Cover art for Metal Shadow PreludeIt’s coming. The greatest action opera to be put to the page, Metal Shadow, has been outlined, drafted, oiled and lubricated. Today, we talk about the premise, the release schedule, some fun tidbits about the series, and get a sneak preview!

Over a year ago, I submitted Metal Shadow Prelude to JukePop Serials for publication. It was accepted, and I cranked out a whopping 52-chapter novel over the next several months, with an accelerated release schedule from June to August of 2013 to finish it. I’m really proud of how the Prelude turned out, and all the things its publication entailed. (I mean, I’m an author now. Not a bestselling author, or a critically acclaimed one, but shit. My name’s in the proverbial headlights. Still here trying to wrap my brain around it.) Now, I’m ready to level up even further.

Following the Prelude’s successful conclusion, I immediately started outlining the main canon. The Prelude is a prologue to a longer, deeper fantasy epic. This main canon has been in development since my high school years–a clean decade, come next year. I barely had to do anything besides comb through old documents to flesh it out. Rather than invent a new draft out of them, I decided to combine all the previous drafts into a single, super, penultimate one.

This was the greatest idea of ever for all of time.

In combining EVERY SINGLE DRAFT I ever wrote of Metal Shadow, only updating it with changes made to the recently published Prelude, I succeeded in crafting a story that is better than the sum of its parts. We’re talking action, adventure, drama, mystery, horror—an “epic” in the truest sense of the word. I’m proud as hell of Metal Shadow right now, and I’m sure readers will be too.

Metal Shadow’s main premise is that nine heroes have been reincarnated to battle Godden, the Black God: a villain who once tormented the continent of Gilta Nnea and was exiled to purgatory as a result. In the Prelude, we followed the previous incarnations of these heroes on an adventure throughout this purgatory, ending with their deaths and subsequent falling into the reincarnation spell, which was crafted by Gineden, Godden’s archnemesis. Those who have read the Prelude know that none of these heroes desired their fate, even though they despised Godden and had actively tried to defeat him in their own lives. This fact greatly influences how the main series plays out.

A quick note here, before I get to discussing the release schedule. I acknowledge that not everyone reading this has read the Prelude, and that some of you who did may have found the plot difficult to digest at times. One of the drawbacks of upping the release schedule was that I had less time to edit the chapters, which led to numerous errors and convolutions in and of the plot over time. I aim to edit the Prelude by the end of this year to straighten out all the kinks, but in the meantime, I’ve started updating the Metal Shadow wiki (at long last) with all the info on the Prelude readers would ever need. This includes soon-to-be-released chapter synopses that will cover the Prelude from top to bottom, inside and out. Check out the most recent article on Agent Delta here.

Back on topic, the first volume of Metal Shadow is what I’ve outlined so far; that is, the first 100 or so chapters of the series. It has been divided into seven parts, or “episodes”, of which I’ll release three per year, for a total of around 40 chapters in the span of 52 weeks. Yes, I’m slowing down the release schedule so that I can take more time editing before releasing chapters. I want to leave no regrets with this one.

Since I’ve always planned for there to be five volumes in the series total, each around the same length, we’re looking at a serial that will last quite a while. JukePop, brace yourself, for #TheRedThreatIsComing.

And now! Here is an excerpt from Metal Shadow’s 2014 saga; the opening scene of chapter 6. Read it, enjoy it, check out the wiki, follow me on the Twitters, and look forward to the main series when it drops early next year!

An excerpt from Metal Shadow (coming to JukePop Serials in Q1 2014)

Tso city had long entertained SCAI’s patrols and trainees. The white-clad soldiers were a force of law and order where the local authorities were absent. Their gunblades and electric shields were a reminder of the wars Tso didn’t have to participate in, if not the people they had to support to keep it that way. But the soldiers were also walking displays of power. The arrival of the sortie of airships over center avenue, each with the gleaming silver eagle of SCAI on its side, meant the arrival of someone, or something, which commanded that power.

The black-lacquered aircrafts, large and round like floating whales, nestled into the greyest, steeliest, smokiest part of the city. Their metal maws swung open; hovering automobiles of the same shape and material as the ships, with glowing neon underbellies, rolled out onto the streets in single file. SCAI soldiers clad from head to toe in arcane white metal, with holographic images playing in front of their visors, deigned to hit the road on motorbikes to escort them. Single-man helicopters split from the airships and spread into the city searching for threats. An anthem blared out of every loudspeaker in the city as SCAI’s long, sanctimonious procession began.

The roads they chose to weave through had already been cleared of traffic. The sidewalks lining those streets had not been cleared of the scum called the local denizens. Still in their work clothes, with grime on their bodies and iron tools slung around their persons, the Tsolites walled the procession, peering into each car window with thinly veiled angst. Only a few of them cheered or sang along to the anthem. The rest remained deathly quiet. SCAI was fine with that; all they needed were witnesses to their might, however spiteful those witnesses were.

Reikke Evomnestra Lesasche studied these faces from her side of a car window. The people could not see her, but she could see them as clearly as if no window had been there at all. Their weathered looks, their malnourished frames, the industrial soot staining their outsides and insides. And, most importantly, their cold, emotionless visages. One after another; an endless stream of destitution.

What, she wondered, was going through their minds? She didn’t have to ponder long, for the answer was all too obvious. On her side of the glass, her small, skinny frame literally sank into leather seats. These people had never known such luxury. Her hair was dyed pink and black today, her eyes lime green; her dress and sneakers, fur coat and accessories were the leading brand. They had never been able to afford such clean, modish clothing. Her tablet sat in her lap, awaiting her ever-ready touch. They had never possessed modern technology.

She wished she could show them how little her wealth was worth.

Her gaze swam over the rolling display. Somewhere down the line, one face grabbed her attention. It belonged to a man with shaggy silver hair and a large beard, dressed in nothing but rags. He stood watching from the front lines, his eyes deep, black, younger than the rest of him, yet wise. They locked stares, and she could almost read the man’s intentions before he acted on them.

The man jolted out of the crowd and smacked the mobile’s window with his hand. Reikke yelped and scurried backwards, the fat cushions rolling, impeding her progress. The man jogged alongside her vehicle, keeping his hand plastered, searching the contents of the window for something he would never find. It took a second for Reikke’s panic to subside enough for her to realize there was more than just a hand on the window; a poster lay there too. The words “Missing Boy” were written boldly across the top, and beneath that was a picture of a dark-haired boy with sharp eyes and a wide, smug grin. “Age sixteen, last seen near the Hollowlands” the bottom of the poster read. “If seen, please contact–”

A white boot found the back of the man’s head. He slammed into the door, bounced backward, and rolled through the exhaust of a SCAI soldier’s motorbike to the base of the sidewalk. Reikke looked out the rear windshield to follow the scene. The image of a man struggling to get to his feet, SCAI soldiers knocking him back down as they drove by, and no one on the sidewalk moving to intervene, drifted away from her. The poster of the missing boy danced into view, pieces of it grinning, pieces of it glaring.

When the last of the SCAI procession had passed, the people of Tso city went back to their usual milling, if quieter and with less enthusiasm. The anthem faded and pounding steel retook its place. Cars honked angrily up the road. The silver-bearded man found his legs. He looked to the heavens in pain, then limped into a nearby alleyway, ignoring the pedestrians as much as they ignored him. Once deep enough in, he paused to catch his breath and massage his wounds. Boot prints were visible on his face and neck in the faint light offered through the alley’s gaps, though the ones on the rest of his body were hidden by his ragged clothing. He wiped sweat and blood from his brow and was done worrying about it. With a brief glance over his shoulder, he started down the alleyway.

The city’s usual din–steel hitting steel, tires pressing gravel, cinders of fire sizzling–faded in and out as the man wove through the backstreet networks of Tso. He carried himself like the proper vagrant. Where people appeared, he bid an ill-breathed good morning. Where people didn’t, he did an unsolicited jig. The scents from some of the kitchens comissioned a few moments of his time. The windows of the tattoo parlors, bars, and brothels gave him reason to linger. He was heading towards the lower east side, where the more wealthy residents of Tso lived, but he was in no rush. Even as the alleyways became less filthy,  their shady customers less frequent, he paused to look back every now and again, as if yearning to go the other way.

Finally, he stopped dead in his tracks. Looked over his shoulder for the umpteenth time. Dropped the fake humor without transition.

Five poorly concealed figures watched him from the shadows. They had followed him from the SCAI procession; had tried staying out of sight whenever he turned around. Their cloak tails or wide hoods or whatever other artifact of their person always gave them away. They couldn’t have been SCAI units with that kind of shoddy effort. But they were concealed, they were numerous, they were stalking him. And his patience had just run out.

The man walked–briskly now–to the end of the current alley. The figures slunk after him. Abruptly, he turned the corner and darted out of sight. The figures barreled onto the sidewalk, looking this way and that in search of him. In stepping into the sunlight, their shapes and sizes became distinct. Each was smaller than the average person, with baby fat still clinging to whatever features their hoods and sleeves couldn’t conceal. Their leader had maturity, with a feminine figure hugged by casual clothing showing through the gap of her cloak, but her chin, neck, and exposed ankles were still too thin to belong to more than a teenager.

She found the silver-bearded man racing into an alleyway across the street. She pointed, and pursued. The group cut through sidewalk and road traffic alike into the alleyway; cars honked angrily, screeched; people blurted out obscenities. Shadows swallowed the figures once more. They slowed their pace to a crawl and started carefully scouring their surroundings. The alley was straight, narrow, with no obstructions, and led to a dead end. The silver-bearded man was yet nowhere in sight.

It was when the group stopped halfway in, all but scratching their heads, that he descended from the dead lamp over their heads.

The figures’gazes climbed too slowly. The man landed among them, and the side of his hand found the nape of two necks. Clean, true strokes. Those figures collapsed; the others pivoted and launched at him with equally practiced blows.

Limbs blurred into motion. Flesh smacked flesh, shoes scuffed dirt. Voices grunted, panted. Cloaks flourished and warped. The figures’ hoods flew back. A silver wig hit the sky.

The man’s eyes widened. He recognized these people. These children.

There was Oeppe, the girl with a mouth as wide as her voice was loud. There was Yzac, taller but still bespectacled. The two on the floor were Ryce and Peeze, the polar opposites, yet twins. And there, the oldest one among them, the only one not struggling to keep up–

He came back to his senses in time to deflect Oeppe’s surprise punch with his forearm. Seeing Yzac coming at him from the other side, he swiveled and parried Yzac with Oeppe’s forearm. He spun again, locking the limbs, then snapped them both out of place. The pair yelled in pain. He grinned. A dislocated shoulder was a lesson all children of Kuralle eventually learned.

With his back to the boy and girl, he jumped, palmed the air underneath him, and simultaneously kicked behind him. His feet found the duo’s chests, while his hands found the group leader’s ankle most of the way through its trajectory, deflecting her sudden kick. He landed on all fours while the pair of kids collapsed to their backs behind him and the group leader stumbled before him. He darted forward at once, tackling the leader to the ground.

He rose up on his hands and knees. The young woman under him squeezed her eyes in pain, then opened them and donned surprise at the sight of him. They remained that way for a seeming eternity. He stared down, she stared up. He breathed, she breathed. The fainted or recovering children groaned around them. Tso city carried on.

“Llo…Lloyde?” the girl said.

Lloyde removed the silver beard and tossed it in with the wig; dark stubble to match his hair, skin and eyes took its place. He had an older face now, wearier, but he was the same person–the same son of Kuralle. His smile said as much.

“Yeah,” Lloyde replied. “It’s me.”

Claudia defeated him with a hug.

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