Hope — A Suspenseful Short Story

I haven’t posted in way too long. Sorry about that. This is a short story I wrote a couple of years ago, and it was supposed to find its way into a friend’s magazine, but the magazine is on hold, so I decided to post it here. It’s not my best work, but it will make you think, I hope.

HOPE

Hope stared at her son. It was hard not to panic. She wanted to run around screaming, “They’re coming! They’re coming! Save yourselves.” She stood, legs twitching in denial of her instincts. Her son looked lovingly into her eyes. He trusted her and was happy, and she was grateful for that.

Her gaze nervously flicked between the only way out and her child. What time would they come? She looked around at the other mothers with their children and wondered how they felt, knowing what was coming? Every year they took the children that were not too young, but not old either. They took them away, never to be seen again. The mothers weren’t supposed to know what happened, but Hope had been wandering where she shouldn’t and had seen the children’s lifeless bodies being thrown into a truck.

How could they be so cruel? Didn’t they know how much suffering they caused? Hope knew they were emotionless, heartless; they had to be. What if she could save her son this time? They had taken her two other children, and she never forgot. Never. Her dreams were filled with their faces, their beautiful brown eyes radiating innocent love that had been cruelly disregarded with one slash of a knife.

She moved closer to her son and nuzzled his soft cheek, and he smiled. She lifted her head again and looked at all the children that would be dead by tomorrow. It was too many. Not again. No, she couldn’t let it happen again. She thought about how she could stop it and formulated a plan. Help was needed, and the smartest mother she knew was April. It was time to act.

April wasn’t sure it would work, and she didn’t like the violence Hope was suggesting, but if she wanted to save her son, she had no choice. They risked their own lives in this, but it was worth it. April remembered, just as well as Hope, how she had felt last time her child was murdered. The pain of losing a child cannot be forgotten or diminished; it smothered her life and suffocated her joy, permeating her waking hours and her sleep.

Hope and April waited, staying close to their boys. Between them, they had managed to organise at least fifty other mothers to help. Everyone was arranged around the huge enclosure: another way they had been mistreated—locked up, not allowed freedom to go where they chose. Hope wanted to survive, but the way her life was, she was not afraid to die if she couldn’t force change. No one deserved to live like this.

The silent mothers feigned calm, often looking at each other for support. They were in this together; no one else could save them. They had to do it themselves. Hope looked beyond her comrades, to the open sky, which taunted them, it’s offer of limitless possibilities closed to them, for now. She heard its message in the fresh breeze that puffed up the dirt around her legs, swirling the grainy soil in ghostly whirlpools, which danced among the waiting prisoners.

She watched one wisp of dust sweep towards the locked gate, and that’s when she saw them. They were here already. Her heartbeat raced. Her gaze met April’s. They exchanged small nods; the time was upon them. Hope waited for the gates to be unlocked, for the four humans and their dogs to enter. The humans wore those things they called ‘hats’, which shadowed their evil faces, but Hope could see the hardness and intent seeping from behind their eyes, like the sickly light which oozed through those Halloween pumpkins the humans put around the farm every year.

She knew it was coming, but jumped when April screamed. Hope screamed too, and soon the enclosure was filled with the bellowing of every mother. The humans had just moments to be surprised before the herd stampeded them.

Hope and April led the charge, hooves kicking and stomping, teeth that had never tasted meat bit into murdering flesh. Murderer became victim.

“Oh my god! Ron what’s happening? They’ve gone mad!”

Hope heard them scream, and she didn’t care, just like they didn’t care every time they came to steal their children, snatching them away only to end their precious lives.

Ron didn’t answer; he was on the ground, trampled limbs bent at unnatural angles like broken branches after a storm. Hope pushed her son out of the gate, and they ran as fast as his short legs allowed them. She risked a look behind, but the humans were down. Her friends and their children were cascading out of the enclosure, experiencing their first taste of freedom. Hope smiled at their triumph and pushed on—they had many farms to visit. Watch out world; we will be docile no more.

If you enjoyed this story, I have more suspenseful, much darker stories in Dark Spaces, which you can grab from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks and Smashwords.

 

 

Author Kelly Stone Gamble Has a Question for You

bio shot Kelly Gamble

One of my awesome author friends, Kelly Stone Gamble, has just had her debut fiction, They Call Me Crazy, published by Red Adept Publishing. In honour of the release, and because she’s running around doing the promo thing all of us authors must do, she’s visiting to ask you all an interesting question:

Journaling-Yes or No?

Dear Diary,

Mark is the cutest boy ever! I want to marry him someday.

Kelly + Mark=forever!

These are the words I was taunted with for several months in the fifth grade. Of course, writing them in my diary should have made them private, but when you have an older brother, especially a nosy one that knows exactly where to find your private diary, you aren’t always guaranteed that your inner most thoughts will remain private.

As an adult, I don’t keep a diary, nor do I journal. I tried, but I found myself too worried about what someone might learn about me if they found it, so I held back, or just lied. Lying to your journal kind of defeats the purpose. But I do see the value in writing things down: thoughts, ideas, dreams. But is there a point where you limit yourself? And am I being foolish for caring what others would think?

One of my favorite aspects of writing is the research process, and when I was working on a historical fiction novel set in the 1930’s, I spent a lot of time going through the writings of those that lived during the period. It’s amazing what you can learn about people by reading their thoughts, especially those from a time long ago. So another side of me thinks that if I started journaling, my words may be valuable to a writer in the future, and what a wonderful gift I could share with them.

But every time I try to start again, Mark, (the cutest boy ever) pops into my head, and I can’t write a word. Not. One. Word.

So maybe I should just stick to fiction.

Do you keep a journal? Why or why not?

Thanks for the post Kelly! I hope we get some answers. I don’t keep one, but I used to — it always helped when I was going through ‘stuff’. And if anyone wants to check out her new release, which looks amusing and suspenseful, click on the book cover below and you will be magically whisked away to Amazon. If you like Kelly’s style, you can visit her website too.

They Call me Crazy

Sneak Peak at WIP Little Dove—Book 1 of My New Fantasy Series

Sorry it’s been so long between posts. With work, kids, and running Booktastik, life has been hectic. I’ve also, finally (after much angst because I wasn’t writing) started working on the first book in my next fantasy series. I’m hoping the first draft will be finished by February with a release date at the end of March. So please cross your fingers for me :). I hope you enjoy this little teaser first chapter.

Laney is a princess dispossessed. Sworn to protect her world as a caretaker for the long-disappeared dragons, she lives a relatively idyllic life with her royal parents. But darkness is closer than they realize. After Tyrk the Destroyer kills her family, she is forced to flee to a neighbouring kingdom, revenge in her heart. But there are secrets even she isn’t privy to, and she is likely to learn about them the hard way.  Because now that Tyrk has taken her kingdom, he is preparing to destroy her world.

Little Dove

Chapter 1

Laney ran across the field, her breath burning in her throat. Billowing behind, her green dress left her ankles bare, allowing stiff stalks of yellow grass to whip and scratch her skin. Not far now. The leaden granite walls of the keep beckoned. She hoped she wasn’t too late.

In her mind, Frederick’s urgent parting words sounded. I have taught you all I can. The time has come. You must do everything in your power so that all is not lost. I fear the blood of the Varians has already been spilled. He had pushed her out of the door before he finished speaking, only to yell after her as she sprinted away. “Do not lose the bird, whatever you do!” She had hardly heard the last but knew the dove was her only salvation.

Glancing down, her eyes met those of the silver-colored bird at her waist. Its wings were secured with thick woollen twine, which wrapped around its body; its body secured in a netted pouch fastened to her dress. Warmth from the small bird radiated against her stomach. “It’s okay, bird. I won’t hurt you. You can trust me.” She panted, looking up. Almost upon her home, her feet slowed. What would she find? Was there a chance her family was still alive?

The guards standing tense at the spiked iron gates—black breastplates gleaming, hands resting on the pommels of swords hanging at their sides—were strangers. Frederick was right, she thought, they are dead. Laney swallowed the sorrow threatening to undo her. If only her brother hadn’t listened to their parents, the king and queen, when they forbade him and Laney from visiting Frederick, the strongest sorcerer in the small kingdom of Arbalion. Rumours had persisted for weeks about the foreign king’s march upon her father’s throne, and though King Bastian had sent a force he deemed sufficient to annul the threat, and word had reached them of their success at pushing Tyrk the Destroyer back, Frederick was one of the only people who had smelled falsity in such reports.

Laney had learned much, over warm deelvine tea, in her many illicit visits to the wise man’s cottage with her guard, Hazine. But had she learnt enough?

One of the dark-bearded guards, a soldier of Tyrk the Destroyer, turned his head toward Laney and spat. The shaggy-furred black dog at his feet looked at her, slowly stood and growled. Laney stopped, wishing she were invisible.

The soldier regarded the large animal before following its gaze. He would see her in three, two, one…. Now only yards away, Laney’s blue eyes connected with his. Desire and cruelty lit up his eyes — a look she had seen before — and twisted the corners of his mouth into a greedy smile. The bravado with which she had left Frederick’s fled, leaving her empty and frozen. She had envisaged herself striding into the keep, meeting her family’s bitterest foe on her own terms, but now all she could do was stand and wait as the enemy made confident strides toward her. Thankfully, he had bade the dog heel before he approached. I am a coward, she thought.

Resting her hand protectively over the bird, she trembled but met the man’s gaze. No words separated his upturned lips as he closed a rough hand around her slender arm. As he dragged her past the other milling guards, all fell silent. Laney heard gravel crunching beneath their feet and horses whinnying in the distance. They passed through the main gates into the outer courtyard then Laney felt firm stone underfoot, signalling their entry through secondary gates.

Felches, the bright blue beetles whose sustenance was the flesh of the dead, scurried across the inner courtyard, leading the way to the formal entry. When Laney looked down to negotiate the two steps to the main doors, she saw a dark stain of dried blood, the road the scavengers followed into the main hall.

Mamma. Pappa. Her legs lost strength, and she fell. The guard’s fingers dug painfully into her arm, jerking her upright before she hit the ground. She stumbled forward. Her shoes trod upon the recently warm vestiges of people she had known, and, as the soldier hauled her onward, half-digested food exploded from her mouth, covering the soldier’s black boots with barely recognizable splatters of milk, carrots and cheese. He stopped, dead. Turning swiftly, he dealt a backhand blow to her cheek, the force cracking her head to the side. Again, his grip prevented her from falling, and she cried as quietly as she could as the brute pulled her down the hall, towards the throne room. Reaching her free arm up to wipe her mouth, she remembered the bird and quickly lowered her hand to cover it.

The oak double doors to the throne room stood open. The man stopped at the entrance, shoving Laney down. Her knees slammed into the flagstone floor, and a cry escaped her. “Do not move.” The guard growled before approaching the throne and bowing. Muffled voices reached Laney, but she couldn’t make out what was said.

Breathing in a metallic tang, Laney sat back, bottom resting on her heels. Looking around, she hoped to see her parents, but also hoped not to. Her heart pounded. She gazed to her left, where a stone dragon deity stood — Avindar — wings outstretched, head almost touching the twenty-five foot ceiling, light gleaming off its polished black surface. Laney and her parents were sworn to the old ways, and Avindar represented their custodianship of the land and their promise to protect peace and fertility until the long-disappeared dragon race could return and claim their home. More of the black-breasted guards ringed the statue, mallets in hand. Oh, no. They’re going to destroy it!

Laney swallowed, and after hesitating, looked to her right, the vein in her neck beating so hard, she could feel it. Her sight rested on a pile of limp bodies thrown into the corner, clothes bloodstained, limbs tangled in a lifeless embrace. She blinked, her breath coming in short bursts. None of the corpses appeared to be wearing clothes she recognised as her parents’, but lying on the top of the macabre mound, she saw the long, black, plaited beard of her father’s chief guard, Lucas. His once stern, battle-scarred face was hidden by his burgonet, but Laney could see the fatal wound; a slice rent from his side: red, gaping, final. The fiercest of her father’s soldiers, he had always had a smile for the princess. Laney held back a sob.

The bird at her waist squirmed as a shadow fell across them. So engrossed in the horror of what she saw, she hadn’t heard the man approach. She looked up at the dark shape of her captor. He grabbed her arm once again and hauled her to her feet. Staying behind her this time, he jabbed his fingers into her back, prodding her forward until she stood at the foot of her father’s throne. She had never seen anyone sit there but her father, except when she was a child and her older brother, Marcus, pretended to be king as they played. Laney blinked back tears, squared her shoulders and looked Tyrk the Destroyer in the eyes.

Tyrk rose, his wide-chest and black cloak blocking Laney’s view of the Arbalian throne. Stepping down, he stood within touching distance of the young princess. Tyrk placed a hand on Laney’s shoulder, gripping harder and harder until he saw her wince. He relaxed his grip, but left his hand to rest on her slender frame. When Tyrk smiled, wrinkles fanned out from the corners of his dark eyes, like cracks shearing the surface of a frozen pond. “So, the little bird flies home. But, as you can see,” he gestured extravagantly with one arm until his hand waved towards the carnage Laney had seen piled in the corner, “you have arrived too late. Imagine; one day you are rejecting the marriage proposal of a prince, and the next, you are dead. Life’s funny like that.” He raised one arm, and Laney couldn’t help but flinch. Instead of the blow she expected, Tyrk waved to the men at the statue. “Darnil, attend me.”

A young man, Laney estimated his age at maybe twenty-five, approached, his face too stern for a young person, two short, deep lines marking the space between his brows. The thick beard that was cut in a straight line under his chin mirrored the color and style of the king’s. When he reached them and looked into her eyes, she could see the family resemblance—his dark eyes were as intense as his father’s, intense to the point of madness. The princess tried to hold his gaze, but discomfort won, and she looked to the ground.

“So, father, this is the bitch.” Darnil prodded Laney’s leg with his boot. “Not so smug now, are you, princess?” He raised his voice. “Look at me when I talk to you.”

Laney cringed, but brought her head up and looked at him. He would have been handsome, she thought, with his high cheekbones and thick hair, except for the unsettling twist of his mouth and dangerous glint in his eyes. Even though she knew she would soon die, she would rather that than marry him. Her father had agreed, thank Avindar, refusing Tyrk’s proposal on behalf of his son. Not four months later and Laney and her family were paying the price.

Tyrk watched his captive’s face. Laney blinked, but the usurper saw no tears in the wake of her lids. She stared at him without expression, although it took great self-control. Trained to keep her feelings hidden, she tucked her sorrow behind her heart, keeping it warm for later. She let it flow through her veins; the blood feeding her body with oxygen, the misery feeding her determination, determination she would surely need to accomplish what she was about to attempt.

The king squeezed on her collarbone again, so hard she expected to hear the crack of bone. He leaned down, his face inches from hers, his menacing voice so quiet that none but she could hear. “I know your little secret.” His breath smelled of wine. Laney coughed, disgusted to be breathing his recently expelled air. “You thought your alliance with Carthain would save you, but I’m coming for them, too. All they’ve worked so hard to protect will be mine. I know about Avindar’s Blessing, and I will have the Dragon Throne.” Taking his hand off the girl, Tyrk turned to the soldier who had dragged Laney in. “Let’s do this in the courtyard; I don’t want any more blood on the floor in here — I’d hate for it to stain. Bring her.” His stride was long and powerful, the set of his head arrogant.

What was this secret—Avindar’s Blessing? Laney had studied the Book of Avindar, and there had been no reference to any blessing in the nine-hundred pages. Her musings were interrupted by another bruising grip on her arm. She winced as the soldier jerked her to her feet.

As Laney was dragged to her death, she sent her thoughts to the wind. I’m not ready for this, Frederick. I don’t want to say good-bye. Nausea born of fear rolled through her stomach. A memory from two weeks ago came to her, and she saw her reflection in her bedroom mirror. She would never look into her own azure eyes again. Now, saying a final farewell to herself, she touched the smooth rise of her cheek, slipped a finger to trace her full lips, lips that had only kissed a boy once, and finished by reaching into the hidden pocket at the hip of her skirts.

Her unsteady fingers touched steel.

Reaching the courtyard, the red wetness upon the ground drew Laney’s attention. Thinking of her parents — her dead parents — the anticipation of revenge gave her the strength to close her fingers around the hilt of the dagger. When the guard stopped her in the middle of the courtyard by yanking her hair until her head snapped back painfully, she grunted and gripped the dagger even harder. What she wouldn’t give to slit his throat with it, but she wasn’t here for that. Don’t mess it up now, she chided herself.

He held her in that position for the scrutiny of a circle of sneering, road-stained soldiers. Laney stared at the sky and imagined what it would be like to escape into its cerulean heights.

Tyrk’s chin was tipped upwards as he took casual steps around the courtyard. Passing the soldiers, he looked each in the eyes before halting in front of Laney. Darnil stood by his side, a smirk on his face, hands clasped behind his back.

The king spoke louder than he had in the throne room, and his voice echoed off the courtyard walls, carrying a short way into the fields beyond. “You are about to witness the end to the royal Varian line. Standing before us is the youngest, and only, living child of the recently deceased King of Arbalian.” Tyrk paused to allow the audience’s laughter to subside. “Remember this day well, for this is what happens to those who refuse me. We will send you to the heavens, Little Dove. It will be quick — let no person say I am a king without mercy.”

Laney’s eyes widened momentarily. How does he know my father’s name for me? Her free-spirited ways as a child, following her brother and his friends climbing trees, participating in mock battles and championing injured animals had earned her the pet name of Little Dove.

The guard holding Laney’s hair released his grip. He put his mouth so close to her ear that the touch of his foul breath caused her to shiver. “King Tyrk likes to. . .” his tongue slid along her ear, “. . . to watch the life drain from the eyes.” Laney shivered involuntarily and gripped the dagger hard enough that her fingers ached.

The guard stepped away. Tyrk drew his sword from its sheath. The hiss as it left its scabbard seemed to Laney to be the loudest thing she had ever heard. Had Pappa thought the same thing before he was murdered?

Laney ignored her shaking fingers as she slid her hand from her pocket, adrenaline drying her mouth. One of the soldiers shouted, “She has a weapon!”

Laney rushed, almost dropping the dagger—she would only get one chance. She saw Tyrk’s eyes widen before he lunged his sword toward her stomach. She sliced the dagger across the bird’s bonds before dropping the blade to grab the dove, Frederick’s words in her mind: You must be touching the bird when your soul leaves your body. So much could go wrong, and the few seconds she had to consider it seemed an eternity.

Tyrk’s sword nicked the tip of the bird’s wing before splitting the fabric of Laney’s dress and piercing the porcelain skin of her stomach. Laney grunted. The bird fluttered in her hands as she tried to hold it, the pain of her injury almost too great to ignore.

The king held the princess’ shoulder, forcing her to stand while he stared into her eyes. Feeling cold and light-headed, yet strengthened by a blossoming flame of hatred as heady as the scent of one of her mother’s vermillion roses, she smiled and whispered, “You are wrong, usurper, the Varian line lives on.”

***

Tyrk’s grin as the verve in Laney’s eyes glazed to stillness was for the benefit of his soldiers—the truth in the girl’s words reaching his ears. What did she mean? Was there a relative they knew naught about?

Laney’s limp fingers fell to dangle at her sides. Scarlet bloomed, seeping into her dress, staining the green fabric black. The silver-colored bird, a red blemish upon its wing, was free. With frenzied flapping of desperate strokes, it sent a scatter of feathers to land softly upon the bloody ground.

Tyrk released his grip on Laney, dropped his sword and leapt for the bird, his hands catching the air beneath its swiftly rising form.

 

The bird flew—Laney’s awareness gazing out of its eyes, to look upon her home and the lifeless body of the young princess slumped in the courtyard. Deep sadness welled within her, the lack of avian tears a confirmation she no longer resided in human form. The castle’s towers and turrets receded as she soared west, to a different land. She cawed a final goodbye to her family.

 

Tyrk watched his men drag the girl’s body away. They would throw her on the substantial pile of dead already in the field beyond the castle, to be burned in two days. Wind, newly risen from the south, gusted into the yard, sending goose bumps slithering along his arms. Ignoring the chill that settled in his belly, he cast superstition aside. Omens are for the weak, he thought, before shivering. Striding into the cold embrace of his ill-gotten keep, he hadn’t noticed his youngest son watching, gray eyes peering from a second-floor window.

Erendol, tears grazing his face, whispered a promise so quiet it was barely the caress of breath over his lips. In that moment, in the smothering iron-laden seconds between one fate and the next, a traitor was born.

New Fantasy Release from L.L. Hunter

Okay, I admit it: I’ve been slack. I don’t post here nearly as often as I should. Gone are the days of the ranty post or short story to share. I have no time. As many of you are probably aware, most authors have to have a ‘proper’ job to pay for coffee, oh, and food, well more specifically chocolate. This is taking me away from doing more pleasurable things like writing and blogging. But today I have something that will hopefully interest many of you readers. My friend, another Australian author who writes fantasy (not necessarily epic but more urban romance), has kindly offered to share a post on here. So now I will introduce you to L.L. Hunter who has a new book coming out very soon—Crave, and she’s offering it for a bargain on release, but it’s only for a limited time. You can grab it from here.

cravereleaseday99

So what’s it about? Here’s the blurb:

I remember excruciating pain.

I remember unimaginable heat.

I remember an undeniably beautiful young woman.

But I’m not sure whether these things are real.

One year ago, Ash Brandon was framed and sent to an unknown realm where he learnt his fate. A fate where he held the blood of an ancient line of Dragon shifters called Dragon Hearts. The thing is, he can no longer remember. All he knows is that he is a nineteen-year-old guy who wants to study architecture and one day, take over the family business.

Then two beautiful girls show up in his life — one who is sexy as hell and could be the woman of his dreams, while the other claims to have known him from a past he cannot remember. Only there is one thing he can’t wrap his mind around — Why does he crave each of the girls?

A now eighteen-year-old Eva, a powerful Dragon Heart Keeper from the Dragon Realm, is punished by her parents and sent to the earthly realm by her witch maiden. Her memories have all been wiped clean, but why can she still remember Ash, and the undeniable bond they once shared?

Emily is a Siren princess, and she always gets what she wants. When she sets her sights on Ash, all bets are off. She will make him hers — if only his Keeper weren’t in the way.

Will Ash discover who he truly is before its too late? Or will his deadly addiction to both girls get him killed?

Crave Love – Crave Life – Crave Truth

Inspired by the short story,

The Dragon Heart Keeper, also by L.L. Hunter

Add Crave to your Goodreads shelf: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18590749-crave

You can Download The Dragon Heart Keeper FREE from all eBook retailers!

Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00CSCT2R0

Here is an excerpt from the book:

It must have been some time before I regained consciousness because the water had turned cold, and I could no longer feel any pain. I blinked the water from my eyes and sat up. My head throbbed from bashing it against the shower wall. I sat there on the floor of the shower a little while longer, and when I could stand, I turned the water off. When I looked down, I saw absolute carnage. What had happened?

Metal blades clinked and flesh sliced. Blood flew, coating everything in its path. Pointy teeth flashed bright under the streetlight…

I tried to grab onto the wall to steady myself as the sudden vision caused everything to blur and me to feel nauseous. What was happening? Was I having nightmares while I was awake now, too?

I wasn’t crazy. I shook it off and stepped over the broken glass from the shattered shower door. My feet must have gone straight through when I fell. I would clean it up later. I had to get to class.

I cleaned myself up as best I could and downed a quick cup of coffee before dressing and heading out to my car. A light rain was falling steadily outside, which only added to my messed up mood. I only hoped the day would get better.

* * * * *

I pulled into the college campus around ten past eight. Shit, I was late for my first day. This was not a good start. I grabbed my book bag off the passenger seat of my car and rushed toward the building I knew held my first glass. I hoped the Professor was a nice one, because if he or she wasn’t, they were going to eat me alive, both for looking like crap and for turning up late. I barged through the doors and saw the lecture hall to be almost full. There were only a few empty seats scattered here and there. I hurried to find one near the back as quietly as I could to not draw attention to my lateness.

“Mr. Brandon, is it?” said a large booming voice. I froze. I was a goner. I exhaled and slowly turned to face my fate.

“Uh, yes, sir. Sorry I’m late. I…”

“You overslept or partied too hard last night or both. I’ve heard them all before and would rather not hear them again. Take a seat.”

“Yes… yes, sir,” I stuttered. This was not going as well as I had hoped. I swallowed and quickly sat down. I pulled the small table over my lap and dumped my books on top of it. My pen fell out of one of the spiral notepads and fell to the floor. I bent down to grab it, but so did the person next to me. My head collided with theirs, and I only realized it was a girl when she started laughing. And God, her laugh was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard.

“Oops, sorry. Here, let me,” she said. I sat up rubbing my head.

“Sorry. Thank you.” She bent down and picked up my pen and held it out to me.

“I’m Emily. You must be new.”

“I… yes, I am.” God, could I even talk at all? What was wrong with me? It must have been all the knocks to the head I was having lately. Emily giggled again and titled her head to the side taking me in. She had the most amazing leaf green eyes I had ever seen and honey colored locks, which cascaded down to her waist.

Leaf green eyes? Where had I seen that before?

“So, what’s your name, new boy?”

“Oh, sorry. It’s Ashley. Ash for short.”

Emily smiled. And my heart fluttered. Her smile was one of the most beautiful I had ever seen. I knew I would be up all night tonight dreaming about it. God, help me.

“Well, Ash, what’s your favorite myth or mythical creature?”

The question struck me out in left field. It was an odd thing to ask.

“Pardon me?”

“Silly, weren’t you listening? That’s what the Professor just asked. Our first assignment is to do a paper on a myth or mythical creature. So, what is your favorite myth or mythical creature?”

“That’s a good question.” It really was. I had no idea what my favorite myth or mythical creature was. But something about this class called to me. I don’t know, but it was. It was as if a higher power had made me pick this class. Call it fate if you believed in that kind of stuff. As a guy who didn’t believe in anything, it had really struck me as odd.

I realized Emily was talking to me. Where was my head? Oh, yeah, it had been dented several times.

“So, I was thinking of doing my paper on dragons. I have this fascination with them. You don’t know if they actually exist or not.”

I realized Emily was kind of a rambler, but I didn’t care. She was hot, and I was pretty sure I had met her before somewhere. I wasn’t sure how I knew her. I just knew I did.

“Dragons are cool,” I agreed.

She smiled. “Oh, but if you want to do dragons, then I guess I could do mermaids or sirens. They were my second choice.”

I smiled back. She reminded me of a Siren somehow. It was as if her blood called me to her like a song on the wind. I was drawn to her in unexplainable ways. “I think you should do Sirens.”

“Cool. Then it’s decided. I’ll see you later, Ash.”

It was then I noticed it was the end of class. Emily got up and left. I stood and realized I was the last one left in the lecture hall. Well, besides the Professor.

“Mr. Brandon. Will you come see me, please?”

I nodded and looked around one last time for Emily, but she was nowhere to be seen. I made my way down the steps to the stage at the front.

“Daydreaming isn’t going to help you pass my class, Mr. Brandon.”

“I… sorry, sir. I’ve been having a rough time lately. You see…”

“I don’t need to hear it.” He held up his palm toward me and turned away to get something off his desk. It was then I saw his name. Professor Mikhail Elderoy. I had read articles about this man. He was the leading expert to some in the field of myths and legends. To others, he was a kook. He had also been called a witch or warlock in his lifetime. Before I could do anything, I felt cold metal against my skin.

“I know what you are.”

***

Hmm, that looks very interesting, and I’m loving the cover. I’m sure many of you are ready to dive into this awesome book so run and grab it when it’s 99 cents.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Stay tuned because one of these days I’ll actually write another post :).

Realm of Blood and Fire is Here!

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This is a little post to let all those Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo readers know that Realm of Blood and Fire, the last book in the Circle of Talia trilogy, is out in five days! Amazon have, surprisingly, just made preorder available for everyone, so you can preorder it now if you click here.

Those who may ask why it was out in the iBooks stores first, well, they’ve been super supportive of my writing so I gave them a one-month exclusive on the book. I do admit to waiting anxiously for it to be available everywhere as I know there are a few readers ready to do damage to my person because it’s taking so long ;). If you’re one of those readers, your wait is almost over and I want to say thank you for being so patient. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

So, go now, click that link! Ciao :).

 

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Hey everyone. I don’t often do blog tour thingies, but I couldn’t say no to the awesome Lorna Suzuki when she asked if I’d participate. Lorna has written a truckload of books, and the first three books in her Imago fantasy series are being turned into movies. I can’t wait to go see them and brag to my kids that I know the author. If you want to find out more about Lorna and her work, click here for her website.

So, to play the blog tour game, I just have to answer four questions about, you guessed it, my writing process. Here goes.

What am I working on?

I’ve just finished writing the last book in my epic fantasy series The Circle of Talia. Realm of Blood and Fire is with the editor at the moment and will be released through iBooks on 21st July as an ebook. They’ve been really good to me, so I’ve given them a one-month exclusive on the ebook, but the paperback will be available from Amazon on the same date. So I have editing and reading through to come, and when I’m finished, I’m going to start on the next book in my Doris & Jemma Vadgeventure series (yes that’s women’s fiction, not YA fantasy).

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, I wouldn’t say that everything I feel is fairly original has never been done before, but I don’t think there are a lot of books out there at the moment being written with the same fantasy tropes as mine (cue a hundred people naming books in the comments thread). I have strong female protagonists, animal companions that can speak to their realmists mind to mind, an original magic system, and sentient dragons who have their own culture and city. I also have gormons, and I know no one else has those :).

Why do I write what I do?

I love fantasy because I love to escape, and I’ve always loved dragons, so I had to have them in my books. And no one can tell me I’m wrong. It’s my world and I made it up, so I’m right ;). I also write horror, women’s fiction and suspense. I write different genres because I enjoy it, and I love pushing my writing boundaries, which I really have with Close Call, my women’s fiction (if you think I’m exaggerating, go read the blurb on Amazon).

How does your writing process work?

I usually know where I want my characters to end up, and I know where they start from, but I’m what’s known as a ‘pantser’—I make it up as I go along. I can write at any time of day or evening, but my brain is usually fried by 10 pm, so if I’m awake, which I usually am at that time, it’s tv or reading that I do rather than writing. If I come across plot problems, my brain works them out quite nicely just as I’m falling asleep or waiting in line at the shops—my brain is fairly good to me and it hasn’t let me down yet (fingers crossed).

After I finish writing my book, I read through it and then send it to the editor. When it comes back from the editor, I go through the edits, and when I’ve done that, I give it one more read through before it goes out. I also used a proofreader for my last book, and I’ll probably do that for this one too (although time is always tight).

Thanks for stopping by and having a read. I’m not sure if I’ve enlightened anyone about anything worthwhile, but hey, you’ve just procrastinated for a couple of minutes—now get back to work! ;).

“Oh no! There’s too many speech tags,” she said

I know there are tons of grammar blogs that let everyone in on what you should and shouldn’t be doing with your writing. As an editor, everything I suggest is just that: a suggestion. My suggestions, however, are based either in logic or grammar rules. Today I wanted to talk about speech tags, and the following information is not wrong or right, just my opinion.

So, what is a speech tag? It’s the said, asked, suggested etc that comes after dialogue. So: “I just wanted to talk,” he said. As a reader (and editor, and I’m not singling out anyone here) if I have to read through too many he said/she said, I get bored. It’s repetitive and can become boring. So, how can  you tighten your text and still make it clear who is talking?

Scenario 1: If there are only two people talking, the reader can assume who is doing the speaking if we have established at the beginning of the conversation who is who.

“I’m sick,” Sammy said.

“What sort of sick?” asked her mother.

“I want to vomit.”

“Hang on, and I’ll get the bucket.”

If they happen to have a long conversation, you can remind the reader in a few lines, if you think they may lose who is who.

Scenario 2: This works no matter how many people are talking. Get rid of the said, asked, yelled, and use actions or descriptions. It avoids repetition and gives depth to the characters.

“I’m sick.” Sammy’s face looked pale.

“What sort of sick?” Her mother placed a palm on her forehead to test her temperature.

“I want to vomit.”

“Hang on, and I’ll get a bucket.” Her mother ran to the cupboard.

Scenario 3: But I want people to know my character is angry and they’re yelling.

Sometimes it’s better to try and convey how it’s said with actions or with the actual words being said.

Chris saw Samantha standing at the edge of the cliff. He ran toward her. “No, don’t jump!”

It’s obvious he’s yelling, at least it is to me. And I suppose the exclamation mark helped. I’m not a total speech-tag hater; sometimes it’s nice to write, “I think you have toilet paper on the back of your trousers,” she whispered to him as they walked out of the restaurant.

Anyway, as for most things, there’s a time and a place. Read through your story and see if there are some speech tags you can leave out or change to actions. Your readers will be happy you did.

It’s Incredible! Realm of Blood and Fire Cover Reveal

I’m taking a break from madly writing to reveal the most incredible cover I’ve had the fortune of having for one of my babies. The Circle of Talia series has awesome covers, done by Robert Baird, but he has outdone himself with the cover for the final book in the trilogy: Realm of Blood and Fire. I know it’s my cover, so I’m not exactly unbiased, but I think it’s one of the best covers I’ve ever seen for a fantasy book, and it’s mine, yay! (and yes, I made it huge in this post lol). Readers will be happy to see Flux and Phantom in the foreground. It was amazing for me to see some of my characters come to life on the cover.

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Realm of Blood and Fire will be released on the 21st of July. The paperback will be available from Amazon but the ebook will only be on iBooks—I’ve given them a one-month exclusive because they have been extraordinarily supportive of me throughout my writing career and they let indie authors do preorders. Readers can preorder their copy by clicking on the cover image in this post. The ebook will be available from all other channels as of the 21st of August.

For those who are waiting for Realm of Blood and Fire, I would like to say thanks for giving my first book, Shadows of the Realm, a chance, and thank you to all those who have let me know how much they are loving the series. It will be sad to say goodbye to Bronwyn and the gang, but there is room to write another series later, if I miss them too much. And here’s the blurb:

While the realmists watch, powerless to intervene, the gormons lay waste to Talia, city by city, moving closer to Vellonia each day. As the final battle nears, The Circle can’t meet the conditions of the prophecy, and hope is dwindling. But even if they can unite Talia, the prophecy demands that someone be sacrificed. Can Bronwyn and Blayke do what they must — destroy those they love to save their world?

Don’t wait; run and preorder yours now! 🙂

Close Call is FREE for the First Time Ever!

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I’ve just done something I said I’d never do—I’ve put one of my books for free. I’ve always been against free books because authors put a lot of time and effort into writing the book, then spend lots of money getting it edited and putting a cover on it. Just to give other authors (who have not self-published) an idea, this book, even though it’s a novella, has cost me around $800. I had the cover done by a talented designer who does freelance work for one of the big 5 publishers, and my editor Chryse Wymer went through it with a fine-tooth comb. Of course, you can get cheaper covers, but I am really picky about what I want, and this couldn’t be done off the shelf (and some off-the-shelf covers are awesome, but this book needed something different).

So, the book was selling in dribs and drabs, and had it been a different book, I would have bided my time and waited for sales to pick up. But this book is awesome, funny and super original, and I know once someone reads it, they will have to tell their friends. I know you’re probably saying, “Of course you’d say that, you’re the author.” Well, yes, but I’ve had a lot of feedback that confirms my opinion. And I will ask you a few questions that prove this theory. Have you ever read a book about a talking vagina called Doris? Can you imagine vaginas and penises talking to each other and having the conversations you would never be game to have? How can talking genitals not be funny? Doris also has great advice and is determined to save her ‘owner’ Jemma from her own bad decisions. I admit there is an underlying message, and that is that women need to have better self-esteem and stop buying into the whole ‘women are only valuable based on how sexy they are and how appealing they are to men.’

Readers have said:  Absolutely hilarious; Heartwarming; A touching romance;  Too funny and clever; This story had me in stitches. If you don’t believe me, you can find out for yourself, and for the next two weeks it won’t cost you a cent. If you love it you will tell your friends, and maybe even leave a review, and that’s why I’m taking a chance and breaking my ‘no free book’ rule. I really hope you pick it up and enjoy it. Go now! It’s on AmazonSmashwords, Kobo, iBooks.

A New Must-Read Author—Stacey Roberts

Stacey Roberts is an awesome guy who had a bit of a rotten childhood. He’s made the most of it by growing up to be an intelligent, funny and articulate man who used it to his benefit—he’s written a humorous account of his younger days, which I recommend you grab if you want a laugh. And, in a first for my blog, I have a guest interviewer—author, publisher and podcaster Donna Cavanagh—doing all the hard work. Take it away guys!

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1.Tell us about Stacey Roberts: Where were you born and where did you grow up?

I was born in New Jersey, in a little town called Garwood. We lived there for nearly ten years before we moved into the famous Winnebago and traveled the country. We went from New Jersey to San Diego, California, to Lake Tahoe, California (where my stepfather Ted the Drug Dealer began his life of crime) to Hollywood, Florida (where he perfected it).

2. How would you describe your family life growing up?

My mother, my grandmother, and my aunt all lived pretty close to us in New Jersey, so we got to see family all the time. My parents got divorced when I was five, and after that we moved into the basement of our house like we were hiding out from the agents of a totalitarian regime. My mother needed the living space to start a business. For the next ten years, I lived in spaces that weren’t much bigger than my bed. I also remember being very poor; there was never money for anything, but it didn’t stop my mom – we took vacations and things like that, just always on the cheap. We went to Washington, DC once and slept in the car at the Washington Monument. The DC police enjoyed that.

3. A lot of people have “dysfunctional” childhoods and grow up bitter. You went the funny route. How has humor helped you? (not trying to be insulting here but trying to show that it was not all fun and games for you.)

Humor was a surprising side-effect. I had been telling these stories for years to my friends, expecting sympathy, a hug, or maybe some edible food (since my mother can’t cook). I was looking to share my pain. But all my friends just kept laughing. That was my first sign that my dysfunctional childhood was not as tragic as I thought (or hoped). Once people whose opinion I trusted told me that my childhood was hilarious, I started looking for the funny instead of the sad. Perspective is everything.

4. Your book  is funny and poignant.  How did it make you feel writing it?  What about your family?  Did you consult them writing it?

Dysfunctional or not, you only get one childhood. One of the symptoms of growing old is that you forget what it was like to be a kid, with all the wonder and helplessness that comes with it. Writing this book made me remember incidents and even people I had forgotten. The next door neighbor who kind of took my father’s place after the divorce – the guy who could fix my bike or teach me to throw a baseball, the kids my age who I ran around the neighborhood with, etc. Stephen King once wrote that you never have friends as good as the ones you had when you were a kid. I was glad that writing this book made me remember them.

Some of my cousins read these stories in blog form. They were the best sounding board, because they told me that I had nailed the characters of my mother, my brother, Ted the Drug Dealer. They never knew about some of the stories, particularly the ones after we moved into the motor home and left the east coast. The feedback from my cousins could be distilled down to, “Well. That explains a lot.”

My mother hasn’t read them. She doesn’t have Internet. My brother read a couple and took issue with them – he never thought he was the favorite son. It is important for him (and the readers) to know that this book is not a memoir – I took events from my childhood and added a few things for humor’s sake, and exaggerated some of the characters. But the people who know my mother recognize her easily in the book.

Finally, one of the things I gained from writing Trailer Trash is a whole new appreciation for my mother. I may have disagreed with her methods, but she did the best she could after her divorce with two small kids.

5. Besides the humor, what is the one thing you want a reader to take away from this book?

Family matters.

6. Tell us about your writing? You have another career as well, so what made you decide to be a writer as well?

I always wanted to be a writer. I was carrying around a notebook at 11, making up stories.  I went to college to get a history degree – I have a masters in European History, but I started an IT company while in grad school. The career I have now is the side job that’s lasted 20 years. If I could write books and teach full time and still be able to maintain the lifestyle my daughters have become accustomed to, I would do that.

7. What are your future writing plans?  Where would you like to go from here? Would you stay in humor or do you want to try other genres as well.

I have a series of four Trailer Trash stories called The Fall of Ted the Drug Dealer – the story of the cop who pursued him and put an end to his life of crime. After that, Trailer Trash, With a Girl’s Name Book 2. I am also working on a novel called Rain Songs about the Kennedy assassination that is due out this November. Mark Gosson, creator of the Xombee Guy webcomic and I are working on a zombie novel unlike any in the genre that we hope to have out in 2014.

You can grab Trailer Trash With a Girl’s Name at all ebook retailers, and you can follow Stacey on Twitter @SRoberts1971.

stacey roberts
Stacey Roberts