So while I’m out guest-posting and interviewing it up, here is another little tidbit from my resident (self-appointed) muse. I’m sorry. I’m really, incredibly sorry. For the uninitiated, Clyde is a character in my new book, Olde School. He’s a rather untraditional take on the fairy tale talking animal theme. It seems when Clyde is dropped into the real world, his ego tends to get a little…well…you’ll see.
After a long, hectic week, it was nice to be able to take a few hours to appreciate the fine art of chilling out before tackling the next terrifyingly long to do list. Some days it felt that no matter where I looked, those lists were intent on stalking me, biding their time until they could throttle me to bend to their whim. One of these days my to do lists were going to strangle all their obligations and necessities out of the very core of my being, I just knew it.
Yep, movies and lemonade were very much needed.
I’d just collapsed onto the couch, intent on perusing the DVD selection on the coffee table when there was the unmistakable sound of a haughty, irritated throat clearing.
I knew better than to look, but it wasn’t like I’d be able to avoid it, either. Fighting a sigh, I leaned my head back to examine the decorative branch draped with colored scarves and fabrics that broke up the tedium of the beige wall behind me. There, perched on the branch in a rather annoyed ball of shimmering blue-green feathers, was what had apparently become my personal muse and bane of my artistic existence.
His head tilted and although it looked adorable, I had learned not to fall for such little tricks. “You cannot be more formal to one such as myself?”
I raised my eyebrow and went back to looking for the remote. I’d just acquired a new one that was supposedly impossible to lose, though evidence to the contrary showed that it either had fallen into the Couch Abyss or had gone on a surprise road trip to Vegas. “Nope.”
He grimaced and lighted on the couch arm. “If you are done with such mundane practices, I wish to speak to you.”
Fabulous. My luck, he’d used what little magic he had in that form to hide the blasted remote. I don’t know why I thought I’d never see him again after finishing Olde School, but the weeks had stretched on and my life had been blessedly Clyde-less, save for the random proclamations of love for him from new readers and friends alike. “Something buggin’ that mystic mind of yours, C-dog?” It was a cheap shot, and I probably shouldn’t try to play with fire, but besides being the only physical connection to my series, what was he really going to do? He’d long ago lost access to most of his powers and it wasn’t like he was a hawk or a goose or even a parrot. A tiny songbird was not much of a threat.
He narrowed his eyes and paced the couch arm. “I will thank you kindly to bestow upon me the respect my kind deserves. Remember that you were not this confident in your bard abilities a few weeks ago until I deigned to manifest to help your motivation.”
Okay, that was fair. Still, his ‘motivation’ had consisted of threats and demands for ice cream and red wine. Which reminded me… “Can I get you anything, Oh all-powerful Olde One who deigns to see me fit enough to show me one of your forms and blow my ever-lovin’ mind?” Wow, I needed to get writing again and fast. I hadn’t even intended for that to be sarcastic when I’d first opened my mouth.
“If I wanted decent sustenance I would have friend Paddlelump in his capacity as my manservant scrounge something up,” Clyde grumbled. We’d long since established that he thought my tastes were either too healthy or beneath him, so I wasn’t surprised. “Your tone is also not appreciated. You may have laid forth the gateway to my world, you may have the power to shape realms, but do not taunt what your little mortal mind cannot completely fathom,” the songbird growled in a deep baritone that was both sandpaper and honey.
I blinked. “Wow, something must be wrong. Your feathers aren’t usually in so much of a jumble.” He snorted and bent his head to tug at the plumage on his chest. I averted my eyes (it seemed the decent thing to do if he was going to take the time to adjust himself in public). Still, that gave me no inkling why he’d shown up again. “What’s on your mind?”
He rose his head and glared at me. Under his feathery topknot, his blue-green eyes were hard and unforgiving. “You are not trying hard enough.”
It probably wasn’t possible for my eyebrows to touch the back of my neck, but that was how shocked I felt. “Excuse me?” He was lucky I couldn’t find the remote. If I had, he would have been smacked off the couch with it.
He thrust an accusing wing in my direction. “Your book has been out for weeks and yet your whole pitiful realm is not ablaze.”
“Uh…Clyde, things take time. The blog tour’s starting today, I’m working on some more outside promotion, there have been ads, I did that con and library signing in March, I’m working on more appearances, plus I’m setting up the next book plus a side book. Remember, I’ve got limited resources and series take time to gain momentum.” It was such a logical train of thought, so of course he didn’t want to hear it. My words did nothing to soothe the pseudo-bird and he stalked up the back of the couch and down to the other arm, pointedly using his nails to tug up threads in the blanket covering it as he did so.
“You need more reviews. Two is a pitiful amount, no matter how glowing.”
Yep, there was all the panic and self-doubt creeping in, making my back and chest feel like I was being attacked by a python. “I’m working on it. Again, things take time! There are more supposed to be coming in still. Besides, those around me who have read it, love it, they just don’t always think to leave reviews. They like you, especially.” I’d thought this might calm him a down a bit. Nope, I was not that lucky.
The bird cursed under his breath in a language I couldn’t understand, something guttural and malevolent-sounding. The very words made the room feel ice cold and my skin go clammy. I’m fairly certain that between the couch cushions, a dark and foreboding something lurked, though I wasn’t particularly sure what a vortex was supposed to look like. “What are you doing? Stop it!” His little head snapped up to me, then he regarded the new portal shimmering along the back edge of the sofa. With a few well-placed, equally ancient phrases, it dissipated and all was back to normal.
Well, normal-ish. If the remote hadn’t been gone before, it definitely was now.
Something was up, something more than just the obvious lack of progress from a mortal minion to a bizarre muse/source of ancient evil magic stuck in the form of a bird. “Clyde?”
He’d stomped over to the pile of DVDS and systematically began kicking them off the table to the floor, one after another. “Wasting precious time with frivolous, idiotic follies…”
“Come on! It’s not like I just exist to write about you! I’ve been working hard juggling everything in my life lately!”
He ignored me, stiffening as the case for Thor: The Dark World came into view. After a few, silent moments he snarled and promptly stomped on it.
“Dude! I haven’t even seen that one yet! Watch the case—the library’ll charge me for that!”
“He does not really look like that, you know,” he spat. His feathers had puffed up and he looked like an agitated fluff-ball. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why the bird would have a grudge against Chris Hemsworth. These were the incidents in life that my publisher, my editor, and every writing influence I’d ever had had somehow neglected to prepare me for.
“I…guess not? I mean he’s an actor. It’s not like he walks around looking like a comic book character—” The rude noise that cut me off defied physics and description.
“I do not mean that fellow. What would I care of a mortal player of tales? Though ‘twas quite a coup, involving the illustrated fiction and modern cinema to repopulate his following.” He was jumping on the case now, turning small circles on it, growling under his breath.
I was really, really missing something. “Come again?”
He fluttered up, turned, and lighted, jabbing a wing at me. “This is why you must work harder! I shall not be humiliated by a slummock so foul, so vile, so trivial—”
“Hey! Let’s get one thing straight, bird. I write your world, and I don’t appreciate you throwing your ego around or calling me names, no matter how antiquated! I’m not an idiot. I do actually know what you mean, you know.”
It was Clyde’s turn to look confused, and his feathers slowly deflated until he was back to his usual svelte physique. “I was not referring to you. I only meant that I need you to get your title into as many hands as possible so that I might compete!”
“Compete with what? Is this some kind of Olde One grudge with your brethren that I don’t know about?”
He snorted. “Nay. Those that are around are as hindered as I, and the rest of my kin are locked safely away from me.” He turned back to the DVD case and glowered. “I have no care about returning to my former glory, but I will not be slighted as a lesser being! Just because movies were made with attractive mortal avatars, he thinks he is so much better because his fan harems are bursting at the seams!” he ranted, descending back onto the case so he could scratch both feet over the movie cover.
An idea started to form in the back corners of my mind, a swirl of something so ridiculous and horrifying that it either had to be used in a story, or was exactly what was actually going on in some bizarre AU/real-world mashup way. “Are you talking about Thor?”
The curse I got in reply sunk that theory. “He is many things, but conniving of his own design, he is not. Besides, back in the day he required me as his wingman, so to speak, to gain the favor of the ladies. No, I mean Loki, the arrogant gundygut.”
I opened my mouth and shut it. Thought for a moment and couldn’t come up with a coherent thought to save my life. “I…you…what?”
He sighed and looked at me as if he’d veered off onto the highway and I was still cruising the back roads. “Clodpoll. Fopdoodle. Blatherskite. A great big idjit!”
“I get that, but aren’t you overreacting, freaking out about mythological fictional characters?
Clyde rolled his eyes and fluttered his tail feathers out. “It never occurred to you that the Olde Ones were once part of the other pantheons in some form? Just because the Greeks and Norse have better bards—”
I had to hand it to him. He was quick to dodge the pillow I threw at him. That’s what I got for having a muse with wings.
As irritated as he made me, there were bigger things to think about, though. “You mean to tell me that you hang out with other pantheons? And that they’re like real? Like real real?”
He blinked, startled. “I did not expect this to be a new concept for you. ‘Tis the downside of these modern times. They are as real as any other idea or concept these days.”
“So like all pantheons and legends?” My head was beginning to throb at the implications.
He did the so-so gestures with a wing. “It depends on our followings and how necessary we are at any given time. The Fae have gained quite a foothold recently, though they often keep themselves to themselves.”
That wasn’t quite the explanation I’d hoped for, but I’d learned to expect that with him. “Okay, so you manifest with ideas or belief or whatever, but only in certain ways,” I muttered, trying my best to talk it out. “And what, you guys hang out?”
“Aye, ‘tis the benefit of not being trapped in my home realm,” he admitted. “And not being consistently tied to Kingdom City, either.”
That concept had never occurred to me. Nor had it occurred to me that the various pantheons or archetypes or whatever would be quite so competitive. “So you get together and talk? What do you do, have meetings or coffee clutches or something?”
He rolled his eyes. “Nay. We merely compare notes, occasionally seek assistance, start wars with each other, dabble in the lives of mortal artists and fan harems. Though we do have monthly games of cards. Your mortal poker is quite entertaining.”
My mind was too blown to even consider that image. I leaned over him, intrigued. “What are they like? The other gods?”
I didn’t know what I’d expected, but Clyde right in my face wasn’t it. “You will not dally with the others! You are my bard, and you have many more words to write for me!”
His hot breath reeked of rare steak and the wings clamping my cheeks did him no favors. “Clyde!” I smacked at him until he finally released my head. “Stop it! It’s not like I have time to add any more grandiose worlds on my plate. I have enough to deal with as it is!”
He sighed and hopped down to the table where he resumed his destruction of the movie case. “The fool does not even resemble that visage and yet women still long for him. Do they not remember his true sins? Do they not remember the horse?! What does one have to do to gain mortal allegiance these days!!?” I hadn’t heard him so exasperated in, well, ever. Whatever Loki was really like, he’d apparently done a number on Clyde.
“Hey, calm it down, wings! I only asked because I was curious, not because I’m switching hors-uh, allegiances.” Somehow, the metaphor I’d been about to say just seemed wrong now. “Besides, you have friends in Kingdom City who adore you, and I’m sure you’ll gain a following here. Think of it, the others have had ages to get established—”
His little legs flashed as he leapt onto my knee. “You think I am so new? You think a mortal like yourself can think up new pantheons instead of us letting you dream us into being?”
Talk about a rock and a hard place. Technically he couldn’t lie when asked directly, the Olde Ones being similar in their rules to the Good Neighbors. A closer inspection of Clyde proved that he wasn’t putting on airs. He was truly upset. Whether it was a clever ploy and ego or the truth wasn’t for me to ask directly, not when he was obviously feeling less.
I sighed and pet his head, twirling a finger around his feathery topknot. “I’ll see what I can do, okay? But it takes time, especially with a new book by a relatively unknown author.”
A heavy sigh rippled out of his little beak and his soulful blue-green eyes gazed up at me. “I apologize for my wrath. I do not like being reminded of my current shortcomings. I may have no interest in the manipulation and torture of souls anymore, but ‘tis nice to be wanted.”
I nodded. “We all have our days, Clyde. We’ll get there, don’t worry. There are still many, many stories to tell. People are asking for them. And for you.”
He sniffled and shrugged. “Mayhaps.”
I was too nice. The fact that I was comforting the jerk proved it. “They are! It’ll be great!”
He shook his head. “I should have let myself get locked into a more pleasing form.”
“Are you kidding? That’s part of your charm!” I insisted.
He nuzzled into my hand and kicked the DVD off the table. “Perhaps you are right, sweet bard.” He paused and stared up at me again. “Am I as pretty as Sir Tom of Hiddleston?”
I opened my mouth, then shut it. True, he couldn’t take my soul or curse me. Still, I didn’t doubt that he’d be able to tell if I was lying and the repercussions would be obnoxious. “Hey, I think I have some really good chocolate in the pantry. How about a little tribute to cheer you up?”
He took his place on my shoulder. “You are avoiding my query.”
“Did you do something different with your feathers? They’re so sparkly in the light today.”
“Bard, answer me or I shall fear the worst!”
I really hoped my answer wouldn’t send me into a couch vortex. I did not have time to navigate a couch vortex on a busy Monday. “Clyde, that’s an impossible question to answer. How can you expect me to compare two completely different forms?”
He considered this, then nodded sagely. “You are right. ‘Twould not be fair to a mere mortal to be compared to one such as myself.”
I released the breath I’d been holding and headed to the kitchen. Still, his grumbles of “Stupid Norse pantheon taking the best avatars,” didn’t escape my ear. Something told me I’d better get on my promotional tasks and start book two soon, if only for my own sanity.
Notes – Any reference to named characters refers to the mythological pantheons. I don’t do fanfic (except if it’s on my own universe, apparently). Pop culture references aside, I’m not going there. As always, Clyde and the Kingdom City universe is mine and I’m the only one who can use them for stupid shenanigans.
Book One of The Kingdom City Chronicles
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