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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hallow Fright

Decided to offer a free Halloween story this year to my fans. It's around 1300 words, so not long. Enjoy!


"Ouch! Mom, that hurt."

"You can thank me later." She yanked again on Tulek's rough hair. "Now hold still like a good little orc, and I'll give you some more."

Tulek smiled. He'd not messed up his hair for nothing. After all, he had to look good for Halloween. "Ouch!"

She put the brush down and wiped her finger-claws on her apron. "That's enough. Don't want to make you look primed and proper, like those vampires."

Tulek frowned and hopped off the stool. He sat at the table next to his little brother, Jukel, already chewing his bat innards. But he turned his attention to his plan for the night.

His mother's thoughts appeared to be there as well. "Tulek, you remember what your dad said about tomorrow?"

"Yes, ma'am." But he knew she'd tell him again anyway. She never believed he remembered anything. Well, sometimes he had to admit, he forgot things, but really?

"For your coming of fright day, he's signed you up for a bed. Did he go over with you what to do under that bed?"

Tulek nodded. "Yes, ma'am. Once the lights are out and the parents have left, I make growling noises and shake the bed."

She stared at him. "You should appreciate this opportunity. Your father worked hard to get you an easy shot like that. Do you want to get your fright by jumping in front of a car or eating someone?"

Tulek grimaced at the thought of eating a human. They tasted horrible. "No, ma'am."

She nodded as she pulled her apron off and set it on the counter. "I should hope so. Now finish your bat and go enjoy your last Halloween as a little orc. I've got to help your father with his lunar array project." She walked down the hallway of the cave. "Can't let those werewolves get a jump on getting to the moon's energy."

Jukel let his bat skin fall to the plate. "Are we going to go now? Huh? I want some candy."

Tulek swallowed. "Right after I get my first fright."

"But Mom said that was tomorrow, not tonight."

"I know."

"And you can't get a fright on Halloween."

"So they say." Tulek ripped the last of the intestines from the bat and gulped it down with some poison ivy juice.

Jukel shook his head. "Dad will not like this. No, no, no."

Tulek swung his head around. "You didn't tell Dad, did you? Or Mom?"

Jukel's long nose flared. "No, of course not. I'm not ready to lose any limbs."

Tulek relaxed, but pointed a finger at Jukel. "And don't you forget it, either."

Jukel dropped from his stool. "I still think it is a waste of time."

"That is precisely why I'm doing it."

"What? To waste time?"

"No, silly. To prove it can be done."

Jukel grabbed his bag and slid his feet into his shoes. "My life goals are so much more practical. Candy."

Tulek laughed. "You don't understand. But that's okay. Keep it simple, until you no longer can." He breathed deep before grabbing his own bag and heading for the door.

# # #

Tulek scanned the horde of children accompanied by their parents. Halloween, the one night an orc could mingle freely with humans and not scare them. Many of his kind, as well as vampires, werewolves, and other monsters, joined the kids for trick or treating. But it also was the night hardest to get one's first fright. A day off for most monsters, but not him. Not tonight. Tonight, he was set on becoming a man-orc.

Jukel pulled on Tulek's coat. "Come on. If we wait much longer, all the candy will be gone."

"Just a minute. First things first."

"We've been waiting for several minutes."

Tulek huffed. "Okay, okay." He scanned the area for a good target. He saw a small group of girls, unattended by any adults. He smiled. They would be the best bet. "Stay here. Watch and learn."

Jukel frowned, but nodded, and then sat on a small tree stump.

Tulek followed the girls and caught up to them. One dressed as a witch, typical pointy hat, broom, and black dress. Another girl arrayed as a fairy princess Please! One of them wore a pirate outfit, eye patch and broad-flat hat. The girls, looked to be around eleven or twelve, giggled among themselves as they gawked at other costumes and discussed their candy hauls.

Tulek leaped in from of them, extended his claws, and yelled out a big, "Aaaaaaarrrrrrrgggg!"

The girls screamed and ran away. Tulek grinned. He knew he could do it. Then his smile sank into a frown. "They're laughing!"

Jukel had walked to where he stood. "Of course. That's why it's hard to scare anyone on Halloween. They don't take you seriously."

"I know that." Tulek growled. "But I just thought I could be different. Though I could prove to Dad that I don't need an easy job. That I'm as good as anyone."

"Don't take it hard. At least you have tomorrow. It'll be like taking candy from a baby."

Tulek stared into the stars. He blinked. "What did you say?"

"You have tomorrow."

Tulek smiled. "No, after that."

"What? Like taking candy from a baby?"

He snapped his fingers. "That's it. You're a genius, little brother."

"Can I get that written in blood?"

"I'll write it with my decomposed flesh if this works. Wait here."

Jukel shook his head. "Here we go again."

Tulek spotted a child dressed as a dragon. He'd just hopped out of a car. The perfect target. Tulek crossed the street and approached the child.

The kid's eyes peered from behind the dragon mask and he paused, watching Tulek.

As Tulek drew close, he stopped. "Have some good candy, kid?"

The child clutched his bag to his chest. "Uh hu."

Tulek bared his teeth and flexed his claws. The kid shrank back, his feet shaking. Hard to see his facial expression behind the mask, but he looked scared. Tulek had his fright!

The child stepped back. "Don't take my candy!"

Tulek lunged forward and grabbed the bag from the child's hands, ripping the paper. Two pieces of candy fell to the sidewalk. Tulek grinned at the fake dragon snout. "Boo!"

The kid's fake dragon mouth opened. Tulek knew it was to scream.

A whoosh of fire engulfed Tulek's face. The smell of burning flesh flooded his nose. Heat seared his head. Pain soared through his skull. He dropped the bag and fell backward, screaming.

As Tulek lay on the ground, writhing, he heard the kid running to the car screaming, "Mommy, I got my first scare, on Halloween!"

# # #

Tulek spit in the urn by the side of his bed. They'd taken him to an orc hospital. He had to spend a few days recovering, which meant he'd miss his appointment for an easy scare. Now he'd be seen as a total failure instead of the hero he wanted to be.

His dad and Jukel entered the room. His dad smiled. "Heard you tried to take candy from a dragon."

Tulek growled. "I didn't know he was a real dragon. Could have sworn he wore a costume."

Jukel giggled. "He did wear a costume. A dragon wearing a dragon costume. How cool is that?"

"Not very." Tulek stared out the window. "Sorry for ruining your Halloween."

Jukel pulled closer to his brother. "But have you seen your face yet?"

Tulek raised his hairless eyebrow. "No."

Jukel grinned and grabbed a mirror laying on a stand next to the bed. "Look!"

Tulek took the mirror and placed it in front of him. A horrid mess of charred flesh stared back at him. If he'd been human, it would have made him throw up.

Tulek's widened his eyes and turned to Jukel. "With this face, I can scare anyone!"

Jukel nodded his head. "Isn't it cool?"

His dad patted Tulek's chest. "Good job, son. You should have no problem getting your first fright now. Thanks to some dragon-based plastic surgery."

Tulek turned back to the mirror and caressed his face. "This is so cool." Yes. Now he would stand out and be the hero after all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Is Indie Publishing the New Vanity Press of Old?

That's the question author L. A. Sartor ask on her blog, and invited author Anthea Lawson and myself to give our thoughts on the matter. Naturally, I opined mightily. You can check out my thoughts and Anthea and L. A. Sartor's thoughts on the subject by reading the article: Is Indie Publishing the New Vanity Press.

Thanks for checking it out!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Jennifer Eifrig Interviews Me

Author Jennifer Eifrig has posted an interview of me. She asked some more unique questions than some I've had, and so you get some unique answers than perhaps you've heard from previous interviews with me. I think she did a great job, and am thankful for providing the opportunity.

Check out her interview with me and post comments on her site. You can here as well. Thanks for checking it out.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Devil's Hit List Excerpt Frank Creed

Devil's Hit List CoverI'm kicking off the Splashdown Books Blog Tour for October's new release, Devil's Hit List: Book Three of THE UNDERGROUND by Frank Creed. Book one is Flashpoint, published in October 2009, and book two is War of Attrition published in October 2010. After two years, readers get to hop on board for another exciting ride through the cyber-punk world of Frank Creed. Here is the blurb:
The One State has contracted the Ash Corporation to produce virtual-e, a brainwave technology chip so highly addictive that it's eventually fatal.

The chip is used in the hottest new entertainment product that will hook any who experience it.

Calamity Kid and his crew fight the production of virtual-e and get backing from the Body of Christ to run an operation to keep the chip from being marketed in North America.

But how far can the underground heroes get when the global government and a megacorporation work together?

Today, we have an excerpt from the new novel to wet your appetite. Enjoy.
The train grunted and chugged out of our way. We strolled the pedestrian walkway across the tracks, a crude asphalt footpath, and then the sidewalk toward Main Street. Specialty shops lined the street and we took our time scanning their windows, giving other walkers a good head start. By the time we’d made it to a pottery shop, the block was empty of travellers.

“By the way,” said e-girl, “Serene got the Body Surfers’ cell back up and running. I finally have some hack support.”

“That’s good.” We passed a fabric store and a small antique seller. I thought I heard something.

“You know, Lethe likes you.”

“Uh-huh. I like her too.”

“Hello? I know! You told me the first time you saw her!”

Hurried footsteps sounded behind us and I ignored my sister. “Not right now, okay?”

“What ever.”

Two sets fell, paced to catch up with us by the next corner. I looked to e-girl. She still gazed in the store windows with no idea at all about our tail.

My electro-magnetic sense displayed something like an old photo-negative, and I did a slow blink to check my mind’s eye. With dark jackets and lip piercings they matched the loitering guys I’d recorded at the station—the image was not clear enough to tell if they were the same guys.

If these jokers were who I suspected, it would be better to lose them while there were still only two. Near the first block’s end, the Spirit spoke to me in the Word. Then Joshua and all Israel with him turned around and attacked Debir.

I turned around. “Wait here,” I told my sister, and walked back at them. They were now only five meters away so I closed quickly with big strides.

One was nearly as short as I. His big friend stood a bit over two meters. They stopped and muttered to each other, unsure of what to do. They stepped under the awning of a confectioner, and tried to hang out by its front door.

I stopped alongside them.

Draw. Both pistols obeyed my thought. They left their bicep holsters and sprang down coat sleeves to my ready hands. I snugged one under the ear of the short ganger, pointed the other at the tall one, and namedropped, keeping my voice low, to assure their compliance. “Tailing the Calamity Kid is not a prime career move. Tell me why I should not shoot you.”

The tall one hesitated before speaking. “’Cause then you won’t have security at your meet with Toad.”

I growled and pushed the short ganger into the tall one. Backing toward e-girl I said, “Thanks for your concern, but we’re safer without you drawing attention to us. Stay here or I will shoot you. And tranq rounds leave a mean headache.”

With another thought I holstered my pistols, holding my arms out so they could watch them disappear. Snagging e-girl’s arm, I led her across the street.

She kept sneaking peeks at me from her eyes’ corners.

Frank Creed PhotoFrank Creed's Links:

Devil's Hit List Amazon link (print):
Devil's Hit List Amazon link (kindle):
Join the Lost Genre Guild:
My publisher has other great Christian spec-fic:

Blog Tour Links:

R. L. Copple
Ryan Grabow
Grace Bridges
Caprice Hokstad
Diane M. Graham
Travis Perry
Jennifer Rodgers
Greg Mitchell
Paul Baines
Keven Newsome
Kat Heckenbach
Timothy Hicks
Robynn Tolbert
Fred Warren

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What's the Name of Your World?

World building is one of the funner things a fantasy or science fiction writer (to a lesser degree) gets to do. At least from my perspective, it offers me the freedom to design the very laws of nature to create a unique experience. So I thought I would let you in on how I developed the world of The Reality Chronicles.

There are two basic types of world builders. There are those who plan out the whole world, how it operates, functions, land masses, seas, forest, mountain ranges, language of people, etc., before they ever lay a word to page. Then there are others who start out with a very minimal idea of the world, and it grows and develops as they write. In truth, very few writers are totally one way or the other. Most of us will find ourselves somewhere between those two poles. But most writers will lean to one side of the fence. Even that can change from one novel to another, depending on how dependent the plot is on how the world is designed. I would designate the two types as pre-planners and organic-planners.

I fall more into the organic world builder. I find out more about the world as the story progresses. That is true of novels like Mind Game, which is more a traditional novel plot, but even more true of the Reality Chronicles, which started out as a short story, three more short stories, another short story added to it. Then a novel sequel to those. Then a third novel. Then went back to the first book and added ten more short stories. Because of the way it grew from that one short story, the world naturally grew with it as I added more and more.

The task in doing it this way, is to keep it consistent. Adding onto it as you go, it is easy to forget some detail that what you are adding that would contradict what you've done before. That requires keeping a good database of what you've added or defined, so any proposed additions or changes can be checked against what's gone before. But even someone who plans it all out before hand will find themselves making mid-story adjustments as characters and plots develop.

But when it comes to the Reality Chronicles series, two of the common questions I get is first, does the world have a name? And two, is it modern or medieval?

To the first question, that is no, the world as a whole doesn't have a name. This is counter to a lot of fantasy where the whole area or world will usually be called something. For sure, people like to have names for things. But when I wrote the first short story for this world, I didn't bother deciding whether it was in our world's history or an alternate world. I didn't name the town it was in. It was just about the story of a kid in a small, primitive town with a strange steam house. The story was meant to be an allegory of the Last Judgment. Figuring out the name of the town or where it was or the world it was in beyond the little bit you get in the first story wasn't critical to the story.

But then I added on four more short stories to that one. Sisko traveled to new places and towns, which I did give names to. Those first five stories gave a bare sketch of the world and how it operated. But by the time I had finished those, I had a good idea of how magic worked in that world, that it was an alternate reality from our own Earth, and the rules of how the ring worked, mostly, and what it even represented. But there was still a lot left undefined as those five stories become my first published novella, Infinite Realities.

Including I never gave Sisko's home town a name. That didn't come until I wrote the full novel sequel, Transforming Realities, currently listed as Reality's Ascent. When Sisko decides they should return to his hometown, I figured it was time to give the place a name. That's when I gave it the name Reol. When I added the other ten short stories to Infinite Realities and Splashdown Books published it as Reality's Dawn, I went back and added mentions of the hometown into the previous stories I'd written where appropriate, as well as using it in the newer stories. But if you read the original novella, you'll never see the name of Sisko's hometown.

The development of the political aspects of the world resulted in a city-state type governments. So a king in the Reality's world is king over a city and its surrounding territory. There is no king over all the land. And whether a city had a king or not depended upon the city, and how they set up their governments. You'll find some very much like a traditional kingship, and others more “democratically” organized. Sometimes this is mentioned, other times just assumed if it doesn't play into the story.

Because of that, the people tend to focus upon their own world, their own towns, and don't think in “big picture” ways. Because there is no overarching governmental structure, or developed sense of geography, no one saw a reason to give their whole world a name. At least, not one that was commonly used by most everyone. Theoretically, individual places might have a name for the whole world.

In the third book, Reality's Fire, the world grew again. Our characters headed west, across the forest, into a less “Christian” section of the world. New cities and mountain ranges and deserts are added, and a sea, an island called Pluto, and new races including a group who live in the caves of the north called Burrowers. When Transforming Realities was first published, I came out with my first map that I had visualized as I wrote the stories of the adventures. The third book added to it.

By the time I added the extra ten stories to Infinite Realities to create what had eventually became Reality's Dawn, I had already written two rough drafts of a new series in that world, which I've tentatively called, “The Dragons' Dying Fields.” These stories have greatly expanded not only the geography of the world, but its history and even how that world is connected with our own, as well as other alternate realities. Knowing that as I wrote the ten new stories gave me the ability to not only help introduce characters that appeared later on, like Joel, and fill out the stories of the characters better that were only alluded to before, but I was able to foreshadow what was to come in the next two books and the future new series.

One thing that never changed, however, is the world as a whole never received a name. In the first book of the new series, I play on that as well a bit, because the characters have no concept of a country or names of anything beyond a forest or mountain range.

When it comes to the feel of the world alluded to in the second asked question, I wanted to give it enough of a historical basis that it was grounded in some type of familiar reality, but change things up a bit. Being an alternate world gave me the freedom to do that. I focused on it having a medieval feel to the world, but there are more modern things about it. Primarily, I used common English we are used to hearing, without worrying about whether it sounded too modern or not. I did limit it some in that regard, but I wanted the language to connect with the readers instead of attempting to stick to an Earth-like language during the medieval times. Being an alternate world gave me the freedom to do this, though I know some will balk at it.

However, that doesn't mean I didn't do any research to keep it “real” in other respects. When I had a reference to toilets, I asked, “Did they have toilets back then, and if so, how did they operate?” So I researched it, and discovered yes they did, but usually only the rich had them. Common folk had a “spot” in a secluded area and used leaves for wiping. But often toilets were nothing more than a bench with a hole cut in it, and flies buzzing all around as you did your business. Not very sanitary. Castles were often better off, where toilets were on upper floors, and the disposed of mess dropped all the way to the ground so it stayed as far away from the seat as possible.

In another story, I wanted to use a dentist. Did they have dentist back then? Yes, though they were mostly crude and involved pulling teeth out more than anything. I took some liberties that in this world in that they'd developed the ability to use tools to “tap” the cavity corruption out of the tooth (to Sisko, it felt like pounding), and packed it with a substance that would keep it from getting worse, a primitive filling material. So you see a more modern type of dentistry than what actually existed in our medieval history, though Sisko no doubt would label it as torture, not healing.

Though I hadn't decided in the first story whether it was an alternate world or not, early on I decided it wasn't our Earth, and even though it had a parallel history, there would be some significant divergences in progress and abilities and historical facts. Enough real history to keep the reader grounded in a world, but enough differences to say, “We're not on Earth anymore, Todo.”

What I liked about that approach is the ability to just focus on the story, without worrying about getting a bunch of historical facts “just right.” Yet enough I could make some allusions and analogies to our world.

So that tells a lot of the story how the Reality Chronicles world developed and grew. You'll be reading more and getting into a lot more history and worlds within Sisko's world in the near future, when the first book of the new series comes out.

How did your world(s) develop?