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Thursday, May 14, 2015

DRAGONWAND 2 CANCELLED!! (but it's not over.)

Yes, you heard me right. The Dragonwand series has been cancelled, retired, pulled out of publication. But, wait, don't panic yet. There is better news. Legacy of the Dragowand has been picked up by Cosby Media Productions, in association with Tate Publishing.

Okay, the good news first. Legacy of the Dragonwand has been pulled out of publication on all channels so that the publisher can now re-edit it and re-release it starting all over. This time it will have a fully professional cover, formatting, editing,...basically the whole bag-o-chips. They talked to me about an audio version as well, but that's down the road. The book will be released in Ebook first, then in print. Finally, they believe it would do well as a three part series.

The bad news: For everyone who has picked up and read Part 1, I am sorry to say that you will have to wait longer for the continuation of the story. I know that I put in there that the sequel would be released this coming summer, but that cannot be now that we are in the throes of professionally publishing it.

This is a dream come true. Almost ten years ago I thought my dream had been realized when PublishAmerica picked me up. Had I had the sense to ask the right questions and know the right answers, I would have never signed with them. That is in my own personal history now, I can move forward with CMP. I am very excited about getting this done right this time, and I feel that CMP is very trusthworthy.

Thank you everyone for reading my books, I hope you are ready for the future, it is going to be awesome.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Random art

Happy May everyone. Just thought I'd check in with a few bits of art I have done recently. Enjoy.

Drew that dragon and added my name to create a name plate for my book signing events.

A doodle I created while playing Kismet with the family. 

Just sketching for the heck of it. I started this when a request for this particular model came to me, but I lost contact with the person who requested the picture and so I finished it with my standard Ashinaga face and tail. 

Added mountains to the background to give it depth. Not sure if he'll make it onto a cover or not. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Joshua and the Sword of Vulcan: Part 2

Joshua and the Sword of Vulcan 
Chapter 2: Prometheans and the Gods of Darkness

Joshua and Julia were led through the trees and out across a large open field toward a beautiful temple. It appeared much like a palace of Greek design, with large columns painted in reds and golds. The space on top of the front columns was a relief where statues once stood. But, they had been broken out recently and only a little rubble and dust remained. Around the courtyard of the temple were students practicing. Some had swords, others had bows, all seemed to be warriors. Pedestals were placed here and there with the same display as the relief above, rubble and dust where statues once stood.

Joshua asked Julia, “Why are all the statues destroyed around this temple?”

“What do you mean?”

“All the statues are gone, only a couple have feet remaining.”

Crowe walked passed them, heading for a band of his own students working with their bows, “We bow to no statues anymore.” was his comment.

Haman followed that up, seeing the perplexed look on their faces. “After Circe switched sides and followed the new order, she ordered all of the statues destroyed. It is a symbol of her place now among humans.”

Julia smiled brightly, “Circe is now a Promethean?”

“Yes, she is.” Majus answered, “But she is still an impatient one. I will escort you into her chamber so she can address you.” he gently took her arm.

Julia did not let go of Joshua, “Surly come in with me.” she said it that way not to insult Joshua, but so she wouldn't have to explain anything right now.

Majus gave Joshua a rather long glance, “No, I am afraid not. Perhaps later he can see the central chamber, but I don't think now is the right time.”

Joshua protested, “I, uh, don' think so. I have promised to protect her.”

Brienne took his shoulder with a strong grip, “What? You think she is not safe here?! HA! There is no safer place in the province. Do you not think we can protect her?!”

Joshua leaned away from the loud woman, “Not that I don't believe you are strong, but I don't know you,”


Majus held up a hand to silence the boisterous woman, “Joshua is it?”


“This temple is very safe and no harm will come to her or you. You may relax. Have something to eat, explore the grounds. Your services to Julia are not needed while she is here, we will take good care of both of you.”

Julia let go of Joshua's hand, “I think we can trust them. After all, Circe is a Promethean now. I have not forseen any doom this day. I think our new friend is correct, you should find something to eat and rest.”

With a gulp Joshua agreed and watched Majus walk Julia toward the main building. To his dismay, his most adamant admirer was still holding his shoulder. “Perhaps something to eat, that does sound good.” In his mind eating sounded very safe, this strong woman would be less likely to attempt to do something to him while he was enjoying some food.

“GOOD IDEA! THERE IS SOME WILD BOAR LEFT ON THE SPIT! COME, WE FEAST!” Brienne nearly dragged him toward the area she had been eating at this morning.

Haman shook his head and returned to his own area where he would look over some star charts.

Joshua was amazed at the tenderness of the meat he was served. He had been given a plate about the size of a small table. It was filled with a mountain of various parts of the boar that had been cleaned after it was cooked this morning. Brienne spent a good hour spinning the tale of how she went and hunted it herself before the sun rose and then carried it all the way back here to be cooked.

“Tell me about this Circe?” Joshua asked, keeping Brienne talking was a good way to keep her hands off of him.

“She is a fine goddess. Most generous and very wise. She was once a feared goddess of witches.”

Joshua slowed down his eating. He had an understandable apprehension toward dark magic, “Witches?”

“Yes. Legend says that when she was bored or angry, she would turn men into swine and boar and send them out into the wilderness to be slaughtered and eaten by other men.”

This made Joshua take a long and horrified look at his meal. With a mouthful of flank he said, “Men?”

This made Brienne give off a deep and hearty laugh, “HAHAHAHA! WORRY NOT MY HAIRY FRIEND! THAT IS NO MAN YOU FEAST ON TODAY!”

“Good.” He finished the bite he started.

“No, once the heart of this Goddess changed and she turned to the Prometheans, her compassion was lightened toward humans and she transformed all the remaining cursed back to their former selves.”

“She..she can do this?” Joshua had a hopeful feeling bubbling up. Perhaps this Circe could fix his problem.

“Of course. I witnessed it with my own eyes! IT WAS GLORIOUS TO BEHOLD! I knew that if I were to follow any Promethean, I would need one that would have a sense of honor! And, by all that is good, she has one. Some of the Prometheans still harbor indifference toward humans and our plight. Some fight for us but not with us! But, there are a few who are truly on our side! ALLIES TO THE END!”

“An ally that is as powerful as one of the gods, that is sure a nice thing to have.” Joshua was still imaging how he might make his request to this goddess. He knew his words must be chosen carefully.

His mind was wandering off, he didn't notice the way that Brienne was shoving her chest into the table, so that her cleavage was being presented better. In the most sultry voice that she could muster she asked, “I like your claws, how sharp are they?”

“I don't really know I....” he only then noticed the way she was staring at his chest. She licked her lips and looked as though she were about to feast, on him. He coughed and then asked a question to drive the conversation away from what she was thinking. “Uh, you keep saying Promethean...what is a Promethean?”

Brienne sat back, relaxing that lusting look in her eyes. “A Promethean is a God or Goddess who sides with the mighty Prometheus.”

Joshua thought about that name. In his studies back in Egypt he learned a lot about history, and that name really sounded quite familiar. “Prometheus...Prometheus...I know that name.”

Haman approached the table then and saw the disappointed look on Briennes face, and the confused look on Joshua's, “What is going on here?”

“The servant wants to know more about Prometheus.”

Joshua resisted the eye roll at this new title of his. “She was telling me what a Promethean is.”

Haman sat down near Joshua, “Oh, I see. Prometheus is the one who started all of this.”

“Who is that?”

“Prometheus is a Titan...a being older than the Gods. He always sought what was best for humans, but was punished for bringing fire to mankind.”

“I remember!” Joshua exclaimed, “He was placed on a mountain and a bird of some kind ate his...kidneys..”


“Right. Ate his liver each day. Only it would grow back so he would never die from the experience.”

Haman nodded, “Yes. He broke free of his bondage and brought the truth to the humans. The gods and goddesses aren't what they claim to be. They are powerful beings that are ageless, but they did not create us, they do not control everything, and they can die. The tyranny of the gods over mankind was broken when we began to fight back.”

Joshua frowned and was rather astonished, “What can kill a God?”

“Blood blessings.” Haman answered, “Prometheus brought to mankind powers that were like those of the godkind. Blessings of the blood give people extraordinary powers and strength. With them we can contend with the gods and their most powerful minions. Only the chief gods remain stronger than the blood blessings.”

“Has any god actually been killed?”

Haman looked over to Brienne, who had a touch of smugness to her face, “I haven't witnessed such a death myself, yet. But, there is one person among our band who has killed a god with her own blood blessing.”

Joshua looked over at Brienne, “ killed a god?”

She took out her ax and held it up, “With this ax I slew the mighty god Aeron. When the other minor gods fled to their own realms, Aeron rose up against my people. He slaughtered many! But HO! I took his head with this ax! Such was a day that I roared at the sight of the fallen body of a god! SUCH WAS A TIME...”

“Brienne, enough.” Haman cut her off.

She got decidedly angry and lodged her ax in the dense oak surface of the table. “DO NOT SILENCE A WARRIOR DURING HER STORIES!”

Joshua gulped, even more afraid of this woman than ever, “Perhaps another time you can tell me your stories.”

She smiled eagerly at Joshua, “YES! I SHALL! AFTER YOU PLEASE ME AND WE REST FROM THAT BATTLE, I WILL REGAIL YOU WITH THE BLOOD SOAKED LEGENDS OF MY GLORIES!” Snarling at Haman she ripped her ax from the table, then left to go and decapitate something, hopefully one of the practice dummies and not an innocent passing animal.

Haman grunted, “That woman needs to be instructed about how to keep her voice in check.”
Joshua let go of his fears of what she was planning for him and looked back at the more calm wizard. “She said that other minor gods fled. Where did they go? I thought they either sided against humans or with them?”

“It isn't as black and white as that. Many of the beings we called gods were from the same realms as the mighty Gods, like Zeus and Ra. But, they had limited powers here in our realm. They blessed crops, harvests, rivers, and the like. When people became fearful of gods and their powers, the lesser ones that still liked people stepped aside. If they sided with the humans then the bigger gods would smite them quickly. If they sided with the gods they would betray the people they liked, so they simply faded away from us.”

“What about the gods that were more powerful?”

Haman looked back at the temple, “Those like Circe, gods that had real power and could contend with the likes of Ra and Molech, stayed and keep the balance.”


“If we did not have Promethean gods standing up to their kin in their own realm, we would be over run and destroyed quickly. Blood blessings or not. Circe and her fellow Prometheans keep the balance.”

“When will it all end?” Joshua lamented, “Balance is alright, but the bad gods keep sending minions down to hunt and kill the humans. Wars are waged across the world that have claimed a lot of lives. Eventually the Prometheans will have no one left to defend.”

“I don't have that answer.” Haman calmly answered, “You are right. The fighting will come to an end one way or another. But, we must trust in the wisdom and logic of the Prometheans to help guide us toward a victory. As for me, I will keep practicing my blood blessing and teaching other students about magic and battle. One day the Gods may find that the humans are too strong to send minions against, perhaps that will be the end of the balancing game.”

“But you said that the most powerful gods cannot be killed by blood blessings? How could we be strong enough to stop them?”

“That is the enigma. So far I do not have that answer.” Haman changed the subject and asked what he wanted to ask before, “What sort of beast are you?”

“I am not a beast. I am a man. I mean that I was born a regular human. I came across a wicked djinn and was cursed.”

Haman was astonished, “A djinn. I haven't see one of those in many years.”

“You know of the djinn?”

“Yes.” Haman laughed at the irony of coming across this, “I am not like the others. I was born in a distant land. My home city is Susa. I know much about the ancient wicked creatures called Djinn. I also know that they were all banished to live inside objects by the powerful Genie the Great. Only if a foolish human releases them can they be freed. You must have...”

“Yes. I accidentally freed one. For some reason he chose not to kill me but curse me to look like this.” Joshua omitted a few details of his curse.

“The djinn are notoriously imaginative about their curses. I haven't seen one like this before, but some I have encountered could turn your blood cold.”

“Oh. Did they ever remove their curses?”

Haman cleared his throat and looked away slightly, “ In fact none I have met have ever accomplished such a task. But, I suppose it isn't impossible.”

" I see.” Joshua dropped the last bone onto the pile.

“Don't fret over it. Focus on your work right now.”

Joshua and Haman got up from the table. Joshua asked, “Where can I put our stuff and rest. I would like to find a quiet place by myself.”

“You mean hide.” Haman grinned at him, “I don't blame you. Brienne is dangerous when she wants to conquer something. Ask a servant over by the temple, they will show you what room your seer has been assigned.”

“Thank you.” Joshua started toward the temple but stopped to ask, “Oh, if I may ask. What is your blood blessing?”

“Magic.” Haman answered.

“But, there are so many that use magic, surely they all haven't been given the same blessing. Or have they?”

“No, rarely has anyone truly been given a blood blessing. Common magic can be used by anyone who is given an enchanted item or can mix a potion. Majus and I are different. We have magic inside us.” Haman turned and waved and some students near a stand of straw stuffed dummies for archers to practice on. “MOVE AWAY!” The students bowed and then got away quickly, knowing what he was about to do. He put both hands together and a brilliant energy crackled across his fists. With a thrust forward he threw the energy out and it slammed into one dummy, then jumped to the next and the next, each exploding on contact. In one shot he took out four dummies. Once done he turned to Joshua with a victorious grin. “That is my blood blessing.”

Joshua nervously laughed, “Impressive. I am glad you are on our side.”

“Go, rest. She will be looking for you soon enough. Brienne usually finishes any battle she plans on starting.”

“Thank you.” Joshua ran off to get to his room before that ax wielding woman found him.

Lamia examined her legions she had just brought back from the conquest into the western farmlands. Her blood blessing from the god she served was a joy to practice. Pluto gave her the ability to raise the dead and lead them into combat, so long as she served his purposes. Pity that recently all she had been able to find were old farmers. She longed for a good siege of a fort or a large city, some place that she might find stronger corpses to bring to life under her command.

The necromancer walked among the stoic silent denizens under her power. Thousands of bodies in various stages of decomposition. Her powers ended when the body lost its last ounces of flesh to work with, but her current lord was more powerful and could animate even the bones themselves to fight for him. The bone warriors often startled her the most, they were so quiet, so still. They never let go of their sword and shield, no matter how broken and decaying it was.

Putting aside her discomfort she turned her eyes on the palace of the lord she served. It was a beautiful place that was as dark and decaying as the bodies standing around it. This was once a glorious temple to the god Pluto, but when he joined Ra's side of the conflict his temple was turned into a fortress and its control was handed to the disgusting Lich King, Morlich. He was as dead as these minions that diligently served him. But, unlike this rabble, he sold his soul as a living man to be given immortality by the gods. He began his reign of terror long before this age, but has found this a great opportunity to seek a larger kingdom once the fighting was over.

Lamia hated him. She was jealous of his power, his title, and his devotion. She would offer her own soul as payment for such strength, but the costs were too high. Morlich was eternal, and held great powers, but his body appeared much like those who served him. Save the crown on his head, when he was not speaking it would be hard to tell him apart from the other undead. Lamia was beautiful, in fact some of the men standing in her army today spent their last living night enchanted by her beauty, only to wake the next morning to this eternal life of service. Why give up this beauty for power? Perhaps one day she would, but not today. Today she would continue to serve Morlich.

Pondering all of this, Lamia strolled toward the quiet dark palace. Its walls and columns in ruins, its grounds festering pits of blood and gore. Life was not found here, only hellish pitch black of the foul magic that protected this stronghold.

In recent months Morlich had stopped all attacks and only fortified the old temple. His continuing command to Lamia was to add more bodies to their army any way she could find them. When she asked why his answer was only a threat to cut her head off. She suspected that it had something to do with a visit by the god Pluto two months ago. She wasn't invited to the meeting, but she was no fool. For a time now she has sensed a terrific power inside this palace that draws her greed to the surface. Pluto is afraid of it and Morlich refuses to admit anything is there. But two of the most powerful zombies ever summoned by the Lich king stand guarding a door and it is near this door that her lust for power is peaked. Surely something inside this palace has frightened even the god of death, and she would love to find out what it was. For now she had to serve Morlich, for it was the order of her god and the only means that she might obtain whatever is hidden here.

Entering the old temple and walking into the throne room she found what she has found every visit for two months. On the Sepulcher Throne sits Morlich. He was gruesome to behold, his skin half decayed, revealing sinew and bone in places. The flesh on his face was pulled back as if something were ripping it off from behind. The eyes stuck out, part of his teeth and gums showed through. His hair was scraggly, what little he had left. To anyone first meeting this dark prince of death it would appear that he was on the verge of wasting away eventually. But that was not the case. This state of decay had remained the same from the first day that Lamia met him.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN HERE!” Morlich rasped out at the top of his lungs.

Lamia scoffed and strolled toward him, not showing any respect. “I have brought back fifteen more warriors for the defense.”

“More! Bring more!”

“I have brought you hundreds to add to what already stands in guard of this temple. We have an army of five thousand protecting these walls. I spend more time keeping their body parts from falling off than I do fighting. We don't need more. Who would dare attack such a well defended location?”

Morlich pointed a bony hand at her. “I gave you a command, girl. Do it!”

“Tell me why? What is so important here that we spend all our efforts in building defense and not attacking? Does the war among the gods go so badly that we cannot use this army for better purposes?” She was hoping he would finally let her in on the secret.

Morlich stood up and was about to yell at her when the whole building shook. The shadows grew so much that neither person could see anything. Then a figure as tall as the high ceiling above stepped out of the darkness. A weak, cold light illuminated him from some unseen place. Lamia and Morlich immediately recognized this person and knelt down low.

Morlich spoke first. “My lord, Pluto. What is your bidding?”

Pluto answered, “The time is near, the one who would seek the sword is on our shores.”

“Sword?” Lamia whispered to no one.

Morlich hissed at her to be silent.

Pluto continued. “My allies in the heavens have prepared to deal with this champion before they arrive to claim this weapon. I have little faith in these other gods of the east. Be ready for a battle here. Protect the sword at all costs.”

Lamia asked, ignoring the fact that her speaking would annoy Morlich, “Will you fight with us, mighty Pluto. Surly a mere mortal cannot contend against you.”

“Listen well. I will only stand here to defend this place at the utmost need. I have put faith in you to keep this place safe. I also have put some hope that the end of the prophecy will come with the death of the champion Circe chooses. Do not fail me, keep building a defense of this place until none would dare approach.”

Morlich answered, “Yes, my Lord. We will not fail you.”

“See that you don't.” With that Pluto vanished and the dim light of the room came back.

Lamia got up from her prostrate position only to find a tight, bony hand gripping her throat.

Morlich stood there, nearly choking the life from her. “Speak again when a god is present and I will feed you to one of the demons at my command. Do you understand!?”

She was struggling against his unnaturally strong grip. With a quick nod she agreed and was let loose to gasp in breath again.

The Lich King returned to his throne. “Go, see to the armies. Send in fifty of the strongest you have, I will assign them myself.”

Lamia hurried out, not willing to test his resolve to kill her at the first opportunity he got. Her questions about this would have to be answered at another time.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Please read, but I worry you won't.

Here's a long one, but I wanted to say it. I am an author, you should know that by now. What you may not know is what is involved with being an author. Some have kindly picked up my book and some of those have read it. Few of those have left reviews. I get frustrated at that. But, I honestly don't think you know what it takes to be an author. Let me explain:

You start with an idea. That seems simple, but it isn't. Often I get people who aren't authors who explain a basic scenario that has been written a thousand times, or describe a scene with action or humor that would be neat. They explain that this would be the next big hit if only they found time to write it. What they don't understand is the depth of work goes into the thought process before the first keystroke of the story. Is the idea good? Who are the characters that make up the story? Why are they doing what they are doing? Will it make sense? Is it good? How could it end up? (That question will conjure about a thousand responses, but you must focus on the few that will make it a real story and not just an anecdote.)

Next you write. So you have come up with an idea of a story and fleshed out a few of the particulars in your head. You know kind of how you want it to begin. Mind you it probably has already been a while of thinking and pondering before you get here. But here the first work begins. This is the scary yet fun part of it. You dedicate time to write it. For me, that is at least one hour a day. I sit down and write for an hour or more each day. During this time I have to keep extensive notes outside and inside of that writing time. While I am constructing this story I have to keep up with the minor details that could come up later and I don't want to get them wrong. I also will be thinking about the story day and night while I am not writing. I will drift off into daydreams as I consider what scene will happen next, or I will come up with a new idea for something that will help build a character's story. So I scribble these notes down and keep them all around me. For me, at least three months goes into this, night after night I pour into this story. I am with the characters all the time. I dream about them, I talk to them, I hurt for them, I am happy for them. It is hardly different than reality during this time. (No I am not insane, just focused.) Often the story will lead me more than I will lead it and eventually come to its own finale that is far superior to the one that I considered when I originally went through the thinking process. Three solid months (or more) have been spent on a story just scribing the roughest draft of the book.

Next you edit. It is wise to take some time off of the book and let it rest so that you can distance yourself from it and not be influenced by the same vigor that was inside you while you wrote it. Now you have to read it to yourself and catch mistakes. You have to fix any plot holes that you inadvertently left in it. You need to make sure that that half a scene you thought you deleted is truly gone for fear of completely confusing the next editor. This process will often take a month or more just on your own, and that is only the first edit.

Next you get a friendly edit. This is my own process, but I think it wise for others as well. I get my mother or another friend to take a look at it. I don't need a deep critical analysis, just someone to pick out any plot holes I missed, glaring mistakes that I glazed over, and to give me a general review of if it holds water or not. Here is where I get the most info about scenes that make little sense to others that seemed to make sense in my own mind. So I am going back with all of the suggested corrections and putting them in. This involves a lot of scrutinizing of the messy scenes so that I can re-write them to make sense to others. This process can take another three months.

Next you get a basic editor to work on it. Here comes the bleeding on the page. The editor grabs his/her red pen and hits the grammar and spelling mistakes hard. No mercy is shown. They also catch any leftover mistakes in context that can be fixed by a few words. This is where it gets rough on me as the author. This editor will not hold back or be nice, they will tell it like it is. I get back their suggested changes and have to put them in myself. Keep in mind that I can refuse any correction suggestions, I am the author. Though I will most likely accept any technical suggestions. This will take at least three months, more if the editor has other jobs to take care of.

Next comes beta-readers. I call on friends and family to read the three times edited book and give me feedback. They too will find mistakes and offer suggestions. (Yes, even after three edits there will still be mistakes, no one is perfect) Their biggest contribution to the ordeal is pre-review. They tell me if the story is worthy. If the characters are good, the scenes are nicely described, the plot makes sense. It is here that you find out truly if the book is worthy of moving forward or is dead in the water. I take their suggested changes and opinions and look them over. I might have to go into the book and make even more corrections. This can take one to three months.

(It might seem odd to correct something so many times. But I look at it like a bed sheet. Throw it out without any effort and watch it lay on the ground. Then carefully pull, pat, spread, and tug until it is neatly flat and square. It takes time but eventually it will turn out presentable.)

Next comes query. A query is your application to an agent or publisher. Agents represent you to publishers, but some publisher will listen to you without an agent. So you need to grab the attention of one or the other. A query letter is a whole other monster. You have to introduce yourself, describe your book in a short but detailed summary
. Describe yourself and any worthy accomplishments in the publishing world. And then give them the amount of your book they require. (Some will ask for the first three chapters, others will ask for the first page. They only want to examine your style.) You send that off and then wait. More often than not six weeks is the shortest wait time, some go so far as a year. Often they will either send you a form rejection letter or nothing, you get to just assume after so much time has passed they passed on you.

(Note about writing the summery. You have just spent over a year on this book. It has been your baby, your brainchild, you devoted work. It will likely be between 80,000 and 150,000 words. But you have to condense that into a pitch of two to three paragraphs, which must be good enough for them to understand the book, its story, the characters, the feel, and the genre. Authors have given up the craft over the difficulty surrounding this. The most well know, well read pros out there hire others to craft the pitch they put on the book flap or back, because they hate doing it. We amateurs don't have the money, but are required to be no less perfect.)

For me, the next was to self publish. (Got tired of form or silent rejections) This requires the book to be formatted into the file type that will work with Kindle or Nook, or both. That takes a week or two just to get it positioned on the pages right.

After that comes the book cover. I am lucky that I have a bit of talent in art, and so I can draw my own covers. Otherwise it would cost or I would use something that isn't appealing that I just slapped together in paint. My covers can take two months of time to hand draw all the elements and then six to nine hours of time using a program to splice it all together. It still looks amateurish, but passable I guess.

Finally I get to the publishing. In an attempt to succeed you need to throw yourself a big party online to try and generate attention to the book and its author. You get friends to come and celebrate. You publish it and then say your prayers, cross your fingers, and wait to see if it sells.

Oh, wait, there's more. You have to promote. You grab chances to be on other peoples blogs, you pay for ad space on the cheapest sites you can (generally indie authors are the richest folks around.). You annoy your friends on all the social media sites until you feel like a jerk just for bringing your book up. You hand out business cards, write press releases in hopes that a local media outlet will give you five seconds of time, hold books signings wherever they will accept an indie, join countless self-promo groups online, create and manage your own pages, websites, blogs to keep your name fresh. The time spent here is immeasurable. It isn't a thing you can do for five minutes a day and succeed, you have to devote time and effort every day to make it work. Checking on it constantly, being aware of what is being said about you and your work. And even that is hardly a guarantee that it will do any good. You pray for time to write on your other stuff, or edit your other stuff, and if you have family, jobs, church, social activities, anything else, you are really spent.

Now, two years have passed since that first idea floated into your head. You check your numbers each day to find that few have even noticed you are alive and fewer still have bought any books. For those few books that have sold, less than one percent leave a review. You never really know if all of your time, energy, worry, work, and stress has meant a damn thing to anyone. And worse yet, you give some of your friends the book hoping they would enjoy it, but they cannot ever seem to find the time to read it. They act like this is a pass-time, a hobby, something done when you have “down time”. They aren't trying to be mean or cruel, you know that. But, they don't know how much of yourself you donated to the pages of that book so that it could come to life.

Do I hate writing now? No. But I want you to understand that this isn't a hobby, or a pass time, it is a dedicated way of life. Authors are traditionally hermits and/or single (me), but this is not just a personality thing, its a requirement sometimes considering the taxing nature of this beast. If I give you a book, please take time to read it. If you liked it at all, by all means leave a review. Your two minutes spent will help validate the years exhausted in the creation of that book.  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Joshua and the Sword of Vulcan part 1

Hello all, happy Spring. I just love the spring time. It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. I have to be warm inside, its cold outside. Oh, March, how you like to tease.

Okay, now for a special treat. I have written a continuing adventure for the Joshua of Egypt character. If you are a follower of this blog then you have read the introduction of the character in Curse of the Wicked Blue Djinn series from February.

If you haven't then read them first, here's Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

The continuing adventures of Joshua will take you on a journey that is a little different than most other stories I have written. These fictions, much like the Bark series, were written for a game. Unlike the Bark series, this game has little to no actual internal story, so I have created it myself. What this means for you is that the story is a little easier to follow as there is less established game info that you would already need to know. That said, please enjoy Joshua and the Sword of Vulcan.

Joshua and the Sword of Vulcan

Chapter 1: Meeting the Heroes 

The temple of Circe operated much as it has during these past few years. The war still raged, but had grown further away as the armies under Circe and her fellow gods continued to have victories. The chief priest in the new order of Circe sat in the central room and focused his thoughts. Majus closed his eyes and held his hands together. Harnessing that which was gifted to him by Circe, he thrust one hand out and a fireball flew through the air at a candle. Using his other hand, he directed the chaotic energy so it didn't merely blast a hole in the wall. The ball lifted slightly and flew right over the candle igniting the wick. Making a curve in the air it flew around the room and lit five other candles. Completing a circuit of the room it returned to him and he caught it with the hand that created it. In one motion, he pressed the fireball, and most of his arm, into a bucket of water beside him to douse the flame. All of this was accomplished with his eyes closed, which meant that he had to trust entirely in his magical skill or set the temple on fire. Few students here had the discipline or skill to master this technique.
“Well done, Majus.” A soothing woman’s voice startled the master wizard.
He twisted around in the kneeling position he had been seated in. In the motion, he produced a small staff of artistically crafted wood with an orb attached in his right hand and generated a spell of lightening in his left. This room had been locked and sealed by magic before he entered. Not just to keep his work private, but to protect anyone from unwittingly being set on fire. Anyone who could get in through his enchantments was a potential danger. What he saw made him fall prostrate on the ground.
“Lady Circe!” He dropped his wand and disenchanted his hand, putting both palms on the ground astride his head as he bowed low to the goddess of magic. Before him stood a beautiful woman dressed in amazing fabrics that accentuated her perfect figure. Her silky soft hair and draped down her shoulders to frame the amazingly gentle face which smiled at the lowly mage on the ground.
“Rise my student and present yourself.”
Majus sat up but kept his eyes cast downward. “My lady. What do you wish of me that you would present yourself in person now?”
“Majus, the master mage of my temple, what do you know of the dark palace in nearby lands?”
“I know little of that awful place,” Majus admitted, “only that it is fearful and controlled by a wicked warlord of a bygone era.”
“There is much about that place that worries me. Especially an artifact in the possession of the warlord.”
Majus bowed lower, “Do you want me to go and retrieve it?”
“No,” Circe stated frankly, “I do not wish you to go. Gather the four and prepare to travel.”
Majus cleared his throat and tried to contain his dismay at her request. “The four? Uh, are you sure? The others are difficult to work with and have such differing opinions. I can do this task for you, I am sure of it.”
“Do you doubt my insight?”
Majus bowed low in fear of her question. “Of course not, my lady.”
“I ask you to gather them not for the task of retrieving the artifact from the warlord, but to go on another mission.”
“Another mission?”
Circe smiled as she looked away toward the sea. “Yes. I sense someone approaching these lands, someone with a great and powerful destiny. They have the ability to complete this mission. But, they do not know this yet. Their skills are weak and their knowledge limited. The four will go and test this person through examination and interaction. If they pass the tests then I will give them a unique blood blessing.”
Majus gulped, it was a known fact that few had been granted a gift of the blood, in these lands only the four have had such an honor, himself being one. It was an awesome thing, but somewhat terrifying. “How will I know this person?”
“Travel south into the trees. Minions of darkness lurk there. This person will be traveling with a
companion through there soon in search of a path. Help them, watch them, study them there and bring them back to the temple.”
“As you wish.” Majus bowed low enough to touch his forehead on the ground. “If I may, my lady, you have not told me this person's name or even if this person is a man or woman.”
“No, I haven't.” Circe seemed to take delight in that and then vanished back into the god realm.
Majus waited a moment to be certain she was gone then lifted himself up. Bowing low like this each time she appeared always hurt his back. But, he was one of the rare few who had contact with someone like Circe, so he would risk his comfort for the insurmountable honor. Though, he did hate the way that these gods enjoyed being cryptic. He knew they took fiendish delight in confounding people as often as possible. How could he possibly pick out this person from the various travelers in the land? What if there is a bad attack in the woods and this person gets killed? What will Circe say then? He had to trust that Circe knew what was best.
Standing all the way up Majus stretched his back and heard it pop in more than one place. He snarled at the notion of what came next. Gathering the other three was going to be annoying. They were honored heroes and great warriors, but they didn't have the same level of discipline as Majus.
He liked working with the pupils of the magic school here, they were predictable and had manners. “Let's get this over with,” he muttered to himself and waved his little staff at the door, unsealing the charm he placed on it earlier this morning.
Joshua and Julia were below deck resting while the ship made its way toward the port. The night was quickly turning to morning and Joshua hadn't slept at all. They were given one hammock and the floor in the corner. Being the gentleman, Joshua let her have the hammock while he sat next to her on the floor.
Julia slept, but Joshua couldn't, he spent the night pondering his life. What if he couldn't find a way to break this curse? What if he was stuck this way for eternity? How could he return to the woman he loved looking like this? Suddenly he started beating his forehead with his fist. “She's probably married by now. Gah! Stupid djinn, why did you have to do this to me?”
“Who did what to you?” Julia was awoken by his outburst.
“Nothing, just go back to sleep.”
She stretched up her arms and yawned, “No, I'm awake now. What is bothering you so badly?”
“I couldn't sleep last night. I have been so worried about my problem that I...well I just couldn't rest my mind. I saw the way some of the ship workers and the other travelers looked at me, I know that scared look in their eyes is something I am going to have to get used to. Then I thought about that look in the eyes of the girl I am in love with. I couldn't stand to see that in her face. Then I realized that she will have long been married by the time I get back, which will make my interest in her completely invalid. All this because of that stupid evil djinn.”
Julia softly laughed, “My, you have been doing a lot of thinking.”
“Didn't have much else to do. Sitting alone all night sort of gives you time to think.”
Julia sat up, which was not an easy process in an old fish net turned into a hammock, “Night is a bad time to sit and think, for you will be alone with those thoughts. And, take it from somebody who has spent a lot of time alone with their thoughts, you always come to the worst conclusions and outcomes while you are pondering all of your iniquities.”
“You can't see it, Julia, but the looks in their eyes is fear, hatred, disgust. I can't help but be dismayed by what I am going to face from here on out.”
She reached over and held his shoulder, rubbing the fur with her thumb, “You are right, I can't see it, so I am left to judge you by your words and actions. How you treat me, how you speak to others, what you do about your problems, that is all I have to go on. That is how you should make them see you. Be a good man, don't respond to their knee-jerk prejudice about you. Prove your heart to them and they will forget what that wicked djinn put on your outside, they will understand that he didn't change your inside.”
With a smile, he reached up and held the hand petting his shoulder. "You're right, of course."
Just then the captain looked down through the ladder, “We will be at port in a little while. Get your stuff together, this is where you get off.”
“Thank you, captain.” Joshua answered, happy to know that outside of the first encounter the captain has at least not been as scared when he looked at the dog man.
Julia held tight to his shoulder while she got herself up from the hammock. “Alright. Lets make a list of items we will need to purchase at the port before heading toward the high road.”
“Do you know where we are going to head from the high road?” Joshua got up from the wooden deck and stretched out his legs.
“Not exactly. The first item we should get is a reliable map. Now help gather our stuff, it has moved since last night with the waves. I don't feel anything where I put it.” she was tapping the ground with her hands trying to locate her bag and staff.
“HA, HAVE YOU SEEN ANYONE EAT THIS MUCH FOR BREAKFAST!” A woman bellowed as she gnawed on a leg from the animal currently roasting over the cooking fire. The leg was in one hand and a pile of other various cooked parts were mounded on a plate before her.
Outside the Temple of Circe was a gathering grounds for all the students and priests that worked on the daily tasks. Two of the common guests of the temple were a pair of obviously non- native warriors. Brienne was a strong, well built woman with the courage of a lion, strength of a bear, and appetite to match both. Her attire wasn't common for warriors of her kind back home, but she enjoyed showing off her physique, it distracted many men on the battlefield. Most men would do just about anything to court such an attractive woman, but her blood stained giant ax tended to keep suitors at bay. Pointing a half eaten drumstick at the young kitchen assistant she bellowed, “Have you any ale this morning!?”
The young man gulped and almost answered when a gloomy voice interrupted. “Brienne, you know that they don't keep fermented drink around this temple, not since the change.” A dark, tattooed man wearing garb that helped conceal him in the branches of trees leaned up against a pole and flicked at his finger nails. On his shoulder sat a companion gifted to him by Circe herself, a large black bird that listened to one master.
Brienne slammed her fist on the table and yelled at the servant boy, “Find me some!”
“'am.” the poor young acolyte of the temple scurried off to ask his master once again about this request from the loud woman.
“HAHAHAHA! Don't you just love the way they run in fear!?”
The brooding man turned and sat at the table with his back to her, the bird turned and glared at her food as though it were about to feast. “They probably think you're going to eat them when you are done with that wild boar they cooked for you.”
Brienne slapped the table, which startled the bird. “BWAHAHA! Good one Crowe! I shall remember that one!”
Crowe reached over and picked up a knife the cook left behind on the table and calmly examined it. “Why do you think Majus asked us to meet him this morning?”
Brienne took a big bite of the leg and then spoke around the chewing, “Dunno. I hope he wants to go after that dark palace near us. I am itching to cut down some skeletons.”
Crowe suddenly threw the knife at the carcass on the spit and lodged it neatly in the shoulder. He snapped his fingers and the bird flew the short distance and pulled the knife out for him, taking a large chunk of meat with it. It returned and dropped it in his hands. He pulled the meat off and slowly took a bit for himself and then handed up a morsel for his pet, repeating this process until the meat was gone. “I don't look for combat just to quench some thirst for excitement. Though, honing my skills is always welcome. I must always be ready to take down the god that took my homelands and killed my family.”
Brienne snorted while she tossed a cleaned bone to the begging dogs on the other side of the fence. “Must you always talk of your mission for revenge? Just enjoy a good fight now and then. ITS GOOD FOR THE BLOOD! HA!” She had a hard time keeping her voice to socially acceptable levels.
At that moment, Majus and another mage approached the table. The other mage was an older man with a craggy, battle marred face. His name was Haman. He wore an outfit not unlike Joshua's, but with a few accents of gold and other precious decorations. Haman was from Susa, capital of Persia. His skill was not quite as good as Majus, but he was still a fearful warrior.
“Ah, I see you two made it.” Majus approached, smiling at the two strange people at the table.
Crowe handed the last bit of meat to his bird and then gave Majus a half-cocked look, “What did you want us for? Is Circe sending us on another crusade against a god minion?”
“Circe did call us together for a special mission, but it is not to fight a war, not yet. We are to seek someone else who she may bestow a blood blessing on.”
This got everyone’s attention. Majus had not mentioned this to any of them, even his fellow mage. Haman asked what the others were thinking, “Is Circe going to add to our group?”
Brienne swallowed her last big bite and slammed her fist on the table, “WHAT DOES SHE WANT?! TO TURN US INTO A LEGION!? A SMALL GROUP IS BETTER FOR PRECISION!”
Majus cleared his throat and waited while the loud woman settled down, “Whatever her plans are, we must obey. Circe is a wise leader and we owe her a lot. Right now, we are simply asked to find this person and observe them while we bring them back to the temple.”
“OBSERVE! Sounds boring. I'll stay behind and sharpen my ax.” Brienne snarled at the notion of a tedious mission. Though she would never have to sharpen her ax, it was magical.
Crowe said it before Majus could, “If Circe has asked us, we have to go.”
“Ugh!” Brienne scoffed.
Majus knew how to get her attention, “We are to meet them in the South Forest.”
“South Forest?” Brienne's smile grew at the mention of that place.
“Yes, where all the dark creatures have been seen recently. We are to escort them here, which means dealing with any problems. Do you still want to stay behind and sharpen your ax?”
Brienne stood up with a shot, nearly knocking the table over, which threw Crowe out of his seat. “While there are wild beasts to be killed! NOT THIS BATTLE MAIDEN! HA! LEAD THE WAY, MAGE!”
Crowe got up from the ground. “That got her attention.”
“Come, we don't have a lot of time. I don't want the dark creatures to find them before we do.” Haman directed them out. Majus was technically the leader, but Haman had been an important man where he came from and often attempted to appear as the commander. Majus was wise enough to know when to tell him to stop and when to let him walk at the front of the line.
Joshua carried a full bag and his cloak over one shoulder. It was warmer than he anticipated and there were likely to be few traveling the area they would be walking today. So not wearing that heavy cloak was alright. He held Julia's hand to guide her through the forest toward the high road.
“Wow.” He whispered, again.
“You have been awestruck often today. What is so impressive?”
Joshua guided her around a large tree trunk and then continued up the gentle incline. “This forest is amazing.”
She reached out and felt a tree. “Feels like another forest to me. What do you see?”
“Trees, lots and lots of trees.”
The way he said that with such earnest amazement made her chuckle. “It is a forest, so trees are going to be present. What about them is so amazing?”
“Just the amount, the height, the green. Where I come from there aren't as many trees around, not like this.”
Julia was directed around another large tree and then asked, “Do you like it? Do you like the forest?”
“I don't know. Its pretty and different, but so closed in. I can't imagine living where you can't see wide open spaces. Here each step is just another thicket of trees. I am looking forward to the high road, it won't be as dense as this.”
“I suppose a boy raised in Egypt might not understand living among so many trees. There are those here who would be startled and uncomfortable with a lot of wide open spaces, and few trees.”
Joshua was about to explain that it was impossible for anyone to not like wide open spaces when he heard something. Stopping he got close to her. “Did you hear that?”
She was startled by his abrupt stop and then by the way he was holding her close to him. “Hear what?”
Joshua's tall dog ears were pivoting slightly as he listened to the strange noise that caught his attention. “It sounds growling. Maybe heavy breathing.”
Julia smiled and let the silence of the moment enhance her hearing. “I do hear something distant. It is odd, most of the time I am the one who hears things first, being blind...WHOAH!” Suddenly Joshua shoved her down.
Joshua pushed her out of the way just in time to miss the swipe of a large paw from a strange beast that lunged out of the shadows of the forest. It was a creature unlike anything he has seen in his life. It had the face of a large bat, with enormous fangs protruding from its mouth. Jutting out from either side of its head were a pair of short, sharp horns. On the hump of its back was a third horn, which was three times as long as the others. Its legs were like human arms with four large, clawed fingers on each. The size of a bull and the scream of a banshee, this thing was hungry and ready to feed. With one loud screech it lunged again at Joshua.
“What is that?!” Julia cried.
Joshua gripped the beast by its forearms and jerked side to side with his head to avoid the snapping fangs of the monster. “I!” He lost the battle and was shoved all the way to the ground. With a giant chomp the beast bit down on Joshua's side to get a hearty helping. It yelled and jumped back.
Joshua felt that bite and was sure that he was done for. Then he noticed the beast was stunned by something. Its mouth was obviously hurt by the way it was clawing at its face with its paw. He reached over to check his side for pouring blood and found nothing wrong, other than a little soreness. On the ground near him was four inches of that beasts left upper fang, broken in half and clean of any blood. For a moment he tried to figure out what happened, but he didn't get the chance to ponder for too long. The monster got up as angry as ever and went in for a second try at lunch. Quickly thinking, Joshua grabbed the half of the fang the beast lost and used it like a dagger in his hand. He jumped away from swipe after swipe of the beasts claws. He lashed out at it with its own tooth, but couldn't make contact. He had survived one attempt on his life, he wasn't going to give it a second opportunity.
The beast slapped him to the side with one well-placed blow of its paw and threw Joshua into a tree. It jumped at him with the same motion as before, only this time Joshua plunged the broken tooth into its neck. It lurched back, digging at its neck with its paws. Joshua planted both feet in its chest and shoved, toppling it over. The dark red blood streaming from its neck splashing onto his shins.
“Joshua! Joshua!” Julia was scared and holding a stone in her hand as though she could frighten an attacker away.
“I'm...okay. I think.” He breathed heavily and used the tree behind him to stand up. His head was spinning a little by the blow against the tree, but he was otherwise okay.
Unfortunately, the beast wouldn't stay down. It had clawed the tooth out and though bleeding profusely, it made one final attempt on him. Joshua leaped over to protect Julia from the assailant and grabbed a stone to smash this things skull.
He didn't get the opportunity. A glowing arrow split the air and pierced the beasts side. Then an ax flew through the trees and lodged in the monsters neck, splitting its head partly from its shoulders. It crashed into the ground and slid to a stop right in front of the two. Joshua watched the arrow vanish away and the ax fly backward out of the beast and into the trees again.
“Joshua!” Julia grabbed his arm, “Oh thank goodness, you're alive. What is happening, please tell me what is happening?”
“I don't know. Someone just saved us...I think.”

Crowe put his bow back over his shoulder and clicked his tongue at the bird. His pet flew down from where they had perched in the trees and began to feast on the dead monster. The master archer jumped down and stood next to Brienne, who was wiping the blood from her ax. “I had it.”
Brienne scoffed at him, “It would have feasted before your arrows could finish it.”
“And you came very close to killing”
Haman and Majus stood there, watching their companions work. Haman looked to his fellow mage, “Do you think that man is another monster? He is most certainly not human.”
Majus squinted and looked at the odd couple gathering themselves near a tree in the distance. “I don't believe he is evil, look at the way he is protecting her.”
Brienne ventured, “Could be her slave.”
“Or pet,” Haman added.
Crowe cracked his knuckles. “Whatever. Majus, do you think that either of them is the person Circe wanted us to find?”
“Yes. See the garb that woman wears. She is a student of the Oracles. She must be the person that Circe has sent us to observe and protect.”
Haman didn't buy it, “An oracle student? Really? To what purpose would we need with a seer?”
Brienne loudly bellowed, “Mayhap she brings us a vision of glorious battle!”
Majus let out a sigh as he watched the two in the distance look their direction and become aware of someone approaching. “Whatever she brings to us, they are now quite aware of our presence here. Come, let us greet them and see if we can offer any aid to their injuries.” He walked on with Crowe at his side.
Brienne and Haman followed behind. Haman stated rather harshly, “Watch that mouth, you would do well to learn the skill of silence.”
Brienne snarled at him, she didn't quite like this little man. His people put women below the livestock, he never appreciated fighting along side one. But, they were allies and she wouldn't kill him today.

“I hear people speaking, do you?” Julia gripped Joshua's arm tightly out of fear.
Joshua helped her up while keeping a keen eye on the approaching band. “Yes, and they are almost here. They do not have their weapons drawn, and one I think is smiling.”
“Be careful. Bandits can be almost as bad as a monster attack.” Julia took up her stick to help guide her and let go of Joshua's arm. She stopped and whispered, “I sense something, something odd about these people?” Joshua would have asked about this, but their guest were upon them.
The four warriors approached and then Majus spoke, directing his words at the blind woman. “Greetings from the temple of Circe.”
“Circe?” Joshua frowned not knowing that name, his speaking seemed to intrigue the band of warriors.
Julia took his arm again, “Oh, no, Circe is a goddess. They are warriors of the gods.”
Joshua stepped closer to Julia ready to defend her. “What do you want with us?”
Haman cocked his head at the dog man, “Fascinating. What sort of beast are you?”
Majus held up a hand, “We can ask those sorts of questions later.” He showed his open hands as a sign of peace, “We do not come to attack, Circe has sided with the humans against the evil gods in this war.”
Julia could hear that he was talking toward her so she spoke, “What does Circe want with us then?”
“She extends an invite to her temple. She wishes to speak with you and perhaps offer you help. We have not been given much information, but even the Promethean gods are cryptic and often vague.”
“Me? What does a goddess wish with a simple student?”
Haman rolled his eyes, “As master Majus has already stated, we don't know. But it would be wise to come. Circe is a most benevolent goddess.”
Julia was understandably nervous. “Can my friend Joshua come as well?”
Brienne loudly announced. “Of course! Many a student has a pet! Though I dare say none have such a pleasing body as yours!”
“Pet?” Joshua caught that word immediately.
Crowe calmly stated, “As diplomatic as ever, Brienne.”
Brienne was intrigued by Joshua's body. He had good muscles, lots of hair, and strong hands, all the features she liked in a man. Without asking permission, she walked over and started feeling him, turning him around a couple times with her firm grip. “Wow, he must have cost a fortune, but I bet he was worth the price! Is he trained in pleasing you as well as serving you?!”
“Hey, watch the hands. WHOAH! Don't grab that! Pleasing her...? HEY!” Joshua was trying to stop her, but she was stronger than she looked, and that is saying something. Now her hands were in his mouth checking out the fangs.
“Good strong teeth! Huzzah! He is a finely bred slave!”
Joshua stopped fighting her and merely protested by speaking around her fingers. “Would you please take your hands out of my mouth and off of my chest.”
Haman came to his rescue, pulling Brienne away. “You can play with her slave later,” he nodded to Julia, “With her permission, of course. For now we must get them back to the temple.”
With a reluctant huff, Brienne dropped her arms, “Alright.” She reached around and gave Joshua's rear a nice, firm squeeze, “Later I find out if you are worth the gold paid for you! HA!” At that, she finally left Joshua to collect himself.
“Come, these woods are dangerous. We must be heading back.” Majus signaled for them to follow him up the hill.
Joshua picked up their belongings and slung them over one shoulder. He then reached out and took Julia's hand to guide her with the quick pace the others had started on.
“What just happened?” Julia asked.
“I don't really know. They must think that I am a servant of yours. Some sort of slave you bought for your trip.”
Julia was snickering, which only held back the laughter that was attempting to burst out.
Joshua took umbrage with her laughing. “It's not funny. That big woman scares me.”
“She might scare you, but she likes you. Imagine if she didn't like you.”
The image of her ax hacking part of that monsters head of in front of him filled his mind. His intentions of resisting her advances became that much more dangerous.