Category Archives: Fantasy Fiction

June 2018 Author Recap

I hope you enjoyed the previous month’s worth of introductions to authors you may not know. It was my pleasure to share such talented writers with all of you.

AUTHORSYOUSHOULD KNOWI had the idea in late May to do a month long series exposing my followers to other writers who I admire and read. When I started this project, I told no one. I wanted it to be a surprise for all the authors involved. No one knew who I was going to share or when. It was pretty cool to see the surprise coming in from those whom I featured. For those writers, I do hope it was a well-received surprise. For you readers, I hope you found a new author or two to check out and sample their work.

I want to stress that there were many other authors I could’ve included. I don’t want to upset any of my author friends that may not have been included in this first series of Authors You Should Know. Please don’t take it as a slight against you or your work.

For a recap of each author, please click their name below and it will take you to the brief post I published. I encourage you to try someone new and try one of their books. You never know when you might come across a writer you’ll absolutely have to read. It’s difficult finding readers. My hope is that you found something useful through the month of June within these posts.

 

Jason’s Authors You Should Know – June 2018

Amy Hale                    June 1

Leland Lydecker        June 2

Donna McCarthy       June 3

Vince Churchill          June 4

Mirren Hogan             June5

Brian K. Morris          June 6

SA Gibson                   June 7

Mark Pannebecker   June 8

RJ Batla                       June 9

Simon Bleaken           June 10

F. Kenneth Taylor        June 11

Brent A. Harris           June 12

MD. Parker                 June 13

Pamela Morris           June 14

Ray Wenck                 June 15

Stephanie Barr          June 16

Thomas Gunther       June 17

Greg Alldredge          June 18

C.A. King                     June 19

PC3                             June 20

Jay Noel                      June 21

Christa Yelich-Koth   June 22

Eric Asher                  June 23

Diane Morrison         June 24

John W. Smith           June 25

Lucinda Moebius       June 26

Merri Halma              June 27

Bryan Caron              June 28

Leo McBride               June 29

Aaron Hamilton         June 30

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“On the Horizon”

On the Horizon is the 22 author scifi/fantasy boxed-set I’m super excited to be part of. It releases on May 1, 2018. My novel The Selection will be one of the 22 novels featured in this collection.

Even if you’ve read my book, you can still pre-order this amazing collection of stories from a cast of international authors. With a price of .99 you can’t go wrong!

OnTheHorizon

Right now we are able to offer pre-orders on the Nook (or Nook app if you’re like me and read on an iPad using all the different reading apps). By pre-ordering the collection on the Nook, you are helping us to achieve our goal and supporting talented authors from around the world.

Go ahead, click “pre-order” at the Nook store below! I’ll be extremely grateful if you did!

Nook Pre-Order

Amazon pre-orders will be coming soon in a few months. They only allow a 90 day pre-order. If you wanna be alerted to when those are live, sign up to our email alert here and we’ll keep you updated!

PS: Feel free to share this with all your friends!

 

Author Spotlight: RJ Batla

Today I’m fortunate to present RJ Batla author of AGAINST THE BEAST and FIRE EYES AWAKENED.

Hi RJ, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Hi! Thanks for the interview Jason! I’m a Texan, born and raised, a Christian who loves my family and a fan of good old fashioned fantasy, sci-fi, and superhero books. I’m a country boy who has always loved to read and be outdoors in any form or fashion. I consider myself to be one of the ‘nice guys,’ and try to help anyone I can when I can.

 

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for around seven years now, but I’ve gotten serious about it in the last two and have written over two hundred thousand words since then. Most of it probably wasn’t that good (or will ever see a published book in its current form), but it has helped hone my writing craft. It’s been a journey, but now that I (kinda) know what I’m doing, it’s a lot of fun!

 

What inspired you to start writing?

To get the voices out of my head!

Just kidding. But I’ve always wanted to write a book and I’ve been telling stories to myself in my head for a long time. I wrote a little in college, and some family had said it was pretty good. So I continued on, enjoying the learning of a new skill and telling a story.

 

Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?

So I’ve got several projects going at the moment. FIRE EYES AWAKENED is my first full-blown novel, and it’s at the editor right now. I expect to release it around May or June.

The RANGER’S FIELD MANUAL is the companion guide to the world of Terraunum. I’ve gotten it written and edited, and might be available now for free for signing up for my email list! There is a smaller version available now for an email signup, but anyone on my list will get the expanded edition as soon as I can.

 

What genre do you prefer to write in, if any?

I don’t know that I prefer any, but I’d have to say fantasy comes the easiest for me. I like the creation of worlds, the magic (both the system and in general), and the old school sword & sorcery battles.

All of my current works are based in Terraunum, a future earth where Marvels have amazing powers over the elements and much more. It’s Epic Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery with a good bit of Superheroism and some technological elements of Steampunk. So a blend of genres.

 

What authors influenced you?

Oh wow, several. Terry Brooks, who was the first author I really latched onto in the fantasy genre, is a clear influence. Also Jim Butcher, who writes the Dresden Files, my favorite series – I love the main character Harry Dresden, a smart-aleck wizard with a strong sense of justice. Those would be the two biggest influences, though everything I read tends to influence me in some way.

 

What are you currently reading?

So I’ve got several books on my reading list right now. I tend to read several books at once (I know, a little crazy). Right now, here is what I’m reading:

Outbreak by Joshua C. Chadd; Mistress of Masks by C. Greenwood, and Thinblade by David A. Wells

 

Do you write every day? A few days per week?

I try to write every day, but it usually turns into around 4-5 days per week, depending on when the kids go to bed and how much time I have at night. The day job gets in the way (as per the usual), so I do all my writing at night. Usually I can knock out between 500-1000 words per hour after I have my outline done, so I am able to make good use of my time.

 

Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?

Absolutely not! I love music and tv, but I can’t do either and write at the same time – I get too involved in one thing and get sidetracked.

 

How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?

I’d like to think it has gotten better – better at telling the story, better at getting my point across, more succinct, clearer, more descriptive without wasting words. I also think I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, and how to make sure and only include what is good/important but to make sure I do include those same things.

 

How do you create the covers for your books?

RJBatlaI come up with the general idea for what I’m looking for, then I work with the professionals to get it done right. I am by no means an artist (drawing wise), so I hire out freelancers who are pros. I have two different cover artists that I use, and they are both amazing.

 

Are there any non-literary influences for your writing (movies, actors, music, etc)?

Absolutely! Movies – anything superhero-related, action/adventure, and even some of the drama. I’ve also been heavily influenced by a couple of animated shows, particlularly Avatar: The Last Airbender (the series, not the movie), and Naruto, a manga adaption.

 

Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?

I’m exclusive with Amazon right now, so that’s the only place to get any of my books. I’ve only got one out, but several are in the works and will be out as soon as I can get them out there.

 

What is your favorite book and why?

Now that is a tough question. Because you’re making me pick ONE, I’m assuming a work of fiction, I would have to pick Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, Book 4) by Jim Butcher because it introduced me to the Dresden Files series that I love.

 

How do you market your books?

I use Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Ads, and my email list. But mostly it’s word of mouth from other authors and friends.

 

Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

Sure, here is an excerpt from AGAINST THE BEAST.

Royn parried the sword from the left Skeptor and threw up an air shield on his right. Steel clanged against bone as the two traded blows. The second one broke through the air shield quickly and thrust at Royn’s midsection.

Royn teleported at the last second, the creature’s sword hitting nothing but blue light. Growling, they advanced on his new position, circling around again. Clearly they meant to keep his attention divided. The left one started in again, and Royn counterattacked, matching the strikes with his own as the second one circled and jumped in again. Thank God for his Ranger training, or he wouldn’t have lasted ten seconds against these things.

“Flying Knives!” Royn called, arcing his arm and sending dozens of daggers of sharpened air at the Skeptor. They imbedded themselves in the bone, but didn’t penetrate, didn’t even slow the thing down. Again Royn teleported away at the last second.

They continued to circle, and this time Royn put everything he had into his sword work, until he found an opening. “Aha!” he said, driving his blade right into a Skeptor’s chest.

It clanged and bounced harmlessly off the bone armor, the force prying the sword from his hands. “No!” he said, teleporting away, then right back to get his sword and away again too fast for them to react. Damn that was close.

Five more times they circled and advanced, each time Royn throwing a different attack at the second Skeptor, and five more times Royn teleported away. But there was a problem. Royn’s energy was draining quickly—the second bean was wearing off, his reserves already depleted. He was weaker than he thought. He hadn’t fully recovered. He shouldn’t have come. The Skeptors circled again. Like vultures. Might as well be. One of these times they were going to get him. Just a matter of time. How could he win this battle? His attacks fell right off of them, nothing stuck. He was severely out matched.

What is that blasted buzzing? Royn dodged a sword attack and deflected a fireball with an air blast.

“Now.”

From behind him the second Skeptor launched another fireball. Diving away, the heat singed his clothes as he tucked and rolled on the landing, immediately jumping up before he was blasted again.

 

If you’re an indie author, what made you choose that route?

Definitely Indie, though if someone wanted to pay me an insane amount of money I could be convinced!

The main reasons I chose Indie is the ability to actually get your work out in the world and let the people/readers/fans decide if it is good enough, vs someone in a corporate office. So in a word control – I have ultimate say on anything involving my works.

Plus it’s on my timeline – if I need to push something back because I have time with my family scheduled, it doesn’t hurt anyone or myself.

 

Where can we find you online?

Here they are:

WEBSITE: rjbatla.com

TWITTER: @RJBatlaAuthor

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/rjbatla

EMAIL: rjbatla@rjbatla.com

 

Any parting words for writers?

Keep working hard. Take it one day at a time. Grab any time you can to write, market your current works, or read – either for fun or for honing your craft. You eat an elephant one bite at a time, and you write a book one word at a time over a sustained period. You can do it!

 

Anniversary Giveaway

Can you believe it’s been one year since I released my first collection of dark fiction (Almost) Average Anthology?

January 15th is the anniversary of it’s release and to celebrate I’m holding a one day free sale on BOTH my books.

This coming January 15th 2017, be sure to grab copies of both my books for FREE! Please share with your followers, family, and friends.

one-day-free-sale

This is a limited one day free sale so don’t delay in grabbing your copies!

(Almost) Average Anthology

Moments of Darkness

Thanks!

 

King of the Hill: Morgan Smith

I mentioned a few posts back that there would be more “King of the Hill” promos and here’s the latest. Morgan Smith’s book A Spell in the Country: A Novel of the Averraine Cycle is our current King of the Hill.

 

Description:
What if you weren’t what heroes are made of? What if your life was an open book? What if you were just an ordinary soldier, with ordinary skills and ordinary goals? What if you weren’t “The Chosen One” but still had to try to save the world?

“A Spell in the Country” is the story of that soldier – a young woman driven not by prophesy, but by circumstances and coincidence, and by the strengths and weaknesses that anyone might possess.

Lured into treason and only narrowly escaping the gallows, Keridwen was desperate to build some kind of life for herself. But between demons bent on death and mayhem, treachery at the very heart of the kingdom, and a prince who had every right to nurse a grudge against her, what were the odds that she could stay out of trouble for long?


You can find the book on Amazon: A Spell in the Country: A Novel of the Averraine Cycle

A Dragon’s Bargain

It’s the 15th and time for another tale. This month I’ve got a fantasy story for you with a knight and dragon. I’ve been fascinated by medieval lore for most of my life. Stories of Arthur and dragons have held a special place for me. This is not an Arthurian tale but I hope you find it entertaining. Let me know what you think in the comments below and feel free to share it with others that might like it. Thanks!


A Dragon’s Bargain

“Keep moving!” the knight shouted. Dragus listened and watched carefully. The knight in rough silver armor led a man in chains through the forest. Dragus was almost caught bathing but at the last minute he heard the chained man scream and that gave him the heads up he needed to hide. Now watching the pair trudge through the forest, he thought he recognized the chained man. His eyes narrowed as he stared, his nostrils grew large as he searched his scent.

Then the sensation overwhelmed him. Anger, fear, disgust all washed over him like a bath of evil. His eyes shot open. He knew the man. All dragons did. He was the Dragon-Slayer,  friend of man and bane of dragons. He was feared and hunted by dragons and now Dragus had him in his sights. Smoke swirled out of his nostrils, his anger stoking the flames within. Flexing his wings, he shot high in the air and with a great roar, Dragus swooped down ready to exact the furious vengeance of his race.

dragon-955348_960_720The dragon’s roar made both men look to the sky. Dragus bellowed loud. Fire belched forth from his mouth, trailing behind him. His giant leathery wings beat a rhythm of death in the air.

“By the gods! A dragon!” the knight holding the chains cried. The Dragon-Slayer tried to run but the chains held him back.

“Come on man, let me out of these bindings! He’ll kill us both!” the Dragon-Slayer said.

Dragus made a pass at them, breathing a line of fire in the forest alongside the men. The bright orange and red flames ignited the dried timber and soon a wall of flame trapped the men.

“Can you kill it Dragon-Slayer?” the knight said. He roar of the flames grew louder around them.

“Release me from these chains and I have a chance. Quickly! He’ll be coming back!”

Dragus circled above them, roaring and shooting long bursts of flame from his mouth. His chance at vengeance sent him in a frenzy.

“By the gods, kill it Dragon-Slayer. I release you!” the knight said. He unlocked the chains and thrust a sword in the hands of the Dragon-Slayer. Before he could turn away, the blade sliced through the air separating his head from his body.

“No man takes Aydan and lives,” the Dragon-Slayer said. The knight’s head rolled away from the force of the blow.

Dragus observed the men fighting and watched as the Dragon-Slayer betrayed the other man. The time was right. Alone with the Dragon-Slayer, he dropped from the sky intent on killing the bane of his kind.

A roar above made Aydan look up. Dragus breathed mighty flames towards the man. With his claws outstretched he exhaled a deep red flame but not far enough to injure the Dragon-Slayer. It was meant as cover so he could catch him in his long yellow talons.

His plan worked.

The Dragon-Slayer cowered from the flames and Dragus plucked him off the ground. The man screamed obscenities at the dragon. Dragus roared and spit flames in front of him. Aydan struggled but the talons kept him from moving.

Silver arrows pierced the dragon’s wings. Dragus cried out in pain. His wings smoked where the arrows struck. Volley after volley of the deadly silver arrows fly towards him from the forest below.

“Ha, that’s it dragon! That knight’s guard knows your weakness! Die dragon! Your head will look spectacular mounted on my wall.”

Dragus spun in the air. Arrows stung his large wings. When Aydan taunted him, Dragus clung tighter to his prey.

“That’s it dragon! Try and kill me! Use your energy on me while the arrows pierce your flesh!”

The arrows forced Dragus to the ground in a great crash. His claws were like a harness protecting Aydan who was freed from the talons when he struck the ground. Dragus roared as he tumbled across the forest floor striking trees with his tattered wings. He collapsed against a tall oak. Smoke rose from his nostrils. After a few moments, Aydan approached the wounded dragon with his sword at the ready. Dragus opened his eyes and pushed himself off the ground.

“I need you Dragon-Slayer,” Dragus said in a weak voice.

“Why would I help you?” Aydan said, “you do nothing but destroy our lands. You’re a menace that must be eliminated.”

Dragus collapsed on the ground unable to fly. Dark thick blood oozed from his pierced skin, smoking as it struck the ground around him. He tried raising his head to look at the Dragon-Slayer but was too weak to move.

“I need your help Slayer. I will die if you do nothing.”

“Precisely! That’s the point dragon. You will die. I am the last true Dragon-Slayer. My name is Aydan. You’ll go to the hell that spawned you knowing the great Aydan slew you.”

Dragus turned his head. “Aydan, you must save me. You cannot kill me.” The dragon coughed, small balls of flame shooting forth from his mouth and dissipating just as quickly.

“You’re mad dragon! I kill beasts like you, not save them. I have an entire hall of trophy heads of your kind. There’s a spot left for you.”

The dragon struggled pushing himself up and fell back to the ground. Smoke puffed from his nostrils

“Aydan!” he said, his voice booming despite his weakened condition. “You must save me! It is in your best interest to do so. When I die,” Dragus said. He coughed and wheezed, life clinging like a stubborn tick.

“My best interest?” Aydan laughed. “Dragon, that’s not the craftiest line I’ve ever heard from your kind. Go and die. Our lands need a reprieve from your destruction.”

“My life spares you from damnation Aydan. As long as I live, you will not taste the sting of a sinners death.” His eyes closed and his chest heaved. The energy of speaking exhausting him.

“Die already dragon! I tire of your chatter,” Aydan said.

Dragus opened his eyes and turned his head, the effort straining him. “Insolent fool. You know it’s true. Your dreams of death. The wailing and torture. That’s no dream, it’s your future if I die.” The dragon closed his eyes inhaling deeply. “The black pit, the never ending suffering awaits. Your actions against my kind have condemned you.” He inhaled again and lay motionless. For a moment Aydan thought he was dead. The dragon let out a long breath, groaning in pain. “Search yourself Aydan. The truth is as I speak. And if I die, nothing prevents you from it.”

Aydan wrinkled his brow. The dreams the dragon spoke of haunted him for months. Most nights he wished for rest but was cursed by the horrific images.

“How do you know this dragon?”

Dragus inhaled before speaking. “I am the gate. Through me you enter obliteration or paradise. If I die your choice it made and can never be undone.” The dragon wheezed. Aydan could see how much pain the dragon was in. “But if I live, if you share just a drop of your blood with me, I can escort you to paradise. But hurry Slayer, my life flickers.” The dragon lay motionless on the ground, his blood boiling under him, smoke rising up all around.

Ayden hesitated. “What if your words are false? How do I know you’re true?” Dragus coughed, his body losing strength with every passing moment.

“The dreams Slayer. Search yourself,” Dragus said, his voice now a low rumble.

With his dagger, Aydan sliced his arm drawing blood. The bloody dagger was thrust towards the dragon’s mouth and he dropped some of his blood on his tongue. When he did a bright flash consumed the dragon, blinding Aydan. When the light winked out, the dragon sat before Aydan full of life.

“Thank you Slayer,” Dragus said. His voice was deeper than before without a hint of weakness. Aydan held his sword in front of him.

“I saved you. I expect you’ll keep your word dragon! We have a bargain.”

Dragus sniffed the air. The scent of the archers nowhere to be found. He and Aydan were alone. He exhaled dark gray smoke from his nostrils. “Aydan, a dragon keeps its word. Always.”

Large heavy wings unfolded behind Dragus. He rose in the air, snorting smoke and fire.

Aydan howled when the flames engulfed him. Scorched flesh sizzled in the intense heat. Dragus roared his victory, the sound echoing throughout the forest. Aydan fell to the ground in a blackened heap of ash. Dead.

Dragus shot upwards, circling around the charred body. “The only trophy we need! The arrogant Slayer no longer a threat. And his paradise of wailing awaits. With the Slayers blood running through my veins, never can man slay dragon again. Never!” Dragus snatched the smoking body and flew fast across the forest, free and alive. The rest of the horde would soon share in the victory and dragon-kind would once again rule the land.

dragonbanner


If you like this story, you might find my book (Almost) Average Anthology perfect for you. It’s a collection of 16 flash fiction stories that span horror, scifi, and fantasy. You can get it now for just .99 or the paperback for $5.99. Click here to find out more: (Almost) Average Anthology: tales of adventure, loss, and oddity

Enter the Dark

Psst…I write dark fiction. Most of my stories don’t end well. I don’t know exactly when the twists and turns in my stories started leaning towards the dark side. Growing up I always associated myself with the good guys. Whenever my brother and I would get new Star Wars figures I’d have the good guys and he’d have Darth Vader and the bad guys. Playing GI Joe I’d have all the Joes and he’d have Cobra. Same with Transformers. I’d have the Autobots and he’d have the Decepticons. I gravitated to the good guys because I felt “they were my people.”

But as I continue to write, my stories often have a dark theme. I don’t normally dwell in extreme horror with hacking and slashing. There’s a place for that however it’s not what I write. Instead my stories are more like the Twilight Zone or Creepshow. But why feature the dark side of life instead of celebrating the triumphs and good times of life?

Actually I think I do just that.

My stories often feature characters that end up doing something evil or lose something valuable. Following their struggles is cathartic. It helps those of us that don’t find ourselves in those crazy situations feel better about ourselves because we aren’t them! We get to live on when the story is over. We get to learn the lesson left behind by the character.

Not that I enjoy siding with the bad guy, but they serve a purpose. They always have. If you look at great storytelling, a compelling villain is almost always more interesting than the hero. They do things we won’t. They embrace their dark side and act on it while we tend to mute those instincts for a good reason!

Our world is filled with evil. Watch the news and you’ll see enough to last a lifetime. Why read about it? Because we can observe it knowing it’s not real and when we close the book, the evil doesn’t exist. Sure the echoes remain in our minds. Good stories stick with you. But unlike the evil we face daily, it’s created for us to experience in a safe way.

By doing that, we celebrate the good in life. We can honor the hero knowing how bad “bad” can be. So come on in and enjoy the experience, my stories are waiting for you!

to lean towards the dark side. Growing up I always associated myself with the good guys. Whenever my brother and I would get new Star Wars figures I’d have the good guys and he’d have Darth Vader and the bad guys. Playing GI Joe I’d have all the Joes and he’d have Cobra. Same with Transformers. I’d have the Autobots and he’d have the Decepticons. I gravitated to the good guys because I felt “they were my people.”

But as I continue to write, my stories often have a dark theme. I don’t normally dwell in extreme horror with hacking and slashing. There’s a place for that however it’s not what I write. Instead my stories are more like the Twilight Zone or Creepshow. But why feature the dark side of life instead of celebrating the triumphs and good times of life?

Actually I think I do just that.

My stories often feature characters that end up doing something evil or lose something valuable. Following their struggles is cathartic. It helps those of us that don’t find ourselves in those crazy situations feel better about ourselves because we aren’t them! We get to live on when the story is over. We get to learn the lesson left behind by the character.

Not that I enjoy siding with the bad guy, but they serve a purpose. They always have. If you look at great storytelling, a compelling villain is almost always more interesting than the hero. They do things we won’t. They embrace their dark side and act on it while we tend to mute those instincts for a good reason!

Our world is filled with evil. Watch the news and you’ll see enough to last a lifetime. Why read about it? Because we can observe it knowing it’s not real and when we close the book, the evil doesn’t exist. Sure the echoes remain in our minds. Good stories stick with you. But unlike the evil we face daily, it’s created for us to experience in a safe way.

By doing that, we celebrate the good in life. We can honor the hero knowing how bad “bad” can be. So come on in and enjoy the experience, my stories are waiting for you!


I’ll be at Contamination in St. Louis from June 17-19, 2016. It’s a horror/scifi/pop culture convention featuring actors, writers, and vendors of all kinds of fun stuff. Come on out and say hi, buy a book or two, and browse all the other great events. Hope to see you there!

Oh, if you bought my book from me or from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks, please leave an honest review. The more I get the easier it is for new readers to discover my work. Thanks in advance for your help!

 

 

From Beyond the Wall

It’s time for another story! Here is my latest dark tale for your enjoyment.


From Beyond the Wall

“No mother, don’t!” I screamed. That was the last time I saw her. Her painted blue body disappeared over the stone wall to an abyss no one returned from. Ten moons have passed since she left.

The wall, rough stones that were placed by giants, stood as the last imposing feature of the land. Beyond that lay monsters and such horrors that we were forbidden to cross over. Ever since I was a little boy running around the village, tales of the undead and worse frightened all us children from thinking about passing over the wall.

Of course there were brave men and women, usually more women, that thought the tales were false and scaled the immense wall only to never be seen again. I imagined misty woods filled with demons and gouls and creatures we’d never dreamed of ravaging any trespassers. That was enough to frighten me and keep me far away from the wall. My older brother wasn’t as thoughtful.

About three years ago he and his friends scaled the wall in defiance of our parents. My father was so angry at him and mother cried for him to return. There were four of them in all, his friend Tillnook and the two twin girls Sarai and Fillina whose father the blacksmith howled at them to come down. Sarai lost her balance and started tipping, threatening to fall to her death on our side of the wall. Tillnook caught her but in his attempt to rescue her he lost his balance and fell screaming to his death. His body crunched into an unnatural shape and blood soon stoked the ground around his broken and mangled body.

The gathered villagers screamed in horror. My brother turned from the body and before anyone noticed, he and the twins vanished. It’s presumed they fled to the unknown wilderness beyond the wall. My parents were devastated as were the twin’s parents and that’s nothing compared to the grief of Tillnook’s parents. It was an upsetting time for all of us then.

Why my mother chose to follow that same path baffled me.

My father died in a hunting accident about a year ago leaving my mother and I to take care of the small farm by ourselves. We’d done the best we could but it was starting to fall apart. Mother forgot to milk the cows or collect the eggs on more than one occasion and she never realized her carelessness. At least not that she spoke of to me. I was almost a man’s age when my father died. Now that I was fourteen years old, I was a grown man and was expected to handle the chores of the farm. I might be able to run it but my heart wasn’t in it. I preferred to play in the forest pretending to be a knight, one of the kinds from the far away lands. With their exotic headdress and bold figures on their shields I wanted nothing more than to join their ranks.

Mother scolded me, telling me our family was low born and could never hope to attain paige status let alone a full fledged knight. I ignored her jabs at me and continued to train in the forest far away from peering eyes.

When father died my training quickly faded as I had to take on more duties around the homestead. We didn’t have much land. As a young boy I always wanted more land for our family but as I found myself in charge of it’s upkeep I was glad we had so little. Now I guess it’s all mine with my mother leaving like she did.

Mother used to tell stories of the great beyond as if she’d been there. She told stories with such conviction that I could see the one-eyed miniature men come storming from their caves as if they were going to attack me. Her descriptions were so real I had many sleepless nights wary they were going to breach the wall.

And that’s a dumb thing to worry about anyway. The wall is taller than any tree I’ve ever seen. Nothing in our village comes close to its size. There’s supposed to be a deep valley on the other side that goes so far down you can’t see the bottom when standing on top of the wall. The Crimson Steps go up to the top and they take a long winding way on purpose to prevent quick access to the village in case something actually could scale the other side and make it to the top. Many villagers have fallen to their death from slipping on those treacherous stairs.

When I was told my mother was scaling the Crimson Steps I ran as fast as I could to stop her. When I saw she had on her blue paint, I almost resigned myself to her fate. Yet still I yelled trying to coax her back to the farm.

“Mother, please don’t go!” I pleaded. She turned to look at me and paused. I thought tears streaked down her face but she was so far up I couldn’t be sure. She waved then continued her climb. I yelled and yelled but nothing stopped her. I assume she was going after my brother. Or maybe she wanted adventure. But what about me? Did she ever stop to think of me? I cried out to her until my voice grew hoarse. When with my last breath I called out “No mother, don’t” she stepped forward and out of my life.

With the help of a few friends, I’ve been working the farm since she left. So far we’ve been able to keep up with everything but I know I can’t continue like this. My dreams of being a knight have faded with each egg I collect.

medieval-village-771426_960_720One night as I lay in my quiet home, the fire dying down, I heard a sound outside. None of the animals stirred. It was a quiet night but for the sounds outside my home. I rose from the lice infested bed on the floor and crept along the dirt floor until I reached the wooden door. I peered through the cracks between the slats looking for the source of my disturbance. In the dark of night I could hardly make out anything. I heard another sound like sticks snapping off to my left and almost jumped. My heart raced. I grabbed a wooden rod which I normally used to beat back wolves trying to steal our fowl as protection from the source of the sound.

A noise like feet dragging in the grass caught my attention. I grasped the rod tight, both hands ready to swing at whatever intruder dared stalk me that night. The sound grew closer as if the feet were dragging towards my door. My breathing quickened. The dragging sound was closer still. I could see nothing through the door. Then the dragging sound stopped. I prepared myself, ready to attack whatever stood outside.

My door flung open with a crash. I jumped back and swung my rod missing it. I stumbled backwards and landed on the hard dirt floor.

“Stay back!” I yelled. It lumbered forward. I scrambled back further until I struck the table, bumping my head. I winced but wouldn’t take my gaze off the intruder. Slowly it hobbled my way. It was human shaped and held something swinging in its hand. It took another step and fear swept over me.

Before me stood a blue skinned woman, my mother, or what used to be my mother, with a glazed look across her eyes as though grey storm clouds covered them. She raised a hand and tossed her prize towards me. It rolled and hit my bare foot. By the fire light I saw what it was and shrieked in horror.

It was my brother’s head. His eyes were closed and his mouth twisted in a gruesome scream. Flesh hung from the neck as did a small bone.

“Never cross the wall. NEVER” my mother said. “I warned you.” Then she exploded in thousands of pieces like dust. I screamed as my brother’s eyes opened and he shrieked a loud unintelligible sound.

When I woke curled on the floor the next morning, nothing remained of my experience the night before. No head, no body. Nothing. I rose and as I went to clear my head, I noticed marks on the floor as if a foot was dragged along the dirt. I howled and fled my home sure that I’d never have the fortitude to be a knight.


Thanks for reading! Please consider sharing and commenting on the story. And if you like these stories, you might want to pick up my book of 16 stories for only .99. Click the cover to the side and get yours today!

Release Day!

Normally I’d offer a new story on the 15th however the story this month will be in a couple days. Today is release day! My first collection of stories is now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and on iBooks. The 16 stories in the collection include 14 previously published here on the blog that were revised and edited and I feel much stronger than their original versions along with 2 unreleased stories.

It was not a spur of the moment decision to create the anthology but something I spent a lot of time considering. I don’t want to release something unworthy of your time. I believe what I’ve put together is an excellent representation of my work and I hope you’ll agree.

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It’s available on all e-readers and is only $1.99. If you decide to buy a copy I respectfully ask that you leave an honest review. Good or bad I’d love to hear your comments. Thanks!

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The Gem and the Hide

It’s time for another short story and this month is a fun fantasy piece I wrote a while back. I’m determined to one day write a longer novel length Medieval/fantasy piece but until then, I’ll keep writing these.

Read on for my latest story and feel free to leave a comment, like the story below, or share it with others. I do appreciate all the support!


The Gem and the Hide

Gerald approached the cave with his heart beating loudly in his chest.  Lady Ygraine needed the gems from deep within the cave at the wizard Shonar’s request in order for her kingdom to be free of the dark Lord Mormet.  As her champion, Gerald took his quest seriously.  He was Lady Ygraine’s only hope.  He’d not fail her now.

Lighting a torch, Gerald wiped his brow and stepped inside.

He wound his way through endless tunnels, following the map given to him by Lady Ygraine.  He found the sparkling green and blue gems, encrusted in the surrounding walls.  Reaching out to pry a strikingly bright green gem from the cave’s wall, the room started spinning.  The floor disappeared from under him and he fell for a long time only to land safely on soft ground.

Gerald found himself surrounded by thousands of blinking lights, twinkling their song at him.  He shielded his eyes from the visual onslaught.

“What pray tell are ye that flashes this infernal device!  Yield.  I yield!” he shouted to the lights.  A strange series of clicking sounds enveloped him.  With a flash, everything turned bright white then all stopped.

He felt solid ground underneath and stood.  He couldn’t see a thing.

“I must leave this cursed cave before anything more vile and hideous befalls me,” he said out loud.  He reached around with his hands in the blinding whiteness but found no walls nor gems which to hold.  He looked around searching for anything to get him back outside.

Nothing.

He walked straight ahead, arms outstretched, searching for a wall or any surface with which to guide himself.

He stepped on a soft, squishy substance and stopped.  Bending down, he nudged the viscous material.  It was warm to the touch and gave just the slightest.  Surprised, Gerald stood up and continued his cautious walk forward.

Ferocious hot air fueled by enormous flames whooshed past him, singeing his beard.

“By the gods, what hell am I in?” he said.

“You my pretty, you are in my home.  My sanctuary.  You are an intruder.”

“Who’s there?” Gerald called out to the voice.  Thin tendrils of smoke whisped from his mustache and eyebrows.  He patted them down, hoping to extinguish whatever small flame caused it.

“I do not answer to mortals of the fifth realm.  You are in my home, you answer to me.”

The voice was harsh, raspy, and male.

“I am Gerald of the Moors, champion of Lady Ygraine, the keeper of the Valley.  I kneel to no one!” he replied.

The voice cackled.  “Then why did you yield so quickly…champion?”  Gerald bent his head low.

“That’s what I thought.  You are nothing.  You are in my home Gerald.  Why do you bother me in the seventh realm.  You don’t belong here.”

“I’m on a quest to retrieve the jewels in this cave.  My lady needs them to save her kingdom.  Will you help me?”

Another loud, long laugh from the voice.  “I told you Gerald, you don’t belong here.  You are much to far from home now.  You are my champion now.  You do what I want.”

Gerald’s heart sank low.  His beloved Ygraine, the only Lady he’d ever truly loved was lost to him.  All he had was this formless voice to command him.

The voice spoke out again.  “If you do my bidding, I might be kind enough to send you back to your dimension.  Fail me, and your soul is mine.  Forever!”

Gerald wrung his hands, thinking over the proposal.

“Spirit, my life is yours to command.  I give to you all I am, only so I may return to my Lady Ygraine,” Gerald replied.  A soft cackle answered him.

“You will bring me the hide of a boar.  It needs be white in color and red of eye.  Bring it back within a fortnight and your realm I will send you.  Now go!”

Before Gerald could reply, the scene shifted again like a veil removed from his eyes.  He stood in an old forest full of large trees unfamiliar to him.  He spun around searching for the cave.  Light twinkled from a knot in the nearest tree.  He stepped towards it.

“I said go!  Come back when you have the hide or your soul is mine,” a voice said to him from the twinkling knot.  Gerald marked the tree with his sword and took off in search of his quarry.

After seven days of fruitless searching, Gerald lost hope.  He saw no boar.  And a white one would be even harder to find.  Late that afternoon as he sat under a tall tree enjoying the comforts of the shade, he spotted it.

Across from him about fifty paces away was the beast.  It was larger than any man and whiter than snow.  It snorted and rooted in the dirt, covering its snout with brown and black.

Gerald’s eyes lit up.  Hope burst through his veins.  He crouched low and made his way towards the boar as silent as possible.  When he was within ten paces, he drew his sword and lunged.  The beast jerked its head up at the sound but it was too late.  Gerald thrust his blade deep within its heart, killing it.  He skinned it and hurried back to the knot in the tree.

A brilliant light shone from the knot and Gerald again found himself inside the white nothingness though this time holding the hide of the slain boar.

“I have your treasure, now grant my request as promised,” Gerald said to the nothingness.  Silence.  “Spirit, listen!  I have your bounty, now grant me my boon!”  To his right, Gerald heard the soft familiar cackle.

“So, you’ve slain the beast, eh?  My what a diligent knight you are.  Well, a promise is a promise.”

The hide disappeared and Gerald fell once again into a deep void until he landed on hard ground.  He pushed himself off the ground and recognized the cave instantly.  He reached out, grabbed a green and blue gem, and ran out as fast as he could.

Upon his return to the castle, Lady Ygraine marveled at his success.

“You’ve been gone so long!  I feared Lord Mormet would gain the kingdom.  You truly are my hero!”  She kissed him, causing his face to turn a pinkish color.

“Well, you have done a wonderful thing here Gerald.  Fortunately for you and the kingdom, Lord Mormet could not attain the sacred hide from the seventh realm,” Lady Ygraine said.

Gerald’s face lost all color.  He spun around to face the wizard Shonar.

“What sorcery are you about Shonar?  Tell me!” Gerald shouted.  Shonar shrugged.

“Nothing.  But luckily for you, Lord Mormet didn’t get that hide.  If he had, these gems would have no power.  This kingdom would be under his rule and we’d be helpless to stop him,” Shonar replied.

“But how do you know?” Gerald asked.

Shonar waved a hand in the air.  “Wizards know much Gerald, it’s what we do.”

Shonar turned to walk away and Gerald swore he heard a familiar soft cackle as the wizard strode down the walkway, a faint glow surrounding his body.