Posts Tagged ‘“Summer Love”

27
Mar
10

Summer Love Lives?

One thing I’ve regretted on this site has been my inability to finish the serial novel, Summer Love, that I was serializing here when I launched. As I’ve said before, the main problem I had was Percy Jackson. Great books. Too similar to things I had planned. The story died.

But now…

I make no promises, but I think I have a way to fix this. I’ll have to throw out some of the stuff I already have written and change all my previous plans, but this could work. I may even have a new title, finally.

I do promise this: unlike last time, I will not attempt to share this story until it is FINISHED. I’ve learned my lesson.

01
Sep
09

Workin’ in a coal mine…

Okay, maybe sitting in front of my laptop at the kitchen table isn’t exactly “in a coal mine,” but I’ve been working a heck of a lot lately. First, the stuff that you guys can see obviously. Next week I’m going to present the final chapter of Lost in Silver. So all of you folks who tell me you’ve been waiting for the story to finish before you even start reading it… well, I don’t blame you. But you will soon have no excuses.

Does this mean a return of Summer Love to the Realms? In a word… no. At least, not now. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my drive for Summer Love suffered a major blow when I realized that the story I was working on was frighteningly similar to a pretty popular series of young adult novels. Yeah. Those. So I’ve been trying to work my way through the end of the story in some other fashion. I’m not there yet. I hope to be soon. This, however, is the reason I’m not going to be starting any new fiction project here at Evertime Realms soon. The experience with Summer Love has taught me that it’s a big mistake to begin serializing a story that isn’t finished yet. I haven’t yet decided what my next online project will be, but I assure you whatever it is will be finished before I post a single word here.

So what have I been working on? Mostly A Long November and Other Stories. Now that I’ve actually got a Kindle in my hot little hands (well… not at this instant, I need both hands for typing), I believe in the format more than ever. So I’m working hard on edits and renovations to all nine of the stories that are going to make up my Yuletide anthology. It’s coming along nicely.

The other major project weighing on my mind at the moment is going to be coming your way sooner than you think. Beginning this fall, Blake M. Petit’s Evercast is going to be my new podcast home, where I’m going to release my fiction — both short stories, and serialized novels and novellas — in audio format. I’m going to launch this new podcast the last week in October, hopefully with a new Halloween-themed short story (but if I don’t finish one, I’ve got some old ones I may present). After that, you can look forward to a presentation of A Long November in the feed leading up to Christmas, then in the new year, something that’s never been in your ears before.

It’s going to be a lot of work, and frankly, I’m already exhausted. But I’m psyched about it, and I hope you guys will get behind it as much as I already am. After all, without you out there listening, I’m pretty much just talking to myself. And that’s not healthy for anyone.

10
Aug
09

The future of books — and Blake’s books

Those of you who came by today looking for the latest chapter of Lost in Silver… God bless you. I just got back from serving a long day on Jury Duty, though, and while Lost in Silver IS a finished novel, with each chapter I’ve posted I’ve been doing editing and formatting work I just don’t have the energy for at the moment. It will return next Monday, I promise.

But on my way to and from the federal court where my duty took place, I was listening to a podcast by the brilliant Scott Sigler. Sigler is one of three authors who, through a combination of excellent work, boundless enthusiasm and a kick-ass work ethic, have made me a believer in the power of new media. I don’t think most people have the slightest idea just how much the publishing world has changed in the last few years. And perhaps even more importantly, it’s still changing. It hasn’t stabilized yet, and while there are a lot of theories about what exactly it’s transforming into, nobody can stay for sure.

But I’ve been looking at the innovaters in the new media, looking at the things they’re doing. And I realize the way to move forward in this new space is by innovating, by coming up with the next step before anyone else, and by giving people something they want. And I firmly believe that the future of entertainment will come in a model that involves giving people stuff for free and cultivating a fan base that will support your commercial endeavors.

I’m still new at this. I’m still trying to figure out how to do it. The Siglers have been doing it for a long time now. But I realize that if I’m serious about doing this, serious about being a storyteller… well… I’ve got to get serious. eBooks and podiobooks are paving the way for new readership in ways never imagined before. And so far, I’ve got only one product available in this New Media playground. That’s just not enough. What I’m thinking I want to do — need to do — is simply put more stuff out there.

The obvious question, therefore, becomes what is the best way to do it? And in truth, the more I think about it, I don’t think there really is just one “best way.” I’m thinking of lots of things, lots of ways to try to break out, and slowly, I think I’m developing a plan.

First of all, there’ll be some changes here to Evertime Realms, mainly in the form of the original fiction I post here. Don’t worry, I’m still going to finish Lost in Silver and (one of these days) Summer Love. And I’ll still post short stories here when the mood strikes me. But for book-length fiction, I’m thinking of something new.

These days, it’s remarkably easy to put together an eBook. You can do the design yourself, save it in the appropriate formats, whip up some accounts and bam — you’ve got something that can be distributed — even sold — for eBook readers like the Amazon Kindle without going through a traditional publisher. Although I don’t quite have the know-how to do so, you can do the same thing and make the book an iPhone or Blackberry app. And of course, there’s the podcast novel format, which I’m already in love with and long have been planning to return to.

So I’m thinkin’…

What if I were to start giving this a shot? Right now I’m co-directing a play and (soon) taking a night class. But by the end of October, my schedule will be much clearer. This is the time to start, by taking the podcast novel I’ve already released and putting together a digital package. If I release A Long November as an eBook in November itself, I could try pushing it at Christmas. I could even include the other Christmas short stories I’ve written in the package.

Then, I’m thinking of launching my own podcast feed. I want to go back and use Podiobooks.com again for any future podcast novels I produce, but as many authors have proven, having a dedicated feed for your own work can be a big plus. In addition to podcasting my fiction, I could also chime in with short mini-podcasts from time to time — I’m thinking of a sort of audio version of my old Think About It columns, for those of you who remember those. This feed, too, would start in November with a re-release of A Long November. By starting with something that’s already written and recorded, I would be able to get a head start on whatever I decide to do next. (And that is a decision that’s not entirely in my hands, I should tell you — keep whispering Project Rebirth, Project Rebirth). But ultimately, my plan would be to more or less consistently have some sort of podcast fiction coming down the line. Lost in Silver would be on the feed, along with Summer Love, last year’s NaNoWriMo novel Cross Purposes, and several other things that are finished or close enough to finished that I can seriously think about putting them together this way. And each podcast launch would be accompanied by an eBook version.

I’m not inventing the wheel here. Nothing I’ve suggested is anything new — other, far more innovative people than myself are already doing these things. I don’t want to just come in following on everyone else’s coattails. But at the same time, I’ve got to be in the game before I can win it. All of these things I’m thinking about — they’re a launching pad. A way to get my foot in the door.

So let me talk directly to you guys. My friends. My family. And those utterly awesome people who just pop in here because they like what they read. If I were to do this, if I were to pour my heart and sweat and possibly blood (because if there’s anyone who can damage himself while recording a podcast it’s me) into this new project, is it something you’d be interested in.

If you’ve got an iPod or MP3 player, would you listen?

If you’ve got a Kindle or eBook reader, would you read?

If you’ve got an iPhone or Blackberry, would you dig an app?

And do you have any suggestions that could help me here? There’s a comment button on this page for a reason, my friends. I’m not too proud to listen to anything anybody has to say. This is a big commitment, and to be perfectly honest I think I’ve already decided to try it — at least most of it. What I want from you is to help me figure out how to do it right.

07
Jul
09

The Real Start of Summer

Well guys, I’m happy to report here that summer is starting — really — for me today. Not long after school let out back in June, I had to start taking a summer class. (You may recall me talking about how awesome Erin is for putting up with that during her most recent visit.) As of yesterday, my class is over and I’ve got just about a month left before it’s time to go back to school as a teacher. So my one-month summer is really beginning now.

How will I spend it, you ask? Oh, boy, do I have a lot on my plate. I’m going to try (try, not promise) to finish Summer Love before I get back to school. I’ve got another writing project I’m working on as well, which will probably be quicker, but more involved in a lot of ways. Also, you may recall a while back I asked who would be interested in listening to an audio version of Other People’s Heroes. At the time, I was planning to do a “full cast” audio drama based on the book, with the help of some highly talented and incredibly generous volunteers. Unfortunately, for reasons I can’t get into just yet, I recently found out that isn’t a feasible project, at least not with OPH. I hope to get to do that some other time with some other story, but right now is the time for Other People’s Heroes. So very soon, like tomorrow, I plan to start recording the novel a segment at a time, basically reading the book myself, as I did with A Long November. It’s been a year and a half since ALN, though, and I’ve learned quite a lot about audio recording and production. I’m probably going to wait until I have all — or at least most — of the book recorded before I even start editing, production, and ultimately, release. But I intend to keep you posted on how it’s going.

So I’ve got a lot to work on. And I’d better get to work. But before I go, let me leave you with some photos of the Petit Fourth of July Blowout from this weekend, the highlight of which was a round of “Patriotic Pictionary” my dad envisioned, which turned into a five-hour long game of standard pictionary after we ran out of  the Patriotic terms he had me come up with. It was a blast.

Setting up the tarp with true southern engineering

Setting up the tarp with true southern engineering

Chip tests Dads Washers game

Chip tests Dad's "Washers" game

Heathers enthusiasm bubbles over

Heather's enthusiasm bubbles over

Kayla and Aimee meet Sandies new puppy, Jack

Kayla and Aimee meet Sandie's new puppy, Jack

Taking time to digest lunch

Taking time to digest lunch

Norman here is the state high school wrestling champion. How is he at Washers?

Norman here is the state high school wrestling champion. How is he at Washers?

Wally prepares the Pictionary board

Wally prepares the Pictionary board

Truth, Justice, and the American Way

"Truth, Justice, and the American Way"

This is either half a cows udder or a strange-shaped map of the US

This is either half a cow's udder or a strange-shaped map of the US

The clue? Millard Fillmore. Alex just likes drawing dollar signs.

The clue? "Millard Fillmore." Alex just likes drawing dollar signs.

You can tell thats Paul Revere at the top because he looks just like him.

You can tell that's "Paul Revere" at the top because he looks just like him.

Just dont ask.

Just don't ask.

Benjamin Franklin. No, seriously.

"Benjamin Franklin." No, seriously.

Chip and Kayla take advantage of the 100-degree heat to chill in the 90-degree swimming pool.

Chip and Kayla take advantage of the 100-degree heat to chill in the 90-degree swimming pool.

More photos in my “Friends and Family Flickr Album“!

02
Jun
09

Evertime Realms: One Year Later

It’s a double aniversary for me today. First of all, it’s four years to the day that I first met my girlfriend, Erin, in person. And for all the crap that has happened since then, the time with her has made it the best four years ever.

In news that will be of more interest to those of you who don’t want to get cavities, today is also the one-year anniversary of the relaunch of my Evertime Realms site. I did a “soft launch” of sorts on June 2, 2008, putting the site online and e-mailing friends and family asking them to check it out before I started posting links, setting it as my site on profiles like Facebook, and generally trying to promote it. It wasn’t long, though, before I started turning out the content that I was hoping to do. Later that same day, I posted my first book review, of Kevin Brockmeier‘s novel The Brief History of the Dead. My first movie review came on June 12, with the documentary The King of Kong. I started doing basic blog posts, columns, rants, ponderings of all kinds. On June 9 I posted the prologue to my novel-in-progress, Summer Love, which I swear to you guys is still in-progress.

Then things started to happen that I didn’t intend when I launched the site. On July 24 I posted a bit about the new DC Universe Infinite Heroes action figures I found. The response surprised me, so I did it again. And again. Now the feature I call Toy Stories has become a staple of Evertime Realms.

Earlier this year, I realized that I needed time to work on Summer Love, really work it to completion. So rather than leaving no new fiction here at all, I started serializing an older work of which I am still extremely proud, Lost in Silver. I’ve wound up posting a lot of fiction here on the site, and it’s gotten a lot of reads. But not enough comments, hint hint.

I moved my annual Halloween Party and Christmas Party series here from my old LiveJournal account. I’ve provided incessant links to my columns and podcasts, and an enormous, still-incomplete archive of my comic book reviews. I’ve done bits on teaching and writing. About plays I’ve been involved with and about just goofing off with Erin and my friends. I even survived a hurricane.

So it’s been a pretty good year here at the Realms. Thanks for everyone who has stopped here over the last 12 months. I hope you keep coming back, and I hope you keep enjoying it — and I hope you comment more. If there’s one thing I’d like more of, it’s feedback! I’m shameless about this, friends, I want to know what you’re thinking. Every post has a comment button. C’mon. Use it!

To wrap up this little retrospective, I thought I would let you know something I already know — which posts have been the most popular. Here, in descending “Countdown” order, are the top ten most-viewed posts at Evertime Realms to date:

10. How to Have a Crawfish Boil — Every Lenten season, my cousins Carl and Tammy host seafood feasts on Fridays. One week, Erin inspired me to take pictures of a crawfish boil in-progress. Since then, this post gets hits all the time from people searching for crawfish recipes. I hope it helps.

9. Blake’s Universal Rules of the Universe is a feature I brought back from my old site, one that people actually asked me to bring back. It’s just a list of goofy thoughts and sayings that I think have some… well… universality to them.

8. NOLA Comic-Con 2009 was a quick post I made once I knew that there were plans to bring a con to New Orleans. Amazingly, this became the top Google search hit for people looking for “New Orleans Comic Convention” and other variations on that. Several people approached the 2 in 1 Showcase table at the con and told me they found out about it because of my post. That was awesome.

7. DC Infinite Heroes: The Gotham Group is a post that showcases the Infinite Heroes Commissioner Gordon figure, as well as a couple of toys from the Dark Knight line.

6. DC Infinite Heroes: Lotsa Toys was a post-Christmas photoblog that ran down a dozen figures I’d gotten since my last post at the time. More Dark Knight, some Green Lantern, Superman, and lots of assorted characters.

5. DC Infinite Heroes II-And Blake’s Classroom was just the second-ever post I made about toys here. It ran down a few new figures, included lots of goofy Mini-Mates pictures, and also showed off how I had arranged my classroom for the then-upcoming school year… the same year that just ended.

4. Lego Batman and Mini-Nightwing looks at, of all things, the McDonald’s Lego Batman Happy Meal toys, as well as the Mini-Mate two-pack of Nightwing and Starfire.

3. Kanye West Hates Reading is a post that’s less than a week old, but it’s already become the third most-read post on my site. When Kanye proved, once again, his utter ignorance by decrying books and asking people to buy his 52-page “book” at the same time, I unloaded. And I’ve gotten some attention for it. This one post probably has more replies than any other on the site.

2. DC Infinite Heroes was my very first toy feature on the site. For those of you who wonder why I talk about toys so much here, this is your answer. Five of my top ten posts have been toy-related posts, including the post that would have been my most-viewed if not for one really cool thing.

1. What I’m Reading: Sheldon. On June 10, 2008, just over a week after I launched the site, I decided to write about my favorite webcomic, Dave Kellett’s Sheldon. The exceedingly generous Mr. Kellett somehow came across this post and linked to it on his own site, which you may notice is far more popular than mine. The incoming traffic was enormous, and this post still gets several hits a week from people going through the archives of Kellett’s blog. This post has almost three times the hits of post #2 on the list. It’s not getting unseated anytime soon, unless Oprah winds up Twittering about me or something. I’d rather have Dave Kellett.

So there you have it, folks. A year’s worth of blogging, and this is what I’ve got to show for it. And y’know? It was totally worth it. I’ll see you later for the beginning of year number two!

30
May
09

What I’m Reading: The Lightning Thief

LightningThieftI’ve mentioned it here before but it bears repeating: I really love Greek Mythology. As you guys have already seen in detail here on the site. But a couple of months ago, one of my fellow teachers recommended this book to me, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. The premise sounded intriguing and I always like new series fiction — especially if the series in question is finished and I don’t have to worry (not to sound crass) about the author dying and never finishing. So upon my friend’s recommendation, I picked the book up and cracked it open, finishing just earlier today.

The Lightning Thief is the first volume in a five-book series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Percy is a sixth-grade student who has spent his life bouncing from one boarding school to another, none of them able to handle a genuinely good kid who nonetheless constantly seems to find himself in trouble. This year, that trouble starts getting worse — as in the “monsters and mayhem” kind of trouble instead of just flunking an English test. One of the nastiest encounters leads him to a strange summer camp full of other kids just as extraordinary as he himself is, and Percy finds the truth: the gods of Greek myth are real, are alive, and one of them is his long-lost father.

I didn’t really pay attention to this book when it was released, shelving it mentally with the dozens of Harry Potter clones that were being put on shelves at the time. Having read it, I still think I was partially correct in that assessment. Structurally, this first book is very similar to Harry Potter — Percy has two friends who accompany him, the mentor characters are suitably mysterious, and the school setting is swapped for a summer camp. However, the more I think of it, none of those elements Percy and Harry have in common were really originated by Harry anyway. There are a lot of elements that Percy has unique to himself, and that’s what makes this book easy to recommend. Riordan has a really interesting social structure in place here, with the gods capable of playing both ally and antagonist as the situation demands. He uses the classic Greek deities, monsters, and symbology to great effect here, crafting a story that is singularly exciting. Percy is quite different from Harry in personality, carrying a bit of a god’s temper in him. As for his friends — well, Annabeth does seem to have a dash of Hermione, but considering who her sire is, that’s only natural.

On a personal note, I have to admit reading this book startled me, because Riordan actually overlaps once or twice with things I have done (or was planning to do) with my own work-in-progress Summer Love, but as both stories employ Greek myths, that’s really unavoidable. My story is drastically different from Riordan‘s, as is my interpretation of the Olympians. It was a little hard, still, to divorce my own ideas from what I read here.

Once I was able to do that, though, I really did enjoy this book. It’s a very strong beginning to the series, and I intend to hunt down book two, The Sea of Monsters, ASAP.

BONUS REVIEW:

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a member of the Amazon.com Vine Program, which gives me a chance to read and review books before they are released. I just finished a really great mystery novel by Lyndsay Faye entitled Dust and Shadow, about Sherlock Holmes and his effort to capture Jack the Ripper. If you’re interested in my review, you can read it here: Dust and Shadow review.

20
Mar
09

A little bit of everything

I’ll be heading out in a few minutes for another one of Carl’s Lenten Seafood Feasts (plus poker night), so I’ll just throw a few random tidbits at you on my way out the door.

School Stuff

I had a bit of the Awesome yesterday morning. I was standing around on duty (which basically means I’ve got to get to work a half-hour early, stand in the midst of 1,200 teenagers, and hope nobody starts a fight), when a girl I taught two years ago came up to me out of the blue and told me that my class was her favorite that year and one of the best classes she’s ever had. There’s no reason for her to tell me this — I’m not her teacher anymore and, unless I get bumped to 12th grade next year (damn unlikely) I won’t be again. Plus, she was the kind of kid who was so quiet I was never really sure if she was engaged in the class or not. And to top it off, since she was in my class two years ago, that means she was part of my first class ever, and let me tell you, nobody ever know what the hell they’re doing their first year teaching. Take all the classes you want, it won’t prepare you. You’ve just got to survive that first year and learn from it.

So hearing that just about made my day.

Comic Stuff

The first issues of Boom! Studios’ Incredibles and Muppet Show comics are hitting stores next week. I’m really glad they priced the comics at $2.99. Most Boom! comics are at the $3.99 price point, which is where I have drawn the line, and therefore, I don’t get any of them. With these — books I reallywant — they’ve given me a break. Expect me to review ’em both at Comixtreme.

Book Stuff

So I’m currently reading Neil Gaiman‘s Newberry Award-winning novel The Graveyard Book. As I’ve come to expect from him, it’s a wonderfully imaginative, inventive novel that has totally captured my attention in a way few other books are doing these days. Glad to know the Newberries still stand for quality.

TV Stuff

So who watched The Office last night? Holy crap, huh? Talk about an ending I didn’t see coming. I’m sure this sets up the final run of the season, but I’ve got no idea where the writers are going with this one. And speaking of writing…

Writing Stuff

Work continues on Summer Love. I managed to get over  700 words written today (which, sadly, is above average lately), and I’ve gotten over a couple of the stumbling blocks I think were slowing me down. It’ll still take me some time to finish, but getting that train moving again was the important part at this stage. Plus, the week after next is Standardized Testing Week, which requires me to read instructions for two minutes then sit down for an hour doing essentially nothing. I got a ton of writing done that week last year. In fact, that’s when I began Summer Love, so I’m hoping to get a big chunk of the conclusion done this time around. In the meantime, who read Chapter One of Lost in Silver? What’d you think of it?
11
Mar
09

Someone is reading “Summer Love!”

So yesterday, despite all expectations, I got a post here from Kathy asking where the heck the latest chapter of Summer Love is. Thank you, Kathy — I’ve got to be honest, I had half-convinced myself nobody was paying attention to it at all. I am, if nothing else, a feedback whore.

So here’s the deal: although I haven’t been posting, I have been working. Summer Love is progressing, albeit much more slowly than I thought it would when I began the project. I launched last year with a sizable buffer of new stuff, but after not getting to work as much as I expected during the summer, the buffer dwindled quickly. Since then, it’s been a constant game of catch-up. Despite that, I’ve been mostly happy with the story.

When we last left our heroes, Adam had recruited the legendary Odysseus to help him overthrow the god of the dead, which you’ve got to admit, it a lot more interesting than whatever you did last weekend. In classic three-act structure, the story is beginning Act Three. Everything that happens from here on out is part of the road to the finale. Act Three is actually probably going to be longer than Act Two (which began when Adam began his journey to Hades), and there’s going to be a lot more action in it as well.

But now I find myself struggling with a bit of a moral quandary. I’ve felt bad about the gaps in the schedule of Summer Love, but I feel worse about coming back for one or two episodes, then falling off the wagon again. I’d prefer to keep working for the next couple of months, get Act Three finished and ready to go, and then run the whole thing without interruption, a chapter a week, like I always intended. I honestly don’t know how long it’ll take to get it to that point, but I find it preferable.

But let me ask you — what would you prefer? Should I post a new chapter whenever one is finished, or would you rather I wait until everything is ready and do it without risk of a gap? The comment section is here for you, friends. I honestly want you to tell me what you want, and if it seems most people would rather get the story a piece at a time, I’ll go back to doing it that way.

And again — if you’ve got a suggestion for a better title, I’m all ears. Every time I type Summer Love, I hate it more.

26
Jan
09

Summer Love Chapter 22: Hungry Heart

Chapter 22

Hungry Heart

Nobody expects to get a lightning bolt hurled into their chest, not even if they’re facing off against the ancient Greek god that was responsible for forging the things. But even so, the fact that Hephaestus threw the bolt into me wasn’t nearly as surprising as the fact that, somehow, it didn’t kill me. In fact, it didn’t even hurt. But it took me off guard enough for me to fall backwards. Nothing was damaged in the attack – not my heart, not my lungs, not my insurance rates – but as the electricity splashed off my chest, scattering like water sprayed against a brick wall, it forced me backwards. I was lifted right off my feet and tumbled off the edge of Hephaestus’s floating island. I plunged through the night, tumbling backwards and spinning out of control through the ink-black sky. The whole way down, I screamed. It may not have been a particularly manly thing to do, but I found it to be a logical course of action, and I’m comfortable with my decision.

I spun backwards as I fell, pitching my way past the floating islands of Hades’ underworld, and never getting more than a glimpse of any of them. There was the odd burst of flame, frequent screaming, and every so often, an enormous thing lurching through the darkness that may have been a tentacle, or a tail, or a long neck for something gargantuan and most likely unpleasant. Like everything in Hades’ realm, my fall felt like it took a very long time. I got completely disoriented and, soon, I couldn’t even tell in which direction I was plummeting. My spinning became more rapid as well, and I felt like a twirling baton when I collided, full-force, with the surface of another island.

I pulled myself up to my knees, but almost immediately fell back down, dizzy from the pinwheel fall. As the underworld continued to spin around me, I grabbed onto the ground and took deep breaths, eyes shut, trying to reorient myself. After long moments of breathing and dry heaving, I started to notice things again. For example, I noticed the ground I was clinging to in the hope that it wouldn’t hurl me back out into the void wasn’t bare dirt or rock like the other islands I had visited. I was, in fact, clinging to grass – long, soft grass with a sweet smell to it that seemed to be helping calm my churning stomach. There was a sound too, a stomping sound nearby that came right up close to me, then stopped. After a few more breaths of the grass, I opened my eyes and looked in the direction of the sound.

“Holy cow,” I moaned.

The cow in question was a huge, beefy animal, with a pure white coat and big, baleful eyes that looked at me while it quietly gnawed its cud. Once it had its chance to examine me, it turned its attention away and took another hearty mouthful of the grass. I pushed myself up and cautiously returned to my feet. Looking around, I saw on this island a vast field of grass, with a few other cows roaming and chewing, and a few more drinking what looked like pure spring water from a creek dribbling through the center of the island. There was a sun, too – a yellow-white globe in the air above us, giving the island heat and light, and making it feel alive while everything around us was dead. While most of the other islands I’d encountered had been horrible, nasty places, by comparison this island was a vacation paradise.

“Am I here, Bossy?” I asked the cow. “Did I really make it to Elysium?”

From the thick grass, a sad laugh simmered. A man sat up, terribly old. His hair and beard were wild and unkempt, and there was a hunger in his eyes his body seemed to reflect. I’ve never seen anyone so horribly gaunt before. His jaundiced skin looked like someone had stretched a hairy, yellow balloon over a skeleton. “Elysium?” he said. “Maybe for the cattle, but not for me.”

“Who are you?”

“My name was Eurylochus. Welcome to my hell.”

“I’ve seen worse,” I said.

“You haven’t started for three thousand years. There’s not a morsel of food on this entire damnable island.”

“What about the cows? Why don’t you butcher one of them?”

“That’s how I got here in the first place. I was on a ship that was running out of provisions, and a storm trapped us on an island. We were dying of hunger, and the island was rich with cattle. But the captain told us to leave the cows alone. They were the personal cattle of Helios, the Sun-God, he could sees all.” He laughed weakly. “He sees all.”

“What happened?” I asked, although I suspected I already knew.

“We waited. We waited until the Captain left us and slaughtered the cows. It was my plan. I told the men it was better to die by the wrath of the gods than die of hunger.” He laughed again, and this time it was a pathetic sound. “I still say our death was better. I just never stopped to think about what happened after death.”

“Geez, can these guys hold a grudge or what?”

“So now, I find myself here… surrounded by the very cows we slaughtered, unable to eat a thing.”

I wished I had some food to give the poor guy, even a tin of Altoids or something. But I suspected that, even if I did, I wouldn’t be any more successful at sating his hunger than I was at quenching Tantalus’s thirst.

“That was quite a fall you took,” he said. “I’ve never seen anyone plummet like that without a mark.”

“I don’t quite understand it either,” I admitted. “And I sure don’t know why that lightning bolt just splashed off me. I’ve felt worse shocks plugging in a toaster.”

“Immune to lightning? You’ve been given some elixir? Some potion from the gods?”

“The last liquid I even touched was when I took an impromptu swim in the river on the way here.”

Eurylochus looked startled. “The river? You mean the Styx?”

“I don’t mean the 80s band.”

“That explains everything. When a person bathes in the waters of the Styx, he becomes impervious to harm! Haven’t you ever heard of Achilles?”

“The heel guy?”

“It’s what made him such a fearsome warrior. You’ve been given quite a gift.”

“The only gift I want is Stephanie back.”

“The love of a woman drives you? You sound like the captain.”

“I need to get to Elysium. I need to find help.”

Eurylochus sighed at the mention of paradise. “I was almost in Elysium. I had almost earned my reward. If not for the wrath of Helios…”

“Do you know how to get there?”

He looked at me like I’d grown an extra head. “Are you serious?”

“Of course I am.”

He turned at looked at the small sun orbiting the island. I had to squint to see it, but from up close I could tell there was a stone bridge extending from the lip of Eurylochus’s island, reaching up into the heart of the sun.

That’s Elysium?”

“It used to be bigger.”

“So I’m told.” I started walking in the direction of the bridge.

“Where are you going?”

“Across.”

“You can’t! Not without the escort of Zeus!”

“I don’t have a choice. Thanks for all the info, Eurylochus.”

As I got closer to the sun, I noticed that the light wasn’t actually getting any brighter. In fact, the closer I got, the less difficult it was to see the burning globe. It’s not that the sun was dimming, it just wasn’t blinding me like suns usually tend to do. By the time I got to the stone bridge, it almost completely filled my head-on field of vision, but it was still no task to view it at all. Halfway across the bridge, an outline appeared against the curve of the sun. It looked like a sort of box. Another 20 yards down the bridge, the outline sharpened into the shape of a door. I got closer still, and I saw someone standing outside the door, holding a staff, waiting for me.

Next: Chapter 23-With a Little Help From My Friends

 

Creative Commons License
Summer Love by Blake M. Petit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.evertimerealms.com.

19
Jan
09

Summer Love Chapter 21: I Need a Hero

Chapter 21

I Need a Hero

 

Hades was a big place. Sure, it had been a couple thousand years since anyone walked through its gates, but up until that point they’d somehow managed to find room for a few hundred million tormented Greeks. Finding someone who knew his way around would be easy. Finding someone who could help… that would be hell.

I sat on the middle of the stone bridge, looking back and forth. The poor souls toiling away behind me would be no help. With the panic draining from my mind, it was starting to dawn on me where the mound of bones I’d found outside the gates must have come from. The black-robed baldies must have left them there after an escape attempt. What was odd was that, try as I might, I couldn’t remember the face of the man who’d been vaporized after I set him off. I remembered that someone had been there, and the dried skeleton lay in the dirt as a testament to that, but I couldn’t remember his face or what he looked like… to be honest, I wasn’t 100 percent sure it was even a man and not a woman.

Behind me, on the other side of the bridge, was a much larger island, divided into sections. In the distance, I could make out a hill, where a man seemed to be pushing an enormous stone. Just as he seemed to be approaching the top, he stumbled and the boulder rolled back down. Without even a cry of frustration, he turned and began marching back down the hill again. While I was watching, a flaming wheel rolled past – a creepy enough sight, but it got even worse when I realized the howling sound it made wasn’t caused by the rolling, but because of a man strapped to it, roaring with an agony I couldn’t imagine. On the sides of the island, I saw a series of enormous, one-eyed creatures howling into the blackness.

I stepped off the stone bridge onto the enormous island, and everywhere I looked I saw someone else being tortured. A woman danced so hard her feet were bleeding, but she couldn’t stop or rest. A man was being forced to consume sumptuous cakes, meats, cheeses and food, but his midsection was split open, the food spilling out as quickly as he could gobble it. I tried to ignore the screams and moans around me and stumbled forward, slumping across the island looking for anything that could be helpful. I saw another stone bridge in the distance, so I made my way vaguely in that direction, but I didn’t have any idea if it would take me somewhere worth going.

“You… boy…”

I turned in the direction of the voice, looking up at a goblin with a sneer on its face. “Who are you?” it whispered. “You do not belong here.”

“No kidding,” I said. “Do you know–”

“YOU DO NOT BELONG!” He pulled a whip and cracked it in my direction, prompting me to run. I bolted through tendrils of smoke and dove beneath a sputtering flame cut loose from the wheel. I slipped, rolling down a slope and splashing down into a pool of water. As I pushed myself up to my hands and knees, I began cursing whatever gods were responsible for putting me here.

“Watch your mouth, lad,” someone said. “It’s not worth it for the momentary release, take my word for it.”

I wiped the water from my eyes and looked at a man standing in the pool. Above his head was a tree branch, hanging low with plump, luscious berries. Although he was in water, his face was dirty and grimy, and his body was shriveled and thin. Perhaps the worst part was the fact that he was undeniably familiar.

“You,” I whispered. “I know you. I’ve seen you before.”

“How long ago was that? A day? A year? A century? It loses meaning here.”

He bent down, reaching for the water with a cupped hand, but it drained away before he could even get a drop to raise to his chapped, bleeding lips. The last time I saw those lips, they were sucking at a cup in Perry’s coffeehouse… and didn’t get a drop out of that, either.

“You warned me to stay away from Steph—Persephone.”

“The master was not pleased with you,” he said. He looked up at the berries, easily within reach. And he raised an arm, though, the branch lifted, and the berries were pulled away.

“Who the hell are you?” I said.

“My name was Tantalus, when I was alive.”

“What are you doing here?”

“This is my punishment.” He knelt this time, trying to bring his head to the water. It was gone in seconds, without ever touching his mouth to the pool. “I was invited to feast with the gods. I tried to fool them.”

“Fool them?”

“I slew my own son… served him to the gods as meat. Only Demeter tasted of his flesh. I… I have been here ever since.”

“God almighty,” I whispered. Tantalus laughed, a sound without an ounce of mirth to it.

“Which one?” he said.

“Isn’t there anyone here who isn’t a monster or a wretch?” I said. “Isn’t there anyone in all of Hades who’s actually got his head together?”

“Not here. Not in Tartarus,” he moaned. The name struck a chord somewhere in my mind. I’d read about this place before, I knew.

“Tartarus… land of the ironic punishments?”

“Land of the just punishments,” he said, watching again as the berries were pulled from his grasp.

I pushed myself back and sat on the bank of the pool. “Dammit, I’m lost,” I said. “I’m in the middle of Hell and everyone around me is a basket case.” I looked up into a black, blank sky. All I could see were islands floating in the distance, people being tortured, punishment being meted. Everywhere I looked there was nothing but emptiness and despair. Everywhere except for the one twinkling star I’d noticed when I first stepped through the gate.

“What is that?” I asked, looking out at it. I pointed, and Tantalus followed my arm. When he saw the light, he blanched.

“Elysium!” He cried. “Its light grows smaller still.”

“Elysium?” According to the books I’d read, Elysium was where the heroes went when they died. They were escorted by Zeus himself, and set up to spend eternity like kings. “That’s Elysium? It’s still here? When I heard how Hades went nuts, I guess I thought it would have been gone.”

“Not gone… smaller.”

“How do I get there?”

“West.” Tantalus pointed to the light. “Go west. Find paradise… in the west.”

I stood up, dripping wet, and started to walk away. Tantalus bent down again, trying to reach the water, moaning. I looked around, seeing no one, and scooped up a handful.

“Here,” I said. “I suppose I owe you this much.”

As he bent over to sip the water from my hands, though, it began to dribble away. As tightly as I kept my fingers together, in seconds, I was dry.

“Sorry, dude. I guess Hades’ just punishments can’t be circumvented that easily.”

As I walked away, I heard Tantalus begin to cry – heavy, dry sobs. There was no water in his body to create tears.

*   *   *

The path through Tartarus wasn’t as bad as I would have expected. Sure, everyone nearby was being mercilessly tortured in horrifically creative ways, but for the most part they all ignored me. I didn’t see another one of the men in black – the “Telos,” I guess they were called. Maybe they only needed them closer to the gates.

I kept the spark of Elysium in sight no matter where I went. Eventually, I crept to the edge of the island that I supposed made up Tartarus. The stone bridge there was much longer, and extended so far I couldn’t even see where it led. Steeling myself, trying to remember how the reversal hadn’t been too big a deal when I slipped before, I began to move out across it.

I walked for what felt like an incredibly long time. Eventually, my steps across the bridge started to echo – a clink here, a clink there. And with each clink, I saw a spark of light in the distance. As I got closer, I saw a wave of motion just before each sound. There was someone swinging something… a hammer? A hammer was coming down on an anvil. That was the clink, that was the spark. Someone was making something. He was an enormous man, a mountain of a man, with a heavy red beard lit up by the flash of the strike. As I walked down the stone bridge to the tiny island where he was waiting for me, he smiled.

“Adam Solomon,” he said. “I’ve been expecting you.”

“How the hell does everyone down here know who I am?”

“But do you know who I am?”

“I don’t suppose you’d just cut to the chase and tell me? I’m terrible at this game.”

He held up the thing he’d been pounding on the anvil. It was a long strip of golden metal, glittering in the low light, with jagged edges that sparked as he twisted it. It looked like a lightning bolt. “How about this?” he said. “Any help?”

“Zeus?”

He laughed with a loud boom, and the stone bridge quaked. Had I still been on it, I probably would have plunged off. “Zeus? Gods, boy, are all the mortals as dense as you now?” He shook the lightning bolt at me. “Aye, Zeus used to throw these things down at you to make his point, but where do you think he got them?

I searched my memory – I did recall stories about some blacksmith that forged Zeus’s lightning bolts, but…

“Hephaestus!” he exploded. “Damn it, boy, you don’t know who you’re dealing with here?”

The name was familiar – I was pretty sure Athena had talked about this guy as one of the gods who had thrown in with Hades. The fact that he was sitting here, waiting, couldn’t possibly bode well.

“Hades knows every soul that enters his realm, boy. He knew you were here from the moment you stepped in. It’s just a question of how long it is before you wind up falling into a firepit or getting devoured by a Cyclops. But frankly, he also doesn’t want word of your presence getting back to the queen.”

“Persephone? She’s here?”

“Dense again. Hades wants you over and done with. That’s why I’m here.”

“I’ve seen this movie,” I said. “Is this one of those things where you give me one last chance to turn around and go home before something really bad happens to me?”

“Not exactly. I am the something bad.”

He pulled back and hurled the lightning bolt into my chest.  

Next: Chapter 22-Hungry Heart

Creative Commons License
Summer Love by Blake M. Petit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.evertimerealms.com.




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