Serial Saturday Update

Well, I had intended to get Tooth & Claw up this weekend, but we had a small family emergency early this week, followed by the loss of a family pet, and I just could not even begin to care about deadlines. I know my readers understand. Next week is still a possibility, though, and by the end of the month definitely. In the meantime, I hope I can assuage your disappointment with this sneak peek:

Nakaroth returned to High Rock in the evening, as the sun was settling and the long night just beginning to gather. He flashed throat in greeting to his chief, then opened his hands and let two objects fall to the ground. Kruin leapt down from his place on the raised rock to better see them, and to force those few males who had been creeping steadily nearer to the humans’ place of rest to give ground before him. They did, and Kruin soon had an unobstructed view of Nakaroth’s troubling offerings. One was a fellcat tooth. The other, the killing tip of a broken metal knife.

Nona looked at this last and huffed laughter. She picked it up with her scarred hand and shook her head. “You went a long way to find this.”

Nakaroth caught that hand up and touched the scars. “Bites?” he guessed.

“Not exactly. I cut myself on its mouth.” She took her hand back.

“Then it was you who killed the fellcat.”

Nona did not answer, but Leila, resting with Heather by the fire, chuckled into her tea and said, “You should have seen her. She ran right at it. Ka-pow.”

Nakaroth’s ears tipped forward. “And you ate its flesh.”

“Tasted terrible, too.” Nona frowned at Nakaroth as other hunters came to stare at the tooth and the knife and the human who connected them. “Is it bad to eat them?”

“It is difficult to make them hold still for it,” Nakaroth replied, amused. “Fellcats have few weak points. You found a new one. Through the open mouth and into the brain,” he added, loudly enough for all to hear.

The wolves of High Pack murmured. Vru stood up and loped closer. Kruin scratched his brooding heart and said nothing.

“You are Earth-born,” Nakaroth said, returning his gaze to Nona, who nodded.

Kruin growled a warning. These questions had answers he did not wish all his pack to witness.

Nakaroth submitted with a smile, content to be silenced now that silence could only rot in the open air.

So be it.

Kruin rose, staring his unrepentant second down, and bluntly said, “How did you come to our world, human?”

“There were some guys,” she said after a moment. “I don’t know who they were. They said something about…a smoking banner? I don’t know what that means. We’re not one of them,” she added. “They took us. I don’t know how. They brought us here. From Earth, like you said.” She paused, then said, “Do you…Do you know if there’s a way back?”

“I know there are not,” Kruin told her. “Even the Great Dragon has forsworn the making of such roads, and I think there are none but he who could now.”

She took that in and finally said, “That you know of.”

He saw no point in pursuing further. She had already made up her mind not to be convinced. Instead, he said, “I know these Men you speak of, these Men of Earth.”

Wariness stiffened Nona’s thin body and hardened her eyes. “How well?”

“Well enough to know the taste of their blood,” he answered. He meant to allay her unquiet thought, but if anything, her guard rose even higher. He tried again, lowering his voice to a soothing growl. “But although I see you are of the enemy’s world, I see also you are not of their kind. Speak truth to me and you have nothing to fear.”

“I’m not afraid of you.”

“Good. I would not have you be. Now tell me, the enemy…what did they want with you?”

Nona threw the broken blade at the fire, and snapped, “Oh, what do you think?”

Warily, not at all certain he wished an honest answer, Kruin said, “To fight. And if so, I must know, human…What weapons or man-magic have you that Mab herself would tear you from your world to possess them?”

Nona and her two humans stared at him. It was not challenge.

“That isn’t why they took us,” Nona said slowly, now squinting. “They just took us because we were there. They didn’t care who. They didn’t know us at all. They just wanted someone to…cook and…stuff.”

Kruin nodded, acknowledging the things she said and the things she did not say, pushing it all behind him to make room for what mattered. “When these Men held you, was it before their judgment at Dis or after?”

“I don’t know what that means.”

It meant everything. Mab had fled Arcadia, giving her immortal oath never to return. The Great Dragon and his children had also sworn to forge no more Roads. As he had told Nona, the ways to Earth were shut, or should be. Yet Avalon’s wizards had produced many humans who could walk between the worlds and if one of their getting were loosed upon Arcadia, another army may be building even now. Yes, it was far more likely that Nona and her packmates had been stolen before the surrender at Dis, but likely was a fine, sharp edge. Kruin had to know.

“When were you taken?” he asked.

Her defiance faded to uncertainty. “I’m not sure. The days…just kind of blended together.”

“What shape was the moon when you came to this world?”

“I…” Nona tipped her head back to study the sky. The eyes of every wolf around her were fixed at once upon her throat. “Almost half,” she said. “Kind of like it is now. But I don’t know if it was waxing or waning and I know it’s been a while. But I don’t think there’s been more than one. I don’t know,” she finished, dropping her chin to look at him. “Yeah, you don’t like that answer, but you better get used to it, because you’re going to be hearing it a lot.”

She was tired, Kruin told himself. Words spoken in weariness were as rash as those spoken in anger, and she was angry also, because she was afraid. Beyond that, she was lost in this world and very much alone, for to be a chief is to be alone, no matter how many or how few one’s pack. And she was human, a stranger to his ways and deaf to the song of Endless. Kruin knew all these things and could forgive her words, knowing the dark place it came from. But that was what Kruin saw. His pack saw defiance of their chief and their lord, and that was a challenge that must be met.

Kruin advanced on her.

She did not give ground.

“This is my Land,” he told her, very quietly. “And I ask only what I must have answered to provide protections to my people.”

Nona, by the burning blood of the god-chief Quiabe, held his damned stare. “I can’t tell you what I don’t know. You want me to guess? More than thirty days, less than fifty. More than that, I do. Not. Know. I should have paid better attention. I didn’t.”

“How many were these soldiers who held you?” Kruin asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “The camp was huge. Hundreds. Thousands, maybe.”

Kruin accepted the number with a frustrated snort. Many, in other words. So it was for most of his kind: one, two, three, a thousand. “How did you escape?”

Nona shook her head. “I don’t know, I really don’t.”

“She killed them,” Leila said.

“All of them?” Kruin asked.

“No,” said Nona, quiet again. “Only ten.”

Every wolf in High Pack pricked their ears.

“Ten,” said Kruin.

Nona nodded, rubbing her eyes.

“Ten meaning ‘many’?”

She looked at him in that squinting way again. “Ten meaning ‘ten.’ The number between nine and eleven. This many.” She showed him her open hands, all her fingers waggling.

Kruin looked from her to Leila and Heather. “You fought them all together?”

Before Nona could answer, Leila said, “Just her. I couldn’t even move. I should have, I know. I wanted to. I thought of it so many times, but when the time came…it was just her. I’m sorry,” she said to Nona. “You shouldn’t have had to do it alone.”

A short silence followed.

“How?” one of the nearer wolves asked. Henkel, who had fought alongside the horsemen against Mab’s Earth-born army as one of Rhiannon-Ahm’s Aces. He had doubtless killed as many, but not alone and he had not come through unmarked. His scars had brought him much honor, a mate, the respect of ranking wolves and the envy of low ones.

“Any way I could. It got a lot easier when I got this.” Nona pulled her stump of a knife out, then looked at it and chuffed a laugh. “I mean, it had a blade then. I don’t think I could do it again with just this.”

“Would you try?” Nakaroth asked.

Her thin smile split in a human snarl as she looked at Kruin’s second. “Hell yeah I would.”

Nakaroth’s slowly began to wag.

“Anyway, I only killed the ones who were right there. As soon as there was an opening, we ran for it. There were more of us then,” Nona said, tucking her weapon away. Her eyes shone, with challenge and with shame. “I lost them. I couldn’t…I couldn’t keep them safe.”

“Mine is a dangerous Land,” Kruin said. “I can make you no promises of safety. I can only give you the protection of my pack, if you submit to me as lord over you.”

“Yeah, that’s not happening,” Nona said at once.

Kruin was not surprised. He stepped back, again forcing certain of his pack to grudging give back the distance they had steadily closed. He did not look at them, although he gave his claws a meaningful flex. “I know our ways are not the ways of Men. When you are fed and rested, I will escort you to those of your kind who dwell here if you wish it, though I cannot promise they will take you in. Indeed, if they know you come to them through us, they will surely cast you out.”

My kind is on Earth,” said Nona. “Can you escort us there?”

“No. No one can do that. The roads are broken. The way is shut.” Kruin saw no disbelief in her, yet no slackening of resolve, either. He said, “But there are Earth-born in the Aerie Domain if think you would fare better with them. There, I could take you.”

“Would these be the same humans who kidnapped us?” Nona demanded, her eyes blazing.

“They would be the Men who followed Mab, yes.”

“And you’re going to give us back to them if we don’t fall down at your fucking feet and worship you?” Out came the broken knife. “Heather, get Leila on her feet. We’re leaving. And if any goddamn one of you comes after us—”

“Do not threaten me, human,” Kruin said, staring her down as wolves closed in, silent, on every side of her. “I do not threaten you.”

“That is just what you’re doing and if your people don’t back the fuck off in the next three seconds, someone’s going to bleed!”

“Yes,” he said simply. “And with blood ends our council and I think there are yet words you should hear. Put away your weapon. I am not your enemy.”

Her arm lowered, but her grip on the knife did not ease. “No,” she said, not quite sneering, but close enough to bring growls from many of the watching wolves. “No, you’re not the enemy, you just want to deliver us back to them!”

“Not to them. To the lord of the Aerie Domain, who has had their keeping since Mab’s army broke upon the stones of Dis.”

The humans did not react with gladness or with any emotion Kruin could read. They looked at him and at each other, and at last Leila said, “Are you sure?”

This was finally too much for Alorak, who leapt down from his high place on the council rock, hackles bristling. “You dare!”

Kruin silenced his son with a sharp blow to the muzzle, never taking his eyes from Nona. “Very sure. I saw it done. The wizard is slain, his mother exiled, and all their army undone. Those who took you, if they live at all, are now held under the watch of the Dragon’s Own.”

“As prisoners,” said Nona.

“As dangerous humans who have not hesitated to raise weapons against the people of this world.”

A little pink color bloomed, like frost flowers, high in the pale fields of Nona’s cheeks. She put her knife away.

“Well, it doesn’t matter, does it?” she said sullenly. “Whether it’s the soldiers or the dragon-people, it all ends in a cage for us.”

Kruin had no comfort to offer. When wolves were driven from their pack, they seldom went alone. Mates and cubs and siblings went also. Would he, Kruin, ever have welcomed back one of those females who had followed Ruaknar into exile? Or a cub sired by the traitor? No, he knew that he would not. Indeed, there were two of his own siring living in Sky Hunter Pack under the false names given them by the chief they would come to call father, if they ever learned to speak again, all because their mother had chosen to follow the Betrayer. He had grieved for them when he thought them lost and rejoiced to hear they had been found, but he had not, would never, send for them or even name them. Better the chief of Sky Hunter raise them as the orphan cubs of some roving bitch than know them for who they truly were. They were innocent, yet treachery stained the innocent as much as the guilty.

“The Great Dragon is lord,” he said. “His law is absolute in the Aerie Domain, as is the Cerosan’s law in the Valley…and mine, here.” He gave them a moment to swallow that and a moment more for the bitter taste to subside, then said, “But I will not cage you.”

“As long as I call you lord, you mean.”

Again, Alorak bristled. Again, Kruin cuffed him silent. “I am lord,” he said calmly, “whether I hear it from your mouth or not. And I tell you now for the third time that I will ask no oath from you this day. Neither will I call you my protected own. I merely offer you a place of rest and healing until winter sheathes its killing claws. If you wish to go, I will not hold you. If you wish to stay until spring, I make a place for your and your pack and share with you what comforts I can.”

“We’re not staying any longer than that.”

Kruin nodded, then deliberately laid his ears flat. “The call to High Pack is the greatest honor of my Land. I do not offer it for pity’s sake to wayward travelers. I give welcome to only the strongest wolves.”

“And their mates,” said Nakaroth.

Kruin looked at him.

“Look, I’m sorry,” said Nona through gritted teeth. “I’m not trying to be rude or ungrateful. I just…” She glared, not at Kruin as much as through him, to all the world a once. “I can’t stay here. I don’t—We don’t belong here. As soon as we have our strength back, we’re leaving.”

Kruin nodded, but Nakaroth said, “And where will you go?”

The human tossed her head, baring her throat briefly and making her dirty hair snap back over her shoulder. “Back to Earth!”

Nakaroth’s ears tipped forward. He laughed just once. “How?”

“I’ll find a way.”

“You don’t answer my question.”

“I don’t have to.” Nona bared her teeth again, her eyes burning without blinking into Nakaroth’s own. “It’s none of your business.”

Wolves shifted, eyeing one another, eyeing this human who dared to challenge High Pack’s second. Yes, memories of Taryn’s time among them were fresh in every mind, she who might have made any wolf chief and lord, if only she could have been taken. As this one might yet be taken.

But Nakaroth smiled, accepting this display of hostility in surprising good humor. He returned to the fire and picked up the fellcat tooth, holding it out to her. “Will you keep it?”

“What for?”

“A trophy. It is our way.” He indicated his own fellcat tooth, hanging bright around his neck. “A mark of a lone hunt.”

“I wasn’t hunting.”

“But you were alone.”

Nona looked at her humans. They looked away. “I don’t want it,” she said. She took Leila’s arm and brought her back to the fire, where she sat and ignored him.

Kruin watched his second closely in the aftermath of that insult. Nakaroth showed his teeth, but it was a smile, not a snarl.

“You may change your mind,” he called.

“Then I’ll kill another one!”

Nakaroth laughed in two short barks. He went to his own den. He kept the tooth.

‘There’s trouble,’ thought Kruin. He did not mean Nona’s insolence or even Nakaroth’s strange tolerance of it. He could not see the shape it made yet, but he could hear it in the song of Endless, like the thunder that sounds in a clear sky, before the coming of the storm.

Oh, and also, it’s Saturday! So another chapter of my FNAF fanfiction, Everything Is All Right, Part III: Children of Mammon, just went up on Archiveofourown.org and Fanfiction.net, so it you’re reading along with those, by all means, head over and get caught up! And hey, have another snippet! Excerpts are how I look like I’m blogging when really, I’m just cutting and pasting!

Like so.

Ana sat up. It hurt her arms, her head, her ribs—her everything. She forced herself to take a deep breath and called, as loud as she could make herself speak, “Foxy?”

Nothing. No answer. No opening door, no thump of metal feet on wooden boards. He wasn’t there.

Or couldn’t answer.

She climbed to her feet, staggered to the wall and held up her watch to the faint silvery shine of an animatronic fish. Five o’clock. It was a testament to Ana’s state of mind that she had to stand there under the glowing fish, listening to the crows, knowing that the source of the dread knotting up her guts stemmed from the fact that Foxy was not putting on his scheduled show, and still had no way of knowing if that meant five in the afternoon or five in the morning.

She limped out into the West Hall, pulling the black plastic away from the windows as Tux complimented her ass on its intelligent and inquisitive demeanor. Sunlight, the pale, piercing sort of sunlight that only follows one hell of a storm. Afternoon, then. Slower to sink in but more important to take note of, the parking lot was empty.

She knew that didn’t necessarily mean that Mason and his boys were gone, but she believed it at once anyway. The building just felt empty.

…the building felt really empty.

She looked at Tux, but it wasn’t Tux she was thinking of.

Keeping one hand to her head to hold the headache in, Ana staggered down the East Hall, checking every door she passed along the way. All empty. Her stuff in the party room had once again been thrown around, but it all seemed to be there. Even her tablet was still on its charger and there was no way Mason would have left that behind. Although robbery might not have been his priority when he came here, he would have considered it his due reward for the thankless task of killing her. But it was still here, untouched, and the job of killing her, unfinished.

Not unfinished. Interrupted. And not by local law enforcement. Sheriff Zabrinsky didn’t like her, but he wouldn’t have left Ana lying on the floor in Pirate Cove after she’d taken a beating as bad as this one felt like. If nothing else, he would have arrested her, too. So that meant someone else had interrupted them…

“Freddy?” she called.

Silence.

Ana continued on the last length to the dining room. The new doors in the lobby had been broken open and could not fully close again. So it was dim, but not dark. And not quiet. Through hidden speakers on the wall, happy music played at a background volume, accompanying the joke-segment of the scheduled act, but no one was onstage.

They had to be here. They had to be.

“Bonnie?”

Something in the kitchen rattled. Then eyes, blessed eyes, glowing at her from the doorway. “IT SURE IS GREAT TO SEE YOU!” Chica said. “ARE YOU OKAY?”

“Oh wow, it’s great to see you, too!” Ana crashed across the empty room and finally fell against the animatronic, who in turn fell back against the wall. Chica grabbed her as much as Ana grabbed Chica; they steadied each other, neither one secure on their own feet. “Where is everyone? Where’s Bonnie?”

“DON’T WORRY, KIDS! BONNIE THE BUNNY WILL BE RIGHT BACK!”

“But where is he?” Ana pulled away in the faint hope that making eye contact would help Chica stay on target, only to lose the question herself. She did not exactly forget Bonnie, but the importance of finding him was hooked violently to one side as she got a good look at Chica’s bib.

Whatever those reddish-brown smears across the playful letters spelling LET’S EAT were, they were not pizza sauce.

“What is this?” she asked shakily. Her mind’s wheels, toothless and unoiled, tried to present options. She refused to look at them. “What…What have you been eating, Chica?”

 

 

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Serial Saturday Update

Another week come and gone, and as usual, I didn’t get enough done. However! I have a (hopefully) nice surprise for you!

Behold!

Is it out yet? No, it’s not, but there is a cover and a blurb! Check it out!

 

The war between Mab’s army and the lords of Arcadia is over. With winter comes a season of rest and rebuilding for the people of the Valley of Hoof and Horn. In the city of Dis, the long-displaced Cerosan have returned. Lord Antilles once again holds the throne of his fathers with Taryn MacTavish beside him. The road they built has brought them home. Their story is told.

But theirs was never the only story.

Winter in the Land of Tooth and Claw is no place of refuge, yet it becomes one when the lycan lord Kruin encounters three human females, former captives of Mab’s army, led by Nona, who is as determined to find her way back to Earth as Kruin’s second, Nakaroth, is determined to make her stay.

I’ve got one last round of edits to get through, but it will definitely be up before the end of this month.

I’m sure you’re all wondering why I waited nine years after typing THE END on The Army of Mab to put out another Arcadia book. Well, it’s a long story. I mean, yeah, I’m going to tell it anyway–that’s what I do, I tell ridiculously long stories–so if you don’t want to hear me blather on about the origin story to this book, feel free to hop on over to fanfiction.net or archiveofourown.org, where my newest chapter of my FNAF fanfic just went up and read that instead.

As for the rest of you, get some snacks and settle in.

See, the thing is this: Lords of Arcadia was not conceived as a series at all. It was barely intended to be a book. It certainly was never meant to be published. It was just the story I wrote during the last years of Sunny’s life, the world I chose to live in when my own was falling down around me. I didn’t plan any part of it. No outline, no concordance, no nothing.

But a funny thing happened after a couple hundred pages. I had placed Heat and Olivia with an ebook erotica publisher some time earlier and when that relationship fell apart, the self-pub market was just opening up on Amazon and I was just masochistic enough to put myself out there again. In the two years Heat and Olivia had sat on the ebook site, I had sold zero Olivias and exactly two copies of Heat: one to my sister and one to my octogenarian grand-aunt (who read it to her church-group quilting class, no joke; they loved it). I sold twenty copies of Heat the first month it went live. Felt like a shower of gold, let me tell you. I told myself it probably wouldn’t get any better than that, but if I wrote a few more books, maybe I could someday see, like, a hundred sales a month…whoa…and I could maybe actually do this for a living.

At that point, Lords of Arcadia was a mess smeared across about a dozen spiral notebooks. Over the course of typing them up, I began to realize that this was a big honking book and I had better break it down if I was serious about publishing it. And so, blissfully ignorant of the fact that there is definitely a right and wrong way to go about it, I broke my mammoth book in half: The Care and Feeding of Griffins and The Roads of Taryn MacTavish. Then I wrote some more.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before somewhere on this blog, I don’t write in a linear fashion. I write whatever scene is the strongest in my mind and don’t worry so much about putting it in order until the very end. I know, I know. It drives all my betas crazy. Anyway, there’s Care and Feeding, getting longer and longer and nowhere near the end, so I decided to break it down again, and call the latter half The Wizard in the Woods. Now I had a trilogy, which I was actually much happier about than a two-parter.

And then I kept writing. Three hundred pages into Roads, I realize that the war hasn’t even showed up yet and I am going to have to break that book down too. What even is that? A quardology? A four-book trilogy? Eesh. But I did it and The Army of Mab was born.

And then I kept writing.

Three hundred pages into Mab, I stopped and sat myself down for a stern talking to. I was absolutely not going to write the next goddamn Wheel of Time here. Enough was enough. The book could not go on without breaking into a fifth (and maybe sixth) book, so it was time to find some prunable plot branches and hack them the hell off.

So I did.

Four separate storylines were carved away from the series and left to die a lonely death in the oubliette of my Notes file. One of them had to do with the Great Dragon and the ‘native’ human empire nestled around the base of the mountains in the Aerie Domain. One had to do with Reed, now living with the fauns and satyrs in Pan’s Wood. One had to do with the slaugh and the rebuilding of kraal-Masala. And one had to do with this line, buried in this scene where Gabriel broods over his disappearing army:

Gabriel had intended to send a hundred men, or so he’d said, but that was when he’d had a hundred to spare.  A lot of them were sick now, a lot more wounded at the disastrous battle with the centaurs, and the thing in the lake was preying more openly now than it had before Gabriel struck his bargain with the thing, and that wasn’t even all…Another camp had managed to get killed by the girls they were supposed to be guarding, so not only did they lose the men, but they also had to shoot the fucking girls.  So people were dying, but people were also disappearing.

And with these small exchanges, when Nakaroth and Rhiannon are spending a little quality time together in the store-lodge between battles:

“I do not count my worth by the backs that bend beneath me.  I want a mate who stands beside me, fights where I fight.  I want a mate to make others envy me, challenge me.  I want cubs to come after.  I want forever in my mate.”….”It is not you I want, only what you are.  But I think I will not find it again.  Not in this world.”  He sighed and let his hand fall.  “You know you do not need me.”

See, there was going to be this whole epic sidestory with one of the girls from Gabriel’s camp and Nakaroth…but even as it was, The Army of Mab was nearly 700 pages long. I was right to cut it out, painful as it was, but I couldn’t bear to throw it away.

So my computer did it for me, when it fried its own hard drive in a glorious electronic suicide. Oh well. I was never going to write it anyway, was I?

Was I?

About five years later (and four years ago), I joined a NaNoWriMo group and, just for funsies, wrote the story of Nona and Nakaroth. It came in at just under 50k words, as I recall. I proudly posted it on the group’s forum. It received 47 total hits. Thirty of those were me, posting each day. I got two reviews. One read, in its entirely: Good effort. The other one wanted to let me know that they made thousands of dollars working from home by selling herbal supplements. Meanwhile, the riveting tale of how Bella lost her virginity to Harry Potter and Optimus Prime got 17,000 hits and hundreds of ten-star reviews.

Cue me in the closet, crying into the side of a purring cat.

After NaNoWriMo ended, I took the story down and my computer loyally manifested my shame by frying its hard drive again and wiping out all trace of Tooth and Claw.

So another four years go by and here we are again. Why, for God’s sake? Third time’s the charm? Or am I just a glutton for punishment? I don’t know. All I know is, writing the Lords of Arcadia got me through one of the darkest chapters of my life and when I reread it, all I see are the parts that are missing. I want to finish the story, that’s all. If my computer spontaneously combusts, I guess I’ll take the hint. If not…well, who knows?

 

 

Serial Saturday Update

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers! Hope you had a great dinner and a stress-free holiday! Yeah, yeah, I know, but it doesn’t hurt to hope.

Here at the Smomestead, where we are all too old for the creamy bullshit center of the holiday Ho-Ho, we elected to put everything off until tomorrow. No madhouse rush to get cranberry sauce amid hordes of other Thanksgiving Day shoppers dueling it out with frozen turkeys to see who gets the last pumpkin pie and who must feed her family the mincemeat of shame. (Fun Fact Time! My dad and one of my sisters genuinely love mincemeat and willingly eat it. I do not and will not put that gross shit in my mouth, and I have eaten crickets)

However, we have not come through Black Friday unscathed. Although we do not support the hyper-violent capitalistic Purge, we did run out of coffee creamer and God forfend we should just pour in a dollop of milk, so we went to the store. As it was nine o’clock at night and our destination was a plain jane grocery story and not some SuperMegaPlusMart, we anticipated no problems. How foolish we were, how complacent, how utterly unprepared for the deer that burst out of the darkness and headslammed the car.

So my dad’s car is totalled, but we are all okay and more importantly, we still got the creamer. So we can all drink coffee tomorrow whilst standing out in the driveway, shaking our heads mournfully as we gaze upon the car and waiting for the turkey to finish cooking. My dad makes this bacon-cornbread stuffing, ya’all know you wish you were here.

Edits continue on Tooth and Claw, my new Lords of Arcadia novella. Next week, I may have a cover to show you,  an excerpt and maybe even a blurb. In the meantime, I have another chapter of my FNAF fanfiction, Everything Is All Right, Part III: Children of Mammon up and ready to read (for free!) on fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org, so if you’ve been dangling off that cliff I left you on with last week’s chapter, head on over to the new cliff! I hear the view is great.

Mason left. He didn’t even bother to look at Foxy before he went, and why should he? Just a broken old toy telling stories to entertain kiddies. The others trickled off through the East Hall door, none willing to follow too close on those heels. One man, the one calling himself Sticks, stayed behind, poking through the cargo at the back end of the room.

Foxy finished off his story, making sure they were alone and would stay that way at least a little while. When he came to the end, instead of launching into the next part of his scheduled act, he raised his hook and called, “Oi! I need help with the rigging if I’m to SET SAIL WITH THE TIDE. Who’s it to b-b-be? Ye in the back!”

Sticks looked around at all the nobody crowding the Cove, then turned all the way around and pointed at himself.

“Aye, ugly bloke in the b-b—BLACKMANE, ME MORTAL ENEMY!—black jacket. Come here to me,” he said, beckoning with his hook and keeping his good hand on the hilt of his sword. “YER OLD SHIPMATE, CAPTAIN FOX, NEEDS A FIRST MATE.”

“Naw, man. I, uh…I got shit to do. What the hell am I explaining myself to a fucking robot for?” he added to himself, shaking his head.

“Come on, lad. WELCOME ABOARD THE FLYING FOX!” Foxy nodded toward the ship beside him, although his eye never left the other man and his hand never left his sword. “I’ll even g-g-give ye a dip in the birthday booty chest.”

“Well…okay.” Down he came, even smiling, although he cast one or two nervous glances in the direction Mason had gone. “Got to look everywhere, right?”

“That’s the spirit. C-C-Come on up.” Foxy bent, offering his hook, and Sticks took it and let himself be pulled onstage, right up close. “What’s yer name, bucko?”

The man looked around the empty auditorium and said, “Um…Steven.”

“Aye, that’s right.” Foxy waved him toward the gangplank and followed, his stride easy, hand on the hilt of his sword. “I do remember ye, ye know.”

Serial Saturday Update

Welp, the 100-Day 100k Author’s Challenge ended yesterday, and as we all can see, I failed to the tune of 39,396 words. And that, folks, is a long, slow, sad tune indeed. I’m told by the Challenge Director that I did not fail, because not only do these blog posts count as words, but editing also counts in some fashion. Whatevs, we play hardcore in the Smomestead. No wild cards, no mulligans, no rerolls when you drop your dice and no cop-out edits that count as words. No sir. We FAIL in this house, and when we fail, we get back up and keep writing.

Or we go to the movies. We go to a lot of movies.

 

 

Anyway, don’t let my rampant apathy discourage any of my writing readers from meeting their NaNoWriMo goals this year. If you are presently rising to the National Novel Writer’s Month challenge, I would love to hear about it!

As usual, I’ll be using NaNoWriMo to finally finish the project I’d be working on anyway, which this year is my 5-Part Five Nights at Freddy’s fanfiction series, Everything Is All Right. And, it being Saturday, the latest chapter of Part III: Children of Mammon, just went up on fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org, so if you are following the series, head on over and check it out. If you’re still not reading it after all this time, one more snippet probably won’t lure you in, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. It’s a really good chapter this week (and I’m not just saying that because I wrote it. I mean, yeah, that’s a factor, but it’s not the only reason). And if you’re waiting for the whole thing to be finished so you can binge-read it, well, maybe this will be the temptation that breaks your willpower! #damnyouRLeeSmith

At 9:45, Mrs. Campbell and Mrs. Kellar left their respective houses and drove to the church. By the time the congregation had finished their greetings and were ready for the opening hymn, Bats was already on his way to Mason’s house with a plastic bag and Riley trotting sleepily along behind him. It was a long walk in the hot summer rain. They did not arrive until almost eleven, when Freddy went back to Pirate Cove to check on Ana and override Foxy’s program so he could stay with her in the ball pit instead of being forced to the stage. Foxy took it well, suffering only short spasms for a few seconds, but it was enough to bring Ana out of sleep, although not quite all the way to wakefulness.

Watching her resettle in her fitful, mumbling way, Freddy was reminded of Bonnie’s own restless twitches. Putting Ana and Bonnie together in a quiet place might help them both calm down or it might crank them both up. For the moment, it seemed safer to do nothing. He’d look in on them again when the first set ended, Freddy decided, and bring Bonnie with him so he could see her for himself and maybe carry her to the party room if she wasn’t all the way back on her feet. But not yet. For everyone’s sake, he needed this day to pass peacefully.

At nearly the same instant Freddy had this thought, five miles away in Mason Kellar’s backyard, Bats was telling the whole damn world who broke his nose.

Mason listened with a puckered brow and half a smile. He was not yet so far gone that he hadn’t noticed four of his boys had gotten bruised up on the same night, but if he’d thought about it at all, he’d merely thought they’d gotten into a squabble amongst themselves, and if Trigger-Man and Dentist didn’t want him to know about it, then it meant Bats and Riley, of all fucking people, had beat them. Mason had been content to let their various stupid stories stand as fact all week, even if it meant letting them think they’d all fooled him—even Riley—because it just too fucking hot to bitch anyone out. Especially for in-fighting, which was a hard thing for Mason to give two shits about in the first place. And besides, it was funny as fuck when you thought about it. He’d even taken to calling Dentist ‘Dentures’ and the name was starting to stick.

Hearing the truth, that it was Rider’s big-mouthed little bitch who had actually done it was even funnier at first. If four of his guys together could not take one girl down between them, he kind of felt like he ought to be more mad at them than her. So it might have all ended there, except that in the course of his story, Bats let a minor detail slip that it had all gone down at Freddy’s. What his guys and Jack’s were doing together at Freddy’s was one good question. An even better one was, what the hell was Ana Stark doing there when she had that huge house up on Coldslip to rattle around in?

I don’t know, was the communal answer, but upon further prying, Trig added the information that she was building something.

And there, Mason Kellar quit smiling. Because to his way of thinking, there was only one thing Ana Stark could be building at some abandoned restaurant out in the desert and one person she’d be building it for, and if Rider wasn’t going to let his best fucking friend from forever ago come down to fucking California and co-chair the company, he sure as fuck wasn’t going to send his cum-guzzling fucktoy into Mason’s backyard to open up a new storefront.

In three minutes, he had the whole story out of all four involved parties (or three of them anyway. Riley was already stoned and earnestly insisting he had been ambushed by ninjas). He took some time to think, about another three minutes, then took out his phone and dialed Rider. The largely one-sided conversation that followed lasted ten minutes, consisted mainly of threats and profanity, and ended with Rider hanging up on him. He made many phone calls after that, each one lasting only as long as it took to say, “Get over here.”

Roughly four hundred miles away, Rider was also making phone calls, but as Ana’s phone had been off its charger since Friday night and Freddy hadn’t even thought to turn it off, its battery was bone-dry and he could do nothing but leave messages she would not get until it was far too late.

At 11:43, in Mammon, Utah, sixteen men spread themselves out over eight motorcycles and one powder blue Crown Victoria and took Cawthon Road out of town. At the Valhalla Racing Stables in Bakersfield, California, Rider sat in silence for almost a full minute, then shut his phone off and got back to what he called work. And at the Edge of Nowhere, Ana slept…

Serial Saturday Update

Not much to report this week, as I spent most of it editing my Lords of Arcadia supplemental story instead of working on my FNAFic or, you know, going out and having a life. However, my innate boringness has paid off and I am pleased to report that I will be keeping at least one of my promises: Tooth and Claw will indeed be available by the end of this year (although I’m still not sold on the title). Heck, it should be up by the end of this month. So yay! And I’m still on schedule to get the anthology together early next year, too (I don’t like that title either. I wish authors could name books like composers name symphonies. You know, it’s not The Land of the Beautiful Dead, it’s just R Lee Smith’s Ninth Novel).

And of course, I have a new chapter up on fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org for my fanfiction, Everything Is All Right, Part III: Children of Mammon. It’s a short chapter, but last week’s was crazy long, so it averages out. Besides, it was an especially fun one to write, as you can see from this snippet:

Freddy was not known for sympathy, but he had moments of almost telepathic empathy and this was one of them. His ears shifted as he listened to the silence and at last, he nodded. “I. KNOW. THIS. IS. HARD. FOR. YOU. AND. BELIEVE. IT. OR. NOT. I. DO. CARE. BUT. THIS. ISN’T. ABOUT. YOU. OR. ME. TONIGHT. IT’S. ABOUT. AN-N-A. AND. WHAT. SHE. NEEDS.”

“She needs me,” Bonnie said. “She doesn’t need Foxy, she needs me!”

“NO. SHE. NEEDS. SLEEP. BONNIE. SHE. NEEDS. SOME. ONE. WHO. CAN. TAKE. CARE. OF. HER. AND. KEEP. HER. QUIET. AND. MOST. OF. ALL. SHE. NEEDS. SOME. ONE. WHO. CAN. RUN. FASTER. THAN. SHE. CAN. IF. NECESSARY.” Freddy paused, looking around with his ears sweeping left to right. “WHAT IS THAT?”

“I’d let her sleep!” he insisted. “I can take care of her! I c-c-can keep her quiet!”

“YOU. CAN’T. EVEN. KEEP. YOURSELF. QUIET,” Freddy said, then scowled and looked around again. “DO. YOU. HEAR. THAT.”

“What?” Bonnie asked sullenly, but swept his ears around, scanning for sound. Just as he was about to ask what the hell he was listening for, he heard a buzz. Short, low-pitched. Mechanical, not an insect, and after a moment’s confusion, he knew what it was. “That’s Ana’s phone.”

“NO. IT. ISN’T.”

“Yeah, it is,” snapped Bonnie. “It’s just not ringing. It’s doing the other thing, where people type words at her.”

“ON. A. PHONE.”

“Yeah, on a phone! There’s letters on the buttons, aren’t there? You push them in a certain way and they come up on the screen as words instead of numbers. It’s called ‘tech-ing.’ It was just starting to catch on back in Circle Drive, don’t you remember?”

“WHY. WOULDN’T. THEY. JUST. CALL. AND. TALK.”

“Because they c-c-can tech!” Bonnie exclaimed, flinging out his arms. “Jesus C-C—CRISPY CRUST—Freddy, if this was a hundred-d-d years ago, you’d be asking why people c-c-called instead of sending-ing-ing pigeons everywhere!”

Serial Saturday Update

So another Halloween has come and gone with no Trick-or-Treaters here at the Smomestead, which means I’m stuck with five pounds of my favorite fun-sized chocolates. MmmMMMmm…I mean, uh, darn. How deliciously inconvenient.

Despite that, I had a great Halloween/birthday. I made mummy meatloaf…

This is the only way I make meatloaf anymore.

…and mashed potatoes cut into ghost-shapes with peas for eyes because I never outgrew the urge to play with my food. Me and my dad convalesced from our various ailments together watching The Nightmare Before Christmas, or rather, I watched it and he watched me sing along and act out all Jack’s lines. I tried to get him to paint creepy pictures with me, but he insists he’s not an artist, which I don’t see what that has to do with anything. Painting is to making art like sex is to making babies; sure, it CAN happen, but if we’re honest, most of the time, we’re just having fun (and sometimes, when it did happen, it was sort of an accident).

Anyhoo, here are my non-artistic just-having-fun-on-Halloween paint-doodles. Some of you may recognize the first one as being taken from one of the surrealist paintings from Sims 4. The other one, obviously, is from FNAF. I’d just like to add that I’m super-proud of how that kid turned out. I’m not good at drawing people, even less so kids, and that’s the first one I ever attempted to paint.

What a great segue into my FNAFiction, Everything Is All Right! A new chapter just went up at fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org, so if you’re reading along, I’m sure you’ll want to click on the link of your choice and get caught up. Hope you like that cliffhanger. Not too much left to Part III: Children of Mammon, and no, I’m still not quite done with Part IV, so the biggest cliffhanger of all may just keep you hanging more than a week. We’ll see. In the meantime, enjoy this excerpt! When last we saw our hero, she was tripping balls in quite possibly the worst place anyone would ever want to be high and hallucinating, on quite possibly the worst night.

Ana ran forever through the night with the wind always against her, herding her with slaps of rain, but somehow ended up back at Freddy’s, falling out of the storm and against the playground fence. Did the dream end there? Maybe, but the dream was a nightmare and nightmares begin again. When she raised her head and opened her eyes, she saw the blind staring eye of a camera, aimed not at the sandbox or the swings, but at the broken plastic feet that were all that remained of Tumble’s twin brother, Rumble.

It was hard to see. There was no blinking red light with this one; it had long ago succumbed to the young snipers of Mammon, but although the lens was a dry socket and its body was pocked with holes, its apparent death was a lie. It was a machine, after all. Machines never really die.

Unreasoning terror washed over her, its chill immediately followed by a hot rush of rage. She climbed the chain-link fence, up and over, landing badly and skinning her knees, but that didn’t hurt and didn’t matter. The camera was all that mattered, but it was mounted just under the overhanging roof, well out of her reach. How to get there?

Lightning flashed, outlining the scuttled hulk of the pirate ship climbing toy with silver light.

There was no plan, only movement and sensation. The knotted ropes were wet and frayed, slippery in her hands even as they cut into her. The deckboards were rotten; if they’d been dry, they would have broken under her weight, but swollen with rain as they were, they only sagged. The mast was already leaning, its rusty base pulling up the boards around it as a fallen tree’s roots pull up the earth. It needed only a push in the right direction and once it was in motion, it could not be pulled back and set right again.

Ana pushed. The crow’s nest where brave children had once stood watch over the invisible seas that filled the desert smashed apart when it fell. The mast bounced, cracking loudly on each impact, and lay crooked on the ground. It was too heavy to lift, so she was forced to pull it around in a clumsy semi-circle, tripping over playground toys and her own boots, leaving a trail of soggy splinters as the wood crumbled in her hands. Once leaned up against the building, the top of the mast easily touched the overhang, but it lost several inches when she put all her weight on the first rung.

Ana climbed. Decaying rungs broke off in her hands and the mast wobbled and dropped with each step. She knew she wasn’t going to make it, but she almost did…

Serial Saturday Updates

Well, here we are, another week behind me and not a lot to show for it. Still fighting that infection (thanks for all your well-wishes! My readers are the best!). Looks like I’ll be spending my birthday at home watching The Nightmare Before Christmas instead of dressing up and seeing my friends. Like, the ONE time of year when I actively seek out parties…

So I haven’t exactly been having a bundle of laughs here at the Smomestead, but I’m feeling much better now. Shout-out to my good friend Keely, who surprised me with this beauty:

…made by artist of oddities and entrepreneur of vulture culture, Jayne Strange. Isn’t that beautiful? Best birthday ever, infection and all. Keely, you are awesome!

So while I convalesce under the kindly watchful gaze of Galahad, I’ve managed to get a little work done. A very little. Have you ever tried to write a human/animal-shaped robot sex scene while you had a fever of 103? I mean, yeah, most people would assume that’s the ONLY time anyone would write that, but for me, that’s Tuesday. Except last Tuesday, when what should have been a normal, run-of-the-mill human/animal-shaped robot sex scene came out reading like it was guest directed by David Lynch. And I…may keep it. It’s weird, but let’s be honest here, it’s not the weirdest pairing I’ve ever written.

Anyway, while I wasn’t the most productive person ever, the latest chapter of my Five Nights at Freddy’s fanfiction IS up over at fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org for those of you reading it. And for those of you who aren’t…well, it’s still there. Are you sure I can’t convince you to get in on some of this sweet, sweet fanfiction action?

Over the next few hours, the power situation slowly stabilized and long defunct systems came on. Stagnant air began to circulate through the building’s true ductwork, while in the crawlway, rotary mechanisms squealed in protest as walls assumed their default positions. Pipes knocked and rusty water dripped from bathroom faucets. When she opened the freezer, she was met by a gust of foul yet distinctly cooler air. In the South Hall, a light came on in Miss Kitty’s Sarsaparilla Saloon and the animatronic mice within kicked their tiny heels and squeaked to the rhythm of their endless can-can. In Foxy’s Treasure Cave, stalactites glowed with eerie colored lights and the sounds of dripping water and ghostly whispers came from recessed speakers. And everywhere, little red lights on the sides of cameras stopped blinking and simultaneously switched to a steady red glow to show the master monitoring array in the basement had just come on.

Swampy was the first of the New Faces to move, turning his head as Ana walked through the dining room, following her with the burnt-out sockets of his eyes. And with Ana’s startled, “Oh hell no, you did not just do that!” still echoing in the air, a sepulchral groan emanated from the lobby, followed by a chicken-fried drawl: “WELL, HOWDY YA’LL AND WELCOME TO FREDDY’S!”

One by one, they all came to life, hinges shrieking and brittle plastic cracking as they resumed their old routines with all the single-minded, senseless purpose of a zombie horde. Soon, Peggy once again waved from her signpost and told barnyard jokes in her sweet, hayseed voice; Swampy stole swallows from his jug and heckled the show in a friendly, redneck way; in the gym, Tumble warned kids who weren’t there to beware of yetis who also weren’t there; Tux stood in his corner by the West Hall exit, regularly pretending to straighten his painted-on gloves and brushing dust from his shoulders as he waited for curious little guests to come to him with Google-able questions, ridiculously concerned with his appearance for someone whose head was just eyes and teeth mounted to a metal pole.

As the afternoon lengthened into evening, it began to rain again, although not with the same punishing force. The storm seemed to crouch over Edge of Nowhere, bored and restless, slapping at the pizzeria now and then, but mostly biding its time. Waiting, as Ana waited, for Mason to arrive.