Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Superheroes to the rescue: A bonus MASKS story!

That’s right, junior superheroes, you’re getting a chapter and a short story this week … but only if you help me help some kids in need.

I’m friends with a lot of teachers. Actually, it worries me how many teachers I’m friends with, even considering that I dabble in teaching. I pal around with teachers from kindergarten through college and beyond, so I hear a lot of teaching horror stories. But this one really upset me, and it dovetailed nicely with something I want to do anyway.

I have been working on a bonus short story to include in the collected edition of Masks (out sometime before Christmas, probably November, thanks for asking). I had a great idea for a Trevor story, one that really stuck in my head and wouldn’t leave me alone—but I wanted a story that featured both my heroes, set after the main plot of the book, and this other tale is all about Trevor and actually takes place before Masks begins. It started with an offhand comment in one of the later chapters, where Trevor mentions that he hasn’t set foot in a church since his parents’ funeral, “unless he counted the two weeks he’d spent healing up in a Buddhist shrine toward the end of the Night Lords’ War when he was twelve.” It was originally a throwaway line, just a way to show the kind of crazy stuff Trevor got into as a sidekick. But it just wouldn’t leave me alone. I wanted to know who the Night Lords were, and why they were having a War, and why Trevor was so badly injured that he needed two whole weeks to heal, and why he had to do it in a Buddhist shrine. I had a hazy mental image of twelve-year-old Trevor, lying on a cot in the back room of some run-down old temple, with some kind of supernatural war going on all around him—and I just knew he wouldn’t want to sit still. Once I got a picture of him crawling off to go fight monsters, I knew I had to write the story, so I found myself sitting on a curb yesterday, scribbling frantically in a notebook to get the idea down before it could fly away. I knew I couldn’t use the tale, but I just had to get it out of my system.

Then I had dinner with one of my teacher friends, who told me about a local family that had hit a rough patch and was having trouble affording back-to-school expenses for their children—you know, that binge of shopping all our moms went on every August and September to make sure our clothes all fit and our backpacks didn’t have holes. Speaking as someone who started second grade at a new school with a nylon backpack, a pee-chee folder, a Lunchable, and nothing else, I can tell you that stuff really makes a difference. Anyway, my friend asked me if I knew anyone who might be able to donate any of the items on a shopping list so these kids—good students all, great kids—wouldn’t have to go without. I didn’t have any of the stuff lying around, so I suggested just raising some money so the family could buy whatever they needed. My friend gave me a funny look and said, “I’m a teacher and you’re a writer. What are we going to sell?”

And I remembered the story I wanted to write anyway.

So here’s the deal. I’m going to write that little story about the Night Lords’ War this week. It won’t be long—I’m aiming for about 3,000 words, about as long as a Masks chapter—but it will be packed with action and emotion and freaky weird stuff and all the goodies you’ve come to expect from an R.M. Hendershot extravaganza. You’ll get to see Trevor in his sidekick days, and his mysterious mentor, and God knows what else because I swear I’m making this up as I type. I’ve figured out how Trevor got injured and why he can’t sit still and how his mentor fits in, and the rest is probably going to be improv. I’ll see if I can dragoon Nicole or somebody into drawing an illustration. And I will throw the whole thing up for sale on Friday, for two dollars.

That’s right. Two bucks. Half the cost of a cup of Starbucks coffee. I’ll try to set up a donation system so you can toss in more money if you want, but for two bucks, you get a PDF of the story. And every cent I collect, minus PayPal’s cut, will go directly to that family to buy essential supplies for those kids.

I don’t have big ambitions for this project. If I collect a hundred bucks before PayPal, I’ll be over the moon. That’ll be fifty people buying the story. I happen to know Pocket Coyote gets 70 hits on a good day right now, maybe 20 of those reading the newest chapter. Imagine what would happen if those 20 people each invited one friend to chip in a couple of bucks for an extra story … heck, imagine what would happen if those 20 people each invited two friends.

I can’t use the family’s name or personal details here, because I don’t have their permission. If they give permission later, I’ll tell you all about the kids and how awesome they are and how big a difference your donations have made. For now, I’ll just say they’re the kind of kids a teacher doesn’t forget easily, the kind she’d hit up a penniless author for. The kind I can’t say no to. And so, in honor of some great kids and a great teacher, I’m writing a story about a great kid and his great teacher.

Oh, and there will be ninjas. Not sure how yet, but there will totally be ninjas of some description. I’m excited. NINJAS!!!

Watch this blog on Friday for a link to the story and instructions on how to donate. There will be announcements on Facebook and Twitter, too, so be sure to get on board with those. I’ll keep you posted.

And now, I think it’s time to set a new land speed record for keyboarding …

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