Rock.”
        “Table Rock,” I muttered, the swallowed the food in my mouth. “Isn't that where they found Lucian’s body?”
        “Yes. And that’s another thing that has the council upset, even though the sheriff turned the investigation over to the county detectives. Lucian was well like and respected by everyone around here.”
        I began to feel uneasy. Lucian’s death, the Nazgul wannabe, and this crime wave, all felt like they were connected. And not in a good way.
        “People are scared, Roger,” she continued. “I only go out at night if I have to work and even then it’s to the Inn and back again. Aunt Abby keeps a loaded shotgun by her bead and Leal Severine lets his dogs roam the estate at night.”
        “The estate?” I asked.
        She made an “O” with her mouth in surprise. “I didn't tell you, did I? We — Aunt Abby and I — live on Camelot.”
        My heart started beating a little faster. “Who’s Leal?”
        “He’s the estate’s groundskeeper. Lucian rescued him from his brothers and gave him the job of taking care of the estate’s grounds.”
        “His brothers wouldn't happen to be Mel and Gene, would they?”
        She stared at me in surprise. “How did you know?”
        “Ran into them last night outside the Inn. Might have gotten into a brawl with them if the Sheriff hadn't shown up and arrested them.”
        “Oh,” she said. “Well, Leal isn't like them. He’s a very simple man, honest, hard working. I don’t know how, but he keeps the estate grounds looking good all by himself. He was very devoted to Lucian.”
        “He lives on the grounds?”
        She nodded. “He has a small house near the front gate and he lives there with five or six large dogs that he’s rescued from the county animal shelter.”
        I had been working on my meal while we were talking and finished it as she was talking. “Thank you,” I said.
        “For what?”
        “For bring this out to me. I didn't realize I was that hungry.”
        “Doc loves to cook. A couple of times a year, he threatens to quit medicine and open up a cafĂ©.” That got a mild chuckle out of me.
        Donella stood up. “Come on,” she said. “Let me get my jacket, then we’d better get going.”

***

Let's see how much of the writing assignment I can get done before Monday....

Craig

Monday, March 10, 2014

New Information on the Current Novel and More Merlin's Legacy

The above is the logo for the series that I'm outlining the novel I've mentioned the last several posts. Created by Rick Chesler (Thriller / suspense novelist: BLOOD HARBOR (12/10/13); Tara Shores series: SOLAR ISLAND (2012), kiDNApped (2011), WIRED KINGDOM (2010)), Outcast Ops is about a team of US specialists, who have, for one reason or another found themselves outside of the system. But just because they're outside the system doesn't mean they're going to go quietly into the night. The world still needs their skills, and there are evil people who still threaten their fellow man.

As of now, The name of the novel I'm working on outlining right now is tentatively called African Firestorm, and I've outlined it out to Chapter 29. It's still looking like the 40-45 chapters mark is still holding, but I think there's a third of the novel left to outline, leading to the exciting climax, so we'll see. (I hope!)

Now that I've filled in some of the mystery, I'll keep you updated on my progress.

And speaking of novels....Here's the start of Chapter 4 of Merlin's Legacy:

***

        The bouquet of flowers was on the passenger seat when I pulled into the cemetery. Rolling Hills Cemetery was west of the town, on a hill overlooking the harbor The cemetery was surrounded by a five foot stone wall, with black iron spikes adding another foot. The gates were the same black iron. 
        I drove in slowly, getting a long look at the place. The grass was green and well-tended, and the headstones were intact. A man was pushing a wheelbarrow toward me. I pulled the car next to him, stopped the car and rolled down my window. “Afternoon,” I said.
        The man put his wheelbarrow down and gave me a friendly smile. “Afternoon to you, sir!” he said. “My name’s Dorsey, head groundskeeper. What can I do for you?” He looked like he was in his mid-fifties, with a tanned, weather-beaten face, fit, with worn clothes, dirt-covered boots and a wide-brimmed hat.
        “I’m looking for a certain grave,” I said.
        “Who’s?”
        “Lucian Merlin.”
        A cloud a sadness covered his expression. “Yes,” he said. “Lucian was a good man. We’re all morn his passing.”
        “Yeah, I’m learning that.”
        “Anyone, Lucian doesn't have a grave. He has a tomb, near the top of the hill. You can see it from here, just look up and to the left. It’s the pure white one.”
        I scrunched down and looked out the passenger's-side window and up the hill. The tomb was right where Dorsey described. “How do I get up there?”
        “Oh well, sir,” Dorsey said, motioning with one arm in the direction he had come from. “Go down here until you come to an intersection, make a right, go uphill, then make your third right.”
        “Thank you,” I said.
        “You related to Lucian?” he asked. 
        “Great-nephew,” I replied. “I got into town last night.”
        Dorsey scratched his chin. “Never knew Lucian had any family.”
        "He did. Thank you for your help.”
        “Not a problem. I’m sorry for your loss.”
        “Thank you,” I rolled up window and rolled away. In the rear-view mirror, I watched Dorsey pick up his wheelbarrow and continued on his way.
        I followed the directions, and was soon parked near Lucian’s tomb. I took the bouquet,  got out of the car and looked around. Again, I felt I was being watched, but saw no one except  Dorsey, and he was down near the front gates, raking up some leaves and ignoring me. I did another slow spin, but saw no one. It was cool and clear, with a light breeze blowing in from the sea. Otherwise, it was silent. No birds or insects sang their songs, and I was too far away from town to hear any noise from there.
        It was unnerving.
        “It’s the place that’s creeping me out,” I muttered. I started walking up the grass slope to where the tomb stood.
       Even in this well-tended memorial park, the tomb stood out. It wasn't very large, maybe eight feet wide, twice as deep and eight feet tall at its highest point. It was made of white marble, with symbols engraved on each stone block. I recognized only a few of them — the Ankh, some runes, and what looked like symbols from the book I Ching. Over the what had been the doorway, but was now a solid block of stone was the word MERLIN. Below that, carved in base-relief was the twin dragon holding a stone shaped into a form of a gem — just like my ring.
        I bowed my head and whispered a prayer for Lucian’s soul. There was a hollow calender cared from the stone that looked large enough to hold the flowers. I put the flowers into it, and was about to step back, when I felt the urge to touch the stone. I did so, placing my right palm flat against the door.
        I could feel the stone vibrating under my hand, gentle, quiet and peaceful. The feeling of peace flowed down my arm and into my body, and all tension and conflicting emotions in my body and mind was swept away in the feeling of tranquility.
        I hadn't intended on saying anything, but the words came out before I could stop them. “Uncle Lucian, I grieve for your death and I thank you for your kindness you have shown this town. Had the family known you were still alive, we would have visited you and made sure you were never alone. I will pray that the police find out who murdered you and bring them to justice.”
        I felt a subtle change in the energy around me. The hairs on the back of my neck began to rise. I knew something was happening, but I didn't understand what. Several of the engravings seemed to start glowing, though it was hard to see it in the daylight. Then, without warning, I head a soft whisper. “I’m sorry, Roger.”
        I yanked my hand away from the stone as quickly as I could. I looked around for any reason to explain what I’d just heard. Nothing. I walked around the tomb and again, found nothing.
        I scratched my head. I had to imagining it, right? There was no such things as ghosts, right?
Then why couldn't I dismiss it as such?
        I squared my shoulders walked up to the sealed door and placed my hand on the stone. I felt the energy again under my hand and the feeling of peacefulness flowed into me again. I closed my eyes this time and concentrated. I felt the energy and saw flashes of lights on my eyelids.
        Then like before, I heard the whispers. “Beware the Dark Master,” it breathed. “Beware the Dark Guide.”
        “Who?” I asked softly. “Who are they?”
        “Death,” the whispers answered. “Destruction, Chaos, Evil.”
        Before I could ask for more information, I heard the squeals of wheels, and the sound of an engine, both getting closer and quickly. I opened my eyes and pulled my hand away. I turned and saw a black van coming up the road at a nearly insane speed. Something told me I was the reason they were here.
        I stepped away from the tomb and started for my car, but suddenly, there was a hooded figure in front of me. “Not so fast, Merlin,” it hissed, pointing a loved finger at me.
        I stepped back. “Who are you?” I demanded. All I could see was a cloaked and hooded figure, with a void where the face would be.
        “Your enemy,” the figure replied as the van turned onto the road and raced toward us. It shot past my car and came to a stop in front of me in a cloud of smoke and squealing brakes. The side door slid open as the van came to a stop, and the same hooded thugs who’s jumped me in my apartment hopped out, plus one. Well, same in dress, ski masks, and weapons, baseball bats.
        One of the thugs pointed his bat at me. “You had you chance,” he growled. “You should have given us the letter when you had the chance!”
        “You were too early, asshole,” I said, “I didn't get the letter until after you tried to beat me to a pulp.”
        “We’ll take care of that now. You ain't welcomed here in Pilgrim’s Cove, and now we’re going to make sure you regret ever coming here.” He looked at two of his friends. “Watch it, he knows some Kung-fu moves. Take him.”
        Two of the thugs came at me. I knew more than a few “Kung-Fu” moves, and unlike last time, I was alert and prepared. The first thug tried taking my head off with his first swing, But I ducked and sidestepped him, kicked him in the side of the knee and shoved him into the second thug, sending both of them sprawling. 
        Before I could go after them, the head thug came at me, his swing scraping down my arm instead of landing on my collarbone. I yelled and kicked out, hitting him on the thigh instead of his groin, but it was enough to made him stumble back. I surged forward, punching him between the eyes. 
        Before I could follow up, the fourth thug stepped forward and hit my left arm near the shoulder with his bat. I stumbled sideways, right into the path of one of the first two thugs who tried to double me over with a had swing into my solar plexus. I exhaled and tightened my stomach muscles just in time. The blow hurt, but I wasn't disabled. With adrenaline surging through me, I grabbed the thug’s wrist and kicked him as hard as I could in the groin. He screamed and doubled over, and I followed up with a knee to the face. I felt his nose crack under the blow and I shoved him away.
        Thug four charged me, screaming at the top of his lungs. I stepped inside his swing, blocking his arm and slamming a palm into his nose, barking a short, sharp yell. His head snapped back and he fell on his ass.
        The head thug rushed me, swinging his bat fast and hard. I backpedaled, then ducked as the other unhurt thug tried taking my head off. I caught a glimpse of the hooded figure just standing there, watching the fight.
        The head thug and his partner started working together, forcing me on the defensive. They managed to get in a few glancing blows, but they were forcing me back toward the tomb I saw one of the other thugs slowly get up, his mask a bloody mess and murder in his eyes.
        As I stepped back to avoid a thrust, my right heel caught a buried rock and it threw my balance off. I stumbled back, and found myself leaning up against the tomb. There were now three thugs on their feet and number four was getting up.
        “Kill him and take the ring,” the hooded creep said.
        I put my hand on the tomb to steady myself. As I did so, energy flowed into me, lots of energy. I was suddenly full of energy and even more kept flowing in. “Lift your left hand and will the energy though it,” the whispers said.
        I lifted my hand, and forced the energy through my arm and out through my hand.
        The result was unbelievable.
        A wave of energy flowed out of my hand and slammed into the thugs, sending them flying. Two hit the van hard enough to stun them, while the other two were sent tumbling across the road and into the gravestones on the other side. Only the hooded creep was unaffected by the blast.
        Once the energy was gone, I dropped to one knee, and dropped my head, feeling like I’d run a marathon while wearing weights. In the distance, I heard sirens, getting closer. I lifted my head. Creepy cloak was still standing there. “It appears I have underestimated you, Merlin,” it said, sounding like a snake. “I will not make that mistake again.”
        “I don’t know who you are, your third-rate Nazgul,” I managed to snarled. “But stay out of my way!”
        “No,” it replied. I have no idea if it was male, female or even human under that hood. It turned its head in the direction of the stunned thugs. “We must leave now.”
       The thugs were up on their feet, but moving slowly and in pain. I grinned nastily, but I had no energy of my own to do anything to add to their pain. They climbed into the van and roared off, even as the sirens got louder.
        Nazzy looked back at me. “Lord Zamaka will not be denied his reward, Heir of Merlin. The Black Guide will show him the way.” And, like a ghost, Nazzy faded away.
        I pushed myself into a sitting position, feeling drained. I head an electric motor A golf cart into sight, driven by Dorsey. He jerked to a stop and got out. “Are you all right?” he asked.
       “Fine,” I replied. “Just a little tired.”
       He knelt next to me. “I’m sorry, but they faced into the park and nearly hit me! When I saw where they were going, I called the Sheriff and told them what was happening!”
       The sirens were getting louder and I could see flashing lights. “I’ll stay here,” I said. “You go get them.”
       Dorsey nodded and ran back to his golf cart and roared off. I just sat there and let the pain hit me. “I looked up at the tomb. “I sure hope this is all worth it Uncle Lucian,” I said.
       “It is,” the whisper replied.

***

All for now -- Later!!

Craig

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Why Self-publish? A newbie's view.....

As I look at the number of posts I've made since the start of the year, I realize that I've blogged more this year than the other two years. In fact, by the end of the month, I'll have blogged more this year than the other two years combined. Guess I'm still trying to step up my game....

Okay, first the update on the novel. It's fully outlined through Chapter 24, and rough outlined for Chapters 25-30. It looks like the novels going to run 40-45 chapters by the time I've finished the outlining. I sent what I've done so far to my proposed co-author/originator of the series, and he likes it so far. But the proof will be in the writing itself.

And that brings me to the post's subject: why self-publish? The reason are many, and I will outline my thoughts here.

Why Self-Publish?

There is no one main reason to self-publish. It's a number of factors, all have their own influence on my thinking. I have read many blogs from many different people who are farther along on their journey, and I am seeing things that enforces what I'm seeing with my own eyes.

Control of My Intellectual Property (IP) Rights --- This has a big influence on my thinking. Any original story I write (That isn't linked to someone's else's IP) is mine. I own everything in that story, and I should have the right to decide who gets what from those rights. The problem is these days, the Traditional Publishing Companies (TPCs) are demanding more and more rights from the writer. E-book rights, audio rights, foreign rights, and even movie and TV rights have become part of a lot of publishing contracts these days. Combined with contracts that are twisted and rigged to give the TPCs everything and the writer very little, it's not worth giving up those rights for the thrill of seeing my book in print.

Distrust of the TPCs --- I have read blogs in which authors explained how the TPCs basically raked them over the coals, and earning nothing because the TPC screwed them over, either through incompetence or willful neglect. Things like "No-compete" clauses, reduced advances, accounting practices that make DC bureaucrats look like amateurs, and demanding every right they can think of are compounded by indifferent editing, little publicity, and a willingness to drop the author at the slightest reason. All that leads me to believe that if a novel I write fails, it should fail because of me, not because TPC screwed me over.

Amount of Work --- Most publishers don't put out more than a book a year for an author. There are exceptions to this -- James Patterson and Clive Cussler come to mind -- but most authors have only one novel out at a time. (A main reason who some authors use Pen names). Well and great if I have only one novel ready to go, but what if I have three novels ready, or several novellas? Do I want to wait three years to publish all three novels, or figure out how to get novellas published? By self-publishing, all three novels can be out in a year, finding readers and hopefully earning money. If I want to publish under my own name, a pen name of ten pen names, I decide when and how I release my work and in what form. That still means I have to write quality stories, but I don't have to sit there with a stack of finished material, dribbling out a novel at a time.

Freedom --- That leads in from Amount of Work. I decide when and how I release my novel/novella/ novelette/short story. I decide if I want to have an audio version, what the price of my work should be. I decide what cover my stories should have. I'm on my own time table, not a TPC's. I think that would have a better handle on what my story needs in the way of a cover, and how much PR I can put out and in what format.

Money --- Yes, it's that low on the list. As a self-publisher (or independent author), I receive no advance (Which are shrinking rapidly). I do however, receive a larger percentage of royalties per book. And because e-books or Print on Demand (POD) never go out of print, I could earn money on a novel I wrote five or ten years ago. While I wouldn't earn a lot per sale, say $2.50 per book, once I have enough stories published, I wouldn't need that many sales per book. If my books each sells only ten copies a month ($25.00), and I have ten stories published, I'm looking at $250.00/month. Not a huge amount, but it would be constant, and grow each time I published a story. With the right PR, I could boost sales for a series, or offer special editions. I don't need runaway bestsellers (Though I would not complain if one of my stories did hit it big) to make a living,

And those are my thoughts as I see it right now. Can my thoughts change? Yes. I expect that I will be altering my thoughts a lot over the next few years, as I start digging into the new soil of being an Independent Author.

Craig

Monday, March 3, 2014

Update on the Novel, and More Merlin's Legacy

Well, I'm up to Chapter 20 in the outlining process, and it's going well so far. The genre of this novel is action/adventure/Thriller, and I've always been a fan of those sort of novels, The co-author wants to keep each chapter to five or six pages, so I'm working the narrative to suit the action. After I finish the outline, I'll tell you more about the series, because by then, I hope to have more to tell you about.

But to keep this from being a short blog post, here's the next scene from Merlin's Legacy, First draft:

***
        We spent the next thirty minutes signing forms and turning over things like bank accounts, property deeds, and other things to my control. My head was spinning by the time, so when Windicott said we were done for now, I was relieved.
        He guided me out of his office and into the lobby, all the while making the pitch to become my legal adviser. Just as we passed Cathy’s desk, we heard a woman’s voice say, “Charles.”
        Well, she didn't really say it, she sort of purred it.
        We both turned and looked behind us. Standing there was a tall statuesque redhead with green eyes and a sly smile on her ruby-red lips. She was dressed in a business suit with a knee-high skirt and low-heel shoes, but despite being conservatively dressed, she somehow make the outfit alluring.
        “Windicott coughed. “Ah, Margaret,” he said, his tone half an octave higher than it had been several seconds before.
        She smiled widen when I she looked at me, and I felt like a piece of meat dangling in front of a hungry lion. She moved toward us, her walk more like a stalk. “Who’s your friend?”
        I cannot stress the beauty of this woman. It wasn't the girl next door type of beauty, but the wild-weekend-in-Vegas-that-you-will-never-tell-your-mother-type of enchantress. I felt my heart beat faster and blood run to places that it shouldn't in a the middle of a lawyer’s office.
“Yes, yes,” Windicott said, his breaths fast and short. “Margaret, this is Roger Merlin, Lucian’s great-nephew. Roger is is one of my associates, Margaret Teague.”
Her smile became wider. “Lucian’s kin, huh?,” she said. She turned her head to look at Windicott. “Don’t you have to get ready for court?” she asked, her silkily-smooth voice laced with steel.
Windicott gulped and shifted from one foot to the other. “I have a couple of minutes,” he said.
Margaret sighed. “Go,” she said.
Windicott went.
After he hurried back to his office and close his door, Margaret looked at me. “Well,” she breathed. “I never knew Lucian had such a handsome great nephew.”
In the back of my head, alarms were going off. I’m an all right looking guy, but AJ’s is not only better looking, he has the person skills I don’t. I felt my face getting flush and I looked around,. We were alone, and I felt my heart beating faster.
When I looked back, I found myself staring into two large green eyes that promised so much. She was standing inches from me, having stepped close when I was distracted. “Are you doing anything tonight?” she whispered. “We could have dinner. I know a lot about Lucian and could tell you everything.”
She reached out to caress my arm, but as she did so, there was a burst of static electricity, shocking both of us. We jumped back, and the spell was broken. Margaret’s expression darkened and she glanced down at my hand. “The ring!” she snapped. “When did you get the ring?”
My mind was still a little rattled. “A week ago.”
She huffed in anger, put hands on her hips, then gave me a bitter smile and looked at the ceiling. “Nicely played, Lucian,” she said softly.
Windicott chose that moment to come out of his office, several files in one hand and a briefcase in the other. As he looked at us, I heard the front door open and turned to see who was coming in.
Damien Brackett scowled when he saw me. “Uncle Lucy leave you anything?” he asked with a sneer.
“Enough,” I replied, smiling to show my teeth.
“So, leaving soon?”
I pursed my lips and shook my head. “Nope. I think I’m going to be hanging around for several years, at least.”
Damien shot me an ugly look. I shot him an ugly look. While we were staring at each other, the door opened somewhere behind me and Cathy ‘s voice said, “Mister Brackett? Mister Blount will see you now.”
Damien waked toward me, and I braced myself for a shoulder bump. Instead, he walked past me without contact, walked past Margaret and into another office. Margaret gave me a half smile that was more cruel than sexy, then walked into another office.
“Mister Windicott,” I said.
“Please, call me Charlie,” he said.
“Charlie,” I said. “When do you want to meet this afternoon and where?”
“Why not the estate? Just take Bayfront here, head north and you can’t miss it. Say, three?”
“Sounds good. By the way, do you know where Lucian’s buried? I would like to pay my respects.”
He nodded and gave me directions. We walked out and parted ways outside the office. I walked back to my car but just as I reached it, I felt eyes upon me. I did a full, slow spin, but saw no one looking at me. There were several dozen people in sight, all going about their own business.
I looked around again, and this time, I spotted Mister Brawn sitting on a bench in the park, half-hidden behind a lamppost. He was throwing breadcrumbs on the ground in front of him, but there were no birds anywhere near him. He looked in my direction, saw me looking at him, got up and walked away. I watched him until he crossed the street on the other side of the park and enter the bakery. I waited a couple more minutes, but he didn't reappear. I shrugged it off and was about to get into the car, when I changed my mind and started walking toward the florist.

***

That's the first three chapters of Merlin's Legacy. Any opinions?

Craig