Monday, November 13, 2017

Hit List: Top 10 Vincent Graves Moments from "The Grave Reports" by R. R. Virdi

 
Vincent Graves. Those who know him, love him. Those who don’t know him--have no idea what they’re missing. A man reduced to literally a soul and begrudgingly whisked through time and space at the behest of a higher power, if there’s anything Vince consistently carries with him, it’s the sarcasm, the nerdy references, the brash impulsiveness--and at the bottom of it all, the unshakable belief that he can use his constantly-repeating life to make all the difference in the world, even if he has to break a few supernatural rules to do it. It’s that heart that drives us back to him and keeps us thirsty for more--and it’s moments like these ten (in no particular ranked order) that live in our imaginations and keep us giggling even when the peril is at its greatest!

1. Scaring The Bejeezus Out Of The Old Groundskeeper

We first meet Vince Graves in Grave Beginnings… literally bashing his way out of a grave. If that’s not a totally fitting introduction for a character, I don’t know what is! 
It’s not just the fact that he knows all the statistics and “insider information” about being buried in a coffin, though… It’s when he gets out, and there’s this old man standing there--Vince has the gall to greet him with the well-timed phrase, “Well whaddya know? You really can dig your way here from China!” Whereupon the groundskeeper clutches his chest and keels over… and so the fun and games begin! 

2. "Supernatural Douche Kitty."

Hands-down my favorite line from the first book, Grave Beginnings. And absolutely a fitting insight into his character. See, the supernatural don’t fight by what we mortals consider “fair.” Things like inanimate objects, gravity, empirical senses--everything is fair game when you’re tracking a supernatural entity! This was the moment, though, where things began to really take a turn for the “holy altered state of reality, Batman!” Vince is on the trail of discovering the monster who killed the person whose body he currently inhabits (yeah… it takes some getting used to…) when said entity decides to throw him off--by animating a bronze tiger statue in front of a nearby Asian restaurant! Vince responds with his customary dry wit, understating the visual of a full-size tiger made of metal chasing him down the streets of Manhattan by referring to it as a “kitty.” And from that moment on, I knew I was going to love this series forever.

3. “You Just Fell Out Of A Building!”

One of the qualities of Vince’s strange life that we see established over and over again is the fact that his position in the afterlife means that the body he inhabits has the ability to heal from most traumatic injuries. (Those not beyond the scope of medicine, that is) Case in point? Vince gets cornered in a penthouse on a hotel in Grave Beginnings--and the building is on fire. This wouldn’t faze him much all by itself, but in this particular incident, there happens to be someone with him, a supremely capable but supremely mortal person. Vince pulls some last-ditch fire-escape stunt for the person, but winds up doing a free-fall himself. He comes to in a hospital, and his erstwhile “partner” can’t figure out how he could have possibly survived--and Vince is faced with the conundrum of exposing secrets that no average mortal should know, or lose this one important connection to the mortal world--something he values more than his supernatural counterparts. 

4. The Scrooge

One thing that readers might not know, although it becomes pretty clear as you read: author Virdi is a massive foodie. Hence you will see at least one food item come front and center in each of his books. In Grave Measures, it’s cereals such as Lucky Charms and Captain Crunch. In Dangerous Ways, the main character leases the ground floor of the building he owns to a baker. But the real piece de resistance and the testament to culinary exploits in literature belongs to Grave Beginnings and its introduction of the gut-bomb known as “The Scrooge.” According to the description, this dish contains the following:

    - Hamburger bun
    - 2 Pancakes (one on top, one on bottom, just within the bun)
    - Thick pile of Bacon
    - Burger patty
    - Chicken breast
    - Scrambled eggs
    - Fried potatoes
 
And the whole mess is apparently slathered in syrup. You are a true fan if you have entertained the desire for this to exist, if only so you can try it JUST ONCE.

5. Interrogating a Wraith in A Towel (Vince, not the Wraith)
 
Not his proudest moment, probably, but definitely memorable! When the supernatural entity Vince is trying to identify in Grave Beginnings ends up pegging him as an impostor first, Vince discovers he has to be on his guard at absolutely every moment, or risk losing his host—and that includes the Wraith that attacks him in the midst of a shower! He might be butt-naked, but Vince isn’t unprepared when it comes to getting the information he needs from slimy, soul-sucking supernatural sleazeballs! (An epithet he would be proud of, I’m sure!) It’s a hilarious scene involving iron chains, salt, an unexpected mortal witness, and absolutely zero clothes on the part of our intrepid monster-hunter/paranormal investigator. When Vince Graves is on a case, he doesn’t let petty things like clothes keep him from seeing that justice is done!

6. Church
 
Technically, Church serves as Vince’s supervisor, his contractor, his conduit to the powers-that-be in the celestial realm. And generally, Church meets Vince in a church, any church. Described as someone very modelesque in his features and painfully geeky in his fashion choices (pocket protector and all), Church nonetheless possesses attributes that allow him to remain enigmatic and intriguing in spite of his plainness. He appears instantaneously, he reads minds, he chooses Vince’s cases, so he possesses some level of omniscience--and he bears the brunt of some of Vince’s most colorful curses. But there is something else that Church receives from Vince: a healthy dose of care. Church might be bland and impersonal in most of his dealings with the mortal world, but it is obvious he cares about Vince, and by that token, is made to care about the things Vince cares about. Church is the one who keeps Vince living, over and over again, who equips him, or drops hints when Vince is being too stubborn, and bears with the sarcastic remarks, blatant rebellion, and a whole lot of abuse with the deadpan patience of a saint. But deep down, if there was no Church, there would be no Vince. (BONUS: >Minor spoiler< Church makes a cameo in Dangerous Ways. You’re welcome.)

7. Graves, Interrupted
 
In Grave Measures, Vince has the misfortune of reanimating the body of a mental patient. So rather than trying to pass for a sane man among a bunch of “normal” human beings, we see Graves in a setting where he can basically be open about things that he would normally keep quiet--and nobody is really fazed because they already assume he’s crazy! Watching him interacting and observing the different patients around the asylum, we see that his focus is pretty much unchanged: these are people who need to be saved, and it still hurts when people start dying while he’s still in the midst of the investigation. Having Vince in an enclosed space, though, rather than roaming the streets of Manhattan, provides more time for introspection, and the peril is less physical than mental, giving us a more intimate glimpse into the man he really is, rather than an outer show of bravado he put on quite a bit in the first book.

8. Little Ghost Whisperer
 
Want to see what a man is really made of? Watch how he acts around a little kid. While in the mental hospital in Grave Measures, Vince meets a young girl named Lizzie--and she sees ghosts. What is more, she knows that he’s not really who he pretends to be… because she’s already seen the ghost of the dead man. For once, Vince finds somebody in the mortal world who has a quirk that he doesn’t, giving him the chance to see what it’s like when somebody interacts with the part of the spirit realm that others (including him) can’t see. Lizzie is awesome because she brings out the protective softie in Vince, and also has plenty of gumption herself, meeting his sarcasm with simple innocence that completely disarms him at every turn.

9. All The References

A second common trait from the author lovingly included in the books is all the nerdy references! Some are blatantly sourced... others are subtle quirks of character that seem funny at first glance... then laugh-out-loud hilarious when you’ve actually seen the show or film referenced.
Here are a few of my favorite references, from both Grave Measures and Grave Beginnings.

“What’s with the twenty-four hours? I’m not Kiefer Sutherland.” 
 (Complaining to Church about his time limit; Grave Beginnings)
 
I ran my healed right hand through the blonde locks and sighed. “Man, still not a ginger.” (Getting his first good look at his borrowed body, Grave Beginnings)

With all of my paranormal experiences over the years, I wouldn’t be surprised if the statue came to life and started yelling at me. I was very short on time and didn’t need to be yelled at by Robin Williams.  
(Visiting his "host's" place of employment, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Grave Beginnings)

“A… genie? Like the blue genie from Aladdin?” she said, disbelievingly. 
“Yeah, except it isn’t blue, doesn’t have a friendly temperament, and is not voiced by Robin Williams.” (Trying to explain Djinn to an unsuspecting federal agent, Grave Beginnings)
 
It was like that scene from Jurassic Park. Don’t move and the T-Rex won’t spot you. (Trying not to get spotted, Grave Measures)
 
I spoke in my best Luke Skywalker impersonation. “Your overconfidence is your weakness.” I smiled to myself. (Getting one-up on an opponent, Grave Measures)

“I serve the Mother of Spiders, Vincent Graves.” 
Where was Admiral Ackbar when you needed him? 
(Stumbling right into a perfectly obvious trap, Grave Measures)

“It’s a frickin’ Nazgul!” 
(Naming the ominous "shadow creatures" plaguing the mental hospital, Grave Measures)

My voice sunk to a deep bellow and I roared. “You shall not pass!” 
(Defeating a "shadow monster" plaguing the mental hospital, Grave Measures)

I answered [her glare] with an exaggerated flourish of hands. “Proceed, Bones.” 
“Damnit, Jim, I’m an agent, not a doctor!” 
(Preparing to perform a covert autopsy on a recently-deceased body, Grave Measures)

“What are you two doing here?” 
I threw my hands up in the air and shouted, “Captain Crunch!” 
I panicked. Can you blame me? Maybe I should’ve dropped my pants and shouted pudding? (Getting caught in the act of a covert autopsy, Grave Measures)

“Good job, Robin,” she quipped. 
I glared. There is no reality, no train of thought, no plane of existence where I am not the goddamned Batman. 
(Defeating a particularly vicious supernatural nasty, and only getting partial credit from his partner, Grave Measures)

10. Out-Foxing A Kitsune

Every paranormal investigator/monster hunter needs an informant. In Vince’s line of work, he runs across plenty of beings who are information brokers, like Gnosis the gnome (his contact in Grave Beginnings)—but also sometimes his dealings with the supernatural realm cross over into territory of much greater power, such as his acquaintance with Lyshae, a Kitsune with immense power and connections. Gnosis is short, so Vince finds him easy to intimidate. Lyshae? Not so much. She is extremely clever, and loves to pit her abilities with illusions and her powerful connections in the supernatural world against Vince’s smartass mouth and his knowledge of the mortal world. Anytime Lyshae shows up, you know Vince is in for some really entertaining mischief! He outfoxes (heh, pun intended!) her several times in Grave Measures, the book that marks her first appearance—but Lyshae isn’t one to give in easily, so you know she is going to return many times before the series is over!
 

I could go on, but my fondest hope is that these ten miniature samples have whet your appetite for more, and you’ll be heading onto Amazon, iBooks, or Barnes & Noble to pick up your own copies, just in time for us to announce BOOK 3 IN THE SERIES!(Surprise!!) Grave Dealings is now a thing that exists, and I am SO FREAKING EXCITED!! Let the shenanigans continue!

Find out more details on his website: www.rrvirdi.com or on his Facebook author page!

(If you're still not sure about the books, check out my reviews for  Grave Beginnings, Grave Measures, and Dangerous Ways... which also include Amazon links for those three books!)

*This post is part of a Blog Tour in honor of the release of Grave Dealings. Be sure to check out these other "stops" in the tour as well! (Will update as links come available)
 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Flash Fiction Friday: "Arthur and The Egg" Part 2



Part 2
Click >HERE< for Part 1
 
In record time, Sam and Arthur had scrambled into Sam’s small car and sped toward the edge of town.

“How in the world could this happen?” Sam shrieked.

“I don’t know!” Arthur wailed, watching the real live dragon wag its head and roar.

“Oh man, oh man,” Sam veered off the exit that would take them to Echo Cave. “Half the city’s probably freaked out by now. The cops’ll be here before you know it.” He caught Arthur’s frantic gaze and glared at him.

How is this my fault?” Arthur shrieked at his friend. “Believe me, I wish that thing was invisible just as much as you do!”

“Well, just goes to show you how effective wishes are, because it’s—“ Sam pointed to the massive beast just ahead as they pulled into Echo Cave Park. “Gone!” He slammed hard on the brakes, sending Arthur rocketing forward in his seat.

“Ow!” Arthur rubbed his head. “What was that for?”

Sam was still watching the huge dragon in horror. “Arthur, it’s gone! The dragon just disappeared!”

Arthur squinted at the massive claws digging up the ground less than a mile away. “What are you talking about, Sam, it’s right there.”

Sam shook his head. “No it’s not! It was there a minute ago—you and I both saw it—but now it’s completely gone, like one of those optical illusions or something.”

Arthur frowned at his friend. “How are you this dense?” He muttered. “It literally hasn’t moved. Keep driving!”

“You know what? No!” Sam took the keys out of the ignition and folded his arms. “I’m not moving. If you want to keep imagining that there’s a dragon there, go ahead and walk over there, and I’ll believe you!”

Arthur scowled and huffed out his nose. “Fine! I will!” He flung open the door and stepped out, slamming it hard behind him.

The dragon picked up its head and turned toward the sound. Arthur looked back toward his friend, but Sam shook his head.

Arthur felt his heart creep up into his throat as he stepped slowly and calmly through the trees, closer and closer to the dragon with dark-brown scales. It sat on its haunches, with its long tail curled against its legs. The long neck with the blunt head bent down over something in front of it. Just beyond the dragon’s bulk, Arthur could see what remained of Echo Cave: a charred husk, like a very deep crater, with shards of The Egg laying in huge pieces around it.

Guess it really was an egg, after all! Arthur thought. He reached the very edge of the clearing when he saw what absorbed the dragon’s attention: his dad’s truck, still parked just where he left it the day before.

The dragon made a breathy sound, sharp and hissing—and with a low growl, it turned its head and looked right at Arthur! He froze where he stood, not daring to move a muscle as the dragon’s head leaned closer. Arthur could feel the movement of its breath as it stopped and peered at him, its snout nearly touching him. It gave one small sniff, and then lunged so fast, Arthur was in the air by the time he screamed. The dragon caught his shirt between its teeth, and swung him through the air till he slammed down on the hood of his truck. Arthur tried to scoot backward, up the windshield and onto the roof, while the dragon waited with claws splayed, bracing itself for—Arthur didn’t quite know.

“Hungry!” a voice grunted.

Arthur looked behind him, only for the dragon to grunt again, prompting him to turn back to the creature almost salivating over him.

Hungry!” said the voice again, but Arthur had no way of knowing who was speaking.

“Who’s there?” Arthur attempted to call over his shoulder.

“Arthur!” That voice was definitely Sam. The dragon didn’t turn away from Arthur sprawling on his truck, but it didn’t back off either.

“Be careful, Sam!” Arthur called. He could see his friend in his periphery, standing just inside the clearing, only a few steps away from the backside of the dragon.

“What’s wrong with you, man?” Sam paused uncertainly. “I saw you walking and then all of a sudden you went flying. Did you break something?” Sam scanned the ground at his feet as if he expected some kind of land mine or spring-loaded launch pad.

The dragon loomed closer, a steady growl building in its throat.

Hungry!” said the voice again, so quiet it seemed to come from behind him. “Feed.”

Arthur hardly dared to breathe. “It… It’s the dragon,” he stammered to Sam. “It’s right here. Can’t you see it?”

Sam glanced around the sky, as if the dragon hovered over the treetops. “I’m telling you, man, that thing is one hundred percent—“

Just then, the dragon slammed its claws down on either side of the truck, causing a small earthquake.

HUNGRY. MUST. FEED!” Snarled the voice.

The dragon looked about ready to eat him; Arthur threw up his hands protectively. “Okay, okay!” He squeaked. “Don’t hurt me!”

The dragon actually backed up a few feet. It tilted its head to regard Arthur.

Protect Master. Keep Master safe. Master feed.”

The voice was gentler, not as insistent now.

“All right, whoever you are!” Arthur called to the hungry person behind his truck. “I’m going over there.”

Sam began walking toward him. “Dude, what are you talking about?”

Arthur’s voice caught in his throat as he watched the dragon swing around to confront Sam, who kept right on walking. The dragon opened its mouth and roared.

KEEP MASTER SAFE!” the voice declared.

“WHOA!” Arthur tumbled off the truck and scrambled around to put himself between the dragon and his friend. “Sam, stop! SAM, STOP! WAIT! NO!”

Sam squinted at him. “What the heck, man?”

“Wait!” Arthur addressed the dragon now. It sat and watched him, amber-colored eyes blinking slowly. “You… you talk?”

The dragon huffed and shuffled its foreclaws. “Master speaks. Master hears the voice of his hatchling.”

Arthur felt his knees wobble and buckle. “Master…” he gasped. “You… you mean me? I am your master?”

Sam snorted behind him. “What’s going on, Arthur? What are you master over?”

“Shut up, Sam!” Arthur snapped. “I just saved your life, so just hang on a sec while I figure this out!”

The dragon lolled its head over to the truck, cradling it protectively between its claws.

“Thing has scent of Master. Master loves thing, imprinted on thing. Hatchling has imprinted on Master’s scent, will serve and obey Master.”

“Saved my life?” Sam was muttering behind him. “From what? That would be the first time I’ve seen you take initiative. What’s out there that could have killed me, huh?”

Arthur ignored Sam as he watched the dragon. “Say, are you invisible right now? Why can I see you?”

“Master wished Hatchling to be invisible, but not even Dragon cannot hide from Master. Master will always know where Dragon is.”

A slow smile unfolded on Arthur’s face as Sam still complained and rambled on behind him. “Do me a favor,” he said to the dragon. “Make yourself visible, but only to my friend here.”

The dragon turned his head to regard the taunting fellow behind Arthur. “Is friend? Is kind to Master?

Arthur nodded. “Yes; he’s a butthead sometimes, but he’s nice to me. Please, could you do it?”

“I obey Master.” The dragon sat up, planting its claws in front of him.

Arthur knew exactly the moment Sam could see him because the jabbering ceased. “I take you in, give you a bed, and it turns out all you give me is trouble because now we’re way out here and Echo Cave looks like it had a bomb go off and—HOLY WHAT?”

Arthur turned around to face Sam. His friend stood, staring over his head as if his eyes would roll right out of his skull.

“Wha… tha—ho-ly…Wh-what??” Sam spluttered.

“Now do you believe me?” Arthur needled, even though he had to admit, it was a little bit strange to go from having nothing at all to having a dragon who would obey and protect him.



Sam—after he had sufficiently recovered from the shock of actually seeing the dragon materialize right in front of him—wasted no time in pointing out, “What are you going to do with a dragon?”

Arthur shrugged. “I don’t know; anything I want, I guess?”

Sam climbed into the bed of the truck, while the dragon regarded him in a manner not unlike suspicion. “I mean, no offense—but it’s not like the dragon can find you food or a steady job or anything that you really need.”

A churning, wet rumble erupted from the spot just underneath the dragon’s seat. It bent its head to rest its snout gently against the windshield, so that Arthur could stroke its smooth head-plates from his perch on the roof of the vehicle.

“Is hungry,” it murmured to him. “Master will feed now?”

Arthur suddenly became very aware of how hungry he was. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t think there are many animals left in these woods anymore. You probably don’t eat trees or leaves or things like that.”

“Is new hatchling. Does Master give Hatchling trees to eat?”

Arthur shrugged. “If you’re hungry enough, go ahead—“

Before he had finished speaking, the dragon leaned over and wrapped its large jaws around the trunk of a nearby tree. With a small jerk of its head, it snapped the trunk in two pieces, leaving the jagged stump behind and chomping chunks off the end of the felled tree, exactly in the manner of someone biting off the end of a carrot. Very soon, it had consumed the trunk and munched happily on the foliage till all that was left was a scattering of debris.

Tree is good,” the dragon murmured.

Arthur chuckled. “Well, that was easy enough! Don’t eat all the trees, though,” he warned the beast, “because if you do, you’ll have nowhere to hide.”

What else does Master give Hatchling to eat?”

Arthur glanced around. Besides the trees, there wasn’t much in the area—and with the destruction of Echo Cave, it wouldn’t be long till people started to wonder how it came to be that way—and as soon as the wondering began, discovery of his secret wouldn’t be far behind. What he needed was a way to dispose of the evidence, to remove any kind of motivation for people to come to this area.

He turned back to the dragon. “Umm, what else can you eat?”

The dragon swung its head around, prompting Arthur and Sam to dodge out of its way as it surveyed the area with wide, blinking eyes.

“All things looks tasty,” it murmured. Opening its mouth wide, it bit off a chunk of Echo Cave. The sound it made as it chewed was like sitting too close to an industrial-grade jackhammer. Arthur covered his ears until the beast swallowed.

“Master gives Hatchling stone to eat?” it asked, glancing sidelong at the shards of polished rock piled off to the side.

Arthur was only half-listening to the voice in his head. Sam’s cell phone jingled, and he went back to answer it. “Huh?” he said to the dragon. “Oh… sure, I guess.”

The dragon hatchling attacked the pile of rubble with vigor. Arthur saw Sam waving to him, so he slipped out of the truck bed and joined his friend.

Sam wagged his head as he watched the dragon. “Man, that is beyond cool, right there!”

“Yeah,” Arthur responded lamely, scratching the back of his head. “I just hope nothing happens to it while I’m not here.”

“Which might be longer than either of us like,” Sam waved his cell phone. “That was your mom. She’s worried about you being gone all day, especially when you didn’t come home last night.”

Arthur winced. For as angry Esther tended to get at her son, she also fretted over him with equal ferocity. “Yeah, I’ll just… Lemme say goodbye to the dragon.”

He trudged back to the clearing. His new pet had polished off the shards of Egg in the time it had taken him to talk to Sam.

“Hey,” he said, not quite sure how to address the animal.

The dragon swung its head around to look at him. “What Master wish for Hatchling to serve him?”

“Huh?” Arthur had a difficult time following the roundabout sentence. “Oh, er, no, it’s nothing I want—well, except… have you got another name besides Hatchling?”

The dragon swung its tail, splitting a crevice into the side of Echo Cave.

“Hatchlings have no names. Master must give Hatchling his name.”

Arthur raised his eyebrows. “Really? So… You wouldn’t want to be called Spike or Flame or anything like that…” He scratched the top of his head.



Over by the car, he heard Sam holler, “Arthur! We need to go now!”

Arthur looked up at the hatchling. “What do you want to be called?” he asked abruptly.

The young dragon fidgeted with its claws, raking furrows in the dirt. It bent its head down to nudge the truck gently.

“Hatchling only wants Master to love as much as Master loves this thing. Hatchling will take the name of this thing.”

Arthur squinted. “Wait, well—that’s a truck…”

The dragon perked up right away, laying its head down in front of Arthur. “Master will give the name Truck?”

The young man scuffed his sneaker in the dirt and wagged his head. “You’re kidding me; you want to be called Truck?”

“Yes; if Master wills it.”

“All right, then,” Arthur responded with a shrug. “I’ll call you Truck.”
 >>>>>>>>>>>>


Great news! Arthur's adventure doesn't end here! To read the full story, along with more than a dozen sample chapters, short stories, and drabbles--all having to do with DRAGONS--Check out DREAMTIME DRAGONS, available in Ebook format on Smashwords and Amazon! (Print version coming soon!)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

NaNoWriMo Update: THE LAST INKWEAVER Makes A Comeback!


Wow! I know in the last post, I expressed great optimism over all the plans I had and the grand notes I had prepared (even though I only got halfway through before November began!) but I have a confession to make: in reality, I have been writing myself silly trying to keep up—for some reason, delving into the story with just notes was a lot easier and deceptively smoother than the actual writing is turning out to be…

Anyway, here are a few things that I have been or will be tweaking around in the second draft of The Last Inkweaver!

Names

I have known from the beginning that most of the names in The Last Inkweaver are straight-up placeholders, sometimes even copped from other stories of mine for no justifiable reason! Therefore, I do very much want to change everybody’s names, remaking the story even further. By now, I think I have decided on at least a few names: the restless, energetic character will be known as Terra, nicknamed “Tear-Away Terra” because she is always running hither, thither, and yon. My main character is known as “Callista” for now, simply because I cannot come up with a more convincing “long name” for “Callie.” Any ideas from the audience? Other characters who have been named so far are Feyton, a random extra; Matthias, the main male character, and various teachers/adults like Miss Needle, Madame Collette, Mr. Colton, and Professor Mikel—but can you believe a geek who invents a language with over 300 words can’t even come up with a reasonable naming convention to allow her to address a handful of characters? Part of me doesn’t want to get too flowery, but another part of me can’t stop thinking of flowery names!

Mirrorvale

The next thing that is changing is the fact that now I am getting a clearer picture in my head of what Mirrorvale—Callie’s village—actually looks like! When I started it the first time, I went full-on generic because, like I said, I was just slapping down details willy-nilly because I really had no idea what the town actually looked like. A lot of the details came after-the-fact. All it took was an excellent world-building discussion, and I started thinking of a cross between a 60s/70s vintage prefabricated neighborhood and a Industrial Victorian kind of main “village,” complete with various shops and whatnot. The crowning achievement, and the main “draw” that would keep such an isolated town from going completely obsolete would be The Academy, a branch of the prestigious Capital Scholars sent there expressly to train young people in how to agree with what they are told, and the kind of critical reasoning, just enough to apply the principles they’ve learned in a way that coincides with the general consensus. There they teach courses like Calligraphy, History, Etiquette, Geography, Culinary Arts, and some types of music or art, but the way I see it, the art is mostly representational and the music follows a set, predictable pattern according to sheet music.
Overall, I think that with a solid idea of what the town itself looks like, I will better be able to give the whole book a sense of “place” so the reader doesn’t feel like everyone is acting against a plain white background!

Matthias

In Draft 1 he is known as “Belak”, but I decided to change it because it's weird, and I’ve finally arrived at the name “Matthias”. So this is his name from here on out. A couple different Beta readers did note how the relationship between him and my main character felt a bit forced, but how do you lead a character who refuses to “speculate” to fall in love with someone? Well, I’m not too sure about the answer myself, but I am sure going to try! I also wanted to make him into more of a useful character. Most of the time in Draft 1, he was the one most often disparaging my main character, making her feel bad and discouraging her, so that she would keep secrets and be less inclined to go along with the other two girls, who firmly believed in the cause of the Wordspinners. That was probably unfair of me, so this time around, Matthias will be more of a logical, reasonable catch, and definitely going to be more proactive in the group instead of just tagging along with a bunch of girls. You’re welcome!

Navigation

Oh, this is huge! Draft 1 kind of just pushed the girls from one town to another, without really taking into account the fact that “Callie” didn’t actually want to be there, they just “had” to go on account of “the tapestry said so”—a lame excuse, and one I was looking to be able to offer a clearer justification for. Also, in Draft 1, two teenage girls take it upon themselves to travel cross-country and they basically leave their parents behind with little warning and almost no explanation… yeah, not cool. So this time around, as I was making notes, I had an idea: since I was already making a big deal about The Academy in this secluded village, why not bring in a contingent of soldiers rounding up the best and brightest students to populate a “Finishing School” in the capital city? The girls could leave the town in custody of the soldiers, then break away from that convoy when they needed to strike out on their own, and their parents wouldn’t worry if they believed their daughters were safely guarded. And maybe the convoy could be a recurring thing throughout not only this book, and the series—perhaps the Finishing School holds dire implications for the apparent resurgence of the Wordspinners? Additionally, meeting the 3rd girl for their party at the first stop, she could be the one to point them to Naten, giving justification for them stopping. And other locations and directions the journey takes would be based on needs or opinions voiced by the characters, rather than this undefined compulsion because the author said so. I think it might help me also get a better sense of the layout of the country, too, since now I know just how many locations I need, I can place them mentally in a better sort of context, instead of just regarding each one individually.

The Tales of The Inkweaver

That’s the other big change, and I think the nexus of my problem with the first draft. I wrote the Tales first, then tried to develop a narrative to match. This time, I regarded the narrative itself, without involving the Tales, and I think I am getting a more solid story out of it. I will probably keep the Tales for insertion later, but it will be the narrative itself dictating to the Tales and whether or not I am going to tweak the short bits to call out different aspects of the narrative I write, rather than the other way around.

The Six Tapestry Items

Yep, this was an afterthought kind of idea I came up with early in Draft 1, and I think I’m keeping it! Only this time, I’ll be more deliberate about it all. Rather than just dumping it into the very beginning, Callie is going to discover the significance of the items after she already has the sword and the shield, and the symbol that marks them all is going to lead her to Delia’s village, where she and Matthias are going to really have it out about their unresolved relationship tension. I realize it’s falling much earlier in the story than it did before, but according to the “journey map” it fits in with the goal of that particular section. It’s roughly halfway, though, so it’s not like I’m moving it all the way to the very beginning. I think I’ll still have the items be dispersed just like they were, so the gang will acquire them from the same people, but maybe this time around I will have the chance to throw in a few more references to the associated moral qualities I came up with for them.

Now, as far as “how The Last Inkweaver follows the Hero’s Journey cycle”, here are some of the highlights and the way I have or I am planning on re-structuring some of the plot events from the first draft:

The Hero(ine)s Journey

1: Character Begins in the Comfort Zone

          
My main character strikes me as a “do what you’ve always done” kind of girl. Everything is expected and prescribed, so there isn’t much to ruffle any feathers or rock the boat, as it were. That is not to say that this girl is all humdrum and boring—she is willing to pursue a matter without backing down, but she is satisfied not knowing, if it means maintaining safe boundaries for herself. One of the things I did tweak was the fact that she will get what she calls “flashes”: bits of scenes like a triggered memory, except that they aren’t exactly memories of events that happened to her. They are uncomfortable, but she finds them relatively easy to ignore. (An added benefit of throwing this idea in there is that now I don’t have to be putting her to sleep all the time so she can “dream” of the Tales; I can just let the “flashes” happen and move on with her day) Bonus: she might think it’s random when the flashes happen, but in reality, there remain a smattering of Told items from Wordspinners, which no one else can hear any longer, but she can—and for that, I have a good reason which I will not divulge because SPOILERS.

2: Character Needs Answers--What is going on, Why will no one talk about the Wordspinners, and what is she going to do about it?
          
This one was where the planning and note-taking really took off. I had a lot of things I could now set up in Part 1, only to systematically strip them away one by one in this part, leaving her with only this driving need: her relationship with her friends, her ideas for her future, her safe and comfortable home (when she gets carted away by the royal guard) and even her predictable life. (As the tapestry seems to affect reality, or things start happening that she hadn’t planned on) More and more questions start building up, and Callie begins to realize that she won’t be getting any answers if she stays in Mirrorvale. Suddenly, “getting what she’s always gotten” is not enough for her, and she is compelled to be more open to change. There’s also the matter of discovering this random Tapestry in the remains of a hut behind The Wall that has been there since they were very young, but Callie’s “flashes” have told her that The Wall hasn’t always been there, and was definitely built in her lifetime, because she can remember having a clear path--but still, what exactly was on the end of that path is unclear, until she actually visits the space, and discovers the things that serve as the irrefutable evidence that something went down!

3: Character Goes--Leaving her village, striking out on her own away from the royal convoy, and taking her first steps on the journey when she doesn't know how it will end.
          
And now the fun begins! This is the part where not only is she forced to accept what is happening to her, and she can no longer dismiss it as “not real,” but she must now act upon it more than she might be comfortable with. They leave with the convoy at first, so the parents assume that’s where they’re going to be, and Callie thinks she’s safe on the convoy, and will be able to look for the Inkweaver without leaving--but then she meets a mysterious girl who “just appears”, and as they are following some clues laid out in the half-finished tapestry, they are actually abandoned by the convoy, and no one seems to notice the two missing girls, nor will anyone believe that they need to rejoin them, so now the girls are free to embark on their own journey.

4: Character Begins to Search--Looking for proof of the Wordspinners, wanting to believe, wondering what happened to them, trying to discover why all these strange things keep singing out to her, in particular.
          
This is where she starts to cross paths with other Wordspinners. I decided that the connection with Naten would come very first, with the encounter in the Blackrope forest following that. This would be so that Callie can have the sword on her when they come across Boy in the Blackrope. In Draft 1, she couldn’t see the sword at all, and I made it this big deal about her carrying around something she couldn’t see, till she finally used it… Yeah, obvious reasons why I decided to scrap that whole motif. What I am planning on doing, actually, is for Matthias to insist on carrying the sword, leaving Callie with just the shield. She doesn’t know it’s significance, so she just lets him… until later on, when she actually needs it, there is going to be this scene between them where he will actually give it to her, and—yeah.
From Blackrope, then, Matthias kind of still asserts himself, and it’s his idea to stop in Aberon because the girls are “woefully under-prepared.” (Which, if you remember the satchel they bring from Draft 1, you know is not the case…) There, they meet Morgianna (no way am I changing that name!) and it really seems like she catches Matthias’s eye in just the way Callie wants to. I am considering just skipping most of the “proverbs” and the trippy parts, and putting Callie into a situation where she observes somebody getting accused for speaking out, and somebody gaining acceptance because everyone assumes things about them and they don’t refute the rumors. Perhaps she draws conclusions about the “radio silence” concerning Wordspinners, and that starts her being more open to accepting them, and she unwittingly gets even closer to discovering where she fits into all this. After wanting to give up and return to Mirrorvale, it is at this point that Callie discovers the matching symbol on the sword and shield, and she gets one of her “flashes” about that symbol on something in the next town, so they have to continue.

5: Character Starts To Find What She's Looking For--The truth behind the disappearance of the Wordspinners, the way they're treated in other parts of the kingdom, and the first indication toward the person who seems to be behind it all.
          
Now this is the part where I decided to shift the altercation with Ronni the Bounty Hunter, who is no longer a “quick-changer”, and she and the prisoner Callie meets (his name being another placeholder, he is currently “Boy 2”) are not the same person, because that was lame and I have no reasonable explanation for why I wrote it that way in the first place. Within the context of this phase of the journey, this character takes on a more important rather than incidental role.
In the new context, someone like Ronni would highlight the dangers a Wordspinner faces, elevating their status from “passively unwanted” to “actively threatened.” It would explain how a deeply-rooted people group so widespread could be wiped out so quickly. And, armed with the answers to so many of the questions she’s had, Callie can start believing what she’s been told by other Wordspinners thus far. And, gaining support from her friends at long last, particularly Matthias, she can step forward with an additional amount of confidence and renewed commitment. Oh, and I decided it would take her about this long to finally give up on trying to turn away and go back home every other step. So yeah, big changes!

6: Character Takes Ownership of What She Finds--"Taking" her place among these Wordspinners, coming into her own, finding out about who she really is, which has been denied and suppressed for so long.

After this, in the style of “Out Of the Frying Pan, Into The Fire”, it’s on to Tark and another level of people-stealing—but this time, the four friends are united and it’s going to be harder to fool them or carry them off, as they are now willing to work together and escape. It’s at this point that they all start being honest with one another, and Callie finally admits how long her whole connection with the Wordspinners has been going on. With all this out in the open, she is ready to move on to the next phase in her journey.
That next phase turns out to involve a small deserted village fairly close to a deep forest. They find a young girl in the forest who has two other siblings, and they all live together in a house, barely scraping by without their parents. Now that Callie is getting more aware of her calling and the way storytelling ties in with that (after the miraculous way it had worked so well with Tark), she now uses a story not just to divert attention, but to draw it to the plight of these children. So now she begins to see firsthand the benefits of the Wordspinners, and how vital they actually are to the function of a society.

7: Character Makes A Return--To her friends, to the familiar lifestyle she has known from before, armed with new knowledge and power.
           
And finally, now that she has learned what she needs to be and gained a sort of purpose and direction for her life, all that remains is to finally get to the place where she will finally meet the Inkweaver she has been looking for. But before this happens, she encounters the strange and mysterious Moon Valley, and the enigmatic Earth-Teller, Jacqueline. This is where the story might have the tendency to get very cerebral and trippy, but I don’t want it to veer too far off the rails, not when we’re so close to the end! So I’ll have to think very carefully about the events from Draft 1, weighing each of them to figure out if they are really necessarily the best way to get my point across. After meeting Jacqueline, who answers most of her questions, rather in an oblique way, she discovers Derrian the Story-Healer, nearly unhinged with guilt over his actions in the past, and they find the last item they needed to seek. 

8: Character Has Changed--Her outlook and her perspective has changed, and she is ready to change the world.
           
I don’t want to spoil my own book, but you can pretty much guess what goes on at this point. Callie is still far from home, but the story isn’t over yet, and who knows? Maybe by now her parents have discovered she isn’t with the convoy any more, and they could venture out to look for her, reuniting that way, or perhaps later in the series she might have cause to return home, but the fact that this first book is called “The Last Inkweaver” is still very deliberate, and it carries some implications for the other four books. (You can check them out on The Shelf, and muse about your own ideas for how the plot might continue with those ones!)

So yeah, I do have more of a trajectory in place, I just have to pull it off! This beginning, already, has proved quite hairy, so I am hoping to at least get the rest of it down and then go back and get a fix on the way I envision it! I hope you’ll join me in this journey!