Flash Fiction: Following the Dead Trail

Shade lions concealed their presence better than any creature in Breshtk, proving the most-difficult predators the Ajjuun dealt with throughout the grasslands.  Small traces of their kills had to be dug up in order to track the animals.  Even then, trails could take hours to find.

Hijeneva crouched a few feet from the mess of entrails piled before her, looking past the gore and able to see the direction of her target’s path.  One of the other-worldly creatures—a demon from the Agony—but a second had left just as much death and destruction in the village.  This one had escaped Ajjuun justice.

Chatter from behind forced her jaw to clench.  Her three suitors crouched a mere few strides behind her but struggled to maintain any sense of composure.  These three had earned her favor, chosen to prove themselves if they wished to wed her.  Their pale faces masked in ash blinked in waiting as they noticed her gaze.

Unconsciously, Hijeneva touched the leather pouch at her waist which held the god’s relics.  Soon, they would all be tested.  Soon, her suitors would face her ultimate test if they were to be worthy of her maidenhood.

Saying nothing, she continued along the dead trail, hearing the near silent movements of her suitors.  If any of the three lacked that simple ability of quiet pursuit, she would send them back to the tribe in shame.

Laughter pulled her eyes back to the dead trail.  Within a copse of trees, the bloody line led straight into the wooded shadows; the bone-chilling sound dared her to advance closer.  Rising from her stance, heart racing and anger twisting in her chest, she reached for the leather pouch.  The time for her suiters to prove their worth had come.

Hijeneva motioned the men forward, opened the pouch, made the contents available and waited.  All the while, the mocking laughter continued.  One by one, they took the pieces, not questioning her or the origin of the items.

Dagal, the tallest and thinnest of her suitors, hesitated by rubbing his unshaven chin where dark stubble curled.  His dark eyes caught hers and he reached in grabbing the armlet with the dull gold-colored stone.  Hijeneva watched, not daring to blink, to see what influence the stone might have on him if any.  Nothing.

The squat but solid, Bjuno, reached in without waiting and took the silver hand mirror, looking into the reflection for longer than she would have expected.  He did not show much care for his appearance before but she could say nothing when the third suitor, Malistin, reached in and took the four coins not waiting for her to offer the pouch.

Malstin raised one of the coins and held it to the sun.  “A shining—”  His voice stopped abruptly and so did the laughter in the trees.  His gaze turned to the three coins in his other hand.  Steam or smoke rose from his half-clenched palm.  He began to scream, waving his hand to free his flesh from the coins but nothing fell away.

Laughter from the trees started again but it moved out and to the group’s left, drawing fearful eyes.  The black oily form of the creature moved casually but its path was a closing circle.

Hijeneva reached for her tiil in time to hear Dagal curse and raise his bow as the creature advanced.  Screams and laughter filled the air.  Blood and more blood marred the land.  The world stilled to see if a survivor would remain.

Flash Fiction: Blistered Feet on Shattered Steps


A man begging for his life when he truly knows it can be taken from him will say anything.  Truth or lie, his mind will find the way to safety and empty into his mouth until the words flow like sour milk.  Oran Ki’Tanil listened with a cringe as he watched the balding man weep and drool for mercy from the three men standing around him in the empty courtyard.  It was heartless on his part to set the men loose but Oran needed information.  Whatever the cost, he needed it.The men barely noticed him slip out of the shadow he hid in and one was down on the filthy ground unconscious before the other two knew what had happened.  With two of the thicker sticks he kept in the bundle to hide his swords, he struck and whacked the standing men until they were bloodied and down.

The balding man stared wide-eyed unsure what to say or think.  Fear had crippled him, turning his legs to mush.  As he blubbered, Oran returned his fighting sticks into his bundle and grabbed the man, dragging him away from the scene.

“Shut your teeth, Erol.”

“Eh…”  The man stopped his whimpering.  “Ki’Tanil?”  His efforts to be free of Oran’s grip doubled.  “No, no ,no!  Let me go!  Hallowed burn you!”

“He has,” Oran grumbled.  No need to request a second strike.

Finally a few blocks away, Oran threw Erol into a brick wall.  “I saved your life and now you’re going to repay me.”

Erol shook his head, pulling his lips in and keeping them pressed together.  The smell of cheap wine and even cheaper smoke made the unkempt man a step above a beggar.

“You will, Erol, or I’ll deliver you back to those three.  How much did you owe them?”

When Erol would not answer, Oran brought his knee up into the man’s groin.  It would delay the discussion but the fool needed to be aware what Oran was capable and willing to do.

“Speak, you tick!”

“Of what?” Erol said through a weeze as he lay hunched into the wall.

“Queen Erise.  Or whatever else you know about the attack.”

Erol sputtered and spit.  “I’ll never have children now.”

“You’ve got six or did you forget?  Now tell me what rumors I should ignore.”

Erol sniffed and groaned.  “All of them…”  He let out another groan.  “No one knows where she is.  They think her Wielder…that Glasene woman is with her.  If she’s anywhere, she’s probably disguised and attached herself to the collective of nobles meeting outside the city to determine who will challenge the King’s Court.”

Oran doubted the fool’s scenario.  Not even Glasene would chance exposing the queen to throne-thirsty nobles.  He did not doubt the meeting though.  The vipers and rats of Breshtk’s lords and ladies would absolutely move to strike a treaty with the King’s Court.  It was not what he wanted from Erol but it was a path to take.

“Drink and smoke less, Erol,” Oran said, readjusting his bundle, finding steps leading out of the area, and leaving the fool in the dark.

Flash Fiction: Betrayal’s Cost

Reluctance bore itself deep into Barston as he realized the journey to Rastome was almost complete.  Only one other instance of attempted robbery against the merchant train occurred and he had avoided Freilas’ threat only because he had been sent ahead with one of the other hired guards, whose name was Bilkin, to survey the road as they came to a bend notorious for its ambushing opportunities.

For all the chaos Breshtk suffered due to the rumors of Queen Erise’s disappearance, Barston could not help but think he would find a new prosperous opportunity in Rastome.  Surely, there was something that could be gained in one of the larger cities of his home hold.

Freilas screamed at him to get his attention and handed over a large bundle of empty water skins.  “I can hear that brook has turned into quite the stream off the road.  Climb down there and fill these.”  The quiet days on the road left him surly and tasking Barston with extra tasks.

Barston skid down the steep incline, keeping his balance with his hands full.  The water of the unnamed stream was cool against his skin, relieving the heat of the day.  Bugs swirled around his face in the deep shaded area, undeterred by his swatting.

He heard the approach of someone, thinking they came to help but upon turning growled once he saw the blade aimed for his ribs.

Quick hands allowed him to block the strike with the tied water skins.  His eyes kept on the blade but a moment’s look revealed Bilkin was his attacker.  Barston’s feet plunked into the water as he moved to avoid the next strike.  Bilkin bore an angry expression, sweat dripping from his bearded face, and reached for another smaller knife meant to be thrown.  The earlier incident on the road proved his prowess at throwing the double-edged blade.

Bilkin reached back ready to throw and Barston did the only thing he could do.  He grabbed his sword hilt and pulled the blade free.  Bilkin’s eyes widened in shock.  In that brief opening, Barston lunged forward and swung his blade downward.  Bilkin’s chest opened despite steel not touching it.  His shock lingered as he fell back to the ground.

Barston breathed heavily, unable to take his eyes from his broken blade—his Shoal-cursed blade—as steel rose only inches above the hilt.  His eyes searched for others but either Bilkin acted on his volition or was the only one sent to betray him.  Barston let his eyes run over the clean blade of his sword, shattered by the attack that left him alive but his princes dead months ago.

The water skins floated down stream while Barston crossed the water and began his quiet flight from the train up towards Rastome, not caring to confront what may be awaiting him at the train.

 

Flash Fiction: Flakes of Ash

White flakes fell from the sky like wild flies.  Teelee watched and stared, mouth agape.  “Shotra!  It’s snowing!”

“Fool girl,” the Dust Seer grumbled from his sitting position under a leafless tree.  “That’s not snow… There’s no bloody cloud in the sky!”

Teelee realized the truth in his statement but waved her hand in the air to catch one of the floating flakes.  More wordless grumbling came from Shotra the Twig.  He had left her with Apple and their wagon back in the town—she could not remember its name—and returned injured and strange, scaring her as screams came from all around.  So many people were running past her.  Apple almost ran from her but she managed to calm him as they waited.

She thought back to that day—several had passed since then and Shotra’s injury seemed to be worsening.  He refused to see a healer.  She should have been scared but Apple’s cries forced her to tend to the mule.  She could see in his large eyes appreciation for her.

“Aha!”  Her exclamation earned her a rude glare from Shotra but she finally secured a flake in her hand.  Upon looking at it, she realized a grey streak in her palm resulted where she would have preferred the cold nip of a snowflake.  Her eyes jumped to the canvas and dust she read for Master Shotra earlier in the day.  Some of the ash had fallen on the surface.

She brought her hand to her mouth, stifling the gasp.  Her eyes roamed over the changing of what she read.  “Master Shotra,” she whispered.

“Damn girl,” he hissed.  “What?”

“We need to leave this place…”  Yes, it was plain and clear.  The ash flakes gave a stark warning.  “Something is hunting.  Something of the Shoals.”

Shotra stood and limped towards her, favoring his left leg while crossing his arms over his stomach.  His face seemed to have grown paler since the morning.  “Say that again, girl.”  He was often nice to her when she read the dust, which she liked.

She pointed at the canvas.  “It changed with the ash.”

He peered at it.  “I see…  What does it say?”

A single word came to mind; an urgent command from the dust and ash.  “Run,” she said through a deep tremble.

Flash Fiction: An Odd Thing

She pressed her finger and thumb together, squeezing the blood between each, before separating the connection.  The sticky stretch of wet redness between each finger mesmerized her in a way that shouldn’t.  Not unless she was a child.  Perhaps, her mind fell back into the days before she fought for coin.  Back before the men and women in her life found her suitable to abuse and belittle for their own enjoyment and profit.

Was it her blood or that of the bald-headed, bearded man she killed earlier?  Who could say?  It looked the same no matter the owner.

“You shivering bastards…”  A man staggered by, catching sight of her as she pressed her back against a low stone wall.  The cool air of the early morning made both of their breaths misty.

Chasiel bit back the cooing sound in her throat, ready, and surprising the ugly fool who belonged to her rival mercenaries, the Silver Way.  He stepped in, short sword raised and ready to hack at her, but Chasiel’s instinct and will to live could not be undone even by her childish lapse.  Her dagger blade sliced open the man’s thigh.  He screamed but could barely get the sound out before she twisted the blade upward into his throat.  More blood.

She fell back to the cold, hard ground as the man toppled over, shaking slightly as life slipped away.  Her body ached in pain.  Her cuts and the stab wound to her lower back were beginning to burn.  She could see her reflection in the fresh pool of blood now.  How could it reflect like a mirror?  Truly, it was a considerable quality to reflect back the reflection of the one who killed its master.

A voice came in the distance of the manor’s grounds.  Fenroe.  He lived.  Chasiel let the coo finally slip from her grasp of it in her throat.  The Silver Way set the trap for them.  Somehow, they knew of Chasiel’s attempt at taking their contract.  Crisp was dead and she saw her captain, Feller Crowne, take an arrow in the chest.  Maybe he lived.  Maybe he didn’t.  Others fell as well.  How many of their numbers remained?

An odd thing blood was to be so important for life, she thought.  Yet in death, it was trivial.  Lose some and you live.  Lose too much and you die.  There she was again, mesmerized by the red fluid.  She preferred the days before she saw so much blood.  Days of seeking food and shelter only.  There was no need for blood back then.

“Chas?”

Fenroe again.  She let the cooing sound come from her lips and heard him curse, hurrying towards her across the yard, likely searching behind the structures and stalls of the wealthy merchant.  Chasiel wanted to sleep.  Her eyes grew heavy.  She did not think she lost too much of her own blood.  Not yet at least.  Such an odd thing, though, for her life to be leaking slowly.

Flash Fiction: A Legend’s Call

Kesree’s cottage slept as Damrin approached on foot, thankful to finally feel his feet and legs strong and not aching after a day of walking.  To the west, the great cliffs, the Brutes, split by the waterfall called the Silent Mother’s Tears roared.  Snowfall had been generous in recent months for the stream to be so high while he crossed over the foot bridge built by Kesree himself.

Inside the cottage there was nothing.  Hints of Kesree remained.  Touches of his brilliance when it came to his ability to trap the power of his Shoal, Temzda, and contain its affect on things both living and not.  Damrin did not mean to begin rummaging so freely and disrespectfully but in minutes, the floor and every other surface was soiled by his angered search.  Books and papers rained while writing apparatus spilled and stained.

The Shoalway opened outside and Damrin had little time to react, reaching but not touching Qorum.  At the window, he looked out to find an armor wearing Wielder just as their Shoalway closed, swirl of glass forever left on the ground.  Damrin recognized but did know the gray-haired man whose hatchet nose hooked down and beard was cut into a sharp square.

“Come out, Damrin Graeves,” the older man called.

Unblinking, dumb-founded like a small boy seeing a Wielder for the first time, Damrin stopped in the doorway until waved forward by the legend that is Barat Bladeveil.  “Sir?”

Bladeveil, the living legend among all the Holds, did not smile, jaw set in the most-earnest of manners.  He was the last living Shoal Sword, the knights of old—long gone from the world.  “Set aside whatever allegiances clasp your wrist.  Our oaths bind more than the feeble war tantrums made by the Hold Kings currently engaged in.  Our duty is to this world, to protect those who face threats they cannot hope to counter.”

The speech was delivered in such a way that Damrin found himself on his knees before the hero of old, forgetting why and what he came for in Kesree’s refuge.  “You want me?” he asked.

Crouching with ease, body not touched by time’s sting, Bladeveil reached out and touched Damrin’s shoulder.  “A Shoalway breach took place days ago and I need your help.  I know you by your reputation.”  His gray eyes looked past him at Kesree’s cottage.  “Kesree confided in me not two months ago.  You, he said, were one who could aid in dire times.”

The swell of pride in the words and request took the slightest cut as the threat registered in Damrin’s mind.  A breach?  If true, and he had no reason to question Barat Bladeveil, then his fury at Kesree did indeed not matter.  This war between the Holds grew small in his mind.  He had a duty to the Holds and he was going to stand alongside Barat Bladeveil, the last of the Shoal Swords, to see it through.

Flash Fiction: A Morning for Mourning

After long days of rituals leading to her choosing a husband, Hijeneva awoke to the screams, mistaking them at first to be the ceremonial raised voices of the women of the Ajjuun.  She stirred herself, rubbing sleep from her eyes, unsure of the hour.  In two days she was expected to put her suitors through the trials.  The items taken from the dead god were ready to be tested and she was ready to see the truth behind each.

The screams told her something horrible was taking place in the witching hour.  The soft gray glow of the sky from her maiden hut window suggested the sun was less than an hour from waking the rest of the world.  She pushed herself up from her sleeping mat, dressed, and grabbed her shield and spear.  She considered the god’s items for a moment.  Should she risk it?  Perhaps it was an attack by the Shygua.  If so, her people needed help.  Due to the dead god, the Ajjuun had lost too many of their young warriors.  No, she resisted the urge, fearing the unknown could kill her just by touching the items.  More screams pulled her to the early dawn.  Outside, she found chaos.

Running past her drowsy vision and fighting in the shadows, the Ajjuun were in disarray.  Hijeneva stepped forward but stopped when her foot fell further than she expected.  She crouched, hand touching the print.  Three toes she counted but something else—a swishing mark, suggesting a heavy tail—stamped the earth with a weight suggesting great size.  What could have made the print?

Out of the corner of her eye, Hijeneva reacted in time but still bore the brunt of the strike.  Something heavy clipped her shoulder but found its full impact in her hut’s wall.  Pain broke her fall as she slid against the earth.  Her shield twisted her fingers, breaking at least two.  Her spear was gone.

Something moved in closer from where the flung object struck her.  Frantic and in pain, she moved her shield to her other hand, ready to defend.  Her dazed eyes caught the outline of a gray, slick form with too many eyes to be real.  A sound she thought was high-pitched, sinister laughter interrupted her pounding ears.  Nearby torchlight touched the blade of a tiil inches away from her.

The creature advanced, revealing two legs of three clawed toes and a balancing tail at its rear.  Hijeneva rolled, threw her shield like an over-sized bowl, and took up the tiil, recognizing its distinct quality and stabbed greedily at the flesh of her attacker as it swayed in recovery from her shield striking it.  Her screams of pain and anger ripped through the new day in what would surely be a morning for mourning.

Flash Fiction: Shoal Cursed

Cursed.  There could be no greater punishment than to be Shoal cursed.  The Shoals were an enigma even after centuries of use by the Wielders.  Books were written and burned, corrected and ink-blotted.  Some claimed the Shoals could not be properly studied or analyzed due to their volatility.  None, not even the most elder and strongest of Wielders in history dared spend more than a few minutes in their Shoal for fear of madness, death, or worse.

Therefore, the practice of Shoalways and cuts–the smallest openings necessary to wield the harbored power–were all that was allowed.  Not even the maddest of Wielders would dare risk oblivion to the world by creating a rift in the fabric between realms.  Shoals themselves were volatile and treacherous yet somehow, for some reason, the Hallowed allowed such interference.  Was there an answer to why?

Oran sat in the alleyway with his back pressed into the jagged stone wall, alone in the early morning, quarreling with himself over this matter.  His mind was a stall of angry bulls kicking and gorging wherever they could to come out the victor.  His clothes were little more than tatters after weeks of running and hiding from enemies.  His stink was enough to make the dogs sniff and leave him alone.  Food had to be stolen unless he risk returning to his home.

The streets of Breshtk carried no truths to the whereabouts and condition of Queen Erise.  Rumors dripped with uncertainty and dubious details.  She was seen alive in the village of Bolle or dead, executed by a mob of angry farmers on the Trader’s Road.  One rumor even claimed she returned to the palace accompanied by a small cadre of Wielders, killing everyone due to Shoal madness.  Oran deciphered no truth from any of the stories.

He had to find her.  The Wielder, Delya Glasene, could not be trusted.  He convinced himself of that now.  His duty called him beyond this impasse.  Destiny demanded his action.  He stood, looking out into the busy square.  None so much as glanced his way.  To their uncaring eyes, he was another beggar.  Not the Breshtk Battle Lord, Oran Ki’Tanil.

The rumors needed to be sifted through.  He needed viable information to move beyond the uncertainty.  He flexed his hands, stretched his arms, legs, and back before considering his lone belongings.  Bundled in scraps of firewood, his named swords lay in wait despite his fear of touching them.  Shoal-cursed things should not be handled carelessly.

Flash Fiction: Old Wolves

Bramble crunched underneath the wagon wheels of the merchant train.  No rain had touched this part of the world in months.  The city of Rastome was still days away according to the mile markers painted on heavy rocks set alongside the Sael Highway.

In the days since leaving the capital city, Charun, Barston kept to himself and followed orders.  He along with the other hired guards were mostly ignored by their merchant employer whose name was Lavan Pahl.  It was Pahl’s partner, Freilas Atruam, who bore the signs of a former soldier giving most of the commands to the hired men.

Barston found himself drawn to Freilas as if he knew the older man all his life.  Thin but strong, bearing dark skin and stony eyes, he moved as if the world could not contain him.  A deadliness inhabited him as well.  Adept with a bow and sword alike, he did not waver when the first group of road bandits attacked the previous day.

They lost two of the hired guards during the scuffle while two others had to be put on litters much to the chagrin of Pahl.  Freilas had a way of explaining and calming his partner, which the guards appreciated after realizing Pahl played to loose and free with his mule whip.  Barston believed there to be a great story behind Freilas’ life and wanted to know it.  Was their shame?  Dishonor?  If so, he had found peace.  Barston cared little for such a gift for himself but to see it in Freilas made him curious.

When Freilas came alongside him all of a sudden, Barston forced himself to relax.  The older man did not engage in private conversations unless a reprimand was coming.

“The men say you did not draw your sword yesterday.”  Freilas’ voice was like ice sliding against a boulder.  Up close, the smell roasted red root was undeniable and was the obvious reason for the man’s voice.  Smoking the crushed pieces of red root was not kind to the throat.

Barston swallowed.  “I didn’t need to draw it.  My dagger did just fine.”

Freilas gave him a sidelong look.  “You don’t happen to be one of those pit fighters back in the capital, are you?”

The smile could not be kept away.  “No,” Barston said.  “Just one who knows when a dagger’s reach will suffice.”

“Hmm.  Lavan wants me to have you punished.  Don’t worry; it won’t happen.  You may be reckless but you managed to gut two of the road rats with that short steel.  Make sure you don’t hesitate to draw the long blade next time.  I’ll be watching then.  You can’t be blade shy these days.”

He separated from Barston and quickened to the front of the train.  The exhale of breath did not leave Barston feeling better.  His eyes darted about the countryside, hoping to the Hallowed they would not be attacked again.

Flash Fiction: Faces and Places

The falling dust mesmerized Teelee as she watched wide-eyed.  It was her favorite part of helping Master Shotra.  She was not to call him the Twig any longer as they traveled together.

Settled against the wet canvas, her eyes ran along the dust-covered surface, reading the words written.  No, they were not written like one would see on a sign or a piece of parchment.  These words were different, though she did not think she could describe it to anyone if they asked.

“What do you see?” Master Shotra asked.  They had stopped off the side of the road along the countryside, heading for a place called Duggin’s Hill, which Teelee had read on a previous canvas.

The day was bright and warm but Teelee kept one eye on the gray clouds in the distance.  She did not like rain.  That would mean coldness and it would also mean she would be soaked through.  Her brother had punished her by making her sit underneath the leak in the roof after she “stole” his place with Master Shotra.  She told him it was an accident but Dag did not care.

“Girl,” Master Shotra said, poking her in the ribs.  He pointed at the canvas.  “Pay attention.  You’ll not be returned home until we’ve completed our task.  Now,” he pointed at the canvas again, “read.”

Teelee could not help looking at the clouds again before turning to the canvas.  “Delya.”

Master Shotra stiffened and winced.  “And?”

She let her eyes roam over the canvas until she found another word.  “Glassene.”

“Hallowed harbor me,” Master Shotra slumped, dropping to a sitting position on the dusty ground.  “Of all the…  You’re certain?”  She nodded and he spoke on, saying things she did not understand.  “Of course it would be.  Always the loyal hound to the Holds…  This is just punishment.  Penance for my errors.”

Teelee ignored him, uninterested in the canvas now that she finished her job.  She moved to the mule that pulled their wagon.  Master Shotra said it had no name so she had decided on one for him on their first day together.

“Hello, Apple.”  The animal’s love for the fruit was indeed the leading factor for the name.  “I hate rain.  I hope we stay dry for the rest of the day.  Today’s my birthday but I don’t think Master Shotra knows that.  Mother would have given me honey this morning…”

Master Shotra was pacing now, still talking to himself, oblivious to the world.  Teelee leaned in close to Apple’s ear, “Don’t tell him but I saw something more this time in the dust.  It scared me, Apple…  I don’t want Master Shotra to die.”

First Year Retrospect

Crazy.  That’s my best-word choice and thinking when I consider the last year.  I took to starting a website and blog with the idea that I wanted to write more and establish a platform as a writer.  I had some ideas and believed I could begin to have a voice in a world full of voices.  After a year, I think I made a dent but not a full impact.

While the website could use an update (I’m in the process of looking at my options), the blog has been the bigger surprise.  I started by writing about writing, especially my own thoughts and experiences with the craft.  Looking back, this was a much needed release because I had things I wanted to say but did not have an outlet.  The blog gave me that and now I feel ready to go beyond those topics.

I like themes and scheduled topics.  Sunday Levity, On This Day, and Flash Fiction posts allowed me to do this and those have been extremely fun and rewarding.  Each will continue moving forward and more than likely be a staple of my blog.  The posts in between will likely change and shift focus.  I loved being able to do my Stranger Things Season 1 Review and Rewatch in October.  With Season 3 green lit, you can expect the same treatment for Season 2.  There will be less in terms of “writing” posts but you’ll continue to get my thoughts from a writing perspective as I encounter new stories and even go back and explore old ones.

Outside of the blog and website, my life has taken unexpected turns.  Come April, my wife and I will be arms deep in parenthood.  How this will affect me as a writer, I cannot begin to know or guess but it will bring an adjustment.  That baby will be priority number 1a with my wife being 1b.  They will be my focus.  Then I’ll have work and then writing.  So right now it’s a matter of preparing and putting any notion of selfishness aside.

What I’m not worried about is the time to write.  I will find it.  My plan is to finish So Speaks the Gallows and find an agent remains.  Those updates will be shared and even if I get rejection letters, I will share those with everyone.  Obviously, my hope would be to receive a letter stating an agent would love to represent me but the more I follow other writers on social media, the more I see that rejection letters are more common than acceptance letters.  Maybe 2018 will be my year of querying.

When it comes to the newsletter, I’ll stick with it and hopefully get more sign ups.  It makes it easier for me to devote the time (it is time consuming) to provide more content if I know I’m reaching more people.  However, I do understand if people have too many newsletters arriving in their inboxes.  The more you have, the less time you have to read them all.

Other than that, I have some other personal goals I’d like to see accomplished but I read somewhere that not all goals should be made public.  Apparently, that can sabotage your chances of finding success.  Not sure if I believe that but I’ll keep them close to the chest for now.

I hope you all have had an amazing year!

Call to Action: The final call to action this year is to sign up for my newsletter.  Seriously, why haven’t you done so yet?  You get some fun book reviews and an exclusive Shoals to the Hallowed short story, which you won’t find anywhere else.  There are things happening in the story you won’t know about unless you sign up.  So do so.

Flash Fiction: A Boon of Opportunities

Old sweat and bubbling stew filled the abandoned farmhouse with their potent presence as the circle of mercenaries let a lull step between the lines of discussion.  There was a third scent and Chasiel, the Bloody Dove, could practically bite into it.  Anticipation.

“So,” said the lean and gray-haired man to her right, “you think it’s likely?”  Half his face bore the scars of a burning accident when he was a young man.  Whatever his real name was, Chasiel did not know it.  He had only ever been called Crisp to her knowledge.

Crisp’s question was not directed towards her but to the bull of a man across from her.  Feller Crowne held the honor of longest tenured among the miscreants making up the dozen or so Shivering Souls.  “Without question,” Crowne said in his high voice, famously unexpected to those who first met him.

Fenroe, to Chasiel’s left, was next to speak.  “Breshtk is broken.  Good opportunity to get our fingers in there and feel around.”

Chasiel smiled, knowing Fenroe could not help himself and his knack for using colorful phrases in any situtation.  He would try to make his grandmother blush if given the opportunity.  Chasiel took the small piece of kindling and set its end into the flames of the cook fire, eyes mesmerized by the flickering flames.

Crowne coughed.  “I care more about seeing who comes out alive once the dust of this hell storm settles…  The Holds may turn on Breshtk but it’s not weak.  Not in the least.  As long as Wielders live and Ki’Tanil, bastard fool that he is, breathe, Breshtk can come out of this mess.  Chasiel,you’re too quiet?”

She had kept silent, biding her time.  The constant talk of Breshtk and whatever nonsense the kings and queens of the Holds were bickering about had gotten bland on her tongue.  What did interest her however were opportunities to go unseen where otherwise eyes would be watchful for sell swords.  The sound in her throat preceded her words.  “The Silver Way had the contract and now we have it.  This noble of Teras expects mercenaries.  We can mimic that stupid symbol of the Silvs and do what we please once we’re sent on our merry task.”

“A boon of opportunities,” Fenroe said before whistling.

Crisp took the handle of the stirring spoon in the cookpot and blew on the creamy meal.  Crowne rubbed at his eyes after some smoke invaded the brown orbs.  “A boon perhaps but still a damn risk.”

Chasiel agreed but preferred to think of it as more than opportunities to take gold out of the pockets of the Teras coffers.  No, for her, she saw a window to hamstring the noble bastards who continued to play their privileged game.  After she inhaled the segda smoke from her pipe, her namesake throat sound followed, serving as the reminder of her rage.

Flash Fiction: A Search for Light in the Night

A wildfire in the heart of a great forest was a dreadful power.  For Damrin Graeves, that was the only comparison he could equate to the breaking of the Wielder’s Council.  Rogue Wielders had never been an uncommon occurrence in the world but the number of those allied and bound to the Shoal Oaths kept those flames from spreading.  Now, however, there were too many flames and they were being fed by pride, promises, and the Hallowed knows what else.

His options were limited.  He could not reach out to Wielders he called friend.  Since Kesree’s betrayal–his closest of allies–he had to select his movements more carefully.  Too much use of his Shoalway, Qorum, and he would likely draw attention.  Wielders could detect the power from a fair distance away but they could not be everywhere.  So, many Wielders had trained and hired agents tucked away in all sorts of corners and pockets of the Holds, waiting to feel the stinging sensation in their teeth.  Sensors, they were called.  Damrin had refused to employ such people for he had no need to keep eyes and ears on his brethren.

It had taken longer than he wanted, but he reached his room, held by the grimacing innkeeper, Goel Begeen, after traveling by foot.  It had been the first time in three decades since he walked such a distance without touching his Shoal and it had been arduous to say the least.  The village of Nemeck in the Teras Hold had been one of several hiding places he kept secret.  Only Kesree had known of his corner room in Goel’s inn, The Commoner.

Days of rest had been needed after his journey.  Once there, he had removed the collection of manuscripts, ledgers, and maps hidden away in the ceiling.  His eyes moved over one such map where he made notes and drew symbols based on a personal cypher not even Kesree had known about.  Some secrets had been kept.

The list of names and affiliations on the narrow piece of parchment was complete and thorough but he needed to know which of those names still drew breath and which way they leaned in this ominous war.  For Damrin, he needed to find an ally and quickly.  Too many were dying and fresh rumors sprouted from the earth as Wielders killed each other and kingdoms fell.  Truth slipped from his fingers but a net could succeed where his hands failed.

Flash Fiction: “Guarded Offerings”

The melodic voices of the unmarried women of the Ajjuun beat against the outer walls of Hijeneva’s maiden hut.  Per tradition, her peers circled around her dwelling as she sat in silence, examining the gift offerings provided by the unmarried men of the tribe.  They sought to woo the celebrity born from the triumph of collecting the bones of a deceased god.

Baskets lay before her on the collection of cow skins that made up her hut’s floor.  In each of the twenty or so bend-wood woven containers were weapons, supplies, and armor crafted by the men who hoped to be her husband.  The quality of each marked each young man’s value.  She did not know whose name was attached to each basket of gifts.  The anonymity leant itself to the expected surprise of a worthy mate.  So was the Ajjuun way.

Too often, her mind strayed to wonder if Imko was the owner of the basket gift but the tragic death of her friend breached her forgetfulness to give sting to her swollen heart.

Despite the proposals before her—a grand example of her value to the tribe—she was drawn more to the laid out items taken off of the corpse she managed to pilfer in the clearing weeks ago.  The body had been burned and the ruined clothes buried but it was the other items she now possessed that grasped her awe and curiosity.

She did not touch the items but used iron prongs belonging to her father to take each and place them in her hut.  Inside a finely crafted box upon a polished stand, placed in a row were the four shining coins, an armlet fit with a dull gold-colored stone set in it, and a small hand mirror made of silver.

From several feet away, she could sense the power imbued in each item.  The functionality or level of each had not been discovered yet but she would learn the secrets they possessed.  She considered each basket and wondered if the one she chose would serve in the discovery.  Would a potential husband be willing to risk his life to earn her proposal?  The thought gave birth to a smile and a growing plan.

Flash Fiction: “A List of Knives”

One name remained to be added to the list before Oran Ki’Tanil, Battle Lord of Breshtk Hold, general to Queen Erise’s armies, would allow himself to attempt sleep that night.  The small piece of parchment on his writing table mocked him.  Of the eight names written in his own hand, not one was a man or woman he would share a meal with let alone trust to carry out a portion of the plan meant to bring balance and justice to the field.  None of the collected killers were trustworthy and yet he had been tasked by his queen to compile them.

Duty and conviction did not always share a marriage bed together.  A cold, coarse sheet lay between them.  Oran rarely believed he had a true choice in the matter of either.  A Battle Lord was sworn, life held in chains, to his Hold.  Orders were never to be questioned unless asked but he wondered if those were truly orders then?

He pressed the wet nib of the quill to the parchment, deciding between two names that would be the last to go on the list of knives.  The Holds had their fair share of trained assassins.  Those beholden to any true code were not included on this list.  He raised the quill, leaving a pooled mark of ink, and reached for his cup of wine, drinking the sweet nectar of the Hallowed, hoping it would dull his convictions.  It did not.

His thoughts shifted to the adamant disapproval of the Wielder, Delya Glassene.  Little could be sifted through the mere presence of the woman.  Her oaths were questionable and motivations obscure.  Anytime Oran looked into the gray eyes of the Wielder, he felt as if nothing could be rightfully gathered, but tumbled like dice in a cup.

However, her push for Queen Erise to abandon her plan was all but stringent, giving no care or worry for protocol.  Her agreement only came after Oran raised his voice and threatened the Wielder’s life–a less than proud moment.  Doing so hammered the nail in the wall between them if such a wall could exist.  He preferred the obstacle; a Wielder could not and should not be trusted.  The Shoals could twist and curse the world if they remained open too long.  A Wielder was the only line of defense.  He knew too little but had begun to desire to learn more simply out of caution, which was his nature.

Oran Ki’Tanil had one choice in the matter.  He must finish the list and add a name to make the nine killers final.  They would be collected by Delya and set loose on Queen Erise’s enemies.  “Hallowed forgive me…” he said under his breath, setting the quill back to the parchment and writing the last name, his head a fog from the wine and his guts twisted in anguish.

Flash Fiction: “Healed but Broken”

Scars serve as vicious reminders.  That pink, puckered skin where a blade lacerated either shallow or deep let the wearer remember the mistake or drop in guard everyday.  It could be concealed but always felt underneath cotton, silk, or armor.  For Barston, however, his scars were underneath the skin.

Scars of the conscious were just as bloody as the day they were incurred.  Never forgotten unless you were dead and pressed in by the earth from all sides.  Only then did peace prevail and true rest commence.

The merchant was close, waddling along the dirt floor of the loading lot of the capital as he inspected the men who showed in response to his request for guards.  The roads between the Holds were no longer safe, not since the murder of the princes of Breshtk.  Barston did not cry anymore for both Jarun or Dovam.  Those tears had dried up days after his banishing.

Gray-bearded, heavy set, and smelling of wine even in the early hours of the day, the merchant came face to face with him.  A squinting eye peered deep into Barston’s face.  “You seem the soldiery type,” he said, breath a warm, sour cloud.

Barston felt the eyes of the other hired men fall in unison upon him, checking to see if they could determine what called for the merchant’s comment.  He felt the itch to speak.  “No longer, sir.”  It was not truly the correct response and awkward once he heard the words leave his mouth but it was all he could muster.

The merchant’s squint did not dry up.  “You’ll do.  I see the dagger in your boot.  Your sword?”

Hoping not to have to share his shame, Barston reluctantly took the hilt and pulled it slightly out of the scabbard revealing the blade.  He said nothing.

“Good.”  The merchant stepped back to address the group of eleven hired guards.  “We leave in an hour for Rastome; take care of what you need to.  I don’t have to emphasize the dangers as the Holds continue to unravel.  You damned well better be ready to draw and defend these wagons.  Go on.”

Barston ignored but noticed the other ten guards shaking hands in congratulations for the employment and setting out to put their affairs in order.  He did not extend his hand or leave though.  He already possessed all that he needed.  No salutations, supplies, or urges were necessary to fulfill on his part.  All that he needed was in tow.  He tested his leg, healed by a Wielder, denied the scar he deserved.  But, the searing reminder of shame and guilt of his failure could not be healed.  Nothing would deny him that scar.

Happenings: Life as a Writer

Hello all!  Life continues as it does without giving so much as a moment’s break.  I’ve been actively keeping up on all of my projects and won’t rehash any of it here (busyness is a real thing for a writer).

I do have a slight announcement to share.  I am featured on another writer’s blog in an interview that you can click over to read here: http://jamie-marchant.com/blog/

Hope you enjoy that little bit of a tidbit.  It was a fun experience and I hope to do more in the near future.  Yes, that was an actual excerpt from “So Speaks the Gallows” and a great deal of fun to finally share.  (I think I’ll share it here on the website as well over on the So Speaks the Gallows page.)

I am working on the second newsletter set to be released at the end of August.  If you haven’t signed up yet for it, I highly encourage you to do so.  It will contain a “Shoals to the Hallowed” short story that will fill in some gaps and provide additional information to everything what has transpired so far.  I know there’s a propensity to provide exposition but I really try to avoid this while writing.  The information is there but lines do need to be made.  I trust you all as readers to do that.

Also, I wanted to take today’s blog post to recommend a movie to all of you.  Baby Driver (the title of the film may be the only thing I don’t like about it) is such a great film and done so well from a direction perspective.  I know I mentioned it in a previous post but I cannot stop promoting it!  You’ll find today’s Call to Action devoted to a video that dives deeper into the filmmaking that I found fun to watch.

Game of Thrones started back up, so I’m watching that as well as other shows.  Some are guilty pleasures but not things I recommend for their storytelling.  I will say, though, that I’m always looking for new shows.  I avoid procedurals like the plague and really only like those in comedies.  For drama, I love a good serial that has twists and turns.
I’m still behind in my Goodreads reading challenge but trying to catch up.  I find myself in a weird place though as I’m listening to an audiobook of Christopher Moore’s “Lamb”, which is the fictional story about Jesus and his best friend, Biff, as they travel in search of the three magi who delivered gifts to Jesus as a baby.  They go on quite the adventure that is absolutely speculative fictional, not always…kosher.  And, I’m reading the book, “Good Omens”, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, which has a rather satirical take on the apocalypse with the coming of the Antichrist but things are not quite going as planned.  Very strange dichotomy of reading that I did not plan but both stories have crossed over.  I’m not quite sure I’d recommend either book at this point.

Not a main writing focus for today’s blog post but I like to pause and share the things I’m doing and enjoying.  All of these affect my writing in some form or another.  I’m not one of those writers who is always writing/editing/revising or working on my projects.  Breaks are good for my sanity, which is essential for writers to maintain (though, I guess there are some writers out there who would argue the opposite).

Call to Action: Watch the video and enjoy!

Flash Fiction: “Trust in the Dust”

Red and orange dirt rose in the air, forming a cloud of fire gently falling to the wet cream-colored canvas tapestry laid on the stained floor.  The motes showered along the surface in a pattern unlike any other.  It was the practice of a dust seer, using the fine granule sands found in desolate parts of the Navastle Desert.

Teelee stared in wonder as she kept pressed into the corner of the dust seer’s hut.  Her older brother stood alongside the old seer whose white robes had long since collected flecks of the fire sand, making the man a story unto himself.  She tried not to stare at the seer’s robes whenever she tagged along with her brother but struggled, which often earning the ire of the seer, whose name was Shotra the Twig on account of his slim, bony stature.

“What do you see, boy?” the seer asked.  Along with his robe, his leathery hands and arms were just as stained.  His long nose curved down and slightly to the side.  All hair that remained were wisps of white strands collected at the base of his skull.  Sweat shined along his pate and taut face from the sunlight piercing through the gaps of the boarded walls of the hut.

Teelee’s brother, Dag, bent down as the dust settled in the shades of fire along the tapestry.  His cheap shirt and trousers collected the fire dust as well but their mother’s incessant washing faded the stained material.  He hummed something of uncertainty, trying his hardest to continue on as Shotra the Twig’s apprentice.  If he failed at this apprenticeship, he would have to find another which likely meant having to join the other boys his age water seeking.

“Come now!” Shotra the Twig barked.  “What does the dust say?”

“What’s a Shoal?” Teelee asked.  She had not realized she moved away from her corner, unseen by either her brother or the seer, and toward the canvas as words on the tapestry became clear to her.

Shotra the Twig twisted around to castigate her but stopped short.  He turned back to look on the tapestry himself.  Not speaking directly at her, he said, “What do you see, girl?”

She hesitated, finding Dag staring a blaze of flames at her but the dust seer looked on the verge of grabbing her.  “Disruptions,” the word was strange on her tongue, not entirely sure of its meaning.

“Disruptions in the Shoals.  Violations.  Welders–”

“Wielders,” Shotra the Twig corrected.

Teelee did not know the word or context but trusted him.  None made sense to her; the words laid there on the tapestry, swirled and jagged, but clear and concise.  “Wielders violate the constructs of the Shoals.”  She smiled but her brother, whose eyes filled with tears, made the emotion of excitement die away.

Shotra the Twig turned to look down on her, ignoring her brother who pouted openly.  “Hallowed be praised…  Boy, leave.  Girl, you will stay.”  He readied the tapestry, pouring water across the cream surface for another reading.

Teelee sniffed and sneezed into her hands, excited but terrified of the anger growing in her brother’s eyes.  He would find a way to hurt her; she knew it, but she could not resist reading the dust.

Dag left and Teelee watched as the new batch of fire sand rose in the air by Shotra the Twig’s exaggerated motion, a fresh jubilant air about him.  Her eyes watched the dust floated down, streaks of fire settling, forming words.  Some were the same as before and some were new.

Layers Upon Layers: Revising Tips

I’ll get to the topic of this blog post shortly but I wanted to speak a little to the Shoals to the Hallowed flash fiction pieces posted at the end of each month.  To clarify, these are not connected to the Ravanguard series and have remained a writing exercise/foundational laying of the future series.  I apologize to anyone who wishes there was more.  I’m exploring the best way to give you more, which leads to a thought I had but will require an adjustment of sorts to the newsletter cycle.

In a previous post, I had created the main protagonist of the next Ravanguard-related short story for the second newsletter slated to be released at the end of August.  I think I will put that on hold for now (apologies to those who contributed to the character building exercise we shared).  I will come back to it but I think I’d like to use the newsletter as a means for writing a short story for the Shoals to the Hallowed.  You, the subscribers, will receive more context into the world and it will hopefully connect some dots as well.

Also, my previous plan to have 12 POVs is now being cut to 6 so that means in July, we will be returning to one of the characters you’ve all previously been introduced to.  I may even try to squeeze in two flash fiction posts from time to time but it all depends on my schedule.  Thank you for reading and continuing to support me.

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Onto the post!

The more I do it, the more I think a first rough draft of a story is simply pushing from beginning to end.  There’s so much that can happen along the way and the writer can plan and outline and still come away after that last page is finished and be surprised by some twists and turns.  I actually enjoy starting a story and not knowing where it will end.  It allows for growth and space.  When I’m surprised by something that happens, I know the reader will be too.

I could easily go on and on but I wanted to bring to light revising tips I’ve accumulated over the years.  There is no true rule or standard for revising.  It’s simply polishing the rough edges of the manuscript.

One thing I look for as I revise the flow of words.  Is there one?  Or does the paragraph or dialogue read congested or even constipated (bad imagery I know).  There’s a rhythm to language that can and should be utilized in storytelling.  Sometimes, it can be rough but that usually falls in line with a particular character, mood, or tone set before.  Sometimes (in my experience), this requires some adding or removing of words or even rewriting the paragraph or dialogue altogether.  Either way, it’s about not putting the reader in a place where it’s difficult to keep reading.

Another thing I look for when I revise is detail.  Is there too much or too little?  This is a bit of a chess game between me and the page to be honest.  It’s not a simple, “Oh, I forgot to say what color that woman’s dress is.”  No, it has more to do with whether or not the scenery/character/conflict is lacking in any way.

I’ll often find that I use words improperly that I mean to have a specific connotation in relation to the colors or sounds in the scene.  Appealing to the senses is essential as a writer.  We want the reader to be immersed in the action taking place in front of them.  If I fail to provide a detail even as minuscule as the sound of footsteps approaching or the creak of a door when someone unexpected enters a room, I’m denying the reader an experience.

These are just a few of the things I look for and are mindful of when revising.  It’s difficult but when I look back at the early scenes/chapters I wrote for “So Speaks the Gallows”, I have to remember that much of the world and characters were not fully fleshed out at that time.  I wrote the first chapters almost ten years ago now.  So much has happened since then and I’ve grown as a writer, able to look at how I write now to those first rough drafts of chapters and it’s truly gratifying to know I’ve grown and not been stagnant.

Call to Action: I haven’t said it in awhile but you should sign up for the newsletter when prompted on the website.  Maybe the promise of a Shoals to the Hallowed short story will be more enticing to some who have resisted so far.

Pressure Tester: Meeting the Content Quota

posted in: Fantasy, Flash Fiction, Life, Writing | 0

I took the Memorial Day weekend as an opportunity to conduct a little experiment.  Since I started this blog and launched my website, I knew I needed to up my game and produce content.  I knew I needed to have more of a presence on social media (Twitter primarily because of its format, features, and links to other writers).  What I didn’t know though was the amount of time this required of me.

I’ve done enough research to understand how marketing myself as a writer on the interwebz is important as I pursue my dream of publishing my stories.  The blog was a great opportunity for me to write and share.  The benefits have been great (I’ve already shared that to some extent and won’t regurgitate it at the moment).  I’ve tweeted and interacted with other writers as opportunities allowed.  Overall, the experience has been good but… To put it bluntly, I’ve run into a bit of a wall.

Let me explain (No, there is too much.  Let me sum up).  Being that active on Twitter has been time consuming.  I got into a habit where I always had a tab open to Twitter and would continually keep an eye on my feed.  I wouldn’t tweet something every hour on the hour but I tried to so throughout the day because all the research I did told me I had to be a continuous presence in addition to adding content.  Other than tweeting, my blog posts every other day have been the majority of my content.

A little vulnerability I’d like to share with everyone: it has been a bit a let down but only because I think my expectations were too high.  I get way more spam comments (all of these I have to go through and mark as spam behind the scenes of my website) and I see no real evidence that I am gaining consistent followers.  This could be for a number of reasons (everyone’s got a blog nowadays, especially writers, so I get that there are a lot of options) and the one I keep coming back to is I’m still at the beginning stages of this season of being “present”.

This is not to say I do not appreciate the comments I do receive from real people.  I love being able to read them and respond.  If I don’t respond, I apologize.  I am trying to be better about it.

Even on Twitter, I’ve come to this hovering number of followers and wonder what I’m doing wrong.  Am I tweeting the wrong things?  Am I hash tagging wrong?  Am I focusing too much on writing and not other interests I have?  If I tweeted more about sports, music, food, etc. would I risk losing the followers I do have?  These are questions I continually wrestle with and have yet to find an answer.

Please don’t take this blog post as a rant or complaint.  It’s not.  I’m processing my actions and the steps I’ve taken over the last five months of going all in.  I trust that I am very much in the early stages of this leg of the race and need to merely slow to a steady pace whereas I was sprinting and have started to hit the wall (I carbo-loaded on the Twitters).

In my mind, the experiment during the last holiday weekend was to see what it “felt” like to unplug.  I decided to step away and not have my laptop in front of me with a Twitter tab open the entire three days.  It was difficult at first because there’s this odd sense that I will miss something by not staying connected.  But then, I have to ask myself, why do I feel the need to stay connected at that level?  It was ultimately draining and I suffered from something I truly don’t want to fall under the pressure of and that’s always being connected through social media.  I can easily let my posting habits become more organic than forcing myself and putting myself on a strict schedule.

If not, then I will burn myself out.  I’ve done so in other areas and through different seasons.  Trying to constantly put out content and interact through social media is too much for me.  I have so many other interests and priorities that I don’t want to let slip away.  These “others” are what fuel me and give me joy.  Constantly tweeting and trying to come up with content that would attract readers and followers is exhausting and it’s not how I want to live my life.  What I want is to write and share the stories I have in me with the world.  Writers have done that for centuries before we ever got to this place of instant-connectivity.

This is not to say technology and our current culture of content intake is bad but I think I need to take a step back and refocus.  I can do both but I cannot sacrifice my relationships, writing, and interests for the sake of building my brand when I’m not quite there.  At least not at the rate I have been trying to.  It’s too much weight and I’ve been putting it all on my shoulders.  I think once I have “Dim the Veil” ready for release or leading up to the release, I need to step back.

Call to Action: No, I’m not going to encourage you to step away from your devices today, lol.  We get that from all over now.  While I do think it’s healthy, I want to encourage everyone to simply consider what they’re putting out there.  What’s your involvement?  What content are you pouring out?  Is it about sharing your life and being encouraging or dumping your trash for the world to see?  We should strive to be better than the negative ninnies out there.  Let’s be better.  Let’s be uplifting, honoring others wherever they are at in their journey.

The Benefits of Writing Flash Fiction

My experiment of writing flash fiction since January has been one of invaluable joy.  While it started out as a way to flex the writing muscles and provide additional/different content through the blog, it has turned into something that I believe will thrust me into a sea of possibilities in the future.

I hope you all have enjoyed the flash fiction posts at the end of each month.  The next is fast approaching and I truly enjoy writing these little glimpses into the Shoals to the Hallowed world.  (Side note: My goal is to provide several viewpoints–a new one each month–and then continue on in those viewpoints by next year.  So that means you’ll have twelve distinct viewpoints introduced this year and next year, I’ll be continuing from those twelve.)

My never delving into flash fiction was a result of not really having a platform to explore and release those kinds of stories.  The blog opened the way for me and I’m glad I took those steps.  The benefits have helped me in many regards but I want to focus on one single benefit for this blog post.

Flash fiction forces the writer to value each and every word, choosing only the ones that matter most for the current story told.  What I mean by this is, I try not to exceed 550 words in a flash fiction story.  Some that I have written over the last few months have been too long and I had to whittle those down.  Parameters aren’t always a bad thing when telling a story.

This practice forced me to pick and choose, editing finely, so that the story could be told in full without what I like to call “fluff”.  This makes the story in its glimpse form edged and to the point.  Too often when writing in larger word counts, the propensity for fluff leaks through.  I chalk this up to the desire to add detail in a first draft more for the sake of the writer, setting reminders for themselves, more so than for the readers to need at that time.

As you can probably imagine, I notice the fluff as I go through the revision process with the longer works like book 1 of the Ravanguard series.  Both good and difficult at times, I definitely struggle with knowing what is sometimes fluff and what is important to the details of the narrative (that’s the continued process of becoming a better writer).

The flash fiction stories serve multiple purposes for myself as I continue to write and gain experience.  You all are involved in the experimental process I’ve set in front of me.  I know there are other lessons I’ve learned but being able to take notice of detail in word count forces my hands (ha!) to be patient and considerate whereas in past cases I’ve acted very loose in how I frame the narrative and each scene within.

Call to Action: It may be years down the road, but I do plan on compiling all the flash fiction stories for the Shoals to the Hallowed.  I’ve even started planning and thinking about the bigger picture for the series though it may be many many years down the road.  I’m curious to know what people think so far.  Let me know because I’m interested in getting feedback.  Thanks!

Flash Fiction: “The Bloody Dove”

Chasiel stopped and stepped backwards to look down the narrow street deep in the Weavers Ward in the city of Khamda.  Night cast shadows all about the mottled-stone corridor but she could see the two men easily enough.

Smoke from her exhale curled around her face, pipe bowl glowing as she sucked in soon after.  A hum of sound in her throat followed.

The men faced each other, one slapping at the other in obvious intimidation fashion.  Chasiel would never think to intervene in such a common scene in the gloomy wards of Khamda but the slapping man’s attire drew her attention upon recognition.

Smoke continued to drift from her mouth and caress her face as she approached the abuser and his victim.  The sweet scent of the sigda leaf filled her nostrils.

“Help!” the bloody-faced man cried, hands raised to protect his face from further injury.  Common by his appearance, he did wear at his waist one of the leather kits used by runners to keep writing supplies on hand and ready at a moments notice.

With a twist, the other man turned to see who approached, as Chasiel did not change her footing to a quieter step.  Dark hair and beard hid his features but the three intersecting silver rings sewed into the sleeves of his jerkin marked him a mercenary belonging to the Silver Way Band.  “What’s this–”

His question could not be finished as Chasiel lashed out with a combination of punches to his lower back, aiming for the kidneys, and finishing with a grab and throw technique she had recently learned from Fenroe who would receive a well-deserved “thank you” the next time they saw each other.

The bruised runner trembled in shock at witnessing his attacker being bested by a woman no doubt.  Once he came to his senses, he began to sputter thanks.

Chasiel waved him off.  “Give me whatever contract he had been offered.”

The man winced.  “What?”

She blew smoke in his face, ignoring his coughing.  “The contract.  Give it here.”  She snapped her fingers at him.  The humming sound in her throat followed and the runner’s eyes widened before dropping to her throat where he finally noticed her choker and the pendant that rested cold against her skin.

“Damned whore,” the Silver Way mercenary growled as he rose to his feet, still in pain but reaching for a dagger at his waist.

Chasiel reacted in kind, pipe stem pinched between her teeth, as her hands shot for the hooked blades sheathed behind her back.

Dead men screamed, grunted, and/or pissed themselves when the clutches of the Hallowed seized their soul.  Men of the infamous Silver Way were no different.  Blood flew from her slashes and pooled on the old cobbles at her feet.

“The Bloody Dove,” the runner whispered.

Chasiel nodded.  “I’ll have that contract.  Then you can go.”  Placed in her outstretched hand, she unrolled the thin paper and read, finding the details both interesting and enticing.  “Hallowed be Praised,” she said through smoke and leaving the runner alone with the dead.

Flash Fiction: “Separate From the Sorrows”

 

Gasping breath invaded his stinging lungs, feet slipping on the glass-formed ground where the Shoalway opened for him to exit the harsh environment of his Shoal, Qorum.  Always, the elements of the other realm challenged his body and mind–still in ways the scholars and Wielders did not fully understand.

His wounds required attention.  Cuts stung, slashes needed sutures and burns demanded salves.  The Wielder, Damrin Graeves, surveyed his body wherever the pain emitted from, revealed by the rips and singed parts of his once fine clothing.  The fight had been unexpected.  His hands shook, fingers clenched into hard fists.  Tears streamed from his eyes down his cheeks, stinging throughout their trails.  Not from the pain–no–but from the betrayal he had just survived.

There in the abandoned courtyard of stone and overgrowth in the dead city of Hasselor, Kesree baited him repeatedly like a man mad with deceptive intent.  His vile words, lined with poison, echoed in Damrin’s mind.  His friend…one of many years since they first encountered one another in the Wielder’s Congress.  How had it all unraveled like frayed rope?

Damrin dug his fingers into the dirt of the field outside the capital city of Talloe of the Hold, Teras.  Birds sang beautifully around him, mocking his heartbreak.  Kesree had managed to slip away to his Shoal but he could not have lived.  The wounds he had suffered were far worse–fatal to the body.  Passing through the Shoalway to wherever he ended up in the world was a desperate risk.  The Shoals did not coddle or pity the Wielders able to bridge the world by their power.

Losing his dear friend would leave a wound that would never heal but the confrontation between them was a slow-moving agony.  The betrayal drove his thoughts to consider the turn of events.  If Wielders were turning against one another, then war was surely churned up in the garden of peace.  He had to seek out allies, but knew the chance of further deception was likely.  He needed his mind and body to be healed completely, forcing himself to be ready in an instant.

A small opening to his Shoalway appeared before him, earth melting to glass underneath.  He gazed into the portal, able to look through the haze of power to an atmosphere of peril.  Even a small opening was large enough to let out some of the most dangerous threats that dwelled within Qorum.  But he needed it open.  Only then could he draw out the current of power, healing his wounds.

Flash Fiction: “God’s Bones”

The smoldering corpse lay just outside the center of the destroyed thicket.  The melted ground a foot from the body’s collapsed position revealed it to be a man or woman possessed prior of great power.  The Ajjuun had no name for these things but the whispers of “gods” did come from time to time.

Hijeneva ground her teeth while waiting in the humidity.  Signs of the early morning duel could not be ignored.  The trees and vegetation bore singed ends and deep cuts from unfamiliar weapons. She watched the young man–brave and bold–begin his attempt forward.

Imko’s first few steps boasted courage, produced by confidence none of the young warriors in the thicket lacked.  Why would they not?  The bodies of their dead brothers, sisters and friends who had tried to approach the corpse at all different angles did not find death until they crossed an invisible threshold some few feet away from the looting opportunity.

Nine had died so far.  Imko would be the tenth though none would warn him to avoid the fatal fate.  To do so was against the ways of the Ajjuun.  Bravery was never questioned aloud but in her head, Hijeneva begged him to stop.

Perhaps it was bravery that made Imko refuse to stop at the line and consider another option.  Perhaps it was his desire to impress them all and secure a wife for his next name day.  Perhaps, it was the will of the fallen god.

Imko stopped in mid-step and his body jerked violently until he spasmed so hard an audible snap of bones drowned out his scream.  Far before he fell to the ground, the tenth of them died.

Hijeneva’s heart tweaked in pain, the loss of another–a friend–was never as simple as the death itself.  Her aversion to look upon the fresh corpse of Imko drew her gaze upwards where she could see the overhanging branches of the hosta tree.  Strong and able to hold a grown man’s weight, they extended all the way to where the god lay.  A wall could not be pushed through but it could be cleared.

The fathers and mothers who waited back in the tent grounds did so in anticipation.  Did they know or fear their children died within the crucible?  Would there be crying?  Or would the way of stone be practiced even then?  She could hear the names of their own gods being cursed for their cruelty, unafraid of being stricken with sickness or drought.  The Ajjuun may be considered primal by many in the world of the civilized Holds but they were not denied the capacity to challenge the highest of powers that governed their loyalty and worship.

Hijeneva spoke a prayer in the waning silence.  Someone would announce their intent to follow Imko and she knew it had to be her.  To save the lives of those remaining, to scavenge what could be potentially invaluable to their survival in the days to come and–least important to her–to attract the eyes of a suitable husband.

“I’ll go,” she declared, plan barely formed but knowing her attempt might be what was needed to collect the god’s bones.

Flash Fiction: “Binding Slight”

The strolling occupants of the corridors and stairwells separated at the sight of the general–a salmon swimming against the current.  His cape flowed like a whipped flag in the high winds of the Mestansa Sea.  All eyes avoided his, not daring to touch upon the war-battered irises of a Battle Lord.Oran Ki’Tanil barely took notice of the man struggling to stay beside him.  The flow of traffic did not pay him any mind.

“It’s true then?” asked Dhamsho Hivin, a treasurer to the Hold of Breshtk.  “You spoke to the sole survivor.”  Not a question–a realization.

Oran frowned, saying nothing, refusing to until he stood in the Observum atop the capital conservatory.  His mind flooded with each step, forming plans along with responses and questions.  Scenarios of the most dire brood hatched from their shells of fear and worry.  Duty called him to action but he feared what that entailed both for the people of Breshtk and his thousands of soldiers.

The Observum’s domed architecture spun with the powers manifested from the Shoal to the Hallowed called Fensaeng.  Its Wielder, Delya Glassene, wrapped in her green robes pinned tightly by silver crystals turned to him as he entered but said nothing.  Somewhere along the way, the treasurer had broken away, not daring to enter the room filled with Shoal power.

In front of the Wielder shone a suspended viewer with its twelve glass sides, able to be rotated at will by her alone in order to look upon other places in the world.  An orb for spying on their would-be allies.  Had news reached the other Holds?  How long before messages would be received to offer condolences?

Oran did not trust the use of such power but put aside his prejudices, settled now for the first time in his life to seek the aid of a Wielder.  The shivering across his teeth could be ignored for the time being.  That could not be avoided by anyone unless they were a Wielder themselves.  “It’s true,” he told Delya.

She watched the current side of the viewer where a bird’s eye view of the capital city of Charun, pressed in to the compound grounds of the Hold’s military.  Hundreds of men stood in perfect lines at attention while an imposing figure sat upon a warhorse addressing his soldiers in vigorous speech.  Sound did not come through the viewer, something that Oran would have preferred.  Alas, he had little knowledge and understanding of the Shoals and their power.

“Wielder Glassene,” Oran said, attempting to gain her full attention.  “The heirs of the Breshtk Hold are dead.  Such acts…  Another Wielder has broken the Hold’s Treaty–”

“You should seek allies, General Ki’Tanil.”  She moved her hands in front of the viewer, rotating it slowly so Oran could bear witness to multiple Hold armies assembled in what appeared to be war preparations.  “We will need the best defense possible if the other Holds move against us.”

Knees close to buckling, Oran Ki’Tanil, Battle Lord of the Breshtk Hold, whispered a prayer to the Hallowed for help he doubted would come.

Flash Fiction: “Dousing of the Bonds”


Hail peppered the wet earth along the country highway, afternoon light dismissed by the thickened fog wall ringing the guards and carriage.  Past the barrier, a sun-soaked path teased what could be.  Pine and birch alike stood at the outer edge of the cold mist, forced to bear witness to the attack.

The falling ice pinged off the battered armor of the five remaining guards, their breaths fast and hard, waiting for the next onslaught of their hidden foe.  Puddles rippled, blood and mud mixed in a sickly color, where the bodies of the fallen lay in wait for a burial unlikely to come.

Barston checked his leg but knew it was either fractured or a clean break.  He thanked the Hallowed that the bone did not jut from his flesh.  The deep cold of the circle stung his skin, steel of his chain mail biting.  Clouds of his breath seemed to crystalize in the air in front of him.

Whimpers from within the carriage, front wheels shattered to splinters, pulled him back to the fray.  The desire to tell the boys inside to flee the scene pecked at him but that just promised a sooner death for both.  His fingers brushed frost from the mark on the carriage door.  Blood froze in long trails against the sigil of House Fellel.

He would have asked Jaers what they should do but his friend lay three feet away, having bled out minutes ago.  Who still lived?  Every movement was a struggle.  “Krin,” he chattered through the deepening cold.

“Shut your teeth!” came a desperate, fearful response.

The bridgeway from the Shoals to the Hallowed had opened near them so quickly and without warning that none of the twelve guards could have reacted in their favor.  Whoever the attacking Wielder was, they knew a war would follow in direct response to his or her treachery.

A shiver spread through Barston’s teeth starting at the molars to the front before the strikes came.  Screams followed as he twisted around, propped against the carriage, sword hilt frozen in his gauntleted hand.  One by one, needles and corkscrews of ice pierced frost-bitten flesh, finding the gaps between steel and mail.

The twist of fear, urged him to run away but the pain searing through his leg drove him to unconsciousness after two steps, falling face down into the puddle of Jaers’ blood.

Breath came like an icy wind, his chest heaving in pain.  His bones and muscles numb, skin near blue.

The Wielder stood over him, pleased at his atrocity–an artist convinced of a masterpiece.  Arcane armor covered him from head to toe.  Etchings of symbols twisted throughout while quiet prayers broke from his lips, hidden by helm and visor.  Dark eyes turned to regard Barston.  “You will remain alive to tell the tale,” he said before Barston fell unconscious again, wishing only to die.

Quarter-turn Style Guide: A Newsletter

posted in: Flash Fiction, Newsletter, Writing | 2

Afternoon, my friends!

I apologize for the bit of redundancy in my first few blog posts.  I’m finding my groove (like Kuzko not Stella).  Thanks for returning!

Todays’s post will cover my plans for a newsletter (yes, this a bit of a sales pitch to get all of you to sign up for it.  Don’t judge).  That means I have to make it worth your while.  What follows will be my early thoughts for the content offered.

1. Introduction

This will be pretty standard with maybe a pic or two to showcase life in the Mojave Desert or events I participated between Jan and March.  Probably some fun facts just so you can get to know me a little better.

2. Current Status of Projects

You’ll get an up-to-date status of all of my current projects.  The Ravanguard is the primary work in progress but I have others that I’ll be working on from time to time.

3. Ravanguard Backstory

I’d love to get some background details out to my readers.  The world of the Ravanguard is immense and explored in such a way through my writing that is not all at once but almost a slow burn.  By the end of Book 3, much of its borders are revealed but with a few more surprises (I don’t give the whole cow for free).  The key to this will be to be spoiler free.  Once I release Dim the Veil (Novella 1), I can loosen the draw strings  a bit.

4. Currently Reading and Recently Read

This will direct you to my goodreads profile where if you want, you can see what I’m reading.  I’d like to provide some top picks and recommendations in this section as well.  I’m not practiced in critiques or reviews of other works but I may put myself to the test.

5. Flash Fiction

Here’s the juice.  Fresh and sweet.  I will be providing some flash fiction writing that does not make the blog.  I have some ideas I’m mulling around and will experiment with but I’d love to do a flash fiction series that gives you glimpses into a shared world with fresh characters.  Most of all, this will serve as an example of my writing.  These stories will more than likely be fantasy in genre but there could be surprises from time to time.

6. Conclusion and Call to Action

More standard things here but with some extra goodness to top off the newsletter.

Call to Action: Sign up for the newsletter!  It’s free!