More About Miss Tall, Blonde, and Bulletproof

This wasn’t the first time Kára stretched, bent, or outright broke the rules.  As usual, the beings in charge were less than appreciative of her efforts.

“You have betrayed me again!” the voice thunders.

The owner of the voice is a large man with thunder in his eyes and ravens on his shoulders.  His anger shakes the pillars of the heavens and earthquakes ravage the world below when he stomps his feet.  He is unused to his orders being ignored.  To tell the truth, he is unused to not getting his way in all things and usually reacts violently to any transgressions against his authority.

“The man’s wounds would have killed him.  Wounds he received in battle.  He died in battle,” Kára replies, seemingly unaware or unconcerned of the man’s rising ire.

“Then explain the arrow in his back!  An arrow fired from your bow!”

The ravens are agitated now, chittering to themselves nervously.  Their tiny avian brains are incapable of any kind of advanced thought but they can remember what happened when the man was angry.

“I was putting him out of his misery.  Consider it a mercy from the gods,” Kára says.

“So you admit you killed him?”

“I admit no such thing.  He was dead already, he just hadn’t realized it.”

“You are incorrigible.  You are ungrateful.  You are reckless.  You think the rules do not apply to you, do you?”

“The only rule I believe in is the one you imbued me with when you created me; I believe in creating an army to fight the final battle.”

“The rules exist for a reason!  We only take those who fought valiantly and died bravely,” the voice says quietly.

The words, and the quiet way he says them, fill Kára’s heart with ice.

“He did fight valiantly, my lord,” she says with her head hung.  “He died bravely.”

“He died with your arrow in his back, crawling back to his wife and son.  He might have made it, too, had you not decided to intervene.”

“He was the greatest warrior at the battle.  He will be a great asset.”

“He will be a great asset, but his son would have been better.  Now, his son will grow up without a father to train him in the arts of war and we have potentially lost a hero.”

“The child,” Kára asks.  “What will become of him?”

“We’ll do the usual, send a hero to train him, hope the damage done hasn’t been too extreme.  His anger might cloud his judgment, though, and a warrior cannot afford outside anger.”

“Who are you sending?”

“Knut or Ivar, I haven’t decided which yet.” The man says.

“Either would be an excellent choice, my Lord, but…”

“But what?”

“Consider sending me instead.” Kára says quietly.

“Why you?”

“Knut and Ivar are great warriors, but I’m better.”

“Why should you wish to do this, Kára?  It’s not your place to train heroes; it’s your place to choose the dead.”

“Consider it an act of contrition,” Kára says.

“You’ve never shown any sign of being sorry in the past, why start now?”

“Perhaps your wisdom is rubbing off on me.”

The man smiles at that.  While his anger is an all-encompassing force, his ego truly knows no bounds.  Kára knows this and has no compunction about using it against him.  In her mind, he’s a doddering old fool, focused on his power and his control and with no eye for the future.

In some ways, she’s correct.  He is an arrogant bastard who has become so focused on his power that he has forgotten the goal.

His goal is now, and always has been, preparing for a fight at the end of time.  Over the years, though, his training has fallen off.  He hasn’t picked up his spear, save to run through those few that dared piss him off, in years.

Kára knows the enemy trains relentlessly and that’s why she practices constantly.  One woman, no matter how tough, might not change the tide of the war, but she’s not going to be the one that loses the final battle.

“Fine then, Kára, you shall train young Einar in my arts.  Make me proud.”

Editing is hard

Back when I was in college and was actively having to write papers about every damned thing in the Speech Communication field, I usually wrote a paper (some on typewriters!  Others on old word processors!) and just slapped my name on it and turned it in.  In my defense, editing things that came from typewriters could mean having to retype half the paper if you found a mistake or wanted to change something.  Even working with the old word processors – you know, the things that looked like typewriters but let you save and edit your work on a two line LED screen – was a huge pain in the ass.

You young punks have it so easy today! 🙂

Anyway, up until I wrote my thesis (Argumentation Structure and Theory in Collegiate Parliamentary Debate, read by nearly ten people now), most of my papers were done on whatever I could find to turn the words into a block of paper and I never really spent much time editing.  It was just too heinous.  The thesis was written in WordPad on an old Windows 95 box and was edited eight ways to Sunday because it had to go through almost everyone at my college and they all had to make some change somewhere.  It took months to get the damned thing edited.

So, last year, I knocked out Henchmen with largely the same philosophy.  It was rife with typos and logic flow errors and “what the hell was I thinking here” errors.  In short, the first draft was what can only be colloquially described as “a hot mess.”  After weeks of back and forth with my lovely wife editing and me revising, I finally released something that was only a tepid mess, maybe a lukewarm mess in certain places.

This time around, I spent more time trying to catch errors while I was writing, and have been going back through the thing with a fine-toothed comb.  At about 2/3 of the way through, the size has increased to over 88k words as I realize I didn’t bother to explain some things or needed to expand other things.  By the time I’m done, hopefully I’ll be able to release something that’s less mess and more generally hot.

It is a lot of work going through that much story, though, and that’s why my posts have become more and more sporadic over the past couple of weeks.  It’s not because I don’t love you guys, it’s just that I’m eyeball deep in gods and Nazis and monsters.

Working on the cover has also been an interesting exercise.  It’s an iterative process and when I finally settled on something I actually liked it was so far off from the first cover that I had to redesign the first cover to capture the same look and feel as the new cover and the short story over.  The original cover’s redesign is still a work in progress, but it’s getting there.

Does redesigning a cover count as retconning?

So, just so this blog doesn’t become a wall of text, here’s the first sketch of the redesigned Henchmen cover.  The cover for Henchmen: Arise will be up shortly before I release the book.

HenchmenCoverFix

Henchmen 2

So, my sequel is sitting at about 85k words and needs probably about 5k more words to finish the last chapter and tie together some pieces I didn’t feel like tying together when I wrote them.

Your interesting but useless bit of trivia for the day: word counts are what authors and publishers work off since pages are varying in size and length. There are very few established rules for word counts in a novel or short story or what-have-you. The only real rule is a story is done when the story is done.

A rough estimate for page count is approximately 250 words to a page (didn’t think it was that short, did you?), so I’m currently guessing between 340 and 360 pages for the new book.

A few stats for you:
Henchmen clocked in at just over 70k words, so the sequel is a bit longer and contains more dialogue. This has kicked the Word page count up to a current total of 201 pages.
Henchmen had a Word page count at 163.
Total (current) editing time: 196 hours, 42 minutes.
Times I was typing while I was mostly asleep (I’m a pretty good touch typist): a few. Seriously, my eyes were closed while I was writing.
First line written: 11/10/2013 at 8:54pm (Word keeps track of these things for me).

Next steps:
Finish writing the sucka and tie the pieces together.
First draft of edits
Pass off to my wife for more edits
Put together a beta team and let them read it
Design a cover that doesn’t blow as much chunks as the first one did. The new banner is where I’m trending. I’ve been reading Hickman’s God Is Dead comics and I absolutely love the minimalist design. Without outright copying it, I’m trying to get a similar feel. I used to do design (many years ago) and was so-so at it. I need to get back some of those skills.
Publish

Happy Tuesday! Hope your day is great!

E.

Preview

So, this is text from the upcoming sequel to Henchmen.  Well, it’s actually the first page or so the new book, which is still very much a work in progress.  The feedback I’ve gotten on the first book was generally good, but a lot of people had questions left after they finished it.  Don’t worry, that was intentional.  I didn’t want to spill all the secrets at once because it would have made for a very tedious read.  That said, the sequel will answer some questions and, knowing me, probably raise more questions.  So, here you go, the first bit of the sequel, which is still in need of a good name, unedited and basically raw.

***********************************************************

Where were you when it happened?

This is the current question of the day from almost anyone you meet.  No one needs to ask “when what happened?” because we all know what the asker is talking about.

It’s used as an ice breaker, like asking what someone’s major was or their sign is.  It can be a challenge: Where were you when it happened?  It can also just be a straightforward question, a way to find out about someone.

Most people, it seems, still remember exactly where they were, kind of like a lot of people still remember exactly where they were when they found out Elvis was dead (I was six, riding in a car with my mom and asking who is Elvis?) or when the towers came crashing down.

Your answer gives you a certain amount of street cred.  If you say you were in Albuquerque, people act you’re a returning war hero and ask you if you’re OK.  I actually met someone who was in the building when it all went down and barely escaped before the building collapsed.  He was telling the story to people in some bar in Durango and was getting a lot of mileage, and drinks, out of it.  I had to leave before I laughed out loud when he told everyone how he had the beast cornered and would have been able to stop the whole thing if those damned government agents hadn’t screwed the whole thing up.  If you say you were in D.C., people treat you like a refugee from some genocide in Africa.  If you were in Colorado, you’re less of a hero, but all those southwestern states are, like, right next to each other, right?  If you were in Texas you get to act like you could have stopped the whole thing with your trusty six shooter.  Albuquerque gives you the best props, D.C. is a close second.  You lose more and more props the further away you were from either of those places.  If you say you were in Minneapolis no one gives a rat’s ass.

I was at ground zero, riding up an elevator with a demigoddess on one side and the Dreamer on the other, hoping to hell I didn’t get shot when the doors opened.

Needless to say, I don’t bring this up.

Most people shed nary a tear over the death of everyone in Congress.  Someone went so far, probably someone on 4chan, to put up a picture of everyone in the House dead and dismembered with the caption “You can’t spell slaughter without laughter.”  The idea of killing Congress still brings a smile to a lot of faces, but the actuality of killing Congress still terrifies and enrages.

I still get a chuckle out of it, but I’m kind of a dick that way.

Radula

Back when I was still working for New Horizons I used to regularly teach night classes.  Normally this meant hanging out around the house most of the day, studying up for whatever class I was teaching that night.  My classes ranged from SQL and .NET programming through Windows Network administration and network security design to various and sundry other certification classes.  I forget what I was supposed to be teaching that night, but this nearly ten years ago, so it’s completely excusable.

Anyway, one day I decided, rather than spend my time prepping, I’d go see a movie.  In this case, the movie was Hellboy and I caught it at the dollar theater in Albuquerque.  The movie was fun.  By now, I’m sure you’ve either seen it or decided you have no interest in seeing it, so there’s no real point in giving you a review at this late date, so I’ll just leave it at “the movie was fun.”

When it ended, I still had some time before I need to be at work so I went wandering around the area, as I am wont to do.  I like to look around, see what’s out there, and poke my nose into places it’s probably best to keep it out of.  Around back of the movie theatre, there’s a tiny industrial park with lots of nondescript buildings.  Coming off Hellboy, this immediately piqued my already fertile imagination and I wondered what all these companies did.  One, in particular, was a nondescript building surrounded with barbed wire with signs on the fences that read “Use of deadly force is authorized to protect this facility against intruders.”

WTF?

Smack dab in the middle of Albuquerque is a place with a sign like that.  It’s still there, you can it view on Google Earth.  The picture isn’t fantastic, but you can make out the “Use of deadly force line” on the sign in the picture.

This got me wondering what was going on in there and my mind made up all kinds of crazy stories ranging from weapons testing to reverse engineering crashed UFOs.  It turns out the real company does networking and, if I’d been smart, I would have walked up and asked for a job.

In Henchmen, Radula is a contractor company working on figuring out how to weaponize a sleeping god.  As with all times when someone tries to weaponize a sleeping god, things go terribly wrong and that, ultimately, kicks off a lot of the events in the book.  I should also point out that I like the word weaponize, even if Chrome thinks it’s not a real word.  In case you’re wondering, it means turning something into a weapon.

So, Radula, as a real place, doesn’t actually exist anywhere but in my head, but it is based on an actual physical place.  The truth of the matter is there are all sorts of random places doing actual classified work, but they’re usually smart enough to not advertise it with signs authorizing the use of deadly force.  I seriously doubt any of them are weaponizing gods or protecting their buildings with multiple pounds of C4.

The name, Radula, came from a less likely place.  I like to weave paracord and one of the books I used (Lanzen’s “Paracord Fusion Ties”) to learn how to do it named one of the bracelets “The Radula.”  Radula, in real life, are feeding structures for some mollusks.

So, there you have it.  A little bit of background.

First blog post in many, many years

In the summer of 2013, I decided I needed to write a book.  Like most lazy people, I’d had the idea rattling around in my skull for at least five years.  For whatever reason, July of 2013 seemed like a good time to start writing.

I wrote up the first six pages, haphazardly introducing characters that would become friends over the next few months while I hammered away at writing.  The scariest part of all of it was handing those first six pages to my wife to take a look at.  To my surprise, not only did my writing not give her a tumor, she actually thought it was pretty good.

I had the story in mind, but not the details.  I don’t know if it was just because the story was straightforward or if everyone does this, but the details came as I wrote it.  When I got to a point at the end that tied up the plot, I actually surprised myself.  Still not sure how I managed make it all make some sort of sense, but I’m also not complaining.

The second hardest part of writing Henchmen (see link below) was one of the final scenes where everyone went their separate ways.  It honestly felt like saying goodbye to friends.

I’m working on the sequel now, which will answer most of the questions the few people who have been kind enough to read it have asked me.

Damn, that was a convoluted sentence.

Anyway, this is the first post.  I’m not sure where this blog is going, but I believe in Zen navigation: I might not get where I want to go, but I’ll definitely get where I need to go.

If you’re interested, Henchmen is story about super villainy brought somewhat closer to ground.  I tried to make the story fit within a realistic framework and brought in some of the things I’ve learned from working in security.  It’s a fun read.  It’s got everything you really need in a book: fights with Yakuza, a demi-goddess, government secrets best left alone, scary villains and an ancient god, who may or may not be what he claims to be.

You can purchase a copy of Henchmen for the low, low, crazy low price of $2.99 at Amazon by going  to http://www.amazon.com/Henchmen-Eric-Lahti-ebook/dp/B00GRXB5IK/ref=sr_1_sc_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1389754387&sr=8-2-spell&keywords=hencmen

Trust me, it won’t change your life, but you’ll get an entertaining story.