NaNo Prep: Creating Characters

Some people begin with a novel by defining their plot. Others start with the protagonist. I have a tendency to fixate on one or the other while I’m creating an idea for a story. In my last short story, the idea of what Chronoman could do was much more significant than who the man beneath the mask was. When it came writing the Meouch comics and A Death in the Family, everything began with characters.

Who Are They?

I have a whole questionnaire I fill out from time to time, but for Frankie the Cat in Meouch, and for Ben in A Death in the Family, I just needed some basic info to get started.

  • What does this person do?
  • What makes them different?
  • Are they action-takers, or reactionary?

Frankie is an assassin. He’s tiny, and uses ridiculous weapons, and he’s a cat, all of which informs who he is in the comics. He has a job, an owner, a client. All of those things are fine, but he had to stand out. He breaks the fourth-wall, mostly by talking to the reader or by having awareness of being in a comic. He swears in cat puns. (And only cat puns.) Aside from the fact that he’s hired to do his job, I consider Frankie an action taker.

Ben, on the other hand, is a Reaper. (As in, Grim Reaper.) He’s in his mid-20s, lives at home with his family, and spends the novel trying to get used to his new job/life, previously unexposed to the magical community. Making Ben different was difficult, because the story of “normal” person entering the secret parallel magical world isn’t new. So I had him stick to his regular clothing. I had him argue with his Scythe – an extradimensional tool with sentience, an attitude, and no ability to use the English language – and befriend a Reaper’s greatest enemy: a Necromancer. Like Frankie, Ben is assigned his tasks. But Ben is much more reactionary, at least in A Death in the Family. He’s still getting used to things, so he doesn’t make as many decisions as he wishes he could.

Are They a Good Fit for the Story?

Knowing who the character is – and my answers definitely came with some retrospection of having written some stories already – is the first step. Next is to figure out if they belong in the story you want to write for them. Some considerations:

  • Is the genre right?
  • Is the medium right?
  • Is the tone right?

I read a lot of superhero stories. But neither Frankie or Ben could be superheroes. Frankie kills for a living. His allegiances don’t stretch very far. When we plotted the first story, we settled on a job. Operation Bad Dog. A hit. If we’re going to call him an assassin, he’s got to kill something.

Ben is a hero, from his first decision to take up the Scythe all the way through. A Reaper’s job, in the book, is to take the soul to protect it from corruption. I wanted something of an apocalypse, so I needed a character to stop it, someone who had to care enough to put themselves at risk.

Are They Alone?

No man is an island. Everyone needs a supporting role, somewhere, in their narrative. Frankie has his owner and his client, which appear in each of the two comics in print at the moment. Ben has his family, for a start, as well as a number of people he’s introduced to in his first few days on the job – the previous Reaper, people from Damage Control, the Necromancer, and more.

Your novel might include more than one protagonist. They don’t necessarily need to meet, either. Think about the following:

  • How many points of view do you need, versus how many you want?
  • Does your protagonist have anyone to talk to?
  • Are you introducing characters that serve no purpose?

My advice would be to limit the number of characters you include in your book, depending on its size, especially if they’re always together. Names are fine, and relatively easy to keep track of if they’re different enough. Keeping track of what everyone in a group is doing is more complicated, for both readers and writers. Make things easier on everyone, and cap it based on the length of the story you’re writing.

Question Everything

There are a lot of things you can think about when creating new characters. There’s basic biological data (Height, Weight, Body Type), relationships (Family, Significant Other), occupation & vocation (Job, Religion), and desires (What do they want most from life?), and that’s barely scratching the surface.

Some authors are known to base their character’s looks around an actor’s or model’s. That’s fine, if it’s done tastefully and believably. Personalities, however, ought to be unique and formed by experience. The more you know about your characters before you start writing, the better.

NaNo begins in just over two weeks. (Unless you’re reading this at a time other than the posting date – then you need to look at the calendar and figure it out for yourself.)

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The Static Time of Chronoman | Flash Fiction

Though no one could ever seek to explain it – at least not without some understanding of the physical and metaphysical nature of the universe – magic came with certain rules of its own that, though never truly communicated, were understood by the magical community. That same community had rules, which had partway become ingrained in the fabric of existence. Everyone knew them, if they knew what was good for them.

Some people, of course, do not know what is good for them. Nor do they know that there is a magical community. They stumble upon magic like a stray twig in the grass, or – as was the case for Peter Smyth – a pair of wristbands at a car boot sale. He was twenty six, smothered by debt, obsessed with superheroes, and utterly ensnared by the idea that he had power beyond human understanding.

What he lacked in knowledge of the rules of magic or the community he made up for in dreadful enthusiasm. What he lacked in imagination, he made up for in some basic intelligence. He bounded out into the world as Chronoman, face covered, hands covered, wristbands shining with unspoken power, and oblivious to laws against vigilantism, and the utter absence of real-world superheroes.

His first act as Chronoman – capable of freezing local time for an undisclosed length of time with his magical wristbands – resulted in a bank robber remaining frozen in place for three hours after the police arrived. When his handgun shattered under the slight pressure required to remove it from the robber’s hand, he was left alone until he resumed motion, oblivious to the fact that he had been foiled.

Peter slept in the next day by six hours, thinking how he really must have needed it.

Having missed a whole morning of bank robberies, he arrived at a skyscraper in time to freeze a man halfway on his descent to the ground. The jumper remained in place for five hours while emergency services built a safety net around him. There was no opportunity to thank – or even question – Chronoman before the masked hero moved on. A speeding getaway car held up traffic on the highway for an hour, frozen in place, while police built up a barrier to stop it.

Peter was not around to witness the police accidentally breaking the car. The whole fabric of it fell apart between the time of their arrival, and the time the magic wore off. Nor was he around to witness the jumper resuming motion. He failed to see the jumper’s velocity return, almost tearing the whole safety net down with him, just as he failed to see the two men in the getaway car return to the vehicle’s former speed instantaneously, without the protecting of the vehicle around them. The effect on their bodies could only be described as catastrophic by the six o’clock news. Both men, suddenly and impossibly travelling at a speed in excess of eighty miles per hour, were subjected to forces so strong that they would have needed a full day to recover. That is, of course, if they hadn’t smashed fatally into the barrier set up to stop the car, splattering all over a dozen policemen, three of whom were admitted to hospital for shock.

Chronoman was not seen the next day. Nor did Peter see the news. He slept the whole time – or, at least, presumed himself to have slept. He remained in bed for a grand total of twenty two hours longer than he intended, and didn’t realise he’d missed almost an entire day of his life.

In his absence, it had been decided that Chronoman was a menace to the public. Local police were on the lookout for him. As were the magical community, though this fact wasn’t shared with the media. For risking the exposure of magic to the world, a bounty had been placed on his head.

Peter’s only concern, oblivious to these two facts, was to stop the robbery on Main Street. Weapons were dropped the moment Chronoman entered the bank, leading to the immediate arrests of the robbers. Rather than celebrate, the policemen who arrived raised their handguns to Chronoman. He did not freeze. He did not understand. And so, they shot.

He had never aimed for such small targets, but he surprised himself by catching half a dozen bullets in mid-air. In a moment of panic, he also froze the policemen, and sped off on foot. He was followed, which didn’t surprise him in the slightest – though he still had no idea what was going on – and had no choice but to freeze every policeman who tried to stop him, as well as every car that came close to almost hitting him as he crossed the highway on foot, and the water in the stream so he could cross and remain dry, and a helicopter that was keeping an eye out for him. He froze a school bus full of children happily taking pictures of him for the Internet, and he froze an old woman who recognised him from the papers and had begun screaming.

When he was certain that he wasn’t being followed, he removed his mask, returned home, and hid under his duvet.

Still, he had no idea about what was happening or why, only that maybe now he might be in some trouble. He took a pill to help himself sleep.

The cumulative effect of freezing so many people in time for, it turned out, a full day played its toll on Peter. He remained in bed for long enough to be considered legally dead, though the reality was that the magic he had used to freeze everyone was simply being paid for, with interest. If he had been left alone for a few years, he would have woken up.

Instead, they attempted to move him.

The mush that was Peter Smyth was later discovered to be Chronoman. Shortly thereafter, the wristbands vanished. No one was ever entirely sure why.

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NaNo Prep: Do You Need to Write a Series?

Back when I was a kid and I had notions of being the next JK Rowling – and this was before JK Rowling was the absolute definition of successful author – I thought the best books had to be in a series. I didn’t read standalone novels, if I could help it. I think part of this comes from growing up on television, and part of it comes from kids books seeming to all be part of a series. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to see the beauty of a self-contained novel. (And, I think, part of that comes from developing a habit of going to the cinema every week.)

The big NaNo question of the day is: do you need to write a series?

Technically, no. That’s the short answer. A standalone book is just as worthy of reader attention as a book in a series. There are pros and cons in publishing each.

Looking at it strictly from the point of view of an artist, everyone needs to answer this question for themselves. It comes down to whether the story can be told in one book. “Story” here refers to the overarching narrative for the protagonist(s) or antagonist(s) – or world, society, etc. This can sometimes be told in one book. Other times, it needs several. Sometimes the story doesn’t really have a defined end in mind. 200+ issue comic runs or 60+ volumes of manga are indicative of this sort of storytelling. (And, apparently, the Marvel Cinematic Universe.)

My one piece of advice is: know your ending.

Maybe not to the book you’re writing now, if you’re planning on writing a series, but to the whole story. Know when it ends. Know where the loose ends are. As some television shows have shown, continuing to tell a story just because there’s an audience doesn’t mean you won’t tell a bad story. (Need examples? The last couple of seasons of Lost. The first half of the sixth season of Buffy. An extended period of The Simpsons.)

So let’s shift the question. Don’t think about whether you need to write a series. Think about whether you need to continue telling the story.

For me, Ben’s story was going to be over at the end of A Death in the Family, until the additional narrative revealed itself to me in a moment of inspiration. (This was during the planning stages. I plan extensively so I can be doubly surprised while writing.) Kurt’s story was going to be told over twelve novels, originally, and I’m glad that I abandoned that idea. – The Necrohall and Hell Hath No Fury are much better ideas. Arnold – an asshole necromancer in A Death in the Family – was only supposed to appear in The Local Necromancer. The three characters’ narratives are tied together, now.

Those stories need to be told. (For me, at least – the longer narrative is one that’s been trying to get into my novels for years, and I didn’t know how to work with it.)

So when you think about whether you need to write a series or a standalone story, think about whether the overarching narrative can be told in the same book that you’re planning now. If a character’s greatest desire can be dealt with at the same time as she deals with the obstacle in your novel, whether those two things are related or not.

Think of Harry Potter – his overarching narrative is about finding his place in the world, whereas each book is about surviving the school year. Or Buffy Summers – she wants to keep the world safe from the demons at the Hellmouth, while also being an ordinary teenager; this means dealing with prom and dating, while figuring out how to beat each seasons’ Big Bad. Then think of American Gods (the novel) – it covers Shadow Moon’s entire journey from leaving prison to the end of the story. Yes, there were spin-offs. But the novel stands alone, and fills in all the gaps. It tells several smaller stories throughout – the magic of sub plots – while resolving the grand narrative and Shadow’s stories side-by-side.

Think about your own story. Find your own answers. In the meantime, I’m going to plan book 2/? and eventually figure out at what point I’ll end Kurt’s story, and whether it’ll require murdering him brutally. (For old time’s sake.)

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NaNo Prep: Planning My Novel

If you saw my first NaNo Prep post, you’ll know that I’m picking up my book where I left it last summer. Hell Hath No Fury was pretty much entirely planned by the time I started Camp NaNo last summer. So what went wrong?

Layers of Plans

When I plan a story – a short story, a comic, a novel – I plan in layers. It starts with something simple to say. For this book, that’s ‘Kurt has to open an old case, while battling a strange new curse.’ That’s a spoiler-free version, and it’s based on the fact that I know who Kurt is already. That one-liner was then expanded into a page.

That page deals with everything in the story in minimal detail. Kurt will visit the MagicianKurt will be attacked. Kurt will do X, Y and Z. Those aren’t necessarily all in the right order as I write this post, but that’s how the page gets filled. Basic things that happen.

The story is filled in between all of these. The details, the plot, the theme. This is a revenge story for one character, and one of the consequences of one’s actions for another. It’s an impossible love story, a search for meaning, and a struggle in dealing with the cards that fate deals. But the second layer of the plan doesn’t deal with any of that.

Three Layers and Three Books

As I expand on the plan for layer three, I insert important details. The Magician gets a name. Certain sections of the plan were colour-coded. I wrote down everything that had to happen, and why, and I built in chapter breaks. Relative to A Death in the Family, this book is complicated, and I needed to be able to follow it properly.

Part of that was positioning the story at a particular time. A Death in the Family starts at the very end of 2016. Literally the last few seconds. We’re introduced to Ben on New Year’s Day, 2017. Kurt’s story takes place before any of that.

By the time I reached the end of the second layer, I knew there were two more books to write with Kurt following the events of Hell Hath No Fury, but before A Death in the Family. So, I needed time. The novel takes place during the summer of 2016. Kurt’s prior experiences point towards the proverbial shit hitting the literal fan in sudden bursts, so I knew the next two books could take place between the summer – July-ish – and the end of the year, with enough time for Kurt’s story to then crash violently into Ben’s. (Readers of A Death in the Family might take a guess as to why that’s significant.)

Weak Points

One thing I learned about my own writing is that sometimes I can get caught up in what is happening that I forget to really explain where something is happening. When I was planning A Death in the Family, I compensated for this with extra notes in the fourth and final step of planning. I told myself what I needed to describe in some scenes, specifics that couldn’t be ignored in the heat of the moment. I think I wrote a better book because of that.

To be clear, the descriptive passages are only about those details that are relevant, like the piles of magazines in an old woman’s house that would find themselves on fire, or the smell of a hospital. They inform the story as much as they paint a picture of where Ben happened to be.

This is where things went wrong with Hell Hath No Fury. I didn’t finish writing the layer four plan. It’s the typed, final plan, and it stopped after a few chapters. That was my biggest mistake going into NaNo last summer. I’m a planner, through and through, and I didn’t have my finished plan. I was faced with a decision: put myself under pressure to write the plan and the book simultaneously while preparing for Dublin Comic Con in August, or quit.

Spoiler Alert: I Quit

I’m not proud of it, but I quit my NaNo novel. I was ill-prepared, a bit depressed, a lot stressed, and incredibly busy. July had Small Press Day, the potential collapse of the Geek Mart, and my last chance to prepare for my first ever Dublin Comic Con behind a table. A book I literally wasn’t ready to write was the last thing I needed on my plate.

Thankfully, everything else worked out for me at the time. Small Press Day was a rousing success. The Geek Mart didn’t crumple into non-existence. (In fact, we’re having another one this weekend!) And I survived Dublin Comic Con, an anxious mess who got some new readers. (One of them is especially lovely and likes Frankie – the killer cat I write about – a lot.) Two weeks later, I got a job.

And I didn’t go back to the book.

To be fair to myself, I went backwards instead. I wrote a book set before Hell Hath No Fury. So my trilogy because a four-book series, and even that’s open to discussion. They’re a four-story arc in a much larger series.

So, my prep for April: finish layer four, and re-read what I’ve already written. (No editing. Editing is not allowed.) While putting on a Geek Mart. And preparing for conventions. And writing a completely separate book. And, of course, blogging about it all.

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NaNo Prep: Announcing My April Novel

This year’s Camp NaNoWriMo (April Edition) is just around the corner. I have done literally nothing to prepare myself for this moment. That’s what the magic of March is for. Here’s what I know so far:

  • I’m continuing with a book I started last July, called Hell Hath No Fury.
  • The book is a sequel to my November NaNo book, The Necrohall. Originally it was book 1.
  • The book is an Urban Fantasy/Supernatural story.
  • The plan is hand-written and colour-coded, but not fully typed.
  • The cover is 300% cheesy.

The good folks of NaNoWrimo suggest adding a cover to a book. It’s supposed to help encourage writers to finish their book. There’s some psychology to it.

Not ready to publish this book – since it’s not even written – I’ve opted out of spending a considerable amount of time creating mine. I went for the cheesy, over-the-top version above. It’s too bright, and full of all the nasty things that make people feel physically ill when they lay their eyes on a book. But it’s there. It’s a cover. So: check.

The book is set in London, and features some element of time travel – as well as vampires, golems, lost loves, an unsolved case and an old grudge.

How does all of this help anyone who’s trying to start a novel? Well, it’s a list of things I need to know about my book.

Make that list. Decide on your genre, your protagonist, some key elements from the book (e.g. vampires and golems and all sorts of nasty things like romance and grudges and day jobs). Make a cheesy cover, just to fill in the space. (I grabbed a royalty free image from Google for my London skyline.) Write your blurb. It’s the simplest version of an outline you’ll get.

Over the next month, I’ll go over methods for planning a book (especially one of this scale), creating characters, and managing time to write around a full time job, the convention circuit, and a middling social life.

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Proxies | Flash Fiction

Belief is a powerful thing in any case, allowing for the election of presidents with no right to govern, cult followings and mass gatherings, and the courage to stand in front of a crowd to sing while oblivious to the sound of one’s own voice. In certain specific cases, mostly undocumented, belief is a danger to everyone.

Parker and Trent, aged thirteen and fourteen respectively, were big believers in a small town surrounded by an expanse of woods. They weren’t devout Christians. They didn’t believe in Santa Claus – though that might have been preferable to the alternative – nor did they believe in true love or happily ever after. They believed, instead, in something wicked, something new, something developed on an Internet forum.

Following the events of their most important summer, archivists refused to write the being’s name. It resembled a man in a black suit, but for its elongated stature, impossible tentacles, lack of facial features, and the outward pressure that it forced into observers’ minds that something was incredibly wrong. Parker and Trent were its Proxies in the world, and they had found the boy that their master demanded: Alexander Hewitt-Smith.

Alexander was fifteen, but small, and a little slow. His parents had travelled with him around half the world, tearing his schooling to shreds in the process. He was in the same classes as the Proxies, held back a year to catch up. It wasn’t working.

None of the boys were ever considered to be popular. Parker was short and bug eyed and always looked like he was up to something. Mischief had been his companion from the day people stopped wanting to spend time with him. Trent was big and brutish, with a face that looked it’d been beaten with a shovel; he was smarter than he looked, which didn’t help his case either way. And Alexander was new, from a wealthy family, with no idea how to talk to kids his own age.

They were made for each other.

On June 18, 2016, Alexander was invited to Parker’s house for a sleepover. He arrived an hour after Trent, missing the boys’ entire ritual of perusing the latest updates about their master online. New sightings. New stories. New videos. Even the fake ones got their blood boiling. Old web series captured the essence of panic, supplied dramatized information on the capacity of their master’s power and reach, his habits, his abilities, his other Proxies.

The word ‘fiction’ meant nothing to Parker and Trent.

They had, by all accounts, a normal sleepover. They spoke about people in their class. They watched a parent-approved movie. They ate too much junk food and drank too much soda. Alexander went to sleep first.

Parker and Trent did nothing to him. They didn’t need to.

On June 19, they went into the woods. Alexander was tired and wanted to go home, but the Proxies wanted to show him their secret hideout in the woods. No such thing existed. Theirs was not the sort of town to have a secret hideout that only the two most unpopular teenagers in the school knew about, but Alexander was new enough not to know about that.

He followed them with a pain in his stomach, reluctant but desperate.

He lost them when they decided to play hide and seek. They didn’t ask him, they didn’t speak to him, and they didn’t warn him. They just vanished from sight, leaving him alone in the woods by himself, calling their names desperately. Their version of the story held up: they were just playing a game.

The unofficial story, the one that couldn’t be explained or believed, was that Alexander Hewitt-Smith had been taken by the Proxies’ master. That he’d seen the black suit and been reminded of his former butler, and thought he’d been saved. That, when he was too close to run away and too small to fight back, he had been wrapped up in tentacle arms and whipped away in the blink of an eye.

His footsteps disappeared in the woods. Officially, he was missing without a trace. Unofficially, and off the record, he’d been taken somewhere humankind had never set foot, where no force on Earth could access without approval or permission, knowledge and belief.

For three days and three nights, the area where Alexander’s footsteps ended was so heavily irradiated that the search party were coming down ill. After the seventy-two hour time frame in which the odds of finding him alive were still relatively high, the search party was disbanded. Parker and Trent, as innocent minors, could not be charged. There was no blood, and no body. There was no murder.

But there had been a sacrifice, and there had been cause for alarm. More popular boys would have been the subject of scorn when they returned to school. The Proxies were feared.

On November 27, Alexander’s birthday, the Hewitt-Smiths were murdered in their house. They had set a place for Alexander every single day in the hopes that he would come back. They had bought a birthday cake for him. He’d been bought a new bike.

Autopsy reports indicated that the assailant had been short. There had been no break-in, leading investigators to suspect that the couple knew their killer. The blade that had cut the birthday cake had been identified as the murder weapon. It contained three sets of prints, one for each member of the family, including Alexander. Three slices had been cut. One – neither of the parents’ – had been eaten.

Too strange to record, too worrying to include in the report, were the signs of radiation poisoning on both victims.

They were found the next day when a concerned neighbour found their front door open, Alexander’s new bike missing, and blackened blood staining the floor. Newspapers reported a murder-suicide. No one mentioned the bike, or the radiation.

No one noticed a fifteen year old boy cycling away from the scene, or the man who watched it from the woods.

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God’s Eye | Flash Fiction

God's EyeMany people believed that the old gods were real, but dead, and many others believed that it was possible to become a god in one’s own right, neither were entirely correct. Much more likely, and infinitely more terrifying, was the likelihood that one of the old gods would inhabit a body and transform into a new vessel for itself, at the same time utterly obliterating every scrap of individual identity that the host might claim to have maintained throughout the years.

This was not always the case, which only further confused the matter.

Becoming a god – or, at least, being a suitable host for one – was a varying and often painful experience. The first recorded case in the recent history of the multiverse resulted in a man losing an eye and his sanity, and destroying a sizeable chunk of his nations’ capital. It did not bode well for potential future hosts of gods, or for the gods themselves when absolute control wasn’t guaranteed.

In a separate incident, in a separate country in a separate universe, Owen Dunleath also lost his eye. His loss was not essential for impending godhood, and had not been on the agenda when he’d been identified as a possible host for godly essence. It was all a matter of sheer, painful coincidence that he would lose his eye in a stationery accident.

It was a week later that the disembodied essence of Odin – just trying to enjoy a bit of an astral trip around the world without the need to stop everywhere and have to put up with people recognising him – crashed into Owen while he attempted to recover. They did not get along, so Odin knocked him out.

“Well, this isn’t ideal,” he said to himself.

Odin had been used to missing an eye, but Owen was missing the wrong one. He had been distracted by the pain of the host body and collided with him rather roughly, and everything felt slightly too much to one side, as well as being smaller and infinitely clumsier (read as: human) than he was used to.

He excused himself from the hospital where Owen was recovering, glaring into a stern nurse’s eyes with all the weight of godhood until she moved out of his way, and went for a walk. “I need to figure out where I am,” he mumbled as he left the building. “Everything’s a lot bumpier and misplace when I’m not just soaring across it like a majestic and deadly crow.”

He was not sure why he was speaking to himself, or why he chose the words he did, and he imagined it had to do with Owen Dunleath’s disposition. He almost cursed the mortal, but he was still – he realised – trapped inside him.

“Trapped. Yes. That’s a problem.” He marched up a hill – Odin loved a good hill as a vantage point – and looked out over the town in front of him. His one remaining eye had to suffice as a conduit for his godly powers. He stared at the town, looking for all the signs of something gone wrong. God-vision was special the way infrared goggles were special, but with a few more applications. He could see where humans walked. He could read magical signatures. He could find pockets of interdimensional catastrophe. He could see sound, if he so desired, though people were much too loud and annoying these days to bother trying. And, most uselessly, he could peer into other universes.

He had done this once, and witnessed a near apocalypse amongst the Celtic gods when they’d gotten themselves bodies, and all of them trapped in a magical barrier, and decided that his infinite capacity for scorn couldn’t handle looking at another foolish universe for much longer than was absolutely necessary.

Distraction shouldn’t have caused him to fall, he realised. Something was wrong. The issue didn’t arise in another universe, for which he was grateful. Or not. He switched his eye from searching for magic to searching for worship, and found an abundance of it near a stationery store. He probed Dunleath’s memories. It was the very same place where the boy had lost his eye. (Odin wasn’t quite sure that Owen was just a boy, but all men seemed young to the Allfather.)

He hailed a cab – he had seen people do this frequently, using the telescopic ability of his eye – and followed the source of worship to the store. When it came up that Owen’s hospital gown did not contain pockets, Odin stared – godlike – at the driver, until he was ordered out impatiently. Cab drivers, Odin had forgotten, were immune to the effects of a god’s stares.

He ignored the hate pouring from the cab in vicious shades of red as he entered the stationery store. A clerk glowed – literally, to Odin – behind the till.

“It worked!” he cheered. “Didn’t it?”

Odin assumed the guise of Dunleath, feeling smaller and more fragile in an instant. “What are you talking about?” he asked.

“The spell! The accident! The week of worship. It worked!” The clerk was every part a fanatic, and Odin was tired of it in seconds. “My Lord Odin, it is a pleasure. You can stop pretending to look like him, now.”

“Pretending,” Odin scowled. “You interrupted my holiday.” The room shook with godly rage. “Do you know how that feels?” Pencils fell to the floor from a nearby shelf, stabbing impossibly into the concrete floor. Odin glared with his one good eye. “I am a God of War, boy. And war demands sacrifice.” He slammed a fist on the trembling clerk’s desk, shattering it utterly.

“I’m sorry?” the clerk whimpered.

“You will be,” Odin snapped, before unleashing his godly wrath.

He departed, later, in an astral storm, causing a literal storm in the process; he still wanted to see Tokyo. Owen was found a day later, with two miscoloured eyes. The clerk, Odin ensured, was not found. Only a god’s eye could find him, if only gods cared.

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