Getting a Good Start

January 2, 2018 at 3:00 am (Fervor, horror, Links, writing) (, , , , , , )

I gave my writing a bit of a rest last year – limited editing efforts, only a few short stories completed and a half-hearted commitment to submitting at least 100 times during the year.  I had some success, but my work life intruded upon my home life and I used that as an excuse to let things slide a little.

Thankfully, a Facebook writers group I belong to  has introduced a monthly writing goal thread that will help us all keep on track and I find it motivating.  I’m off to a good start, with some heavy duty editing and three short story submissions today to begin my January submission blitz.  Tomorrow I’ll get some more writing and editing in as well as more submissions.  I’ve also  come across a publisher looking to reprint or republish novels that offers some real potential for my now out-of-print series.  I’d love to see Fervor and Masters & Renegades in print again, and maybe I’ll get to publish the unpublished books in both series.

In the meantime, I’m going to celebrate my newest release.  “Fish Story” makes an appearance in Issue #6 of the Gathering Storm Magazine available online here, or in print here.  Once again, they have fabulous cover art, formatting and interior illustrations.  The are a top-notch publication specializing in dark, quirky fiction and poetry.  I’m working on another short for their next call for submissions.

I’ll try to follow-up on my progress over the next few weeks.  Wish me luck.

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April Blitz – Day 4

April 4, 2015 at 6:29 pm (dark fantasy, Fervor, horror, writing) (, , , , , )

My last two submissions were dark tales anchored in mythology, sent to small press calls for anthologies. Neither were pro-pay but I’m just going where the inclination takes me during this blitz, with more focus on fit. I need a recharge on my creative batteries before I make another run on the pro-rate venues.

I now have the releases for my Fervor and Masters & Renegades series so I have to start thinking about what to do next with those. I could self-publish, but that will take some investment in new covers. Unless I can find a low cost solution, that’s not something I can swing at the moment. I’ll have to go hunting and see what I come up with.

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New Success

July 9, 2014 at 2:08 am (fantasy, Fervor, writing) (, , , , , , )

My last submission blitz, despite a disappointing start with regards to responses, is proving to be more successful than I had originally anticipated. I’ve had one more yes in a later reply, my first noir acceptance, and a “maybe” I had believed was turning into a “no” proved to be a “yes.”

Inspired by my success so far with fairy-tale retelling mash-ups, I’ve jumped into a new project writing a cyberpunk retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk”. This is new territory for me, but that adds to the excitement. We’ll soon see what the test readers have to say. It will need to be submitted to the place I have in mind by month’s end.

This has been a good year for fantasy acceptances for me. My past acceptances for short stories have been predominantly horror, even though fantasy is my first love, so it’s nice to see that shifting a little. My next two stories out have an element of fantasy to them, although “The Godmother’s Curse” has a equal helping of horror.

“A Fly on the Wall” arriving in August, on the other hand, is strictly fantasy. It introduces a guild and a villainous character who makes an encore appearance in Book #6 of my Masters & Renegades series, due out in 2016. The story and the novel were written more than a decade apart.

Back to some review work I have to do before vacation kicks in. Back to working on Chapter #7 of Dominion as well. Next week I’ll be putting the last few changes into Endeavor before it goes off to MDP.

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Women in Horror – A Valentine Interlude

February 14, 2014 at 11:28 pm (fantasy, Magic University, writing) (, , , , , , , )

I’m taking a one day break from my women in horror posting to offer up a Masters and Renegades teaser tale with a bit of romance to it. Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Field Test

 “A field test? What do you mean, a field test?” Urwick was incensed. “I’ve managed to conquer every challenge you’ve thrown my way, Jadira. Why would I need to prove myself with a field test? I have no intention of ever wandering the wilds with my magic. Why can’t whatever testing you need completed happen inside? I thought all that outdoor trial foolishness was done once the Admission Trials were over.”

Jadira gave her dark elf apprentice and lover one of her alluring smiles, batting her deep green lashes.

“It’s a requirement for graduation, love, and if you don’t graduate, we can’t get married. Just finish this one thing, and I am properly yours. That won’t happen until it’s done. I’m sure we’ll get a nasty backlash for revealing our relationship after the test. But once you are no longer my apprentice, no one can lodge an official complaint. — So yes, dearest, a field test.”

Urwick sighed and gave his dryad mentor a disgruntled stare.

“If there’s no getting out of this for graduation, and it remains the only obstacle keeping us from going public – then fine. I’ll do whatever you ask. I hate having to hide my feelings for you even more than I despise trudging through muck in open sunlight.”

Jadira laughed, the soft peals a seductive musical sound.

“It won’t be that bad, Urwick. It’s just one task and it ought to be an easy one for you. Just make sure you have a dimming spell on the ready and confidence in your magic. I’m accompanying you on the trip. I’ll be with you the entire time.”

She entwined her slender green fingers through his hair, enjoying the silken feel of his silvery locks. Then she brought her mouth up to his ear, her breath hot and humid on his skin.

“And when you’re done, love, I’ll have a graduation gift for you of my own…one we’ll have to exchange in private.”

Urwick liked that idea. He pulled her into a tight and hungry embrace, burying his dark-skinned face in the nape of her neck and breathing in her bewitching woodsy scent.


    “‘It won’t be so bad,’ she said. ‘It ought to be easy,’ she said,” Urwick grumbled. “What’s not bad about this?”

Unfortunately for the dark elf, while he might have all the skills and confidence required for the task ahead of him, the weather had chosen not to be so agreeable. The skies alternated between offering a chilly drizzle and a solid downpour.

Jadira, soggy herself, provided her apprentice a sympathetic smile.

“At least you won’t be bothered by the sun.”

This drew a frown from Urwick. “The sun is the least of my concerns, thanks to my dimming spell. These boots are brand new. This mud is going to destroy them.”

Jadira giggled. “I didn’t know I was engaged to a princess. Really, Urwick – worried about your wardrobe…”

Since they were far out of range of any university officials, she reached over and took his hand. The feel of her warm, supple skin reminded him of why exactly he was there.

“I suppose the boots can be replaced,” he said softly.

They continued on, hand-in-hand, until they reached the golden haze that marked the boundary of their terrain.

“So we go from here…do you get to give me my task for the field test now?” Urwick asked.

“I do. Here is your task: in order to graduate, you must fetch the egg of a phoenix and return to the boundary before nightfall. Succeed, and you become an official graduate of Magic University – a true Master of Magic. Fail, and you’ll be spending at least another year under my instruction.”

Urwick squeezed her hand. “Like that would be such a terrible thing.”

“Which would include another year of keeping our tryst a secret. Do you really want to continue our romance in hiding?”

The dark elf’s expression fell. “You know that isn’t what I want. I never wanted that. I’d shout my feelings to the world if I could. But you won’t let me.”

“It’s a matter of propriety. Faculty are not supposed to fraternize with students – not our kind of fraternizing anyway. If the administration found out, they would separate us, and if they did not force me to leave the university, I’d likely be looking at a demotion along with a severe berating. I love you, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, but I don’t see how all of that would benefit either of us.”

Urwick understood her position. When he had first become Jadira’s apprentice, he had recognized that the University was her entire life. She had been forced to uproot herself, literally, to attend, abandoning all of her friends, forest and family. She might love him, but was it enough to give up everything she had rebuilt upon settling there? He would never expect nor ask that from her.

On the other hand, he had never understood why she had even taken a romantic interest in him in the first place. He had never flirted with her or made any advances, serious about his studies. He had been a dark horse at the Admission Trials and a black sheep upon admittance. Reformed Renegade he would always be, a blemish upon whatever reputation he managed to build, and he would always display a rebellious attitude, inherent to his nature.

Urwick was surprised Jadira had been willing to talk to him beyond what was necessary for his instruction. But during the earliest portion of his apprenticeship, one very strange day, she had returned from a shopping trip in Anthis regarding him with new interest. She had insisted he had already mastered the energy sphere spell she had just taught him early that morning and when his efforts proved her wrong she had made a point of drilling him until he knew the spell inside and out.

Why energy sphere and why had she seemed so sure? He would always wonder that. As a consequence, her extra attention had brought them closer. Urwick could have sworn at that point she had been trying to seduce him. A woman as alluring and beautiful as Jadira had been impossible for Urwick to resist. Whatever the reason, Urwick considered himself a luckier man for it.

“So what happens from here?” he asked Jadira, looking out at the overgrown terrain. “I charge off in search of volcanic crags and use whatever magic is necessary to locate and retrieve said egg?”

Jadira eyed him warily. “Not ‘whatever magic’. You are absolutely restricted from using Renegade magic for this test. I’ve been in your shoes, Urwick. I know you’ve retained much of your original training and it can be tempting to slide back into old ways for a quick fix to a challenging problem, but that’s not an option here. One slip and you’ll automatically be disqualified. Considering what you went through to get here, I really hope you can resist that temptation. If you mess up that way with this test, you’ll give new ammunition to the naysayers who want to keep reformed Renegades like us out of the University.”

“I know, I know. No Renegade magic. For some reason, I get to play champion for the cause.” Urwick did not try to hide his frustration.

Jadira placed her delicate, leaf-coloured hand atop his arm. “This isn’t a joke, Urwick. We both have something to prove here. If you truly love me, you won’t do anything to jeopardize the progress we’ve made.”

Urwick leaned in and kissed her verdant cheek. “Then you have nothing to fear, because I truly love you.”

They stepped through the golden haze together and Urwick cast the first of his spells. Tracer magic demanded both preparation and concentration, a more difficult incantation, but Urwick had been ready for such a challenge.

Once cast, the spell led Urwick, and with him Jadira, on a lengthy trek which took most of the morning. As he trudged along, he wished he had had a scry-type spell that would have allowed him to visibly locate the sought-after egg and permitted him to reach it with a simple portal, saving him a great deal of time and effort. Unfortunately, he hadn’t anticipated the need, but at least he was in good company for the journey. Urwick made the best of it, talking at length with Jadira as he walked and occasionally stealing a kiss. The test requirements could have been far worse.

Thick brush eventually gave way to scattered bushes and even those petered out after a time to barren soil, dotted with the odd patch of dry grass. The rock formations Urwick had been expecting came into view next. The egg he hunted no doubt was atop of one of those stony nubs – Urwick was sure of it.

As he neared the places a phoenix would be most likely to nest, he would find signs that would present themselves in a rather threatening way. Gouts of flame and molten sand would spring from the earth without warning. If you were agile enough to avoid the first burst, you would then have to dodge the fallout as it showered down from the sky.

Aware of this, Urwick had had the sense to put in place a magical shielding spell once he ventured into that part of the terrain. Jadira, meanwhile, was fully clad in all manner of magical defenses. At least he would not be distracted by worrying about her safety as well as his own. She had been allowed to bring in any devices she wished, while he felt mostly naked in comparison, as well as unpleasantly soggy. He couldn’t feel comfortable stripped of all tricks of the wizard trade other than his ordinary clothing and his own magical knowledge and skill. But then again, the field test was one to determine what Master magic he had actually learned at the university, not measure his access to any magical resources. The entrance trials had not been nearly as restrictive. They wanted new students who were resourceful as well as clever.

Urwick was grateful for his defences fairly early into his trip amongst the rocky spires. Only a few moments along, a great blast of fire and lava exploded from the ground in front of him, taking him completely by surprise and dousing him with sticky gobs of flame. The cloak he was wearing went up in smoke, despite his precautions, and the heat seared his extremities a little even through his shields. Urwick decided to take the time and effort to double up on his defensive magic, not wanting to suffer the same way if he encountered any other close calls. For a change, he was actually grateful for the rain sputtering down from the sky, cooling his steaming body quite quickly.

He continued to pick his way through the wasteland, still sensing the proximity of the egg, until he arrived at one rocky outcropping surrounded by a small moat of molten sand. It bubbled and hissed as the occasional stray drop of rain breeched its surface.

“Here,” Urwick declared with a triumphant laugh. “This is it – this is where the nest will be.”

He glanced up. The top of the stony formation extended out far above his head. If he attempted to climb the rock column, his chances of falling were likely, the pinnacle of the rock jutting out above a narrow support. He saw little in the way of secure handholds or footholds. Urwick decided he would have to resort to magic to ascend it.

While the spire appeared precarious, Urwick wasn’t afraid of what he would find at the top. No phoenix parent would be present in the nest to defend its young since the breeding process involved the full immolation of the breeder. The mother would have left a lone egg in its fiery wake.

“From flames, reborn,” Urwick muttered as he contemplated the obstacle before him.

He settled on a simple levitation spell. It would allow him to float slowly up to the nest, snatch the egg from its blackened bed and then return victorious to the ground – prize in hand. Field test passed.

Urwick cast his spell, immediately rising through the smoke-hazed air. As the ground left him, he watched for the approach of the edge of the rock outcropping. The ascent proved tedious. Unlike flight, levitation magic lifted a wizard at little better than a snail’s pace unless you had a means to quicken the pace: a stiff upward breeze or a method of pulling one’s body up to one’s destination. Urwick had neither.

Perhaps he was being cocky or complacent. Maybe he had allowed his attention to lapse because he had grown bored during the delay. Either way, Urwick was ill-prepared when he got close enough to grab at the lip of the outcropping and yank himself up. The nest, scorched black and still steaming, came into view, the mottled golden-orange prize at its centre. But Urwick was not alone.

While it was true that there would be no parent present to menace Urwick, he had not considered that fact that he might not be the only predator hoping to claim that egg. Hovering directly across the nest from the dark elf, some sort of reptilian winged beast eyed the egg as well.

“Damn!” Urwick knew if he did not act fast he could lose the desired prize and with that, fail the field test.

It took a battle with reflex to quell the temptation to break the rules and resort to Renegade magic. Any offensive Master spells he could launch off the cuff might put the egg at risk as well. Combined speed, power and control was a Renegade spell trait only wielded by stronger Renegades. Lesser Renegades could use spells involving both speed and power but at the expense of control, that’s what gave them the reputation of being dangerous and unpredictable. While all Master spells were controlled, anything involving any power tended to be slow to cast. Even the quickest and most familiar spell, energy sphere, would allow the creature enough opportunity to snatch away the egg and head for cover. The situation demanded an immediate response.

In truth, the only way Urwick could hope to use any Master Magic with an instantaneous effect was by manipulating one of the spells he already had in place. H stripped himself of one of his two existing shields, interposing it between the monster and his prize. As the beast bounced off of the invisible barrier, Urwick ducked beneath it and grabbed up the egg.

If only the hungry reptile would have been willing to let the battle go at that, conceding defeat and heading off in search of other prey, Urwick’s problems would have been over. The dark elf had never been that fortunate, having to fight for everything he ever wanted. This was no different. He now had to win a new struggle for the freedom to openly express his love for Jadira.

Extremely grateful that he had doubled up his shields, Urwick knew he would be relying on the one he had left for protection. Otherwise his soggy and slightly scorched body would have been left completely exposed. Circumventing the shield Urwick had abandoned to the nest, his scaly opponent lunged for him and the egg, only to collide with the second barrier. That was all that prevented the beast’s claws from raking through the dark elf’s flesh and tearing the egg from his grasp. The gesture still resulted in a mid-air collision driving the floating Urwick away from the rocky spire and spinning him out into the open, drizzly sky. The levitation spell kept him from tumbling to his doom but left him stranded beyond the reach of anything that he could have held onto while lowering himself carefully to the ground.

Now a victim of motion-sickness along with other discomforts, Urwick watched helplessly as the creature left its perch alongside the phoenix nest and circled around to make another go at the egg he held. If he didn’t make some drastic move in response, Urwick would likely be swatted around like a dangly plaything until his shields failed him. The descent the levitation spell would allow would be too slow to provide him with a means of escape from the beast’s attentions. He had to figure another way out.

After a second bat from the reptile’s talons, Urwick glanced at the ground far below him. He did have the option to simply drop the levitation spell and allow himself to fall. A giant mud puddle directly below him would offer some cushion and his shield would be a buffer from the concussive force, but then there was the egg to consider. He could handle a solid jolt and take any minor damage, bumps and bruises, that the tumble would inflict, but could his prize survive as much?

As the monster veered around for a third attack, Urwick realized he did not have the time to contemplate all possible outcomes. He bundled the egg in the tattered, sodden and burnt remains of his cloak, embraced it so he would absorb most of the impact and held his breath. Then, rather than get spun out by the beast’s latest charge, he dropped his levitation spell and hoped for the best.

Urwick plunged into the puddle with considerable force, his tired body subject to a jarring strong enough to rattle his teeth. Although he was drenched by a significant amount of muck, he managed to maintain his hold on the egg.

Once totally submerged in the murky water, Urwick decided it was best to stay that way for some time – at least for as long as he could continue to hold his breath. He hoped the predatory reptile, having lost sight of him, might grow discouraged and fly away. Urwick tried to ignore the cool wet, saturated by grit, as it continued to seep its way into all of his orifices. He was not a man who tolerated physical discomforts very well. By the time he emerged from the puddle, retching and gasping for air, he was wishing he could shed his muck-slathered skin to escape the remains of his muddy bath.

It took a few moments for him to clear enough of the sludge from his eyes and ears to gauge his surroundings. The strange sounds he heard as he resurfaced proved not to be the beast squawking in frustration as he anticipated, but Jadira giggling at his predicament.

“You must really love me,” she said with a wide smile.

“I’m so happy my misery is serving to amuse you.” Urwick spat away the ooze that clung to his lips and trickled in at the corners of his mouth. “I could have knocked myself unconscious and been drowning under there…and you would have been chuckling at my early demise.” He glanced down at the muddy but solid form of the egg still resting in his arms. “At least this is still intact.”

“I knew you would be just fine, my love. You always fare better than expected. You may not be lucky in life as a whole, but you are lucky enough when it counts. I’d wager you have a guardian angel with a sadistic sense of humour.” She flashed him a playful look. “I thought you might like to know, that creature flew away while you were under. Good thinking on your part. Apparently, it didn’t want to go wading through the muck anymore than you or I normally would.”

“So I’m done then? I passed the test?”

“All you have to do is portal back to the boundary that marks the edge of University terrain. The egg’s in one piece, isn’t it?” She laughed.

“It is. I guess that makes you mine then, as agreed.” Urwick tucked the egg under one arm and withdrew a small container from his pocket – a container which had escaped the worst of the muck. “Which means I expect you to put this on and wear it from this point onwards.”

Jadira gently plucked the little box from his messy hand. She cracked it open to reveal a ring inside adorned with a sizable emerald surrounded by tiny fire opals. Urwick grinned at her squeal of delight.

“Only the best for you, my dear,” he added.

Her squeals intensified as he wrapped a muddy arm around her and planted a dirty kiss upon her lips. He followed this up with hasty caresses that left obvious hand-prints on the places explored. It was his turn to laugh.

“And that will leave no doubt whatsoever of how I feel about you.”

Urwick did not give Jadira any chance to protest or take revenge. Splashing out of the puddle, he darted off in the direction of Magic University, all of his goals for the moment accomplished.

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October Submission Blitz – Book Release News

October 15, 2013 at 12:35 am (fantasy, horror, Links, writing) (, , , , , , , )

I took a little blog break this holiday weekend, but I did submit three flash fiction pieces so I’m up to 15 submissions for 15 days. I hope to have Laying on Hands ready to go tomorrow. It came in just under 5,000 words, so it won’t require major surgery, but I hope to trim it down somewhat during the editing process as the publisher specified shorter works are preferred. Then I plan on writing something I’ll be submitting under my pseudonym – as a break from the serious before I tackle my next attempt at a pro-pay acceptance.

No horror trope today. Instead, here’s an excerpt from my recently released Prisoners of Fate novel from May December Publications, the third in my Masters and Renegades series now available on Amazon and Smashwords:

When Ebon began casting his first spell, a minor transmutation spell, through Shetland and into a magical buffer that Anna had set up earlier, the dwarf began to glow. His coarse grey hair also started to stand on end. This was the most common reaction Shetland had to any spell not cast directly on him, but, rather, through him. That spell would have no other effect on its own, but introduce an energy-enhancing spell on top of it and infuse it with a dimensional pocket enchantment, and Ebon was convinced that the final effects would be spectacular. It would turn Shetland into a complex magical vacuum, drawing Ebon out of the other dimension in which he was partially suspended, and pulling him fully back into this one. The enchantment-imbued metal, which had mingled with Shetland’s dwarven flesh when he had tumbled into the melting vat as a child, would be drawn to the surface and evaporate, forming a magical cloud of sorts. This cloud would then solidify, sealing the dimensional pocket that would be penetrating both dimensions and allowing Ebon to transfer completely back to this one.

It would have seemed overly complicated to anyone but Ebon, but he had lived this process for years, existing to see it through to fruition. If he had been capable of eating, sleeping and breathing, he would have eaten, slept and breathed this moment since the day he succeeded at the University Admission Trials.

As Ebon initiated the second spell, not only did Shetland now glow with a slightly golden hue, he also began to vibrate in a very subtle way.

“I’m startin’ to feel the pull!” he hollered at Ebon, the noise from the combined spells almost deafening.

Ebon knew exactly what the dwarf meant. The first time he had tried this combination of spells, he had felt the pull as well, just as he was feeling it now. He had stopped the experiment prematurely that time, unsure how to proceed and uncomfortable with the strong tugging sensation within him. The tugging had come from two directions at once, like he was in danger of being split down the middle. Ebon had acknowledged after further studies, that he would not be able to undergo this change without pain. There would be an agonizing tearing sensation, and he would have to endure it if he wanted to succeed. Shetland would likely undergo similar agony, but he was not averse to the idea of pain, if it meant he would finally be a normal dwarf again. The two cohorts steeled themselves as Ebon prepared the third and last spell.

“Yesssssss. Finish it!”

Ebon hesitated. He was unsure where the whispery voice had come from, or how he could possibly hear it above the roar of the other two spells. It was soft, seductive and somehow familiar.

“Whatchya waitin’ for!” yelled Shetland, unable to see Ebon’s look of surprise. Very little could be distinguished on his face, due to his shadowy form.

“One moment!” Ebon called back. “I’m almost ready!”

“Go on…finish it! You know you want to. It’s time. We’ve been waiting for so long…” That voice again. It disturbed Ebon greatly, especially because he felt as though he knew who and where it was coming from, but he could not put that knowledge into coherent concepts. This confusion made it difficult to concentrate, and a lack of concentration made spell-casting a dangerous affair.

“Quit stallin’, ghost!” Shetland bellowed, his vibrating intensifying to the point that flecks of froth were forming on his lips. “Do it already!”

“Shut up! Both of you!” Ebon screeched, his voice becoming a high-pitched whine, intermingled with the rest of the noise. He centred himself, ignoring the chaos and focusing on the buffer beyond Shetland. He started the third spell. A maniacal laugh of triumph reverberated around them. Then it began.

Pain was a very simple way of describing what Ebon felt, and while agony was a more apt description, it was still insufficient. The hurt was greater than any Ebon had ever recalled experiencing, as if he were being torn inside and out, ripping right down his centre. Ebon tried to hold it back, but all of his discipline was not enough to keep a blood-curdling scream from escaping his lips. As he fought the throbbing ache that dug deep into his core, he saw a shape before him, a vague silhouette approaching him with increasing speed. It would reach him in a few seconds, right about the time the spells, the pain, and the process would all come to an end. He braced himself.

Suddenly, there was an abrupt pressure on his back and he was falling forward, tumbling into Shetland. The dwarf had not been expecting the collision and while he normally could have resisted such an impact, he was knocked off his feet as well. They fell together in a heap, at the far end of the room. Everything went quiet.

Ebon lay groaning on the floor, his head muddled and everything sore. He heard Shetland moving, shifting slightly from side to side. Ebon sat up, looking around. What had just happened? He brought his hand to his forehead, rubbing at his temples. There was something odd about the feeling. Both his hand and his forehead seemed slightly “squishy,” not quite right. Then it struck him like a bolt of lightning. He stared down at his hand. His hand.

Ebon blinked, rubbed at his eyes, and then blinked again. Once more, he felt that “squishy” sensation, but the hand was still there. It did not look exactly the way it should. It had a slightly golden sheen to it, and it seemed almost blurred around the edges, but it was there. The hand before him, obviously visible, was his hand.

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A Current Endeavor – Closing in on the End

September 23, 2013 at 9:00 pm (fantasy, horror, Links, Reviews, The Snowy Barrens trilogy, writing) (, , , , , , , )

I’m part way through Chapter 19 of Endeavor with only one chapter to go after this, and I’m hoping to see the last of this first draft by the end of the month. Being a horror writer, October is always a very busy month for me, with book releases and Halloween celebrations. I also have a Submission Blitz planned for this October since the one in April went so well. Here are a few of the things I have coming up:

My first chance at buying my work in a local bookstore! Dead North, an anthology containing one of my short stories is being released by Exile Editions in October. It has already received a great review and it is available for pre-order.

Horrified Press has announced the release of their horror anthology ‘Nightmare Stalkers & Dream Walkers’ edited by Suzie Lockhart & Bruce Lockhart which “dares you to confront the dark behind your eyelids, as no-one is safe to dream in this collection of frightening tales from some of the biggest names in horror.” I have a story in that one. ‘Nightmare Stalkers & Dream Walkers’ will be available in both digital and print formats.

The release of Prisoners of Fate, the third book in my Masters and Renegades series is rapidly approaching. Here’s a sneak peek (above) at the cover. I’ll share more news as it becomes available and I’ll soon be offering up “The Field Test” a teaser tale for the novel involving Urwick, one of the main characters (he was Barb’s favourite character in the series).

Also, I’m hoping to finally release the third book in my Snowy Barrens trilogy. I’ve been procrastinating there, dragging my feet on the last few details.

And finally, I’m eying November and NaNoWri Mo. I’m not sure if I’ll be participating this year. Without Barb to push me, I doubt I can meet the pace required. If I do go for it, I won’t be working on anything new, but attempting to put 50,000 more words into “Sifting the Ashes,” which will bring me close to finishing that novel. We’ll see – I just don’t have the inspiration or enthusiasm without her around.

Anyway, back to Chapter 19…

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Love and Hawthorne – Kindred and Complementary

February 13, 2013 at 11:01 pm (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s letters to Sophie, he suggests they are kindred spirits (but not like brother and sister.) On several occasions he also notes their differences and how much he appreciates them. I think the best romances capture this effect in its protagonists. They are kindred spirits, and must have something in common to bring them together, but they are also opposites in some ways, in order to be complementary personas as well. Often one of the pair is physically strong with a more dominating presence while the other, despite being more submissive, has more spiritual strength and a nurturing nature. Perhaps one half of the pair is very analytical and logical-minded, while the other is the creative half, more attuned to emotion – or one is serious and responsible while the other tends to be playful and light-hearted. A mix of characteristics can prove to be a boon to a relationship, allowing the couple to support each other’s weaknesses by means of their own strengths. These differences can also result in conflict from time to time, adding some interest to your tale. Resolving those conflicts, finding an area of compromise, can in turn bring those characters even closer together.

Here’s an excerpt from the next in my Masters and Renegades series to be published, Prisoners of Fate. The story brings together two characters who are very opposite in nature but who discover more than one area of common ground as events unfold. By the end of the story, once they have resolved any points of contention, they find themselves sharing a bond neither of them would have anticipated. Here’s one of their moments of conflict:

Anna and Ebon stood in front of the ornate doorway to the Inner Sanctum, large, dark and intimidating. By stepping part way through the doorway, they had been able to determine that there were five locks of varying complexity on the door, each one bearing a physical trap, and three magical traps set on the door in general. While the physical traps were not a threat to the golden man and his apprentice as long as they remained in contact, the magical traps, on the other hand, were a different situation.

“So much for scouting ahead,” Ebon said. “Sure, we can tell Urwick what to expect, what will keep us from moving forward. How’s that going to solve our problems?”

“You should give Urwick more credit than that. He’ll be able to figure something out. He always seems to have an answer for everything.”

Anna re-examined the door. The intricate carvings that adorned its surface had been etched with care and particular attention to detail.

“He never had an answer for me,” Ebon replied coolly.

Anna felt the rush of rage as it rose within him, a common occurrence. He was always so angry. It had been difficult enough to deal with Ebon before she had shared in his emotions. Now, as his anger travelled through her, her eyes flashing red and her heart racing, she wanted to shake him, to scream at him to let it go. She had become numb to her own rage many years ago. Having to share his feelings threatened to undo everything she had struggled to repress, to uncork years of frustration and despair. Terrified by the idea, she released him.

“No.” He seized her wrist, not allowing her to withdraw. “It’s about time you should be angry. You are always running from it, or trying to hide it. You need to feel it.”

“This isn’t my anger, it’s yours.”

“Then show me yours. Let me feel your rage. I know you must be angry about something.” His ire pushed at her like a forceful wind, and after multiple attempts of trying to evade him, she finally pushed back – hard.

“Is this what you want?!” she asked, her hostility bludgeoning him like a fist.

Anna was angry about many things, and the most recent of them involved Ebon. Those were the ones she allowed to surface. Anna re-experienced her rage at Ebon’s cruelty, the cruelty he had exhibited upon her realization that her attempts at rescuing him had turned her into something less tangible than he had been. She relived the moments of fury when he had continuously pushed her away, hateful and repulsed, until he had decided that he needed to use her. She manifested her wrath in response to the fact that he was quite willing to sacrifice her for the sake of preserving his own powers, just as he had indicated to Shetland.

Their bond worked two ways, and as Ebon had sensed her longing and despair that still lingered from past events, Anna was also aware how he had gone from wanting nothing to do with her, to objectifying her completely. If she had allowed it to, his total disregard for her would have destroyed her. And now Ebon understood that she knew that too.

Surprised by her backlash even though he had asked for it, Ebon let go, stepping back a pace. By bullying her, as he often had in the past, he had opened the lid on something that wasn’t about to go away just because he had tired of it. Anna seethed before him, and the crimson flames of her eyes burned into him.

“I want my life back,” Anna demanded. “I will not exist simply to feed your need for power, or to fuel your ego. You may not care about me. You may have never cared about me, but there are others who have, and there will be others that will. You may need me, but when this is over, I won’t need you anymore and that’s how I want it to be.”

Ebon glared at her, not sure how to react to her outburst. This was not the Anna he knew. He had expected her to be so weak, so pliable. He had been depending on it.

“You are always so spiteful,” Anna continued. “You push everyone away like they intend you malice, whether they deserve it or not, and you torment anyone who tries to get close. I know it’s a defence mechanism, but that doesn’t make it right. Hurting others to protect yourself is wrong. I won’t be your victim anymore.”

In response, Ebon was tempted to make a sarcastic comment, or to say something hurtful to crush Anna’s spirit and to get her to back down. He couldn’t bring himself to do it. She really had taken the upper hand here. While she did need Ebon to communicate with others and to manipulate physical objects, that did not carry with it the same importance for her as accessing his magic carried for Ebon. She was only isolated without him. He was helpless without her. Instead of offering a counter argument, he wordlessly turned and started back towards the others.

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Love and Hawthorne – Soul Connections

February 7, 2013 at 12:38 am (Elevation, writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

“Soul mates” is a term you’ll hear in connection with people in love who consider themselves made for one another. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s love letters to Sophie, he implies that they are already bound by the soul. He refers to her letters to him as “spiritual food” that helps keep his soul alive. He also compares her love to religion, “purifying his aims and desires”.

Considering true love is supposed to take root in the soul, it’s hard not to make some reference to the soul when writing a romantic relationship into your plot that is far deeper than warm fuzzies or simple infatuation. It is difficult to explain otherwise, that kind of all-encompassing connection between two people.

I’m guilty of resorting to describing a soulful bond between characters on more than one occasion. Here are a few examples (the first one involves telepaths):

Camille raised her eyes to his, digging that hole for him even deeper. Then, to make matters worse, she flung her mind wide open to him, so that he was aware of every raw thought and feeling there. She had been wounded by this warped lottery, although she had hidden it well, and she desperately sought comfort, but the hardest part for Royce about this sudden exposḗ was her current state of arousal and how much she did want him. That was too much for him to resist. This abrupt move drove all thoughts of Katrina temporarily out of his mind, and there was a cascade effect, as their mutual attraction reinforced itself when they delved into each others’ psyche. His thoughts interlocked with hers, sweeping away any remaining reservation like it was a fine layer of dust. Straying beyond the point where he could deny impulse, he found himself kissing her. The tendrils of her thoughts teased at the inside of his head, exploring everything that he was the way that her tongue explored the interior of his mouth.


But Addy was older now; she was becoming a woman, and she yearned for something more than friendship, just as Lee did. For some inexplicable reason though, she wanted that from Javan and no one else … Javan – intangible, unreachable and only real to her. It didn’t make any sense, but nothing much ever did in her messed-up, frustrating life. Maybe it was his words: “you’re my purpose, my reason for being. You’re my heart.” Those were the sentiments she couldn’t let go of. They had gripped a part of her soul that was now his and his alone.
-When You Whisper


After commiserating with Finch, Clayton made his way to Dee’s room. She did not try to stop him from coming in, but she was completely non-responsive when he tried to communicate with her. He stayed there with her, speaking with her gently and soothingly about little mundane things that had happened around the Academy over the past couple of years, despite the fact that she ignored him completely. He watched her the whole time he spoke to her, refusing to let the soulless look of her grey eyes dissuade him from his efforts. This would be one of many days he would have to do this, he knew that, but he would persist, and remain constant. That was what she needed, so that was what he was prepared to do.

He stayed with her until he had to go teach his classes, but he returned at every opportunity. He continued to sit and talk with her until he ran out of things to say, and then he would stay there anyway, just holding her hand. This was the way it was for many days.
-Lines of Opposition (Masters & Renegades #5)


I have enough of these references to fill many blog posts because that is the type of connection to which many of us aspire…finding that soul mate.

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Love and Hawthorne – Words to Woo

February 4, 2013 at 1:57 am (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Today I started reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s love letters to the woman he would eventually wed, Sophie Peabody. I was really curious to see what his words would be like when he wasn’t story-telling and his intentions weren’t publication but rather to win the heart of a woman the letters suggested he greatly admired. I think what I found truly charming was where he suggested she was stronger in spirit than him, and while he wished her physical health better strength, he hoped the same would not apply to her spirit or she might outpace him.

That’s not the type of focus you see in modern romance novels. It rarely seems to be about admiring another person’s character. The hero will often go on about how beautiful the heroine is and how he can’t live without her or the heroine will comment on the hero’s physical strength, and how he makes her feel safe, but you typically won’t hear them praising each other’s strength of spirit. It’s sad, really. Modern romance is more about lust and less about love, but I think this is in response to popular demand – hence the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey. People just don’t value strength of spirit the way they used to.

Not that physical attraction isn’t important, we have to acknowledge our physical inclinations when choosing a mate, but if you’re going to spend the rest of your life with that person, it should certainly be about more than just that. We all age and beauty fades.

Here’s my excerpt for the day, a little something from The Enemy of my Enemy: Masters & Renegades #6. I like this relationship because this couple truly does strengthen each other’s character. Logan starts off selfish, ego-centric and insecure, and Angellica is cynical, overburdened by choice, and fighting alcoholism, but they bring out the best in each other, partially because they recognize the best in each other where others don’t, and in the process they come to conquer these flaws:

Knowing that there would be no one else around, the Master mage wandered into the seating area and sat with a sigh, staring at the empty stage. He still wished that Clayton had never compelled him to make this trip, and longed for Anthis and the Academy. That was when he noticed the occasional shifting shadow in Angellica’s loft over the stage.

Logan was curious. Angellica was likely up there, considering that she had made few appearances anywhere else during the course of the day, but he could not help but wonder at the movement. Even from where he sat at the highest point at the rear of the rows of seats, he could only occasionally see the top of her head in the dim light of the loft. He glanced behind him at the only spot in the theatre that would give him a better vantage point, the technician’s booth. Acting on impulse – not a thing that Logan was prone to do – he rose from his seat and quietly walked over to the ladder leading up into the booth.

The Master mage clambered up the ladder and settled into place behind the open window of the booth, now having a much clearer view of Angellica in the loft. The acoustics of the building also worked in his favour there, and he was able to hear the gentle notes from the colourful music box that lay open on the chair next to her bed, despite the distance between them. He also understood the reason for her movement. Angellica was dancing.

It was nothing like the wild gyrating she and Shasta had performed the night before around the bonfire, spinning and leaping to the drumbeat. This was delicate, and refined, filled with passion. Logan was not sure he had ever seen anything more beautiful. It was also, however, filled with sadness, and the Master mage could swear it looked like she was actually dancing with somebody, even though no one else was there.

The ghost, he thought. Shasta had mentioned something about competing with a ghost, someone by the name of Sammy. That was with whom Angellica was dancing. He felt as if he could sit there and watch her for hours.

That was when Logan realized, shamefully, that Shasta might have been right about something else. Maybe he truly was one of Angellica’s so-called strays. He had already done a few things, since meeting her, which he never would have imagined himself doing before now. The thing he was doing at that very moment was but one example. Normally, he would have considered this kind of spying unethical and invasive. Instead, he found it strangely acceptable and highly rewarding. As opposed to chastising himself and leaving Angellica to what appeared to be some sort of ritual to deal with unpleasant emotions, the Master mage stayed where he was and continued to observe, wondering how often this Harv, who had been returned to the FFP the day before, had sat there and watched her go through similar motions.

Eventually, after winding up the music box several times, Angellica finally exhausted herself and allowed herself to collapse onto her bed. The dancing had not seemed to help her state of mind, however, Logan noted. She looked crushed – defeated. He found it difficult to see her look that way. Once again, impulse took over.

He clambered onto the ladder again, half sliding, half jumping back into the seating area, and silently jogged down the centre aisle. Defying her instructions as he had before, the Master mage scaled the ladder to her loft, something he figured that Harv had never had the nerve to do. Arriving at the top, he climbed into the loft and stared at her, not sure exactly what to say first. Angellica noticed him there before he could say anything. She barely lifted her head to look at him.

“Go away,” she muttered, and then let her head drop back down on the bed. This helped to propel him to speak.

“I think you owe me a dance,” Logan said softly.

He expected her to resist, maybe to even get angry with him, but he could not hold himself back. Instead she sat up with little energy, as if the fire had gone from her. She perched on the edge of the bed, with her hands in her lap and her shoulders sagging.

“I don’t dance – except at parties,” Angellica claimed, staring at the floor.

“And now you owe me a dance, and the truth,” he insisted.

“The truth?” she laughed half-heartedly. “The truth is, this place is going to burn down, and there’s nothing that I can do to prevent it. The truth is, everyone here expects me to come up with a solution, a way to save us all, and I have nothing. The truth is, I’m just as scared as the rest of them, but I’m not allowed to show it.”

Logan drew closer. He hated seeing her this way. He had to offer a solution.

“We’re going to find a way to handle this. We’ll come up with a plan, tactics to deal with the Jadorans, and the Redsuns and the dogs, when they get here. We’ll set out ways for everyone to escape, when the time comes. Shasta can help – you know that she’s more than capable. Clayton and I will do everything within our power to assist Emrys in getting that law overturned, and when the moment arrives that this place does go up in flames, we’ll retreat, we’ll rejoin and then we’ll rebuild,” he assured her. “It’s not over yet, Angellica.”

“We? Why would you say we? You don’t owe us anything. You don’t need to be here. When you’ve done whatever you promised the prince that you would do, you can just go home.”

“If it were only that simple. A few days ago, I would have agreed with you. I don’t think I can do that anymore.” The words slipped out of the Master mage’s mouth before he could stop them. This was not the kind of thing that he would have been saying a week ago.

Angelica got to her feet and faced him, wearing an expression of confusion.

“So that was the truth,” he murmured. “How about allowing me that dance, then?”

She crouched and wound up the music box, setting it back on the chair afterwards. Without any reluctance, she strode over to Logan and took his hands in her own, glancing up at him expectantly. He was frowning slightly, and did not move at first.

“It’s kind of hard to dance while you’re standing still,” she suggested, smiling.

“Wait,” he responded.

Logan released her hands and walked over to the music box. At that point, he made use of a novice spell that he had learned many years before. He cast the incantation and the melody from the music box changed completely.

“There,” he whispered. “That’s better.”

Angellica glanced back at her keepsake, a gift from Sammy. She turned her gaze to Logan, puzzled.

“Why did you do that?” she asked him.

“Because I want you to dance with me, not Sammy,” he answered honestly. “No more dancing with ghosts.”

This time when he returned to her, he did start moving with her, enjoying the subtle harmonies of this new music. He welcomed her interest in dancing with him this time. In fact, he revelled in it, and found that it stirred something in him that nothing else had ever awakened before.

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Genre for the Holidays – Counting Down

December 31, 2012 at 3:07 am (Fervor, The Snowy Barrens trilogy, writing) (, , , , , , , , , )

You don’t get to berate me just yet. I did manage to get the first item on my list from yesterday out of the way. I now have “Riot!” complete, but I have no idea where the story came from. It is nothing like anything else I’ve written and I have no clue if Ren will like it, but at least I got that task out of the way.

So now I get to reminisce about what I have managed to finish in my writing last year. I published two novels small press and successfully completed and released the first in the trilogy for my self-publishing experiment. I had several acceptances for anthologies (six acceptances, six different publishers, two UK, two US, two Canadian.) I had my second pro-rate “maybe”…and I’m hoping I can actually turn this one into a “yes”. I wrote a selection of short stories and three novels: “Intangible,” “Providence,” and “The Trading of Skin.” Not bad, but not any better than the year before and I’m running out of steam. So what to do in 2013?

As I mentioned, I’m having trouble settling on what I should work on for my next project. I’ve tossed around a few ideas. I have “Dagramar’s Zoo,” book nine in Masters & Renegades, but I told the hubby I’d wait until book five came out before I’d tackle that one and I’m waiting on book three at the moment (it’s with the publisher.) I haven’t flushed out the full plot for the next in my Fervor series. I could make a go at my planned YA book, but I’m not feeling terribly excited about that. I could do the follow-up to “When You Whisper” or take a stab at something else completely new on my to-do list. It’s a case of too many ideas and not enough direction.

So I guess I’ll wait until something prompts me – a nudge from my publisher, a shove from a test-reader or (do they really exist?) a fan, or maybe some prompting from my muse. In the meantime, I have my hands full with other things.

…Oh, and the other thing I’m counting down are the final two weeks before I can definitely say I have officially lost the Harper Voyager lottery. If I haven’t heard from them by then, I won’t be, which means “Elements of Genocide,” “Sleep Escapes Us,” and “Intangible” are free for re-submission. I wonder how many years I’ll be kicking them around before I figure out what to do with them.

Enjoy the last of 2012. J

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