As Lament goes into the final round of proofreading, I now have the finished cover art!
Lily Yang once again lent her talents to my cover (you’ve seen her work before on Malediction), and did a fantastic job.
As Lament goes into the final round of proofreading, I now have the finished cover art!
Lily Yang once again lent her talents to my cover (you’ve seen her work before on Malediction), and did a fantastic job.
A few years ago, I wrote two short stories for Fear the Boot’s Sojourn speculative fiction anthologies. The rights have reverted back to me, so I am making “Forgotten Dreams” and “The Pleasure Pools of Persiphia” individually available on Kindle.
They are $0.99 each. If you prefer print, they’re still available in the Sojourn anthologies, but I will also have a convention-exclusive flipbook version available starting at ConQuest 47 in Kansas City, MO.
The flipbook has both stories bound together, but they’re upside down with respect to each other. When you finish one story, you close the book, flip it over, and start the other. Since they’re not sequels (though they share a setting), it doesn’t matter in which order you read them. I plan on selling the flipbook for $5 only at conventions (ConQuest, Gen Con, whatever other shows I exhibit at). I will likely also offer direct sales of these, so if you can’t get to one of my convention appearances, I’ll have something set up for you to send me $5 +shipping via PayPal and I’ll mail a signed copy out to you.
You may ask, “Well, why not make it permanently available in print on Lulu or someplace like that?” Very simple: they won’t guarantee consistent results with the flipbook. Automated systems don’t like seeing half of a print file upside down. Plus, I would have to sully one of the beautiful covers with a barcode and since each side is upside down with respect to the other, placement is problematic. Later this year, I may investigate making individual print copies available, but the price I’d have to charge to make it cost-effective may not be worth your while for a 10,000-word short story.
Please note: production of these is not in any way holding up production of Scars of the Sundering, book 2: Lament. Lament is currently with my editor and Beta Readers. Cover art has been ordered and everything is on track for a Gen Con release. Scars of the Sundering, book 3: Salvation is written. Editing will begin on that once Lament is published.
Pancras encounters Qaliah at the Arcane University in Muncifer. She already knows Gisella and is currently working off a debt to the Archmage by acting as a sort of court jester. She goes out of her way to be annoying in this capacity, as one might if they know their punishment is needlessly humiliating. Qaliah ditches the jester outfit and accompanies Gisella and Pancras on their journey once her debt is paid.
Her fiendish heritage is evident in her jet-black skin, red eyes, and horns, and Qaliah keenly feels the distrustful stares of most people she encounters. She’s used to fending for herself and defends herself with sharp knives and sharp tongue. She’s not sure why she should care about the challenges facing Pancras and Gisella, yet she sees an opportunity to do something worthwhile when she encounters the minotaur necromancer.
Lament will be available early 2016. Scars of the Sundering, book 1: Malediction is available in print and on Kindle from Amazon.com.
After MUCH heartache, Scars of the Sundering, Book 1: Malediction is now up for pre-order on Amazon!
Pancras thought trouble waited at the end of his journey.
Shadow demons, chaos rifts, and petty archmages all conspire to disrupt his quiet life. Summoned to face a Mage’s Guild inquest over minor grievances, the minotaur wizard leaves home and travels south with his companions, the twins Delilah and Kale.
Harsh winter weather traps them in an unfriendly city where a run-in with a drunken bully leaves him dead and the trio in jail. Fortunately, the opportunistic prince of the city needs a wizard to curse his unwanted wife. The only catch is Pancras’s sense of honor.
As he stalls for time, the twins involve themselves in an uprising in the city’s salt mines. Pancras left necromancy behind him, but it’s looking more and more like he’ll need to break his moral code–and further anger the Mage’s Guild–to get them out of the city in one piece.
The paperback is also available at Amazon, and, of course, at CreateSpace (where I make more money per copy). I’ll have copies at Gen Con, of course, at table AF on Author’s Avenue (roughly row 1250).
I posted earlier (The Challenge of Malediction) exactly what I went through to get this book finished. It’s such a relief to be done. Basically, this book was delayed by multiple illnesses and deaths (yes, that’s supposed to be plural). It really lived up to its title.
Middle English malediccioun, from Late Latin malediction-, maledictio, from maledictus (past participle ofmaledicere to curse) + Latin -ion-, -io -ion
First Known Use: 14th century
Edits are back for book 1 of the Scars of the Sundering trilogy, Malediction! Cover art is finished! The new map is finished! All that remains is incorporating some Beta Reader feedback and doing a final revision pass.
That means that I will have print copies to sell at Gen Con at the end of the month! Official, that’s Thursday, July 30th 2015. In the meantime, here’s the cover art, by Lily Yang.
Since the character went to new places and I fleshed the world out more than I had in The Foundation of Drak-Anor series, I decided to have the map updated, as well. Anna B. Meyer did a fantastic job updating the look of the World of Calliome!
Finally, we conclude Chapter 1 of Scars of the Sundering, book one: Malediction with our fifth preview. Good thing May has five Fridays! It’s almost as though I planned the whole thing.
Pancras realized Kale was in trouble when he caught a glimpse of the little drak dangling by his ankle but knew if he broke his concentration to help his friend, the magic he manipulated to seal the rift would be ruined and he would have to start over.
He repeated the words, over and over, pouring every bit of arcane energy he could gather into the rift. “Stenee pyealee, stenee pyealee.” He wasn’t sure the ritual would work. His experience with magical portals was limited to his knowledge of the portal in Drak-Anor. With the help of Delilah, he spent the last several years studying it off and on, and though he never tried to close it, he was confident he knew the theory behind the process, a theory he had, until now, not tested.
Kale sailed past him through the air and into the rift. Pancras’s heart skipped a beat, and it took all his effort to concentrate on the task at hand. If Kale was inside the rift when he sealed it, he would be trapped in the elemental chaos for eternity. He knew, however, leaving the rift open was far more dangerous to more than just one drak. It pained him to admit it, but closing the rift was worth the life of one drak or even all three of them.
The air crackled as lighting arced across the room. The kaleidoscopic colors gave Pancras a headache. He saw no sign of Kale but noticed Edric struggling with a veritable forest of toothed, suckered tentacles. Pancras felt the portal weakening. Its connection with the Mortal Realm was tenuous, at best, and with the magic he weaved around it, that connection weakened further.
As the wispy tendrils of shadowy smoke coalesced into a familiar, frightening demonic form, Pancras redoubled his efforts and ended the ritual. “STENEE PYEALEE!”
Splurrrt-woosh! Air rushed past them as the rift contracted, and then a sucking sound, reminiscent of viscous goo squirting from a wine skin, filled the room. Pancras felt something slam into him, driving the breath from his lungs. There was a flash of light, and then all was still. Edric’s sword clanged on the ground as the tentacles he fought vanished. The closing rift bisected the bloodmaw: the part in the rift gone, and the part still in this world mortally wounded. It slithered out of the hole in the ceiling and crashed to the floor with a grotesque, wet plop.
As he tried to catch his breath, Pancras fell to his knees. Smokey tendrils wafted from his limbs, growing more and more nebulous until they vanished completely. He no longer saw the shadow demon, but that was no guarantee he eliminated the threat. The dwarf was behind him, getting to his feet. He couldn’t see the drak. “Kale?” Pancras’s voice was hoarse and raspy.
Pancras walked around the bloodmaw’s carcass to find Kale curled up against the wall. The drak held his head and moaned. Kneeling down next to him, the minotaur put his hand on Kale’s shoulder. The drak’s scales felt hot, feverish, and uncomfortable to touch.
“Kale? Can you move?”
“Can I?” Kale lifted his head as if lead weights were attached to his skull. His eyes seemed different to Pancras, though they had not changed their outward appearance. “Yes, but I don’t want to. I hurt, Pancras. I feel like I’m burning up from the inside out.”
“It’ll pass.” He helped Kale to his feet. I hope.
“What now?” Edric poked at the remains of the bloodmaw with his sword. The angular blade sank into the carcass like a knife into a quivering pile of jelly. He grimaced and yanked it out, shaking slime off it.
Pancras looked around the room. There was still no sign of the shadow demon. “Let’s try to head back to Ironkrag. You dwarves can probably deal with any remaining beasties down here. I recommend collapsing these caverns entirely.” He figured the dwarves would ignore his advice, but he gave it anyway.
“They sent me down here to get rid of me. I’ll bet they never thought I’d come back.”
“Why is the room all twisty?” Kale held his head and staggered as he walked. Pancras reached under his arm and picked him up and was surprised how light the he was, given his propensity for ale.
“If nothing else, you have quite a tale to tell.”
The three made their way up the twisting tunnel back into the main chamber where Pancras destroyed the ghouls. The cavern was quiet and still, with only the phosphorescent glow of fungus providing light. Nothing stirred, not even cave rats, and by comparison to the cacophony in the cave earlier, to Pancras’s ears their breathing was deafening.
Kale’s body cooled, and by the time they returned to the tunnel leading to Ironkrag, he demanded he be allowed to walk on his own.
“I can walk! You can’t carry me into Ironkrag. We’d never live it down!”
Pancras lowered Kale to the ground before the drak squirmed out of his arms and fell. He kept a close eye on him, though, unsure of whether the effects of the chaos rift were permanent.
He took a deep breath as he saw the area of darkness at the end of the tunnel. “Let’s just get this report to the dwarves over with. Then we can go home.”
Today is part four in my series of previews of Scars of the Sundering, book one: Malediction. As with the other previews, this scene follows immediately after the previous scenes posted.
As Kale listened to the minotaur’s chanting, he wished his sister could be with them. Deli would burninate anything that attacked us right now! He flipped one of his daggers in the air, catching it by the handle.
Edric gripped the hilt of his sword with nervous energy. The dwarf muttered to himself. “Should’ve stayed at the pub. Never deal with this stuff at the bottom of a bottle. Warm beds, happy whores, maybe get a job, pay off my debts, but not this. Never this.”
The air crackled with energy. Kale looked around the room. The walls seemed to undulate and pulse, but he wasn’t sure if that was an effect of the energy in the air or if the walls actually moved. What little he understood about raw chaos made him wish Pancras would hurry.
Something squished between his toes. Kale looked down to see the floor oozing up around his feet. Yelping, he danced around, shaking the goo off them. One of the walls erupted in a shower of blood and ichor, swirling toward the rift like a tornado.
“You have to stop him, Kale.”
Kale stopped and gasped when he saw who spoke. It was his twin sister, Delilah. Her crimson and ebony scales glinted in the sickly light of the rift. She leaned on her skull-topped staff and flashed her eyes at him, smiling.
“Come, Kale,” Delilah held her arm out for him. “Let’s leave this nasty place. Come away with me.”
Kale looked back at Pancras. The necromancer gave no indication he saw or heard her. It sounds like Deli… but it doesn’t. He walked toward her. She put her arm around him and hugged him close, her muzzle tickling his ear.
“It ain’t real!”
Deli jerked back as Edric pulled on her arm, hacking at it with his sword. She squealed as the dwarf sliced through skin and bone, black ichor spewing from the ragged stump.
“Deli!” Kale lunged toward Edric.
The dwarf caught Kale’s arm just as the drak stabbed at him with a dagger. “I told you, it ain’t real. Look!”
Kale’s attention wavered just enough for him to see Delilah dissolve into a tentacle that retracted into the wall. He shuddered and pushed Edric away. Two more tentacles shot out of the wall headed for Pancras. With a shout, Kale leapt toward them, slashing with his daggers.
Tentacles from the ceiling snagged Edric. The dwarf cursed and slashed at them with his sword. Each slash met with a splash of ichor, like grease bursting from plump sausages. One of the tentacles wrapped around Kale’s ankle, dragging him into the air.
Slashing at the tentacle which held him, Kale felt his dagger draw a line of burning fire across his leg. He cursed at his clumsiness and then screamed when the tentacle flicked him like a bit of mud on a shoe. He sailed through the air into the rift.
Kale’s world burst into flashes of green, yellow, and silver. He spun, wheeling through eternity in a realm where up and down were the same as left and right. He could see the flavor of ripe apples and roasted meat. Opening his mouth to cry out, Kale found he could only smell the sound of Pancras’s chanting.
Through to the other side of the rift he sailed, and as he crashed into a metallic wall, Kale’s world went dark.
Today is part 3 in my series previewing Scars of the Sundering, book one: Malediction. This scene follows immediately after the previous two.
Pancras willed his legs to carry him forward. Destroying the undead was easy. He simply recalled the energy used to create them. It gave him the boost he needed to erect the shield in time, but the shadow demon was strong, and the impact leeched much of that energy away. He was lucky he could use the demon’s own shadow to step through and avoid its next charge.
His cleverness did not come without cost, though. Pancras, tired and hungry, felt as though his last sleep and meal were weeks ago, though, in reality, they were but a few hours past. Magic taxed the weilder, particularly when fighting such a strong foe and using different effects so quickly and close together.
A shadow demon, a chaos rift, a bloodmaw. I hope those hairy little cretins appreciate this. No wonder the Seer-King didn’t send his own dwarves down here. I’ll bet the old bastard suspected something like this and asked for Sarvesh’s help because he views us as more expendable.
“How in the name of Pacha’s blue bollocks are we going to destroy those things?” Edric jogged to keep up with Pancras. The minotaur slowed his pace.
“That is a very good question.” One for which I do not have an answer. I can seal the rift… if we can find it.
The three skirted the edge of the bloodmaw’s pit. Pancras heard the shadow demon scrambling against the sides, howling and roaring. He hoped the downward-pointing teeth hindered its progress long enough for them to find something, anything useful.
He stumbled over a boulder, sending a cave rat scurrying for cover. Pancras saw a glint of metal up ahead. He surged forward. The metal was part of a digging apparatus, unattended, yet churning away at the rock. Locked into place the digging bit spun fruitlessly above dirt just out of reach as it had for ages. It appeared to be dwarven in make but was a style he had never seen.
Edric ran up to it. “Wow, this thing is old. There are a few of these back in the city, but we don’t use them anymore.” He ran his hands along the machine. “These date back to before The Sundering.”
“Wow.” Kale’s wide eyes gleamed like a child experiencing the wonder of the first snowfall. “How does it work?”
Edric climbed up on it. “I’m not sure. These are from before my time. The controls don’t look that different than some of the machines we have now. Well, except it feels different, if that makes sense? Can you feel it?”
Pancras reached out and placed his hand on the machine. He felt arcane energy running through it. “The magic is old. How do the ones you have currently work?”
“There’s a bunch of springs, clockwork gears, that sort of thing. I think they draw power from the Soul Forge, but I don’t really know about that kind of thing.” Edric pulled a lever. The machine lurched forward, spewing bits of rock and dirt. It left a gouge in the ground. Edric pulled another lever and the machine turned toward the bloodmaw pit. It chewed its way forward.
Edric jumped off the top of the machine. “Seems a shame to waste such fine craftsmanship, but I suppose it might do some damage if we let that beastie chew on it a bit, eh?”
Pancras nodded. “I’m sure it will buy us some time. I’m sure that shadow demon won’t be pleased when a giant dwarven machine falls on its head.”
Kale tugged at Pancras’s sleeve. “I don’t know. My daggers went right through it like it wasn’t even there. Look! There’s another tunnel behind the machine!”
The phosphorescent fungus covering the cavern walls and ceiling seemed to lead toward the tunnel Kale found. They spiraled into the tunnel, making it appear like a whirlpool dragged them deeper underground.
Pancras led Edric and Kale down the tunnel as it curved and descended. The weight of the earth above them pressed in all around them. The ground shook, and they heard high-pitched wailing.
Edric looked up at Pancras and grinned. “I’m guessing that bloodmaw beast didn’t like the meal I gave it.”
Dirt fell from the ceiling and smacked Pancras in the head. He shook it off and continued forward. The ground beneath his hooves became harder. He tapped his hoof against the ground. The surface felt like metal.
“Eww! Pancras, the wall is furry!” Kale recoiled from the wall, bumping into his friend. The minotaur stumbled into the opposite wall with a squish.
He pulled away, bits of the wall sticking to his robes. “We’re close to the rift. See its effect on the environment?”
The tunnel grew brighter as they followed it, until they found themselves standing in small chamber, which at its center stood a glowing slash. Closer inspection revealed it was a pulsing, writhing river of light, swirling, coruscating, and hovering about a drak’s height from the floor.
The floor beneath the rift bubbled and churned, as though the metal were boiling, but he did not feel any heat from the molten metal. Pancras found it difficult to look directly at it, though he felt it tugging and pulling at his eyes. Dozens of shadowy tendrils rose like smoke out of the fissure and pierced the ceiling of the chamber. A thick fleshy column descended from the ceiling into the heart of the pulsing light.
“There! The bloodmaw is still connected to the rift.” Pancras stood before the swirling miasma and gathered threads of magical energy. He spread his arms, looking over his shoulder at Kale and Edric. “I’m going to close it. Whatever happens, you have to make sure nothing interrupts me.”
Kale drew two daggers. “What happens to the bloodmaw if you close the rift while it’s still in it?”
“It might be cut in half. It might be ejected all together.”
“Ejected?” Edric stood next to Kale, his sword ready. “On our side or the other?”
“Yes.” Pancras moved his hands in the complex patterns of the ritual required. Sealing the rift should be like sealing any other magical portal… I just hope I have strength enough left to do it. He chanted under his breath, allowing the volume of his voice to rise with the power of the magic. “Stenee pyealee, stenee pyealee…”
Today is the second preview I’m offering of Scars of the Sundering, book one: Malediction. It follows immediately after the scene I previewed last week.
“What is that?” Kale bumped into Pancras as he looked down the pit. With a gasp the minotaur grabbed him and backpedaled. The drak saw spikes and a nasty-looking red morass at the bottom of the pit. He grasped Kale’s bandoleer and dragged him away from the edge.
“What?” Kale looked up at Pancras. He’d never heard of a bloodmaw before.
Pancras shook his head. “It is a beast born of chaos. It should not be in this world.”
Edric looked over the edge. “That thing’s making the ghouls?” The clicking noise echoed up the bloodmaw’s pit.
“No, no,” Pancras shook his head again. “I don’t think so. It can corrupt though, corrupt and devour. When the world was sundered, the shards of Calliome were surrounded by elemental chaos. Scholars called it The Maelstrom. Those rifts were all sealed with the healing of the world, but as with all grievous wounds, some of the scars festered and allowed bits of chaos to seep through, much like the portal to the Fae Realm in Drak-Anor. They allow what’s on the other side passage to our world. This chaos beast”—He gestured to the bloodmaw’s pit—”Must have come through one of those festering sores.”
“How does it make that sound?” Kale noticed movement in the corner of his eye. Dozens of ghouls shuffled toward them out of the darkness. Twisted and deformed, they were hunched over, their knuckles touching the ground. Dirty, elongated nails now served as cruel talons. He identified ghouls that were once dwarves, draks, and even minotaurs and humans. He tapped Pancras on the hand.
“We have company.”
The dwarf spun around, his sword at the ready. Pancras turned to regard the ghoul horde. “Aita’s bloody bones!”
Ghouls closed in from all sides, moving toward them with deliberate purpose. Kale drew a second dagger and crouched into a combat stance. “Why aren’t they attacking?”
The glow on the tips of Pancras’s horns grew brighter and greener. “They are being controlled.”
“Indeed.” A mellifluous, malicious voice answered. Kale did not recognize the language it spoke and was puzzled he understood it. The air around them grew ranker and as cold as the deep of winter as a shadow rose from behind the pack of ghouls surrounding them. “Welcome, Necromancer. Come to join my ever-growing army?” Kale shuddered, his stomach twisting in knots. Every fiber of his being screamed for him to run and hide from or cower in fear at this twisted abomination in the shadow as his brain told him to stand fast and help Pancras.
The minotaur stepped forward, interposing himself between Kale and the shadow. “We come to destroy it.”
The shadow laughed. “The three of you? You would make fine additions, despite your foolishness.” The shadow moved forward, revealing its true form: that of a slime-covered beast. Shadows cloaked it like billowy clouds of soot and ash. Kale found himself instinctively shrinking from it, though he did not recognize its form. Its slavering maw snapped, and hissing at the three, it bared its teeth.
Pancras stood his ground. The green glow at the tips of his horns flared.
Kale squinted to shield his eyes as Pancras threw open his arms and chanted. “Aita pairnei piso tee dyaenamee pou eiche klapei.”
The shadow growled and charged the minotaur. Kale leapt forward, throwing his dagger at it and drawing two more from his bandoleer before touching down. The thrown daggers punched holes through the shadow, holes which sealed themselves with a hiss and puff of greasy smoke.
“Ypoloipo, nekrees psychees. Peegainete sto aionio yeapno sas!”
A burst of emerald flame cascaded across the ranks of ghouls. They screeched and clawed at their skin as it burst it flames, consuming the horde in brilliant green fire. Edric stood at the edge of the bloodmaw pit. Kale noticed the dwarf’s legs trembling, but he held his ground, as did Pancras.
The minotaur’s horns continued to glow. “Aspida tou ravematos.” The shadow slammed to a stop inches from Pancras’s face. Kale noticed a thin shell surrounding his friend. Colors played across its surface, like a bubble of soap in a wash basin and then vanished as through the bubble popped.
Stepping back, the shadow shook itself and growled. It swiped at Edric, as one might swat a fly, but the dwarf dove to the side, rolling into a crouch, his sword at the ready.
“You are a worthy opponent, Necromancer. You speak with the voice of Aita. A pity. You could be so much more than you are.” The shadow beast’s sugary tone crawled under Kale’s skin. He shivered, feeling the desperate need for a bath.
“What I am is enough for me.”
Kale readied his daggers for another throw. For all the good it will do. The shadow beast lunged forward attempting to drive Pancras backward over the edge.
“Skia veema.” The minotaur vanished just as the beast reached him. Unable to stop its momentum, it tumbled over the edge of the pit. Pancras reappeared next to Kale and listened as the beast howled in rage at the ruse.
“Fooled by a childhood trick.” Pancras tugged at Kale’s bandoleer and gestured at Edric. “Come, we must find a way to seal the rift before it climbs out. The bloodmaw won’t devour that thing. They’re probably working together.”