Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 3 (of 3)

Pumpkin, Spice, and Everything Nice! The magical girl Halloween showdown comes to its thrilling conclusion!

Featured image: “#PunkinDidNothingWrong” by Roffles Lowell

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Margherita stood by, biting her nails. Tears ran down her cheeks as she stared at all her boxes of ruined pizza. Her eyes flicked back between Jake and Magical Girl Punkin Spice.

“Please,” she pleaded. “Please, no more. Please don’t ruin any more food—”

In spite of the chilly night air, Jake felt sweat forming under his collar. He took another pull on his coffee, but then raised his hands and slowly backed away from Punkin. Her wand still pointed at his chest.

“Wait, hold on,” he said. “You don’t want me to get a taste for pumpkin spice—”

“Oh yes I do,” Punkin whispered. “I want everyone to know the joys of pumpkin spice!”

Jake chuckled nervously. “Look, I don’t know exactly how this kind of thing works, but I’m pretty sure pumpkin spice isn’t my thing. I mean, I’m a guy. I bet I’d have to have a lot more estrogen in my system before I could enjoy something like pumpkin spice—”

“I can take care of that,” Punkin hissed. Her wand trembled in her grasp. Continue reading “Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 3 (of 3)”

Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 2 (of 3)

It’s Halloween night, and a spicy new magical girl has her eye on Jake! Can he survive another magical battle? And can he survive the scourge of artificial pumpkin spice flavoring?

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Magical Girl Punkin Spice leapt lightly from her broomstick, which with a flash of light shrank into a small dust broom. she clipped it to her belt. Flipping her braided ponytail off her shoulder, she cocked her enormous pointed hat, and her bright blue eyes surveyed the scene. The other magical girls stood tense, and the normal humans slowly backed away. Over near the bubbling cauldron of cider, Pretty Dynamo rested a hand on the wand holstered at her side.

Jake shrugged and took another bite of his pizza. Margherita’s pizza was good when it was cold, too.

“You there!” Punkin at last shouted, jabbing a finger toward him. “What is this blasphemy?”

She marched his way. Jake merely raised an eyebrow and sucked up a wayward strand of mozzarella. “Excuse me?”

“Pizza?” Punkin Spice cried, shaking a fist. “You’re eating pizza on Halloween night?” Continue reading “Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 2 (of 3)”

Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 1 (of 3)

For the magical girls, it’s the most important night of the year, a night to renew their contracts with their familiars. But will a mysterious newcomer ruin their joyous celebrations?

Featured image”Magical Girl Punkin Spice” by Roffles Lowell.

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This night was unlike any other. A tension, a frisson of excitement hung in the air like that melancholy tingle of expectation before a thunderstorm. The entire city of Urbanopolis, that last refuge of beleaguered humanity, glowed with multicolored lights and resounded with music and chatter. On every stoop grinned a fiery Jack-o’-Lantern eerily flickering with candlelight. Children laughed and ran pell-mell down sidewalks, their boots or sandals slapping against the concrete. Or they gathered in timid clusters, clinging to the hands of longsuffering parents. They wore garish costumes, like fairy creatures arisen from some dark corner of a half-forgotten world: Here was a ghost, there a goblin, there a ballerina in pink lace. Hastily made outfits of cardboard and brown paper crackled and crinkled as their wearers clumsily walked. A few children shivered with cold. Others had, at the behest of nervous mothers, forced themselves into parkas before climbing into their costumes, so they were plump and round as pumpkins under their elaborate dress. The clear sky was black, a hint of frost clung to the air, and the last remaining leaves hung brown and blood red on the trees.

This was Halloween, the night of nights.

Continue reading “Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 1 (of 3)”

#WaifuWednesday Special: Andalusia Trading Card is 50% Off!

On this Waifu Wednesday, are you alone? Are you lonely and miserable, sitting in your mom’s basement with your fedora askew on your unwashed hair as you scratch your unshorn neck and pick at your acne? Are your hot pockets tasteless, no longer satisfying? Does your anime character body pillow no longer comfort you as it once did? Do you wonder if this is all there is to life? Do you yearn for something more? Are you in need of a warrior dame named after an autonomous community of Spain to lift you out of your doldrums?

I think so. In fact, I know so.

That’s why, in honor of Waifu Wednesday, our one-of-a-kind Magical Girl Lady Paladin Andalusia trading cards are half off for one day only! Featuring Andalusia’s genuine signature and the professional photography of artist Roffles Lowell, this card depicts Andalusia in a striking yet sensitive pose, eyes humbly cast down as she thanks God and the Moon Princess for her latest victory over monsters and Saracens … or maybe she’s just thinking about the Backdoor Boys, because, I mean, Donnie in those tight jeans? Like, OMP.

So don’t delay. Shut up and let me take your money … or something like that.

Chibi Dynamo!

Roffles Lowell, the official illustrator of Jake and the Dynamo, is hard at work on the interior illustrations for volume 1. He sends along this image of Magical Girl Pretty Dynamo completing her transformation sequence, and he invited me to post it, since he has a different picture intended for the book itself.

Meanwhile, I’m hard at work making the changes recommended to me by L. Jagi Lamplighter. I have a window of one week before I’m back at school, and I hope to get it finalized in that time.

The State of the ‘Jake and the Dynamo’ Project

Featured image: “Dazzling Bijou” by puddinprincess.

I have my notes back from L. Jagi Lamplighter, who graciously agreed to provide editing services for Jake and the Dynamo. She tells me that she and John C. Wright both found the book very funny, but she also made some incisive criticisms pointing out how it could be improved.

Writers in my circle had praised Lamplighter for her abilities as an editor, which is one of the reasons I had hoped she’d take me on. The praise was accurate; I had heard with the hearing of the ear, but now mine eyes have seen. She has an excellent command of story mechanics, and she knows exactly how to pinpoint problems precisely while at the same time framing her criticisms broadly enough to leave the author maximal freedom to work. On top of that, she criticizes in such a gracious style that she short-circuits the “you’re kicking my baby” response, which can be the knee-jerk reaction of some writers, especially newbs. Upon reading her advice, instead of the dismay I might normally feel when having my shortcomings explained to me, I felt an eagerness to get back to work.

Most of the changes she requested are minor, and she said I could probably make them in a single sitting. I think that would be one of her sittings, but it’s likely to take three or four of mine.

I have not had much time to write this summer as I’m currently working while getting a master’s degree in half the usual time. However, my summer term ends in two weeks, and then I’ll have a two-week break from schooling. That’s when I plan to make all the edits, put together a submission package, and get this sent off.

Lamplighter urged me to contact the editor of a particular press I probably shouldn’t name in a post yet. She said she’s already pitched my book there, and that the publisher is interested. That’s no guarantee of anything, of course, but it’s encouraging. I originally started this novel as a lark and expected to self-publish, but if an indie press wants to pick it up, that would be great.

I have my fingers crossed that the as-yet-unnamed publisher might be interested in not only the novel, but also the illustrations by Roffles Lowell—which he is hard at work on and has shown me preliminaries to prove it. I hired Lowell when self-publishing was still the plan, and I’ll be sure that he gets compensated and gets his work displayed one way or the other, but it would be awesome if I could convince a publisher that this is a light novel and thus needs illustrations. Obviously, an indie publisher such as the one to which I’ll be submitting is more likely to be persuaded on this than a big-name publisher, who would laugh contemptuously at any author who submitted illustrations with his written work.

I like working with Lowell, and I like seeing what he produces. We’re both newbs, so if we could break into the market together, that would be cool.

Since I’m now planning to submit to a publisher, I think it best if I put a halt to the web postings of the novel at least until I have publication matters squared away. Thus, the book is now on indefinite hiatus, for real this time.

If I end up self-publishing as originally planned, I’ll go back to posting the chapters here, but if I’m going to be publishing through a publisher, I should stop posting chapters for free consumption until further notice.

I’m not going to take down the already-published chapters (unless instructed to), but I don’t plan to add any more for the time being. Besides, as noted, I have no more to post at the moment, as I simply haven’t had much time to produce them.

On top of that, I’m going to be changing the way I tell this story anyway. My original intention was to write the whole thing and dump it on Amazon Kindle, but having realized that I have multiple novels’ worth of material, I’d like to switch gears. I will be (at Lamplighter’s recommendation) rewriting chapter 19 to make a better conclusion to volume 1, and then I’m going to take stock of chapters 20 and beyond to see how I can better shape them into a self-contained book. Now that I’m doing this as a series instead of one giant novel, I wish to ensure that each volume has its own complete arc, so I’ll probably be rearranging plot elements.

That’s all for now. Jake and the Dynamo is on hiatus, but the reviews and essays will continue until morale improves.

Will Kill for Money, Part 4 (of 4)

From the Casefiles of the Ragamuffin

Featured image swiped from ENM.

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Hilscher, their host, quickly made his way to Lung and did namaste. Lung, without cracking so much as a smile, bowed in return. Both men were gigantic, though Hilscher was the more intimidating of the two, as Lung had put on fat in recent years.

Iron Lung was a notorious gangster who ruled the drug trade in most of Southside, especially the massive slum called Harijan Basti. He and Rags had tangled more than once—and it was a testament to his resourcefulness and power that she had always come off the worse in those encounters.

Rags slipped away from the ladies cooing over her and walked brashly up to the huge men. She didn’t bow, but merely placed her fists on her hips and gave the two of them a childish scowl.

Hilscher’s voice came through Nicky’s earpiece. “Ah, Fräulein Rags, you have met Herr Lung, I presume?”

“I have,” Rags said.

Now a small smile cracked Lung’s stony face. He bowed slightly. “Ragamuffin. I am … surprised … to see you here.”

Hilscher smirked.

So this was what he was after—sending a message to one of his greatest rivals in the drug trade. Word would get out quickly, if it hadn’t already, that Rags was in Hilscher’s pay.

“I’m afraid Fräulein Rags cannot talk for long,” Hilscher said. “She is working tonight, ja?”

“How unfortunate.” Lung reached into his jacket, and Rags tensed, but his hand came out holding a pack of cigarettes. He stuck one between his lips, and Hilscher offered him a light.

After a few puffs, Lung said, “The Ragamuffin and I have much to discuss—but it will have to wait for another time.”

Casually, Rags cracked her fine knuckles one by one. “Y’know I use riot rounds,” she said quietly, “cuz I got a rule for me an’ my guys: don’t kill nobody. That’s my rule. But I carry just one half-jacketed hollow-point. Got it with me all the time. An’ you know why?”

Lung took a deep pull on his cigarette and slowly blew out a thick stream of smoke, but didn’t answer.

“I got your name etched in that bullet, Iron Lung, an’ one o’ these days, I’m gonna use it.”

Lung leaned down until he was almost eye-level with Rags. His smile again broke through his stony face, like sunlight shining through a chink in a rock wall. “Oh, I’m sorry. It’s terribly rude of me to meet a child like this. Next time we see each other, Ragamuffin, I’ll bring some toys, hm? Sharp ones … but I’ll be the one playing, you understand?” Continue reading “Will Kill for Money, Part 4 (of 4)”

Will Kill for Money, Part 3 (of 4)

From the Casefiles of the Ragamuffin

Featured image unidentified.

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This ballroom was not in the Arx Ciceronis, but it was in the swankiest part of Godtown outside the fortress. The décor was in a regional style blended with Western elements, the effect of which was jarring. The ceiling was a vast, honeycombed vault, each pit in its surface inset with a colorful mural depicting Rajputs hunting or in combat. A great crystal chandelier hung from the center of the dome; covered with candles rather than electric lights, it flickered wildly as the air played around it. Along the walls, horseshoe arches topped the tall, rain-drenched windows, between which were pilasters meant vaguely to give the room the appearance of a pillared courtyard. Most of the construction was of marble and plastered brick, but the ballroom’s highly polished sprung dancefloor was genuine hardwood, undoubtedly imported at great expense. On a raised stage, a light orchestra was already deep into a waltz. Several couples were dancing.

It looked simply like a wealthy party, but Nicky immediately noticed, against the walls, six stiff-backed, hulking marjaras dressed in long, maroon kurtas embroidered in gold. On their heads were high turbans edged with gold lace and decorated with golden brooches topped with white feathers. Each of these marjaras had the red fur, thick mane, and protruding fangs of a Kshatriya, a man bred for war.

As he had promised, Nicky made his way to the bar and threw himself down on a stool. “Hey,” he called, “drink-wallah.” Continue reading “Will Kill for Money, Part 3 (of 4)”

Will Kill for Money, Part 2 (of 4)

From the Casefiles of the Ragamuffin

Featured image unidentified.

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The home base of the Ragtag Army was the rococo parlor, decorated in the French taste, of Rags’s Victorian mansion high in the Arx Ciceronis. Having carted her favorite chair back from the godown in Godtown’s seedy east end to its accustomed place beside her round-topped fireplace, Rags was once again settled in its depths, idly wiggling her feet and pretending to peruse a dog-eared copy of Little Women. Muffin lay at her feet. Across from her, in a comparatively uncomfortable but more fashionable Louis XV chair, Suzie, the team’s radio operator, perused a picture book with a teddy bear tucked under her left arm. She looked bored.

In the middle of the room, sitting cross-legged on the floor with a blindfold over her eyes and a sheet spread before her, the tall and spindly Alex Taliaferro attempted to reassemble her M249 squad automatic weapon, a task at which she was failing miserably.

Nicky and Jeanne strode in through the double French doors. With them was the straight-backed Ryuji Fujiyoshi, who, at the age of sixteen, was the “old man” of the team. Clinging to his hand was his six-year-old sister Rika, whom everyone called Popkin.

Just as they entered, Alex threw up her hands and shouted, “Where in Jahannam is the gods-damned return spring?” Continue reading “Will Kill for Money, Part 2 (of 4)”

Will Kill for Money, Part 1 (of 4)

From the Casefiles of the Ragamuffin

Featured image unidentified, unfortunately.

This is a story I wrote as a test of a new character for the Rag & Muffin universe. It’s rather long, so I’ve divided it up. I’m not entirely sure what to do with it.

Just for the record, and for fair warning, R&M has content a bit harsher than what appears in Jake and the Dynamo.


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Edmund Hilscher’s physical bulk was enough to intimidate most people, and his keen mind and boundless energy were enough to intimidate the rest. With heavy jowls and shoulders a full meter across, he got what he wanted by getting in people’s faces—and sometimes by beating those faces in. In Prussia, he had been notoriously brutal in underground boxing before a mob offered him a lot of money to become a heavy. Five years of thuggery and a lot of ill-gotten coin later, he had left his boss with a slit belly and made his way to the ancient, sleaze-ridden temple city of Godtown. There, he carved out his personal empire in the heroin and opium trade.

He scared people. He counted on his ability to scare people.

But, standing in the monsoon rain late at night outside a rust-coated warehouse down by the docks, he knew he could not scare the people he was about to meet. He’d heard the rumors, and unlike the criminals who had learned better only when it was too late, he chose to believe them.

He couldn’t afford not to. Continue reading “Will Kill for Money, Part 1 (of 4)”