NaNoWriMo Reads: Day 2

During the month of November I will be reading through materials helpful to both budding and seasoned authors alike. We’ll be looking at reads to help with the craft, editing, and publication of writing, all with the aim of inspiring you this NaNoWriMo month. 

I know during the month of November, it’s crunch-time. It’s like training for a marathon, only this is the marathon. Together as writers we’re trying to run the race and the last thing we want to think about right now is craft. But sometimes in the middle of the race, one of the best things to think about is the craft, to inspire and uplift your creative spirit. Reading about storytelling as an art will give you some of the ideas and fuel that you need to push past the middle point.

This week’s read is Your First Novel by Ann Rittenburg, Laura Whitcomb, and Camille Goldin. With cut and dry simplicity, the authors lay out the guidelines to create a structure that your book will work perfectly for. Authors will appreciate learning about tension, character-building, and scene-crafting as they work their way through this NaNoWriMo. It’s really a great reminder of all the work that we can do when flipping through this book, as well as a pep-me-up which reminds writers that there will be plenty of time to inject humor, symbolism, and powerful stakes when going back over the novel. I really appreciate a good look at the work that I’m doing when viewed through the lens of writing to draft and writing to enlighten. It helps me to realize what I’m going to be doing in a couple of months and how if I can just finish NaNoWriMo 2018, I can get to the next fun part of the process.

This is a really informative read that doesn’t waste time on technical jargon and fancy ideas, cutting right to the heart of great writing. For those who at least want to consider their writing craft when getting through NaNoWriMo, this is the book to read.

“We must keep climbing higher, never fearing the step that is next. For our goal is within our grasp, just beyond our hopes and dreams.” Thomas M. Smith

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The Adventurer: A Fan Fiction Sequel – Pt. 14

Every Friday I will be publishing a portion of my fan fiction sequel to The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box. This is by no means endorsed by either the author of the novels nor the creators of the films. This is just a requested sequel as I picture it. Enjoy.

The barkeeper looked rather puzzled as she watched Mariah grab the bags and make to leave. Sacha gave the woman an apologetic look mixed with annoyance at Mariah’s submissive silence. She almost tried to lean over so she could say something; the big man’s pronouncement of, “Come, Sacha” made the girl turn pale and halt any activity in the woman’s direction.

Mariah could not say much that was reassuring as they walked out the door. The gun was still nudged rather uncomfortably in his back as fat drops of rain began to pour down.

To his left, Sacha gave him an uncertain look, but he just nodded tersely to her. It was better that they live than they argue with the man pointing a weapon at them.

“Step into the vehicle, if you would,” the huge man said with an almost cordial tone.

He didn’t have to convince them. Besides the fact that he was still pointing a weapon at Mariah’s back, it had begun to rain buckets of water. They were lucky they weren’t more soaked then they were, if they were being truly honest.

In the rain, the simple beauty of Ledbury appeared to smear. It was as if a rather fine painting had been doused in the bath or been touched by the dirty fingers of a curious child. Mariah could hardly make out the inn they had just left through the thick downfall. He felt a stab of pity for the horse pulling them. The pathetic creature tossed its head as it plowed through the rising river of water that lined both sides of the street.

Luckily, there seemed to be a deep gutter, for the cobblestones were not too deep engulfed in water.

Mariah pulled his head back in, feeling a raindrop tremble on his ear before sliding down his neck. It was icy cold. Sacha was shivering and like him she had only been in the rain for a few brief moments. The man sitting across from them was not wet at all though. Mariah didn’t see an umbrella about, which meant the man must have likely been nearby when he discovered they were in town; even to walk briskly in this downpour would result in your being thoroughly soaked.

He must have been waiting, the young man thought, eyeing the gun.

“Where are you taking us?” Mariah asked.

There was no reply given.

In the halting light that sometimes flashed through the vehicle, he exchanged a glance with Sacha. No answer did not seem to be a good omen. The carriage jostled as it hit water, almost sliding as it moved up the long lane. Once more, he pitied the animal pulling. The horse’s eyes rolled in his head as he paused for a moment, starting only when the carriage driver urged him on. The animal’s eyes were wide as he suddenly began to move.

They were practically flying down the street now and Mariah did not like the lurching feeling in his stomach as they slowed by only a marginal amount. The carriage turned the corner slower than it had previously, so as not to slide. This ride, which had turned much more dangerous in all respects, seemed to take too long, in Mariah’s opinion. The melting landscape of Ledbury flashed by so fast that he never even had the opportunity to try and mark where they were. He was lost.

The carriage finally drew to a halt in front of a home much like all the others. With a wave of the gun, the big man stepped out, indicating they follow. Mariah and Sacha did as he said, following him at an eager pace. The chocolate-colored door opened with little protest and they were ushered into the warm, if not cozy, entry hall.

“Tell him we’re here,” the big man said to the smaller manservant.

They did not exchange anything else as the tall man led the pair of young adults to the parlor.

Here, the room was furnished with dark wood and stiff-backed couches that looked as if they would make no one comfortable. Running along the back wall were numerous books of all size, each more beautifully bound than the last. The bust of Socrates looked on in approval from his perch on one of the shelves. The low table played host to a cold pot of tea and half-eaten tray of biscuits, though this was not the thing that grabbed

Mariah’s attention the most, once he’d seen it.

No, the thing that excited him above all was the figure draped across the second couch, curled underneath a blanket.

“Felix!”

His brother didn’t even wake, as Felix was prone to do when exhausted. He might have liked to choke his little brother if he wasn’t so glad to see him. The thirteen year old wasn’t even in bad shape. In fact, Mariah suspected that he was much more too cozy and filled with biscuits, to even be worried about his older brother.

“Felix!”

One eye popped open, then the next. With something of a sheepish grin, his brother sat up to look at him.

“What took you so long?” He quipped.

Mariah knocked him in the arm before pulling him into an embrace.

“That’s what older brothers are for.”

Over his shoulder, Mariah felt his brother wave a hand. A moment later, another set of arms enveloped them, as did a mop of wet hair. Felix jerked back instantly.

“Ugh! Why are you all wet!”

The two youths started to laugh as they looked down at themselves, talking over each other to try and explain the circumstances of their arrival. When they had finished their own jumbled answer, Felix told of how he had arrived.

The feeling of wanting to choke his brother returned with vehemence when Felix pronounced that he had run from school with every intention of getting to Ledbury. In fact, their brother’s tale was not unlike their own. He had used what little money he had for lunch money and bought the cheapest ticket to Ledbury. There he had come to the same inn, the only inn around it would seem, and asked for Will Charity. Shortly thereafter, the big man had arrived at the inn and escorted him the way he had Mariah and Sacha.

“And you’re completely all right?” Mariah asked.

Felix nodded cheerfully, wincing as Mariah struck him lightly.

“We had all of Scotland Yard looking for you! Do you know how worried we were?”

“No more than usual, I’m sure,” Felix laughed just as the big man entered the room once more.

“Mariah Mundi,” he called, motioning to the young adult.

Sacha and Felix remained behind as the young man was led out of the parlor and down a dark hall. The smell of fire crackling met Mariah’s ears, along with several smells as they paused before a door. The tall man knocked and then entered, ushering the youth in behind him. Outside the diamond-cut windows, the rain continued as hard as ever, though it didn’t seem quite so harsh in this room as it had being outside. The patter was almost pleasant as it was, mixed in with the sounds of a fireplace, papers shifting back and forth, and the incessant scratching of a pen against paper.

The office, for that was what it appeared to be, was highly cluttered. Multiple chests and wrapped parcels lay in stacks around the room, along with large bundles of paper, envelopes, and books layered precariously. As they came around these large stacks, Mariah spotted his host writing at the desk. He didn’t even look up as the big man set something on the desk before leaving Mariah standing awkwardly alone with this stranger.

Or at least, whom he thought was a stranger.

As said host finished scribbling, he looked up and for the first time this evening, Mariah felt reassured.

It was not Will Charity who looked back at him, but he knew this man nonetheless.

“Good evening.”

“Good evening, Professor.”

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NaNoWrMo Read: Day 1

During the month of November I will be reading through materials helpful to both budding and seasoned authors alike. We’ll be looking at reads to help with the craft, editing, and publication of writing, all with the aim of inspiring you this NaNoWriMo month. 

This week we’re discussing a book read written by Chris Baty, the founder of National Novel Writing month. If you’re still struggling to get your act together in tine to write a complete novel before the end of the month, this is a manual to help with that.

No Plot? No Problem! A Low Stress, High Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel In 30 Days is a comprehensive read that takes you from the earliest stages of the novel process to the finished product all under a tight time constraint. Chris Baty takes writers through each stage of the process, from the planning and outlining, to the actual writing process. He does an excellent job of giving you advice for each week of the NaNoWriMo month, detailing the difficulties that writers will face during that time. From the point of view of someone who has written a book in under thirty days, I think his advice is pretty spot on. He does an excellent job of really breaking down what the accelerated writing experience will be like for writers and sprinkles this read liberally with plenty of advice from others who have already been there.

As someone who has never participated in the official NaNoWriMo event before but has written books in under thirty days, I definitely found this book to be a great piece of advice, even having completed the challenge before. Beginning writers will definitely find this to be a useful guide as they work their way through NaNoWriMo.

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NaNoWriMo Announcement

That’s right, folks! This year, I will be participating in a NaNoWriMo, with every intention of turning this November’s novel into my first self-published digital novel by the beginning of next year.

That having been said, I will continue to post throughout the month of November. My Adventurer fan fiction will continue to be published throughout the month, though there will likely be a lag near the end of November to the beginning of December because I only wrote enough to last until the last week of November and no further. I apologize for any inconvenience.

Book reviews will be continuing, though those will be officially switching from Wednesdays to Tuesdays if you have not noticed the change already. While on NaNoWriMo I will be discussing some great books on writing, publishing, and marketing.

Lastly, I will be returning in December to jump right into holiday/Christmas themed reads, so stay tuned for that. I have a lot of exciting new books in mind for this year; keep a look out for those by coming back each week.

 

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Happy Halloween!

“This is Halloween, this is Halloween! Everybody make a scene!”

Have a pleasant evening and a spooktacular day…

 

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The Adventurer: A Fan Fiction Sequel – Pt. 13

Every Friday I will be publishing a portion of my fan fiction sequel to The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box. This is by no means endorsed by either the author of the novels nor the creators of the films. This is just a requested sequel as I picture it. Enjoy.

The train car stank of stale perfume and spilled liquor, but a seat was a seat and any seat that would take him closer to Felix was one he would gladly share, even if it was shared with twenty-three other passengers.

There was a rather long line of them on the benches that lined this car, most of the passengers having been too poor to purchase a ticket for a compartment. Several mothers and their numerous children clutched each other, eyes closed as the train rattled down the tracks to Ledbury. Just a few passengers down, a reedy man was paging through a large book while holding a canteen in the other. Here lay the source of the strong liquor smell, for almost every turn, the liquid within would brim over and spill onto the man’s coat. He didn’t even have to raise the canteen very far to his lips to drink; the momentum of the train did that for him.

In the middle, squished between two rather elderly couples, were Mariah and Sacha, looking extraordinarily out of place with their new clothes and clean shoes. Above their heads, the rack full of bags rattled noisily, causing the passengers below to flinch every few minutes. It sounded rickety enough to suspect the rack of breaking if jostled too much by the train movements. Mariah wished he had packed even lighter, given the way their cases were teetering over their heads, but there was not very far one could go before one was traveling with nothing at all.

Sacha’s bag was equally small, but like his and all the rest of the bags, it teetered rather precariously, swinging back and forth when the train began a long turn. Out the window, Mariah could see the faint lights of country estates spotting the darkening land. The sky was a burnt cobalt, tinged as it was with black. Already it would be nightfall, marking the fourth day without Felix.

Will would get him back, Mariah thought, with some semblance of confidence. He almost sounded like his brother, though he at least had some prior history to base his hopes off of. Even if the Bureau agent had been completely unable to find his parents, at least his brother could be located.

Or at least, he hoped he could.

As the train continued to shuffle along the track, Mariah cast a look around the car. Most of the passengers were content to sleep or at least attempt to, though he didn’t like the look of a particularly brutish man who was reading the newspaper. He wondered briefly if any of these travelers might have seen Felix or the persons who might have taken his brother. That is, if his brother was taken. He still wondered to himself what could have possibly happened that his brother disappeared like he did.

The compartment door opened rather suddenly with a noisy burst of wind that woke most if not all in the car. A conductor stepped through, pulling the heavy metal door shut behind him. Seeing the travelers staring at him, he grinned somewhat sheepishly.

“We are coming into Ledbury, ladies and gentlemen. Collect your bags if you would. We should be arriving any minute now.”

Any second was a better assessment. The train station, with its raised platform, was already greeting the train engine and rather quickly, the rest of the train as well. The passengers in their compartment were groaning about aching muscles and rubbing their backs as they pulled down bags, collected children, and prepared to depart. Sacha and Mariah’s bags rattled noisily as they came down from the rack, which still felt as if it would give out with any sense of pressure.

As the train ground to a halt with a jolt that sent many of the passengers swaying sideways, Mariah bent to look out the window. The brick platform was dark and the ticket office closed. It would appear Ledbury operated with one-way traffic. Not that it was much a surprise. It was merely a small trading town, far from the college-centered city of Oxford.

“Watch your steps, ladies and gentlemen! Watch your steps!” A conductor was shouting from the brick platform as he ticked something off of a sheet.

No doubt he was glad to see all of the travelers leave so the train could head to its final destination. The train passengers themselves looked especially eager to get off of the steaming vehicle and head wherever it was that they made for.

“Where to?” Sacha asked as Mariah pulled out a watch.

It was only six o clock, an early hour and the perfect time for supper. Already, the pit in his stomach from thinking about Felix had started growling in protest. He wouldn’t be able to worry about his brother much longer if he did not eat something.

“There’s likely an inn nearby,” Mariah said.

He tucked his watch away and picked up the bags before following Sacha down the steps through a brick archway that led out onto a rather ordinary street. Tall buildings of Elizabethean make lined each side of the street. The thatched roofs and white walls stood out stark against the lampposts that illuminated the drizzly night. It might have been beautiful if it weren’t wet. Rain would follow soon; they would need to be inside of a building if they were to avoid it.

Most of these thatched buildings were homes or businesses and a good portion of the street that they walked through now was merely tents and stands set up for a market, bare of all the goods that would likely be laid out in the morning for purchase. For now, the market was bare. In fact, the only sign that there had been any selling and buying going on at this location came from the food that littered the streets. Tomatoes were smashed in the gutter and there were many pieces of heavily trampled lettuce laying about. If Rishi had been here, the monkey would likely have gone scampering off in search of such a feast.

“Look there,” Sacha said, pointing to one of the thatched buildings.

He looked to see an inn, the lights still on.

The short “yard” before the door was accented by colorful flowers and a box of green tendrils, no doubt from some kind of growing vegetable. There was most certainly some sort of thing growing from it, but he never had enough time to make out what; Sacha was already stepping into the inn.

The bottom floor of the establishment was what looked to be a pub, lit gently by hanging lights. A man sitting in the corner was winding a hurdy-gurdy. From it came the tinny music that attempted to sound like a grand organ and always failed. Still, it was keeping the customers amused, at the very least.

They picked their way through the clutster of mostly empty tables to the counter where a small woman was attending to her task of wiping the counter down. She looked up as they approached, offering a rather congenial smile.

“How can I help you young folk?”

Mariah set down the bags so he could reach into his pocket and withdraw a photograph. Behind them, the hurdy-gurdy music continued to wind and wind, tinkling incessantly.

“Have you seen a boy like this?” Mariah asked, holding out the photograph. “He goes by the name of Felix Mundi.”

The woman studied the picture for several minutes, her brow furrowed as she appeared to think deeply. Sacha looked around the room as the door opened and a brisk chill blew through before the door was closed again and the warmth settled back in.

The woman at the counter smacked her lips together as she answered with a shrug. “Never seen ‘im. Sorry.”

Mariah and Sacha exchanged an exasperated glance.

“Anything else I can help you with?”

“Yes, do you have any rooms available?”

The door opened again and this time Sacha’s gaze didn’t tear from the door. She tapped Mariah’s arm as he spoke with the woman. He ignored Sacha’s poking until a deep voice interrupted his conversation.

“Mariah Mundi?”

It suddenly occured to the young man that the pub was extraordinarily silent. It had not been quite this silent before. Where had the hurdy-gurdy player gone? Mariah looked to see the man scuttling toward his corner to take up the box and begin to wind just as a shadow fell over the boy’s shoulder. He looked up to see a man of rather large build looking down at him with a smile that wasn’t particularly pleasant.

“Yes?” He tried to ignore the uneasy feeling in his chest.

“Would you and your lovely companion come with me please?”

Mariah hesitated. Sacha was looking at him, obviously waiting for him to say no, to stand his ground. So it was with some measure of shame, that once again Mariah’s tongue failed him. The entirety of the pub watched as he leaned down to grab bags and glanced at the girl with him. Sacha cast the man a wary eye, but Mariah followed without question.

After all, he wasn’t about to argue with a gun nudged in his back.

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Star Wars Reads: Comics and Graphic Novels

It’s October, which as long time readers might know, means that we’re reading all things Star Wars. Stay with us every week as we talk about the newest reads and the most entertaining stories from a galaxy far, far away…

Today we’re talking about the three periods of comic book history for the Star Wars universe. Our local library plays host to multiple volumes from the different periods of comic production and you guys can bet that I check out a huge chunk of these during the month of October.

The first era of Star Wars comics starts with Marvel’s officially licensed comic adaptation of the film, told in a six-issue series. It’s fun, colorful, and definitely endeared tons of readers to the as of that time, unreleased film. Interestingly enough, I’m not a huge fan of Howard Chaykin’s art, but I get a kick out of flipping through these just because the comics are such a huge part of what made Star Wars popular. This period of Star Wars comics was continued even after the film’s release, with dozens of issues spanning the years in-between the then titled Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. One thing you can tell by reading comics from this period is how much content was going to get thrown away once George Lucas continued the trilogy. Han and Leia have no romantic interest at all – in fact, Luke and Leia share far more romantic tension than the later films would imply – and the Rebellion’s adventures range from zany to exciting. These comics stay much in the same camp as the infamous holiday special of ’78, appealing to a younger audience rather than one more varied in age (as the Dark Horse and Marvel comics seem to).

Around the same time the prequel trilogy (PT) came out and the original trilogy (OT) were dubbed with episode names, Dark Horse Comics introduced a brand new line of Star Wars comics. Like their Marvel counterparts, they started with issues focusing on the OT timeline, but slowly moved away from this to reach into the past of Star Wars, moving further beyond even the time of the prequel trilogy. Dark Horse gave us a massive amount of lore to wade through, with comics focusing on the Sith, the Jedi forefathers, the Old Republic’s beginnings, and more. These comics were excellent in balancing the feel of everything we loved about Star Wars without dabbling too far off the deep end – though some could make the argument that the further off in the timeline we got from the original trilogy, the more fantastic the stories got. I, personally, really enjoy this time period. The Star Wars fandom greatly benefited from Dark Horse comics, since these were pretty much all Star Wars fans had to entertain themselves before Disney’s acquisition of the franchise in 2012.

This leads us into the final era of Star Wars comics, with the licensing rights returning to Marvel once more. These rights were definitely made use of as Marvel has since expanded on the OT universe with their aptly named Star Wars comics, the Vader series, Doctor Aphra issues, and many single issues focusing on characters both old and new. Fan favorites like Chewbacca, Lando, Han Solo, and Princess Leia all receive their own comics delving into their past and present adventures; newcomers like Finn and even Captain Phasma were also explored in the Phasma and Poe Dameron comics. These stories tend to focus less on the timelines before or after the Skywalker Saga, as the episodic films have come to be known, instead putting more time into filling the gaps between the movies. While I really enjoy these comics, it’s definitely a far cry from the more imaginative leaps into the unknown given to us by Dark Horse, though an exception to that is the Obi Wan and Anakin comic. This six issue series not only shows us the relationship between the thirteen year old Anakin and his master, but also demonstrates just how clever the cunning Palpatine is. Honestly, even if the second Marvel era doesn’t expand upon the universe quite as much, it perfectly captures the tone of the films and is so focused on character that it is enjoyable no matter what timeline the plot revolves around.

All in all, I think the most recent Star Wars eras have been my favorite thus far, but I’ll always return to Howard Chaykin’s comics when I want to be transported to that time long ago in a galaxy far, far away when I was just discovering Star Wars in all its magnificence.

Chime Time! What is your favorite Star Wars comic series and why?

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The Adventurer: A Fan Fiction Sequel – Pt. 12

Every Friday I will be publishing a portion of my fan fiction sequel to The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box. This is by no means endorsed by either the author of the novels nor the creators of the films. This is just a requested sequel as I picture it. Enjoy.

A gargoyle stared at him with beady stone eyes as Mariah scuttled nervously underneath its gaze towards the archway that led into St. James Academy for Boys. 

It was wrong, really, that his brother had to be sent here. After a lifetime spent with their Oxford professor parents, it was mere child’s play to attend this academy where the answers required to be a golden student were like basic knowledge to both of them. And besides all that, the teachers bore an uncanny resemblance to the gargoyles that guarded the school. 

He didn’t say this, of course, as he met with faculty member. Each one of the men and women seemed to have differing opinions of Felix and rather few of them were positive. His eagerness and enthusiasm were off-putting to so many of the teachers used to bored students that they were rather discomfited. And for those who did appreciate his eagerness, they rather loathed the fact that Felix knew most of what they taught. It was the history professor who was the most annoyed when Mariah approached him. The doddering old man was several times shorter than Mariah; his balding head was rather desperately covered up with what appeared to be the ugliest hat he had ever seen. 

“Your brother seemed to think he knew all the answers,” the professor said. 

He gave Mariah a look, as if he was trying to exchange a knowing smile. 

Mariah did not return it. 

The man’s grin faltered as he snapped up a pile of books, turning to scrub the chalkboard, then turning back again. 

“Young Mr. Mundi, if I can be frank, thought himself wise,” the teacher said, trotting speedily towards the door. “In this city, it is hardly the best course of thought for a boy.” 

Mariah did not ask anymore of the history professor after that. 

It was not as if there wasn’t a measure of truth to what the gentleman said. In fact, if Mariah was being honest with himself, there was more than a grain of truth in it. His brother, much as he loved him, was forever thinking he knew better than others, even when those who were older might know best. 

He mused over these thoughts as he went striding through the courtyard, where several small clumps of boy were busy reading through a textbook, playing with a makeshift ball, or swapping stories that their mothers would surely disapprove of. Some of these youthful faces peeked over to see what the visitor was doing, but for the most part they kept to their own tasks, barely sparing a glance for the visitor. After all, what use did anyone hold unless he possessed sugar, exciting stories, or an early bell for class? 

St. James’ stony edifices seemed to entrap him as the day went on. One window became similar to the next and the classrooms, all of which were equally composed of a dark burnished wood that swallowed the light, seemed more like jail cells. He regretted sending Felix to this school a thousand times more, especially when he was forced to listen to the tail end of a particularly boring class. The boys who passed him by did not look very relieved though – no doubt because they had a class immediately following this one. With a grim swallow, Mariah entered to speak with the professor.

He met with several other teachers that day. There was the science teacher, who was fond of punctuating his sentences with rather long words that had absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter at hand and then the art teacher, who seemed particularly attached to his marble busts. He met with a geography teacher and two philosophy professors who seemed to disagree on almost every subject, except upon the one concerning Felix. Then they were both in utter agreement: neither knew where the boy might be. 

It was a rather exhausting sort of a day, given that no one gave him any answers that brought him closer to answering the most important question as to where his brother might be. 

The closest thing to an answer came as he left the school, glad to be out from under the gargoyles’ eyes. If he were ever to find Felix again, he’d like to apologize for sending him to this school. Of course, he himself was more eager to leave at the moment rather than dwell on the apology he might be fortunate enough to give. 

As he left, his shoes scuffing the worn stone beneath his feet, Mariah heard something that caused him to move faster. The school bell ran twice. He was nearly to the main archway, but it would seem his attempts to hurry were in vain, for almost as soon as he’d come ot the arch, a flood of boys promptly filled the corridor. They came seemingly from nowhere, laughing and chattering about something. He could hear chocolate drops being sucked rather noisily to his left and to his right several boys were experimenting with spitballs. He might be stuck against the wall for hours if he didn’t move fast; in the distance, he could already see a second wave of children coming from across the courtyard. 

With some difficulty, Mariah began to make his way towards the curb. He might have hailed a cab, save for the line of vehicles already being used to the utmost. If he hoped to leave at all, he would have to walk. 

Mariah turned to do so before he heard an irritatingly familiar voice call out his name. 

“Mariah Mundi?” 

He turned to see Harold Pearson, junior, standing by the iron fence to St. James. He looked as freshly pressed and comfortable as ever, despite the fact that he was standing to the side of a rather rowdy crowd of boys all eager to get as far away from their establishment of learning as possible. 

“What are you doing here?” He asked, taking Mariah’s hand in a polite handshake before letting it go just as quickly. 

“Looking for my brother,” was the equally short but polite answer. 

Harold Pearson nodded, motioning himself to a boy who looked to be of about Felix’s age. Like the young man motioning to him, the boy had blue eyes, a slightly crooked nose, and the puffed up chest of one who thought he was better than most. His black uniform was pressed as neatly as Harold’s and the collar just as whitely starched. It was a family trait, no doubt. 

The boy gave him a fleeting glance, as if assessing him. If Mariah were more sure, he’d say there was something calculating about the youth’s gaze, as if he was judging Mariah’s wealth or financial capacities. It was a look eerily similar to the one his father wore quite often. 

“Mariah Mundi, my brother, James Pearson.” Harold said. 

They shook, briefly. 

“I know you,” the boy said rather bluntly. “Your brother is Felix.” 

The way he said it made it clear that the younger Pearson knew his brother was missing and possibly even found it amusing. 

“Did you meet him?” Mariah asked carefully. He offered up one of his thinnest smiles to date. 

The boy just blinked at him with a rather perfectly arched brow. “Just before the incident. Have you read the papers this week?” 

It was such an odd question that Mariah found himself flummoxed by it. 

“Sorry?” 

The boy blinked. “Just something Felix mentioned. He said the papers were rather an informative pasttime.” 

Harold Pearson laughed uneasily, putting a hand on his little brother’s shoulder. “Enough chitchat, then. We’d best be off, James.” 

Handshakes were exchanged once more, as well as Harold Pearson’s repeated request that Mariah send his best regards to Sacha. Then the strange pair was off, with not so much as a backwards glance. 

Mariah watched their carriage pass by before turning back to look at the crowd of boys, which had thinned out so much that only a few stragglers remained. 

He stepped off the curb and crossed to the other side of the street, from which several businesses were still doing a rather brisk business. One, a print shop, smelled strongly of ink as Mariah passed it. He paused to peer at the glass display case full of books before it occurred to him to search here for the day’s newspaper. 

It did not take him long to ask the owner and be seated with a stack of about ten newspapers from the last five days. He would be paying for all of them if he wanted to read even one, but so long as it brought him closer to finding his brother, Mariah would pay. 

The first three held no news whatsoever, save to confirm that the same missing man ad was in the same spot as it usually was. The more he saw the man’s face, the more it tickled the back of his mind. Since his brother had pointed it out, he could not help but think of every instance in which he’d seen the agent. Still, it wasn’t any news that he hadn’t known. What exactly had the strange James Pearson meant? A better question, what had his brother meant? 

It was as he reached the eighth newspaper that he finally saw something to make him give pause. The headline read about a theft of an gentleman’s home in a nearby port town. Mariah’s eyes caught on the town, then drifted to the photograph. Standing before the tea shop in the foreground was a familiar figure. He even wore his top hat. This must be what Felix wanted him to see, for whatever reason. After all, this was the man who’d helped Mariah find his brother the first time. And this was where he was supposed to be. 

He practically ran the way back to their brick-front home. He passed by the same house-fronts as he’d always known, pausing when he’d reached the black gate that wrapped around the front of their diminutive yard space. 

Sacha was in the parlor when he burst in. Her wide eyes found his as he announced. 

“It’s Ledbury!” 

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Star Wars Reads: The Art Of…

It’s October, which as long time readers might know, means that we’re reading all things Star Wars. Stay with us every week as we talk about the newest reads and the most entertaining stories from a galaxy far, far away…

Maybe it’s a given, seeing as my father is a professional artist, but I grew up with a love for the illustrations behind my favorite film franchise as well as for the films themselves. It has therefore always been a known fact to me that Han Solo could have been a green-skinned alien, Obi-Wan the elder of the Qui-Gon/Kenobi duo, and that Luke Skywalker himself could have turned out very differently…This week, we’re discussing these interesting pieces of art and how each group of art has affected the look of the films.

First we’re starting off with the McQuarrie era. I like to call it that because this was the Star Wars decade in which the renowned artist’s work was most predominant – and rightly so. His illustrations, vibrant with color, and unique in vision, helped to create the look of the films that the world fell in love with over and over again. I particularly enjoy looking at his different versions of the main trio, Darth Vader, and even the droids. Anthony Daniels famously said that Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for the Threepio and Artoo characters helped convince him to accept the role. So thanks for that, Mr. McQuarrie!

Next comes what I dub the Chiang-Dermot era. It’s silly, but I remember the names of the art director and Dermot the most because I’m a fan of their particular concept pieces. To be fair, I enjoy all of the artwork from the prequel eras. It’s lush and rich, with colorful art that captures each location, character, and piece of machinery with vivid imagination. All the art from this period is so great and you can tell that love went into these films, no matter what you think of the prequels.

The last era is the Disney concept art. A lot of this concept art lacks in character and landscape development, but rises above in machinery and robot design. Seriously, K-2SO is a great design and the rest of the Imperial tech is just as marvelous. I enjoy looking at how the artists tried to bridge the gap between the prequel stories and the original trilogy. What I think is particularly interesting about this period of time is that the artists are not really consistent between films, although Doug Chiang continues to be a prevalent figure in the Star Wars universe. All in all, this is probably my least favorite period of the Star Wars universe in terms of art, but I still really enjoy looking through it.

What is your favorite period of Star Wars illustration? Do you have a favorite art book? And…would you have preferred to see Han Solo as a green-skinned alien?

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The Adventurer – A Fan Fiction Sequel Pt. 11

Every Friday I will be publishing a portion of my fan fiction sequel to The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box. This is by no means endorsed by either the author of the novels nor the creators of the films. This is just a requested sequel as I picture it. Enjoy.

Never before had Mariah felt anything but respect for an officer of the law. 

He did now.

As the authorities combed the area, investigating both the school and the surrounding city area, Mariah and Sacha made a full report at the constable’s office. The first thing they’d done was check the school, though the note she had brought back was from several teachers who already noted Felix’s absence from class. He’d disappeared at least halfway through the day, probably around the luncheon period, but that did not answer where he had gone. 

They’d alerted the police shortly after their first talk with the school board, though many had taken place after that. Felix had been gone almost a day and a half and they still had yet to speak with the constable so they could give him a full report. 

Not that the officer exactly filled Mariah with confidence. He hardly looked like he could find a pencil in his drawer, let alone a boy in the city, if Felix still was here. The head officer was a rather stodgy man getting on in age, but one wouldn’t think he had any worries over his job given the condescending smirk on his face. 

“And you say your father ran off shortly before your mother did?” He asked. His tone bordered on simpering.

“My mother and father disappeared over a year ago, reportedly found dead,” Mariah cut in. 

The officer’s pouchy expression only changed somewhat. “Ah. Bit of bad luck, that. I suppose that’s when your brother began to gather with a negligent crowd?” 

There was no polite response to that question. The constable continued as if he hadn’t noticed the awkward silence, asking questions all the while. Why was your brother unhappy? What kind of people did he trust? How often was he in the company of unscrupulous people? When did you let him out of the house? It was as if they were talking about a dog or some refugee from the law, not his younger brother. 

The last question the officer asked was the hardest of all to answer. “What was he doing a year ago? Where did he go to school?” 

Mariah did not speak as he felt Sacha’s hand slip into his and squeeze. Both of them – no, all of them – had promised they would never tell what had happened on the island. After all, who would believe them except the Bureau themselves?

The assault of questions continued as blithely on as ever, each one more insulting than the last. As what might have been the hundreth unanswered question went by, there came a knock at the door. The constable opened the door to allow a number of officers, all who had the same thing to say. Felix had not been spotted in the near vicinity, at least not that anyone could recollect. After all, Mariah’s brother was just one of many schoolboys in the area. To pick him out amongst hundreds would be near impossible. 

“A shame, that,” the man behind the desk said with what looked like the very opposite of a sorry smile. “Best keep an eye out for him. We’ll be doing the same.” 

With that, they were shunted out onto the street. There was nothing more to be said, nothing more to be done, not by the police at any rate. 

Something like a lump was welling up in Mariah’s throat and no vigorous coughing could get it out. Sacha had to call the cab for them to step into, though it took a while to get in due to the sudden stiffness in Mariah’s knees. Neither spoke on the ride home. Sacha still held Mariah’s hand, squeezing it every once in a while for good measure as he stared out the window. 

There was no way to know what had happend to his brother. He might have gone somewhere with purpose, he might have been kidnapped, he might have simply been trapped somewhere. Either way, Mariah had failed him once again. Once more, he sighed, remembering all too vividly how close he’d been to losing his brother permanently the last time Felix had gone missing.

That night, the evening meal was a small, sullen affair that was rather quietly attended to. Neither Mariah nor Sacha ate much and when the staff came to collect their plates, it was with something of a half-hearted joy. Normally they would have loved for there to be so much food left. Yet even the simple pleasures of taking supper were diminished due to Felix’s absence. No amount of delectable meal could avoid such a taint. 

When the meal was over, Mariah and Sacha did not retire to the parlor, as they might have usually. Even here, Felix’s absence was palpable. The staff doused the lights while their employers retired. 

Mariah couldn’t sleep. 

He watched the moonlight dance across the ceiling of his room, tattooing the plaster with ribbons of watery light. It was beautiful or it would have been had he been in any mood to enjoy it. He turned on his side, looking at the empty bed pushed against the other wall. His brother should have been asleep in it at this very minute, but he wasn’t. And he might never be again, depending on what had happened to him. 

Mariah turned the other way, hoping that if he just didn’t look at the bed, he might be able to avoid a sleepless night of guilt. 

It did not work.

 

 

 

 

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