Well, for the one or two readers (both of whom are most likely in the UK) who are still waiting for the follow-up to Dragon Stones (which was once upon a time the #1 best seller on the Kindle fantasy lists in the UK), it is finally finished! The new book, Shards, is part one of a two-part fantasy series, and clocks in at about 111,000 words. For those who are keeping track, that’s somewhat shorter than A Flock of Crows is Called a Murder or Dragon Stones, but longer than Night Watchman or Long Before Dawn. Why release it as two books instead of one? Well …
- Judging by how long it took me to re-edit and update Shards, it’ll be another 16 months before I finish re-editing and updating the second book, The War of the Ravels, and I don’t want to go three years between releases.
- Readers appear to be reluctant to commit to buying a 100,000-word book from an unknown author, let alone a 250,000-word book. (Okay, granted, I may not be completely unknown in the Kindle store—at least in the UK—but still, I’m hardly a household name. Especially since most people can’t pronounce my name*.)
Now comes the laying out and formatting, and finding a cover stage. This is, as you can imagine, rather less fun than the writing stage, but it’s very important. Several of the reviews of Dragon Stones included comments to the effect of “unlike most Kindle books this one is very well edited, with no formatting or typographical errors,” and that’s a tradition I intend to continue. (That was all me, folks! And if I can do it, one would think the big publishing houses that charge $14.99 for an e-book could do it too; but they won’t, at least, until they stop treating e-books as afterthoughts that can be created by dumping a Word file into a converter. But I digress.)
Anyway, it will probably be a few more weeks while I locate suitable cover art and get the document formatted properly. Watch this space for updates! Oh, and for a little preview, from before Our Heroes get transported to the World of Fantasy …
Mercedes waited on the sidewalk in front of her house, rocking back and forth on her boot heels, clutching her backpack to her chest. She wore a baggy purple sweatshirt and old, faded jeans and canvas tennis shoes, No gloves, no coat, no socks, just to spite her nemesis, radio weatherman Tom Tuttle, who had advised everyone to bundle up today. Suck it, Tom.
She sighed. It was tough when your name was associated with a brand of luxury automobile, but you looked like something that had been dragged out of a used-car lot out behind the junkyard. No one really teased her about her name anymore—being seniors, they were above such childish antics—but some of the old nicknames had stuck. Unfortunately, Edsel, always among her least favorites, was among those still in use. The voice that had just uttered it was one of her least favorites as well. The correlation was not coincidental.
Mercy glanced toward the corner where the Maple Avenue extension crossed her street before terminating in a heap of dirt and a faded sign announcing a new subdivision that had never been built. Jack Kinsey and Warren Oates, her auxiliary nemeses, had stopped their mountain bikes there to indulge in a bit of baiting. “Don’t you two have to pedal your tricycles off to kindergarten?” she called.
“We’d rather ride a Mercedes,” Warren said.
“Yeah? Looks to me like you can barely handle a bike.”
“We can handle more than that!”
“Oh really? Finally got your learner’s permits? Sorry, but you’ll have to practice on somebody else.”
“Uh-oh, Warren, here comes Edsel’s boyfriend,” Jack said, pointing up the street, where her best friend Bernard had just come out of his house. She and Bernard had been buddies since fourth grade, although he had, for reasons she couldn’t really fathom, recently developed some sort of romantic crush on her that he thought she didn’t know about. She couldn’t help but worry that it would mess up what had been a long-standing and perfectly satisfactory platonic relationship, as boy/girl stuff was wont to do. Maybe she should snap a picture of her morning self in the mirror and give it to him to tape up in his locker; that ought to cure him.
While Bernard paused to turn his key in the front door, she turned back to Jack and Warren. “Why don’t you two shove off before you forget how those things work and have to spend five more years with training wheels on?” The two of them exchanged a glance, then saddled up and rode off in the general direction of school. That had been too easy; she didn’t like it. As Bernard’s footsteps crunched toward her, she watched her two nemeses vanish into the woods. Evidently they were really going, not planning to come back around and circle them like a couple of sharks sniffing at a diver with a bleeding hangnail.
“Hey,” Bernard said. She glanced at him, then back at the spot where the mountain bikes had disappeared, then, startled, back at Bernard. “Nice double-take.”
“I see you broke your glasses again.”
“Is it very obvious?”
“Well, maybe it wouldn’t be if you hadn’t fixed them with electrical tape.”
“It was all I could find.”
“And the only color you had was pink?”
He shrugged. “It was in my mom’s craft drawer.”
“What does your mom need pink electrical tape for?”
“How should I know? For making robot Easter bunnies, maybe.”
Mercy shook her head. “You’re not doing yourself any favors, my friend.” As they began walking up the street, she added: “You should have used duct tape. That would at least be semi-cool.”
“I don’t think we have any duct tape.”
“Everybody has duct tape.”
“Who needs to tape ducks together?”
Mercy snorted, blowing out a cloud of steam. She kept a wary eye on the woods as they neared the path, but it looked like her friendly neighborhood jerk-offs were not lying in wait. Too cold for them, perhaps; after all, reptiles were known to become sluggish in chilly weather. She and Bernard turned right, leaving the sidewalk and starting down the well-worn path through a forest remnant that had been left standing as “green space,” though at the moment there was nothing green about it; the trees were fully denuded of leaves, and summer’s verdure was well on its way to becoming a sludgy precursor to topsoil.
“You know what, Bernard?”
“I wish this path went on and on and came out somewhere else.”
“Somewhere else besides school? Sure, who doesn’t wish that?”
“Not just somewhere else besides school. Somewhere magical.”
“What, you mean Disneyland?”
“No, not Disneyland!” She smacked him on the shoulder. “You’re being obtuse on purpose, just to annoy me.”
“I know, I know. The world bores you. You want to fall down the gopher hole and end up in Wonderland with Alice.”
“Rabbit hole. Alice fell down a rabbit hole.”
“Oh, of course.”
“Anyway, no, I don’t want to go to Wonderland. I want elves and trolls and dragons and—”
“Trolls? Don’t they eat people?”
“Maybe. Not me, though. I’m Ambrosia the Sorceress. They get fresh with me, they’ll be on the receiving end of a fireball.”
“Oh, of course,” Bernard said, in a there you go with the fireballs again tone of voice. She decided to drop it before she got a lecture about growing up and accepting reality. He used to go along with her flights of fancy, but lately he had gotten rather stodgy about such things. She blamed this on the looming prospect of graduation and then college and then, horror of horrors, work.
They emerged from the woods at the edge of the athletic field; the school building stood at the top of a low rise across a wide expanse of frosty grass and asphalt like a drab fortress waiting to be stormed, though it was not clear why anyone would bother doing so. It certainly didn’t look strategically important or stocked with treasure. “Well, I guess today is not the day that the path leads somewhere magical,” Bernard said.
“Can Ambrosia the Sorceress teleport us to homeroom? I think I hear the bell.”
Ambrosia the Sorceress said: “Crap.”