Status Updates

Status Updates

Assault on Dread Fortress Paine (FM6.5) is OUT!!!

The Glassbreaker Goes Home (FM6.75) = IN EDITING

Main Focus: FM7 School Story = 5k out of 80k estimate (6%) + 26 hwp

Side Focus: FM7 Main Story = 0k out of 200k estimate (0%)

Back Burner #1: Welf Winter Gala (FM6.99???) 17k out of 50k estimate (34%)

Back Burner #2: Super Secret Awesome Project

Ugly Step Child: Gush (Fantasy Action/Adventure) Novel, First Draft = 21k out of 100k estimate (21%)

Other Stuff I Need to Get To: FM3-FM6 concordance updates

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

End of the Year Review Thingy...I Guess?

So 2014 was pretty big for me.  Manged to get TWO novels out.  One of them did really beyond well.  One of them no one really bought, because fans are weird about crossing over to a different series and genres...I think.  It's okay.  I do it too.  Still haven't started Richard Morgan's "A Land Fit for Heroes" despite Altered Carbon being one of my favorite books of all time.  So...I'm not blaming you!  You just crushed my soul for a month, it's no biggie.  You do it all the time with the 'har har look a typo' comments in reviews anyway.


Also saw my first month ever with over one thousand books sold (unless I mis-added, which I would never ever do).  Which is a cool milestone!  This gave me paychecks from Amazon big enough that I could show them to my family and go, "SEE!  NOT CRAZY!  GONNA GET BIGGER TOO!  SO THERE!"

Was very productive on the new writing too, since we've started FM5 and Gush, and now a sixth short story for King Henry.  Wrote 20k words in the last week on FM5, which means I actually might finish it within a year of Sky-Island's release and that means you fans don't get to complain because of the At Least One Book A Year Rule, right?


Still haven't got much into Gush as I would like, but with FM5 being a bigger book than expected it's all okay.  Have been thinking about it a lot too.  I'm really interested in trying a first draft with as little backstory as possible, throwing readers into the events. and seeing how it goes.  If you've ever read Steven Erikson's Malazan series he does something similar.  It's both loved and hated so of course I want to torture my fans with the method too!

KH Short 6 popping up is a bit of a surprise, but a fun one so far.  Trying to get it out by Jan-Feb.  There was a scene referencing the event in FM5 and I thought, 'oh that would be a decent short about mostly nothing at all'.  Now here it is!  It revolves around T-Bone making the mistake of inviting his new business partner over to meet his parents during a Sunday dinner.  Manners...bad thing to have around King Henry Price.

As far as the big release of know I hate exact timetables, but barring no problems arising somewhere in the April to July area seems possible.

Long as I don't get the flu.

Or almost break my arm again.

There's not even really any video games or movies or books coming out in the next few months to distract me.

Except for Hearthstone.

There's always Hearthstone.

Top 1 2014 List...

1.  My Fans

Don't OD on eggnog or champagne please.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

FM5 Sample Chapter Sneak Peek

As a holidays gift for the fans, here's a sneak peak at the still-in-progress FM5 (The Foul Mouth and the Mancy Martial Artist), Session 49 of the school timeline.  The book is still quite a ways from completion so this is a very early look at the process and not the final version.  It is also in manuscript formatting with underlines instead of italics and not all the bells and whistles.  There are probably typos, lots and lots of evil typos.  Maybe even continuity errors, le gasp!

As always it is copyrighted by me, Richard Raley, and please don't paste chunks of it elsewhere but instead link back here, don't reprint, and all that legal stuff.


Session 49

What’s a room say about a person?
Mine said nothing.
Nothing at all.
Wasn’t a bit of personality to it yet.  Just walls and a floor and a roof.  Bed.  Had a bed to myself, in its own small room, with traditional cabinet and a small little TV.  TV was controlled by the Admin building still…wouldn’t be any ESPN on the thing, but…it was mine.
Mine for three years.
Just like the kitchen with the brand new pots and pans.  Just like the refrigerator and cupboards that someone had pre-stocked with geomancer favored food.  There was a small coffee-maker…mine.
A bathroom.  Shower.  Mirror.  Toilet.
All mine.
I had trouble sleeping that first night.  Even though I’d gotten used to sleeping alone thanks to Ceinwyn’s month-long, cross-country recruiting trip.  It was still wrong.  Still no Val across from me.  Still no Pocket nearby.  Still no snoring from Jason Jackson down the hall.  Still no grunting and humping from Estefan and Debra, cuz that damn bastard never could go a night without slipping into her curtains to say hey baby, even test nights.
The moaning would start.
Then the groaning would start from the rest of the class.
Like clockwork.
Nothing that night.
All quiet.
Thirty of us separated by real walls.
Graduate students.
Ultras for real.
Time to be a Pent, King Henry Price.
Time to be an Artificer.
Time to meet Plutarch.
September 2013
I’d only returned to the Asylum the day before, but had found a schedule waiting for me on my new refrigerator.
I looked at the damn thing in shock.  It was so…different.
What do you mean I don’t have breakfast until 7:00AM?
And it didn’t end until 8:30AM…when I’d start teaching a History class for Bi’s.
Someone made a huge fucking mistake choosing tradition over common sense.
No one with common sense would let King Henry Price teach anything but a curse word symposium.
‘Bag of limp dicks,’ say it with me, class.
After the class I had prep time.  After the prep time, I had lunch.
My Artificer training didn’t even start until 12:30PM.
I have seven hours of free time…what the fuck am I going to do with myself? I thought in horror.
Realizing something, I checked the schedule again.  Wait a second…do I get the sleep in until…fuck me, this is weird.
Just like on the trip with Ceinwyn, I couldn’t help but wake up a few minutes before 6AM.  They’d trained that reaction into my body.  Didn’t even need the hum any more.  BAM.  I was up and awake.  Psychological conditioning.  Take a nicotine pellet, lab-rat.
I sat up in my bed, staring at the walls.
Blank walls.
Prison walls.
The Ultra ’09 dorms had never felt like a prison.  Felt like some serious commie shit, but not prison.
This felt like a prison cell.
Or worse…the first step on the path to becoming a good lil’ cog.
I couldn’t sleep, but I had nowhere to go.  New feeling at the Asylum.  Back in my old room I probably would’ve thrown a pillow at Pocket just to have some company in my purgatory.  Get him to laugh.  That would wake up Val.  Then I’d get her to laugh.
That would make my morning anything but purgatory.
Hadn’t seen her since graduation.
Hadn’t seen the majority of them since graduation.
Curious, I knocked on the wall behind me.  “Hey, who’s there?” I said into it.
“I’m sleeping in,” I heard a feminine voice say with fierce determination.
“Yes!  Sleeping in!  I’m doing it, King Henry; stop distracting me!”
“I don’t think sleeping in takes concentration—“
“Silence or I cut you!” I heard a frustrated growl.
I grinned.  Eva.
Not the best, not the worst.
Ain’t fucking Miranda at least.  Or Welf.  Although that would have opened up some serious opportunities for screwing with the douchebag.
I glanced across the bedroom, at the other white wall standing between me and a second apartment.  I crossed the room.  A pause of anticipation.  Another knock.  “Who’s there?”
El Rey?”
“Stop saying my name like a gringo.”
“It’s funnier when I do it this way, Jesus.”
“I’m trying to sleep in.”
“And failing.”
“How was Pismo?”
Uncomfortable silence.  “Fun.  New…eh, stuff to try out.”
“Bikini beach babes?”
“More than even you could work your way through, El Rey.  Sorry you couldn’t come.”
“Nah, it’s okay.  Wasn’t stuck here.”
“With Miss Dale, we all got told when you weren’t here yesterday.  How many bikini beach babes for you?”
“None.  Fucked a hillbilly in Kentucky though…I think I got crabs.”
Even more uncomfortable silence.  “Should probably see Miss Strange for that.”
“There’s a conversation I’m looking forward to.”
“Trying to sleep in,” Jesus reminded me.
“Yeah, yeah, good luck, Lord and Savior.”
Under no impression I’d be able to sleep in, I went about the apartment trying to make it mine.  Someone had thrown my personal supplies and knickknacks from the dorm room into a pair of bags, which I went through and categorized.
3 Cans of Coke
1 Box of Hair Pins
2 Tubes of KY Ointment
Always have a backup available, gentlemen.  Only takes one raw dog experience going wrong to learn your lesson.  Life ain’t a fucking porno, that spit trick they do is as fake as the tits.
Various Pictures of the Last Four Years
1 Wooden Frame with Ceinwyn Dale Original Artwork
5 Condoms of Various Sizes
No one gets pregnant at the Asylum, but just because Slush will cure hillbilly crabs in five seconds flat, that don’t mean you want to have to visit Miss Strange to explain your predicament to her.  Where were you in Kentucky, condoms?  I needed you, man!
3 Nail Clippers
1 Copy of the Karma Sutra
1 Rolex Watch Engraved “Heinrich Von Welf”
Because if you’re going to put into place a plan where you convince a guy his girlfriend might be pregnant, you might as well make sure you’re the only guy on campus with a pregnancy test beforehand.  Welf really whined while giving up that watch…
1 Sock Full of Spare Change
1 Screwdriver
2 Scissors
3 Pairs of Panties, Owners Unknown
Yeah, yeah, I’m a man-whore.
1 LED flashlight
1 Bra, Sized 34DD, Stenciled M. Daniels
They grew and I have proof!
1 Half-filled Bottle of Tequila Hastily Relabeled as Vegetable Oil
1 Flashdrive Claimed to Get Through the Great Firewall of Admin
Doesn’t work.
1 Dog Collar
Don’t ask.
1 Diploma, Folded Twice and Forgotten.
Sex, thievery, and memories…so me.
I threw the cokes and the booze in the fridge, put Ceinwyn’s portrait of Mom and Dad by the bedside, and tossed the rest back into the bags before throwing them into a cabinet drawer.
I went to the bathroom and took a shit.  Pretty good shit.  Top Quintile.  Not having to share a communal bathroom with 13 other guys was going to be a plus.  I wiped and flushed.
Too much information, kiddies?
I mean, you’re listening to a tape that’s forcing me to recall all this shit, but I’m the pervert.  Right.  I took a shower.  I peed in the shower.  What you gonna do about it?  My shower, bitch!  Maybe I even whacked one out.  Maybe I even thought about your mom.  Uh, yeah, Kiddy’s Mom, rub them MILF cankles together.
I realize I might have crossed a line.
Let’s pretend that never happened.
I made breakfast.
Best part of the whole prison cell apartment.  Better than the bed and bathroom.  Cafeteria is great, but they ain’t big on some stuff I like.  Like a huge pan of chopped potatoes, salted, peppered, cooked in rosemary and garlic.  And a whole packet of bacon.
Cuz bacon, bitch.
Even the faunamancers will eat bacon.  They’ll hate themselves the whole time, Mancy telling them they’re being naughty, but they’ll eat it.
All this accomplished:  unpacking, shitting, showering, whacking it, making breakfast, and eating breakfast.
Still had free time.
So I got dressed and went for a walk.
Yeah, I was naked through the whole breakfast part.  Other than one moment where I almost spilled bacon grease on my balls, I stand by the decision.
Weird shit goes down when you’re alone for the first time in four years, kiddies.
Best prepare.
Show me them cankles again, baby.
I just sat there like a child at the zoo.
Watching all the strange animals eat and shit.
I think that’s what you do at a zoo, ain’t it?
There went Russell Quilt and Audrey Foster holding hands, Miss Foster with a nice sized diamond engagement ring gracing her finger.  I gave Quilt a thumbs-up.  He waved back, but led Miss Foster in an opposite direction.  I will not be denied my promised bachelor party, sir!  Strippers will be watched!  Booze will be drunk!  Asylum or not!
There went Jethro Smith, favorite skull in his hand to terrify his new Ultra Single class with.  Rainbow Greenbrier with a huge bag of art supplies, big thick prismatic glasses over her eyes.  Keith Gullick with a potted plant, smiling at every student and teacher that crossed his path.  Mordecai Root with a Construct trailing behind him, who had never forgiven me for outsmarting him during the whole Staff of Rebirth fiasco my first year—which maybe I stole and maybe I didn’t.
Right, kiddies?
It was weird watching them all.  All those years with seven to eight teachers a go and now…only one.  This Plutarch fucker who had been hiding from me for four years.  Hadn’t seen him at a single event, not even Winter Wars.  Could’ve been a ghost, was at least a hermit.  Not sure what I expected.  Knew he was old.  In the Lady and Fines Samson generation of the Asylum.  The Old Guard.  Been keeping the place running for a long time now.
After that came the generation that got hit hard by the Counter-Culture War, then all the peace babies like Ceinwyn and the Welfs and my main mad scientist Boris Hunting.  Funny thing about mancers is that we either live to be ancient or we have very short lives.  Not a whole lot of in-between.
 Don’t think I’ll be one of the ones who make one-hundred.
Think I’ll be one of the ones lucky to see thirty.
Figure someone will eventually get sick of my shit and stomp me out.
Gonna be a whole lot of fun when the moment finally comes.
Guess the thing me and the ones who don’t live very long all have in common is that we look forward to the moment that stomps us out too much.
Ain’t about dying.
About living.
Or maybe I’ve just been too long without a good fight.  Winter War’s nine months gone and there wouldn’t be another one for me.  My life was just…artifacts now.  The Guild…
I scowled at the plants and trees of the Park.
Plutarch might be a teacher, but he was Guild too.  All Artificers of the West and most of the East are Guild.  Fuck that Harvey Dent shit:  better to die young than to live long enough to be a crusty old hermit.
A class of Ultras came through.  Singles.
Quite a few of them recognized me and waved.
Kids I’d met during the roadtrip.  Here at the Asylum.  In their colors.
Then I noticed the woman ushering them along from behind, face angry, annoyed she was forced into the task:  Teresa Garcia.  One of the Three Queens.
I stood up as she passed.
No one sat around the Three Queens.  It made you seem too weak and the weak got victimized.  Bitches should’ve been expelled by now.
I try not to call women ‘bitches’ nowadays—since they like to set me on fire and paper-cut my left ass cheek if I do—but those three deserve every letter.  Teresa felt the same about me.  So did Mary O’Connell and Catherine Hayes, ever since I told them to ‘fuck off’ about their plan to expel Welf.
If anyone is gonna expel Welf then it’s me…and what would be the fun if he wasn’t around to torment occasionally?
“Foul Mouth,” Teresa greeted me.  “Sizing up fourteen-year-olds to club over the head and drag back to your cave?”
I showed her my teeth.
She smirked back.  “You bite me and I’ll burn you, little toad.”
Teresa was one of those pyromancers who loved to burn things.  Most pyromancers are just quick to a temper or fast to a decision, while the best you got were stars like Valentine Ward…but in that dark bit…well, some of them like to burn things.  Whatever was hanging around:  paper, black market cigarettes, even a fellow’s ballsack whether he called them a ‘bitch’ or not.
Quite a few of the Blackjacks had burn marks on them, though those boys were so twisted around the Three Queens’ fingers they’d never complained to a teacher about it.  One more year and they’re all gone.
“Know the only good thing about you three bitches being student-advisors, Teresa?” I asked her.
“More minds to sculpt?” she mockingly guessed, hand reaching out to touch a hydromancer girl on the arm, who flinched away.
“You ain’t so fucking scary without Catherine and Mary lined up beside you,” I told her.  I grabbed her hand and yanked it away from the girl.  “All them Blackjacks are busy too.  Just you…all alone.”
She snatched her arm back, hissing at me.  “Keep talking, Foul Mouth, we’ll make you a priority before we graduate.”
I turned away from her, towards the new class of Singles.  “She ever hurts any of you, then you tell a teacher right away.  Can’t find a teacher who will listen to you?  Then come to me.  I’ll take care of her.”
 Teresa hissed again.  Sounded like boiling water.  “Priority it is.”
“Better than you hurting them,” I told her.
“Move!” she screeched at the class, “You’re already late!”
I watched her go, feeling good about the day.  Don’t like bullies after all.  Ain’t a hero, but sometimes a brother has to be a little loud to make sure he’s the one gets whipped that night, not his sisters.
Ain’t a white knight.
Just a troll.
“Fucking joke, that’s what this is,” I repeated for about the twentieth time.
The classroom was all mine at the moment.
The brats wouldn’t show up for another five minutes.
It was one of the oldest rooms at the Asylum, on the original floor of the classroom building.  I talk about buildings at the Asylum, but for the classroom buildings and Admin and even the Library they’re more like compartmentalized neighborhoods of their own.  You can get lost in there really easy.
Some parts of the school have been rebuilt, like many of the dorms, including the Ultra dorms.  But never the classrooms.  Just a palimpsestic mess scraped away and added right on top of one another, be it a new wing, a basement, or a whole floor.
I’d never been in that room before.
I don’t think.
I mean…I could’ve snuck into it and had sex with Val or something, but we usually did that when it was super dark out, so…I didn’t recognize any of it at least.  Old, old, old.  Even had chalkboards still.  There was a map of the world with the USSR on it.  Huh.
As an Ultra, I’d only ever been in four of the mundane classrooms.  History, Languages, Science, Mathematics.  Or Ambrose, Smith, Slaton, and Dingle.  Same four rooms for four years.  The time of the morning we had our classes at rotated year to year, but the rooms were always the same.
Not so for Intras I guess.
Huh, I thought again.
I picked up a packet on the teacher’s desk.  There was a note:  I forgot to give these to you for study during the vacation.  I’m sure you’ll do fine, regardless.  Don’t let me down, Ceinwyn.
“Fuck me…the teachers have a bet going on how I’ll do,” I said to the empty room.
I flipped through the packet.  History Course Teacher Guidebook.  Graduate Student Do’s and Don’ts.  Roll Call List.  I pulled out the guidebook and leafed through it.  American History.  Not USA History.  American.  Both continents.  “Fucking lovely,” I grumbled, “gonna need to steal some Howard Zinn from the Library.”
I threw the Do’s and Don’ts in the trash.
Picked up the roll call and studied it.
Bi’s are okay.
Not too stupid, not too sure of themselves.
They’d know me too.
Hard to be at the Asylum and not know King Henry Price.  The Foul Mouth.  Thanks, Welf.  All your snide remarks over the school grounds to any receptive ear and all you did was make me infamous, you douchebag.
The roll call had the students’ class rank next to each of them.  Not top of the class, but pretty good.  Sixty-one to ninety actually.  Discounting the top Ultras, that made them the second best students of their year.  Must mean we got our class because of our own graduating class rank.  Or maybe not.  I mean, if you did the math it was pretty obvious that there weren’t enough Ultra graduates at the school to cover all the Intra classes for each of the four subjects.  We just supplemented the teacher pool.
Or take the Heps being student-advisors, sure the Ultra classes each get an advisor to themselves, but with Intras they share an advisor between two or three classes.  So…
I rubbed my forehead.
I don’t approve of it.
Least I could rewrite some of the bullshit.
Picking up a piece of chalk, I pooled anima and waited for the kiddies to show up.
“So BLAM, second they’re all in their seats I smash the chalk into the chalkboard and I’m manipulating it so it’s a list of cuss words that are okay to say in the classroom.  Never seen so much blushing in my life.  I mean what fifteen-year-old hasn’t heard of a rimjob before?” I asked to Pocket and Jesus’ laughter.
Raj, as always, only rolled his eyes.  “First day and you’re already on the edge of being brought before the Lady for punishment.”
“For what?”
“For perverting the younger generation?”
It was lunch for us.  Ultra graduate lunch.  Another sign we’d grown up since we had the whole Cafeteria to ourselves with only two other classes, Ultra ’08 with Leo and Sabine and company, then Ultra ’07 with the Three Queens and accompanying Blackjacks.  A few teachers too, but less than a hundred people in all.  Made the Cafeteria seem deserted.
“Perverted?  It’s not like I showed them Hitler fucking Stalin in the ass, did I?”
Raj’s jaw dropped a little bit.
“I thought about it,” I admitted.
He just shook his head.  Raj was one of the few kids in our class who had physically changed the most over the years.  Turban was the same, facial structure was fine and long as always, but over the last four years he’d grown in a beard, since Sikhs don’t shave I guess.  It wasn’t full on man-mode, but also wasn’t scraggly.  Never shaving made for fine, delicate beard hair.  Don’t know if it provided him any extra wisdom, but he had abandoned the idea that he could turn me into a polite, respectable human being if he just committed fully to the effort.  “I suppose I should take it as an improvement that you decided against the idea.”
“Sure, if that makes you feel better,” I teased him before turning to Pocket and Jesus.  “So…how many bikini beach babe pussies did each of you fine hunters bag?  Give me the details!”
I heard a sniff from down the table.  I glanced at Miranda, sitting with Val, Athir, and Isabel looking far too much like a bikini beach babe herself for Prince Henry’s comfort.  “Quit snooping,” I told Miranda.
Miranda glared back from behind a pair of thick glasses.  Unlike Raj, she’d never abandoned the idea that I needed a vast attitude improvement.  “Quit being so loud I can’t help but overhear the obscenities.”
Val smiled at the bickering like an understanding sibling.  “Nice to know that no matter how old we get, some things just don’t change.”
Val.  Didn’t like feeling uncomfortable around her, but I did.  Still wasn’t over the last breakup.  Booze and hillbilly crabs or not.  I turned back to Jesus and Pocket again, pleading with them, “Tell me it was double digits!”
Jesus held up four fingers.  Pocket only one.
“Woe is me to have friends so weak with the Slut-Fu!” I complained.
“So is everyone looking forward to meeting their new teacher?” Raj attempted to swerve the conversation away from Slut-Fu.
“One!” I accused Pocket.  “One!”
“Quality over quantity, dude.”
Jesus laughed at me, stepping in.  “So if Miss Boomworm walked over here and gave you try number three, you’d just go on with the hillbilly whoring?”  Raj and Pocket both gave him the cut-it sign before he pressed further on the sore spot.  Jesus shook his head at them.  “Pocket finds someone he likes that first week and stays with them, what’s the problem, El Rey?”
“Nothing, I guess,” I grumbled.  Probably a good thing Pocket looked like Pocket, six-foot-plus of All American Hunk, and that I didn’t, or I’d have fucked myself to death from all the pussy being thrown at me.  Yup, I’m disgusting.  But honest!  “She shows up at the Asylum and you two start singing and dancing ‘bout Summer Nights and our friendship is over.”
Pocket grinned.  “Not a singer, dude, got no problem there.”
I smacked Raj on the shoulder.  “What about you?”
“Excuse me?”
“They have women in Oregon, right?  I met one on my trip with Ceinwyn in fact.  Would’ve had her number, but then a fucking fairy dragged me in the river.  Fucking unfair, man.”
“A fairy—“
“Forget about that,” I interrupted before I had to tell them about all the Max Lamont crap, there’d be time for that tonight, now I just wanted to joke around and forget about my approaching meeting with Plutarch.  “Oregon ladies, they exist?”
“Well…I spent most of my time with my family, but there were a couple of weddings I went to and those can get…they can be nice, and I met a nice Indian girl there and…what?”
I shook my head at him.  “Stay away from weddings, that’s pussy with strings attached.”
“Nope, rookie mistake.  Don’t go after women when they’re near a wedding.  Horrible idea.”
Jesus and Pocket both nodded.  “It is known.”
“But Wedding Crashers—“ Raj tried to say.
“You use your real name?” I asked.
“Well, of course.”
I shook my head.  “That one’s gonna hound you for a decade now.”
“So…couple more hours until we’re in the shit,” Pocket said to save Raj from his confusion.  “Ultra training, dudes, the Big Time is here.”
“Mega fern-throwing?” I teased him.
Pocket nodded at me like a challenge glove had been thrown.  “One day there’s going to be a strange ficus in your room and it’s going to try to kill you, just warning you.”
“Who’s even teaching you?  Jesus has Wolfgang Welf von Wolfenstein, I got the hermit, who do you two have to put up with?”
“Rin Yukimura,” Raj said.  “I met her when you burned down the Mound.”
I scowled.  “I take that shit from other people, but you know who was really responsible.”
“But we all know you put her up to it,” Pocket reminded me, “and I got Leslie Van Houten.  Don’t know anything about her other than she’s Dutch.”
I brightened up at this information.
“No, I will not ask her to grow you some pot,” Pocket smashed my dreams.
I dimmed.  “Probably just grows tulips anyway.”
Raj smiled under his beard.  “Sometimes he makes a witty historical joke and I forgive him for all the fart and penis ones.”
Which was such a great opening that I just couldn’t help myself.  “Yeah, tomorrow I’m definitely going with Hitler banging Stalin on the chalkboard.”

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Some Quick Notes

1.  I just did a full read-through and what I've written so far doesn't suck! huge rewrites for the first third of the mainline or the school timeline.

2.  The book is now over 300 manuscript pages long, so it's a real boy now.

3.  As is often inevitable, I've added a chapter to the outline.  Meaning it will be 21 chapters long at the current estimate and that I have 9 chapters left to write.  I could see myself adding yet another chapter by the time it's all done, but so far we might manage with 9 really beefy chunks of story.  Given how long the mainlines are starting to get I'm very glad the school story will be wrapping up with FM7.

4.  I had a really awesome idea for FM9 the other day...but I think that's getting ahead of ourselves. Like 3-5 years ahead of ourselves.

5.  I got a flu shot,'s hoping I'm not knocked out for my usual two weeks in Dec/Jan/Feb.

6.  Dragon Age: Inquisition is pretty awesome when it decides to be awesome and not a MMO grind simulator.

7.  Have a great Thanksgiving.  Please don't get trampled on Black Friday, I can't afford to lose any fans.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Prisoners Cycle

THE PRISONERS CYCLE is perhaps best described as a series that isn't a series until it is very much a series at the very end of the series.  It's also not so much a world as an overworld where the worlds themselves reside in.

Don't think about it!  It's just turtles all the way down!

It began back before I'd accepted my life as an Indie Author instead of a Major League Publisher-Patting-You-on-the-Head Author (though given my sales this year I dare say Indie or not I've finally broken into at least the minor leagues!) when THE BETROTHAL was finished and languishing, THE FOUL MOUTH AND THE FANGED LADY was in my last edits, I was dicking around practicing with some fan fiction you lot will never see, and I didn't know what to do next.

It was the standing wisdom at the time that writing the second book of series before the series itself was published was a bad idea (again proving that the people who provide the standing wisdom for aspiring writers don't know what the hell they're really talking about) so starting right into THE FOUL MOUTH AND THE CAT KILLING COYOTES as a sequel seemed like a bad idea.  I also had the problem that all my other books and worlds I'd come up with were also series that wouldn't work, right?

So I majorly brainstormed and came up with about 10 standalone book ideas that I could work on.  As is the nature of brainstorming, some of these ideas were much better than others or seemed more interesting than others, so I started in on writing what would one day become SKY-ISLAND 1827-E (alternate titles:  ROCKETS IN THE SKY; WOE, WOE, WOE, YOUR SKYBOAT; and HERE COME THE CLOCKERS).  I also piddled about with a book where the main character was a walking and talking tree, but like a walking, talking tree character would ever be usable or popular, right?!?!

Skip forward three years of Indiehood, four FOUL MOUTH books, an actual thing that might be a career and not a huge mistake, and looking at all those standalone books I realized...hey, these are all kind of about similar themes, aren't they?  Wouldn't it be cool if they were kind of connected like the worlds of Stephen King's Dark Tower or what Sanderson is doing with his Cosmere know...Sliders or something?  And, hey...there's some weird spots where they really do connect...that's cool!

Thus began the idea of making standalone books that are still standalone books but books that will also allow interested readers to pick up on the wider mystery of what is going on and the connections between them.  I did this because the books themselves are different genres, have different characters and styles and POVS, and I didn't want to force people that for example like the Sky-Island world but don't like the Gush world (or vice versa) to HAVE to read them all, but if you wanted to you could get something extra out of it.

THE PRISONERS CYCLE is also an idea, not a UNIVERSAL TRUTH of my future like the FOUL MOUTH books are, where I have everything mapped out and plotted and obsessively planned.  They are instead books were I am trying something new, attempting to be creative, and especially to expand as an author just beyond doing what I'm already good at (first-person, character focused, urban fantasy with a lot of dick jokes).  It's all pay-to-play and experimental and I'm sure I'll succeed with some and fail with others and it could all implode before the end if not enough people are interested in them, but...I'm going to give it a shot and step out of my comfort zone, hopefully enough of you will step out of it with me.

Not everything beside the FOUL MOUTH books will be in THE PRISONERS CYCLE and even those book that are in THE PRISONERS CYCLE will be listed in their own specific world, not in the overworld itself when it comes to my list of published novels at the start of my books.  So you'd have to be a superfan and come to this blog and check this page to even see or know it exists.

Click the page link above for more info.  Excuse me as I get back to writing!

Friday, October 24, 2014

So It Goes Update

Just wanted to let everyone know I'm still alive and still working on the two projects (FM5 and Gush) I've been working on for awhile now.

I still have no estimate for when they might be completed other than being sure it won't be in 2014.  Don't fret if you don't see the status update move for a week or so and especially don't fret about the way the status update for Gush seems to be jumping around all over the place for my estimations.  I do use it to keep you all informed about what I'm doing day to day (because I know long silences are what make fans more nervous than anything else), but it does sort of become a problem when I'm starting a novel like I am with Gush.

I've been playing around with length and what to include in that book.  Do I write a bunch of training scenes?  Do I throw you right into the death race with a small intro a la Star Wars?  How long and how deep do I want the book to be?  This fluctuates when you're starting the process...which is why Gush has gone from 10 chapters to 16 chapters to 13 chapters as I added and cut the outline.  I even started WAY BACK WHEN, wrote 5k, decided it wasn't working, and cut it from the book.  What I've ended up with and what I think I'll keep is a bit of middle ground with not doing the full training/origin but beginning with our heroes arriving a week before said death race.  Yes, death race...with magic!  It's going to be a fun book!

One thing I'm not sure readers realize is that even when authors aren't "writing" we're still thinking.  I don't pretend that every author does things the way I do things, but for me "thinking" is an always on feature that helps the "writing" go much smoother and takes up a TON more time than the actual writing.  There are some scenes in the King Henry Tapes that I've played over in my head hundreds of times in dozens of alternate outcomes before I've even put finger to keyboard to write them.  The Paine reveal in FM3 was one of these...there's also a good one in FM5 and one coming up in FM7 that I continually obsess over to levels only equaled by Gollum with the One Ring.

This process is why more time is sometimes important and why I'm never going to be the kind of author that can pump out a novel ever 3-4 months.  I'm selfish...they're MY toys before I share them with you.

This is sometimes why its the scenes I haven't played through my head that take me the longest to get through.  Like the ones I've been working on in the last month.  Not that Pocket and T-Bone forcing King Henry to take a road trip in an RV hasn't been entertaining...but why would I focus on that when I can focus on...other things?

I guess I'll stop aggravating the fanbase and just summarize with:  still working on it, taking my time to make sure it's awesome, don't freak out, it's all going good, if you're well-behaved I might give you a FM5 sample chapter for Christmas.

Oh, also...I almost broke my arm!  That was a close one!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Not Quite Halfway There

Well...I've done it.  The "hard part" is over.  The school timeline for FM5 has a complete first draft.  Why is the school timeline the "hard" part?  Mostly because it lacks the consequences of the mainline and many of my favorite characters to pit King Henry against (Annie B/Paine/Vega/etc) are absent.  So I'm left to finding new ways to make pranking Welf fun and lots of scenes of teenage King Henry being a glorious little shit.  This is "hard" in that it's hard for me to push myself to focus on writing it when video games and books and reddit are things that exist.

But I did it!  It's a complete story still in need of some editing but it's done.  It tells of Plutarch's first battles at teaching King Henry all while the Three Queens begin maneuvering to remove a few of their least favorite students from the school before they themselves graduate.  At the moment it's almost 200 pages long by itself, so a pretty good chunk of story.

Which is why this post is titled the way it is.  The estimate is over 50% but I still have 11 chapters to write, all of them on the mainline (almost always longer than school chapters).  So I doubt we're going to come in at 100% again and will need some overtime.

But I did it!  We're getting there.  FM5 is alive!  I'll probably take a small break to work on a couple Gush chapters before returning to starting the mainline side of things.  I still think a 2014 release for either Gush or FM5 is doubtful, but miracles are a thing right?  Like there could be a miracle and Destiny won't launch and the NFL could go bankrupt and Dragon's Age 3 might get pushed back to 2015 and...

What you mean I gotta write?

Update- My ability to target prophecies of doom seems to be a thing, but not with any accuracy.  Just saying...after the week Destiny and the NFL have had that Dragon Age 3 might be in trouble.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Totally Non-professional Sky-Island Map and World Diagram

Sky-Island 1827 Shitty Map

World of the One Path Even Shittier Diagram

Hope that helps any confusion (I know it doesn't).

Small update:  writing really well at the moment!  Might finish the school timeline of FM5 in a few days!

Monday, July 7, 2014

What the Future Holds: Next Year, Next Decade, and My Whole Damn Life

Now that Sky-Island 1827-E is published I thought I'd go through what you fans can expect from me in the future.  I know most of you so far have come to my writing through THE KING  HENRY TAPES and that much more still will, but that's probably not going to stay the same in the years ahead.

Let's get this out there:  I'm not a one series writer who's going to pump out 40 King Henry books and then retire and have my as-of-yet-not-existent child pump out 40 MORE King Henry books.  More power to the authors that can do this and get a sense of total fulfillment, it's just not for me.  I've got a lot of stories in me and just creativity and ideas flowing out of my brain...some out of my asshole too, but mostly out of my brain!

You're going to get A LOT of King Henry books, but I'm not overstaying my welcome and even within that series I will try to keep reinventing and changing things up as necessary, like the School timeline finishing itself up in FM7 and the total change of pace from THE KING HENRY TAPES into THE MANCY WARS to cap the whole thing off.

But, it's going to end eventually, There is a Plan (and unlike Battlestar Galactica and Lost I'm not lying about it to keep you watching!).  Even in the meantime I will be taking breaks to work on other worlds and stories.  It's important to note that doing this doesn't actually affect my speed at writing King Henry novels.  It's not a zero sum game where in one world you will be getting two KH novels a year and in the other you'll be getting one.  What I've found actually happens is that in both worlds you still get the KH novel every 9-12 months, but instead of the other side novel coming out I'm just really fucking cranky and depressed that I can't focus in on writing half the time.

So all this being said, here's what the future looks like.


Here are the stories I plan to write by the time my eyes give out and my hands are decrepit and I'm farting in stores and no one complains about it because I'm so old.  Oh, how I look forward to those days...

*These names I'm giving are often vague or not final with only book estimates and genre-type because I'm a sneaky bastard that doesn't want to give a synopsis and have someone think "that's a great idea" and write it before I'm ready.

The Shinide Saga (5-10 Books)(Hyper-fantasy):  If I found out I was dying within the next five years, this would be the series I drop everything to write 24/7.  It's my first love, my baby, etc.  Why am I writing other stuff and not it?  Because I wanted to wait until I was ready to do it justice as an author.  I'm getting there but I'm not there yet.

The Five God Series (5 Books)(YA Epic Fantasy, Mage Coming of Age Story, Renaissance Era)

The Godborn World (One duology/One Trilogy/Possible Standalones)(Godpunk):  God of War meets Stargate meets Percy Jackson meets Bladerunner.

The Rii Enslavement (Duology)(Epic Fantasy, 1st Person):  Magic System revolves around emotions and their absence.

 The King Henry World (20 books possible)(12 Book THE KING HENRY TAPES)(3-5 Book THE MANCY WARS)(3 book THE DEAD WORLD):  Urban Fantasy into Epic Fantasy Morph.

The Prisoners Cycle (endless possibilities, multi-genre):  A series of standalone books all set in the same world but different...well, you'll see.  Sky-Island 1827-E and Gush are both in this "series".

Eat the Future (post-apoc, dystopian, big monster, neo-western standalone):  An extension of the world I created in Prime Pickings (which would be the first chapter).

Djinn (time-travel, thriller, horror, standalone):  a story about reliving high school that goes wrong.

The Next Decade

So yeah, I've got a lot of books in my head!  But what about the next decade?  Well, I plan to focus in on 3 of those worlds mentioned above.  By the time I turn 40 (yeah, I'm 30, it's not as terrifying as promised, mostly because I skipped all that marriage and divorce stuff to do the starving author thing) I believe THE KING HENRY TAPES will have been finished and I'll be part way into THE MANCY WARS.

I'm also looking at continuing THE PRISONERS CYCLE (plan to put up an About Page on this by the end of the year) which as I said includes Sky-Island 1827-E, a follow up book, and a trilogy set in that "world" as well as Gush + Gush sequel, and a few other stories with different characters.  The important thing to note with THE PRISONERS CYCLE, unlike the rest of everything I talk about, is that it's "possible" that they might be written.  It's the one thing I'm doing where it's all pay-to-play and something I'm taking one book at a time.

The 3rd series I plan to work on is the aforementioned GODBORN WORLD.  As to the name of "godborn" it's one of those things were you consider "should i be different and really creative" or should I just get lumped in with Mistborn or Dragonborn and all the other borns.  I decided there's more than enough creativity in the world to let the name be a little generic.

Which leads us into...

The Next Year

Finishing FM5 and Gush, starting the first GODBORN book (no title atm beside the stand-in of CHAINS) and FM6.

Pretty simple really (also a crap-ton of writing!).  I just wanted to write this to let you fans know I'm very committed to this author thing, I see it as my future and my life for a long time to come, it's what I've wanted to do since I was 12 and I'm lucky as hell that I get to live in the time period where Digital Publishing showed up to start a publishing revolution.

I know it's scary being a fan.  You love these worlds but really have no control over them.  An author can just faff about or get addicted to coke and pornstars or...other stuff.  Nothing you can do about it...beside writing Welf/KH slash fanfiction (please don't do this!).  So there you go, there's my plan for the years and years ahead of us.  Hopefully all of us make it to the end!  In the meantime, stick with me through this journey and we'll kick some ass and take some names together!

Now, because I've written this, here comes the alien invasion in 3...2...1...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sky-Island 1827-E is OUT!!!

It's finally done, I can move on!


Sky-Island 1827-E by Richard Raley on Amazon Kindle
Sky-Island 1827-E by Richard Raley on Amazon UK Kindle
Sky-Island 1827-E by Richard Raley on Smashwords
Sky-Island 1827-E by Richard Raley on B&N Nook

As always, Barnes and Noble and Apple take a week or two to propagate out from the Smashwords distribution channels, so if you read on a iPad or Nook, you'll need to buy from Smashwords and download the appropriate file type, or wait until I have those links for you soon.

As for me, I'm looking forward to a self-enforced writer lockdown away from the internet, twitter, video games, and ya know, generally anything distracting or too much fun.  Now that Sky-Island is off my plate (and I hope you all enjoy it!) I need to get back to King Henry and to really starting in on Gush as well.

Edit:  Nook link added.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sky-Island 1827-E Release Date = June 26th

So yeah, all the heat wave going through Fresno has made writing original stuff really uncomfortable, so instead I jumped the gun and focused in on finishing Sky-Island.  Did some rewrites, gave it some edits, and now it's in the hands of my beta readers.

As long as nothing crazy happens (like Alien Invasion) it should be coming out on June 26th, little under two weeks from now.

Now that it's finished I can completely focus in on FM5 and Gush through the rest of year.  Hopefully one of those will sneak into December but we'll just have to see if King Henry decides to get difficult or not this time around.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sky-Island 1827-E First Draft Done

Relief, lots of relief on finally finishing this one.  I started writing "Sky-Island" (then only named "Rockets") in July 2011.  That period of my life was one where I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with myself writing wise.  Indies were become a thing, I'd thrown "The Betrothal" out there just to see what the process was like (poor, poor, mistreated Betrothal), but still wasn't sure if I should commit to the grand new experiment in publishing.

"The Foul Mouth and the Fanged Lady" was in editing and not wanting to get started on FM2 without the first being published or picked up by an agent or SOMETHING (strangely enough I never even bothered to send FM1 to an agent and took the full Indie plunge a few months later) I had to come up with a few other novels to work on.

I have quite a few grand series' planned in my life, books and worlds and characters even more important to me than King Henry, but I knew I wasn't ready for them.  I wasn't experienced enough to do them justice.  So instead I came up with 5 small plots of books that were part writing experiment, part challenge, and partly drawn from mashed together dreams.  I figured this would make me a better writer and that I could work on these novels without "locking me in" to a specific course.

One of those books was "Sky Island 1827-E".

So yeah...already changed and simplified the cover.
Along with a story about a very violent tree, a girl who can run on water, and a man who can hop from dream to dream, "Sky-Island" was born as the story of a company of soldiers that spent their days on a small island watching rockets fly overhead...before the enemy attacked.

It's still that at its heart.  But much more.  It's also a tale of religious divide, of what makes a hero or if there even are heroes, of point of view, and of course...KILLER ROBOTS.

It's been a long 3 years for a short novel (250 pages), mostly because once I took the plunge I was super into that King Henry Price guy and everything else got pushed to the side.  But now King Henry is firmly established and I understand him to a degree that's probably not healthy, so I  have time to return to those 5 small novels and get them out of my brain (I have so many stories in my brain it's really getting crowded in there).

If you like twist and turns, mystery, some SERIOUS world building, and punches to the gut, then you'll enjoy "Sky-Island."  Or at least survive it.

Of course the first draft is just the start and we have editing and more editing and typo hell and beta reading in front of us, so don't expect the book immediately.  July-September is probably the best estimate for its release.  As always with Indie releases, you can't tell how quickly or how long certain aspects will take.  If you need to change something you need to do it all yourself.  If the beta readers say "it's all good" then it can be published the next day.

As for what I plan next, I'm looking to finishing FM5's school story (King Henry and Plutarch get off to a rough start) and to writing "Gush", which is about that girl who can run on water that I mentioned.

Friday, April 18, 2014

13 Vampire Divines

Not in order of importance:

Divine Inanina - Mistress of War
Divine Nii-Vah - Mistress of Justice
Divine Eresha - Mistress of Shells
Divine Pwent - Mistress of Coin
Divine Moshi - Master of Flesh
Divine Kien
Divine Acharon
Divine Balhad
Divine Limkar
Divine Paa-Hsi
Divine Rennya
Divine Cherya
Divine Amarusa

You'll just have to keep reading to find out what the rest of them do.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

FM4 Apple iTunes Link and Small Update

Linkage:  The Headless Hunny by Richard Raley on Apple iTunes

Update:  First, thanks to everyone who bought a copy of FM4 so far and to everyone who plans to.  March 2014 is officially my first $1000+ month as a writer and has seen FM4 float between 5k and 10k on the Amazon sells charts.  Despite a few of the reviews contemplating that it's a shame King Henry isn't a bestseller yet (FYI "Foul Mouth" in the title with over 200 f-bombs per novel probably has something to do with this), I actually am in a spot to be envied by many Indies and that's all due to having such a loyal, fanatic, duct tape threatening readership.  Special thanks to everyone who took the time to review FM4, it really does help the book get noticed among all the new releases and your five minutes to write that gushing paragraph is appreciated.

One of the things you fans might not know about releasing a book is that checking up on the numbers on KDP quickly enters the zone of gambling addiction, so after a novel is out and everything seems to be stable, I like to take some time away from the net to focus in on the next work, instead of clicking refresh like a lab-rat after nicotine pills.  So this will be the last update for awhile as I go about finishing SKY-ISLAND 1827-E and beginning FM5.

Still plenty ahead from me in 2014, so keep an eye out here and on the twitter!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The King Henry Tapes FAQ #2

SPOILER WARNING!!!  This could have spoilers for every book and short in the series, including FM4, you've been warned.

So I wrote an FAQ for the series just after I finished FM2 and I figured it's been a couple years and a couple books and things have changed a bit since then, so why not another one?

Q:  Change?!?!  What do you mean change?  NOTHING CAN CHANGE, WRITER SLAVE, LEAVE IT ALL THE SAME!

The story itself is still the story I outlined back in...2009?  I feel old now...  The themes and the attitude and the plot are still all how I envisioned them, but structurally the realization that 12 school stories was stretching that half of the story way too much is a biggie.  Also a few characters that I thought wouldn't be as important or as involved keep finding themselves with extra scenes (T-Bone, Miranda, Hope) while other characters I thought would be more involved have been slowly cut back (poor, poor School Eva, she was supposed to have a much bigger part).

The places of FM4 and FM5 got switched, I think it's much more natural now and much less of a whiplash.  A lot of the Meteyos and Divine Chamber stuff that I thought wouldn't evolve until later in the series all came out much earlier.  The FM1 Prophecy isn't nearly as important as I thought it would be, although it's always been a bit of a red herring mocking prophecies in Fantasy fiction, so perhaps it's still done its job.

Q:  What do you mean no 12 school stories?

Only going to be 7 of them now, they'll be stopping with FM7.  Which is good, because after FM7...shit gets real.  There was a couple big updates about that decision, go search the blog for them if you're interested in my angst over the issue.

Q:  But still 12 books?

Yes, this hasn't changed.  There will be 12 books in The King Henry Tapes and then a 3-5 book wrap up series with multiple POV characters including King Henry.

Q:  What's FM5 Called?

The Mancy Martial Artist.

Q:  Any extra hint on FM5?

School = Plutarch.
Mainline = King Henry.  T-Bone.  Pocket.  Vegas.

Q:  Any hint on when FM5 will---


Q:  Will there be any more short stories or novellas?

No plans or desire to write them.  I prefer writing novels and I'm writing well enough now that the wait between books shouldn't require a shorter work to hold you over.

Q:  Why did you end FM4 like that?  I hate you so much.

First of all, I don't think calling it a cliffhanger is accurate.  There's side stories and greater stories within the series left hanging, but there's always greater stories left hanging in this series.  That's how I get you addicted.  When it comes to the main plot and the main issue King Henry was dealing with however, it's resolved.  It's not cathartic, it's like watching your parents yell at each other, but it's resolved.

As for why I didn't give you the same feeling I did with FM3...well, I'd feel like a failure as a writer if every book in the series did the same thing.  Some endings are going to make you fulfilled, some endings are going to pump you up, some are going to make you sad, and some are going to make you want to strangle me.  Within the 12 books there's probably going to be a couple actual cliffhangers, with it.  FM4 however, isn't one.  It was just a kick to the fuckballs.

Q:  Is Annie B okay?

She's fine outside of having a bit of a hurt pride.  She'll be back.

Q:  You have a bad habit of writing a book about a specific set of characters or villains and then having those characters disappear for awhile, can I assume "back" doesn't mean FM5?

Yup.  Again, I try to have every book different and mixed and not the same thing book after book, which is why sidekicks and villains appear and disappear.  One of the bad habits in Urban Fantasy/Paranormal is to have the same feel for every book in the series so they just kind of mush together.  I want my fans to be able to look back 10 years later and say, oh yeah, FM3 was the Valentine/Curator Book and FM4 was the Annie B/Divine book, and FM5 was the...har, har, I torture you.

Helpful?  No?  Yes?  If you have any other questions, leave a comment.  I'll probably just RAFO you, but asking doesn't hurt.  I guess you fans could also use this thread as a FM4 spoiler discussion thread if you want.

Monday, March 17, 2014


Well, the more insane/rambunctious/dedicated among you fans have already used the fact that Amazon takes an estimated 12-24 hours to propagate books, meaning you can search/refresh like a coked-out hamster to snag early copies.  Usually I put the files through the day before and they just sit there unknown until I post links, but THIS TIME I got people already buying the thing before it's even released, so in the interest of fairness to the more innocent and rule following among my fan base...WE'RE DOING IT LIVE!

FM4 is released six hours early.


Beef jerky and Dr. Pepper for all (as long as you buy it for yourself)!

Amazon:  The Foul Mouth and the Headless Hunny by Richard Raley on Kindle
Amazon UK:  The Foul Mouth and the Headless Hunny by Richard Raley on Monarchy Loving Kindle
Smashwords:  The Foul Mouth and the Headless Hunny by Richard Raley in 7 Different Formats

As always, Smashwords takes a couple weeks to get the novel out to Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, etc.  I too wish it was instant, but it is what it is and I'll have those links for you when they become available.  Or, if you're an advanced Nook or iPad reader, you can buy directly from Smashwords itself and download the book in your chosen file format.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Rockets" is actually called Sky-Island 1827-E, Plus Cover and Blurb

So yeah, I've been working on this one on and off for two years now as a side project with a few challenges I made for myself (If I told you the challenges, that would give away the surprises!).  It's the first novel set in a world I made called the World of the One Path.  Basically a steampunk/dieselpunk world influenced by stuff like Star Wars, Firefly, BSG, Babylon 5, little bit of Wheel of Time and Dune for flavoring.  Except instead of other worlds and spaceships, you have WW1/2-esqe sky-ships traveling between floating islands in a world that's literally turned inside out.

There's more going on...obviously, and the eventual epic trilogy I want to write in that world will reveal more, but for SKY-ISLAND 1827-E you have a much more focused story of one little moment in a very big war with very big stakes.

The 13th Sky Watcher has been given the most important mission in the Clocker War. A mission without personal glory. A mission not of sharpguns, rolling landships, or thundering cannons, but of telescopes, mathematics, and watchful eyes. 
Alone in the wilderness, with only a few miles of floating rock to call home, they have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no hope for relief if things go wrong. Daily, the Clocker Triumvirate launches rockets across the skies to rain down on the homelands and colonies of the Democratic League. The only advanced warning, the only hope that the rockets may be intercepted, comes thanks to the 13th’s constant vigilance. 
Yet when a mysterious, slow-moving dot appears in the sky, Captain Benjen Rahjain knows that this time telescopes won’t be the answer to the 13th’s problems. 
Pick up a gun, boys, sharp or blunder! The Clocker War has found us at last!

Look for it sometime later this year.  Also, might be a sample chapter of it in FM4.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

FM4 Release Date = March 18th

Final date.  My part in it is pretty much done, just waiting on beta readers to get back to me then it'll be in your hands two weeks from now.

Taking a week off then I'll be back at it with writing "Rockets" (will post in a few days with actual title, cover, blurb) and Gush and FM5...maybe, I don't know...this King Henry Price guy...what an asshole.

Monday, March 3, 2014

FM4 Chapter Sample

Not the final version, still being beta read, yada yada.  Copyrighted by Richard Raley, don't republish or quote elsewhere, please link back here!

Session 143

Some days you get lucky.
Some days you wake up next to the girl of your dreams.
Valentine Ward.
I had it bad for the chick.  Especially now.  When you’ve literally been through hell with a person and find love on the other side . . . well . . . I was fucked.  Nights of college girls and one night stands were over until Val said otherwise.  Shit, I might even get mopey and emo when Val inevitably breaks up with me, due to me doing something incredibly, mind-numbingly stupid no doubt.
I had them.
Didn’t help at all that it was a perfect summer mourning in the mountains.  Know even a little about me and you know I hate all parts of summer, but damned if the fucking sunlight coming in from the window wasn’t just perfect looking.  Temperature was just cool enough that the sheets felt good at my back, just warm enough that Val lying against me was too hot . . . which I liked.  Pyromancer and all, of course she should be a furnace in bed.  Even if it was uncomfortable, it was pleasant too . . . let me enjoy the fact that I could feel her there beside me.
Told you.
I thought about waking her and getting back to what we’d been getting damn good at all night long.  I’m King Henry Price, of course I thought about the grunting and humping first.  But I decided against it.  Val looked too peaceful asleep like that.  Shit, I even smiled over the little bit of drool at the corner of her mouth.
Star ain’t perfect after all . . . but close enough.
I slipped out from beside her without waking her—one of the mastered arts of one-night college girl relationships—before I stopped at the edge of the bed, did myself some ruminating.
I was still alive.
Fought the Curator . . . but still alive.
Knew his name.
Faced Meteyos twice . . . but still alive.
Knew some truth.
Couldn’t talk about it with anyone except Val.
And the way she snuggled her pillow was too damn cute to interrupt.
Got it worse than bad, Price, got it worse than bad.
From what I understood, I’d been almost dead for the last few days.  Convalescence and all that.  Only Val and Miranda had seen me.  Meant Ceinwyn and the Lady would be after me as soon as I stepped outside.  Ain’t no way around it.  I was at the Asylum.  I was trapped until I could bum a car from someone to get back home.
I really thought of my shop as home.  How about that?  Wanted to get back to it.  Wanted to walk before my wall of anima vials.  Wanted to tap my fingers across them and dream of the wonders I could create.
Had some new ideas I needed to test out.
How did you do all that, Paine?
How far behind you am I?
How quickly can I catch up?
Val mumbled something about mushroom trees.
Talks in her sleep too.
 Isabel hadn’t.  Quick in and quick out.  Reordering all my memories would take awhile.
It made me feel violated.  I suppose if the sexes were reversed you’d call it rape.  Reverse the sexes and you’ve got some Uther and Igraine, bring down some kingdoms type shit.  But it also made me feel relieved too.  Val was Val.  Psycho Val was Psycho Isabel.  Not like you didn’t enjoy it over the years.
But . . . Isabel had used me, used Val, broken trusts all around.  One day, I’d have a talk with her.
One day I’d have to visit her prison cell.
I got up from the bed, searched around for some suitable clothes without feeling like I was snooping.  Val loved to read, so there was a bookshelf.  All kinds of space ships and hobbit shit.  Guess T-Bone and Val would have something to talk about.  LED TV . . . collection of TV shows in a basket.  She apparently liked True Blood since she had every season—if there’s bigger proof a person ain’t perfect, I don’t know what it could be.
Least the Vamps don’t sparkle in it.
Dresser with various pieces of clothing I’d get in trouble for rummaging through.  Bedside table.  Old-fashioned hard-line phone.
Still no clothes.
My luck lately was such that if I left the room naked, I’d one-hundred percent get caught out by Miranda.  Not sure either of us would be able to go on living with that predicament being reality.
Never say King Henry Price ain’t considerate of green-eyed ginger sensibilities.
There we go.
I found my usual outfit in the bathroom.  Same one I fought Paine in and arrived at the Asylum almost dead in, I’m pretty sure.  Looked like someone washed it.  I smelled my geomancer’s coat.  Maybe twice.  They even tried to take out the blood stains.
I dressed quickly.  Underwear.  Jeans.  Undershirt.  Coat.  All of it was beat up, torn, and stained at least pink, if not crimson.  Testament to the last few days of my life.
Next, I looked for my artifacts.  Val had mentioned putting them in her drawer.
I stared at the dresser for a bit. 
I stared at Val sleeping . . . naked, beautiful, peaceful.
Back at the dresser.
Back at Val.
If I start searching and she catches me in her panty drawer, how much trouble will I be in?
Normally, I’d be worrying about coming across twelve-inch black vibrators too . . . but given Val’s sexual status before last night and the proof of it I’d witnessed . . .
I still found it hard to believe.  So scared of hurting people with the Mancy that she’d let herself stay alone and untouched for twenty-two years.  Valentine Ward . . . virgin.  I just met a dragon, discovered a lost species of legend, and found out an Artificer built an insane asylum to use as an anima bank, but Val’s virginity seemed the most outlandish of it all.
All those years, all those years we lost to misunderstanding!
Fucking Isabel!
Yup, done that.  Probably more than I thought.
Made me question every woman I’d ever been with.
Isabel was gone by Pent, so Eva had been Eva.  My little fling with Naomi though?  All the Intra girls over the years?  That time Vicky Welf came on to me and I turned her down and then she acted like it never happened?
Holy fuckballs!
I had to chance the dresser.  I needed to walk and think about things.  Geomancer I might be, but I was born in a valley and live in a valley.  Sometimes a guy just needs some sky over his head.
I lucked out.
First drawer.
Shirts, no panties.
No twelve-inch vibrators.
Way fewer of them than I had a few days ago.
But the Shaky Stick . . . and Poug’s dagger.
They were still left.  The big guns.
The ones that could alter history.
Proof there’s no God, only that Bitch-Queen Fate.
No kind, loving God would ever give King Henry Price something called a World-Breaker.

July 2018
Sure enough, Miranda was waiting for me in the kitchen.  Thank the Mancy, both of us had clothes on.
She was already dressed for the day.  Guess Val and me slept in.
The dress was yellow, not a color I usually associated with Miranda.  Cut off at the knee and with skinny straps at the top, it completely surprised me.  It was a dress that softened her and teachers at the Asylum ain’t soft.  No place for soft when your students can use anima.
Her hair was long and wavy and as red as always.  Pale green eyes.  Sweet, heart-shaped face.  She kind of looked . . . cute.
I must be in a really good mood.
She smirked my way, reminded me she was still the Ginger Nemesis who had hounded me from Single to Hep.  “Had a busy night, did we?” she mocked.
I sat down at the kitchen counter across from her.
She placed a cup of coffee in front of me.  Black.  So strong it could dissolve a metal spoon.  Just like I liked it.  “You remember what I drink?”
“I’m considerate like that,” she sniffed.
Miranda was always . . . bitchy.  Sorry, ladies, it’s the best way to put it!  Sexism, misogyny, rabble, rabble!  Hiss!  Boo!
But underneath the bitchiness was a deep kindness.  It’s too bad it only came out when no one else was around or someone was really hurt.  I didn’t mind Miranda too much when she was kind.
“So . . .” I said.
Yes?” she smirked again.
“How much did you hear?” I muttered, grumpy about it.
“All of it,” Miranda admitted, “Too much of it, actually.  Did the two of you really have to keep going round after round?  The walls aren’t that thick, you know.”
Anyone else would have been shy, me . . . never.  “Who knew Val’s a screamer?”
Miranda rolled her eyes and shook her head at me, just like always.  At least she wasn’t calling me ‘gross’ though.  Guess she’d gotten enough years on her that sex and body parts wasn’t talk for the commoners.
Can’t even tell she’s a rich, Old Mancy kid nowadays.  Wonder what Welf and Hope and all the others were like?  Not teaching at the Asylum, that’s for sure.
Miranda poured her own coffee in a cup, then added a bunch of cream and enough sugar to kill an elephant.  Aeromancers . . . sweet-tooths all around.  Sweet-teeth?  Sweet-teeths?  Fuck it.  “So . . . just so I’m sure I heard correctly—”
“Yeah, walls ain’t thick, but ears pressed against them can’t be completely accurate,” I growled.
She smirked again.  She enjoyed my discomfort far too much.  “—you thought you and Valentine have been . . . skoodilypooping . . . since . . . ?”
“The Winter Ball during Bi was the first time.”
“Well, well,” just way too smug, I tell ya, “That does explain why Valentine was so upset you disappeared that night.  I suppose you and Isabel were just—”
 “That’s enough from you,” I growled some more.
I don’t know where she got the doll from, but it appeared from under the counter.  “Can you show me on the doll where she touched you?”
Miranda would have burst into pieces if my gaze alone had the power.  If we were still kids, I might have even pooled to break her glasses, but she wore contacts now.  Who knew she was hiding such large eyes and fine eyelashes?
The better to look down on me with!
“It hurt Val too,” I reminded her.
Some of the old Miranda appeared.  That temper I knew.  “I realize that . . . and if Isabel wasn’t in a psych ward, I might find her and cut her into little pieces one slice at a time.”
I drank my coffee some.
Miranda pointed at the doll’s lips and raised her eyebrows in askance.  She moved her finger down to between the doll’s legs and raised her eyebrows again.
I drank my coffee some more, glowering at her.
Eventually, Miranda let out a long sigh.  “I suppose we have to be friends now that you and Val . . . consummated.”
“Fucked,” I said, “All night long.  Come on, prude, you can say it.”
“I sure heard it,” she whispered under her breath, pouring me a second cup of coffee.
“Did you know that . . . she, uh, no bangy bangy?”
“I’m her best friend, of course I knew.”
“Never thought of pushing her on some guy?”
“We’ve double dated a few times.  I’ve tried, believe me.”
“Miranda Daniels, you sound almost experienced.  Consider me shocked.”
She might have grown up, be she still blushed crimson when she was embarrassed.  And no one’s better at embarrassing her than I am.  “Val’s more fragile than most think.  She’s very powerful with the Mancy.  She’s scared of it.”
“I know.”
“But I suppose you’re very powerful too.”
I grinned, completely lecherous.  “I got enough to do the job.”
“I’ve seen your tool and you’re overselling it.”
My grin disappeared.
“Guess I should thank you for saving my life,” I eventually said.
Miranda’s blush deepened, even more embarrassed.  “I would have done the same for anyone.  It was just applying some H.I.A.M.S.”
I left unsaid how much more than that it was.  “Thanks.”
She couldn’t look up from the countertop.  “I’ve never seen that much blood, even during Winter War.  All those broken bones . . . and you dragged yourself to my door?”
“I wanted to live.  So I did what I had to.”
“You had splinters in all of your fingers.”
“Did what I had to,” I repeated.
“Did Val do what she had to?” Miranda asked.
“Yeah, but when Val does it, it’s to other people.”
“Be careful with her, King Henry.”
“I’d never hurt her,” I said defensively.
Miranda didn’t say any more, but the expression on her face made me think it wasn’t Val she was worried about.

I stepped outside to take care of a problem that had been plaguing Val and Miranda for the last few days.
A geo-anima concentrate appeared during my . . . Got Knocked the Fuck Out . . . to protect me.  It attacked Ceinwyn, Miss Strange, even the Lady.  Nothing very violent, just throwing up bits of dirt at them.  Fairies—the non-dragon variety—ain’t that dangerous most the time.  Takes years and years, even centuries for them to work up enough anima to really be a threat.
They also have pretty friendly personalities.  I once met the hydro-anima concentrate that lived in the Mississippi and she wasn’t too bad.  Didn’t like Meteyos, but I couldn’t blame her for that.  Tell ya the truth:  I think they’re mostly lonely.  So the minute you show up, they put on their Sunday best and bring out the good silver.
This little shit though . . .
I noticed him right off the bat.
Again, any time I mention anima sensing I compare it to sight, but we’ll just say it’s the closest thing.  At least for me.  Pocket smells anima, if you can believe that.  Not too bad at it too.  Of course, Vicky Welf is the best I’ve ever seen.  She can tell you a person’s discipline just by looking at them.  Or if they have the Mancy or not too.
Ceinwyn was really pissed when Vicky didn’t join the Recruiters after her graduation, especially since Vicky had actually wanted to before Mamma Welf drew in the reins. 
I’m told Ceinwyn cursed out Moira Welf right in front of the entire Learning Council.
Shit went down.
But enough sidetracking.
I saw this concentrate hanging around in the dirt outside the house.  The whole area was thick with cast off geo-anima, but at the center there was just a huge glob of brown aura that couldn’t be anything other than a concentrate.  It was maybe four feet deep and, as I neared the last step of the patio, it woke up and started doing figure-eights.
Kind of like a dog chasing his own tail.
“Hey, Mini-Meta, what you doing attacking people?” I asked it, no clue if it could understand me.
It did a few more figure-eights and then stopped, shivering in anticipation.
“I’m okay now, you can go home,” I tried.
I swear . . . if a fairy can wag its tail, then this one was.
I sighed, studying it.  “Let me guess, Meteyos sent you to watch on me permanently?”
A single figure-eight.
Just fucking great.
“Right.  Can you stop attacking people now that I’m awake?”
A figure-eight.
“Good.  Then just . . . hang out and don’t pee on the carpet.”

Task One:  finished.
Task Two:  up to bat.
As in:  Crazy Old Bat.
Being that they were newly minted Asylum staff, Miranda and Val’s house was one of the smaller and newer houses farthest away from the center of the grounds.  Still a free house, still nicer than I had back in Fresno, but . . . location, location, location.
I had myself some walking to do through the neighborhood.
Damn, it was weird being back.
It was a school day, almost the end of the year, so everyone would be giving an end push towards the triple event of the Jobs Fair, Finals Week, and Graduation.
Val and me must have slept in longer than I thought, since the sun was a good ways into the sky.  10AM maybe?  Good, I could have a talk with the Lady and then have some lunch in the Cafeteria.
What day was it?
Shit . . . I didn’t know.
Please let it be Friday.  Please, please let me get some fish tacos.
So limey, so peppery . . . one day I’ll steal the recipe, one day!
But not today.
Got to talk to the Lady.
Got to lie to the Lady.
Not like I’ve never done it before, but not about things this important.
Couldn’t tell them . . .
Didn’t trust them.
Not even Ceinwyn . . . especially not Ceinwyn if anything Paine had said was true.  Week before and I would’ve told you I trust Ceinwyn more than anyone else.  But now . . .
How much are you lying to all these students?  How much are you lying to us still?
Someone laughing brought me out of my ruminating.
I glanced up, then over.
Eva Reti stood on her patio, shaking her head at me.  “Look what the cat dragged in,” she teased.
I froze in place, stunned.  “Hey,” I said stupidly.
Eva’s tiny, barely over five feet tall.  She’s one of the few women in my life I ever had to kiss down.  Black hair cut short, eyes a pretty gray that reflected the sun.  If she even weighed one-hundred pounds it was from the muscle on her.  She had a tomboy love of sports and camping and all things physical.
Guess that’s why we eventually got physical ourselves.
It was never serious between us . . . then it was . . . then it was off.  Some friends with benefit rom-com shit, only with an amicable—if not romantic—ending.
I hadn’t seen her since graduation.
Now there she was.
Random Number Generator fucking me good and hard.
She walked over and stopped in front of me, still smiling.  She barely came to my chin.  “I don’t know if I should comment on all the blood on your clothes or that you smell like a whole bedful of sex.”
“Val,” I explained.
“Again?” she laughed.
I only shrugged.  Damn it was good to see her.  Eva’s just easy to be around.  She’s kind of one of the guys . . . only . . . with boobs.  Tiny, perky, lovely boobs.  She can ride any horse you put in front of her, start a fire with a twig and some string, do twenty pull-ups, splint a broken bone, and hit a target with a throwing knife from twenty yards.
Oh, and she can burp the alphabet.
Talk about a major turn on.
Horrible cook though.
That’s how we starting hanging out Hex.  She lived in the graduate apartment next to me and she smelled my cooking.
Good thing I can call those memories good and not worry about Isabel being a part of them.
“What about the clothes?” she asked, poking a finger through a hole in my coat.
“Saying you don’t know?  I remember how fast the grape vine works.”
Eva shook her head.  “Just got in last night from an assignment.”
“Ah . . . what are you doing exactly?”
She punched a nerve in my shoulder and my whole arm went dead.  “Tell me about the bloody clothes, Lover Boy!”
“You first.”
“I’m with ESLED.”
“I fought the Curator and lived.  ESLED, doing what?”
She gasped.  “The Curator?”
“ESLED, doing what?” I repeated.
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you,” she muttered, distracted.  She put a hand on my chest, concerned.  “Are you okay?”
“Good as new.”
Better than new really.  Anima felt . . . odd . . . ever since I left the Geo Realm.
Would take some experimenting to figure it out.
“What happened?”
I threw her evasions back at her, “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”
“Not fair!” she whined, hitting my other arm and making it go dead as well.
Like I said:  physical.
You have no idea.
“Need to talk with the Lady and Ceinwyn so . . . good seeing you, Eva.”
She beamed up at me.  “I’d hug you, but you stink.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m marked up and tied up good and plenty.”
“Try not to cry too much when she breaks your heart this time!” she called after me as I walked away.
“I didn’t cry,” I mumbled, “I got really fucking drunk.”

I kicked open the Lady’s front door.
She had a house as close to the school without actually being in the school as you could get.  It was called the Dean’s Mansion but, from what I understood, only the guy who raised her, some douchebag Welf ancestor, and the Lady had ever lived in it.  Really nice house.  Too good for an old crone.  Others were bigger, but only Plutarch had one equal to it in distance to the school.  Don’t even get me started on that bastard . . .
Hadn’t seen him since I graduated either and didn’t plan on rectifying the matter.
Bastard can find another replacement.  I have a world to save.
The Lady wasn’t at her customary spot in a recliner next to her TV, so close to it you could reach out and touch it.  Only other place she would be was outside by her pond, which had been vacant when I walked up, in a meeting with the Learning Council, or in bed.
There were a couple stories in the house, but the Lady had moved into the bottom bedroom, being that she was likely to break a hip on the stairs.  When you’re one-hundred and a billion you have to be careful.
I headed for the bedroom.
With my luck, she’ll be dead and I’ll have to break the news to everyone.
I heard some noise.
Not dead then.
“Hey, old bag!  We need to talk!” I yelled before opening her door.
Fuck me.
I slammed the door shut.
Mentally scarred.
For life.
I could not unsee . . .
“Knock next time, you stupid shit!” Fines Samson called from inside the room.
He and the Lady . . .
My eyes . . . they burn . . .
Balls shouldn’t droop like that . . .
Boobs shouldn’t lie next to you on the bed . . .
Vaginas shouldn’t . . .
My eyes . . .
Burn . . .

I left the Lady’s house in the knowledge that I’d never be able to look at her again without having flashbacks.
Paine hadn’t given me PTSD, but that shit had.
Maybe I could find a Mindmaster to wipe it out of my brain . . . if I only trusted anyone enough to mess with my brain that was.
Seriously, I might never get a stiffy again.
Them balls going side to side like a clock pendulum . . .
I shook my head, banishing the thought.
It never happened.
Just like my journey through the Geo Realm.
Yeah, that’s right.  Meteyos ain’t a dragon.  Poug don’t exist.  Fines Samson and the Lady don’t have decrepit, Crypt Keeper sex every morning.
I threw myself into nostalgia as I kept on walking to the grounds proper.  You ever gone back to your high school after you graduated?  Same feeling here.  That sense that you’d conquered and left it behind, that you knew absolutely every little twist and turn the students still at the place would have to deal with.
Like rewatching your favorite movie.
No surprises, just some expectation and contentment at a journey relived.
Yet . . . you occasionally notice something new.
The ‘No food and drinks’ sign on the Library doors had been replaced.  The road in front of the Admin building had been repaved.  More colorful flowers had been planted in the Park.
All the students looked smaller.
Of course.
Already had that sense for the Singles and Bi’s by the time I’d been about to graduate the place, but now I felt the same for every single one of them—even the Ultra Heps.  Don’t know anything, you poor bastards.  Only a few years separated me from them, yet what a few years, eh?
Place current King Henry up against Graduate Student King Henry and I’d thrash the little shit.  Two years between them, but it felt like a lifetime.  What would the next year bring?  Paine?  Annie B?  Vega?  Meteyos?
Two years and now I’m lucky enough to have people in my life who want to kill me!
People who want to save me too, I suppose.  Annie B went in both categories.  Meteyos too.  JoJo was back in my life.  T-Bone was a friend I could count on.  Even if along with the lightning bolts I had to count on him nagging me about destroying property.
Sometimes it felt like the guy was Quilt, Raj, and Miranda rolled into one.  He didn’t know I was aware of Ceinwyn making him watch out for me . . . or watch out for the people of Fresno from me.  But I did.  I just didn’t hold it against him.  Better T-Bone than Ceinwyn herself.  It’s bad enough I have to keep breaking phones to sideline her influence . . . and that I need to have a talk with Auntie Badass every time something exciting happens in my life.
I wouldn’t go to her.
Not this time.
Let her find me.
“What are you doing out of class?” a feminine voice asked from behind me.  “And what did you do to your coat?
I stopped in my tracks again.
What is it, Ex-Fuckbuddy Day?
I turned around, flashed my teeth in warning at the woman stalking towards me like she meant to give a student a scolding.
Naomi’s heels stopped clicking on the pavement, her eyes wide, jaw dropping.  She had on dress pants and a forest green blouse that matched her eyes.  Curly brown hair, same as always.  Skinny, but a lot going on, same as always.  She hadn’t changed much; she just dressed about ten years past her age to gain some authority.
Knew she stayed on as a teacher like Miranda and Debra.  Was the only person I wince over doing so.  Naomi doesn’t handle authority well.  Makes her nosey and spoiled and severe.  Teacher’s kid, ya know?  Being a teacher calmed Miranda down . . . for Naomi, it had done the opposite.
“King Henry?” she whispered.
“In the fucking flesh,” I greeted.
“What are you . . .” she frowned.  “I heard you were hurt helping the Recruiters with something.”
“Never better.”  My lips pulled back even farther, adding, be careful.
“You shouldn’t be walking through the grounds,” she snidely pointed out.
“When I ever cared about the rules?”
Naomi’s lips pressed together.  She was about to snap back at me when she realized that all the classroom doors were open to keep them cool.  We probably had about one-hundred students listening in on us and two or three teachers.  “Why are you being so hostile?”
“When did you turn into someone who bullies students around?”
Her shoulders shook.  “I do not!”
“Come on, who you kidding?”
“I do not!” she whined.
“And you’re about to throw a tantrum.”
“If you have business in the Admin building, then go there!  But don’t walk through the class areas!  I won’t have you distracting the students!  You’re a horrible role model!”
“That we agree on,” I admitted.
She turned around to stalk away, looking for other prey.
“Hey, Naomi?”
She paused.
“Did we really fuck during Pent or am I just imagining it?”
She glared at me.  “It was the biggest mistake of my life!  You . . . you . . . asshole!”
I shrugged.  “Okay, just checking.  Even before the time in the Park when your dad caught us?”
Her whole body shook as she stalked away.
Poor Naomi.  All uptight and cog-like . . . what a waste.

I stopped in at the Cafeteria.
It was Friday.
Sometimes you get lucky.
Unlike Naomi, the Cafeteria ladies were happy to see me.  I’d been a big fan of their work for years and they’d always taken pride that I went from a scrawny rat of a fourteen year old to a fully grown—if short—adult male under their care.
I got a double order of fish tacos to go, a bag of waffle cookies, and two bottles of Dr. Pepper.
I waved goodbye, heading for my favorite bench on the Mound.
Ceinwyn was already waiting for me.
“If it ain’t the Last True Dale,” I said as greeting, handing over one of the soda bottles and the bag of waffle cookies.
She’s Ceinwyn, so she smiled over me as I sat down beside her.  “Feeling better, King Henry?”
Her hand came up, thin fingers surprisingly strong as the latched onto my jaw.  She forced me to meet those cutting blue eyes.  Cutting . . . just like Paine.  Not like Paine, not to hurt.  To tease, to play.  “Don’t ever do that again,” she ordered me, “Or I will be very cross with you.”
“More than usual?”
“Much more than usual,” she whispered, finally letting go of me to dig out her snack.
“I’m sorry, Ceinwyn, but I did what I had to do . . . for the girl.”
She sighed.  “For the girl?  If only I believed that.”
I pulled out my first taco and dug in.  I hadn’t eaten for days.  Slush will do a lot for your body and might work in place of food, but it doesn’t actually fill your stomach up.  I was starving.
“What’s with that title anyway?” I asked between Taco the First and Taco the Second, “The Last True Dale?”
Ceinwyn sighed again, appearing tired.  Her smile barely stayed in place on her face.  “I’m the last of my family line.”
“I know that.  So?”
“There was a prophecy hundreds of years ago about the line . . . we’re related to Augustus Caesar from one of his by-blows supposedly.  People put much more stock in prophecies before we understood how impotent they are.  Scientific understanding killed the magic trick.”
“Augustus Caesar, huh?”
“The man who beat back the Vampire Embassies and founded an empire in defiance of them.”
“My great-great-grandfather was killed for running rum.”
“How lucky to have so little to live up to,” she teased me.
“Better than having a prophecy in your life, I suppose.”
“Much,” she said, smile finally dropping.
I went back to Taco the Second.  Ceinwyn took her time with her waffle cookies.  The students appeared from classrooms, heading for the Cafeteria and then whatever place they chose to hang out during lunch.
The Ultra students made for the Mound, one group after another.  They saw King Henry Price and Ceinwyn Dale having a chat, word spread, and every single one of them turned right on around to be elsewhere.  It’s got to be the first time in the history of the Mound that no Ultra had lunch on it.  Not that I really know the history of the Mound.  I suppose they built it up for the Winter War.
“I cast a prophecy once.”
“No . . . full prophecy.  When I used the baton thingy in Fresno.  Had to find a source for that much geo-anima and blam:  prophecy.”
Ceinwyn very much wasn’t smiling now.  “Why have I never heard of this?”
I shrugged.  “It was gibberish.  All jumbled up.”
“Was Anne there?”
“Yeah . . . was a bit busy reattaching her arm though.”
Taco the Third.
“So,” she asked, “Where would you like to begin?”
I played dumb.  “About?”
“Disobeying my orders?  Knocking out Jason?  Subverting Estefan?  Risking Valentine’s life?  Disappearing into a hole in the ground?  Appearing in Seattle?  Fighting the Curator?  Almost dying how many times?” she listed.
“I got Val to fall in love with me though, so it was totally worth it,” I pointed out.
Ceinwyn went silent.
She used it as a weapon to make me feel guilty about keeping everything from her.  I did feel guilty, that was the thing.  I should trust her.  It was just . . . everything Paine hinted at.  Or split pooling?  Or extended pooling?  And all the Meteyos and Geo Realm stuff . . .
How much of it was Ceinwyn being in the dark?
How much of it was Ceinwyn lying to me?
Would Ceinwyn Dale, the Last True Dale, the Head of Recruiting, really be that in the dark about there being other . . . dimensions?
There hadn’t been a lot of time to think about what I’d learned and what I’d been told in the past week.  But already the ramifications seemed . . . really bad.  It cast a huge pall on what I’d learned about the Mancy at the Asylum.  About what the teachers taught us.  I thought they held some secrets back . . . dangerous tricks, especially deadly conjurations, stuff like that.
But this . . .
Okay, not telling us about extended pools and split pooling . . . I got that.  Don’t want even the Ultras playing around with really powerful stuff until they’re older.  Ceinwyn’s always talking about when I’m older, she’ll tell me.  So eventually we’d be told.  That sucked, but it was fair.
Mancy knows how many people in this world are fucktards, mancers included.
But this?
It all smelled of conspiracy and deceit and treachery.
Plus . . .
Only a fool steals some of the truth and then gives it away.
That’s how you end up in prison.
Don’t think the mancers have a prison?  We do.  Guild of Artificers runs it.
They say you can’t use the Mancy inside of it, like one big Holding Room.
“I had to do it for Christmas,” I finally said, “Kid’s kind of a brat, but she didn’t deserve that.”
“And what would have happened to her?”
Time to lie with the truth.  “Curator’s an Artificer and I think he’s got his own asylum, that he’s draining mancers your Recruiters miss.”
Ceinwyn paled.  She was actually scared by the thought.  Or did she guess at who the Curator was?  Good ol’ Obadiah Paine, still alive even though she dropped a boulder on him?  If she did, she didn’t say anything about it.  “What can you tell me about him?”
My don’t-give-a-crap shrug.  “Beats me.  Had some nice toys.  He had armor on so you couldn’t see him well.”  Only parts of him and you could see his face, but this was a good lie to cover the secret.
“Titanium?  Steel?  Clank, clank, wherever he went.”
“Anything else?”
“Had a guy called Conan with him doing the kidnappings, was a corpusmancer.”
Ceinwyn nodded.  “Valentine told us . . . Conan Sapa.  He was a student here.  He joined the armed forces, special corpusmancer division.  Left four years ago, became a freelance mercenary, then completely disappeared last year.”
“Rounding up little kids for the Curator’s museum.”
The pale faded from Ceinwyn, an anger instead overtaking her, coloring her cheeks with heat.  “So it’s believed.”
“Gonna kill him one day.  Both of them.”
Ceinwyn studied me.  “Leave them to me and to ESLED, you keep working with your Artifacts.”
“You’re the one who threw Annie at me,” I accused, “You started it all.”
“A small taste of the bigger world so you could defend yourself,” she scoffed at how the best laid plans of mice and men had worked out, “Yet you keep digging the hole deeper and deeper!”
“I’m a geomancer . . . I like holes.”
Taco the Fourth.
“Speaking of which,” Ceinwyn hedged.
“Yeah, yeah.  I don’t have a clue what happened.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“Really?  After knowing me for so long?”
She nodded at a point well scored.  “I guess history does back you up as a bumbling buffoon.”
“Hey now, I might be a fuck up, but I have feelings.”
“As I’ve told you before, fairies are very dangerous,” Ceinwyn said, “Their deals might seem simple and valuable to you, and I know the hydro-anima concentrate helped us the one time . . . but don’t go looking for them.”
“I just wanted to know where the Curator was taking Christmas; I didn’t expect to end up where I did.”  See, it’s easy to lie with the truth.  “Or that it would save me from the Curator after we fought.”
“It pulled you out?”
“We’re kind of friends, I guess.  I don’t know . . . I don’t get it.”
“Stay away from fairies,” she repeated.
He’s not a fairy.  He’s a dragon, I thought, but didn’t say out loud.
“Is that it?  The end of the grilling?”
I don’t think she bought it all, but she bought enough of it that she knew she had to eat the tacked on warranty cost and the taxes and the surcharges.  Fucking civilization . . . got to eat the taxes.  Don’t eat the taxes and it all falls down.
Guys like the Curator end up in charge.
Or King Henry Price.
Eventually, Ceinwyn nodded.  “The Lady wants a written statement before you leave the school and ESLED wants you to sit down with a facial reconstruction artist to see if you can give us our first survivor’s picture of the Curator.”
I nodded too, but like a man who had dodged a bullet.  “Why not do some mentimancer mojo on me?”
Ceinwyn scowled.  “No one trusts mentimancers, you know that.”
I do.
It makes me very happy.
A world that trusts mentimancers is a world without bullshit.
I love me some bullshit.
It’s my natural habitat.
I bagged my food wrappers, hers too.  “See ya then.”
Ceinwyn seemed put off by the sudden dismissal.  “No Auntie Badass time?”
“Nope, sorry,” I told her, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to return to having copious and probably unhealthy amounts of sex with my new girlfriend.”