Oops, a Little Too Ambitious

So, Hounds of the Hunted was expected to be out today. It isn’t out yet.

 

The final read-through turned up some good spots that needed a bit of altering — nothing major, but time consuming. My awesome proofreader found a bit more stuff than I found and those little tweaks need to be made. I need a couple (2?) more days and by the weekend (June 19th), it will be out. It really is that close to release. I just overshot my target a little.

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Here is the Prologue just for you. The book synopsis is on the picture above. Popalia and Wynkkur are the central protagonists of the story. Popalia is a priestess of an agnostic god and she is falling from grace as the evils of the world are wearing her down. Wynkkur a self taught wizard whose abilities are more likely to cause problems than fix them. Not in a sweet and cute kind of way, but in a “Oh, wow, we are going to prison for my mistake,” kind of way. This is a story about outlaw heroes.

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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.

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.)