Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Knights of the End Preview + Thanks

Being that tomorrow is the release of my first ever novel, I decided to make this post in celebration.

The Prologue:
Teddy MacIsaac stood atop the junkpile, victorious. In his hands shone a golden coin with a perfect circumference flashing against the afternoon sun. This was his treasure; this was what he would use to save the world.
The coin twinkled as he inspected both sides. No markings had been embedded on the flawless treasure. It fit perfectly in the palm of his hand. It spoke to him.
He was only a fourteen-year-old eighth grader, but Teddy knew greatness when he saw it. This was more than greatness. This was a gift from the heavens.
He climbed down the mountain of trash. His left arm shielded him from the light of the sun as he descended. His boots crunched into old Styrofoam and rotten food. He brushed himself off as he reached the trash strewn road at the bottom of the hill. Despite the shower he would undoubtedly need, his trek through the junkyard was still worth it. His nose would hate him forever, though.
It was almost unbelievable. The dreams had told him that unimaginable riches awaited him in the trash. He had searched that junkyard for over a year because of those dreams, and, in every moment he spent there, he knew he would find it. He never lost the faith.
Wind blew his strawberry blonde hair back. He brushed it clean.
He patted down his old green jacket to make sure no trash clung to him, and slid the coin into his pocket. Walking through the trash was worth it, even if he stunk like rotten milk and the taste of copper filled his mouth.
He removed his boots and put them into his backpack just like he did every day. There was nothing important in there, anyway. Just school books.
As he changed back into his red sneakers, a heat traveled through him and up his spine. Gooseflesh sprung up all over.
He stood up.
Theodore MacIsaac,” a voice spoke into his mind. “Press your hands together, and heed the call.”
Skepticism overtook him but momentarily. He knew the words. He didn’t know how he knew them, but they echoed through his mind like a Prayer of Devotion that old warriors chanted before they charged into battle. Visions of lonely nights he’d spent over the last year flashed through him, and the familiar voice soothed his fears. This was his chance. He wouldn’t waver now.
Teddy clasped the coin between his pressed together palms like a prayer or a stance in a martial arts movie. Heat shot into his hands and through his body.
“I beg you,” he said, “bestow on me the glory!”
A flash of light overtook existence. Nothing remained but dabs of black against a white canvas. He was gone and then he was back again within a second, standing alone in the junkyard.
He blinked. “What did I just do?”
Teddy checked himself over. His old blue jeans and black shirt were still there, as was the rest of him.
But the coin was gone.
“No. No, no, no, no!”
He patted his pockets. He searched the garbage covered road around him. The coin had vanished.
He debated putting on his boots again and going back out into the trash. It was getting late, but this was a treasure worth more than being grounded. He wouldn’t go home empty-handed. Not after finally learning the dreams were real.
“I think MacIsaac came out here,” Stieg Johns said.
“I thought I heard someone yelling over there.”
Teddy froze. They’d found him. He cocked his ears and listened for the voices again.
“What would he be doing in the junkyard, anyway? Do all you eighth grade losers have brain damage or something?”
Teddy followed the sounds of the voices south down the narrow path between junk piles. He circled around as they drew near, making sure to keep their view obscured of his presence. Sure enough, his first inclination was right. They rounded the bend, joking away with each other. Teddy recognized the group of five teenagers. They were led by Stieg Johns and Corey Hoffman.
“You just don’t know MacIsaac, Corey,” Stieg said, in his best suck-up voice. “I’ve known the loser for years. Never throws a punch, runs from everything, still plays make believe in the woods. Hanging out at a junkyard is the exact sort of thing he would do. Besides, the garbage guy in the truck outside said he spotted a short kid with blonde hair hanging out here almost all summer. Who else would it be?”
Stieg Johns wore a non-threatening bowl-cut hairdo, a thick jacket two sizes too big for his average size, and had the face of a horse. If he didn’t latch on to Hoffman’s gang, he would have been even lower on the food chain than Teddy was.
There was a time that Stieg Johns was Teddy’s friend. That was before seventh grade started. Things changed. Teddy didn’t put much stock in friends anymore. They all ended up like Stieg.
“He is a freak,” Hoffman said, gazing around the piles of waste. “Man, it reeks here. Can’t stand it. Let’s just get him tomorrow. I know a guy that can make this much easier.”
Hoffman was burly, most of which was fat. He wore a thick black jacket and perfectly stylized spiky hair to complete his appearance as a thug. He’d been held back a year, which was fairly obvious to anyone who spoke with him for more than three seconds. It didn’t change the fact that he was the second most feared kid at school. Corey Hoffman was no wuss.
Stieg shrugged. “If you say so.”
“I do, Johns. Just because freaks hang out here, doesn’t mean I’m gonna. I’ve got places to be. Now, shut up and let’s get out of here.”
Teddy didn’t stick around to watch them leave. He sprinted over to the fence by the exit while they were still talking. He knew this place too well by now.
Without pause, he scurried over the fence. As he landed on the other side, a pang of regret knocked into him.
He didn’t want to be like Stieg. He didn’t want to fall in line and hand over his life to the first fat thug that sneered at him. He wanted real friends, and he wanted to be needed.
Teddy wanted to be a hero. He wanted to save the world. He wanted to be the monster-slaying hero from all those games they played as kids. Evil rises, Good slays it. No matter where the monsters struck, and no matter who the innocent was, there would always be a hero to make things right. That is how the world works. That is how it is supposed to be.
Teddy was going to be that hero.
He leaned against the fence. His palms itched when he glared at them. He still stunk of sour milk. The whole situation was pathetic.
Teddy was no hero. He was still playing pretend.
And that wasn’t good enough anymore.
Finally, after wasting enough time, he decided to head home. His mom would kill him if he wasted anymore time.
The world was not what it had been when he was a kid. Was this the way things were supposed to be? Would it continue like this forever? A voice in the back of his head answered with one definitive statement.
Heat built up inside Teddy MacIsaac’s body. If he didn’t know better, it was like he was ready to explode.

If that is not enough of a taste, here is another excerpt:

From Chapter 1:

Teddy excused himself from the table. He ducked out into the hall and up the stairs before anyone said anything. Drums rolled in his head.
His legs were lead. Each step to his room grew heavier. He shouldered open his door.
The pillow on his bed was much too perfect. He was out in seconds.
Then he was awake.
“What is all this?” he asked into the endless wind.
He stood atop a dune of ash in the middle of endless night. Blackened wind blew under the sunless sky. The land before him was dead.
Only rolling dunes of black slag remained in this scorched world. No scent of maples, pines, or the sights of the tall redwoods remained. McLeod was gone.
He took several steps forward. The pain had vanished, but his weariness had not. He tasted the dust in the back of his throat. A sense of magnetism tugged him onward.
“Up ahead, Theodore MacIsaac.”
There was a history here. Long dead voices whispered their forgotten tales in the ashen breeze. Something like magic had once filled these lands. But now, only death remained.
A thread of inevitability ran through him. Was he seeing the past, or the future?
But, then, he spotted it. A narrow object peeked out at the top of a hill of ash thirty feet away. It glinted like metal. A pipe? No. It was something far cooler than that.
“A sword!” Teddy shouted.
He sprinted through the whistling wind of the dead world. Up ahead was the last light shining through it. A chorus of endless voices ran through his mind. They guided him onward. He reached the top of the ashen mound, excitement replacing weariness.
The sword stared back at him, plunged into the darkness of the cinders. The hilt was shining white, unlike the flame-licked blade. Its presence pierced the void with white heat. He knew what it was. The Red Sword, a blade of stained crimson red, was calling him forward.
“Theodore MacIsaac, are you ready to heed the call?”

Want to read the rest? Check back tomorrow!

I had a lot of help to get through this one. L. Jagi Lamplighter, my editor, was the most important in shaping this story up. Being that I wrote this in a NaNoWriMo, I edited it quite a bit, but somehow never took a scalpel to the prose.

That was a mistake.

Due to the insistence of my editor, I ended up rewriting from scratch, and using the help of several others (including my parents and my friend, Randy) to help me improve. I learned a lot from them and will be making sure my next work is better tempered before I send it to my editor. Thanks to all of you.

And thanks, Jagi. You really helped me shape this story up! I apologize for making it difficult on you.

Tovio Rogers did my cover. I quite liked his art and how it matched the visual design I had in mind when writing. Check out his art when you get the time. He's got quite a unique style to his work. Thanks, Tovio.

Dawn Witzke helped lay out the design for the text and print book cover. She did a great job. The speed in which she received my request and finished was remarkable. Thanks, Dawn.

Also, thanks to advice from Brian Niemeier, I enlisted the help of Polgarus Studio to format my story for print and e-book.

I would also like to offer additional thanks to both the aforementioned Mr. Niemeier and Declan Finn for both helping with my blurb, and for their general inspiration as independent writers. Thank you for showing me that there is only one rule in writing: please the readers. I hope I have followed through on that.

There are many other people I would like to thank, but that list is way too long. If you have ever chatted with me, linked to my blog, or just posted about your own love of stories, then I will also give you my gratitude.

And thanks to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer. I would certainly not be able to write this without Him.

Please be sure to check out Knights of the End when it releases tomorrow. December 1st is when we light the world on fire.

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