Free Samples from Mother’s Grave

I am terribly critical of my own writing. Even after it has been approved by the submissions editor, and checked closely by a content editor, and finally scanned by a line editor, I still see all the tiny flaws that I could have made better. It is all bullshit of course, just my mind torturing me. Below is the proof that this problem is all in my mind.

This excerpt is from my second book, Crossing Mother’s Grave. Popalia, our heroine, has charged forward into a cave expecting to find Katia alive after being waylaid by an orcish war-band. Seth and Raenyl doubt there are survivors but wielding the illusion of hope, Popalia convinces the brothers to push forward just a little further. Raenyl has begrudgingly moved deeper into the cave to scout ahead. This is what he finds.

Deep in the shadows, feeling forward along the wall, Raenyl was careful nothing fell over. Sliding his feet softly so nothing knocked across the walkway, he moved slow, fearful a tiny pebble could echo down the long hall and call unwanted attention to his presence. He looked backward again, relieved he’d left the torch so far behind. The light now served as a candle along a windowsill showing the way home on a dark night.

Slowly easing another ten paces, he gained a little better orientation. The red wall was light reflecting from within a larger cavern. Only a few more steps, and the wall he crept along fell away and down into a bigger, fire-lit cavern. The pathway he followed continued beyond the exposed trail where another black-mouthed tunnel waited, swallowing deeper into the sunless unknown.

Approaching the fall-away wall, Raenyl duck-walked the last few paces until he could see down into the cavernous room. Peeking with one eye around the wall, he saw the room easily could fit 100 orcs. Below, the cavern glowed alit by three widely spaced fire pits made up mostly of glowing coals.

Many orcs were gathered but not close to a hundred. Counting quickly, he saw eight ugly females, each with four swollen breasts; Raenyl observed some must be nursing mothers. Eleven little orc-offspring scurried in the low light, not including the rare orc baby tied in furry carriers that rested on a hip within breast range. Raenyl counted six males within the room—two of them being the big warrior types. Upon seeing the little orcs and the nursing offspring, hair stood upon the back of Raenyl’s neck. This was no raiding camp—this was the raider’s entire tribe.

A female with a crying baby on her hip tossed a log onto a fire. By the fire’s light, he could see through the murky smoke trapped in the high ceilings of the big room. Smoke used the tunnels as an exit out. Raenyl looked down below at the nearest pit. Aside a pile of wood at the nearest fire laid a naked and bloodied body of what his mind defined as once being a young woman. It looked as if her chest had exploded outward, and one breast was a mangled mess.

Raenyl felt his heart leap. He’d first thought it was Katia, but then one of the larger orcs lifted her over his shoulder. Long, dark hair fell from the lolled head. One of the female orcs brought over a long, iron bar. The woman hung like deadweight, and the stronger orc strained to support her battered body as the female orc tied the woman’s hands to the top end of the iron bar. Once done, horrified Raenyl watch as the dead woman’s feet were tied to the bar. Another male, one of the smaller males, was setting two forked poles into holes on opposite ends of the fire pit.

Raenyl’s mind began to flitter as he understood what was happening. The smell of cooked meat all made sense, and he felt instantly sick. Looking further toward the back fires across the room, other bodies roasted over their own personal fires.

There was only one thought in Raenyl’s mind. They had better be far away before this tribe added them to tonight’s meal.

A Naughty Little Tease

This is the first excerpt from Crossing Mother’s Grave. This is taken from the Prologue and it takes place just before Popalia and her group are arrested in The Wrong Way Down. It is a tightly written scene that wraps up a small loose end within the first book. This excerpt reacquaints us with antagonist Katia, and offers a fair bit of foreshadowing.  (The Wrong Way Down was always intended as a set up for this book and the next one. Although book one had dark highlights, this book shows my love for the art of writing horror.) Please, enjoy the sample.

The release date is set for September 1st, 2012.

Katia rubbed the top of her head, disliking the feel of her coarse hair. Like the slaver’s tattoo scarring her face, her hair was another part of Athania that would never go away. Beyond the window’s reflection, more motion caught her eye. Adjusting her focus though the glass and into the general store, she saw Gregor’s partner, Ucilius, paying for baths as well as the food for the next leg of their journey.

Outside the wagon and to her left, she heard a muffled voice calling, “Kat, are you here? Kat?”

To her surprise, she recognized the caller and quietly called back, “I’m only purring if you’re petting, my dear.”

The rugged-looking caller came into view. He wore a black vest over a long-sleeved white shirt that was stained with three days’ worth of dust. His shoulders were thick, and the dirty white shirt seemed creased by the muscles concealed beneath. Blandly, his black hair shined oily with long sideburns joining his mustache. Dark eyes preluded a deep meanness.

Awaiting his approach, she calmly asked, “Stileur, what are you doing here?”

“Know that Darren is watching out for you,” he said quickly. “I didn’t expect to catch up with you here, but Darren said that if I found you to tell you we’ve got you covered. Just complete your assignment.”

“What is going on?”

Still staggered by the death of his friends in Capitol City, Stileur blurted out, “Trevex is dead. It is too long and weird to tell you the whole story right now. That priestess you ditched in the woods? She hired a couple of heavies, and they’re looking for you. I passed them somewhere on the road, but don’t worry, Darren’s gotta good plan to stop ‘em right here.”

The door behind Stileur opened, and Ucilius stepped outside. Katia tilted her head in the merchant’s direction, giving Stileur a fair warning as her tone changed, “Well, it looks like we are leaving now; it was nice talking to you.”

Turning, Stileur peered at the richly dressed, thirty-something merchant. He was wearing a brocade jerkin of olive green with gold threading, and there were elegant, lace ruffles wrapping his wrists. As Stileur saw it, such a show of wealth was a promise of easy prey. Stileur looked down at the merchant’s scrawny little legs—like string beans in skin-tight, avocado pantaloons. By drastic contrast, it appeared as if the little guy had tucked a small melon under his shirt.

Stileur gave the shorter merchant a menacing stare before slinking away from the wagon. Katia stifled a grin, watching Ucilius jump from the unexpected display of hostility. Katia read the startled expression crossing his face as he advanced.

“Friend of yours?” he stated nervously. His hair had been cut near the scalp from the tops of his ears down. Up top, brown bangs remained long and had been greased back and parted on the right. A shallow nose accompanied by closely set eyes gave an impression the young man had been punched hard, and his face had never depressed.

What a pussycat, she thought mockingly before replying with an ice-coated tongue, “He looks at you dirty, and you think he’s my friend? What does that say about us, Ucilius? I’m deeply hurt. I thought you and I were nearly in bed together?”

Stammering, Ucilius replied, “Errr, ummm. I’m married. Ummm, my wife and love…”

“Easy, easy. No worries,” she interrupted. “Look, that soldier…he was off-duty and lookin’ for love. I shot him down like you just shot me.” She pursed her expression to make a dejected and wanton face.

Offering a nervous chuckle, “Well, then—I guess that explains it.”

Observing the merchant’s tight lips, Katia knew that Gregor must want something. The Third could never ask for himself. Ucilius looked deep inside himself, and not finding the courage or tact to tell her, he finally blurted out, “Gregor is concerned that if we have problems on the road, you won’t do your part.”

She thought, I should slap the stupid right off your face. Instead, she replied by saying calmly, “I don’t understand what you are implying. I’ve paid a very generous amount to ride in the back of this wagon all the way to the Portown. Has there been some problem with spending the gold I paid for my ride?”

“No, no, no. Not that.” Verbally, he scampered backward. “Gregor is concerned that if bandits attack, you won’t help fight.”

She snorted. “Is your wife going to fight? How about the bookkeeper? Will she fight?” Ucilius held his hands up in surrender, reminding her that he is only the messenger.

Katia nodded slowly while easing into the cushioned rocker, “Well, you tell Gregor I’ll do what I got to do. Nothing more, nothing less. I paid for this ride; do I look like a slave?” She paused before adding, “I dare you to answer that.”

Ucilius stammered, and Katia stated resolutely, “I owe him nothing. He can give my money back and pay me some on top if he thinks I’m here to protect His Highness. You hear me, Ucilius?”

“It’s okay. Don’t get so upset.” He kept his hands up while saying, “I’ll tell him what you said. I’ll tell him you’ll do what you have to do. He’ll just have to accept that as a yes.”

In the Land of the Free

(I’d entered this one in a ‘flash-fiction’ contest a while ago. It is hard to tell a story in less than 1000-words, this one does it in less than 750. It didn’t win. This afternoon I fixed it better than what was sent, but I’m not going to try entering it for another contest. I’m giving it to you for free.)

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In the Land of the Free

A nine millimeter diameter is a perfect circle. Perfection’s length is explained in inches, and four of them if measured exactly. The beginning of a perfect plan is incased by blued steel.  At the back-end is a hammer locked into place and ready to strike, but the open end is pressing hard against perspiring flesh, the focal point of what will be the execution of a perfected plan.

With one hand curled around rough rubber grips, Anthony Williams presses the pistol’s barrel against the Pakistani’s sweat-saturated head. One-half of the Pakistani’s smock was colored a dark yellow – a sickly urine-yellow – like the smell creeping up over the counter and assaulting Anthony’s nose. Gripping the other half of the clerk’s smock with his free hand – the light yellow half – just beneath where a badge reads, ‘Shop EZ.’

Anthony bellows into the ear of his captive, “Just gimmie a pack’a Newport’s! I gotta get back!”

Fumbling with the key in the register’s drawer, the clerk mumbles, pleading, begging, “Just don’t kill me, please! Have all of it!” His accent is thick, his English raw.

Anthony yells again, menacingly stabbing into the clerk’s head with his gun, “No punk! I don’t want yer god-damn money!  Gimmie the Newport’s!”   He stares directly into the security camera, spreading his lips with practiced smile. They’d know it was him.

Six months ago, Anthony ‘Tony’ Williams turned twenty-eight in Beau Sterritt State Correctional Facility, the ninth consecutive birthday passed in prison. Ten days later he was released on good behavior. More than a third of his life sheared away for selling someone else’s rock. Back then, peddling crack gave him an edge, made him look tough. He knew the streets were hard, but prison had taught him meaner – rehabilitated is what the system calls it.

Breakfast at seven, lunch at noon, dinner at five, lights out at nine, and then repeat. That was a perfect life; not freedom – just life. Freedom was for people who didn’t need structure. Tony would never admit needing someone to tell him ‘when to’ or ‘what for.’ By the standard measure of success in the land of the free, Anthony proved a complete failure.

It mattered no more. He was going back where he understood. Inside that world, he’d earned his rights, and his respects. He smiled one more time for the camera as the clerk  yanked a pack of menthol cigarettes out of the overhead rack, spilling three more cool-green packs across the counter. Releasing his temporary prisoner, Anthony grabbed another pack of smokes and turned towards the door.

He smiled with glee. When the police see the security film, they will know it was he who robbed this store. Reaching out towards the door before him, his head buzzed euphoric.  By the end of the week he’d be home with his armed guards protecting him from all these confusing liberties.  Life again would have definition, and Anthony would again have order. Everything balances by its own perfection.

Light travels faster than sound. Pushing upon the door to get out, a flash of lightning reflected across the pane of well-polished glass before exploding outward over the sidewalk like diamond cubes.  The pain first spread across his back like a bad sunburn, followed shortly thereafter by the sensation of muscle being torn into meat ribbons. From the waist down he feels nothing – absolutely nothing. Jello could have served a better foundation than his legs. The sound of thunder follows the lightning.

Dropping his cigarettes and gun he attempts to soften his fall. The pistol clatters across the sidewalk, scattering glass-cubes while continuing over the curb and bouncing out into the parking lot.  Falling through the shattered doorway and across the ‘Shop EZ’ welcome mat, blood spurts unchecked from a peppering of leaking holes.

Buckshot – the double-ought size shell – was several steel balls of nine-millimeter perfection delivered swiftly from a 12-guage shotgun.

The world began to wash like waves pulling sand across the beach. Slowly filling the grooves of the welcome mat, blood and safety glass mixed in the trenches.  “Why?” Tony croaked, sensing the clerk standing over him. A coppery flavor coated his tongue as he forced out the words, “My gun was empty.”  A crimson smear tainted the cellophane covering over the tobacco.  He remembered believing the day he was released, “I am free!” The pain fades into nothing, as goes the prison called the free world.

(If you liked this one – remember, my best work is for sale, the links are on the left.)