In 2010 I still wanted to at least try to experience the usual traditional process of finding an agent or publisher and collecting those rejection slips (do not recommend this approach AT ALL nowadays), but by the middle of 2011--with a certain Urban Fantasy book in edits that I knew traditional publishing would absolutely destroy the essence of--I'd decided it was an Indie Life for me. However, before then, 2011 saw a slew of started and shelved projects, outlines that I would put on hold for years to come, a massive fan fiction project written as practice while my engine idled over which path to head down, and a hesitance to accept I would spend the next decade of my life focusing mostly on just one character: King Henry Price.
I would write two chapters of Leafed for Dead (a very violent fantasy novel about a tree-man enforcer), three for what would become Sky-Island 1827-E, the novelette that would eventually be enlarged into Gush, two novelettes in the Eaters world (one of which was eventually published as Prime Pickings and is set to be repackaged as the prologue of a full novel one of these days) and seven chapters of a sequel to the Betrothal called The Betrothal: Or Why is Tad Flanagan Determined to Ruin my Life?
Why did I stop writing it? Well, mostly because while I was editing The Fanged Lady I slowly fell in love with the King Henry Tapes and it got to the point in May 2011 where I just HAD to start work on Cat Killing Coyotes NOW. I had to know what happened next, I had to finally write that first school day at the Asylum, needed to introduce the world to T-Bone and Horatio Vega and then I could work on Book 3. I could REALLY show people what the series was about. They could meet Boomworm! And Paine! And realize it's not just Urban Fantasy but Epic Fantasy as well!
Sitting here in 2016 I can safely say it was a good decision. The Betrothal is a fun book and it will always be my first, but standalone novels, even a standalone with a sequel, are a hard sell in the Indie world. A full series with multiple books is what people want. Also, as funny as I can be, I'll always be a Spec-Fic writer and the zany of the Betrothal can never match a world with dragons and blood gods locked in eternal war. The Betrothal was to become my experiment, my book to release into the Indie world to see how it's done. Like all losses of virginity it turned out to be a messy experience with many ups and downs. It really taught me the need for beta readers, the need to be absolutely brutal while editing, and began the realization that no matter how good a novel is, winning the lottery is more likely that having an instant bestseller on Amazon.
I do think more of my readers should check out the Betrothal, if only because it's such a lighthearted and fun book and we can always use another laugh in this chaotic world. Also, it's never been a better reading experience than it is today since Amazon has finally figured out that footnotes work best as pop ups and intergrated them as such on the newest Kindle devices, turning the Betrothal into the interactive experience I always hoped it would become. Many have read the first Betrothal and enjoyed Phin and Tad's escapades. Also, of course, the Tank's love of killing hobos, the evils of hot pink and baby blue, and far too much information about how Hippos crap. For you, here is a bittersweet look into what could have been, Chapter One of The Betrothal: Or Why is Tad Flanagan Determined to Ruin my Life? Who knows? Maybe one day I'll finish it during a vacation or something...surely not now though. King Henry Tapes Book 6...it's time to take the Crazy up a notch yet again!
Copyrighted by me, Richard Raley, do not republish, please link back here, early version and only a first draft, there will be typos, yada yada.
Chapter 1- It Begins Again
“Are we there yet?” Sam asked me as she sat in the passenger seat playing with her Andaconda River reading device in a bout of technological manipulation that brought pain to the old-fashion technophobic in me.
“Why do I put up with your teasing?” I returned.
I couldn’t see Sam since my eyes were on the road ahead of our car, but I knew her expression was downright impish. It should also be noted that my hands were on a steering-wheel and my feet were on gas pedal and brake-pedal, although the leftie in me felt these were reversed the wrong way.
This means I was the one driving the car, which on account of me having just gotten my license at the ripe ol’ age of twenty-two, was a dangerous prospect. It was my first freeway drive and I hadn’t even killed a hobo yet. Plenty of bees and butterflies and bugs, but no hobos. Especially hobos with shotguns…
“Because you love me?” she decided while the sound of button clicking changed her pages in a continuous flow instead of the uneven swoosh of turning paper.
“Nope…that’s not it…”
“Because I let you live with me even though you’re a starving author?”
“Barely not-starving author without access to adequate healthcare then.”
“Nope…that’s not it…”
“Because I’m a wonderful conversationalist and have kept you calm with my witty banter through the whole trip to Fresno?”
“Because I’m pretty?”
“Definitely not that…”
“I don’t care how long we’ve been together; you don’t get to pretend I’m ugly even during joking word-play.”
“You aren’t ugly, dear Sam, just very near to being a ginger…which means you can’t be pretty.”
Her page clicking stopped. It’s surprising how dangerous silence can sound. “What can I be then?”
“A great many things. Beautiful, ravishing, and even gorgeous,” I filled into the silence.
There was an exaggerated sigh. “But not pretty?”
“I always thought of myself as pretty…those others are too much responsibility but pretty is uplifting.”
“Now you’ll have to take on the responsibility of settling for beautiful, ravishing, and even gorgeous.”
Since this is a second novel, I believe the standard is for me to begin redescribing physical descriptions and even events of the first novel for those downright EVAL bleeps who didn’t bother to buy the first novel and thought they’d hop right into the second! I’m somehow rude if I don’t accommodate their rudeness of skipping my first book! Well, too bad EVAL bleeps, I’m more than happy to be rude.
I refuse, Noble Reader, to return to that week in Salt Lake. You want to know about that week? Buy the novel about that week! Read about exploding cushions and Tanks and Hippos and Dolphins! You won’t find any here. We are now on this week. This week? This week is so big it’s even more than a week, [blah] days to be exact. Sequels are more extravagant after all. It will probably even have more words.
This week will be even worse than that week. Characters will return, new characters will appear, a car even more violent than the Tank will be involved…and of course…weddings, and best men, and BRIDES.
Just like that week, this week begins…in Fresno. It begins with Sam and me driving into town to visit my family, Easter of 2011, when the world again decide that financial armageddon wasn’t bad enough, we had to have civil wars, tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns, and Charles-Really-Carlos acting up—I was expecting a zombie outbreak or a killer asteroid at any moment.
“So why do you put up with my teasing then?” Sam asked.
My eyes had enough time to flicker towards her as I pulled the car into a residential neighborhood. Cats and small children scattered out of the way on pure instinct. ‘Because I might tease you back about having almost red hair and green eyes, but you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes on,’ I could have told her. Because your little laughs make me happy, your wit keeps me on my toes, and your protective streak makes me feel safe with you. Because if I screwed things up between us I’d never forgive himself. Because I know I love you…
Yet…glancing at her, at that impish smile, the copper hair framing her face reflecting the last rays of the sun, her green eyes sparkling, and that damn nose which should have had freckles but didn’t…I teased back, “Because my mother likes you and I wouldn’t want to disappoint her.”
“Phineas Patrick Farraday,” Sam whispered, “you really know how to dodge a moment.”
“I really do…” I pointed down the street. “We’re here.”
I pulled up in a driveway, clicked the engine off, then let out a sigh of relief. San Francisco to Fresno and I hadn’t killed anyone: small miracles.
Sam patted my shoulder. “I told you that you could do it.”
“And to think I only bleeped my pants twice!”
The home we had pulled up at was the one I’d grown up in for most of my formative years. My mom’s place. Casa de Farraday. Guess that should have been in Gaelic and not Spanish, but heck if I know any Gaelic. Does ‘claymore’ count? What about ‘whiskey’?
Being about a year since I’ve last talked to you, Noble Reader, Sam and I have kept the relationship going at a decent clip. We’re still living together in her house, all of our computers and cats and even my pale plant have survived it. We’ve vacationed a bit, we’ve met the closet of our family members—for example: this is not the first time Sam has been to my mother’s house—we attended Alan and Hannah’s wedding together, she got to see me publish a novel and I got to see her struggle under a double major, but mostly what we’d done is get used to seeing each other every day and all that entails.
There are, however, still firsts to be had. Like this experience…both of us spending the night at my childhood home. And tomorrow: Sam meeting the extended Farradays. What could go wrong?
Sam’s hand barely touched the front door before it flew open and she was engulfed in a hug. Mom’s five foot-two if she’s lucky and I’m not allowed to even give an estimation on her weight or else—I’ve been warned—some embarrassing baby pictures could appear on the internet. Age I am allowed to give and she just turned fifty—but not like you could tell as she wrapped her arms around Sam’s waist and almost picked my girlfriend up off the floor, size differential or not.
“My all time favorite of Phin’s girlfriends!” came a squeal.
“My all time favorite boyfriend’s mother!” came the return squeal from Sam.
Behind them, inside of the house was a chorus of dog howls from a trio of Chihuahuas about the size of most rats—and not even those New York sewer rats, just the normal buy-at-the-pet-store-for-the-weird-kids kind. Sam and Mom made affectionate baby noises and turned around to love the dogs, leaving me alone on the porch.
“I’m here too…I like hugs…and being a favorite something…”
Before my brief stay in my Anaconda River built shack, this was the only home I ever knew. There were the occasional sleep over at Tad’s or Alan’s places, and when my dad took me fishing sometimes I’d stay the night there, but…this house was home. Twenty years of home. The wave of nostalgia that hit me as I stepped inside was almost physical.
Fresh flowers from the flower beds just woken up from winter in every room, a kitchen filled with cookbooks, Mom’s rocker in front of the TV, her wall paintings splashed haphazard around the house, and pictures of me over the years on top of every free inch of space. In the greeting room, her computer sat mostly unused, her papers filed old-fashioned and mostly in two stacks—graded and not graded. Mom taught fifth grade. That’s right…I was a teacher’s kid, surprise surprise. Bet you never saw it coming. Not with this superior intellectual attitude, nope, must have been a complete shock.
“Aren’t you so cute! Yes you are!” Sam baby-talked into the howling. Once the Three Amigos got going it was hard to stop them. They just kind of fed on each other, howling away, until they all slumped in exhaustion, completely worn out.
Mom finally turned around and gave me a hug. “Safe trip?”
“I drove, so not really.”
Mom raised a concerned eyebrow. “Well…if you hit anyone one I hope you were nice enough to stop and give them your insurance number.”
“Don’t play that starving artist act with me, kiddo.” Mom gave my back a last squeeze. “You never had to move out of here.”
“Sam will fight you over me.”
“She’s young and inexperienced, I could take her easily,” Mom whispered.
Sam turned from the three dogs, who were now sputtering out in a cloud of wheezing. “What did I do to get taken out?”
Mom gave a laugh. “Don’t worry, dear, I’m just inflating his ego. You got him to drive and he’s even dressed nice in a shirt with buttons, you’re a miracle worker. How about we up our game and you come into the kitchen? We can finish up dinner together while Phin gets your luggage into his old room.”
“I’m a horrible cook, Mrs. Farraday,” Sam said, blanching white at the thought of having to make something that didn’t come in a can and required more than adding water. She tried to make turkey last Thanksgiving and our oven still smells.
“You have too much worry in you, dear. We’ll set you to mixing and mashing and the like, Stage One easy things—we’ll get you up to wifely material one day, but for now we’ve got to work on the basics!”
“Mother!” I growled. Never wonder where I get my ability to poke fun from. Mom well knew the word ‘wife’ was forbidden around Sam for fear it would freak her out and she’d drive to the mountains and join a commune.
“I promise I won’t tell her any horrible stories about you, kiddo, but you should be quick just in case I slip up.” Her brown eyes kept glinting mischievously back at me as she dragged Sam around the corner.
“And where does my luggage go?” I asked to try to trip her up.
“With Sam’s luggage I should think.” The eyes glinted as warning before she lobbed another bomb at me, “…she’s hardly the first girl you’ve had in there, is she?”
“Mother, you aren’t supposed to say things like that to me…if I have to pay for therapy sessions I’ll be even poorer…”
“Hurry, kiddo…I feel a story about your first high school girlfriend coming on and I don’t know how long I can hold it back!”
I wouldn’t have stung so much if Sam hadn’t laughed at me.
Behind me, one of the Amigos let out a single lonely howl before falling over like a drunken penguin.
Dinner was White Beans and Ham, with a garden salad and a fluffy loaf of bread perfect for dipping. I gather that all Sam did was cut vegetables for the salad and she’d managed to do so without adding blood to the recipe.
She and I sat on one side of the kitchen table while Mom was on the other, the Three Amigos—Francisco, Diego, and Jose for those wondering—darting under our feet to try to beg table scraps. They weigh about ten pounds put together so I’ve yet to figure out how they eat so much…you’d think they’d explode just based on mass consumed. Unless their stomachs were multi-dimensional portals and given some of the smells that came out of the Amigos after dinner, maybe they were.
Wow…an eating scene…surprise!
In a “Betrothal” book? Get out of town!
Next you know there might be a nudity joke or some fourth-wall breaking!
Wait a sec…this is fourth-wall breaking!
“—And that Sam is the story of how Phin broke his nose the second time. Lucky for you this is Easter and not July,” Mom finished a story I didn’t particularly hate. My second nose break isn’t even Top Ten.
“Also the how of Phin’s ability to push his nose almost to his ear,” I added.
“You can?” Sam asked, face unbelieving.
Before I could bring my hand to my nose, I was kicked from across the table. “Not at dinner,” Mom told me.
“But she asked…”
“Not while I’m eating.”
“I’ll show you later…” I gave my Mom a wary look. “If she actually lets us sleep in the same room.”
“Sam, has Phin ever told you about Kaley, his girlfriend before you?” Mom asked with a completely straight face.
“Kaley?” Sam asked with a face not so straight.
“I surrender! I totally surrender!” I pleaded, “I’ll sleep on the couch and I can go buy Sam a chastity belt if that’s what it takes—and no nose pushing—just no stories about her. She never existed, it was madness, whatever! Exnay Kaley…ay…ey? Oh?”
Mom reached a hand under the table. There was chewing and gnawing and maybe some domination going on under there. That’s what the vet called it. He assured us it was natural. I think that’s just how the Amigos rolled.
“Are you sure?” Mom asked, “I’m very modern. I realize you two must…be together. I’d be more worried if you hadn’t. Actually, I hope you’re together as often as you want. Nothing more healthy for a relationship than lots of togetherness”
“What has gotten into you?” I pleaded some more, eyes wide. Beside me, Sam seemed to be enjoying my discomfort and wasn’t abashed at all for once.
“I’m just trying to help,” Mom explained, “Sam told me the first time we met that she thought you were very cute when you were panicking. So I’m trying to make you panic. Am I succeeding?”
I looked to Sam. “Why would you give her permission like that, you horrible horrible creature?”
Damned if she wasn’t grinning at me like I was being an adorable woodland animal. “You are cute when you panic. Tell me about Kaley?”
“Exnay-ey-oh!” I growled.
“I’m fine with you two sleeping in the same bed,” Mom decided like it was a spur of the moment decision and not some calculated effort to further embarrass me. “But no…being together. Is that a deal?”
“Bite her, Diego, save me!”
There was a growl under the table but no further action. “Which one is Diego?” Sam asked.
“I have no clue,” I said.
Something licked my foot.
Sam nudged my arm. “Are you going to survive alone with her if I go take a shower?”
Mom winked my way. I keep up a glare. “Maybe…I got some tricks in my bag to slow her down.”
“Don’t try to sneak in with me,” Sam stage-whispered.
“Since when have I tried to sneak in with you?” I asked. My mom was up to something outside of teasing me with the wink, I could feel it.
“Exactly,” Sam agreed. She leaned over to kiss my cheek, then stood up from the table.
“Exactly what?” It helps to play dumb when you are actually being dumb.
Those pale green eyes sizzled. “That’s why I kept telling you not to do it.”
Every part of my body blushed.
Mom cleaned up the dishes while I studied her like she might be a body-snatcher. She didn’t look fifty, my mom, never did look her age. Always ran ten years younger. It was one of the better traits that ran through the Farradays. Unlike excessive drinking and scheme making and general rebelliousness.
Mom was short, slightly plump, kept her hair in a short crown and always dyed it somewhere between a real brownish color and an auburn. Her students called her Mrs. Farraday, but she was still a miss technically. My parents never married on account of my dad’s habit of being a bleep. To my aunts and uncles she was Joan, to my grandparents she was Joannie.
To me she was just…Mom.
And she was being suspicious…
“What are you up to, lady?” I asked her.
“Nothing at all,” she said while looking not-so-innocent.
I studied some more.
“How long does Sam usually take a shower for?” she eventually asked not-so-innocently.
“She takes her time at night.”
“Two showers a day?”
“Very clean, my Sam.”
“And you’ve never tried to sneak in at least once?”
“Are you sure you’re my son?”
She finished with the dishes, reached down to pick up an Amigo, then sat down at the table with me again. “How are things between to two of you?”
I want to marry her and spend the rest of my life with her but the idea scares the bleep out of me and would scare the bleeper out of her, I thought. “We get along well. We complement each other…care about the other…”
“Every couple does.”
“I know…we never let it linger and always apologize and try to explain our point of view afterwards… Things are great, Mom; why the sudden interest? You’ve been very stand-offish about my girlfriends before…”
She put one Amigo down and picked up another. I’m pretty sure that one was Francisco…its expression was more smug than the other two. “I never liked any of your other girlfriends so I thought it best to say nothing.”
“None of them?”
“I tolerated a few of the high school ones…but never liked.”
“Oh…so…you couldn’t have pointed out the trouble with them before it ran me over and stomped on my fingers?”
She ignored me. “I like Samantha very much.”
“Which is why I want you to have this.”
And bleepity bleep if the woman didn’t pull out a ring box and put it on the table in front of me. I’d have been less shocked if she’d handed me a stack of hundred dollar bills.
“Where did you get it?” I asked in horror, listening to make sure the shower was still on.
“It’s your great-grandmother’s.”
“Gee-gee is still alive!”
“But Great Grandpa is dead. She wanted you to have it.”
I stared at the ring like it could shatter my very soul. It wasn’t expensive or ornate but it was old and a family heirloom. A delicate golden band, and a gorgeously cut emerald in place of a diamond—I don’t know if they had diamond wedding rings back when Gee-gee was married, the woman was one-hundred-and-two. They didn’t have cars or bras or disposable diapers back then, why should they have diamond rings?
“Bleep,” I finally said.
“Phineas Patrick Farrady, what kind of language is that in my kitchen?” my mother scolded. If I’d been in her classroom I had a feeling I’d owe her a quarter for her curse jar.
To answer her, I did something shocking of my own.
I pulled my own ring-box out of my pocket and set it next to Gee-Gee’s. “I’ve had it for a month…but I keep telling myself I’m insane to risk scaring her away…that I’m not good enough for her…that she’ll snap out of it and realize…I don’t know…something…but I’ve been thinking about it…every minute I’m awake and half the time I’m asleep.”
My mom was heartless, picking up my ring and pushing my grand-grandmother’s towards me. “Take the ring and ask her to marry you tomorrow after the Aunts have their say, you fool child.”
I took the ring.
Ask Sam to marry me…at the Easter Reunion…just like that. If only this week had turned out to be so easy.
 Footnotes! We loves the footnotes!
 The old-fashioned technophobe in me drinks tea and wears a corset…but a manly corset.
 Also might have a Royal Wedding and Princess, but no promises, I might just be saying that to sell the book.
 Also would have totally been okay with Los Angeles actually being taken over by aliens.
 Lots of things. And the shocker is the Farradays weren’t responsible for a single one of them.
 Including the dreaded baby picture of me holding a stuffed pink bunny that I think is part of the internet threat.
 Energy wise! Why are you thinking my mom has cannibal dogs, you sicko?
 The BULLFIGHTER INCIDENT of course being number one…luckily for me, Tad’s the only one able to give an accurate retelling of it. Though I suppose if I ever feel the need to write a prequel…