seekers – part two

Posted: January 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

< < seekers – part one

I regretted it the minute I said it. But you can’t unsay things, right? The words were out there, floating in the air between us.

Dead kid.

“Let’s split up,” Pricey suggested. “I’ll head east. Thomas, west. Miles, split the difference.”

Thomas scowled. “Which way’s west?”

“Follow the moon, dummy.”

We split off. I had to follow Pricey to get around the pond.

Before we separated, he asked, “Do you think Aaron’s dead?”

I chewed my lip. “No.”

He stared me in the eyes for a second, reading me. “I really wish you brought the Dagger, Miles.” He veered away. I headed south towards the treeline.

I wasn’t wrong about the Dagger. It wasn’t a knife, but it sure as hell looked like one, especially up against someone’s throat. The rest of the guys could play off their objects as costume jewelry, but not me, not with the Dagger. In hindsight, I should’ve called it something more innocuous—the Tusk, or the Horn, maybe. But a name couldn’t change something. Not really.

I was the one that found Aaron that night. Pricey and Thomas let me keep that secret. As much as Thomas hated me, he went along with our round robin decision to fudge the specifics.

This next part is going to hurt.


 

Miles stares into his untouched coffee. He’d been quiet for awhile.

“The pavilion,” he finally says.

“What about it?” Julia asks.

He rotates his cup, staining a ring into the little brown napkin beneath it. “Why were we out there?”

Julia sighs. “It was the Fourth of July.”

He nods. “That’s right. The fireworks.”

“Miles?”

“Yeah?”

“Can we stay focused?” she demands. “What was in the Box?”

“Four objects,” he says. “We each took one.”

Julia shrugs. “Okay. What were they?”

Miles shrugs. “I don’t know exactly. They were all metal and stone. I thought they might be part of a suit of armor. Like from a knight?”

“Okay,” Julia sighs, “but what were they? Coins? Tools?”

Miles shakes his head. “One was a thin little rock with a worried hole—Pricey called it the Monocle. Thomas wore his on his wrist—the Gauntlet. Mine was the Dagger—”

“Which one did Aaron take?”

“The Helmet.” His chin falls to his chest. “It was shaped like a bird.”

Julia takes a sip of coffee. “I’m just not getting it. What did they have to do with what happened?

Miles attempts a sentence three times before he speaks. “They…did stuff.”

Julia’s eyebrows knit together. “Stuff?”

“The Monocle could show you things—footprints, hidden passages—and the Gauntlet could make you invisible. The Helmet—”

“Hold on,” Julia says. “What do you mean make you invisible?

“Invisible,” Miles says. “I—I don’t know how else to say it. Transparent?”

Blood rushes to her face. She struggles to hold her calm. “Are you saying you found a bracelet that makes people disappear?”

“Well, just the person wearing it,” Miles says. “And the Helmet made you fly–made Aaron fly.”

“Okay,” she says, and nods. And nods. “You’re right. This was a bad idea.”

He looks shocked. “What?”

Julia stands. “The thing I can’t figure out is if you actually believe this, or if you’re just trying to blow me off.”

Now Miles stands. “Look, I told you this was complicated—”

“You’re sick, you know that?” she says softly. “And not because you think some trinkets gave your friends magical powers, but because I came looking for an answer I deserve.”

“Julia,” he says, “it’s the truth. This is the truth, okay?”

Her lip trembles. “Miles, we—” She stops. “You could’ve helped me. You’re just throwing this back in my face.”

“Jules—”

“I could’ve gone to the police,” she says. “But I came to you. And you’re lying to me.”

He looks hurt. Physically ill. “I’m not lying.”

“Goodbye, Miles,” she says.

“Julia.”

She turns to leave.

“Wait.”

She does.

Rubbing his temples, Miles sighs. “Just give me a minute.” He jerks a thumb towards the restroom.

Julia puts her hands on her hips. “Why? Did you bring the Invisible Bracelet to give me the slip?”

“One minute,” he said softly. “When I come back, I’ll tell you what happened.”

“The truth?” Julia says.

“The truth.”

He gets up from the table. The barista points him to the restroom near the back exit. For a second, Julia thinks he might bolt. When the door shuts behind him, she sits back down at the little table, running her hand over all the nicks and whorls on its surface.

What are you doing, Julia?

While he’s gone, she thinks about the night at the pavilion and hates herself for it.


 

Inside the men’s room, Miles stares at his reflection in the mirror. The surface is scratched, marred. He practices his words through the scratches and nicks.


 

“Well?”

Miles takes his seat again. “Aaron didn’t fall out of the tree house.”

“No shit.”

He looks down. “We dared him to climb the water tower. He made it to the top. But on the way back down—” His lower lip quivers. He looks at Julia.

She’s trembling, watching her coffee mug. She doesn’t blink for nearly a minute.

Finally: “Okay.”

“I’m sorry, Julia.”

“Aren’t we all,” she replied, wiping beneath her eye with a shaky finger. She stood up. “I, uh—I have to go.”

Miles nodded. “Yeah.”

“Take care of yourself.”

“You too.”

The bells above the door clink as she leaves. Miles is alone again. Hidden in the city. And safe maybe.


 

When I  was on the other side of town, on the old Southtown overpass, watching cars zipping under me in the fading daylight, the Dagger turning over and over in my hands, I just kept thinking. About the summer. About us. About what we found in the Box.

The Monocle could make things visible, and the Gauntlet just the opposite. The Helmet–Aaron’s Helmet–could make a person fly. It was the most coveted of the items in the Box, but it wasn’t the most powerful.

The Dagger could make someone tell the truth. And it had, several times, all summer long. First, it made Adam Dansel admit he had a crush on Ali Martin. Eventually, it made Bobby Simmons confess to stealing a rare old stamp collection from the library.

And then there was Mr. Battersby. We were just messing with him. We didn’t know he was going to tell us about the little girl. Or where he buried her.

After that we hardly used the objects. Thomas said he wanted to trade, but I think he really just wanted all of them to himself. He would try to talk Aaron out of the Helmet, and sometimes it was more than talk. Aaron started to get paranoid. He was running out of hiding places.

It was a sickness the Dagger gave us. My dagger. It poisoned us, like a serum that forced us to grow up too fast. We fought constantly, always at each other’s throats like a litter of jackals.

So when I dropped the Dagger onto the bed of a truck heading out of town, I thought that was the end. I guess it was, in a way.

Like I said, I found Aaron that night. He was crumpled on the ground, like a scarecrow after a bad rain. I thought he was already gone. Part of me wished he was.

He was still conscious. Barely. Dark liquid ran from his nose and mouth. The Helmet was still on. I knelt beside him, making a halfhearted attempt to remove it.

“Miles?” he rasped.

“Yeah.”

“I fell.”

My vision blurred, burning with saltwater. “I know.”

His body tensed, racking with wet coughs. I wiped away at my face. “I’m gonna find Pricey. We’ll get you home—”

“No!” he cried, his eyes flying open. “Don’t go. Please don’t go, Miles. Please.”

“I’ll be right back—”

“Please don’t leave me.” His voice cracked. “I don’t want to be alone. Please, Miles.”

“Okay,” I sniffled. I didn’t know what to do. He was the toughest kid I ever met. Tough as nails. I’d never even seen him cry. “Aaron?”

“Yeah?”

I choked out, “I think it was me.”

“What was?”

“After our fight,” I whimpered. “I rode my bike to the edge of town, past the county line. I don’t know if I was running away or—I don’t know what I was doing. But I took the Dagger with me.”

More wet coughs. I held his hand.

“I think these things—they have a range on them,” I said. “I think they stop working if they get too far from each other.”

A long hiss of air escaped his lungs. “I shouldn’t…have yelled. I shouldn’t—” and then he was out of breath.

I gagged into my shoulder. “I lied, Aaron. I lied when I said the Dagger worked on me. All summer I’ve been lying.”

Beneath the skulllike features of the Helmet, behind the backswept wings and the snub beak, Aaron’s face pinched into a sob. Bloody tears pooled in the crevices. “I don’t want to die, Miles.”

I screamed for Pricey. Even Thomas. I screamed for anyone.

I’m not even sure any sound came out.

 

 

the end.

seekers – part one

Posted: January 18, 2016 in Uncategorized

We pushed our bikes as hard as the gears would allow. Sometimes my sneaker slipped from the pedal, peeling skin from my leg. My lungs burned. I was convinced no air was getting in, but somehow I was still alive.

It was night, sometime after dinner. That’s how we told time in the summer, right? After breakfast? Before lunch? The only measure of time that mattered.

Wind rushed past my ears, shrieking as we rode back behind Miller’s farm. I watched for wolves in the tall reeds that lined the trail. It was my worst fear.

Most nights, anyway. That night was different.

That night I couldn’t think of anything.

Pricey pedaled up beside me. The shortest of all of us, pumping twice as hard to keep up. It’s weird—I remember seeing his orange hair flashing behind him as he rode, but how could I in the dark? Must be my brain painting it in. Color by numbers.

Tears were running down his face. I wonder if I could see that too, or if it was just in his voice.“What do we do?”

“Just get there.”

“What if he’s hurt?’

More skin peeled off my shin. I was almost grateful for it. “Just keep going, Pricey.”

The trail—only a cow path, really—wound around a sharp bend. I had taken it hundreds of times, but never at full speed. I’d walk my bike through while the others whizzed past, calling me whatever was fashionable in the back of the bus that week. In my defense, I was a husky kid. Top heavy. The others were lean and streamlined, leather-tan from endless days in the sun. I was pasty white, the color of unbaked bread dough and about the same texture.

But I learned that night that I could take that turn without slowing down. My stomach lurched. I was thirteen maybe? Fourteen? Even then I knew this was going to hurt.

The trail ended at the woods. I don’t know who owned them—Miller? The state, maybe? But, for the summer, they were our fortress. Our sanctuary.

As the forest thickened, I probably slowed down. In my head, it was all too slow.

Not enough.

Once we reached the clearing, I could see the moon. Maybe it was out all night. Hiding here. Waiting for us. I could make out the two trees—the big one with our tree fort, and the smaller one we used as a bike rack. Between them was the pond.

Moonlight rippled across the surface of the water. If not for that, I might have missed the outline of Thomas standing near the edge, dismounting his bike.

Even though there was nothing left in my jelly legs and furnace lungs, I clenched my teeth and put on a burst of speed.

I’m sure it hurt. It should’ve hurt.

When I reached Thomas, Pricey was already screaming for me to stop. I’m sure he put it together as we pedaled. Or maybe the day we dug up the Box. He was a smart kid. Probably why he picked the Monocle.

Pricey’s wails tipped off Thomas. He turned around, his eyes pale orbs, ghostly white and watery. He put up his hands.

“Miles, wait, I—”

Three words. It’s all I let him say. I left the seat of my bike. For a moment, I was weightless. Then gravity kicked in and I began my task of pummeling Thomas in the face. I landed three hits before we met the ground. My pinky shattered on his bony forehead, right in the crook of his eyebrow. Pricey was still screaming, but it was just sound. White noise.

It wouldn’t stop me.


 

Julia sweeps across the dance floor, drink in hand, cocoa curls bouncing on the shoulders of her denim jacket. She didn’t mean to dress like it was 1986, but it was all her suitcase had in the way of proper nightclub attire. Her lipstick feels too thick, like it might melt and run down her neck. The music, a trancey techno beat, thumps in her chest. She loses track of which is the song and which is her heart.

She climbs two levels—four flights of stairs—before she finds him.

He’s alone, nodding his head to the comparatively mellow jazz. He blends in pretty well for having a good decade on most of the crowd. Amazing what a clean shave can do, she thinks. His hair isn’t long, but it’s messy, like he just woke up. Or like he never slept. He wears jeans that taper at the cuff and a blue plaid button-up, one button left open at the top. Two would be fashionable, but he’s too insecure for that. His face looks boyishly out of place.

Julia doesn’t go to him right away. Instead she finishes her drink and orders another from the bartender. She can still feel the warmth of the first drink sliding down her veins, whispering to her. Earlier, she decided to keep her wits about her, but now that she’s here, this close, she wonders why it matters. Maybe she could just disconnect now and wake up tomorrow with it done.

She watches the area around him, scanning for friends, acquaintances. Girlfriends. He nods at a few people, smirks at even fewer. No, he’s definitely alone. Waiting for somebody maybe?

She won’t do this with an audience.

Nobody shows, but his beer is nearly empty. Maybe his friends decided on another club. Maybe this beer was just a polite courtesy.

More stalling.

Now or never.

Now.

Julia moves toward him, practicing a smile somewhere between friendly and predatory. He notices her a couple times, but his eyes always flick away.

Finally: “What are you drinking?”

His gaze stretches to the far side of the room. “Beer.”

“What kind?”

He glances at the bottle. “Brown?”

Julia shakes her head. “You’re not making this very easy.”

He makes eye contact. He squints. “What is this exactly?”

“Just trying to buy you a drink.”

He smirks. “I—really I was just leaving. Any other time—”

Panicked, Julia rests her hand on his. “I think that would be a mistake.”

Another snicker. “Why’s that?”

Julia leans into him, putting her lips to his ear. “Because I think we should talk about what happened to my brother.”

He jerks his head back like he was stung. He stares at her. He sees what he was squinting at before. “Julia?”

Her lip twitches, the slightest of tells.

“Shit,” he says.

His muscles bunch. He’s going to run. She remembers him in a cast, pinky propped up like he was perpetually enjoying a proper tea. She presses just below his metacarpal.

He winces.

“Don’t,” she says.

He clears his throat, embarrassed. “What are you doing in LA?”

“I’m here to be an actress, Miles,” she says flatly. “What do you think I’m doing here?”

Miles looks at his beer again. There’s hardly anything worth finishing. Briefly, his eyes dart towards the exit.

Julia pushes his pinky knuckle again. His gaze whips back to her. “No charges were filed. You know that,” he tells her. “There was no crime—”

“No crime?” she interrupts. “My brother died in the woods with his friends and nobody ever talked about it again—and you say there’s no crime?”

“I didn’t do anything wrong!” he shouts, putting a hand on his chest. He gets quiet. “I—I didn’t do anything.”

Julia takes a deep breath. Center. “I’m…not saying that. It’s just Mom, Dad—nobody told me anything. Nobody talked about it. You know how hard that is? It’s been years, Miles. Decades.”

Miles chews on his lip.

“I just want some answers,” she told him. “I want to know what happened that night.”

Trumpets wail. The song comes back to their ears. Miles gives a hint of a nod. “Can we go somewhere else?”

“Of course,” she says. “Do you know a place? I’m a fish out of water here.”

“There’s a coffee shop down the block that’s open all night,” he says. “I’ll meet you there.”

“No.” Julia shakes her head. “We’ll walk.”

On the way, they speak only once.

“Do you remember the pavilion?”

“Do I remember it?” Julia says. “Yeah, I remember it.”

Miles looks away. “I mean—I meant when—”

Julia rolls her eyes. “I know what you meant, Miles. When we kissed.”

“Yeah,” he sighs. “That.”

They order two black coffees and Julia picks a table in the middle of the coffee shop—same distance from both exits. In the soft light, she sees that Miles is almost as pasty as an adult in California as he was as a kid in the Midwest. Leaner, yes, but still the same boy that she always saw in her driveway.

He swirls a stick around in the inky liquid. “So? Where should I begin?”

“At the beginning would be nice.”

He sighs. “It’s a little more complicated than that.”

“Why don’t you start with what you were doing out in Miller’s Woods?”

His shoulders slump. “Maybe we should start at the beginning.”

“Jesus Christ.” Julia rubs the bridge of her nose. “Look, why don’t we start with the other boys. Tell me about William.”

“William?” Miles asks.

“Priceman?” Julia tries.

“Oh,” Miles snorts. “Pricey.”

“Yeah, the little ginger kid,” Julia agrees. “What about him?”

“Pricey was a good kid. Super smart, kind of a conniver. He could get in and out of any gas station with pockets full of candy,” Miles reminisces. “He was the one that told us about the Box.”

“The Box?”

“That’s what we called it,” Miles says. “It was more like a chest.”

Julia squints. “Like a treasure chest?”

Miles frowns, the air rushing out of his nostrils. “This was a bad idea.”

Julia waves him off. “Okay. Put a pin in that. What about the other kid? Thomas?”

The name hits the space between them like a brick. Miles’ fingers twitch around his mug. “I hated Thomas.”


 

If my little finger hadn’t broke, I think I could’ve kept hitting Thomas forever. I wasn’t a fighter, but after three long months, Thomas had it coming.

Stunned by the pain in my hand, I let up. Thomas shoved me off, the same deadly sneer he usually wore returned to his face.

“You little shit,” he said, wiping at his lip. For giving him the beating of my lifetime, his face was relatively unscathed. No blood, just a little puffier.

“Cut it out, both of you,” Pricey said, getting between us. He turned on Thomas. “What are you doing out here?”

“Collecting his trophy,” I muttered.

“Fuck you,” Thomas spat.

“Stop,” Pricey said, barely above a whimper. “Please stop.”

Cradling my hand, I stared Thomas down. “You saw him fall?”

“Yeah.” Thomas nodded. “Didn’t you?”

I shook my head.

“Where were you?”

“Across town.”

“Uh-huh,” Thomas replied. “I stopped by his house. He didn’t come home for dinner.”

“You talked to his parents?” Pricey asked nervously.

“I talked to Julia,” he answered, then waited for what I would do next.

My broken finger screamed. Our trio was quiet, listening to the buzz of insects in the dark.

“We have to find him,” Pricey said. “Before his parents find out.”

“Find out what?” Thomas spat. “We don’t know anything—”

Pricey cut him off. “We all saw him fall, Thomas.”

“Almost all of us,” Thomas said coldly. My broken finger screamed, but I was willing to break it all over again.

“Enough with the pissing contest!” Pricey mustered. “We have to find Aaron. Now!”

“Okay,” Thomas told him. “Then try the Monocle.”

My cheek twitched.

Pricey went about checking his pockets. He always wore this little vest with endless zippers and compartments. Usually it didn’t take nearly as long for him to find it. Then again, we were all a little rusty with our objects.

Finally, Pricey produced the Monocle. He put it up to his face, so that his eye was nearly visible through the darkened lens. He turned, gazing around the clearing.

After a few seconds, he lowered the stone, confused.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

Pricey tapped the Monocle in his palm. “I don’t think it’s working.”

“What?” Thomas asked.“What do you mean?”

“I mean, it’s not working,” Pricey repeated. “I can’t see anything.”

“What’s that mean?” Thomas asked.

I shrugged. “Maybe—maybe Aaron’s not around here.”

“No, you guys don’t understand,” Pricey said. “I don’t see anything. There’s always something. Glowing footprints, or a streak of light—it shows you everything, not just what you’re looking for.”

“Well—” I began

Pricey turned to Thomas. “Try the Gauntlet.”

“How’s that going to find Aaron?” Thomas sneered.

“Just see if it works, Thomas,” Pricey groaned.

Thomas pulled up his striped sleeve to the elbow, revealing the Gauntlet. It wasn’t much bigger than a watch.

He clenched his fist. Nothing happened. He did it again, harder.

Nothing.

“Is it working?” Thomas said. “Can you still see me?”

“Yeah.”

“Something’s wrong.”

Thomas pointed at me. “Try yours.”

“I, uh—I didn’t bring it.”

Both of them stared at me incredulously. “Why wouldn’t you bring it?”

“Because,” I whispered.

“Because why?” Pricey pushed.

“You know why,” I hissed.

“Why didn’t you bring it, Miles?” Thomas asked, eyes narrowing.

“Because,” I shouted, “it looks like a knife! That’s why!”

“So?”

“So?” My skin crawled. Tingled. I hated Thomas. I hated him for making me spell it out. “Let me ask you something, Thomas—would you want to be out here with a knife when the cops find a dead kid?”

To be continued.

i want to believe in star wars

I wondered what would bring me back here to dust off the shelves of this blog. I should’ve known.

It’s always the Wars.

Newsflash: Star Wars is back. That’s right, it’s official: we now live in a day and age where it is cooler to say you love Star Wars than it is to pretend like you’ve never seen them. In fact, if you haven’t seen any Star Wars, well…does ‘social pariah’ mean anything to you?

It’s back, sure, but for some of us, it never left. Some of us have been reading the books religiously since 6th grade. Some of us never stopped collecting the action figures. Some of us actually LOVE the Prequels!

I mean, I was there at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim. Squinting from the back row to see the first trailer. Sobbing in the dark as the Millennium Falcon’s engine swelled to John William’s familiar score.

My friends were back. They were okay. The galaxy far, far away lived on, seemingly in real time.

But this new film is still a strange phenomenon to me. It’s something I never thought we’d get. Even with tickets purchased, it doesn’t seem real. Of course, the fairweather Star Wars fans are intoxicated by the epic geekiness of it all. And I admit, it is a hoot to see a Chewbacca t-shirt in the main display of every store. Star Wars is fashionable! But for the true fans, the ones that have carried the Wars in our hearts since day one, it is a little scary. Tomorrow at midnight (or 7:30 p.m. in my case) everything changes. Whatever we believed happened to Luke, Leia, and Han is about to be confirmed. Or denied. Or obliterated like Alderaan (too soon?).

And, yet, I’ve been very Zen about this whole thing. Very Yoda, maybe. Why? I’ve wondered this for awhile. Is it because my childlike excitement has burned out? Has the little bright-eyed kid in me that believes in space magic gone? Or did he just grow up and make real friends.

Or maybe tomorrow, nothing changes. Even if The Force Awakens is a pile of garbage, it won’t change what the original movies mean to me. It won’t stop me from throwing in Return of the Jedi when I’ve had a rough day, or calling my friends scruffy-looking nerfherders. It won’t make me forget that in middle school whenever I was feeling lonely or broken, reading a Star Wars book made me believe in miracles. Made me forget about the odds (never tell me them!).

Just because something new comes along, it doesn’t have to change how you felt about what came before. Star Wars, or whatever, will always be there for you.

Before I blast into hyperspace, I’ll leave you with this little gem, written by one of my favorite bloggers. You can find her back catalog here, and she’ll soon be starting her new blogging venture. Here’s how she feels about the new movie in the inaugural installment of…

Burch Please!

Written by Elizabeth Burch

11800202_10101496919573531_1452708863771474875_nA long time ago in a galaxy (er, state I guess?) far far away I waited in line at for hours to buy the final Harry Potter book. It was a big event at the bookstore–face painting, sorting hat, swag, the whole deal. I bought a wand and several novelty t-shirts in addition to the book I’d preordered. I’d grown up with these books. The characters were family to me. I hate crowds and merriment, so there isn’t much I’d wait in a big group for, but that book was one of them. So, as luck would have it, I got the book and then had to go to work. Like, an hour later, then my other job after that, then teaching some kid’s class after that. I was booked solid for a good 48 hours after the book had been released. Can you imagine the torture?

Torture is actually an understatement. It’s not so much the waiting part. It’s just this one teeny-tiny flaw that I have as a human being. I HATE being left out. Hate it. Can’t handle it. I can only imagine how much worse that situation would be now, when spoilers and reviews and funny promo videos are bombard us everywhere we turn.

Oh Wait, I don’t need to imagine it. It’s happening again. I’m reliving my nightmare. I, Elizabeth Burch, lifelong fangirl, will not be able to see the new Star Wars right away. Like not even close. Not for like a week. And I hate premieres, I hate midnight showings, I hate all that. I always see the new franchise movies at the earliest Saturday showing by myself, with a giant tub of buttered popcorn. It’s bliss. But once again I have employment that is requiring me to show up and do my job in order to get paid, so I’m out for quite a while. I doubt very much that the collective internet will agree to just be cool and not say anything until I have a chance to see the film, but maybe it doesn’t hurt to ask? Fine. Whatever.

I’ll be the orphaned kid in a Dickens novel, lonely and cold, watching people have fun through the window, waiting for someone to let me in. I’ll watch all the trailers over and over and feel my throat tighten and the tears sting my eyes when the classic theme music plays. I’ll dream of joining in a lively conversation wherein the whole group debates what we loved/hated about the film. I’ll dream of stabbing my facebook friends in the face who post spoilers to their feeds. So have fun, assholes. I’m not bitter, and I hope you all have a great time without me.

Did I mention I hate being left out?

sketch_of_protagonist_wyrmwood_falls_instagram_mikelandrews

where i’m at

I have to write another book. My writing career has been a roller coaster lately. An existential tornado of Should I-Shouldn’t I? Give it up or give it my all? That’s the question. I don’t want to give it up just yet, so I’m trying a new angle. For Coming of Mage, I crowdfunded my first wave of books *insert endless wave of thank-you’s here* It was almost like a preorder. But, as it turns out, there’s a site that streamlines this process and it’s super cool.

It’s called Inkshares and frankly it’s pretty awesome. And by awesome, I mean genius. Here’s the rundown:

  1. Start with an idea, a 20-word pitch of your book.
  2. Get some followers and take it sitewide.
  3. Add excerpts, sample chapters, and a book cover.
  4. Crowdfund that badboy!
  5. Become a famous author.

That’s it! Easy, right? Okay, that last part might be a little tougher than expected. But The Nerdist is running a contest for any project launched between August 15th and the end of September. Books chosen by The Nerdist will get–among other perks–notoriety from their website and social media. That’s basically free marketing, people. To my target audience, no less.

Was I a little skeptical about all this? Sure. But once I signed up for the site, explored some pitches, and ordered a novel, I was hooked. The book I ordered is Abomination by Gary Whitta, a well-known screenwriter that wanted to try his hand at writing. The story is amazing and the book itself is a really high-quality binding.

So I tested the waters with a few ideas that have been floating around my head. But yesterday, I’m reading Abomination, and I think Why am I trying to come up with a new book idea when I’ve been sitting on one for years?!

notes_on_dragon_book_wyrmwood_fallsAs some of you know–but most probably don’t–I’ve had this “dragon thing” on the back burner for years. Before Coming of Mage, before the North Shore–before this blog even! It’s a pretty unique paranormal fantasy that I’ve been trying to shoehorn into a Young Adult novel. I even tried submitting the partial manuscript to a YA publisher via an Open Door Submission event for agentless authors (ie-me). Sadly, the publisher closed its doors permanently. I was stuck with a partially complete manuscript and a bit of a broken heart.

But one thing that submission contest did was give me purpose. Focus. I cranked out more words in a couple months than I had in years combined. It felt great. I want that purpose again, that drive.

After all, it’s hard to do homework without a due date.

the story so far

My working title is Wyrmwood Falls. The story itself is kind of a mystery, so without giving too much away, the book follows the lives of four college freshmen: Isaac, Mira, Ben, and Cait. Isaac is running from past ghosts, literally and figuratively. Mira is trying to reconnect with her mysteriously aloof brother. Ben is having troubling partying and chasing girls with the threat of military academy so close. And Cait is just trying to fit in with her new “extracurricular club,” but unfortunately she’s been tasked with a mission that borders on black-ops. Through a series of entangling events, each of them crosses paths with not only each other, but a pair of secret societies on the verge of war. Like all my best work, magic, dragons, and swords play a big role as the puzzle pieces fall into place. But this one also has the backdrop of college nostalgia and the atmosphere of a psychological thriller.

The beauty of getting this work published through Inkshares is that I wouldn’t have to focus on the shoehorning. I can write the story I want. Tell the tale that’s in my head.

what you can do

I really hope for everyone’s support as I embark on this adventure, if not monetarily than by word of mouth. Sharing and word-of-mouth is going to be a huge part of this. You guys know the drill.

For the first wave, I would really appreciate some follows on my idea. The more “likes” I get, the more Wyrmwood Falls is promoted around the website, and thus the more followers and feedback I’ll get in return. So, if you have a minute, check out my idea here, sign into Inkshares (using Facebook and Twitter makes registration super easy), and give me a follow.

screen_capture_of_inkshares_idea

My idea notwithstanding, the site is super cool. Clicking through the ideas gets addicting–and you can even get credit towards purchasing/pre-ordering just by being active. (I racked up $25 in my first day alone!)

Look, it’s a long road ahead. I get it. But I can’t give up. I hope you’ll join me on this journey. If not for me, then for the story. This tale is epic. I see it as a trilogy. In fact, forget about me entirely. Do this for Isaac. And Ben. And Mira. And Cait. Do this for the want of a good story. Do this to fill that gap in storytelling that we’ve all been missing.

In a world where every book seems to follow the Twilight equation, isn’t it about time we got some f***ing dragons?!

So why all this game design stuff lately?

 

Little more than a year ago, I purchased Forbidden Island at a game shop. Why? I don’t know. I was in a geeky mood, I was comfortable with the price range, seemed simple enough to play, the packaging looked like metal heaven…

forbidden island designed by matt leacock

This was my first tabletop game purchase. I know it’s not Dungeons and Dragons or anything, but it was the first time I bought an “in-depth” game. You know, with strategy and figurines and stuff. Before that, my purchases were strictly Connect Four. I really like me some Connect Four.

I wasn’t sure if I bought a dud, to be honest. I just new I could afford it. Luckily, it turned out to be one of the greatest games ever. A story of adventure on a doomed island, complete with treasures, exotic locales, and approximately a billion ways to lose. But in a good way.

Look at that. I just used the word story to describe a board game. But Forbidden Island had everything I was looking for in a great tale. And then I started thinking about all the stories I had written, and how those would play out as games.

It was about that time I received the latest issue of Game Informer in the mail. This particular issue had an interview with four indie game designers. Yes, it was mostly geared towards video games, but one of the designers said something that really resonated with me.

Whether it’s a video game, board game, or card game you’re working on–just finish it. Make it and finish it.

Or something to that effect. I drank in every word of that interview. That night, between waiting tables, I outlined my first card game. The next day I made index card mockups of all the cards. I spent the next several days making designs and learning Photoshop.

A couple weeks later, Darwin’s Moths arrived at my door in all its glossy, laminated glory.

mothsmoths prototype

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cardback 2 wood card border_final

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I dunno. Maybe I was in need of a new passion. Maybe I was just bored. But somehow designing games just clicked. I wanted to do it. They say writers write to fill a gap in literature, because something they would want to read is missing. I think that holds true with designing games. Especially true. Because there’s a lot of wiggle room for skill and strategy. For example, I love the depth of story involved in Magic the Gathering, but a lot of it is so daunting and overwhelming, I rarely bring myself to seek out a match. Also $$$$$$$$.

So there must be some layer between casual board game and deck-building super strategy roleplay. And I want to find it. Granted Moths might be looking like a one-hit wonder at the moment. But between Gen Con updates and my buddy Kickstarting his tabletop game about superheroes, the spark is coming back.

In fact…

Prototyping a New board game

It has begun.

 

Oh man. 4th of July kicked my butt. I hope all the mosquitoes enjoyed the Bacardi 151 they sucked out of my veins.

This was the first weekend in awhile that I didn’t have anything to do but enjoy Independence Day in all its nostalgic Americana glory. But between jetsetting around my old stomping grounds, it wasn’t the most relaxing vacation. The food and drink was merry, don’t get me wrong, and the company was awesome, but I’m going to be in Yawnsville for awhile.

But this shouldn’t drain too much of my creative juices. Hopefully.

As of today I was (double!) nominated for a Liebster Award. Sort of a blog chain letter–but in a good way. The best way, really, because it allows me to talk about myself. So I’ll answer the 11 questions that Kory Shrum asked in her awesome, tear-jerky post, and THEN I’ll answer Angela Roquet’s 11 and THEN I’ll pose some of my own! Hopefully I’ll be able to think of 11 bloggers to tag by then. Anyway, here goes!

Shrum’s Questions

1. What fictional character do you want as your best friend?
My gut reaction was Caine, from Matthew Stover’s Heroes Die series. He’s just an all-around badass that is endlessly loyal to his friends and family. However, he’s more than a little threatening so I might end up screening his phone calls on an occasion or two. If we’re talking casual hangout, then I’d have to go with my all-time favorite literary little brother, Charles Wallace from A Wrinkle in Time.

2. When you are writing/blogging, do you have to have a snack? If yes, what?

If yes? If? Who answered ‘no’ to this, honestly? Hells yes, I have to have a snack. Do I always have access to one? No. But if I have my choice it’s the epic combo of a Fika coffee (Cajamarca, Peru Blend) and a S’mores Bar from the Cook County Co-op. That’s truly heaven. In a pinch I’ll take any old coffee and a scone.

smores bar and fika coffee from cook county whole foods coop, writing snack, mikel andrews3. What is your first memory of writing/blogging?

I don’t know where this actually fits in the chronology of my career, but I remember I had this pet Monarch butterfly that I raised from a caterpillar. I named him(?) Buttercup and I told the story of his life and how he came back to visit me every summer. I realize now that was impossible, but it made me want to write about impossible things.

It’s been robots and wizards ever since.

4. Who has been your biggest fan so far?

Been a lot of supportive writers and readers along the way, but I think as far as sheer enjoyment of my work, that award would have to go to the elusive A.S. Hooghkirk because I know for a fact that he’s the only person that read Coming of Mage twice!

5. If you could have one super power what would it be?

Of all the cool powers I’ve heard of (and thought of) over the years, I think I have to go with healing powers or immunity to all disease. I’m too much of a hypochondriac to pick anything else. Plus, the extra work I could get down without being crippled by fear would be exponential.

6. What “gets you in the mood” to write/blog?

It’s usually a good story, but lately it has been a good movie or TV show. When I see something on film that moves me, I want to be able to do that with literature. Take back the original storytelling medium from that show-off Television!

Writing a blog though? Usually a weekend where I’m not working. My life is so boring that even the slightest upset in routine seems to be worth blogging about.

7. What book has been most influential to you and your writing/blogging?

A Wrinkle in Time definitely kickstarted my writing at a young age. But the writing I strive to emulate is the seemingly effortless, lyrical, soothing styles of Joe Meno‘s Hairstyles of the Damned.

8. What job would you HATE to have?

This answer would have been easier to answer a month ago when I was more gainfully employed. Now I’m less picky. I think probably a civil defender? A lawyer that doesn’t get to choose the cases. Having to defend a clear-cut criminal terrifies me.

9. Do you want to be a rich, famous, or admired? (Only 1 and why?) 

Oh boy. See previous answer. I’m going to have to go with rich at the moment. When I have a steady paycheck, we’ll go with admired. To quote Michael Scott:

Do I want to be feared or loved? Um…easy, both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.

10. How long have you been writing/blogging and how long do you think you’ll write/blog?

Blogging since 2010, writing since I could hold a pen. To the latter part: Ideally foreverish?

11. Tell us about your real or imaginary “happy” place.

My happy place is Grand Marais. I got some of my best writing done there and it’s the most beautiful, relaxing town in the entire world. That feels really weird to say because as of a month ago, it also became my “imaginary” happy place because I moved away. I try to picture it when I write now, but the constant flow of traffic and lack of mufflers outside my window is distracting.

 

Roquet’s Questions

1. Are you a stationary or traveling writer? Do you write in one preferred place or migrate around?

I’m pretty stationary. To ride the coat tails of Kory’s last question, when I was in GM, I frequented lots of spots with my laptop. But do I fly to Portland to to get some solitude? Nope. I do really want to do that Amtrak train residency thing. That would be amazing.

2. If you could be mentored by one writer/blogger who would it be and why?

Oh, boy. I think Karen Traviss is one of the hardest working writers around. She writes in a lot of existing universes and her tales are always top notch. She goes into these worlds with almost no recon on the characters and ends up understanding them better than authors that study them their whole lives. I’m talking mostly about her Star Wars work, but her Halo and Gears of War novels are outstanding too. I think I’d like to be taught her level of dedication and ability to humanize anyone and anything.

3. On a scale of 0 to SQUIRREL! how distracting do you find the internet when you’re writing?

About Squirrel.5

I barely got through these questions without social media-ing.

4. Do you ever enjoy writing with a partner or do you prefer typing solo?

Truthfully, I haven’t collabo’ed on a particular story. I would really like to, but one of the major reasons I haven’t pushed it is because I do like to fly solo on the byline. However, I’ve always wanted to do this Halloween thing….hint hint, wink wink….

5. When it comes to burning the midnight oil, what keeps you going? Tea, coffee, soda, Redbull, jumping jacks, heavy metal?

All of those, simultaneously.

Coffee really gets me going, but I don’t dare drink it in the evening. I do enjoy the taste of the blue Monster energy drink. But if it’s serious business, diet Rockstar is the only way to fly. For emergencies only though.

6. Do you have a comfort read? A book/blog you return to when you’re feeling down or just nostalgic?

I tend not to re-read things (mostly because I’m a wicked slow reader). The only book I’ve ever re-read is James and the Giant Peach. When I need a little inspiration, I thumb through the novelization of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I do keep a copy of Laurence Yep’s Dragon of the Lost Sea on my bookshelf. I haven’t re-read it (yet) but I know what’s inside, and it always unlocks my creative side.

7. Have you ever met someone famous you admired? If so, tell the story of how it happened.

Just a few months ago, I got to meet Jimmy Mac from Rebel Force Radio at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim. I’ve been listening to his amazingly professional podcast since 2010. It got me through some dismal days on the North Shore, and taught me a lesson in embracing my geekdom and giving it your all when it comes to podcasting. How it happened? I was totally starstruck (and buzzed from the cash bar) and my friends who hadn’t really listened to the show ended up doing all the talking. Still a great opportunity (and photo op).

8. When you pass on into the unknown, what do you think (or hope) will be the title of your biography?

What a Long Life Full of Pizza: The Mikel Andrews Story or The Father of Dragons

9. If your biography were to be turned into a documentary, who do you think would be cast to play you?

I’d like to think Chris Pratt, but I think it has to be Patton Oswalt. Actually he already played me in Young Adult, so there you go.

10. When it comes to books: physical, digital, or both?

Physical. I won’t pass on a great story because it’s digital, but I much prefer the heft of a good book.

11. Do you keep a writing/blogging schedule, or do you write when the mood hits you?

When the mood hits me. Although I try to make it hit the same time every week. ;)

Here are the rules I need to share:

– Answer the 11 interview questions
– In that post, link back to the person who awarded you.
– Choose 11 other bloggers to award, focusing on those with 200 followers or below.
– Link to those bloggers in your post, then go and leave them comments to share the good news!
– Be sure to ask them 11 original questions.

I Choose You:

Christine M. Butler

Sarvenaz Tash

Kelly Hashway

Matt Forbeck

Elizabeth Burch

D.H. Nevins

April Sopkin

Falen

Christian Schoon

Lizzie Smith Emerson

Eric Luke

To Answer:

1. Using five fictional (any medium) characters, assemble a dream team to go on a quest with:

2. Be honest. What is your level of expertise when it comes to entomology?

3. If you could only have one pizza for the rest of your life, what toppings would you choose?

4. What is the WORST idea for a story/book/movie/whatever you have ever had?

5. It’s time to write. What Artist Radio do you choose on Spotify/Pandora?

6. Ghosts, aliens, or wizards. Which makes a more compelling read? Which makes a more compelling WRITE?

7. What MOVIE gets you in the mood to write?

8. If you were forced to give up writing/blogging, what would you replace it with?

9. Which character of yours were you supposed to kill off but didn’t? (If you’re not a fiction writer: what fictional character death have you never gotten over?)

10. What’s your favorite personal blog post? The one that really didn’t feel like work to write. (Don’t forget a link!)

11. Favorite cartoon. I’m talking the writing/story is sooooo good you can’t even feel guilty about it.

 

Thanks, everybody, it’s been a great week! I’d like to thank the cast…the musical guest…Lorne…and thanks again to Kory and Angela for the tag! Mom, don’t wait up, I’m going to the after party!

stones throw

I’m back in the Great White Wet North for the weekend, a couple hours away from a shift at my old job.

Desperate times, desperate measures, yada, yada, yada.

It feels weird. Amazing, but weird.

I’ve been gone about 20 days which, in the world of social networks, is no time at all. The hugs have been polite, the excitement contained to a dull roar.

Mikel’s back. Shocker.

That’s kind of the way it is with the locals. People who live here, the ones in it for the long haul, treat people that move like a joke. A punchline. A 50s sitcom husband yelling at the wife’s taxi cab, “Oh, you’ll be back! Mark my words!” And, honestly, it wouldn’t be the first time, I boomeranged back to the welcoming arms of Grand Marais.

But it’s different this time. I can’t go back to my apartment and have a cup of coffee on the deck–the family that moved in the day we moved out might not take to kindly to that. And I had to circle around the downtown a few times to find a parking spot! Where I used to just shake my head at those minivans that drove by me 4 or 5 times, taking the tour, waiting for a spot to open up–today I was that schmuck.

A tourist. Non-residential.

Even though I know my way around the town, and despite bumping into someone I know at every place I’ve stopped, there’s still something…wrong. The town seems to know I’m not one of them anymore.

Yeah, it hurts. A beautiful sword with a sharp edge. But, to be fair, I chose to leave.

For today, for the moment anyway, I’m camouflaged: with my locally-roasted coffee and my fresh baked rhubarb crumble from the farmers market, holed up in my favorite writing spot, the town probably thinks all is as it should be. A familiar ache in its knee.

Just here while it rains.

Gone tomorrow.

it’s been one week

Posted: June 10, 2015 in life
Tags: , , , ,

…since I moved to the Burbs. It is not as cool as the Tom Hanks movie led me to believe. I have had zero wacky escapades with over-the-top neighbors and solved zero murders.

It’s also been about a week since I left the house. Is this a product of running out of money, or anxiety about traffic? Let me answer that with a question: why do those things have to be mutually exclusive?

Newsflash: I’m still unemployed. I haven’t lost hope entirely, but let’s just say my fingernails are getting mighty short. On the upside, I’m getting to fulfill my lifelong dream of doing nothing at all. Which gives me plenty of time to jack into Lynda training like it’s the Matrix and simultaneously work on my short story contest entry.

There have been a couple wins.

1) I found a natural foods co-op comfortably close to my new place. Not walking distance, like in Grand Marais, but close. I was actually cheering in the aisles. When you’re in a strange city after 5 years of smalltown North Shore living, you have no idea how good it is to see your favorite brand of low-sodium, organic chickpeas.

2) I got a few hard copies of Badass & the Beast delivered yesterday. So I got to do my favorite thing in the world, which is sitting down in a comfy chair and vainly read my own work.

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So other than being a pretentious asshole, I’ve spent my days sending out resumes and playing with my roommate’s dog. I’ve been out exploring. Found the closest watering hole and forced it to be ‘comfortably within walking distance.’ Today, I walked to Caribou Coffee and spent the last of my checking account on a Campfire Mocha. Totally worth it. What was I going to do with $8.49 anyway? Just kidding, it was slightly less than that.

Okay, so my funds dried up a little quicker than I imagined. I miss my friends on the North Shore. Yes, I said friends. The endless traffic outside my window is tougher to sleep through than crashing waves and seagulls. The temperature is not conducive to my epic hoodie collection. And establishing a routine has been next to impossible.

Maybe that’s a good thing. Ruts are for the birds.

All is not lost, but…I am gonna need a bigger win than organic chickpeas.

last day in grand marais

Posted: June 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

tumblr_ls5ia2yb601qb87bqo1_500 Here it is. My last day in Grand Marais. My belongings are waiting for me in the new townhouse. Or stuffed unceremoniously in my car. And I have one night to say goodbye to everyone and everything this town has given me. So here I sit, sipping an organic coconut water from the Co-op, trying to get my game face on, listening to the “Pop Chillout” station on Spotify, tearing up when Mumford and Sons plays, and recounting all the things I did and didn’t do.

The day so far has been a mellow one. For a guy notorious for moving solely for the going away party, it’s been a pretty somber affair. Started the day with my favorite snack: a smores bar and locally-roasted Fika Coffee.

smores bar

Had a gyro and a beer up on the roof of Sydney’s.

Swung by the local book store and signed a copy of Coming of Mage–even got it a spot on the summer promotional display.

mage solstice

Sat in the harbor, taking panorama shots of the sailboats between the lighthouses.

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Poked my head into all the little shoppes, knowing full well that even if I could afford another souvenir, it would split my little blue car at the seams.

I tasted the air. Chewed on my lip. Rubbed my eyes. Blamed it on allergies.

It’s not that I’ve never moved before. There’s been plenty of that. It’s that I’ve never left someplace I loved so much.

I think back to what brought me up there in the first place. It was about 5 years ago to the day actually. My Hollywood Video job was about 2 weeks expired. I had just finished up the mandatory class required to get unemployment. My lease was ending. All my stuff was packed. And even though I’d been telling people for weeks that “Yeah, my cousin’s working at a restaurant up north, so I’m going to go see if I can wait tables,” I still didn’t feel like I was moving. I’d been to Grand Marais briefly when I helped Wally and his family move. I remembered there was a gas station, and that it was cold. But I knew that I was going there. That there was no turning back. This was the path I’d chosen.

At first, it was a prison sentence. I lived in a frigid, cement basement. Most nights I would get just drunk enough that it wouldn’t bother me to scrape the spiders off the underside of my pillow. I served food in a busy, understaffed restaurant, pushing myself to the brink of a coronary day after day. I babysat. I stayed around the house for the most part. Waited for winter. I started this blog, and took this lonely picture out of the window in the living room:

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After a year, I figured out I was ready to bolt. I missed my friends. I missed Target. I thought I was ready to return to civilization. But I was wrong. And we all know how that turned out.*

*If you don’t remember the Fucklebees Saga, refer to my Facebook circa 2011.

So I came back to the North Shore and jumped in headfirst. I hiked, climbed, and did. And did. And did. And did. I stayed busy. I wrote a book. I wrote a lot. I embraced kale. I lost weight. I canceled my Netflix. I fell in love.

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah. Why I’m leaving.

Truthfully, I don’t know. There were reasons–are reasons. It’s just that today I can’t remember any of them, other than that I no longer have keys to my old apartment.

It’s not like when I left St. Cloud. I’ve tried to channel 2010 Mikel in the last few days, but he’s not there. This place changed him.

But I try to remember how scared I was. Broke, unemployed, banking everything on the idea that the unknown was better than the present.

It’ll be different this time. There will be more traffic, for starters.

However, as of this moment–this tiny pinpoint where everything and nothing can change–I still have tonight. One night to find solace in my favorite haunts. To see everything I’ve grown accustomed to through a wet, salty haze. To laugh. To remember. To say goodbye.

To never forget.

#onlyinMN

Posted: May 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

In a few minutes I’ll be heading to the Grand Marais Farmers Market. Just the thought lights me up like a Christmas tree. The fresh coffee, the baked goods–there’s this one lady who makes these, I don’t know…bars, I guess. They’re phenomenal–the birdhouses, the polished rocks, the crafts. I think if I’d have been scheduled to work today, I’d have quit my job.

A week early.

Yeah, I guess the cat’s out of the bag. I’m leaving the North Shore. Again. Why? Because it’s now or never. It’s truly now or never. I’m falling in love with this place, and it’s not the good love. It’s the “I feel so safe I never ever want to leave” type of love.

I mean, why do people leave anywhere, right? Greener pastures. The chance for your hopes and dreams to come true. The chance for adventure.

But for the last 5 years, I’ve had adventure. I’ve had more adventure than I could handle. I walked out my front door everyday into adventure.

Where am I going? Closer to the Cities. Not in the Cities, because that’s insanity, but closer. The job market’s looking good. The jobs I wanted to do didn’t even exist last time I was looking, so things are on the upswing. Economy. Family. Friends.

That’s the surface answer, right? The one you tell a stranger at cocktail parties. The truth is, I’m lonely. It’s extreme solitude up here. I used to want that more than anything. But now it feels like I’m hiding. Like I’m on the lamb, as the flatfoots might say. I’m not. I’m just a victim of the Grand Marais Bug. The endless lake that feels so much like an ocean, that when I finally visited the real ocean for the first time a month ago, I was like, “Yeah? And?” The bluffs and mountains that I drive through daily. The seemingly infinite rivers running off walls of red rock, trickling down and catching the sunlight. The foxes I see almost weekly. The look on out-of-towners’ faces–that jealousy–that I get to live here. Permavacation.

And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I’m not appreciating it as much as I should anymore.

But…I’m going to make it up to you, Grand Marais. I have one week. I’m going to explore every corner. Breathe deep at every stop. Drink in these last few moments as a resident. I’m going to put my phone down and just remember you the old fashioned way.

The town that saved me. The place that held my hand while I wrote my book. The spot on the map that I didn’t even know existed that made me remember what it was to be alive. I owe you one.

But first, coffee and some of those bar thingies.