A reader (yeah, they actually exist!) sent me an email asking that I update Melody and the Pier to Forever's fans beyond the recent news about completing chapter five, of which I also posted a short, unedited snippet. It has since become one of my most popular recent posts.
For those of you who were around in March, when this blog was started, you may have already seen such news. I have since taken those posts down, mostly because I was unsure what I wanted to say in them, which made them somewhat poorly written, but also because I didn't want to give away too many spoilers.
If you haven't read all of Melody and the Pier to Forever at this point, including the sidestories, what follows will confuse you--as it should. Go away and catch up! To help, here is the entire published series to this point in order:
The "sidestories," so called, are just as important as the big Books--Book One, Book Two, etc. Ignoring them means you're ignoring very important story arc characters and details. So don't friggin' do it, all right?
Very few readers complete a series, no matter who the author may be. That's sad, but it's also a fact.
I find that remarkable. But the data regarding Melody is probably quite normal. Book One has tons of downloads and a fair few sales over the years, but Kaza, the next book in the series, has very few; and Book Two has even fewer. Otoro has been read by almost no one; and Guardian, the latest to be published, has been read only by my most ardent fans, which I can count on one hand.
For a long time, I took it all very personally. But as it turns out, I am nowhere near an outlier in that regard.
I have a note on my desktop. It reads:
The only people worth a damn to me are those who make themselves worth a damn to me.
That counts doubly with those who read my work. Those who have walked the Pier with me all this way mean more to me than I can adequately put into words. They made themselves worth a damn to me. It's that simple.
So to them--and I recognize that there are very few of you, maybe five total--I offer you some snippets from Book Three's prologue through chapter four, along with a few words of summary where appropriate.
My warning to the rest of you should be heeded at this point: READ NO FURTHER, DIG? HERE BE SPOILERS, MATEY!
Tasty Unedited Snippet
He thought of when he wasn’t a ‘he,’ and when his mate, who wasn’t quite like him, wasn’t a ‘she.’ Those weren’t the words he used—‘he’ and ‘she.’ They were vague notions only, more feeling than verbiage. There was a time when they were Brethren, Father’s children, nothing more, neither ‘he’ nor ‘she.’ But much time had passed, and with the passing of time came changes to their beings. Though they looked the same, something inside them changed. Something that brought them together in a way their unlikely friendship could never have predicted. They were friends—and more than friends.
They had stayed together, and together they had waited. They had waited for the Great Mystery. They had waited for the Mel-o-dee. They had listened to those promptings inside them, the same for his mate as they were for him, and had followed them here. And here they had waited.
What was it they had waited all this time for? What was the Mel-o-dee? Their language, new to them and to the whole world, developed gradually over the years, and in its developing they had tried to grasp that Mystery, to fully describe it. But try as they might, no word or combinations of words ever did the trick.
In their efforts to understand it, they had sought to learn many things. They had watched the humans from afar. It seemed vital that they did. They did not know why. Often one of them would fly to one of their two dozen hidden lookouts near the human village, and there would watch the humans for days, sometimes weeks, sometimes even months. They watched how they clothed themselves, how they interacted, how they talked, how they scribbled messages to each other, how they tended their children, how they walked, how they laughed, how they cried.
Especially cried. For Father’s army was here. It was how he and his mate learned of the presence of the Brethren. They lured them from their post and destroyed them. The Brethren were mighty. But they were mightier still. The Gift and its Giver had seen to it. For this they gave daily thanks.
Which was why he was standing on this worn spot on this sea-defying boulder. Which was why he had come here hundreds of times before.
He watched the light flash again, then again, then again.
Indeed, there had been a change. At that moment he knew what it was.
In the past, in moments of supreme joy, as life burned through him and he could not contain it, he had sounded his Shriek. He did this now.
It rose up into his chest, into his lungs, and there gathered like a powerful storm. He inhaled and felt the exhilaration of holding it back. He’d hold it back until he could no longer, and then he’d release it.
So it was now. He lifted his horned head to the sky, opened his mouth, and Shrieked.
As in times past, it came quietly, high-pitched, very thin. Quickly it expanded and became even louder, then louder still, until it silenced the thundering surf, the playful wind, the rising sun, the depthless heavens. It shattered against the cliffs and covered the land and traveled on and on, returning moments later as diminishing echoes.
His lungs empty, his body tingling, he launched from the rock, flashing in space, and arced out over the sea, turning back for land.
Did you really think that Melody and Yaeko would stay dead? Silly, silly you.
Tasty Unedited Snippet
She fought to sit up. Her hair was tangled and had debris in it. The clothes he had burned off her person were back on as if he hadn’t done anything to her. She had no burns anywhere on her person.
Ants crawled over her legs. She was about to beg him not to shoot lightning at her again when she stopped in mid-inhalation and gazed down at them.
Ants crawling over my legs ... my legs ....
She gazed at the Asian man, then back at her legs. At the ants.
She ... could feel them. The ants!
She could feel them!
With some effort, she reached for her ankles.
(Wait a minute. If he killed me, then how am I thinking anything? How am I anywhere?)
She could feel other things besides ants, too! There was a sharp stick or something under her right knee; she could feel that!
She pulled her knee up to look. It wasn’t a stick; it was the pointy end of a flinty rock sticking out of hardened, cracked soil.
She released her leg just to reconfirm she could feel the rock. She could.
Her killer stared.
She reached for her ankles and the ants. She wiped them off. Her ankle ... itched!
She smiled widely and scratched it. She could feel that too!
She was so overwhelmed with joy that the imminent threat sitting on the boulder was for a moment forgotten. He stared at her like a monolith.
She looked away from him after it became clear that, at least for the time being, he was through harming her.
(You can’t kill someone twice, jerk!)
She was in a desert, one that seemed familiar. A breeze whispered around her.
“Did I die?” she demanded, gazing back at him. “I mean, I know I died. So ... why did you kill me? Why? Answer me!”
—YOUR HUMAN PHYSICAL LIFE PROCESSES CEASED.—
The confirmation still came as a shock. She held up as it settled into her. She ... was dead. It was over! Her life was ... over!
“Where am I?”
“Why did you kill me?”
—TO BRING YOU HERE.—
The Apprentice's true education is about to begin.
Tasty Unedited Snippet
She woke in complete darkness. It surrounded her like a cocoon.
She was lying on a bed of ... fur? She blinked her eyes open and felt beneath herself.
She was naked.
She groped about for her PJs. In late summer, when the heat became oppressive and stayed that way even at night, she often went to bed nude, or stripped off her PJs when she couldn’t get comfortable.
Had Momma covered her with some new comforter or something, one that was ... furry?
One of the great things about her room was that it got totally dark at night. It was something she loved. It never scared her, even when she was just five. Momma told her once how darkness was her friend because it surrounded her and hugged her and kept her safe. She never forgot that.
She felt the fir again. It was very comfortable. It was short but not prickly or heavy. She felt for the edges. They were uneven, not straight like a comforter or sheets, like someone had ripped the hide off a large animal and hadn’t bothered making straight edges.
She sat up, clutching it closely.
The air was chilly. No, it was cold. Like very.
“Whoa,” she whispered, and pulled the fir higher.
Her room never got that cold, not even in midwinter!
Clearly, it wasn’t summer.
But if it were winter, she’d be wearing her favorite PJs! So why wasn’t she now?
Odd fir, cold air, total darkness, not summer, no PJs.
What was going on?
Something deep inside overwhelmed her. It wasn’t language, but her brain knew somehow to translate it that way:
Complete your training.
“Tesché?” she called, knowing before she spoke that he wasn’t around. But the feeling was so strong that she called out again: “Tesché? Daphne? Carcaryn?”
She groped for her pajamas, which she always put at the foot of her bed so she could get them on easily and quickly.
They weren’t there. Did she kick them off in the night? That wasn’t unusual. If they fell, they were usually to the left, next to the wall.
She felt down in that direction.
Not only was there no wall, there was no floor either!
She came up when she thought she heard movement.
Oh, wait! That’s right! She was on the Eleysius! She couldn’t feel the floor because she slept on the top bunk! Yaeko was on the bottom one! If she tossed her PJs off the bed, they’d be out of reach! Of course!
“Yaeko? You up? Yaeko?”
She listened for sounds of steady breathing below.
But ... wait a minute ...
Their room on the Eleysius wasn’t pitch-dark! It was close, but not totally so. When her eyes adjusted, she could still see the big wooden beams above her head. So why was their room now so totally lightless?
One more time:
“Yaeko? Hey—you up?”
More sounds of movement.
Not below her, but to her left.
Crew in the corridor?
She made one more grope for her PJs. It was then she found ... something. Not fir. Definitely cloth of some kind. Like flannel. Soft. Well past her feet. She stretched more and picked it up and tried looking at it.
It felt like her flannel nightie. But she didn’t bring it along! How could it be here now?
And why was the bloody air so cold?
One more try:
“Yaeko? Hey—wake up! I need to talk to you!”
More movement. Definitely well off to the left. But it didn’t sound muffled, as it would coming through their door, but like it was right there in the room with them.
“Yaeko, is that you?” she hissed. “What’s going on? What are you doing?”
She found the head of the nightie and dropped it over her shoulders. As she reached up to get her arms through the sleeves, her fingertips grazed it: the ceiling.
It wasn’t wood, as the ceiling in their quarters was, but ...
She got the nightie on and reached up again.
Stone? Rough ... stone?
Another problem: it was much too high! Yaeko and her quarters were fairly small, as all quarters save those of the king’s and Commanders were. If she sat on her bunk, she could reach the ceiling without having to stretch too far up.
... she stretched again ...
Stone! Cold ... stone!
Where was she?
That feeling again: Complete your training.
More movement. This time it came with a deep bass grumble, as from a huge, slumbering animal.
Once again with Yaeko. The part these chapters belong in is titled "Becoming." As with Melody, Yaeko's true education is just beginning.
Tasty Unedited Snippet
She woke next to sage brush crowding up against a large boulder. The night sky was crystal clear. Ammalinaeus was easily as bright as a hundred full moons back on Earth, probably more. It made the night feel less like night than a day that had taken a sedative. It was so bright that very few stars shone, just a smattering of them and Aquanus’ brothers to the north, which weren’t stars, but worlds like this one. Mr. Conor had told her their names, but she had forgotten them. Or her hardship was suffocating her memory.
She struggled to sit up. Something had changed. Something inside her.
She glanced down at her legs, at her filthy shorts and T-shirt, at the worst of the sores and bruises she’d suffered yesterday. Most of them were gone. Only the markings of the nastiest falls still remained; only her most violent scrapes with cacti or stinging insects still complained. She scratched absentmindedly at a large welt and glanced at Harry Chin.
He sat cross-legged on a level patch of dirt three feet away, his back washboard straight, his eyes closed. That was how he “slept.” Or whatever it was he did when he sat like that at night.
She knew what he was. She’d asked enough questions and listened to enough conversations back at King’s Perch. They had described him in rich detail, both his human and true form. He was in fact a “Keeper,” a tremendous two-mison-long sea monster in his “true” or “primary” or “un-Transformed” state. All of it was somehow packed in a five-foot-three-inch male human frame, which possibly explained why he moved like a constipated automaton.
He had gone missing for many months after meeting Melody. Then he suddenly showed up to kill them. Then he showed up here to help her learn to walk again after his dastardly deed was done.
She had bitten him as hard as she could yesterday, and he didn’t flinch even a tiny bit. He watched her steadily and impassively. Her jaw cramping, she finally gave up, called him the filthiest thing she could in Japanese, questioned his heritage, implying somewhere in there that his mother had had relations with a horny, tick-infested goat, which was why his beard looked so domesticated, and then finished with the fervent desire that he go violate himself repeatedly on any one of the stiff cacti here and there. She had pointed at worthy examples in case he didn’t know where to begin and needed help starting, and then offered detailed how-to instructions.
She thought he might wake. He always had when she woke in the morning. Instantly.
But not now. Not in the middle of the night, apparently.
Was he her benefactor, or was he her torturer? Had she lived such a virtueless life that she was condemned to march forever towards a goal she’d never arrive at? Were those hills like mathematical asymptotes—approachable but never ultimately touchable? How far away were they? They certainly seemed no closer. Maybe they would never get closer. She’d fight to her feet and grasp his arm and take tiny, trembling steps, then collapse with exhaustion. Maybe she was condemned to do that forever. Maybe this was her punishment.
She gazed at Ammalinaeus. Its splendor never ceased to take her breath away. The rings tonight were just a few degrees from vertical and nearly edge-on from her vantage point. They looked almost like a single sparkling Sister slightly tilted to the right.
She stared harder.
How strange ...
Not far from the great gas giant’s middle, just above the horizon, was a patch of ... blue?
Just a tiny ragged circle of it, but there it was, probably in actuality already larger than Earth and Aquanus put together. The tremendous orange band it was in the middle of highlighted it nicely.
She was certain she had never seen it before.