The Dirk version is out! Can I get a Hallelujah

Slayers: Into the Firestorm: Jesse Version by [Hill, C. J., Rallison, Janette]
***Both ebooks now have both versions in them, so you don’t have to buy both if you want to read both endings. If you already bought the Jesse version, you should be able to upload the new version–but don’t ask me how because I’m bad with tech.***

This means that the series I’ve been working on for over ten years is finally done. When I started the first book, I had four kids living at home. Now I’m months away from being an empty nester and I have four grandkids.

If you’re new to Janette Rallison/CJ Hill books, the reason I wrote two versions for the end of this series is that
1) Despite that saying that you can’t make everybody happy, I still try.
2) I told my then-teenage daughter I would write a Dirk version for her because she’s been Team Dirk since the first book.
3) I’m bad at decisions and I never really decided who Tori should end up with anyway. You should see me try to pick out paint colors. It isn’t pretty.
And as always, please please leave a review. Since the Dirk version is brand new, it doesn’t have any reviews.
Again, both ebooks have both versions.

A word about the Dirk version

Now that I’m back from the Kanab Writer’s conference and galavanting around the Utah mountains (I got to see dinosaur tracks–so that was cool.) I’m working on the Dirk version again. But I want to warn people that it isn’t all that different from the Jesse version as far as the storyline.

Originally the storylines veered off quite a bit. In one version, Overdrake died, in the other, he didn’t. In one version Dirk ended up living with Bianca, in the other he didn’t  The Jesse version had an epilogue and originally the Dirk version didn’t. But after I wrote both versions I liked some elements/scenes better than the counterparts, so I changed both versions so they had the scenes I liked best.

And that’s how they ended up with almost the same plotline. Tori and Jesse just feel differently about things as they transpire in the versions. (In the Dirk version, I took out a lot of Jesse’s inner thought about wanting to get back together with Tori because that would just make it sadder when she chooses Dirk.) I’m telling you this because I don’t want anyone to buy both versions and then be disappointed that it isn’t a different story.

I’m afraid if I just put up one ebook with both stories without telling people which version is first, people won’t understand that they need to choose which version they want to read. So what I will do (Amazon willing) is put both ebooks up for sale, and the Dirk version will have that story first and the Jesse one second. I’ll add the Dirk version to the back of the Jesse version and will tell you which version it is in the title. If you already bought the Jesse version, I think there’s a way to update your file.

As far as the paper books, I’ll have to sell separate versions of those because otherwise, it would be 700 pages and the price would be too high and the binding would probably fall apart. No one wants that.

Anyway, Dirk fans, hang in there.

The 35th reunion–there’s probably a disorder for this

I wrote this after walking around my old home town. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I’m putting it here for a bit. I have such odd feelings about my old hometown. Really, it’s one of the few times in my life where I feel like I may be the only one in the world that feels this way.

 

First of all, I want to say that my adulthood has been way better than my childhood. I’m not James Barrie wishing for never-ending childhood or a magical island. And really, even if I could relive a couple years, I wouldn’t choose high school. College was much better. I certainly wouldn’t choose junior high or elementary school, where I was constantly a fish out of water and simultaneously in over my head. Some years of my childhood could have qualified me for PTSD. I’ve told many, many students that life gets better exponentially the farther you get away from high school.

But Pullman. Ah, Pullman.

Maybe my memories would feel different if my parents had stayed in the city longer, but they moved when I was seventeen, thus encapsulating my time in Pullman in a sort of box that became my childhood, from beginning to almost end.

I didn’t grow up—I staggered up, was dragged up, fell down repeatedly, and a few times rocketed into the sky.

Our class only had about 150 students in it and most of us had lived in Pullman since kindergarten. We knew everyone and everyone knew us. In a school that small, there was no reinventing yourself. You’d been judged long ago, and everyone knew where you fit in. Teenagers don’t forget.

I made friends and made mistakes and loved people blindly and stupidly. I had my heart broken, and broken again, and literally prayed to stop caring about someone and cared anyway. I loved a couple of friends like they were sisters without considering the harsh truth that I could one day be disowned.

Well, as they say, it’s better to have loved and lost.

And then it’s reunion time. Each time I come back, I discover that my peers have been changing right alongside me, riding the river of life with all its turbulence and joys. I find I have things in common with people that I never expected. I’m truly happy for their successes and mourn their losses. I’m not looking for any sort of validation. I’m way past the age when I believe my high school peers can give that to me. So when we get caught up, it’s all as it should be and everything is right in the world.

Except that coming back is also like walking into a memory that’s empty of everything but ghosts. I see the Neil Public Library and I’m four again, picking out picture books with my mother. It’s a good recollection, but still a painful one because memories of one’s mother shouldn’t be so fleeting and threadbare, so cut short. She is gone, but part of her still lives on in that red brick building and when I look at it, it’s the one place in the world that I’m back with her.

Time skips and I’m fourteen, riding my bike without braking, all the way to the library because there’s nothing to do in the summer but read and no one will drive me. I look at Dack Street and I’m a second grader riding my bike around with a gaggle of neighborhood kids or sitting on Kristy Turner’s front porch with her, scheming how we can convince her parents to take us to Reaney Park Pool. The water is always freezing, but I jump in the deep end anyway, and we’ll spend most of our time rescuing the ladybugs that had poor navigation skills from drowning.

I look at Gladish and I’m in sixth grade and can taste the soy hamburgers that for some reason I loved. I can taste other things too—the sting of rejection. Sixth grade was the time when everyone else figured out how to act—except me. I was wild, brash, oblivious, and such a target.

Some of my peers there cut me down, intentionally and unintentionally, and for the next few years told me in subtle ways that I wasn’t enough. And I was so far from perfect—sometimes swinging that same blade at others myself. Fortunately, my church leaders, ever patient and kind, taught me that I belonged and I was more than enough. I even believed them some of the time.

And then there was high school where I tried so hard to walk the tightrope of coolness, to pretend I was someone who knew what I was doing. I didn’t. I completely didn’t. But mixed with all that insecurity was magic because sometimes you just didn’t care what anyone else thought and so many things were hilarious. Laura Kleinhofs and I made a giant paper mache hamburger in art class and left it on a stranger’s doorstep. We decided that gifting a stranger a huge random hamburger was the perfect prank. The recipient probably still wonders to this day where that thing came from.

There was the time Laura and I tricked Michael Kerr into TPing Larry Johnson’s house by convincing him that Laura lived there. That was two birds with one lie.

So many moments of happiness. The emotions I felt back then, the highs and the lows, I was sure I was the first person to ever feel them.

Now when I see the houses and buildings in Pullman, it’s like looking at a stage set that’s gone wrong. I know what the story should be and yet the actors aren’t there anymore. Every time I see a teenager milling about town, I think: Wait, I’m the one who is supposed to be young and expectant. This is my childhood, not yours. But of course, it’s not anymore.

It’s so odd to stroll around. At every turn, I feel like I should meet specters from the past. And there’s always that sense that if I just keep walking, I’ll run into myself–that part of me that was beleaguered and hopeful and innocent. When I’m in Pullman, time stops, and something feels so very unfinished. I’m not even certain what it is.

When I leave, I leave those emotions in Washington until the next time I come back, visiting my childhood like it was a tourist destination. Rome, London, Janette’s stage set of memories.

Well, as they say, “You can’t go home again.”

Sometimes They are right.

 

Slayers: Into the Firestorm (Jesse version) is available

Guess what is now available? That’s right–the last book of the Slayers series! And I do mean the last. I know you all have heard that for the last two books, but this one really is the end.

It is the Jesse version

If you are team Dirk, wait for a week or two and I’ll have that version out. They are 85% the same so you don’t have to read both versions. And no, I didn’t mean to make them that much the same but that is another blog post.

Here is the link!

Buy Slayers: Into the Firestorm for 3.99!

prologue and Chapter 1 of Slayers 5

First off, I’m still revising this, so keep in mind this hasn’t been copyedited and may still be changed. I’ll put up a chapter a week until the book is published, so one way or another you’ll get to read the story. (I also just realized I really don’t have enough chapters from Jesse’s point of view…so I need to do something about that too.)

Prologue

 

Six years ago.

Never underestimate friendship.

 

Dirk Overdrake stood in front of a glass case in the Bonaparte Residence Museum and wondered how many years in prison people got for stealing priceless historical artifacts. A replica of Napoleon’s laurel leaf coronation crown was nestled securely behind the glass. The exhibit label reported that the original had disappeared after Napoleon’s death and no one knew where it currently was. Well, no one except Dirk, because he was pretty sure he’d seen one just like this in his father’s bedroom vault.

His father wandered over to the case, done looking at the previous display. Even while on vacation, his father looked crisp and professional, as though it were some sort of sin to put on jeans and Nikes. He wore beige pants and expensive Italian shoes, his dark hair perfectly in place.

Dirk pointed to the crown. “Hey, don’t you have one like this?”

His father made a curt shushing noise to indicate he shouldn’t speak of it here. Which pretty much answered Dirk’s question. Should he be impressed or ashamed that his father had somehow managed to get a hold of the original? He wasn’t surprised. After all, his father also had a golden breastpin worn by Julius Caesar and a small silver horse statue that had belonged to Alexander the Great. His father liked to collect souvenirs from conquerors.

Dirk’s father motioned for him to follow, and the two walked out of the museum onto the streets of Ajaccio, France. They’d already passed one statue of Napoleon on the way to the museum, and now they headed toward another.

Dirk’s father slipped a pair of sunglasses over his eyes. “Do you know why I brought you here?”

Yeah. Because his father had no idea what normal families did on vacation. Dirk’s friends were all at Disney World and the beach. Places twelve-year-olds actually wanted to go.

Dirk knew better than to say those words. “You like Napoleon because he used to live on St. Helena?”

Napoleon had been exiled on the island where his father grew up. Every time Dirk had visited St. Helena, he’d been forced to visit the Napoleon shrine there too.

“No,” his father said, drawing out the word to indicate he was turning this into one of those annoying teaching moments. “I brought you here to see the people lined up, eager to pay their money just so they can walk around the home where Napoleon was born.”

His father waved a hand in the direction of the museum. “The curators were able to recreate the drapes and wallpaper because so many people cut off pieces and saved them—as though they were relics of the saints.”

Dirk and his father had reached the second town statue of Napoleon. He sat atop a horse, wearing his gold leaf crown and gazing triumphantly out on the plaza.

“I brought you here,” his father went, “for the same reason I brought you to Julius Caesar’s tomb. Thousands of years after his death, people still daily leave flowers on his grave. What does that show you?”

Dirk shrugged. “Tourists like to throw away money?”

“No. People admire greatness. It doesn’t even matter that Napoleon lost in the end or that Caesar was murdered by his friends. Both had the wherewithal to take control of their nation’s destiny and meld it to their will.” He gestured at the statue. “War is like love. It’s better to have fought and lost than never to have fought at all.” He lowered his voice. “And of course, it’s better still to win.”

Dirk nodded because he knew his father would continue lecturing if he didn’t think Dirk was listening. Mostly Dirk was wondering if Napoleon would have taken his kids to Disneyland or whether he would have dragged them around to look at statues.

His father wasn’t done. “Do you want to be the sort of person Napoleon and Caesar were?”

Banished from civilization or murdered by his friends? Not really.

His father didn’t give him time to answer. “Do you want to have cities across the world named after you like Alexander the Great? Or do you want to be like one of these pathetic tourists, so devoid of your own greatness that you pay money just to see the places where a great man once stood?”

Dirk knew the right answer to this question, still he looked skyward as though pondering it. “Dirk the Great has a nice ring to it.”

His father laid his hand on Dirk’s shoulder with approval. “To be a great leader, you need to know who your enemies are. You must know how they think, where you can find them, and how they plan to destroy you.”

Dirk nodded again. It was always better to agree with his father when he went on about leadership.

His father dropped his hand from Dirk’s shoulder. “That’s why I signed you up for Dragon camp.”

Dirk cocked his head, not understanding. “There’s a camp for dragons?”

His father turned away from the statue. “No, there’s a camp for Slayers and this summer you’re going to attend. It’s time to meet your enemies.”

Dirk’s father had warned him about the Slayers enough times: kids his own age who would try to kill the dragons and him too if he got in their way. How many of them went to this camp? “You want me to fight them?” Before Dirk could decide whether to feel pumped or terrified by the idea, his father laughed.

“Not yet. You’ll learn their secrets first, their weaknesses, so you’ll know how to fight them. Never underestimate the power of friendship.”

 

Chapter 1

 

Dirk rode dragons so often that sometimes he forgot how powerful they were. But tonight wasn’t one of those times. He sat in a saddle chair astride Minerva, acutely aware that she carried danger in every wingbeat.

At Dirk’s command, Minerva raced toward Philadelphia with arrow-like determination.

Bullets wouldn’t pierce her, radar couldn’t detect her, and her talons could rip through a car like she was shredding tinfoil. But the dragon’s most destructive weapon was the electromagnetic pulse she sent out when she shrieked. Minerva had already crippled most of Boston.

Cold air whipped around Dirk, making a shrill reproachful sound. He hardly heard it. Another sound was still playing in his mind: the screams of five hatchlings, bludgeoned to death by the Slayers. He hadn’t actually been there, hadn’t heard the noise, but it replayed in his mind anyway, wouldn’t fade away into acceptance.

Down below, the shimmer of Philadelphia came into view. Time for the second strike.

When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, an action of defiance that began the Roman Civil War, he’d said, “The die is cast.” Those same dice were tumbling now, falling through the air. Dirk had taken a stand against his own country. No turning back now.

Fly lower, he told Minerva.

The dragon dipped lower until she skimmed a few hundred feet above the buildings. Disabling the city this way wasn’t as safe as hitting it from higher above, but with more directed pulses he could spare the areas around the hospitals. Taking out people’s lights, cars, and electronics was one thing. Taking out people’s backup generators for life support was another.

His father would probably think it was sloppy work—too compassionate—but the point of tonight’s attacks was a show of strength. And that point would still be made. Everybody would understand how vulnerable they were. The government wouldn’t know where the attacks had come from, let alone be able to prevent more.

Not even the Slayers could stop him. By the time they realized a city had been hit, Dirk would be long gone. All that practicing at camp had been for nothing.

Roar, he told Minerva.

The dragon drew in a breath, energy swelling in her lungs, then let out a shriek that matched her size. Darkness rolled outward like a black wave, extinguishing lights.

He tried not to listen for the screech of brakes or the sound of smashing metal. He didn’t want to hear the noises from drivers who’d been plunged into blindness and found their power brakes were out.

He always heard them anyway. He wondered, with a certain amount of bitter satisfaction, if Tori heard them too. The last time she’d been with Dirk, she’d gone into Minerva’s control center, but after that she’d had a run in with Khan so she might be connected to either.

More than once he’d nearly spoken to her and then decided against it. What more was there for either of them to say? Tori had chosen whose side she was going to be on, and it wasn’t his.

Dirk circled to another section of the city, blotting out more lights, ruining technology. When the dragon was done, Dirk pulled higher into the sky and turned toward Baltimore. That was the next unlucky city to receive a visit.

By the time Dirk made it home, the edges of dawn peeked over the horizon. His anger had dimmed with the stars and remorse was seeping its way into the cracks of his thoughts.

How much damage had this night’s work done?  How much suffering would it cause?

Well, this was just par for the course. No matter what he did, he was going to feel horrible. When he was loyal to his Slayer friends, dragons died. When he acted like a dragon lord, this happened.

Minerva flew across his family’s property, across the acres of trees that stood between the Overdrake’s house and the freeway. They were all bare now, just jumbles of reaching sticks. She headed to the dragon enclosure without Dirk even commanding it. She knew the drill. And this was just another night flight. Except it wasn’t.

Not my fault, Dirk told himself. Revolutions came with a cost.

Thomas Jefferson had said that the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. That’s all Dirk was doing: making sure that the tree of liberty didn’t wither and die under the weight of America’s bureaucrats. It was time for some pruning.

Besides, people weren’t worth feeling remorse over. People did nothing but let you down.

Dirk took Minerva into her enclosure, unsaddled her, and fed her a half dozen sheep carcasses. She’d worked up an appetite. By the time he’d finished unpacking the weapons from the saddle, she’d devoured her meal and lain down, tail curled around herself, ready to sleep. He stopped by the fledglings’ enclosures and tossed them each a carcass so he wouldn’t have to worry about feeding them later.

His father called him as he was leaving the enclosure. “Any problems?”

Oh, Dirk had problems but none his father wanted to hear. Dirk headed to the house, gliding above the leaf-strewn path. “I didn’t encounter any resistance.”

He’d known the first few cities wouldn’t have time to protect themselves, but he’d expected that once the nation realized it was under attack, other cities would at least try to mount a defense. But none had. The strikes had been frighteningly easy. Good thing he’d talked his father out of hitting New York and Chicago. Those two cities comprised 11 million people.

“Perfect,” his father said. “Things went flawlessly on this coast too. The nation is one step closer to shaking off the shackles of mismanagement.”

Dirk didn’t answer. Maybe his silence carried its own message.

“No one mourns the death of bureaucracies,” his father said. “Future generations will thank us.”

They might, but everyone without electricity was probably not feeling the gratitude.  Dirk’s breath came out in puffs that hung in the air, proof of the chill. And January would only get colder.

His father’s voice turned light. “My only problem is that I’ve started second guessing my decision to go by President Augustus.”

Yesterday, his father had settled on the title president because he figured it would be an easier transition for the masses. The title Augustus was from Roman history. Caesar had chosen it for himself because Augustus meant great.

“Taking over may be so easy,” his father continued, “perhaps I don’t need to help the population grasp the idea of a new dynasty. Perhaps I should go with First Citizen.” That’s what Caesar had called himself when he took power.

Dirk landed on the back patio, unlocked the door, and went inside. “First Citizen sounds like you’re taking numbers for a communist deli.”

“President it is, then. Get some rest. We’ll have another long night in front of us.” His father said the words cheerfully. He was happy, and for the first time in a long time, his father was also happy with Dirk. Proud of him.

That should have brought Dirk some comfort. Probably would later. Right now, despite his ability to fly, he felt as though his limbs were being dragged downward.

Cassie, Dirk’s stepmom, sat in the family room watching the news on TV. She was wrapped in a blanket, her dark hair tucked into its folds.

A solemn-faced man stood in front of a Costco relating how many people in Boston were without heat and transportation.

Looked like reporters from other cities had showed up before the police.

Cassie turned to Dirk, a smile perched on her lips. “Glad you’re home safe.” She returned her attention to the TV, resting her hand on her abdomen as though checking the baby. Was she glad her own children weren’t risked in the attacks or was she was eager for her son to grow up so he could take part?

The news anchor went on, “All night widespread looting has plagued the city. Alarm systems are down, phones inoperable, and police are without the vehicles or the manpower to respond to crimes.” As if to prove her point, a steady stream of people emerged from the store behind him, pushing grocery carts piled with items. The food Dirk could understand, but the furniture? And the guy hauling the big screen TV clearly didn’t understand what EMP did.

Dirk had known theft would happen, but he hadn’t anticipated so many people would be unmasked and unconcerned, strolling out of the store.

“Hospitals and pharmacies were hit especially hard,” the reporter continued.

Dirk stared at the TV in disbelief. He’d spared the hospitals and all the buildings around them. They should have been fine.

“Armed thugs forced their way into both Massachusetts General and Shriners Hospital, held staff at gunpoint and demanded narcotics and other drugs.”

While the reporter detailed more of the crime, Dirk turned away from the TV. He shouldn’t have been surprised by any of it. What had he expected—for people to pull together and help one another out? He ought to know by now not to overestimate human nature.

Cassie clicked the remote, flipping through channels. “Six cities are in near anarchy. The government will have to give Brant whatever he demands.”

An optimistic hope. Politicians never relinquished power easily, even if it meant making people suffer. “They won’t surrender after the first day.”

His father was staying at an enclosure he’d built in California and would make his way back to Pennsylvania, traveling at night and hitting more cities along the way.

“They’ll see reason soon enough.” Cassie settled on another news report. “Have you fed the dragons?”

“Yeah.” Dirk headed toward his bedroom before Cassie could think of more chores to give him. Originally Aaron was supposed to stay here and help Dirk, but their last fight had convinced their father to take Aaron with him. His brother had leaked the location of the eggs to the Slayers. Dirk was sure of it.

What was Aaron doing now? Trying to get more tactical information out of their dad? Well, it would serve his father right if Aaron betrayed him and blew the whole mission.

Dirk shouldn’t think that way. As of tonight, he’d committed himself to the revolution. No point in wishing for failure. The only way all the damage and looting would be worth it was if it led to a better government. Dirk would have to watch his brother carefully and make sure he didn’t cause more damage. And on the bright side, as long as Aaron was with his father, he couldn’t easily contact Tori and spill any other secrets.

Not that Aaron knew many. Their father hardly told Dirk anything and Dirk was a key player in the revolution. No way would his dad entrust important details to a twelve-year-old.

Dirk went to his room, threw off his clothes, and climbed into bed. He waited for sleep to wash away his thoughts. He didn’t want to think about children waking up and shivering because their houses no longer had heating. Or water pumps that no longer worked.

An hour later when his phone rang, he was still awake. Awake, but not alert. If he’d been alert, he would’ve checked the ID instead of assuming the call was from his father.

His mother’s voice poured from the phone, high with emotion. “Dirk, I’m sorry for everything you’ve been through. I shouldn’t have left you with your father. I should have found a way to take you.”

It was surreal to hear her voice. It belonged to the past, to the place of half-forgotten childhood memories, the soundtrack of years long gone. She’d been larger than life then, tall and graceful with shiny blond hair that framed her face like a halo.

“If you had a choice,” she went on, “I know you wouldn’t have been involved with this.”

How had she gotten his phone number? Dirk knew the answer as soon as he thought of the question. At some point he’d left his phone unattended and Aaron had gotten ahold of it. He’d called their mom and given her this number.

She wouldn’t be able to trace him with it. His phone was a specialized computer with a program that routed their IP address through dozens of cities.

“Dirk, are you there?” she asked.

“Yeah.” He rubbed his forehead wearily. He was too tired for this; his thoughts were too raw. “Aaron isn’t here.”

She let out a pained laugh. “I want to talk to you.”

Doubtful. He shut his eyes and let his head sink back into his pillow, not even sure if the emotion that was pulsing through him was anger or guilt.

“I love you, Dirk.”

She was only trying to manipulate him. “You don’t know anything about me.”

“I do,” she insisted. “I spent years with you—how could I not know? You were the boy who used to slide tissue paper underneath my bedroom door when you heard me crying. You have more tenderness inside you than your father will ever be capable of.”

Dirk hadn’t remembered about the tissue paper until she mentioned it, and then the memory came back: the fights his parents had that always left his mother crying.

“That was a long time ago,” he said. “You don’t know me anymore.”

“I know you hate what you’ve just done.”

He didn’t answer, couldn’t contradict her.

“Find a way to leave your father,” she urged. “Go to the nearest police station and tell them you’re my son. I’ll come and get you.”

Dirk lowered his voice. “You want me to leave so I’ll take Aaron to you. He’s the one you really want.”

“I want you too.” Her voice was ragged insistence. “I’ve always wanted you.”

But not enough to take him when she skipped out. She couldn’t undo the past with a few words.

“Tell me where you are,” she said. “I’ll come for you.”

A surge of worry went through him, one that verged on protectiveness. His father had probably bugged this phone. “Don’t say that.” Dirk’s father wouldn’t appreciate hearing him warn his mother, but he had to do it anyway. “And don’t ever make a deal with my father. You’ll end up being used as pawn to force either Aaron or me into doing something we don’t want to do. Just stay away. You shouldn’t call this phone again. It isn’t safe for you.”

“Dirk, leave him. Take Aaron and go.”

How could he tell her Aaron didn’t want to go—that Dirk had already offered to help him escape and Aaron had refused?

“I can’t. I’m already a part of this.” And because he didn’t like hearing her so upset, he added, “I’m not the person you think you know. That person is gone.” He’d become someone else last night—a revolutionary. Someone whose hands were no longer clean.

He hung up, put his phone away, then went into the bathroom to find some sleeping pills. There was no way he was going to get any sleep without them and he had to get some rest. He would have to go out with Minerva tomorrow night, and this time the government would be watching for him.

A baby, a wedding, a broken laptop, and a project

Why isn’t Slayers 5 out yet, you ask?

My oldest daughter had new baby and I had to help her, my middle daughter got married and I had two wedding receptions to do, I dropped my laptop one too  many times and it stopped working, and… yeah, I know I said I wouldn’t start any new house projects until the book was done–and I haven’t. My house is unpainted and the heavy, solid-wood desk is still awkwardly standing against my bedroom wall.

But a child is writing a book, so I’ve been helping said child with brainstorming, sifting through old journals looking for stories, deciphering the contract, etc. etc.

Don’t give me that look. A parent has to help their children.

I’m back working on Slayers now.

And the good news is that I think I’m to the point where I can start putting up a chapter a week on my website. I’ll do that by the end of the week.

Slayers 5 update

Remember how I told you I wouldn’t tackle any big projects until Slayers 5 was done?  I just want to show you the project I’m ignoring.

This is my new desk I’ll put in my office, once that bedroom is  painted so that it no longer looks like a shrine to the Odd1sOut.

 

So right now I have a huge desk in my bedroom that does a fair job of blocking the bathroom, and it’s been there since oh, December. It’s already gathered it’s share of clutter. But at least I’ve stopped bumping into it in the dark. Just wanted you all to know that I really am trying to get this done.I need to so I can put together my office.

Go ahead and ask how revisions are going

I’m going through Darth Beta’s comments on my manuscript right now. And there are many. Oh so many. (I’m currently on page 70 out of 319) I thought I would give you an example of some of them. The bolded sentences are the ones from the story and the Beta’s comments are below.

Kody brushed snow from the picnic table and leaned against it.

Seems like a lot of work to lean against something. Generally, snow is on top. You lean against the side. So either he needs to lean without brushing, or brush then sit on it. I get that he may get a tiny amount on him by leaning and slightly less if he brushes it first, but overall it’s distracting enough for me to spend three minutes writing this novel of a comment.

 

The garage door opened and a gold Cadillac emerged onto the street. Ethington wasn’t alone. His bodyguard sat in the passenger seat.

Rich people with nice cars usually have tinted windows so the rabble can’t see them laughing at them. They’d probably have less than a second to identify the two people in the front seats through the windshield.

 

A reporter with an expression of stoic concern stood in front of a Detroit church where the Red Cross was handing out blankets to a line of people.

Do you have a history with news anchors? Did one of them kill your cat or something? 😝 you love to paint them as fake and melodramatic. If that’s the way Tori sees them give her a good reason. Maybe because of all the bad press her dad has gotten (especially from CNN) – maybe she can paint the Fox News anchors and stylish and sincere and the CNN anchors as calloused frauds. 🙂

 

Tori paced over to him, hands tapping against her side in nervous agitation. “Was the military anywhere around when the attacks happened?”

Although this kind of disjointed awkward sentence structure is realistic of teenagers, your main characters need to be above that. 🙂 Reword so she doesn’t sound like she’s illiterate.

 

“But?” she added, because the word was already there, lingering unsaid behind his lips.

I like the idea but not the execution. Reword so it doesn’t sound so much like bad poetry.

 

How could she not? The images of looters, of the lawlessness of the last two days would probably stay perched in her mind for years. She dropped his hand and turned back to her locker. “Right.”

Emblazoned or seared…birds and effeminate men perch

 

She reached over and brushed her hand against Jesse’s arm. “You need a shielder more than I do. I’m immune to fire.”

I’m trying to picture this. So it’s like she’s wiping something sticky off her hand onto his arm?

Slayers 5 prologue question

I’m going through comments from beta readers and Darth Beta’s comment on the prologue title was–and I quote, “Ew. This sounds like a Hallmark card. Delete or find something less dorky.”

Yeah, I always love going through his comments. The first time he critiqued one of my manuscripts he used the word lame 26 times. I’ve since restricted him to 10 lames a manuscript but I foolishly said nothing about the word dorky.

The reason I chose this sentence for the title of the prologue (I’ve titled all of the other prologues, so I figure I should title this one too) is that you realize at the end of the prologue that the sentence has a different, darker meaning than what you first supposed. But you don’t know that when you first encounter it, so yeah, it does sound like something off of a motivational poster or Hallmark card. And I don’t want people to see it and roll their eyes.

Any suggestions on how to change it so it basically has the same meaning but doesn’t seem so card-like?  I’ve included the 4 page prologue so you can see what it really means.

 

Prologue

 

Six years ago.

Never underestimate the power of friendship.

 

Dirk Overdrake stood in front of a glass case in the Bonaparte Residence Museum and wondered how many years in prison people got for stealing priceless historical artifacts. A flawless replica of Napoleon’s laurel leaf coronation crown was nestled securely behind the glass. The exhibit label reported that the original had disappeared after Napoleon’s death and no one knew where it currently was. Well, no one except Dirk, because he was pretty sure he’d seen one just like this in his father’s bedroom vault.

His father wandered over to the case, done looking at the previous display. Even while on vacation, his father was crisp and professional, as though it were some sort of sin to put on jeans and Nikes. He wore beige pants and expensive Italian shoes, his dark hair perfectly in place.

Dirk pointed to the crown. “Hey, don’t you have one like this?”

His father made a curt shushing noise to indicate he shouldn’t speak of it here. Which pretty much answered Dirk’s question. Should he be impressed or ashamed that his father had somehow managed to get a hold of the original? He wasn’t surprised. After all, his father also had a golden breastpin worn by Julius Caesar and a small silver horse statue that had belonged to Alexander the Great. His father liked to collect souvenirs from conquerors.

Dirk’s father motioned for him to follow, and the two walked out of the museum onto the streets of Ajaccio, France. They’d already passed one statue of Napoleon on the way to the museum, and now they headed toward another.

Dirk’s father slipped a pair of sunglasses over his eyes. “Do you know why I brought you here?”

Yeah. Because his father had no idea what normal families did on vacation. Dirk’s friends were all at Disney World and the beach. Places twelve-year-olds actually wanted to go.

Dirk knew better than to say those words. “You like Napoleon because he used to live on St. Helena?”

Napoleon had been exiled on the island where his father grew up. Every time Dirk had visited St. Helena, he’d been forced to visit the Napoleon shrine there too.

“No,” his father said, drawing out the word to indicate he was turning this into one of those annoying teaching moments. “I brought you here to see the people lined up, eager to pay their money just so they can walk around the home where Napoleon was born.”

His father waved a hand in the direction of the museum. “The curators were able to recreate the drapes and wallpaper because so many people cut off pieces and saved them as if they were relics of the saints.”

Dirk and his father had reached the second town statue of Napoleon. He sat atop a horse, wearing his gold leaf crown and gazing triumphantly out on the plaza.

“I brought you here,” his father went, “for the same reason I brought you to Julius Caesar’s tomb. Thousands of years after his death, people still daily leave flowers on his grave. What does that show you?”

Dirk shrugged. “Tourists like to throw away money?”

“No. People admire greatness. It doesn’t even matter that Napoleon lost in the end or that Caesar was murdered by his friends. Both had the wherewithal to take control of their nation’s destiny and meld it to their will.” He gestured at the statue. “War is like love. It’s better to have fought and lost than never to have fought at all.” He lowered his voice. “And of course, it’s better still to win.”

Dirk nodded because he knew his father would continue lecturing if he didn’t think Dirk was listening. Mostly Dirk was wondering if Napoleon would have taken his kids to Disneyland or whether he would have dragged them around to look at statues.

His father wasn’t done. “Do you want to be the sort of person Napoleon and Caesar were?”

Banished from civilization or murdered by his friends? Not really.

His father didn’t give him time to answer. “Do you want to have cities across the world named after you like Alexander the Great? Or do you want to be like one of these pathetic tourists, so devoid of your own greatness that you have to pay money just to see the places where a great man once stood?”

Dirk knew the right answer to this question. Still, he looked skyward as though pondering it. “Dirk the Great has a nice ring to it.”

His father laid his hand on Dirk’s shoulder with approval. “To be a great leader, you need to know who your enemies are. You must know how they think, where you can find them, and how they plan to destroy you.”

Dirk nodded again. It was always better to just agree with his father when he went on about leadership.

His father dropped his hand from Dirk’s shoulder. “That’s why I signed you up for Dragon camp.”

Dirk cocked his head, not understanding. “There’s a camp for dragons?”

His father turned away from the statue. “No, there’s a camp for Slayers and this summer you’re going to attend. It’s time to meet your enemies.”

Dirk’s father had warned him about the Slayers enough times: kids his own age who would try to kill the dragons and him too if he got in their way. How many of them went to this camp? “You want me to fight them?” Before Dirk could decide whether to feel pumped or terrified by the idea, his father laughed.

“Not yet. You’ll learn their secrets first, their weaknesses, so you’ll know how to fight. Never underestimate the power of friendship.”

 

Someone just asked me what the other prolog titles were, so here they are.

Slayers 1: The Reason Parents Don’t Tell Their Children About Their Nightmares

Slayers 2: It’s Always the Things You Overlook

Slayers 3: The Downside of Being Married to a Dragon Lord

Slayers 4: You Should Never Make Promises You Can’t Keep

Doll Wrecks: Yes, more reborn dolls!

As many of you know, I have a thing for dolls. I finally had to stop buying them because I ran out of room in my house. There are dolls perched on my closet shelf that look down on me reprovingly because I evicted them from the doll case.

But I was on eBay the other day and just out of curiosity, I checked to see if reborn dolls are still a thing. And oh yes, they are. I couldn’t resist sharing some of them with you.

If you don’t know what a reborn doll is, here’s a good example:

Can you believe this is actually a doll and not a real child? That’s what reborn dolls are supposed to look like: real children. And since they’re one of a kind and handmade, they’re expensive. (Also like real children.)

Here’s another good example: Don’t you just want to kiss those little foreheads? They’re sooo sweet!

However, some doll makers have developed their artistic skills more than others. So in the helpful spirit of the Cake Wrecks blog, I’m offering advice to aspiring doll artists. (And there will be no buzzers involved, which is more than I can say for some of my writing critiques.)

This doll has a question. And I think the question is: What were you thinking?

Gray isn’t really a good color for babies.

Then again, neither is red. Why do so many doll artists use so much red? Is it cheaper than the other colors? Are childhood epidemics back in style?

The doll looks quite disgruntled about his color and is clearly contemplating smacking those elephants together like cymbals.

Of course, sometimes the color isn’t the problem. You know that saying about breaking the mold? Someone should have done that for this doll. Sleep deprived is never a look you want in a baby.

And speaking of looks you want to avoid, your doll shouldn’t appear to be fending off attackers.

Since I last wrote about reborn dolls, one startling trend has reared its head on eBay. Lots of less expensive reborn dolls are appearing from China. I’m not making this up. Apparently even poorly-executed-doll-artistry is being outsourced to cheaper labor.  Here is one of the Chinese reborn dolls.

But not to worry, I think Americans will rise to this new challenge. We can make better not-quite-right dolls than you, China.  Take this one for example: See, this doll looks more realistic than the China-made doll. And much more frightening too. Like, he’s not the only one screaming right now.  And then there is this one: 

Granted, on the scary scale, this doll scores pretty high, and some of you may have nightmares now. But that’s not the point. The point is that Americans are creative and innovative. We see things outside of the box–sometimes outside of the solar system. You can’t take that away from us.

At least the doll isn’t red, so there’s that.

You know what… Maybe we should just let China have this career.

If you want to see the other blogs about doll wrecks, you can find them here:

The First Doll Wrecks

More Doll Wrecks

Even More Doll Wrecks

And Even More Doll Wrecks