The Leading Ladies Bundle

The D’Karon Apprentice joins an epic lineup of fantasy stories with non-distressed damsels

If you’ve read just about any of my books, you’ll know that I’m no stranger to the popular fantasy tropes. Dragons, wizards, prophecies, etc. They’re classic story elements for a reason! But one cliche I tend not to use is the traditional “Damsel in Distress.” Let’s face it, ladies don’t always get a chance to be heroic in fantasy stories. Often they exist as little more than the target of courtly romance and/or a McGuffin for the hero to fetch, in either case wearing a thoroughly impractical ensemble. It can make for an interesting story if written well, but that’s seldom been the sort of story I wanted to tell.

It turns out, I’m not alone!

StoryBundle and Charlotte E. English — both of whom I’ve worked with multiple times in the past — have teamed up to produce The Leading Ladies Bundle. This is a limited time, name-your-own-price bundle of stories with a strong female lead or a supporting cast of capable ladies. The D’Karon Apprentice–ironically the book of mine with the most scantily clad lady on the cover–joins works from such heavy hitters as Lindsay Buroker (another person with whom I’ve frequently collaborated), Annie Bellet, and (of course) Charlotte E. English. Here’s the full lineup, plus some words from the curator herself.

In these tales of derring-do, the ladies have stepped firmly out of the background. Not every story is female-led, though many are. In some of these books, they’re taking centre stage and rocking it. In others, it’s a supporting cast of women that shines.

I have for you an aristocratic amateur sleuth and a wayward forest witch from W. R. Gingell; a top mathematician and codebreaker from Lindsay Buroker; and from Joseph Robert Lewis and J. Zachary Pike, elf ladies as we’ve never seen them before. There’s a cursed princess from Annie Bellet, a brilliant scholarly mage from Rachel Cotterill, and a cast of wizards, necromancers and dragons from Joseph Lallo. And from me, there’s a predominantly female team of wily masqueraders with a grand mystery to solve.

These books cover a range of fantasy sub-genres, from comic to epic to romantic to adventure fantasy. They’ll take you to diverse fantasy worlds, and show you how spectacular leading ladies can be.

– Charlotte E. English

The initial titles in the Leading Ladies Fantasy Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • Elf Saga – Doomsday (Omnibus Edition) by Joseph Robert Lewis
  • The D’Karon Apprentice by Joseph R. Lallo
  • Watersmeet by Rachel Cotterill
  • Masque by W.R. Gingell
  • Encrypted – Forgotten Ages Book 1 by Lindsay Buroker

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular titles, plus five more!

  • Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike
  • Seven Dreams by Charlotte E. English
  • Gryphonpike Chronicles Volume 1: The Barrows by Annie Bellet
  • Wolfskin by W.R. Gingell
  • Decrypted – Forgotten Ages Book 2 by Lindsay Buroker
Quite a deal, wouldn’t you say? I hope you’ll pick it up! And you can do so starting now over at StoryBundle!

Between Release

It’s time for a new book, everyone! Between is available wherever books are sold. For the first week or so it’ll be $0.99, so if you want it cheap, get it early! After that, the price will go back up to $3.99.

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Here’s the blurb:

Between is a new sci-fi/fantasy adventure from the mind behind The Book of Deacon, Free-Wrench, and Big Sigma.

Philo Middleton wasn’t having a very good day. It began with him waking up strapped to a chair inside a strange, high-tech chamber. His mind was wiped clean, even his own name unfamiliar to him. And yet somehow things went sharply downhill from there.

After being collected by Rill, a three-headed sea serpent with a curious set of dispositions, he learned he had somehow found his way to a place known by its many displaced residents as The Between. It wasn’t so much a location as a lack of location. Time did not exist there. The concepts of direction, distance, and gravity were subjective at best. Worst of all, with laws of physics dictated largely by whim, science and technology were nearly worthless. Those with a mind for magic held all the power, and those unfortunate ‘science-types?’ They did what they were told.

Philo was quickly joined by a cast of characters unified only in their desires to survive and one day return to their homes. Along with Rill, he soon found himself either aligned or at odds with creatures like Trixie the mechanically-inclined demon, Mr. Stubbs the scheming hobgoblin, and the vampiric Duke. They worked as the all-purpose henchmen known as ‘fetchers’ for the adorably nefarious Overseer.

If he wanted to survive, Philo would have to find a way to make himself useful, and if he wanted to escape, he would have to find people he could trust. Too bad the only thing rarer than a useful science-type was a trustworthy fetcher.

This was a fun one. Not what I’d call a major release, because let’s face it, Book of Deacon and Big Sigma are where my bread is buttered, but fun nonetheless. If you’ve not been following closely, then you should know that an unedited version of the first 2/3rds of this story was released on a weekly basis on Wattpad a while back, but when it failed to get traction over there I sidelined it, then finally decided to finish it this year.

As I’ve said before, this was the way I put “The Bad Idea Exercise” to work for me. If I got a bad idea lodged in my head, I would write it down just to clear my brain so I could move on. Often I would just throw that idea way. (Call it preemptive editing.) But sometimes I felt there was the kernel of quality buried somewhere in there, so I’d hang onto it. Eventually I had tens of thousands of words mounded up in that document, so I decided to see if it could be made into something resembling a cohesive plot. And it turns out, yes! I could!

I hope you like the story. And while you’re reading, why not play one of these little games?

Crossover Watch: This story has two subtle-to-not-so-subtle elements that are explicitly crossovers from the Big Sigma and Book of Deacon Universes. You might even spot a Free-Wrench reference.

Origin Hunting: Most of the characters/events in the story and several whole lines were originally rejected ideas from other stories. As you read, maybe try to figure out where a given character came from!

I hope you pick up Between and enjoy it. If you do, let me know. Better yet, let everyone else know with a nice review!

Audio Giveaway and NYCC

Hi folks!

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Just a quick couple of notes today. First, Karyn O’Bryant–a name you’ll know if you’ve been following the releases of my audiobooks–emailed me to let me know she’s got an extra copy of The Battle of Verril on CD. She’s interested in giving it away to a fan of the series, and I’ve got a few copies of the other titles, so we’ve decided to run a giveaway. If you’d like a chance to win, check out the gleam.io giveaway. Contest ends October 12th.

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Also, if you’d like to meet me in person and you’re in the NYC area for New York Comic Con, I’ll once again be attending. Email or tweet me if you’re attending and maybe I can schedule a meetup in Artist’s Alley like last year.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading!

Updates and Such

Hi folks!

Good heavens, it’s been a while since I did a good old fashioned blog post. It turns out very few people actually check my website for updates, so I divert most of my news to my twitter and facebook pages. But I decided now might be a good time to have a nice blast from the past and dust off the blog.

So, what have I been up to? Well, a while back I was asked to produce a few stories for a fantasy anthology about lone wolf characters. I wrote two stories, tentatively named The Dwarfindam Run and The Rules of the Game. Those’ll be out in the anthology at the end of the year, and eventually will cycle into the newsletter perk list. (A good reason to sign up for the newsletter, if you haven’t already.) One of them, The Rules of the Game, is tied to the Book of Deacon series. The other is a one-off not related to (or set in) the Book of Deacon world. Unless I change my mind about that.

I’ve also got a cover for The Big Sigma Collection: Volume 1, an anthology of the first three books in the Big Sigma series. It will include at least two, probably three short works/novellas. Those are the stories I’m working on now, and like the Lone Wolf Shorts, will eventually make their way into the Newsletter Perks. Wanna see the cover? Here it is, as always, illustrated by Nick Deligaris.

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And so the series has its emblem.

People who faithfully read every ridiculous thing I write will be familiar with Between. It’s sitting in basically unedited, incomplete form on Wattpad right now. It recently received a brush-up and completion, and will be available in novel form “soon.” In this case, soon is defined as after the second pass of the edit is finished and after I get a cover for that too. However, seeing as how it’s likely to be my next full-length novel to release, I’ve been accumulating artwork. Here’s The Overseer by robo-shark.

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As evil as he is adorable, I assure you.

The inimitable spookychan drew a picture of Trixie as well.

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I look forward to introducing the rest of the characters eventually.

And finally, for those of you who entered the audio-book contest, thanks! The winners have been drawn. Keep your eyes peeled for a potential “second chance” contest to get another shot at winning The D’Karon Apprentice in audio-book form!

Thanks for reading!

The D’Karon Apprentice Audiobook Giveaway

Hi folks! Audible gave me a stack of codes for free copies of The D’Karon Apprentice. I’ve decided to give ten of them away via a fancy raffle! If you’re an audible user (or have been thinking of becoming one) go ahead and enter the raffle for a chance to get a code for all 21+ hours of Karyn O’Bryant-narrated Book of Deacon goodness!

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D’Karon Apprentice Audiobook Giveaway

Ichor Well is Available Now!

The third book in the Free-Wrench Series has finally been released!

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Nita, Lil, and Wink, and the rest of the Wind Breaker crew continue their adventures today. If you’re impatient to get to it, pick it up now on Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords and everywhere else! And if you haven’t started the series? Now’s a great time to start, because Book 1 is FREE for a limited time on all the same stores!

Free-Wrench continues to astound me with its success. Those who have been with me long enough will know that it began as a NaNoWriMo experiment. Back then the theory was I’d do a new standalone story each NaNoWriMo to stretch my writing chops. You folks quickly put a stop to that, making it clear NaNoWriMo was destined to be “the month of steampunk” for the foreseeable future. Ichor Well is by a wide margin my longest Free-Wrench story, and as you’ll see in the blurb below, I feel it’s got a pretty darn nifty plot.

Ichor Well is the third adventure in the Free-Wrench Series of Steampunk novels.

Ever since Nita Graus left her homeland and joined the crew of the Wind Breaker, the reputation of the airship and its crew has been growing. The destruction of the mighty dreadnought, the escape from the legendary Skykeep, and the inexplicable ability to remain hidden from the ever-watchful eye of the Fug Folk have combined to make her and her fellow crew the stuff of legend. Alas, legendary heroes cannot exist for long without attracting a worthy villain. Luscious P. Alabaster strives to be just that foe.

While he works his nefarious plans, the crew itself is not without turmoil. Captain Mack, already having survived far more years in the hostile skies than he had any right to expect, is making plans for his golden years. The crew is gradually learning all that Nita can teach them, leaving her with the looming decision of whether or not she still has a place among the crew.

Before the matter of the future can be settled, the crew has the problems at hand to solve. And in escaping the webs woven by the cunning and eccentric Alabaster, they may discover the darkest secrets the churning and toxic Fug has to hide.

Followers of my various social media accounts have been treated to some recent artwork of the characters returning or debuting in this story. We’ll start with robo-shark’s recent illustration of Wink and Nikita, two of the adorable/surly inspectors that call the Wind Breaker their home.

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By far the most substantial addition to my character artwork for the Free-Wrench series comes courtesy of SpookyChan.

Here’s Nita.

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And Lil. (This may well be the definitive picture of the maniacally enthusiastic Chastity “Lil’ Coop” Cooper.

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And finally, the nefarious LUCIUS P. ALABASTER! You haven’t met him yet. But you will…

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Once again, this book is now on Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords! If you like it, please remember to leave a review.

The Redemption of Desmeres

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This being the Book of Deacon Newsletter, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind folks that The Redemption of Desmeres, my latest Book of Deacon story, is available now. This one slipped under the radar a bit, what with it’s sudden, surprise release a few weeks ago, but the reviews have been great. If you missed it, pick it up! If you’ve read it, please let me know what you think. If people enjoy the further story of Desmeres, it might be fun to explore other characters, or even further stories of Desmeres and his growing circle of friends and allies.

Ichor Well Cover Reveal and Pre-Order!

If you’ve been paying attention over the last few months, you know that I’ve been working on a number of different projects. Because editing and artwork tend to become a bottleneck, rather than seeing one project all the way through, I’ve been continuing on to another project just as soon as I complete the previous one. That means things get really confusing for me, since eventually I end up doing a release on a book that I’ve not had to think about for MONTHS. To that end, I’m happy to announce the pending release of last year’s NaNoWriMo project, Ichor Well.

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It’s slowly becoming available for pre-order on iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Google Play. The Amazon version will be available much closer to the release date, July 14th, 2016.

The cover is, as always, by Nick Deligaris, and here’s the Blurb:

Ichor Well is the third adventure in the Free-Wrench Series of Steampunk novels.

Ever since Nita Graus left her homeland and joined the crew of the Wind Breaker, the reputation of the airship and its crew has been growing. The destruction of the mighty dreadnought, the escape from the legendary Skykeep, and the inexplicable ability to remain hidden from the ever-watchful eye of the Fug Folk have combined to make her and her fellow crew the stuff of legend. Alas, legendary heroes cannot exist for long without attracting a worthy villain. Luscious P. Alabaster strives to be just that foe.

While he works his nefarious plans, the crew itself is not without turmoil. Captain Mack, already having survived far more years in the hostile skies than he had any right to expect, is making plans for his golden years. The crew is gradually learning all that Nita can teach them, leaving her with the looming decision of whether or not she still has a place among the crew.

Before the matter of the future can be settled, the crew has the problems at hand to solve. And in escaping the webs woven by the cunning and eccentric Alabaster, they may discover the darkest secrets the churning and toxic Fug has to hide.

Believe it or not, FIGURINES ARE HERE!

Every time I show off a new doodad for my fabled Cabinet of Awesomeness, I get at least a few fans asking when and how they can get their hands on one of their own. New plush? New figurine? Anything custom at all and folks want to have one in their collection. I feel for you folks, but the fact is, I don’t have enough fans to justify the cost of doing even a minimum run of a custom plush or toy. In fact, I wouldn’t even be able to afford to offer paperbacks if not for Print on Demand.

But that’s when it hit me. Print on Demand… That could work. Cue some research, some negotiation, some reference art, some revisions, and then?

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These little beauties were designed by Liz Landis and based in large part upon the original Squee, sculpted by Leilia’s Clay Creations. They are printed on demand by Shapeways if you’d like to buy one.

Each figurine is about 3 inches high. I’ve got Solby, complete with the transceiver on the back of his neck, or Squee, sporting her Silo-approved pink nail polish, hoop earrings, and a bandage over her transceiver. You can buy either of them in any of four versions.

For $30 you can get a solid black or solid white plastic version. These are slightly rough to the touch, pretty robust, and may have some visible print lines. I got a sample of Squee in this form so you can see what you think.

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For $35, you can upgrade to a full color print. These have a “sandstone” feel to them and are a little more fragile, but they survived shipping to my house just fine. As long as you keep them dry they’ll hold up fine, but if they get wet the color could fade slightly. Here’s Solby in that form, if you’d like to see.

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For $45, you can get a full color coated version. These are the same material, but they’ve been given a glossy finish that makes the colors a bit sharper and protects them against water damage. Squee got a test print in this form as well, shown here beside her older sister in the original sculpt!

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These are a beta run of potentially several characters to get similar treatment, so if you like the idea, let me know! And if you end up ordering any from my shop on Shapeways, I’d love to see pictures of when they find their new home!

And don’t forget, Squee and the rest are available right now in their latest adventure, Temporal Contingency!

Possible Future Merch!

Yeah, I know, I’m always talking about making merchandise. But this time I’m serious! Many of you folks will remember Leilia’s Clay Creations, creator of the following beautiful additions to my collection of wonderful things:

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Now, there’s a funny thing about figurines. Having one made costs on the order of a few hundred dollars. Having two made is really hard, because most sculptors don’t want to make the same thing twice, and having things molded and cast requires all sorts of other limitations and costs and the like. Also, when people think about figurines, they more or less think about mass produced ones, which cost a few bucks a piece because they are churned out of a factory by the thousand that has set up costs in the tens of thousands of dollars. So figurines of like these of my characters that you can buy? Not terribly likely in the short term.

But pendants? They’re itty bitty, they mold and cast easy, and they can be just as cute. I present exhibits A and B (with hand for reference).

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CUTE! Each of these is hand sculpted, cast in small batches, and hand painted. That’s downright artisanal! 

So, now for the big questions.

Let’s assume that you could get one of these adorable doodads for $10 for an unpainted one (you paint it yourself) or $30 for a painted one. Would you want one? And would you want Myn or Squee?

First Annual Meeting of the ULCA

A circle of folding chairs sat on the floor of an old auditorium. To one side of the circle a folding table had been set up, arrayed with snacks and soft-drinks as well as a portable radio on a classic rock station. Over the course of a few minutes, an unusual assortment of figures filtered in and filled the seats. When every seat was filled, a young man in army fatigues stood to address the group.

“Okay, it looks like that’s everyone we’ll be getting today. I’d like to call the first annual meaning of Unpopular Lallo Characters Anonymous to order. Before we get started, I think we should do a roll call of all members present. Starting with me, we’ll work our way around clockwise. When it’s your turn, please stand, say your name, and tell us what book you are most associated with. I, of course, am Non Sequitur, from the Other Eight.”

“Gracias, The Other Eight.”

“Pollinatrix, The Other Eight.”

“Chloroplast, The Other Eight.”

“Bomb Sniffer, The Other Eight.”

“Phosphor, The Other—“

“Wait, wait, wait,” cried a young woman in a red and white latex suit and goggles.

She stood and looked around.

“We’re just the entire cast of The Other Eight!”

“Now Nonsensica, let’s just wait until we get through roll call before we—“ Non Sequitur said.

“No, no. This is bogus. Why are we the ones who never caught on? Superheroes are huge right now!” she griped.

“Yeah… Yeah, that is kind of weird isn’t it?” remarked Gracias. “Like, even the rotten movies are packing the theaters.”

“Maybe no one reads anymore,” said Pollinatrix.

“If no one reads anymore then this whole room would be packed. We’d have that mad scientist in here and his frickin’ computer, and those wizards. There hasn’t been a Lord of the Rings movie in the theaters since that third Hobbit movie and people are still buying those stories.”

“I blame our cover,” Bomb Sniffer said. “It looks more like a Pixar movie than a superhero thing.”

From Left to Right: Nonsensica, Johnny on The Spot, and Non Sequitur

“But Pixar movies are awesome!” Gracias said.

“And there was one about superheroes, and it was the best one!” Nonsensica said.

“I don’t know. The Toy Story Movies were pretty good,” Pollinatrix said.

“Yeah, and Monsters Inc,” Gracias said.

“Does anyone like Cars?” Phosphor asked. “Because I got a kick out of Mater.”

“Look, we’re not talking about Pixar.” Nonsensica said. “We’re talking about how it is lame that superheroes are the in thing and here we are as the only people in the ULCA.”

“Heh, I like how it’s almost UCLA,” Gracias said.

Nonsensica gritted her teeth. “Can we please stay on topic here. We’re trying to figure out why no one likes us!”

“Have you taken a moment to consider that we’re just not that good?” Pollinatrix said.

“It’s true. I mean, we had a whole big scene in a Waffle House. That’s not exactly heroic,” added Bomb Sniffer.

“Whoa, hey now. Let’s not talk smack about waffles. Waffles are probably the most heroic food,” Gracias said.

“That’s just stupid,” Chloroplast said.

“Name one food that’s more heroic.”

“The hero sandwich.”

“… Well played… This is precisely why Team Green shouldn’t face off against one another. We should—“

“FOCUS!” Nonsensica said.

“Nonsensica, please. It just so happens we aren’t the only ones here. See?” Non Sequitur looked to the side. “Excuse me. Excuse me, ma’am? … Er… Ma’ams?”

The group turned to find a large lavender serpent with three heads at the snack table. The rightmost head was entirely immersed in a bowl of cheese curls. Realizing they were being watched, the center head perked up.

“Oh! Uh… Rill, The Between,” said the Rill.

“It’s not The Between, it’s just Between,” Left-Rill said.

Right-Rill’s head burst up from the bowl, sending cheese curls flying everywhere.

“Wha-?” she said, still munching on the snack.

A rather striking demon woman of some sort with red skin and wings snapped open a diet cola and took a sip.

“You ask me, we shouldn’t even be here,” she said. “Our story’s not done yet. For all we know we’ll rocket in popularity around chapter forty or so.”

“Keep dreaming,” said a young man in medieval attire. “If ‘not having your story finished’ is a reason to not be here then I’d be long gone.”

Trixie turned to him. “And who are you?”

“Edge,” he said. “Untitled Second Trilogy.”

“Never heard of you,” Nonsensica said.

“The Beta Readers know who I am… some of them, anyway.”

“Okay, okay. We’re getting off track here. I think we all know who each other are now, so let’s move on to the second order of business, the absent list. Let’s see… Looks like Michella didn’t turn up.”

“Talk about denial,” Pollinatrix said.

“She is on the cover of Artificial Evolution,” Phosphor said.

“And I’m on the cover of The Other Eight. Coverage doesn’t mean squat. The facts are, no one likes Mitch and she keeps getting shoved down the people’s throats and yet we only get one outing,” Nonsensica said.

“Who else… Ayna’s name is crossed off here. Ether too,” Non Sequitur said.

“Yeah, a couple big name fans have kept them off the list,” Trixie said. “That’s the magic of fan art.”

“Again, bogus. I’ve had plenty of fan art!” Nonsensica said. She crossed her arms. “And if we’re going by fan art then basically no one is popular, because we are in a drought for that stuff.”

Non Sequitur shuffled through some papers. “Okay. I’ll just mark down the rest of the names so we can get rolling, since it looks like the rest of us are all here. Let’s get started.” He cleared his throat. “I know it can be frustrating to know that, for what may well be no reason more than bad luck, we’ve been relegated to the bottom of the popularity list. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t good characters.”

“I think it does,” Bomb Sniffer said.

“No. That’s bad thinking. We haven’t been abandoned. Right now notes exist to bring back each and every one of us, and as Trixie, Rill, and Philo illustrate constantly, Joseph R. Lallo is more than willing to dump tens of thousands of additional words into an idea that simply hasn’t caught on.”

“Writer’s pets,” muttered Pollinatrix.

Non Sequitur continued. “And always remember that even if we aren’t the most popular, out there I have no doubt that each of us has a diehard fan praying we get to be the stars of the next NaNoWriMo experiment or Newsletter Perk.”

“Oh! You know what we should get? You know what would turn it around for us?” Gracias said.

“We’re not trying to turn it around, Gracias, we are coming to terms with—“

“An audio book! We’re like the last ones who don’t have one. Let’s get an audio book, and let’s get it narrated by…”

“Morgan Freeman?” Phosphor suggested.

“MORGAN FREEMAN!” Gracias said, raising his hands. “That would be killer.”

“Come on guys. Seriously,” Non Sequitur said. “Let’s just get through this so we can hit the snack table and start the mixer. Let’s do the affirmation—“

“Oh, like in Wreck It Ralph?” Bomb Sniffer said.

“Another great Pixar movie, by the way,” Gracias said.

“No, no. That wasn’t Pixar, it was just Disney,” Chloroplast said.

“Tha-a-at’s right. Oh, speaking of, is that Lain starring in that Zootopia movie?” Gracias said. “If so, that guy’s got range.”

“You know what? Screw it.” Non Sequitur said, tossing the papers aside. “Snacks are on the table. Enjoy the rest of the meeting, folks. Maybe we’ll do another one of these next April Fool’s Day.”