Second Time for Everything

 

(A Serialized Short-Story/Epic 1000 page Novel, yet undecided.)

163859-2001

The Butler

As the elephant settled in the overgrown savanna reeds, Beatrice glanced back over her shoulder at Mr. Bleak. She’d noticed his grip around her abdomen had tightened and was about to question his motives when she noted his petrified expression. “Huh, it really was your first time.”

“It wasn’t yours, Madam?” Beatrice should have preferred to be called Sir. She was, after all, a knight. But she supposed she would postpone her critique until such time as Mr. Bleak didn’t look so pale.

“No,” she replied, momentarily distracted watching the parachute alight on the ground behind them. “My second actually.”

“Of course,” Mr. Bleak said. He’d only known Mrs. Beatrice Bowman- Lancaster-White for a little over a day. But somehow, the sheer terror he felt, matched by the elephant’s own anxious eyes, were absent from her.

“It was better the first time,” she added. “Prince Hajib had steadier hands.”

Really? What did she expect of a man jumping out of a plane on the back of an elephant wearing a parachute?

“Nevertheless, I suppose you’ll do.”

Do what exactly? He was beginning to wonder what had possessed him to respond to her ad in the classifieds. He had admittedly little experience as a caretaker. He’d spent a little more than a week training to be a butler, learning how to address his master, how to prepare meals, the general upkeep of a mansion, and how to assist another in getting dressed, should it be required. Fortunately, Mrs. Beatrice had not asked him to do anything of the sort. Though, perhaps, now that he’d risked his life and bruised his tailbone, he may have preferred a more typical master.

He had always imagined a comfortable life in a mansion of his own. When his job as a stockbroker had taken a horrible turn for the worse, depleting his own life savings, along with millions of dollars of client money, and leaving him walking down Wall Street with the remains of his personal desk in a small cardboard box, he imagined his dream was over. He’d hit rock bottom. And frankly, he was not sure those whose millions he’d lost would be forgiving. His life was over.

He’d needed a fortress, a place to hide out. A mansion would do. It had always been his dream to live in one, only now he’d be the hired help. He’d recognized most of the names seeking butler services from his old job, and expected most would kill him before offering him a job. But somehow, he hadn’t recognized Mrs. Beatrice Bowman-Lancaster- White among those names and so thought he would take his chances. Surely, he could be a capable butler for an elderly woman. She wouldn’t expect much of him.

He’d imagined Mrs. Beatrice attending garden parties, being a guest at social events, sitting for photos in Wealth & Riches magazine, attending dog shows with a best-in-show poodle, perhaps even knitting when no one was looking. But he’d been horribly wrong about Beatrice.

After the day he’d had, he considered walking away from the job with shattered nerves. He was going to need an awful lot of therapy, though admittedly he wouldn’t be able to afford it. Who did broke people turn to for support? He’d been so tied up in the pursuit of wealth, he had no one. And actually, if he left Beatrice’s side here in the African wilderness, he’d have a long walk. He peered up at the long white exhaust stream of an airplane that had already disappeared. Blast!

If he walked away now, the best he could hope for was death from thirst once his canteen went dry. It was more likely he’d be bitten by a poisonous snake, crushed by a wildebeest stampede, wind up food for a lion, or be shot dead by a former investor on safari. He wasn’t sure which he preferred least. Either way, he couldn’t help thinking of vultures landing around his corpse to eat the meat off of his bones. No, he would have to stick with Mrs. Beatrice Bowman-Lancaster-White for his own survival. At least she’d done all of this before, apparently.

“Mr. Bleak, what grand adventure awaits!” Beatrice said. Then tapping her fancy leather boots on the elephant’s back, she shouted, “Mush!”

That would never work. Everyone knew that was what mushers said to sled dogs, not elephants. Wasn’t it? Regardless, the elephant didn’t seem phased as it began to move slowly forward through the weeds.

<>25 Hours Earlier

“Mr. Bleak,” said Mrs. Bowman-Lancaster-White to her new candidate. “Tell me about your favorite adventure.”

Adventure? This was a job interview. What did adventure have to deal with anything? This should have been easy. He’d trained to be a butler. But he hadn’t sweat this much since he’d arrived at the office to notice that his investments had been washed away.

“I, uh,” Mr. Bleak had to think quickly. What would impress the typical millionaire? “Well, I once invested an entire year’s savings in a single corporation and saw the money triple in a single day.” It was his fondest memory. If only the stocks hadn’t plunged three weeks later when an unexpected tidal wave destroyed the J-Corp factories.

“No, Mr. Bleak, not a business venture. I want to know about an adventure.”

Mr. Bleak studied Beatrice. Her face bore wrinkles. Her hair was heavily graying. But she didn’t look tired. And though his answer hadn’t satisfied her, she was neither disgusted nor grumpy. She was disappointed, but also hopeful, curious. She wanted to understand him. Her expression made him really wish he’d had at least one good adventure to speak of. He stammered for an answer. But through all of his effort, his varied responses of “um”, “ah”, or “hmm”, he couldn’t seem to formulate any actual words.

“Oh dear,” Beatrice replied. Her expression turned to one of pity. “Mr. Bleak, why do you want this job?”

In his last job, his quest to make lots of money and live comfortably seemed the perfect answer to this question. He doubted Mrs. Bowman- Lancaster-White would be as pleased with his reply.

“Well, you’re the only applicant I’ve had,” Beatrice said. And in spite of her indications of disappointment, he caught a hint of a smile. “So I suppose you’ll do. Mr. Bleak, won’t you please go out to the limo and carry in my bags? I have some packing to do.”

He was stunned. He’d actually gotten the job? What had he said? What hadn’t he said? What had she discerned from his mess of a personality? Whatever the case, he really needed this job. He wasn’t sure whether she realized just how much.

He thought of her request as he walked out to her massive garage. The garage contained a number of typical fancy cars and SUV’s and a decent sized private jet, but also a bright orange ducati speed bike, an armored car, a helicopter, a hot air balloon, two firetrucks, an ambulance, a crane and a backhoe. Who was this woman?

<>

“Are you sure about this, Sir?” asked a voice over the phone.

“He’s the most unusual butler you’ve ever chosen, Mr. Planchard.”

“He won’t have as much to teach you, I’m afraid.”

Beatrice thought about Sergei Rishnikov, the great animal tamer, and Francois De’parteux, the former acrobot, both having been forced into retirement by the Crownling Circus, because apparently forty was too old to perform in a circus. It was not too old for adventuring. For one was never too old for adventuring. She thought fondly of Mr. Brown, black ops, retired early by the loss of a leg to an infected gunshot wound. He’d been an excellent gardener. And a wonderful traveling companion, until his past got the better of him. She’d even employed an inventor for a while, until he struck it rich selling his idea for a global communication network called the Interweb. Finally, she thought of Remir Scheschinger, linguist and explorer. He hadn’t been her most recent butler. Indeed, she wasn’t sure she could consider him a butler at all. But he’d been her first real traveling companion. They’d seen the seven ancient wonders together. (Indeed, all seven. You can’t always believe what you read in history books.)

“Mrs. Beatrice?”

“Hmm?”

“Are you disappointed in this choice? He seems rather lackluster, even by the description you gave me. I’m not sure why you would want him.”

“I believe that’s the point, Mr. Planchard. You see, I have learned so much from the others. But at my age, as you well know, I find myself a need to teach it back. I was actually a little older than Mr. Bleak when I began adventuring. You didn’t know me back when I was even more drab than he is. But when I’m through, you’ll never recognize him.”

“I’m glad he meets your approval, Sir.” He breathed a sigh of relief.

“Tell me, did you secure the jewel?”

<>

This concludes chapter 1. If you like it, feel free to share it. One more note: If you have a crazy idea for an adventure, share it in the comments, and I may well work it in.

Legacy: A New Writing Project

I’ve begun development of plans to write the next set of books. I wrote a long mega novel 10 years ago. I was experimenting with epistolary writing. It wound up being one of the most enjoyable stories I’d ever written. My writing skills were still growing rather significantly at that time, so when I looked back, I didn’t like what I saw. However, the story, more than the words, stuck with me.

I had long thought about the possibility of linking this story’s universe with the Forgotten Princess universe. Perhaps they were different galaxies running parallel to one another. But I reconsidered. Perhaps it would be fun to create a legacy story, one several generations after Forgotten Princess.

I looked chiefly at the magic system in the book. (I’ve modeled a lot of my system on Sanderson’s three laws. As stated in many of my blogs, I believe firmly in learning what I can from other authors and putting it to use.) Now when I use Magic System, I don’t refer to magic as simply a fantasy element. But sci-fi itself is based on elements that cannot be explained. “The Force”, “The Matrix”,  “Spidey Sense”, “Green Lanterns”, etc, etc. And controlling the range of these inexplicable elements creates a sort of framework. Why, for example, are the heroes and villains of a story not so powerful as to destroy each other in a moment? These boundaries need to be set and built upon, to complete a story.

The chief system behind Forgotten Princess has to deal with mutation experiments. One such experiment was to create gemstones inside of a specific fish (the way one might find pearls in oysters) which were capable of incredible power. This power could further be wielded or drawn upon via expansive means. Rings were created which could hold these gemstones, while the bands themselves could strengthen the power or direct how the gemstones were used.

This was fun to imagine. But then I thought about how to improve upon this tech in a future sense. And since mutation experiments were tied directly to manipulation of DNA, I thought about perhaps creating an internal source. What if a person’s own DNA could be manipulated, making him capable of the same powers without a ring? Might a person be capable of, for example, fire manipulation like an ignis ring, turning invisible as if wielding an aero ring, casting illusions like an illius ring, perhaps even becoming an illusion himself? And if this manipulation was kept secret, even from the person himself, could he perhaps find latent powers within himself? Could such powers even be more harmful to the person, untrained in how to use them?

In this case, I discovered that the story I originally crafted could be revised, details could be changed, and I could retell an old story within a new framework. This project will likely be several months in the making. But it’s a start in the right direction. I love a story worth telling, and story worth telling is worth telling better, so eagerly with anticipation I return to my keyboard.

To be continued…

Defenders of Shalvion: My Table Top Gaming Obsession

Greetings

I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about another love. I’ve been hooked on the table top gaming hobby for about ten years. (When I tell the majority of people I love board games, they think of Checkers, Monopoly, or other games which, though common on the shelf at the department store, really don’t do justice to the real world of board games.)

I got my start as a player about 10 years ago with Star Wars Risk. Then I learned that this was a gateway to a world of epic table top games. Catan, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, and about a million other table top games. Add to this the role-playing and storytelling games. Most may not realize this, but Forgotten Princess, my series of YA fiction, started out as a table top game.

I love many creative pursuits. I can spend hours inside of my own mind without boredom. But I never got very far with game design, as it was intangible. A boardgame designer needs access to all sorts of tools, and artistic skills, neither of which I have been gifted with. Nevertheless, a few months ago, the desire to build a table top game overtook me again. It took about 5 months, from starting phase, developing the mechanics on which the game would run, to tangible phase, 105 cards with a story to tell.

Six alien factions who don’t get along are forced to work together against a galactic threat. Blorvv: A sentient walrus type faction who are slow but powerful and highly territorial.  Enerbots: A slowly dwindling robot race struggling to find energy to survive. Mas’ghul: Greedy space pirates looking to profit from the war. Vesh: An avian faction of skilled warship engineers. Terran: Humanoid scavengers trying to rise from rags to prosperity. And the Chron: A faction racing back in time to save the galaxy from a war they’ve already lost once. These six face off against the destructive Miasma, seeking to consume the galaxy.

Why Defenders of Shalvion: I wanted a game that was at once cooperative and highly competitive. A game that was rather easy to learn but with a variety to keep it replayable. A game that was complex while still timely. A game that my 7 closest friends  and I could all play together on game night. So far I have made it to prototype  phase and have found a printer to make the game affordable. So now I can present this prototype to my fellow  table top gamers. If you would  like to explore the game for yourself visit this link: [LINK]

I’m very thankful  for your kind attention.

 

 

The Next Book: How to Begin Writing Your Sequel

I sat down to begin the fifth book in my series. It should be easy, I told myself. You’ve written a sequel three times. But I froze. What was I missing? A clear vision? No, I knew what my book was going to be about. Still uncertain whether I can pull off the story I’m going for, or whether perhaps it will blossom into something else entirely, and hopefully something wonderful either way. But I know the plot.  This should be easy.

And that was where I realized I was approaching the story all wrong. It’s not the plot that leads me to write. Many writers theorize that there’s only so many different plots. I won’t likely cover new ground. And if you point me to a book written in the past decade which had a truly original plot, I dare say the universe would stop. It’s Good vs Evil. It’s the Hero’s Journey. Or as Spiderman’s teacher said, (and I think Jackie Chan would agree) Who Am I? And that single plot is the key to any beginning. It will make your writing zone easier to reach and your readers will thank you.

Who Am I? If there is no truly unique plot, why do we read? Why don’t we start each new book with Haven’t I read this before? It’s because of the unique people we meet when we read and write. The character is the key. The story that lingers in a person’s mind, surpasses good to great or even excellent, is the story with the most vivid characters. So don’t dive into writing the next great plot. Give your characters another chance at life.

Now I will be honest. I didn’t write this blog for everyone out there in Cyberspace. I wrote it so I can look back at it when it’s time to write book number six. But if this helps someone else in some small way, that’s what I’m about. Writers learn to become better at their craft from other writers. So teach me something. How do you get into the writer zone? How do you approach writing a sequel. I’d love to hear your insights too.

 

In Retrospect…

Greetings, readers. Sorry it has been so long since my last post. I’ve been exceedingly busy with crafting my latest work. It should be hitting Amazon this afternoon. It’s called Retrospect and features a world created with much help from artist Sayla Barnes. This is the 4th book in my series, Forgotten Princess, and is about to flip the series on its head.

When Jendra discovers that Nyrielle has been kidnapped, she takes off after her in the damaged airship Cloud Catcher. Her quick thinking gets her and an entire planet into a heap of trouble as the Cloud Catcher is not ready to fly and is the only airship protecting the entire planet from horrible storms with its microwave torpedo technology. As storms return to ravage Ress Janoa, Jendra, Leon, and Toby race to rescue the world from certain disaster.

BookCoverImage

Impulse (2nd Edition) Available Now

28572077Greetings, readers,

I wanted to write to tell you about a decision I made to create a revised 2nd edition of my first book, Impulse.

First, to be clear, as writers, we continue to grow in our craft. The same can be said for any artist. To illustrate, no one could imagine toddler Leonardo Da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa. After many years, though, he could create a masterpiece. No one could imagine Mozart writing symphonies as a… okay, bad example. Still, all artists grow, even if gradually.

In the nine months since I published Impulse, my writing has improved, however gradually. I have taken feedback from a small group of readers who would share their feelings about my work. I am grateful for their contribution toward heading this author in the right direction.

Independence in authorship is something of a trick. Those who publish best-selling authors feel no qualms about letting their books pass through an editor’s fingers first, even if the editor charges upwards of $4,000.

As an Independent Author, I have had to be my own editor. Fortunately I have a fair understanding of the English language after writing regularly for 22 years. Even then, this is generally frowned upon as a practice.

While my work has been praised as devoid of typos, that didn’t make it great. There were certain issues, which I will humbly state. Among these, I have done a fair bit of head-hopping, without giving my readers any indication that I was doing so. There is a right and a wrong way to do this, as I have come to discover. The techniques I have unearthed will continue to guide my writing of this series.

Also, my descriptions were lacking. I had a reason for this; partly I wanted the readers to see my main characters as teenagers first, aliens second. And I trust that most readers, the sort to enjoy a good book, also have a high capacity for imagination, something I didn’t wish to thwart. But I added a few more cues early on to help those with less discernment. (In addition, I’ve been told it helps quite a bit to visit the galleries here on this site. The pieces are still the creative property of those who created them. And I have given each credit as inspiration for my works. But I didn’t feel it would be proper to include the pictures within the books, as the books are commercial property.)

Why, after all of this, would a reader wish to read Impulse? For a few key reasons. First, the story itself hasn’t changed. And I have seen enough favorable reviews to know that it is a good story. It just received some tweaking to make it even better. Second, you can count that I, as an author, am very happy to hear my readers express their views. I will always give you the time of day, something you could not receive from any best-selling author. If my readers make time for me, I make time for them.

What makes Impulse stand out from the crowd? It is a short book that packs a whole lot of adventure. If you haven’t the time for a 700 page book, you can still enjoy a legitimate sci-fi/fantasy adventure. In addition, the characters are vivid, comical at times, emotional at others. They are heroic, even while afraid. They are a team, sticking together in times of adversity. They would risk their lives for one another. Really, we should find more heroes like these in our own world.

Re-releasing Impulse: Marketing Phase

I am planning the re-release of the first book in my series. Though the story will not change markedly, there are some minor changes which should make the story more legible.

In addition, when I began working on Impulse, I was relatively new with design elements. Part of the issue I was having had to deal with some slight pixelation on the book cover.

I want to make this open to my readers, since I ultimately want to create a satisfying experience. I want my readers as happy to have acquired a hard copy of Impulse as a digital copy. (After all, the hard copy is a little more expensive.)

Among the changes I want to make, I would like to include an autograph inside. I have done this with copies of Deception and Conspiracy already.

Anyhow, I present for discussion my newest book cover for Impulse.

New Impulse Cover (modified from an image by Balint Foldesi).png