Greetings to all! If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my Release Party today at Bitten By Books!! I’ll be there throughout the day to hang out and answer questions about Olde School. In celebration, I thought I’d do something a little different. So often, people ask me about the writing process for my novels. As you probably know, although writing can be a solitary business, an author does have to have some help…whether they want it or not.
Ladies and gents, meet my help. For those who haven’t read the book, Clyde does appear in Olde School, has gotten something of a small underground following thus far, and apparently has appointed himself as my Kingdom City muse. Lucky me. Look for more of these in the future, because fanficcing myself (is that even possible?) keep me sane, strangely enough.
Our adventure begins at some point in February, before SJ realized just what she’d gotten herself into writing about the “old tales”…
I’d already hit my alarm twice and thrown the clock across the room, determined to stay burrowed in my wad of blankets just a little bit longer. It had been a long night of editing, the kind of night that prompted me to text and freak out to my closest writer friends at three in the morning. You know the type: those who know what you’re going through and probably won’t think you’re going all overlord on them and block your number when you start crying about how your characters won’t do what you want. I hadn’t actually gotten my brain to shut up and let me sleep until much later than three in the morning, and I had nowhere to be, so there was no way some stupid, battery-operated alarm was going to oppose me.
“Milady, ‘tis time to be up and at your task.”
Besides all that, I’d been having the craziest dream that I wanted to get back to, one whose after-effects were apparently still in my head. I couldn’t quite remember what had been involved, but the sexiest male voice I’d heard in a long while still reverberated in my mind. I had such a thing about voices that it would be a shame to actually wake up and lose the moment. Smiling, I burrowed deeper in my nest of four thousand pillows and tried to recapture the dream before my brain lost it for good.
I wasn’t used to my brain going all historical on me, but it was the Downton Abbey time of year, so whatever. I didn’t care as long as I could get back to that dream voice.
Almost. So close. If I could just relax a little more maybe I could get the image to go with the deep voice that held just enough of an accent to be intriguing. It was gruff, with just a touch of honey. Oh, I could definitely get used to those type of dreams. Lord knew I never had enough of those types of dreams. In fact, any dream that didn’t involve work or where something wasn’t trying to kill me was great, but this…this promised to be magic.
“Dear one, if you would open your eyes and bring your mind to the outside world, you would find more pleasures than those your small mortal mind can comprehend.”
It wasn’t just the words. It wasn’t just the fact that my eyes popped open, as if it was nearly impossible to resist the subtle command. It was the fact that when I opened them and forced my head out from underneath the pile o’ covers, there was a small bird sitting on my chest.
My mind was not up to the challenge of being used, but even I knew for a fact that my windows were closed tight. He looked cute enough with his big eyes and feathers that glinted green and blue in the light filtering under the window shade. His little feathered topknot was an adorable touch, and thankfully his claws couldn’t irritate me through my nesting materials. He was cute, but didn’t look like any bird I’d ever seen in the real world.
Unfortunately, though, I knew very well what he was. Frowning, hoping beyond hope that he was some hallucination or a really lucid dream after a late night of edits, I reached out a finger and gently poked him in the chest. Soft feathers brushed my skin, and while he looked irritated, he tolerated the abuse.
“Oh, God, it’s you.” I yanked the blankets, but just my luck they wouldn’t extend over my head.
“Technically that would be Oh, Olde One, ‘tis you, but you can claim me as your god if you like,” he replied, sounding all too pleased with the thought.
“You’d love that,” I grumbled and rolled over. “Go away, Clyde. You’re not real.”
His snort was as dry as the sound always was in my head. “Oh, I am very real, milady, and here to assist you in your troubles.”
“Unless you’re going to assist me in getting back to sleep, go away.”
The slight weight left my chest and transferred to my shoulder. I clenched my eyes shut, a trick I hadn’t employed since I was a teenager and determined to sleep through my younger sibling’s ever-inventive attempts to rouse me before eleven on Saturdays. The softest brush of feathers swept my face then clamped around the back of my neck. “What the—”
Before I could move, the stupid thing had his beak at my ear. I didn’t know what bothered me more, the thought that he might rupture my eardrum with my beak, or the hot breath and wet spittle that I couldn’t squirm away from. He clamped tight as a feathered vice around my head as he whispered. “Well, if a pleasant slumber with dreams full of untold delights is what you require, I suppose I could propel your mind in that direction—”
“Hey, look at the time!” I zipped out from under the covers and grabbed up my robe. “Wow, the day’s going to get away from me if I don’t get a move on! Love me some morning!” I gasped and tore to the kitchen.
Weird, weird, weird, weird, weird. Oh, this was weird. I was used to characters coming and going in my head, but none had ever invaded my living space. Or my bedroom. Or my bed. And tried to make mild advances at me. As a bird.
“Ew, ew, ew…” I shuddered and headed straight for the cabinets. What would get rid of bird hallucinations? Coffee? No, I wasn’t ready for coffee. A mental breakdown like this required something proper. Tea then. With liquor.
I’d just put the kettle on when Clyde flit into the room and lighted on the counter, smirking. The stupid bird was smirking at me. “I understand your little human brain is having trouble comprehending, but understand that I am here and I am ready to assist you.”
Without thinking, I tugged the sides of my robe tighter. “I don’t need that sort of assistance, thanks.”
He made a face. “I mean with your edits, lass. After your meltdown last night, I am here to intervene.”
I studied him. He was still there, still a talking bird, and completely serious. “How…you’re not real. Here, anyway. I get you may think you’re real and in my head you’re real and in Kingdom City you’re real, but how did you get from my head to my kitchen?”
He clicked his purple tongue against his beak. “Really? A bard such as yourself, one who has channeled the rules of my realm, cannot fathom that on your own? I did not take you for a mere scribe,” he scoffed.
The kettle began to sing, so I busied myself pouring the hot water into a mug. After a moment, I pulled a small bowl out of the cabinet and poured a bird-sized serving of water into it. If I had some bizarre magic character in my kitchen, I supposed it would make do to keep it somewhat happy. Clyde looked pleased until I pulled the box out of the cabinet. “What? You don’t like green tea?”
“Proper tea does not come in bags.”
Great, so not only was he a magic bird that shouldn’t be real, but he was a tea elitist. I wasn’t in the mood for a judgmental conversation about morning beverages. “Proper characters stay in their own places,” I countered, dropping a bag in my mug and his bowl. “Am I going to have to start feeding trolls anytime soon?”
That snort again. Wow, I hadn’t realized how annoying that was when I’d designed the character. Although, I had to admit, while Clyde had gone through several phases, there came a point where he just…fell together on his own. That was always a happy accident, although now I began to wonder if it was an accident.
“Nay. Remember, I have powers that they do not.”
I nodded, took a careful sip, and grimaced at the heat of the water. “Not in that form you don’t. Not very well, anyway.”
He sipped from his bowl, probably to be polite, because his expression wasn’t any more pleased than mine. “Aye, but between my magic and your bard powers, I can answer your call and slide between realms to assist you, as it were.”
Oh, goodie. Calm. I needed calm. I jiggled the tea bag in my mug and wondered if the stuff was just defective or if I was beyond help “I don’t remember calling you. Last time I checked, you weren’t in my addy book.”
The pseudo-bird’s look was tolerant and pitying. “You were not, if I recall, at your best or altogether sane last night.”
“I’m a writer. It’s not my job to be sane,” I grumbled, drinking the tea that was having no revitalizing or calming effects whatsoever. I’d have to complain to the company. “So what if I was yelling at my laptop or listening to actor interviews trying to find character voices to help me along? We all have our tricks.” Caffeine. I needed caffeine. I fumbled my way to my stash of natural soda, popped a can from the six pack, and sighed. Healthy cola was better than nothing.
“I seem to recall you begging and pleading your manuscript to help you,” he remarked, settling onto my shoulder. Nothing like having a fictional character call you out on your frustrated writing quirks. “And since I am the only one that might answer the call, and ‘tis my job to answer the troubles of sweet lasses like yourself, here I am,” he declared, wings spread. “’Tis what I do.” He paused. “You are most welcome,” he added after a few moments of silence.
“You want to help me with my manuscript?”
He nodded, his smile quite delightful on his little beak. Too delightful. “But of course. I am your humble servant.”
The cola could taste bland at the best of times, but warm it was especially fascinating. “Mhm. And you want to do this because…”
“I live to assist, milady, in your realm or my own.”
“Uh-huh. Might I remind you that I know how you work? Helping me wouldn’t be a way to rend a tear in the fabric of time and space, get your own powers back, and conquer a realm, would it?”
His wings dropped to his chest. “You wound me, sweet bard! You know very well that I prefer the comforts of a physical realm to petty bickering and power struggles.” That was true enough, though I still couldn’t shake my suspicions.
“So you’re here out of the goodness of your heart because you want to share in the stories of Kingdom City? You’re suddenly content to do the whole fairy guardian/magical animal helper thing without any recompense or personal gain?” Wow, my brain really could use words after a late night. Ever proof that I was headed forward in the right career field, after all. He sat there looking perky, but didn’t say a word. “Clyde, I know you can’t lie if I ask you directly.”
He attempted to look affronted. “It does not mean I need to answer,” he snapped.
Aha. “Clyde. I’m not giving you my soul.”
“I do not remember asking for it. Not that I could take it in this form anyway.”
“True, but you mentioned my bard powers. If you’re trying to angle me into writing you a certain way…” I paused and stared at him. I’d been working ahead somewhat, trying to decide what powers he would display in later books. “If you think I’m going to give you power to shift at will so you can get on whatever female that takes your fancy in the books—”
His raspberry spattered the side of my face and was so loud it nearly blew out my hearing. I wrinkled my nose and wiped bird spit off my cheek while he ranted. “Have you any idea how hard it is to ease the ache of your heart when you are stuck as a diminutive animal and all those that would once kneel before you and battle for your affections do not care to acknowledge you?” I wondered if my eyebrows could go any higher. “At least give me some reprieve so I might be able to go out on a weekend night and take a lady home.”
Why had I thought it would be funny to write an animal with access to enormous magical possibilities and make him an eloquent pervert again? “Clyde…”
He hopped forward, wing tips over his heart. “Please, my sweet bard. It gets so lonely with only trolls and their friends for company.”
“You haven’t complained so far,” I pointed out, leaning further over the counter.
He shrugged. “They are sufficient for friendships and to cater to my needs, but I require a certain something…more,” he added, eyes dropping to my ear, wing brushing hair off my neck.
“Do not try to sweet-talk and mind-bend me,” I warned.
“The carnal talk lines have finally lost their luster, I admit,” he sighed.
Oh, wow. Things I did not need to know about. I gripped the edge of the counter, counted to ten, then wandered to the living room and fell onto the couch. Maybe I could doze for a while and the hallucinations would stop.
The sharp nip on my ear jolted me awake. “Hey! Fine, fine…uh, if I were to consider messing with your abilities in future books, would you tell me how this story ends and help me fix things?” It was a cheap shot, but I was tired and ready for things to be over.
It was his turn to roll his eyes and give me a look. “You know very well the story unfolds in you, milady bard. I cannot provide a short cut for you.” More like he wouldn’t. Fine. Whatever. I pulled my laptop from the side table and sighed. “I can, however, tell you all that you are doing wrong.”
“Wonderful. Take a number and get in line,” I grumbled and reached for the remote. The slash of claw on skin made me hiss and take my hand back. “Blast it, Clyde! You know I hate to work in silence!”
“Shall I sing to you?”
I waited as the computer booted up, rubbing my temples. He moved to my shoulder, ever-watchful. “I don’t know if I can do this,” I admitted.
“Of course you can. Your author magic is more powerful than the blocks in your path. You shape our very realm,” the little creature urged, squeezing my shoulder with a foot.
“Thanks, Clyde,” I sighed. It wasn’t much, but the gesture was appreciated, even if it was probably done with ulterior motives in mind.
He nodded and leaned over the document, staring at my hands in anticipation. “This is where you press the keys and words form on the screen,” he pointed out.
I turned and stared at him. “I can’t do it while you’re staring!”
He tsked and shook his head. “I have known many a maid who have said the same thing. Trust me, there is always a way to get over performance anxiety.”
I fought the urge to club him with a pillow. He’d just fly away, anyway. “Flora’s right, you are creepy. I’ll get to work, just…get out. If you’re not going to be helpful, go back to your own realm and do something useful. Or at least don’t stare at me.” He’d leaned into the curve of my neck and cuddled affectionately while he read over what I’d been working on last night. “And don’t do that! Clyde, get out!”
He sulked. “At least Paddlelump feeds me.” Despite his distaste for me having background noise, he was eyeing the remote.
“I don’t have wine around at the moment. And I only have basic cable.”
“You know, ‘tis bout the time I should be checking on those that need me,” he chirped and took flight. I had to admit, it was something to watch him circle the living room before darting to some spot I obviously couldn’t see, dissolving into thin air. “Until next time, milady. Be sure to have a nice merlot waiting for me.”
I stared at the living room, then at the laptop screen in front of me, and tried to figure out just what on earth or in the realm had happened. I had a distinct, sinking feeling, though, that it wouldn’t be the first or only time I’d be called on by my newly self-appointed muse.
With a few muttered curses and a sigh, I dutifully began to scroll through my notes and attempted to write.
To be continued…
1. Clyde is a character of the Kingdom City Chronicles, and as such, he’s mine. As of right now, I’m not extending an invite for anyone else to use him or anyone else in the books, so I’d like features like this to only be written by myself. (i wouldn’t wish him on anyone, trust me).
2. If you’re curious about how Clyde plays into the bigger picture, might I suggest picking up a copy of…
Cross-Genre: Fantasy, Fairy/Folktale, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Horror
Kingdom City has moved into the modern era. Run by a lord mayor and city council (though still under the influence of the High King of The Land), it proudly embraces a blend of progress and tradition. Trolls, ogres, and other Folk walk the streets with humans, but are more likely to be entrepreneurs than cause trouble. Princesses still want to be rescued, but they now frequent online dating services to encourage lords, royals, and politicians to win their favor. The old stories are around, but everyone knows they’re just fodder for the next movie franchise. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as magic. It’s all old superstition and harmless tradition.
Bookish, timid, and more likely to carry a laptop than a weapon, Paddlelump Stonemonger is quickly coming to wish he’d never put a toll bridge over Crescent Ravine. While his success has brought him lots of gold, it’s also brought him unwanted attention from the Lord Mayor. Adding to his frustration, Padd’s oldest friends give him a hard time when his new maid seems inept at best and conniving at worst. When a shepherd warns Paddlelump of strange noises coming from Thadd Forest, he doesn’t think much of it. Unfortunately for him, the history of his land goes back further than anyone can imagine. Before long he’ll realize that he should have paid attention to the old tales and carried a club.
Darkness threatens to overwhelm not only Paddlelump, but the entire realm. With a little luck, a strange bird, a feisty waitress, and some sturdy friends, maybe, just maybe, Padd will survive to eat another meal at Trip Trap’s diner. It’s enough to make the troll want to crawl under his bridge, if he can manage to keep it out of the clutches of greedy politicians