Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Change in Attitude

   It's amazing to me how much one simple achievement has changed my attitude about myself. For years, as I struggled with my writing, I despaired of ever completing anything much less actually getting it published. Now that my first story is up on Amazon, it's like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. There is now a simple confidence inside me that says you can do it. I may take a little more time than others, but I'll keep on writing and more stories will be published.
   The other change is that I now see myself as an author, not just a writer. I've spent the last couple of days setting up author pages on Goodreads and Facebook now that I see myself in that new light. There's also a new confidence when I talk to others about writing. Before, I used to hesitate when folks asked me what I did. If I said I was a writer, the inevitable question was always, "Have you published anything?" Now I can answer that without a bunch of excuses. Having gone through the whole process of final edits, cover design, and formatting, I feel a little better qualified to talk to other aspiring authors about what to expect and how to get through the process.
   Sales of my book have dropped off significantly the last couple of days, but that doesn't surprise me since I've done nothing to promote it. What's interesting though is that the pages read chart continues to hold steady. I'm not the kind of person to fill up everyone's feed with constant reminders of my book, so next on the learning curve will be several small attempts at promotion.
   For this week I wanted to share the Prologue for my upcoming epic fantasy which will be the next book published.
   Thanks for reading!

                                                 End of an Age

Now was the time to finish this. Only Demitrios, the last surviving Deluti High Lord, had the power to locate and if possible, destroy the Dark Lord.  He rode at the forefront of the Army of the North, an alliance he had forged between Northern Ogre, Mountain Wolves, the light-shifters of the Elintria and Humans. That alliance proved to be the turning point in a war that had lasted for decades. The Dark Lord of the South refused to acknowledge the intelligence and fighting abilities of the non-humans. For that reason, his entire army was comprised of humans, whom he treated little better than slaves.
The Army advanced steadily across the Plain of Sarglon and approached the Stagwood Forest. Ahead of them stretched an ancient, densely packed wood where the Dark Lord had established his final defensive line to protect his fortress at Bryhom. At the High Lord’s signal, the army positioned itself for attack with archers and mages to the front, followed by ogres, wolves and human swordsmen. The horsemen were positioned as rear guard due to their disadvantage in the thick forest.
As the first volley of arrows darkened the sky and fireballs launched by the human mages sped towards the forest, lightning strikes sent by the Dark Lord’s sorcerers began falling among the archers. Holding position, the mages and archers continued to provide covering fire until the wolves, ogres and Elintria assassins reached the edge of the forest. The swordsmen then followed to sweep through the forest in the wake of the non-humans. Riding among them, Demitrios provided as much protection as he dared but every death added to the burden of sorrow weighing on his heart.
His personal shield protected him from attack but did not block out the pungent odor of ozone and the sickly sweet stench of burning flesh. They had left behind a plain littered with the bodies of human and animal, but in the forest, Demitrios knew they would have the advantage. The wolves and ogre were formidable forest predators and the Elintria would quickly eliminate anyone attempting to hide in the trees.
 A sudden immense gathering of power alerted him to the presence of his enemy and the shocked realization of the terrible mistake he had made. The forest was a trap. With the last of his energy he sent out a powerful mental command to the entire army to abandon the forest immediately.  Face buried in the mane of his horse to keep from being swept off, they careened through the forest with the roar of an inferno pursuing them. Tendrils of smoke trailed from the burnt ends of the horse’s tail as they escaped through the western edge of the forest and ascended to a rock strewn meadow. The horse, lathered and trembling, stopped a few paces away from the body of a man slumped against the side of a large boulder. Demitrios fell from his saddle and stumbled over to his brother. The face of his twin was beyond recognition.
Compassion overwhelmed all other emotions as he gazed at the burnt and blackened body before him.
“Why have you done this to us Scorpios?” he cried. “Your lust for power has destroyed the last members of our race. The Council of Five gave up their lives by forging their spirits into the five Amulets of Focus that are now scattered throughout both continents. The Deluti are no more. You have placed the future of this world in the hands of the humans.”
The body of his brother convulsed, one eye cracked open and a hiss escaped through burnt and blistered lips.
“Kill me.”
“I can not. Regardless of what you have become, you are still my brother.”
Anger invoked by the senseless destruction and death his brother was responsible for rekindled the power of a Deluti High Lord in him. He rose to his feet and stood straight and tall.
“However, since you attempted to kill us all and took in more power than your body was able to control, I sentence you to live and suffer from those injuries and the knowledge of what you have done to our people.”
Demitrios walked over to stand next to his horse and stared at the smoking ruin that had once been the Stagwood Forest. With a faraway look in his eyes, he continued.
     “Many generations from now, the blood of the Deluti will return through the line of humans even stronger than before and our time on this world will come to an end. I have foreseen it.”
Back in the saddle, he turned his horse away from the broken body on the ground and whispered, “Goodbye my brother.”  He never looked back.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What I'm Feeling Right Now

   It's hard to put into words what I'm feeling right now, but I'm a writer so I'll try. As some of you may know, if you've been following my blog for a while, writing is difficult for me. It's not the writing itself, since once I sit down with a pen in my hand, words just seem to flow. That is if I can get my phantom editor to go away. It's the battle with my inner self that prevents me from sitting down in the first place.
   Realistically, I've had a fairly successful life, so how do I explain to folks that in my mind I've always felt like a failure. It doesn't make any sense, but depression rarely does. How do you convince yourself to write when your internal voice is constantly telling you it's a waste of time, nobody will like what you write, or you'll fail at this just like you've failed at everything else? Even though I've had a number of people tell me they like my writing, it's still a battle to write every time.
   Two days ago, I took a gigantic step for me and put my first book out there for the world to criticize. It's just a simple fantasy novella that took way too long to write, and honestly, I expected it to flop. I always figure friends and family are lying to me when they say my writing is good so I take their comments with a grain of salt. I have no idea what constitutes a successful book release, but the fact that a number of people actually bought the book, read it overnight and sent me e-mails today saying how much they enjoyed it, has sent my inner demon scurrying for the corner, grumbling.
   The fact that total strangers read and liked my story may have finally broken down the barrier and I may actually begin to believe in myself. This should give me the confidence I need to sit down everyday and write like I want to. In the future, when that old demon tries to come up with more excuses, I can remind him of the sales and comments made by people who enjoyed the story.
   Today, I'll share the blurb I wrote for Amazon and since this is my blog, I don't feel guilty about plugging my story again here. The title is "The Princess and the Apprentice", and her is the link if you're interested. Thanks for reading.

Aldan arrived at the King’s castle expecting to apprentice to the King’s Mage. Before he is able to recover from the journey, the castle comes under attack and he is forced into the role of Princess Odessa’s protector. Along with two guardsmen, they flee the castle through a secret passage where Aldan is confronted by beings and places he’d only read about.

Plagued by Aldan’s lack of confidence in his abilities, and his confusion over the budding relationship with the Princess, the companions struggle to reach a neighboring kingdom for help. With every confrontation, however, Aldan’s confidence grows, but Odessa is forced to embrace an ancient source of magic that will isolate her forever.

Upon reaching their destination, they discover the kingdom is under attack from an ancient evil only they have the power to counter. Will Aldan’s confidence and Odessa’s rare magic be enough to prevail and guarantee the help they need to return home?

So begins the story of “The Queen of Darkness”.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Why Do You Write?

   Some people write in a popular genre because they just want to sell books. Some write based on personal experience and some use nothing but imagination. Others have a political or spiritual viewpoint they want to share with the world. Then there are those who simply want to get in your head and scare the crap out of you or gross you out.
   My stories won't influence your view of the world, but will give you a chance to escape the world. At my age, I've experienced enough of the dark in this world and have no desire to add to it. I love to write about characters and how they face the challenges in their world. There is always a little humor, some heartbreak, maybe romance, but always upbeat and positive. I guess that's what I love about light fantasy, the dark side may win a couple battles, but good always wins the war.
   I also enjoy the challenge of creating a completely fictional world that hopefully still makes sense. Introducing new species into the world, who may or may not act human, adds flavor to an otherwise bland world.
   I write the kind of stories that I like to read, so even if others don't like them, I will.
   Thanks again for reading. This week I thought I would share a scene from my epic fantasy that's still in progress. Hope you enjoy.

The only sound to be heard in the clearing was an occasional crackle from the fire. Emma and Sebastion alternated between looking at the path that Navon had taken and staring at each other. Eventually the silence became too much for Emma.

“Well, what do we do now?”

“We doing nothing be,” he answered. “Amulet and pups him protecting. Wanting thinking time alone.”

“That’s easy for you to say, fur face. It’s me the Old Man will hang from my toes if anything happens to Navon.”

“I protecting you be, little one,” Sebastion grinned at her from his place by the fire.

Before she could come back with a barb of her own, all the wolves sprung to their feet growling, and stared into the forest. Frantic howling could be heard in the distance, coming closer. The two male pups careened into the clearing, broadcasting terrifying images of a brilliant flash of light that even Emma and Sebastion saw clearly in their minds. Bright Star and Drifting Snow were forced to clamp down on the necks of the pups to settle them.

Emma, who had a better rapport with the elder wolf than the pups, had to wait for a clearer image of what frightened the pups. What she did pick up from Bright Star made no sense. A white clearing with white buildings suddenly appeared on the trail, a voice that sounded in their minds, then Navon and Moonlight disappeared along with the clearing. Emma knew this forest better than any other and there had never been a white clearing like they described.

All eyes turned to her. Once again, silence filled the clearing except for the quiet whimpers of the pups and a low rumbling growl from Bright Star that Emma could feel.

Sebastion stood, then sat again, hand clenched on the hilt of his sword. Slowly and carefully he spoke. “Little one, somehow we have failed. This is beyond any of us and we need direction. Only you have the power to contact the Old Man.”

Emma nodded and reluctantly reached inside her tunic to pull out the talisman she kept on a chain around her neck. The Ancient One had given it to her many years ago to contact him in an emergency. She had only used it once before in a fit of frustration, and received a tongue lashing for her actions. Even though this was an actual emergency, he would not be pleased. At the touch of her finger along with a small release of power, a misty figure formed in the center of the clearing.

A deep, powerful voice filled the clearing as High Lord Demitrios faced Emma.

“This had better be important, little one.”

“What, did I wake you from a nap?” she bristled. “Of course it’s important, Your Ancientness.”

Sebastion let his fangs show in a smile, and then quickly put on a serious expression as the image of the Ancient One turned to him.

“Sebastion, I am disappointed in you. I had hoped you would have her under better control. Now, I see all of you gathered here except young Navon and what is most disturbing, I can no longer sense his spirit. What has happened?”

Sebastion could only shrug while holding his hands out to the side.

Emma approached the glowing figure, hands clenched at her side. “That’s the problem. We don’t see him either. According to the wolf pups, he and Moonlight have been taken away by your Deluti Spirits. You should have warned us.”

“What do you mean? And who is Moonlight?” He stared off into the forest before turning to the elder wolf. “Bright Star, may I question your young ones?”

With a bark of command, the pups moved forward to sit at the feet of the old Deluti High Lord. He stared into their eyes for a short period of time, and then released them. They rose and returned to their parents, no longer whining.

The Ancient One paced back and forth with a look of concentration on his face as he pondered. “Which one of the Councilors inhabits the amulet that Navon wears? He is not ready. What is the purpose of the bond to the she-wolf? This changes everything.”

“Stop babbling, old man, and explain to us what is going on,” Emma demanded.

He turned to the ogre, as if he hadn’t heard. “Sebastion, I must ask that you travel to the capitol city and present yourself to the King. Princess Sofia of Dahlian will arrive soon to fulfill an agreement between the two nations. My vision is unclear but I sense that the Princess is next in line to receive an amulet. One of the Dukes is planning something and I have to assume he is an agent of my brother. He will do anything to get his hands on one of the amulets. Tell the King I have sent you to be her personal bodyguard.”

He ignored the fuming Emma and turned to the elder wolf. “Bright Star, my old friend, the fate of your daughter and young Navon is now out of our hands. The Deluti spirits have activated the Arches of Rineron. We cannot interfere or aid them in any way.” The Old Man paused as he raised his eyes and gazed to the south. “They must have passed through the first arch. I now sense Navon’s spirit far to the south in the land of the Shadhuin Nomads. If he and Moonlight survive their trial they will return to the north through the Shadow Mountains. Wait for them there.”

Finally he turned to Emma with a look that caused her to step back. “And you, my favorite little tree climbing assassin, will accompany Sebastion to the capitol, find out what the Duke intends, and then contact me again. Stay out of sight and stay out of trouble if you can.”

Before she could respond, the image of the old man returned to her talisman, leaving her and Sebastion to stare at each other in apprehension.

“That went well, don’t you think,” Emma beamed. “Did you hear him? He said I was his favorite! C’mon Sebastion, let’s take care of the wagon and get going. The sooner we can arrive at the capitol, the sooner I can find out what the Duke is up to.”

Sebastion shook his head and chuckled as they broke camp.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Don't Go It Alone

   Probably the best piece of advice I received after starting down the road to become a writer was: "Build a network of friends, especially writers, before attempting to publish anything." The closer I get to publishing my first book, the more I realize how important that advice was.
   Even though I'm not very active socially, I have managed to attract several thousand friends on Google+ a quarter of which is made up of writers. I have a Facebook account but that's mainly for family and close relations. I haven't tried any of the other social media sites yet since I don't normally have much to say. I joined a writers critique group and a writers support group several years ago. The two groups serve a completely different purpose but are both equally important. I also gained the attention of a local independent e-book publisher who has been extremely helpful in guiding me along this path.
   Without the critique group and beta readers, I don't think this story would flow as well as it does. They identified problems and plot holes I didn't even know were there. Living on a fixed income doesn't leave any extra money for cover design or editing but here again my friends came through. Several volunteered to help me put together a cover that looks great and others have gone through the manuscript for me to tighten up the writing and to make sure I've got commas in all the right places.
   The point I'm trying to make is that unless you're a highly gifted writer, editor and graphic artist, e-book publishing is not a one man show. It takes a team to put together something that sells. I've lost count of the writers I've run into who tried going it alone and can't understand why they aren't selling books. They usually had a good story but it was presented in a way that kept readers from taking a chance.
   I'll probably spend several more days going over the manuscript one last time and then have my publisher friend take me through the process of getting it on Amazon. As soon as I have a date, I'll let everyone know. The goal is sometime before Christmas.
   For this week I'm back to sharing a scene from my fan/fic.
   Thanks for reading.

   Wait a minute. Something tickled the back of her mind. It had to do with Elayne and Warders, specifically the Warder bond. Egwene realized that Elayne had been unusually quiet the whole meeting and seemed pre-occupied with something, staring at the wall of the tent. Now that Egwene looked a little closer, she saw a slight smile on Elayne’s face and a warmth in her eyes Egwene had never seen before. Oh Light! Elayne wasn’t staring at the tent wall, she was looking right in the direction of Rand’s camp. Little hints, like the pieces of a blacksmith’s puzzle, started falling into place. Elayne has bonded Rand as her Warder! That’s how she always seemed to know what Rand was feeling and where he was. But hadn’t Nynaeve told her that their group first tracked Rand through Alanna and then through Min since both seemed to know where Rand was. None of this made any sense. Blood and bloody ashes! Now she was upset. Upset that she hadn’t figured this out sooner and upset that her best friend had kept it a secret from her.

   “Elayne,” Egwene said, trying to keep the annoyance out of her voice. “I think we should start with the secret you’ve been keeping from all of us. The secret of you and your Warder.”

   At Elayne’s gasp and startled look, Egwene knew she had caught her woolgathering. Elayne recovered quickly though and answered. “You know I can’t talk about that.”

   “I‘m not talking about Birgitte, I’m talking about your other Warder, Elayne.”

   Egwene watched in amazement as a number of emotions flashed across the other woman’s face. Some she couldn’t even identify before Elayne’s training took over and the Queen of Andor sat before them once again.

   “First of all,” she declared. “I am not going to ask for forgiveness for what we’ve done and I don’t regret keeping it a secret. As you will see, there are some very personal reasons behind it and a matter of safety for those involved.”

   That got everyone’s attention.

   “Please be patient,” she asked. “I need to go back to a time before I knew any of you.”

   For some reason she stared at Nynaeve and Egwene a moment before continuing.

   “After the two of you, with Rand, Perrin, Mat and Thom, left the Two Rivers with Moraine Sedai and Lan, the first town you stopped at was Baerlon, right?”

   “I didn’t leave the Two Rivers with them.” Nynaeve grumbled. “But that’s where I caught up with them.”

   With a sympathetic look for Nynaeve, Egwene answered the questioning looks on the older women’s faces. “A story for another time.”

   “Anyway,” Elayne continued. “I don’t think either of you are aware of the fact that the main reason Moraine Sedai wanted to stop in Baerlon was because Min lived there. Moraine knew all abut Min’s ability to look at someone and see their future. Remember, Moraine knew that one of the boys had to be the ________ and hoped that any viewing of Min’s would lead her to the right one. Min told me that when she looked at the three boys, she almost fainted at the number of images swirling around their heads. With so many images she could only be sure of two things. The first being that the three of them are so closely tied together that if any one of them fails then possibly the entire Pattern fails as well.”

   “Blood and bloody ashes,” Siuan blurted out. “That means Perrin and Matrim are just as important as Rand in the upcoming battle. We have been so focused on Rand that no one has been keeping an eye on the other two.”

   At a sharp glance from Egwene, Siuan sat back in her chair muttering under her breath.

   “It’s a little late to worry about them now, Siuan. From what I’ve been able to learn, the two of them have done very well on their own.” Turning her attention back to Elayne, she asked. “What was the second thing Elayne?”

   “When she looked at Rand, she saw that she would fall hopelessly in love with him and that two others would love him also. The viewing didn’t tell her whether or not he would love her or any of the other women. If he did, then somehow the three of them were going to find a way to share him.”

   “Fish guts, girl,” Siuan exclaimed. “That is the most disgusting and indecent thing I’ve ever heard. Besides, I would box the ears of any man I caught trying to juggle three women at the same time.”

   “Siuan,” Egwene said with another sharp look. “Control yourself. It isn’t that unusual. Many Aiel women share a husband and it wasn’t that long ago that the idea of an Aes Sedai marrying her Warder was frowned upon. I think we can safely say that prohibition has come to an end, can’t we?”

   Since Siuan had married her Warder, Gareth Bryne, and Egwene was planning on marrying her Warder, Gawyn Trakand, Elayne’s brother, there was nothing left to say.

   “It’s still indecent,” Siuan muttered.

   As Elayne and Egwene shared a smile between them, Egwene continued. “So, Min was the first, you obviously are the second, but who is the third?”

   Before Elayne could answer, Nynaeve looked up with an incredulous expression on her face. “Aviendha. It has to be Aviendha. Is that what all that first sister business was about?”

   Egwene could only sit and stare as memories of their time in the Aiel waste flashed through her mind. Aviendha was the last person she would have thought of. All the time that they had spent together as apprentices to the Wise Ones, Aviendha had treated Rand with scorn and appeared to hate being around him. And what was this about first sisters?

   “Elayne,” she said. “Aviendha is the last woman I would have ever guessed. Remember, we spent a lot of time together in the Aiel waste and she certainly never acted like she wanted to be near him. Plus, I’m sure I don’t understand all of the intricacies of Aiel relationships and family bonds, but I know that to be first sisters means you have to share the same mother. What am I missing here?”

   With a laugh of understanding and ironic amusement, Elayne answered. “Egwene, the only way to understand Aiel ways is to be born and raised Aiel. I don’t even try anymore. But to answer your last question first, the Aiel Wise ones have developed some amazing weaves over the years. If two women care for each other enough and want to be first sisters more than anything, the Wise Ones have a ceremony that can simulate being born together from the same mother. Actually, Amys acted as our surrogate mother. The experience was so intense and I guess you could say primal, that I can’t even begin to describe it. Anyway, we became first sisters in heart and mind, if not in blood.”

   It was obvious from the look on Elayne’s face and the beginning of tears, that this was still a very strong emotional experience for her and she would need some time to recover. Egwene decided to get up and see if there was any tea left in the pitcher. As she got up, she thanked the Light again that her new chair was nothing like the one she’d had in the rebel camp. That thing would collapse every time she moved it and had dumped her on her backside a number of times. It’s extremely hard to maintain any kind of dignity when you’re on your rump with your dress around your knees. Thankfully, there was still tea left, so she proceeded to fill anyone’s cup who wanted more.

   “No thank you, Egwene,” Elayne grimaced. “I’m still only allowed goat’s milk because of the pregnancy.”

   After Egwene returned to her chair, Elayne continued. “I’m afraid you will have to ask Aviendha about her side of the story, because I’m not sure it’s something I can discuss. But I can guarantee that she loves Rand as much as Min and I. So when Rand came to Caemlyn to drag Nynaeve off on his mad plan to cleanse the male half of the Source, the three of us got together and confronted him, explaining how we felt. Of course, being a man, he thought we were all crazy and gave us some drivel about how he didn’t want us to be hurt when he died at the Last Battle. He finally confessed that he loved all three of us and agreed to let the three of us bond him.”

   “But Min has absolutely no ability to channel the One Power. How could she have bonded him?” asked a very puzzled Nynaeve.

   “Aviendha and I worked out a new weave using parts of the Warder bond and part of the first sister weave,” Elayne explained. “We tied the three of us together and then bonded Rand with one bond. Instead of having three separate bonds, there is one bond with a link to each of us. I had no idea how strong the bond was until something in Rand changed and a circle of blue sky opened up over Caemlyn. I’ve heard the same thing happened over the Stone of Tear where Min was staying. I have no doubt that where ever Aviendha is, blue sky is there also.”

   Siuan snorted as she got up and faced each one of them in turn. “I still don’t know what to think about what the three of you have done. However, it’s obvious to me that we’ve been living to long with the belief that just because something has never been done with the Power means it can’t be done. I’d rather clean out the bilges than admit this, but we Aes Sedai have become stagnant and lost the ability to be creative, which brings us back to the purpose of this meeting. Do we dare let Rand destroy the remaining Seals on the Dark One’s prison? Do we dare stop him? We all know that more than half of the Seals have failed already and the others will fail soon. Are we against it because of pride or because of ignorance? Even the youngest member of a crew knows that when you start putting new patches over old ones in the bottom of a boat, it’s time to replace the whole bottom. This grates on me like a pair of old, rusty oar locks, but I think it’s time we stopped trying to control and guide the _________ and just give him the support he asks for. Didn’t he say that the seals were a last ditch measure taken because the female Aes Sedai of the time refused to help him? If we give him our full support this time, maybe instead of patches he can make the Dark One’s prison whole again. You’ve been speaking a lot about trust this evening, Mother. Maybe it’s time we trust the Dragon to do what needs to be done. Besides, from the look of the world right now, what do we have to lose?”

   What do we have to lose? Egwene thought. If we lose, the world and everyone in it will cease to exist. Could she trust Rand that far? Did they have a choice? She would have to make a decision by tomorrow and hope it was the right one.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Are We There Yet?

   I don't know if other writers feel this way but I'm getting to the point where I just want this story published and out of my hair. If you've been following my blog for a while, you know that writing is not easy for me. It feels like I've been working on this story forever and it's still not done. Should get the final comments from the last beta reader soon and then it's time for the final edits. The book cover is good to go so as soon as the edits are complete, it's off to Amazon for publishing.
   The plan is to get the story published before Christmas. I doubt I'll do anything special like a release party since I don't know how but I will post the date it becomes available. Hopefully with the few friends I have on Google and Facebook, the word will get spread to enough people that some may actually check it out.
   The title of the book is "The Princess and the Apprentice" and I've included the tagline, back cover blurb and the synopsis here.
Thanks for reading.

Tagline: Apprentice mage Aldan did not foresee the responsibility of protecting a Princess. Neither did he anticipate falling in love.



Generations have come and gone since the end of the Mage Wars when renegades rebelled against the authority of the Council of Mages. Mages no longer held the trust of the people and magic use was shunned.

An ancient scroll from a previous age had predicted the war and the subsequent decline in magic. It also warned that there would once again come a time of mages seeking power but that one would be born with the power to subdue them and re-establish the Council. A cryptic message at the end of the scroll, penned by a different hand, read simply, “Beware the magic of blood”.

The spirit of the High Mage still haunts the Citadel and believes that Aldan Beaverson may be the one foretold. Forced to flee her home, Aldan assumes the role of Princess Odessa’s protector. He leads them into the Citadel where the High Mage gives him a Staff of Power. Princess Odessa is forced into embracing the magic of women, the Blood Magic.

Will the love that blossoms be enough to overcome their differences or will Odessa succumb to the seduction of the Blood? Only time will tell…



Aldan arrived at the King’s castle expecting to apprentice to the King’s Mage. Before he is able to recover from the journey, the castle comes under attack and he is forced into the role of the Princess Odessa’s protector. Along with two guardsmen, they flee the castle through a secret passage where Aldan is confronted by beings and places he’d only read about.

Plagued by a lack of confidence in his abilities and confusion over the budding relationship with Princess Odessa, the companions struggle to reach a neighboring kingdom for help. With every confrontation, Aldan’s confidence grows. Odessa also discovers a source of magic only she can use.

Upon arrival they discover that the kingdom is under attack from an ancient evil that only they have the power to overcome. Will Aldan’s confidence and Odessa’s rare magic be enough to prevail and guaranty the help they need to return home?

So begins the story of “The Queen of Darkness”.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

   First of all, I'd like to wish all my American friends a Happy Thanksgiving! Hopefully, most of you will have family around to enjoy along with loads of good food. For those of you who are away from family or for whatever reason don't have family to get together with, I know how you feel. I've spent a number of Thanksgivings in a tavern or on a ship in the Western Pacific. I may not have always had family around me but I was never alone. Please, whatever you do, don't sit at home by yourself. I've met some really interesting people just going out to a Dennys for a holiday meal. If you have the means, don't forget that single friend of yours and invite them over for a meal and company.
   This is also the time of year that my writing slows down even more than normal. With three kids and six grandkids, it seems like there's always some family thing going on. Plus we have the only house big enough to hold everyone so all the big meals and get togethers are here. Since I'm the only one physically able right now, keeping the house clean, shopping and cooking meals is up to me. My granddaughters would probably help with the cooking but I'm a stubborn old man who likes to do things my way. Anyway, I'm still making progress on the rewrite of my novella but as other writers know, sometimes it takes longer to do the edits than it did to write it in the first place.
   I don't have any writing to share this week but since no one comments it's probably not being read anyway. Hopefully I'll have something to share next week.
   Thanks for reading and have a happy holiday!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Turtle or a Snail

   For this week's ramble, I find myself thinking about all the people who are churning out words for NaNoWriMo. My hat is off to those people. Even if I spent several hours a day scribbling down a bunch of nonsense, I physically couldn't produce that many words in a month. My arthritis won't allow it. Plus, when I write, I picture the scene in my head and repeat over and over until I'm happy with how it plays out. Then I write it down and read what I've written. If it doesn't match what I had envisioned then I start over. It could take hours just to get a single page of story written the way I want it.
   Most people would see that as working at a turtle's pace but that's on a good day. When health issues or depression raises their ugly heads, I end up shifting down to a snail's pace or stopping altogether. If it wasn't for the wonderful comments and encouragement I've received from my new online friends, I probably would have given up long ago.
   I am making progress though. Final edits are almost complete on my novella as soon as I receive the last of the beta comments and suggestions from my critique group. Not sure how well it will turn out since the money I had set aside for an editor was burned up by an ER visit. Hopefully the feedback I've gotten and with the help of a friend who will look it over for punctuation, it will be alright. I'm also slowly adding new chapters to my epic fantasy and have entered several short contests.
   If you're getting tired of reading scenes from my fan/fic, I decided to share the first scene of a western a friend of mine challenged me to write.
   Good luck if you're doing NaNoWriMo and thanks for reading.

                                    Chapter One

                         Never Look Back


Even though nothing had changed, everything felt different. The smell of bacon frying, and the sizzle of eggs in the griddle were just like every other morning in the kitchen. As of today, it could no longer be called their kitchen. The ranch now belonged to another.

Maebelle Cutter set the plate of flapjacks alongside the eggs and bacon, sat at the head of the table, and joined hands with her two boys in silent prayer. All the words that needed to be said had come out over the past several days. Today was the day for goodbyes.

Joshua finished first, gulped down the last of his coffee, stood up and carried his dishes to the sink. Emptying the water bucket into the large pot on the stove for hot water, he headed for the well outside, and gently shut the door behind him.

“Yer brother still ain’t keen on the idear, is he?”

“Na, don’t you worry bout him, Mama. He knows it be fer the best. He jus not be liken it.” Sonny finished his coffee, got up and kissed her on the forehead. “Ya shore there ain’t nothing else we can do?”

She reached up and placed her hand on top of his were it rested on her shoulder. “You boys need to hit the trail if you aim to reach your uncle’s place in time. Mr. Crenshaw and his younguns will be here shortly to help me pack up what’s left and finish movin out.”

“Best be getting the horses saddled up then.” He squeezed her hand and left, passing Joshua on the way back in with a full bucket. Crossing the yard, he led the horses out of the now empty barn, and stopped to gaze out over the open fields where herds of cattle used to roam.

The beginning of the end came three years ago when the railroad forced his Papa to sell a strip of land right through the middle of their property. A right of way they called it. Then at Christmas time that same year, the old man lost his battle with a sickness that had plagued him all year.

Even though he and Joshua tried to keep the ranch going, their hearts just weren’t in it, and it pained him to watch the fire diminish in his Mama’s eyes. It was time for everyone to move on.

“Come on little brother. Let’s say our goodbyes to Mama and hit the trail. Uncle Travis is waiting for us.”

She stood on the front steps to hug the boys, and kiss each of them on the cheek, then held them at arm’s length. “Papa’d shore nuff be proud of you boys and the men you’ve growed up into. Sonny, I expect you to watch over your brother, and see he don’t come to no harm.” With a tear in her eye, she continued. “Now get on outta here, and live your lives jus as it were meant to be! Never look back.”

One last hug and a kiss before the brothers mounted up and rode out through the front gate for the last time. If they had looked back, they would have witnessed their mama huddled on the top step, head in her hands and her body racked with sobs.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Support Our Veterans

   I feel the need to post a little something on this day to commemorate the brave men and women who have served this country. As a veteran myself, it is a great honor and privilege to be counted among the many who have fought and died for the freedoms we hold dear.
   It makes me sad when I see people protesting against the military and veterans. Hopefully, someday they'll understand that it's because of the veterans they have the freedom to do so. I wish there was a way to communicate to them the positive effects of serving in the military. Lifelong friendships arise from working side by side with people you probably wouldn't even talk to at home. The discipline and self-esteem generated while working as a team to accomplish a mission that would be impossible for an individual, are things that stick with you forever.
   While the majority of vets go on to live successful and productive lives, there are those wounded either physically or emotionally, who have found it difficult to achieve that success. I believe it is the responsibility of all Americans to help those disabled vets find a new team to be a part of. To give them that helping hand to overcome whatever obstacles are in their way.
   It reminds me of a story of two young sailors working deep down in the belly of a ship doing preservation in the bilges. One is overcome by the fumes and attempts to climb the ladder before passing out but can only manage a couple of rungs. His partner came up under him and pushed, taking them both up the ladder to safety. In normal circumstances he could have easily scaled the ladder, but in this instance, just a little push was all he needed to succeed.
   Please take the time today and reach out to any veteran, whether family, friend or stranger and thanks them for their service. You'd be amazed at what a difference a few friendly words can make in someone's life.
   I won't post any of my stories since the purpose of my blog today is to voice my appreciation for our vets, not to promote my writing.
   Thanks for reading.

#VeteransDay  #DisabledVeterans

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Importance of Beta Readers

   So, you've completed your story except for edits and think you're done. Wrong. You are just getting started. I've been working on my novella for a while now and have gone back several times to edit and rewrite sections of the story. Still not good enough. Even though critique groups are great for individual chapters or scenes, they rarely see the story in it's entirety. That's where beta readers come in to fill in a vital piece of the puzzle.
   A number of folks graciously volunteered to beta read the novella and I've already received feedback from some of them. While not everyone is going to like your story, you can still benefit from their comments as to why they didn't like it. That's actually more beneficial than the one who says they loved everything about the story but gives no suggestions for improvement.
   I don't care how accomplished a writer you are, there is always room for improvement. Sometimes writers get so close to the story that they don't notice the things that are missing. I forget that the reader doesn't know what I know and needs to be given hints to help them come to the conclusions I want them to. It frustrates me the number of times I write that the character reached their destination or finally met up with someone and readers ask who is this person or I didn't know they were headed there. Sure enough, when I go back to check, I realize I never mentioned where they were going or who they were supposed to meet. It was in my head but not on paper.
   Based on the feedback I've received so far, I'm sharing the rewrite of the first chapter, and hope some will comment whether this is good enough or needs more work.
   Thanks for reading!

                                    Chapter One

                               The Castle


Aldan Beaverson hurried along the cobblestone street leading to the King’s Castle at the west end of Westalia. For five days he’d outpaced the army approaching from the south. Rumors abounded at every village along his route as to King Romar’s intentions. However, today the weather became unpredictable along with greater numbers of villagers headed for the city in search of safety. He’d arrived in the city later than planned and hoped the rain would delay the army even longer. The rich aroma of roasting mutton and the sound of laughter coming from a nearby inn pulled him away from his intended destination. The promise of a hot meal and the chance to dry off outweighed his need to reach the Castle.

Aldan stepped through the door into silence as every eye fell on him and then quickly turned away. Forced laughter erupted from several tables as it appeared patrons were more interested in their ale than food. With the one serving girl busy refilling mugs, Aldan signaled to the innkeeper who seemed loath to abandon his sanctuary behind the polished wooden counter.

The food was surprisingly good but he wasted no time in savoring the meal. Silence fell once again when he stood but the laughter returned full force as the door shut behind him. The rain had tapered off while he ate, but heavy, dark clouds still filled the sky. Shifting shadows from overgrown bushes and the rustle of leaves from ancient oaks, added to his unease after leaving the inn.

Aldan breathed a sigh of relief as the dark silhouette of the castle came into view. This was the first castle he had seen outside of the pages of a book and the reality of it stopped him in his tracks. It would not have surprised him to hear the ground groan at the weight of the massive stone structure. Dull faced granite blocks, most covered with moss or ivy, were a testament to its extreme age. The foul odor he encountered was unexpected.

Apparently they drained the castles garderobes into the moat, probably as an extra deterrent to keep enemies out. Fortunately, the drawbridge was lowered. Holding his breath, Aldan hurried across to the sally port in the massive wooden gate. A quick pull on the bell rope and a voice from somewhere above called down.

“Who goes there?”

“Aldan Beaverson. I’m the new apprentice mage.”

“Aye. We’ve been expecting you. A moment please while I summon the mage.”

Aldan hoped they would hurry as one of the shadows detached itself from the nearest building and slowly made its way toward the bridge. He quickly rehearsed one of the few defensive spells he had learned and loosened his sword in its scabbard, just in case.

About the time he determined to cast his spell, the portal opened and he was unceremoniously dragged through as the nervous guard peered out then slammed the door.

Unaware he’d been holding his breath, Aldan gasped, “What in the Seven Hells was that?”

“That is why you are needed here,” announced an elderly, silver haired gentleman. “And why the gate is always kept closed. Well met, young Beaverson. I am Jordan Ryecliff, King’s Mage. I must return to the King but the chamberlain should arrive shortly to escort you to your rooms. I will see you as soon as I can, but plan on asking your questions on the morrow when we have more time.”

With that, the mage spun in a swirl of flowing, dark blue robes and disappeared down a corridor just as a harried, portly man approached from the opposite side of the entry tunnel.

“Ah, Master Beaverson! So glad you finally arrived. Welcome to Greystone Castle. I’m the chamberlain, Horis Whitely. Please follow me and I will show you to your rooms.”

Before Aldan had a chance to answer, the chamberlain headed back the way he had come. Hurrying to catch up, he couldn’t help but notice the poor state of the castle. Dust covered everything in the hall and cobwebs hung from the ceiling. The wooden banisters and railings of the three flights of stairs they climbed, hadn’t seen a polish cloth in a very long time. The hour was not that late, yet the only sounds to disturb the eerily quiet halls were their footsteps.

They arrived at a door the chamberlain opened with one of the many keys attached to a ring. Aldan entered the room, pleasantly surprised at what he saw. His rooms had been thoroughly cleaned and several lit candles gave off a pleasant scent. A small fire crackled cheerfully in the fireplace. Tapestries hung on the walls depicting forest scenes and someone’s garden. Not really to his tastes but better than scenes of battle in their blood spattered glory.

Master Whitely waved in the direction of a small table to one side. “I suspect you are quite weary from your journey but a small bottle of wine and a platter of meat and cheese has been provided in case you are hungry. I must leave now and return to the King but the Mage indicated he would visit you before turning in. A key to your room hangs on a peg next to the door. Just as a precaution, always keep your door locked. Goodnight.”

Aldan shook his head as the chamberlain quickly exited the room and shut the door behind him. Other than the one question he’d been able to voice upon entering the castle, they had given him no opportunity for further conversation. He didn’t need to be a scholar to figure out something was terribly wrong. Where were all the staff, and why keep his door locked in the King’s castle?

A knock at the door put a hold on further musings. With the chamberlain’s warning still fresh in his mind, he cautiously stepped to the door and called out. “Who’s there?”

“Your royal welcoming committee—as it were.”

Intrigued, Aldan opened the door to be confronted by a stunningly beautiful young woman about his own age. Long dark hair framed the face of an angel with deep green eyes and wearing a simple but elegant gown. Having someone like her appear at his door did not happen every day.

“Are you going to invite me in or just stand there and stare?” she asked as one corner of her mouth twitched, and the twinkle in her eyes threatened to un-mask her royal attitude of indifference.

“Ah, sorry my lady,” he stammered in apology. “I was expecting Mage Ryecliff.”

Aldan held the door as she glided in on slippered feet. The material of her dress made a swishing sound as her perfume filled the air. He shut and locked the door as he’d been told, all the while desperately trying to regain his composure. Why would Princess Odessa visit him in his rooms, alone?

He faced the princess and executed his best bow using the form taught to him by his mentor. “Forgive me your Highness. I am Aldan Beaverson, apprentice mage, at your service.”

After a perfunctory glance at the rest of the room, the princess returned her gaze to Aldan. Wavy blond hair that just touched the tips of his ears, framed an angular face dominated by a set of expressive dark brown eyes. The tall, slim body that would fill out as he aged gave her a glimpse of what the future promised.

 “At least you are more pleasing to the eye than our last apprentice. Your hair is shorter than I prefer but that will grow out in time. Now come away from the door and join me at the table. We must talk.”

Aldan rushed to position her chair as she sat down, then sat across the table hoping she had missed the color in his face at her frank appraisal. So many questions flashed through his mind, but where to start?

The princess sat there quietly with the same faint smile as if waiting for something. This time, the heat that rose up from his neck was for his own lack of manners. “May I pour you a glass of wine, Princess?”

She answered with a nod of her head and a quick glance at the platter of food in the center of the table.

“Please help yourself, Princess. Meat and cheese are all I have to offer you.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that, but we can talk about that later. Right now, I feel I must inform you of the happenings inside the castle.”

“Please do. The city is on edge with the approach of King Romar and I’ve felt something else was amiss ever since I passed through the gates. It has only gotten worse now that I’m in the castle.” Aldan gestured with the knife he used to cut slices of the meat. “Even the air around me feels oppressive and filled with malice.”

The Princess nodded in agreement. “That is one of the reasons why most of the staff has abandoned the castle. That and other things.”

His attention riveted on her face as the hair on the back of his neck rose in apprehension. “What other things?”

Eyes wide in fear, trembling, she pointed to the door with a piece of cheese and whispered, “Those things.”

Reluctantly, his head swiveled to face in the direction she pointed and watched in fascination as a black cloud oozed under the door and formed into a being unlike anything he had ever seen before. How do you defend against something that appears as solid as smoke?


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Backcover Blurb For My Novella

   Running a little late today because of doctor appointments and CT scans. Don't have a lot to say this week other than I've been busy with edits, cover designs and beta readers for my novella, "The Princess and the Apprentice". Also had a couple short stories edited to enter a writing contest. Wish me luck!
Part of my prep for publishing this novella is writing a backcover blurb. The first one I wrote sounded more like a synopses so here is a new blurb. Let me know what you think.
Thanks for reading!

 Answering the call for an apprentice mage, Aldan did not foresee the responsibility of protecting a Princess. Neither was falling in love.



Generations have come and gone since the end of the Mage Wars when renegades rebelled against the authority of the Council of Mages. Decimated after their victory, the remaining council members retired to their estates while the High Mage sealed himself inside their mountain fortress. Mages no longer held the trust of the people and magic use was shunned.

An ancient scroll from a previous age, carefully translated by the High Mage, had predicted the war and the subsequent decline in magic. However, it also warned that there would once again come a time of power seeking mages but that one would be born with the power to subdue them and re-establish the Council. A cryptic message at the end of the scroll, penned by a different hand, said simply, “Beware the magic of blood”.

The spirit of the High Mage that still haunts the Citadel, believes that Aldan Beaverson may be the one foretold and helps him with the gift of a Staff of Power. He also believes that Princess Odessa, who Aldan is charged with protecting, is capable of embracing the magic of women; the Blood Magic.

Will the love that blossoms be enough to overcome their differences or will Odessa succumb to the seduction of the Blood? Only time will tell…

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Why I Write Light Fantasy

   First of all, let me say that I have nothing against people write and read dark fantasy or any of the horror style stories. Different strokes for different folks and all that. It's just not for me.
   Battling depression for most of my life, reading a depressing story is the last thing I want to do. Having watched my mother slowly die when I was fifteen and then later in life finding myself in the position of being given up for dead by doctors, death is not a topic I treat lightly. Rarely will you find death in my stories and if you do, I handle it with as much compassion and respect as I can give it. You will never see me use the death of a character in a frivolous manor or just to add some un-needed darkness to the story.
   If I find myself getting angry while reading a book, whether because of the actions of a character or for injustices being highlighted, I will stop reading. We are bombarded daily with anger and injustice on the news and online. Why read about it in a book?
   I read and write fantasy that will transport me into another world or reality different from my own. I want characters I can identify with, empathize when things go wrong and share in their joy when things finally work out. Adding humor into my stories is also very important to me even though it is extremely hard since I haven't actually laughed in years. At my age, the depression has progressed to the point where I am either down a little or a lot, never on the upside. Again, this is all in an effort to create a world totally unlike my own.
   If you're looking for a story where the main character is abused, ridiculed and beat down through most of the book, sorry, you won't find that here.

   I may have shared this scene from my fan/fic a while ago but it's one of my favorites so I'm sharing it again. Thanks for reading.

Her thoughts soon turned sour again. Blasted mood swings! She would find a way to make bloody Rand al’Thor pay for the difficulties she’d been experiencing because of her pregnancy. It wasn’t totally his fault but she would make him pay regardless. It was also entirely possible that her mood was being influenced by the pain and despair seeping through the bond from Birgitte. Something was eating at the soul of her friend and Elayne cared too much not to try and help.

“Bloody ashes Birgitte! Will you please sit down and talk to me. I haven’t been able to get more than a few words out of you all day. I can feel the conflict inside of you and it will destroy us both if we can’t find a resolution.”

Birgitte snorted as the faraway look fled from her eyes. “Such language from a Queen. You’ve been spending entirely too much time around soldiers Elayne.” Then in a quiet voice she continued, “Especially a soldier like me.”

Elayne said nothing. The look she gave Birgitte spoke volumes as she pointed to a chair opposite hers. She had assumed the mantle of Queen now and would brook no more nonsense.

“You will not like what I have to say Elayne,” Birgitte murmured.

“I don’t like seeing my dearest friend suffer like this either, so I will just have to find a way to deal with it,” Elayne replied.

She waited patiently as Birgitte struggled with what she needed to say. A flicker of fear began to dance around in the back of Elayne’s mind as the suspicion of what her Warder wanted flared to life.

“You want me to release you from the Warder bond,” she whispered. “Why?”

Taking a ragged breath, Birgitte slowly walked over and sat in the chair facing Elayne. Hands tightly clenched in her lap, she looked up and saw her tears reflected in the eyes of her beloved friend.

“In all of my previous lives, I have never had a sister. You have shown me what I never knew I’d been missing. You have given me a precious gift Elayne. Not only by saving my life but also the gift of the love for a sister. You will always have a special place in my heart.”

“I don’t understand,” Elayne cried softly. “I need you now more than ever. Please don’t ask me to do this.”

“I must.”

Springing up out of the chair, Birgitte began pacing back and forth. She had never been comfortable sitting while trying to marshal her thoughts.

“Do you understand what I am Elayne?”

“Of course. You are Birgitte Silverbow, heroine of the Ages. She who never misses what she aims at.”

“No Elayne. That is who I was and as long as I’m your Warder that is all I’ll ever be. But that is beside the point. What I am is a hero tied to the Horn of Valere. I must be available to answer the call when Mat blows the Horn at the Last Battle.”

Unable to hold back her tears, Elayne struggled to control her voice. “What are you saying Birgitte? Do you want to die?”

“No one wants to die,” Birgitte murmured as past memories of death rose up to haunt her. “But I am afraid. I shouldn’t be here Elayne. Moghedien ripped my soul out of the World of Dreams and thrust me into the world of the living. Her intention was to see me die the final death and I would have if you hadn’t bonded me, giving me a link to this world. I have felt the Pattern twisting itself around trying to fit me in.”

Stopping at the side table where one of the servants had thoughtfully left a pitcher of wine and a pitcher of goat’s milk, she poured herself a cup of wine and after a moment of indecision, poured another one for Elayne. The Queen wasn’t supposed to have anything other than goat’s milk during her pregnancy but Birgitte felt they both needed something stronger.

Returning to her chair, she handed the cup of wine to Elayne and at her questioning look Birgitte smiled, “I won’t tell if you don’t.”

“Why now?” Elayne asked.

“It seems that one of the requirements for being a Hero of the Horn is sensitivity to the needs of the Pattern. Maybe that is why so many of us are born over and over, each time accomplishing something important. Gaidal and I have lived more lives than any other because we are the most sensitive to the Pattern. Yesterday I became aware of what the Pattern requires of me. Somehow I am now tied to Mat. If I am not with him he might die and the Last Battle will be lost before it ever begins.”

“Birgitte, I know that Mat blew the Horn of Valere and he seems to have a certain flair for fighting but Rand is the one who is destined to battle the Dark One and save the world.”

Birgitte leaned forward and gripped Elayne’s knee, her braid of golden hair falling from her shoulder. “Think Elayne. Even if that too handsome man of yours manages to seal the Dark One back up in his prison, what then? Will the hundreds of thousands of Trollocs just roll over and die? Will the Seanchen shake their heads, disappointed that they missed the Last Battle, climb back onto their boats and head for home?”

“Of course not. We have one of the largest armies ever assembled along with the greatest military minds of this age. We will deal with the Trollocs first and then push the Seanchen back on their ships whether they want to go or not.”

Bounding out of her chair, Birgitte resumed her pacing. How to make Elayne understand? Her need to find Mat had become almost painful. It was like an itch she couldn’t scratch. The worst part was she knew she couldn’t do anything until he returned from his insane quest into the Tower of Ghenjei. That would have to stay a secret for now but maybe he would forgive her for revealing just one of his many secrets.

Her eyes glazed over as she remembered the desperate, blood soaked battles many generations in the past. “I fought and died several times during the Trolloc Wars Elayne. It took many lifetimes before they were finally defeated. Your armies are impressive but from the number of Trollocs rumored to be massing at the border, they will roll over your armies like a storm flattens a field of young wheat. Your armies are too fragmented with different loyalties and agendas. You must have one Marshal-General in command of all the armies to have a chance. Who will you choose? Toward the end of the war when all looked lost, one man stepped forward. He rallied the nations together and fought with cunning and a certain amount of luck until they finally drove the Trollocs back across the border.”

Coming to a stop in front of Elayne, her body quivering with emotion, their eyes locked.

“That man was Mat.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Polishing Will Reveal The Imperfections In Your Word Gems

   On the one hand, I can say I've made no progress because there are no shiny new words gracing the pages of my notebook. On the other hand, I can say I've made some progress because I've taken words that have become dull and spent time polishing them. Unfortunately, you can polish garbage all you want and still end up with garbage.
   Sometimes you just have to scoop up all the words from the page, put them back in their box and go find another box with new words. There are numerous reasons why some of those words no longer shine. Maybe your story has taken an unexpected turn and the foreshadowing you put in no longer applies to the story. Or the relationship between your characters takes a turn that enhances the story but makes earlier conversations seem out of place. Bottom line is you need a solid foundation of polished stones to hold up those sparkly gems you're so proud of.
   The other thing I've been spending time on is a book cover for my novella. I can't afford to hire someone to design a cover for me and also be able to pay a professional editor. To me, editing is more important than a fancy cover. I've been going to different online sites trying to come up with something that looks good enough not to scare readers away. One of my online friends has taken pity on me and volunteered to put a cover together. That is a huge load off of my mind.

   This week is another short scene from my fan/fic. Rand and Perrin come together after being apart for over a year. Thanks for reading.

   A hush fell over all who were gathered there. The two men stood no more than five feet apart and stared into each other’s eyes. One set the color and hardness of blue-grey gemstones, the other, golden soft like those of a wolf. The air around them began to warp and shift as if the Pattern was unsure whether to keep them in the waking world or project them into the World of Dreams. Min fell to the ground, blinded by the light and the swarm of images swirling around the two ta’veren. The others stood frozen as if time had come to a standstill.

   “He almost had me, Perrin.”

   “I know. I was there.”

   Rand frowned and his eyes narrowed as he studied the man in front of him who had once been his best friend. “What do you mean?”

   “I was there on top of Dragon Mount, along with the spirits of every wolf, alive or dead in the Wolf Dream. Somehow the wolves knew that the fate of the world hinged on the outcome of your fight. They knew that if you won, they would have a chance to fight in the Last Battle. If you lost, they would be lost as well. I don’t know what it was like for you, but in the Dream it was as if all the darkness in the world was poured out there. The souls of the damned screamed in the wind and lightning bolts fell like rain. It was all I could do to keep from being swept away and destroyed. The darkness flowed around and through you until you were no longer visible. I thought all was lost until a crack formed in the black shell and a ray of pure light shown through. More and more cracks formed until the entire shell exploded in a flash of intense light and a column of light poured up into the sky. You vanished along with the storm and we knew you had overcome the dark. What I would like to know is how.”

   “The hope of life Perrin. I realized that as long as men can hope for love and a better future, they have a reason to live. That is what he wants to take away from us. If he can remove all hope from men, they will have no reason to live. I also allowed Min, Elayne and Aviendha to bond me. The love that flows through the bond from them was enough to give me an anchor to cling to. Without that I would have been lost.”

   A smile broke out of the confines of Perrin’s beard as he laughed at his old friend. “And here I thought you knew more about women than I did. Light, Rand! I can barely handle one woman who loves me. What are you going to do with three?”

   “Me? You were always the one who knew how to talk to the girls. I figure they will probably tell me how I am to handle them,” Rand smiled back.

   “You have no idea how much it lifts my spirit to see you smile again. The smile fits the boy I grew up with but your eyes and smell tell me a different story. I sense ageless wisdom, power and strength that does not belong to the simple sheepherder I knew. Who are you?”

   “I have always been him and he has always been me, Perrin. I finally grew up to be the man I used to be. I am Rand al’Thor, the Dragon.”

   Rand took a moment to study the man standing before him. Did Perrin realize just how much he had changed?

   “And who are you, my old friend? When last we met, you were a simple blacksmith desperately trying to deal with the changes in his world and in himself. The person I see before me now is a king the likes of which this world has never seen. I can sense the Pattern twisting and wrapping around you in an attempt to conform to your will. However, behind that powerful exterior I see a pit filled with pain and loss, some of which is connected to your hammer. Who did you lose, Perrin?”

   Perrin squeezed his eyes shut trying not to let the tears show as Rand’s words reverberated through his soul. The pain of loss was still too fresh. Taking the hammer from his shoulder, he held it out before him and opened his eyes to stare at it.

   “The first rule of a blacksmith is that you must understand all of the parts and how they work together before you can create something useful. That applies not only to the making of this hammer but to myself as well. The one whose soul is forged into this hammer helped me understand the parts of me that needed to be forged to become the man I needed to be. The first time I heard the term ‘the Wolf King’ I laughed thinking how the wolves would react to that. Now I understand that it never meant being the king of the wolves. I am the Wolf King, Rand, and I carry the hammer of a king.”

   “I am sorry for your losses Perrin, and maybe someday you will be able to tell me about them. What is important now, are we still friends?”

   Without hesitation, Perrin reached out to grasp the hand that Rand proffered. “Friends. Always and forever.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Is That My Character or Is It Me?

   I've come to realize that as I'm writing male characters, I put a lot of myself into them. This is probably not a good thing since, honestly, I'm not that interesting of a person. My characters end up too serious, speak formally when they do speak and rarely laugh at anything. They're moody and hard for the reader to connect with.
   It's unfortunate I didn't see that until an editor pointed out the difference in how my male characters spoke compared to the others. I could never understand why everyone loved my female characters but had a hard time identifying with the males. Now I know why. I wonder if it's because when writing from a woman's POV, I have no standard to compare them to and therefore she acts any way she wants to?
   Apparently I must hold all the men to the only standard I'm familiar with and that is my own. It would be fine if one of the secondary characters acted like me but not the main protagonist. Somehow I will have to find a way to make my lead male more vibrant and with traits unfamiliar to me.
   I wonder how many writers, men or women, endow their characters with the same set of feelings, thoughts and attitudes as themselves? All I know is that I've a job ahead trying to eliminate all the Mini-ME's.

   Once again for this week, another short scene from my Fan/Fic.
   Thanks for reading!


   Afraid that he was stepping into a lion’s den, Androl followed the plump Aes Sedai into her hut. What he saw was typical of many of the huts being shared by some of the Asha’man. Two beds to one side, a desk and washstand on the other with a small table and two chairs in the middle. A single lantern gave off a dim light from on top of the desk. A small, round stove sat in the corner with a brightly colored kettle of water just beginning to steam. One small cup sat on the table next to a white jar covered in blue flowers. Apparently he had interrupted the Aes Sedai in the process of making tea.

   Gliding quickly to the other side of the table, so that it was between them, she appeared uneasy being alone in the hut with him but trying not to show it. If only she knew how weak in the Power he was. She was Red Ajah and should be able to stand him on his head with little effort.

   “Who are you and what do you know about the things going on in the Black Tower?” she demanded.

   “Androl Genhold, and what I know would curl your toes, Aes Sedai. For the past several weeks, someone has been using Compulsion on a number of Asha’men here in the Tower. Also, no one is allowed to leave or enter the Tower without the M’Hael’s permission. Opening a gate inside the grounds is no longer possible, and we have been unable to determine if gates still work outside, since none of us have been able to leave.”

   She regarded him a moment longer, then seemed to relax slightly, as if letting something go. Had she been holding the Source in case she needed to protect herself? Considering the position she was in, surrounded by hundreds of men who could channel, he thought it was a safe assumption.

   “Please sit, Master Genhold,” nodding to the chair on his side of the table. Settling into the other chair, she continued. “Pevara Lissen of the Red Ajah, which I’m sure you have already guessed. What you just told me confirms my greatest fear. Two of the Sisters sent here with me have apparently been subjected to some kind of compulsion also. This is such a vile thing that it is something we refuse to study in the White Tower so I have no knowledge of what or if anything can be done.”

   Androl knew that whenever an Aes Sedai made a statement like that, because of their oath to always tell the truth, he had to believe it. His hope that she would know a weave to reverse the compulsion had been a small one.

   “This may sound callous, Pevara Sedai, but I’m afraid that your Sisters and the men I once considered friends, must be left behind and not find out what we plan.”

   Just then, the kettle on the stove started to whistle. As Pevara got up and reached for a cloth to wrap around the handle of the hot kettle, she thought, so he has a plan. Was she so desperate as to listen to the plan of an Asha’man? Unfortunately, she was.

   Pouring some water in her cup, she apologized. “I would offer you some tea, but the woman I share this hut with will become suspicious if she finds two cups on the table.”

   Androl waved the offer aside and waited for her to settle back into her chair before continuing. “Pevara Sedai, those of us who are loyal to Logain must escape the Tower and get word to him or the Lord Dragon about what is happening here. I have no proof, but it appears the M’Hael is turning the Tower against him.”

   He hesitated when he saw the fire of anger and hatred in her eyes when he mentioned Logain’s name. So be it. When you walk into a lion’s den, you had better be a lion yourself. He put some fire in his own eyes and leaned towards her.

   “Let me make one thing clear, Aes Sedai. Whatever you feel towards Logain, the men here respect and look up to him. As soon as he came to the Tower, men started to follow him. They could see he was a man of honor and treated everyone fairly. There are two camps here, Pevara Sedai, one loyal to Logain and one loyal to the M’Hael. Our numbers have been dwindling because men from Logain’s camp are being turned. Those of us loyal to Logain did not come to the Tower for fame or power. We came because we know that every man who can channel will be needed during the Last Battle to fight the Dark One’s hordes. We follow Logain, he follows the Lord Dragon and we will die for either.”

   Pevara was taken aback by the conviction in his voice. Maybe Logain was an honorable man, but he would answer to her someday for the rumors he had spread about the Red Ajah. “You came to me,” she reminded him. “I assume you have a plan, but need my help.”

   “I do have a plan,” he replied. “But it will depend on whether or not you and I can link, or if you are even willing to try. I’m not very strong in the Power, Pevara Sedai, but I do have a special ability with gates. I can make one small enough to cut a single hair on your head or one large enough to drive a wagon through. How large of an opening would you or your Sisters need to be able to bind two men and shield them from the Source?”

   “I only need to be able to see them,” she answered carefully.

   “All the men and their families loyal to Logain, are moving to a barracks close to one of the towers located on the perimeter wall. There are two Asha’men manning each tower for periods of four hours at a time. I believe our best chance will be right after midnight when they rotate the watch. If you and I can link, I can open a small gate behind the two Asha’men big enough for you to see through. If your Sisters can then bind and shield them, we should have enough time to gather at the base of the tower and escape. Once outside the walls, it will be up to you and your Sisters to open a gate for us.”

   “Your plan has merit, Master Genhald,” Pevara admitted. “The weaves of the Sisters will be invisible to any man who happens to look in that direction. Will your men be ready to leave tonight? I would prefer not to spend another night trapped here.”

   “We will be ready. As soon as you arrive at the barracks tonight, we can put our plan into motion. The Light protect us if anything goes wrong.”