Monthly Archives: May 2013

Flash Fiction Friday: Beast in the Darkness

The old man sat tending the fire at the mouth of the cave when the man stumbled in out of the snow. Naked, covered in bruises and blood not his own, the man collapsed to his knees next to the fire and shivered.

“Who are you?” he asked the old man.

“Who am I?” the old man returned. “Who are you?”

“I’m-” the man broke off as pain roared through his head and he doubled over. “I don’t know,” he sobbed out, holding his head and rocking back and forth. “I don’t know who I am or what I’ve done. Why am I covered in blood?”

“Would you like to know?” the old man asked. “I can show you who you are, what you’ve become.”

“Please,” the man said, looking up at the man with eyes streaming with pain.

The man reached over the fire and laid his hand against the man’s head. The man began to see things, scenes from a life that felt familiar. Living happily with his wife, their small children who began to grow before his eyes. He was a hunter and he was good at it. They traded for things they needed and lived a simple but happy life. And then the winter came. Cold and bitter, it raged around their little home in the woods. Hunting was difficult and their stores ran out long before the snow melted. Every day he would go out and try and find things for his family, to feed the children that were hungry, to quiet the noise in their bellies, but there was nothing to hunt. One day, he found tracks he didn’t recognize and followed them, hoping something had wandered their way.

He never saw what hit him in the heart but he thought he wounded it. Again he went home empty-handed. And again he listened to his family complain about hunger. The rest was jumbled; screams and blood and pain, a ravenous hole in his belly that could not be filled. Once the house was empty of meat, he took to the forest, digging creatures out of their winter hibernations and consuming them until, finally, his body collapsed and the hunger left him. Naked and scared, he’d scrambled for the only light he could see, the only hope of warmth in this endless winter.

“The thing that killed you is in this cave,” the old man said. “And only you can kill it.”

“I’m dead?” the man asked.

“It took your life when it took your heart,” the old man said. “You have only enough time left to kill the beast, if you have the courage to do so.”

“How do I do it?” The man asked.

“You may use anything in this cave,” the old man said. “There are weapons that others have brought and dropped as they died trying to kill the creature. There is magic in the blood that covers you, if you have the courage to use it.”

“Will you help me?”

“I will sit and tend the fire and guard the world from the monster in the cave,” the old man said. “As has been done since the world began.”

The man nodded and stood. He would kill the beast to avenge his family and then join them. This vengeance, he prayed, would be enough to soothe their souls as they cried out for blood. The cave was dark away from the fire but he could see things in the shadows. He found a bone on the floor, a rib he thought, and decided it would do for a weapon.

As he went deeper into the cave, the beast began to whisper to him. Dark, terrifying thing about the beginning of the world and the end. Both were stained with blood, both were infested with evil. Until pure good won, there was a place for evil, there was a need for evil, there was a need for blood.

It wasn’t until he was plunging the rib into the old man’s heart that the man knew what the dark beast had been saying. It was his impatience, his need, that had called the beast from this cave. It couldn’t free itself but instead required a human voice to be brought forth. The cave and the monster deep within it were eternal but there were ways to keep it there, to keep it contained. The light from the fire was part of an age-old spell and it needed to be maintained.

The man watched as the old man’s body dried up to dust and blew away with the snow. He took his place next to the fire and kept the light going.

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Flash Fiction Friday Redux: The Weeping Fire

I’m on a pretty tight deadline and I’m writing stories for a really exciting project so I’m going to re-post one of the more popular stories from before the move. Enjoy! And watch for upcoming news!

Flash Fiction Friday: The Weeping FireOnce upon a time, there was a fire sprite who fell in love with a human. She came to life in the sparks of a fire he’d built, nurtured, and breathed to life with his own breath. Everything about him was wonderful to her, the way he moved, the things he did in her light. She stayed for him, hidden in the ashes when he ran out of wood, keeping him warm until he could find more things to feed her and she leapt to life once more to dance and amuse him in the darkness.

Then, one day, something had angered her human and stood before her fire, pacing and muttering to himself and she grew angry for him and burned hotter than she’d ever burned. The man sat in front of her glow and meditated on his hurts and water fell from his face until she could no longer stand it. She glowed so hot, she made the water evaporate as soon as it sprang forth from his eyes and she could see that he was comforted.

Soon, he decided to go out and he took her with him in a glass case to keep her from being put out by the wind. He stopped and stood in front of a house and they stood there for a very long time until he decided to let her out. He opened the case next to the roof of the house and urged her to go and catch the wood there on fire. The roof was wet and not easily burned but she tried her hardest and soon the whole house was on fire.

She looked for him, to see on his face that she’d done a good job but he had left her on the rooftop and run away. Something swelled inside her and the anger and betrayal she felt was seen in the way her fire leapt and roared over the roof of the house. When people ran screaming into the street, she laughed and decided to try to get to the next house. If she was to be abandoned, she would take the world with her.

The people below began to pour water on her but she was too quick and too strong for them to catch and she burned everything she could touch. Eventually, they were forced to destroy their own homes to keep her from reaching them and she laughed at the destruction. She stopped laughing when she started running out of things to burn. She raced to the bottom of the home and leapt onto everything she could reach but it wasn’t enough. The weight of the damage she had wrought was slowly smothering her until she was huddle beneath the ash, against the earth and she shivered, waiting to go out.

The earth below the home spoke to her as she shivered; it told her of the humans, of the good they’d done and the bad, and how what her human had done was going to hurt many of the people who had tried to put her out. It wasn’t her they objected to, it was the damage she wrought at the behest of a man who had abandoned her.

Her heart broke and she asked the earth to swallow her up so that she might never have to see the humans again. The earth did swallow her up and it took her down, down into the hot depths that swirl below it’s depths where she could be with her own kind. Every now and then, she would burst forth from the earth and be overcome with grief at her lost love and she would run down the earth, covering it and laying it waste but also leaving the possibility of life behind her.

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Flash Fiction Friday: Spying on Bigfoot’s Wife

 Eliza Carlisle, student, sat next to the remains of the previous night’s campfire and listened to the sounds of nature around her; the chirping birds, the wind in the trees, the snoring of the boyfriend that was quickly earning the title of ‘ex’. She’d spent the morning finding the discarded beer cans that had been almost all he’d packed for their little excursion. The remaining jerky had been her breakfast and now she was debating going into town for lunch; well, she’d already decided to go for lunch, the real question was whether or not she was going to be back.

The birds went quiet and it took a minute for Eliza to realize that someone, or rather something, was standing at the edge of her campsite. It was big, at least eight feet tall, covered in hair and smoking a cigar.

“Ms. Carlisle?” the thing said, it’s voice like the tumbled rocks if they learned to talk in New Jersey. “Are you Eliza Carlisle?”

“Uh, yes, that’s me,” she answered, not sure what her reaction should be. “Can I help you?”

“I’m sorry to intrude on your vacation, Ms. Carlisle, but I’ve heard you could help me and this is really the only way I could reach you.”

Eliza looked at him, considering. “Yes, I can see how trying to reach me could be a problem. Would you care to sit down?”

The creature lumbered into the campsite and sat on a log opposite her. “Ms. Carlisle, I’ve come to hire you. I understand that my request may not be like your normal cases; there’s nothing missing, no intergalactic war is about to break out, nothing to do with a djinn gone rogue in a metroplex. But it’s personal, ya see, and you have come very highly recommended.”

She took a moment to process the impossible situation then realized it wasn’t; improbable, sure, but barring some form of hallucinagen being stashed in the beef jerky, she was really experienceing this. “I’m glad to know I come highly recommended. May I ask by whom?”

He ashed his cigar over the fire and shook his head. “He told me not to, said it was complicated and you’d not met him yet. Said he was sending me to ask you now cause you needed a rescue, in the existential sense.” He looked around at the camp and nodded. “I can see what he means.”

The thought that she might be going crazy slipped through her head again, nudging at the self-doubt all people felt at this age. She rolled it around, tasted it and spit it out; no doubt about it, she wasn’t crazy. “Well, then, how can I help you?”

“It’s my wife, see? We come from a close-knit community, kinda by necessity, right? Except, she’s a bit of an outsider, being half-yeti and all. Her mother was a free-spirit, traveled the world, had herself a bit of a romance in Tibet and my wife is the same. Said she wanted to settle down, raise up some little ones but something’s changed recently. I’m finding new books around the house, ones I know she can’t get ’round here. Now, it may be nothin’, just a bit of conversin’ with her folks over there but, well, I can’t help but be suspicious.”

“So you, what? Want me to find out if you’re wife’s cheating on you?”

“You cut right to the heart of it, you do,” the creature said, taking a puff on his cigar. “And you’re right, of course. I can get ya there, and I’m goin’ out as usual, she won’t recognize the smell of a human.”

“You don’t think I’ll get caught? Well, that’s a relief. I’d hate to have to fight off an angry half-yeti.”

“You’ll do fine, Ms. Carlisle. You got a camera on you?”

Eliza thought back to the whim she’d felt when she’d decided to pack the camera for a camping trip. ‘Maybe we’ll get a shot of bigfoot,’ she’d laughed when her boyfriend had objected. “It just so happens I do,” she said.

“Alright,” he stood up. “Any objection to starting now?”

She tried to think of one and couldn’t. “Are we going far?”

He smiled at her, a great baring of the teeth that reminded her of some of the dominance displays of the great apes. “Yeah,” he said, “but it won’t take long. Just follow me.”

She followed him into the trees and found herself surrounded, as though she were in central station designed by an architect who also happened to be an insane druid. People and creatures hustled around her and she did her best to keep up with the big guy she was supposed to be following. They went through a sort of turnstile and emerged in a different type of forest.

“We’re not far from my home,” he said. “I’ll show you where to set up and then you’ll just have to wait. If I’m wrong, you’ll be bored. If not, well, I hope I’m wrong. Don’t use a flash if you don’t have to.” He handed her a wooden chip, about the size and shape of a nickel. “When you get the pictures, this will get you back to where I met you. I’ll find a way to contact you in a few days.”

“Alright,” she said. “I hope you’re wrong, too, but we’d best get started before it gets dark.”  

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Flash Fiction Friday: Husband in the Flame

 “I don’t know about this, Yuki,” Sabrina said, looking at the campfire with trepidation. “I don’t think this is such a good idea.”

“Of course it’s a good idea,” Yuki said, her southern drawl a jarring contrast with the rest of her looks. “It’s how I knew I was going to marry George.”

“You only saw him because he was on the other side of the fire,” Sabrina protested.

“And naked,” Yuki agreed. “But it’s how I knew, you know? And it’s how you’ll know, too.”

“I still think it’s a bad idea,” Sabrina said. “You know how these kinds of things work out for me.”

“The flood was not your fault,” Yuki said, pouring a drink for both of them. “And we were due for a tornado.”

“I wished for rain and a breeze, Yuki.”

“It’s called weather, Sabrina, and none of it was unseasonal. If you had anything to do with it, you just gave it a little extra oomph.”

“Yeah? So what happens if something goew wrong with this? I’m looking for a man so I get a what? Some kind of demon?”

“Doubtful. Honestly, your mother is, like, the original flower child and you are so deeply in touch with nature, I’m surprised you don’t have leaves instead of hair. If you don’t get a man, I’ll bed you get some kind of nature spirit.”

“Nature spirits aren’t always nice, Yuki,” Sabrina said. “And some of them are really freaking scary.”

“Sabrina, the whole point of this is to find the guy, the one guy, who will be perfect for you. And this is you we’re talking about! I predict some hippy dippy artist with a massive-”

“Yuki!” Sabrina interrupted. “I still don’t think it will work but whatever.”

“Okay, well, I’ve got everything ready so it’s now or never.”

Sabrina stared at the fire and sighed. “Now, I guess.”

“Good, then drink this,” Yuki handed her a cup with a golden-brown liquid and some ground leaves floating in it. “It will open your mind.”

Giving her friend a skeptical glance, Sabrina tossed back the drink and choked a bit. “It tastes like bourbon.”

“It is bourbon,” Yuki said. “With a little boost. Now, clear your mind while I do the next part.”

Sabrina took a deep breath and dropped into the meditation trance her mother had taught her years ago. The light danced before her eyes, the smell of whatever herbs Yuki was dropping into the fire invading her senses. She could feel the bourbon starting to affect her, whatever Yuki put in it making it work faster than it ever had.

Shapes began to form in the fire, colors seperating out until she could almost see the dancing bodies. Most of the shapes were distinctly men or women but some had too many arms, some too many legs. Sabrina could feel the beat of the drums in her chest, distinctly different from her heart but pulling her in to the dance. She felt herself begin to dance, her gaze still captured by the forms in the fire. One of them turned in her direction and came towards her.

It was eight feet tall, with four arms, horns and a fine white fur all over it’s body. It wasn’t until Sabrina heard Yuki gasp that she realized it was standing directly next to her instead of inside the fire.

“You,” it growled at her. “You called me here.”

Her head still fuzzy, Sabrina nodded at the creature next to her. “I did.”

“Why?”

“She told me to,” Sabrina said, pointing to Yuki. “I was looking for my soul mate.”

The creature bowed to Yuki, grabbed Sabrina and jumped back into the fire. Once they’d disappeared, Yuki begain screaming.

***

Sabrina lounged on a couch in her husbands workshop while he stood behind an easel. The dress she wore was chosen specifically to remind him of the color of the flames he’d come through to find her. “Will you let me see it when you’re done?” She asked him, knowing the answer.

“If you promise to hold still,” his voice rumbled through her, making her shiver. He’d been nearly naked when he’d come through the fire, having been called from a religious ceremony. His people were nature spirits, worshipped by the people who inhabited the area on the other side of the veil from where he lived. She’d seen him adorned in the very best finery when they’d married; a bejeweled and embroidered loin cloth, gold arm-bands, gold earrings and gold rings on his horns. She’d felt down right plain next to the sparkling creature who’d claimed her for his bride.

“What will you do if I wiggle?” She asked, teasing him.

“Make you stay there longer,” he answered, glancing at her and then back to his canvas.

“I’ll behave,” she smiled. “Have you found if there’s a way to send anything back through the veil?”

“I’ve made enquiries,” he said. “They have not borne fruit yet.”

“Well, if they ever do, I want to send one of your paintings to Yuki. She did, after all, predict I would marry an artist.”

Ok, so I’ve been reading a little too much manga lately. I hope everybody enjoyed this weeks story. If you’re so inclined, drop a little in the tip jar up at the right and do share this with your friends.

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Why do I write and what do I think I’m doing?

An unscheduled update? Le gaspeh!

Seriously, though, I went all contemplative tonight (hey, it’s not midnight yet!) and had to sit down and think this out and figured I’d share it.

Why do I write?

Because I do. Whether I’m doing it at the computer, with a pen and paper, running a role-playing game or making up stories in my head, I write. A lot. Almost constantly, actually, and I’ve been doing it forever. I have algebra notes from 15 years ago with the beginnings of an idea that will actually be coming out in novel form later this year. I have similar chemistry, physics and history notes, as well. I did well in those classes but I had trouble concentrating during the lectures so I wrote stories. My English classes inspired poetry, though I’m still not sure why.

I write because I have the ‘innate talent’ of somebody who reads a lot, and has done for as long as she can remember. I really, truly, don’t think it was something I was born with; more like, it was something I learned and internalized at a very young age because doing so entertained me. I think this may be why I had so much trouble with my grammar classes growing up; I knew the rules, I knew that they worked, who cared about the why? Well, obviously somebody cared.

 

What do I think I’m doing?

I think I’m pursuing my passion, my dream, of becoming a writer on my own terms. I’ve planned something like the career I’m in the process of carving out for myself since I was 16. After years of being told it was wrong, impractical, etc., the world has finally advanced enough to make my dream possible and I’m going after it with everything I’ve got. 

Why am I doing it this way? Well, to be honest, no matter how sweet, shy, introverted and agreeable I seem, I have a rebellious streak a mile wide and there ain’t nobody who’s going to tell me what to do. That’s not saying I don’t learn. I’ve spent the last 2 years (wow, 2 years? already?) learning everything I could about every facet of this business that I can without actually taking the plunge. I plan to self-publish just about everything I write (I may work with a small press for one specific series of books).

Yes, I have 2 short stories available on Amazon. They’re up because some friends were lamenting that the stories I’d written were no longer available because the forum I’d written them on was changed and everything was lost. I was learning how the whole process of self-publishing works so I used them as experiments to make sure I could do it right. You know what? I learned a lot. I also gave copies to everybody who asked for one. I’ll be offering eARC’s of my next few projects, too, just because I can.

Am I an expert on this? Oh heck, no. But I’ve learned a lot and I can do math. 

 

I have big dreams and I plan to keep sharing them with everybody who keeps reading. I know not everything I post is to everybody’s taste but I will keep posting and, I hope, develop a wider range of stories. (psst, it helps if you comment on stuff if you like it. I’ll write more of it!)

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Copper Visions: Chapter 1 – Bad First Day

original photo courtesy of http://rockstocks.deviantart.com/

“Everybody has a bad first day at work sometimes, right?” Sophie said to herself as she walked down the street. “I mean, it’s not like I meant to do it. He’ll understand. He’ll help me, even if he’s mad at me, he’ll help me.” Sophie took a quick, worried look at her ankle to confirm the light was still the yellow-orange that meant she was safe.

As she knocked on the door for David’s apartment, she looked around her nervously. She was technically out of range of her own apartment, though only by a few inches. As long as she was in the open, she was safe. Thankfully, this street was one of the few known for being quiet in this part of town. It was genteel if worn down, on the edge of poverty but with enough pride to insist on respectability.
The silver man who opened the door did not look happy to see her. “Sophie,” he said. “What are you doing here?”

She gulped. “I’m in a bit of a mess, David, and I could use some help.”

His face was immobile while he studied her; dark blonde hair cut just below her ears, worn gray skirt, off-white shirt waist with the sleeves torn off to keep them from catching in the gears of her metal arms, a men’s gray vest for modesty and worn boots that had once been black. Of course, his face was usually immobile unless he was actively using it or trying to put the people around him at ease. David was a robot, an automaton built by a mad genius who had declared he knew the secret to creating life. Whether or not David was alive, he was certainly sentient and, as far as anybody could tell, free-willed.

“Come inside, Sophie,” he finally said, his face suddenly animated.

“Um, no, if it’s all the same,” she said. “I’d rather if you came with me to my rooms.”

“I can’t help you if I don’t know what the problem is and I would assume you don’t want to discuss it on my front stairs.”

“You’re right, I’d rather not discuss it out here but I can’t go inside your apartment, either.”

“Why?” His eyebrow raised with the question and he watched her grow increasingly more uncomfortable.
Sophie looked around and bared her ankle to him, showing the anklet with it’s yellow-orange light shining sickly at them.

“What is that?” David tilted his head to get a better look. From anybody else, the look would have been inappropriate but he was obviously more interested in the device than the appendage it was attached to.

“They gave it to me when I left the hospital. It’s got something to do with my arms, the doctor said.”

“What does it have to do with your arms?”

“They don’t work on their own. The doctor has to put some green stuff in a thing on my back so they’ll keep working. He says he needs to be able to find me when it’s time to put more of the green stuff in.”

“Why doesn’t he just make an appointment?” David asked?

“I don’t know, David,” Sophie said. “Everything was setup when I woke up from the surgery. They just told me if I got too far away from my rooms, the power-source for the light wouldn’t be stable and it would explode so can you please come with me?”

“You’ll tell me what happened on the way there?”

“Yes,” she hissed at him. “Please, David.”

“Very well,” David said. “Give me a moment to accompany you.”

She stood out like a sore thumb, waiting at the front stairs like this. As a guest, she should have been inside in his parlor. If she was a servant, she would have been let in to wait in the kitchens. Most people in this part of the city were more aware of each others business than the people in her part, even though they were only separated by a few streets. Commerce wasn’t allowed in this street, tradespeople and carts with deliveries being sent around to narrow alley’s behind the houses where everybody’s servants could see what was going on without appearing to be loitering. David was the only ‘person’ living in these apartments, which were actually more like a very narrow house than the rooms she was renting. He might have a woman come in to clean occasionally but she’d never seen anybody working here.

Sophie stood nervously on the stairs, waiting for him to re-emerge from his apartments. When he came out, he was wearing a long coat and a hat with a wide brim. While the disguise didn’t hide the fact that he was an automaton, it did obscure the most nonhuman of his facial features so people passing him casually in the street wouldn’t stare. He locked the door behind him and offered her his arm. Sophie was careful not to clank her metal arm against his and they set off back to her apartments.

“Tell me what happened,” David said, nodding a greeting to a man staring at them. People in the nicer part of the city always gawked when they saw him and Sophie wondered briefly why he insisted on living there.

“You know how it’s hard to find work for a girl like me,” she started. “What with the arms and all?”

David nodded that he understood.

“I don’t think it’s something the doc thought of when he decided to give me new arms after the accident. I mean, I have a little education what with the charity school all us girls had to go to on Sunday and all, them reformers saw to that. A half-day off and they rounded us up to go sit and learn. Only thing worth going for was they fed us ok. Well, I’d trade all that education for some arms, real ones, human ones, and make no mistake. Because no one will hire a girl with metal arms even if she can read and write and figure, specially not folks around here and I ain’t never lived nowhere else and couldn’t move now if I wanted to.”

“I’m aware of the prejudices of our neighbors,” David said. “That doesn’t explain why you’ve come asking me for help, and what you want help with.”

“I’m just explaining why I did it, right? When a bloke comes to me, offering me work, I’m not really in a position to say no, right?”

“I suppose that would be an accurate description of the situation.”

“So, when a bloke comes to me, dressed nice as you please, saying he’s heard of my predicament and offering to arrange meetings between me and well-heeled chaps what like a girl like me, what’s a girl to do?”

“Sophie, did you become a prostitute?”

“Not as such, no,” Sophie said, her shoulders bowing as much as they can with guilt. “Not as such. I was just supposed to be agreeable to the gentlemen. Listen to them talk, answer questions and such-like.

“I see,” David said. “And how many clients have you had?”

“This was the first one.”

“Was?”

“I, um, I sorta killed him.”

“Oh, Sophie.”

“It was an accident!” she said. “I made him some lunch to show him I could cook! He choked on a bite and I came around to help him and when I was trying to force it back up the way I saw the doctor’s showing in the hospital, I heard something crack and he stopped moving. He wasn’t breathin’ David!”

They walked along in silence for a block. They were closer together, some showing the faults in their foundations and beginning to lean across alleys to their neighbors. The people were packed closer together as well, leaning in to talk to their neighbors and watching the mechanical strangers in their midst. Some women made signs against the devil when they thought no one who would judge them was looking.

“So you have come to me for what, Sophie?”

“I can’t have a dead body in my apartment, David! And I can’t get out of here far enough to throw him in the river. “

“You’re asking me to help you get rid of a dead body.” David said, looking over at her worried face. “Why don’t you call the police?”

“What? And go to jail for an accident? He was a toff, David, I’m sure of it. Any coppers who’d come down here would arrest me just for spite, or an eye to a promotion if they’re smart. No way any of ’em would think it was an accident.”

If David was human he would have sighed. “I’ll have a look, Sophie, but I’m not certain getting rid of a dead body is the best idea.”
They turned down the street to her apartment and Sophie reached for the key to her door. Her appearance made less of an impression on her neighbors but they stared openly at him.

“If you were hoping to not make a scene, you might have called one of your human friends.”

“Don’t have any since the accident. Anyway, people round here don’t call the cops. They might answer questions if money’s involved but they’re just as like to give the wrong answers as not, just to be contrary.” Sophie led him to the door of the building she was rending rooms in then led him down the stairs to the cellar.

“The cellar, Sophie?”

“It’s cheaper than the attic. Besides, the doc’s told me to take it. Said it was good for my convalescence and the power for my ankle thing.”

She unlocked the door then stopped in shock a few feet into the front room. There was an unobstructed view of the dining room. Everything was exactly where she’d left it except for one thing; the dead body was missing.

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Copper Visions: Introduction

It’s here! I am so excited for this! I think I may have to go puke.

Ok, no, I didn’t but seriously, I’ve building up to this for months and I’m actually a little disappointed that I didn’t get this started back in February. That, however, is not important for today because today is the launch of Copper Visions!

Now, I just want to go over again how this is going to work.

I will be posting a chapter every Wednesday, starting today, for the next 25ish weeks. I’ll set up a page with links to all the chapters once we get going. I’m leaving comments on so people can give their input. If you catch a mistake, let me know! I do request a little suspension of disbelief because the whole point is to have a good time.

I hope everybody enjoys my Steampunk Fantasy and the experience that comes along with reading weekly installments. (Yes, I do plan on collecting the whole thing into a book at the end and releasing it as an ebook and, if there’s enough demand, a printed version.)

 

Update: Also! If anybody is inspired to draw, sketch, paint, etc. anything from this book, let me know! I would love to have a fan art page where I can link back to all the wonderful people who are inspired by my work.

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