- Title: Ink Calls to Ink
- Author: Nathan Crowder
- Published: July 23rd, 2015
- Publisher: Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
- Genre: Urban Fantasy
- Content Warning: PG-13 Violence
Franklin the Steadfast Soldier saw first hand what the cold indifference of modern London does to a Fictional Personae–a Fict. Refugees from their respective texts, scratching out a meager existence, the Ficts’ only comfort is the weekly Book Fair.
When a determined Knight of the Round Table hires him to find a missing king, Franklin starts to believe a better world could be possible. But the Knight works for the Host of Heaven, and Medea and Judas warn Franklin: One man’s heaven is not heaven for all. There is no place for misfits and villains in this new world order, their crimes are pre-ordained, written into the very fabric of their being.
To protect their city from a holy war, Franklin and his friends must stop the Once and Future King and an army of angels. Will they find the courage to write their own stories, or will they die slaves to their text and the ink in their blood?
Tell us about the story. Where did you get the inspiration for it? How long did it take you to write it? Do you share any traits or likes/ dislikes with your characters? Where is your story set? A fictional place or somewhere you’ve visited/ lived?
>So, this story started with Mary Poppins, weirdly enough. I was brainstorming the idea of movie action heroes taken out of their original context and put in other stories, and a friend suggested Mary Poppins who we quickly decided would make the best spy ever. That spun out into the broader idea of what would a world be like where fictional characters ended up stranded here. I turned that into a short story, also called “Ink Calls to Ink” that was originally published by the Wily Writers podcast. When recording the story, Angel Leigh McCoy, the editor/producer wanted to see more, suggesting that there was a whole novel there. I thought the idea was crazy—until I had a full outline written five days later.
I started writing in February of 2009, and had the first draft done by the end of November 2010 which is kind of long for a first draft for me. It went through a couple of rewrites in that time, including an extensive rewrite in 2012 with notes from an editor I was hoping to land. So, maybe 3 ½ years front to back to get the novel where I was happy with it.
I tend to find myself reflected in a lot of the characters from time to time: Don Quixote’s belief in redemption, Franklin’s stubborn desire to do the right thing no matter the cost, even Juliet’s desire to take control of her own story to create a different outcome. As for the setting, Ink Calls to Ink takes place in London. I’ve never been there, so hopefully I did justice to the city. I hear it’s nice.
How long have you been writing?
>I started when I was around 10 or so but it was just something I did. Though I went through spurts where I wrote a lot, I didn’t seriously pursue it until maybe 2003 or so.
What is your favorite genre to write and to read?
>I tend to gravitate toward long urban fantasy, short horror, and superhero stories of all lengths. And my idea of urban fantasy is Tim Powers, Max Gladstone, and Richard Kadrey. But I tend to have fairly broad tastes and enjoy certain sci-fi, crime, detective novels, and non-fiction about urban planning.
What is the last book you read?
>Eutopia by David Nickle. Great alt-history horror. Highly recommended.
What is the last movie you saw?
>Oh god. Probably Pitch Perfect, for the 20th time. I love that movie.
Are we more likely to catch you reading a paperback book or on an e-reader?
>Most likely a paperback, though I’ve been known to do both.
What is your idea of the perfect day?
>Walk to a diner for breakfast in a light drizzle, 60 degrees out, go to my neighborhood coffeehouse to write, maybe broken up in the middle for a burger or lamb schwarma for lunch, then dinner and karaoke with friends.
What is your preference: coffee, tea, or soda?
Coffee in the mornings, black, preferably an African or Central American varietal, and iced tea by the gallon in the afternoon. Or maybe a nice chai in the winter. Sodas are a rare thing.
“What brings you to the Book Fair, Franklin?”
The richly-accented voice snapped the Soldier’s head around. He recognized Judas immediately. While not adversaries by any means, they had engaged in their share of disagreements at the shelter. Franklin didn’t know what it was about the fallen acolyte that set his teeth on edge and, for his part, Judas seemed to delight in testing the Steadfast nature of Franklin’s title. The Soldier said nothing. His eyes narrowed in suspicion when he saw the young Juliet Capulet in the Scripture’s company. “Surely you have nothing to sell,” Judas continued, “and little money with which to buy.”
This last was said without a hint of judgement, and they both acknowledged it as a truth—both men existed largely on the charity of others, and the occasional coin earned from their very specific skills and reputations. “I have been retained by a woman who desired a degree of protection while stepping out this evening.” The soldier indicated the flap of the tent behind him with a tilt of his head. He hiked himself up straighter upon his crutch. “While it is true that I possess skills rarely sought, my courage and integrity bring peace of mind to those who need it.”
Moll chose this inopportune time to fold back the flap. “Only a moment more and you will escort me home before William even knows I was gone,” she said, her tone pitched as though she was addressing a disobedient dog. She retreated back within the tent, ignorant of the flush appearing at the base of Franklin’s neck.
“That is who hired you?” Juliet joined in, pointing towards the tent, with a disbelieving look. Judas offered up a sad smile. “Tell me, Franklin: how much does your integrity cost these days?”
Franklin clenched his jaw. “Even a Steadfast Soldier needs to eat, Judas. We were not all given thirty silver coins.”
Both men glared hard at each other as if willing the other to burst into flames. Juliet looked embarrassed to be seen with either Judas or Franklin, and peeled herself free from their company. The waifish teen made a bee-line for Medea, which didn’t surprise the Soldier in the slightest.
It was Judas who broke the silence first, his voice cold and flat—a sterile scalpel. “How I enjoy these talks, Franklin.”
“And I as well,” the Steadfast Soldier’s voice dripped. “Let us do this again sometime soon.”
Judas ambled in the direction Juliet had gone. He didn’t seem to be following her so much as already heading that way. Franklin waited where he stood, and it was only a few seconds later that Moll exited the tent with a bemused smile. “Good news, I take it?” he asked.
“Great news. Now, hurry me back to my home.”
Scarcely had they taken five steps when a bellowing voice cleared a path behind them. “Moll, you scurrilous wench! You’ll learn the price you pay for cheating ol’ Billy Sikes!”
The Soldier’s head dropped in realization. “And that would be William?” he sighed to his employer.
Moll’s smile as she glanced back over her shoulder at Franklin was all sugar and razorblades. “If you want the rest of your money, you had better make certain he doesn’t lay a finger upon me.”
By the time Franklin had spun around, there was a clear path from him to Bill Sikes. The well-known Dickens rowdy wasn’t particularly tall, but his arms were corded with muscle, and veins bulged in his neck. His face was red with rage as he closed the twenty feet between with an incomprehensible roar. There will be no reasoning with him, the Soldier realized, at least not at this point. Like it or not, Franklin had to fight this madman. He tightened his grip on the crutch in his right hand. Remember, the client paid for courage as well as integrity, he thought distantly as he limped into desperate combat.
About the Author:
Nathan Crowder is a writer of long fantasy and short horror with a love of pop culture and working-class heroes. He currently lives in the Bohemian wilds of Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood where he blogs about writing, film, and fringe candy, and is known to haunt the local coffee houses, comic shop, dives, and karaoke stages. Nathan lives alone with his cat, Shiva, who is currently managing his career in exchange for fresh kibble.
He has appeared in several anthologies including That Ain’t Right: Historic Accounts of the Miskatonic Valley, Coins of Chaos, and Cthulhurotica.
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