The Prince of Endless, pt. 3

In Dillingham, a walled village a mile uphill from the boat dock, Marvella and Ibix enter the constable shack. A messenger is waiting for them, holding two sheets of parchment. Ibix, the boss, takes the parchment from the messenger, who calmly ducks out.

Ibix reads the first message while removing his sword belt. “Miss Tammy’s half-blind cat is stuck up the oak tree. Again.”

“Prepare the trumpets,” Marvella says.

Ibix hangs his sword belt with other weapons behind the simple desk. “And we have a pickpocket operating near the Black Dragon pub.”

“Probably the Simmons kid,” Marvella says. “I’ll go.”

At the door, she pauses. “What of this Prince of Endless business?”

“Endless is a hundred miles away. It’s not our affair.”

“Do you think they know?”

“If what that dying Ehara said is true, that must’ve happened last night. They certainly know.”

“And what of this Dirkennion fellow?”

Ibix, feeling tested, says, “Marvella, we can’t get involved. Later today, I’ll take some pubbies down to bury the Ehara. Okay? Now, go save that goddamned cat before Miss Tammy’s heart gives out!”

Marvella lifts her hands, conceding defeat.

Outside, she pauses, looking at pink flowers near the footpath. With a wry grin, she moves on.

A lone pink azalea bloom in October

~~~

Later, far uphill, Marvella comes to a stand set in a clearing. The wooden stand has a large, peculiar horn set on one post. Two brothers are playing catch near the stand. With a bare finger, Marvella’s touching a fresh claw mark on her cheek. In her hand, she holds muffins wrapped in a large, clean leaf.

A boy says, “Constable.” They both come over.

“Young squires,” she says. “I am in need of a griffin. Do you know of anyone brave enough to call for a loyal messenger, perhaps to be rewarded with a treat?”

The boys eye the muffins in her hand. “Aye, Ma’am. We can do it.”

“Very well.”

~~~

 

High above, soaring calmly below the Aviarinelle river, is a griffin. The creature turns its head at a shrill whistle, which is coming from Dillingham. It sounds a second time, and the griffin turns into a swooping descent.

~~~

 

In Greenhump, Dirkennion is helping to mend a fence. The workers pause when a griffin announces itself with a bark. It calmly lands in the field beside them. Dirkennion looks at it and says, “Misha, would you please see if the butcher has anything for our visitor?”

The man named Misha runs off. Dirkennion approaches the creature with calm movements. Attached to its front right leg is a leather thong with a rolled-up parchment. Dirkennion gently goes to the thong, unties the note and takes it. Misha returns with a chunk of meat, and sets it on the fence post while Dirkennion reads. The griffin barks and eats the meat.

“An urgent matter in Dillingham,” Dirkennion says.

 

to be continued…

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A Suspense Novel for the Ages

Okay, guilty: I’d love for someone to think so (and pen those words) about “Tempest Road.”

It’s possible. Maybe.

I could talk about the hours and hours and hours I’ve put into the research, the reading, the actual drafting, wending through pictures in various formats, etc. But I won’t, because that’s boring. All good writers have to do these things.

I will admit to, yes, wanting to write a deep, meaty adventure that grabs readers the way “Presumed Innocent” and “Absolute Power” and “Catch-22” grabbed me. I couldn’t put them down. I lived inside those colorful characters and absurdities and details and moments of violence and moments of even deeper, bewildering question. I wanted to write a book that, when people are finished, they’ll put it down, take a deep breath and say, “Damn.”

Yeah, I’d be good with that.

Justin Edison's Tempest Road covers features a jungle path with bullets, a black panther and a bloody knife in the title.

www.justinedisonnovels.com

An 8:23-a.m. Ramble

Lots of pain this morning. Bottoms of my feet, both sets of toes, left top of my foot (separate, somehow), knees aching, lower back disagreeable. This is ridiculous. I’m 42, I can’t be broken. Chalk the weight gain up to fatigue and pain (the eating beast self-perpetuates craftily) plus a liberal summer of milkshakes. Good thing I’m on my way to the gym, where sweat and pain are required. Then it will all be worth something.

I’m waiting on job news, both exciting and exhausting. Four phone chats. Five? Just give me entry-level work, for chrissakes. Foot in the door, turn the corner on my hole-ridden resume. I’ll work my way up. Delays in finding an afternoon nanny threaten to send me back to square one. I don’t like square one. I want responsibilities, adult interaction, a W-2. Kinda sick of hearing about the nobility and value in putting the kids (needs and schedules) first. Why can’t I put them tied for first while I work through a healthy hopper?

The house Wi-Fi took an inexplicable siesta yesterday. A little thing, first-world inconvenience, but the timing was excellent. Job research, Luanne’s paperwork, kids griping without reason to gripe. I need to get out of this house.

On Tuesday, I saw a heartbreaking moment. I’ll share that soon.

In the dark this morning, I revisited the sadness of ET. Would Elliott ever be okay? In real life, he’d be around 46, trying to explain loss to his own kids. I’m sure there’s a ton of manuals on the subject, and I’m sure most of them suck.

Tempest Road comes out in a few weeks. I want to celebrate it, share it with people, and then move on. I don’t want to entertain the fantasy of robust sales, this time. Hope can be a killer. The cover seems awesome to me–my idea, Greg Simanson’s work. I have about seven seconds to entice people with it. Seven seconds to pique a reader’s interest, because two thousand hours of sweat equity just looks like black type on white paper. And any fool can do that.

Sip the coffee, fill the water, get out to the gym. An essay on Sherman Alexie popped into mind, scrawled on the kitchen white board with my carbs-count and ‘gf’ for gluten-free days (wheat may not be hurting, but it certainly wasn’t helping!) and note to work on a friend’s website. At the bottom is a command, the way I imagine Mr. Alexie (ever the funny man) would put it: “Get a job, you bum.”

Swell.

What It Takes

While looking up a citation for Metallica’s “The Call of Ktulu” for Tempest Road, I learned that Ride the Lightning, their second album, cost $30,000 to make. In today’s dollars, thanks to www.calculator.net, that amounts to $72,359. Granted, that’s only studio time in Copenhagen and actual production costs for the record (and doesn’t account for the all-important sweat equity). Still, less than $75k for an album that went on to sell millions of copies and launched stardom.

Steven Spielberg’s brilliant adaptation of Peter Benchley’s Jaws was reportedly made for $6 million, with a quarter of that spent on the titular munch machine. It was over-budget, threatened to ruin many careers, and one scene (the sunken-boat thriller) had to be re-filmed in somebody’s swimming pool. The results? The film literally frightened people out of the theater and went on to gross a half-billion dollars.

I once read that the manuscript for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone for the U.S. market) was turned down by 31 agents around the United Kingdom. Yes, 31 people thought that book wouldn’t be “good enough” to represent.

Edge of a folded 5-dollar bill and CD on Justin Edison's bar

Not everything is about money, of course. We can define success in other ways–or we can watch our dreams be slaughtered from behind vice-tinted glasses. But success won’t happen–it won’t, it won’t, it won’t–if you don’t put in the sweat equity. The late nights, the pacing, the hair-pulling, the coffee or tea, the “honest opinion” solicitations (oh yes, lots of those). It counts.

My son’s immensely talented soccer coach (who would dismiss the idea that he’s brilliant) is fond of saying how “it’s all about the effort.” The individual skill and talent and strategy all take a backseat to the effort. Put in the hard work and dedication, and you’ve done your job.

The one thing Metallica, Spielberg and Rowling have in common (besides creativity) is the labor they poured into projects they believed in. All that sweat equity in the face of doubt.

After all, you never know what could happen.