Friday, October 24, 2014

New Blog Up at Wordpress

I've decided to move my blog/website over to Wordpress, so for those of you who'd like to follow me over there, here's the link - http://www.davidnalderman.com. I'm going to be blogging a lot more over there - multiple times a week - and I won't just be talking about writing anymore, although some of my writing will be found in some of the posts - such as today's Friday Muse piece on the new blog.

Hope to see you all over there!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Special Giveaway - Full Fiction Library!

If you head over to Tiffany Cole's blog post, you can enter a special giveaway for a chance to win my full fiction library (eight books) in digital format - Kindle, Nook, whatever device you're reading on.

This giveaway is for:
Black Earth: End of the Innocence
Black Earth: The Broken Daisy
Black Earth: Dark Masquerade
Black Earth: Exodus
Endangered Memories - an Expired Reality novel
Lost Birth - an Expired Reality novel
Drather's Story - an Expired Reality novella
The Crossover Alliance Anthology - Volume 1 (a multi-author short story collection)

This giveaway runs for the next four days, so enter it now while you can!

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Friday Muse - The Wounded Crow

Today's muse piece is another contest entry that I did for the Writing.com October NaNo Prep Challenge. This one asked for a short back story to my antagonist, who in this story happens to a be Ryn - a familiar character to those of you who have read the second half of my Black Earth series. This short snippet sees Ryn as a child when he first starts to fall in love with crows...

The Wounded Crow - 
“You know, you’re not allowed to have animals here,” Jameson said as he shook his finger at Ryn.

Ryn ignored the young boy and set the wounded crow on the dresser. “Can you fetch me some bandages?”

Jameson crossed his arms and sighed. “Really? You’re not going to listen to me, even after the last time you got in trouble? I warned you then too. It took you three weeks to finish cleaning the kitchen area.”

Ryn slammed his fist on the top of the dresser, and then immediately cooed the crow to calm down. Once the crow steadied, Ryn turned and scowled at his friend. “Get me some bandages or get out. I have to help him.”

Jameson opened the top drawer of the dresser and pointed in the bottom left corner. “Right there.”
By the weakening candlelight, Ryn could make out a cream-colored roll of bandages wedged next to his some men’s undergarments. He took the bandages and began dressing the crow’s broken wing.

“You know, it’s not a him,” Jameson said. “It’s a crow. An animal. A Filth.”

“I know what everyone else thinks he is. But he’s a crow, and I have to help him. I couldn’t just let him die out there in the darkness.”

“Crow’s love the dark.”

Ryn finished dressing the crow’s wounds and set the bandages back in the dresser drawer before shutting it. He stroked the bird’s beak. “I have to name him.”

“Name him?”

“Yes. Shadow.”

“That’s appropriate. You know, if the counsel leaders find out you have ‘him’, they’ll boot you and it out of the kingdom. They’ll even boot me out if they find out I helped you.”

Ryn waved his friend away. “Then get lost. I don’t need this grief. Everyone here talks so much about mercy and honor, and yet they’d stone us if they found out we helped a suffering animal?”

“It’s Filth. Filth isn’t allowed in the kingdom for obvious reasons, Ryn. I don’t even want to be around that thing. I’m here because you’re my friend. And if you get in trouble again, you’re going to need my communication skills to get you out of it.”

“Yes, I suppose you do come in handy.”

A loud bell rang out, the sound rushing through the glassless window on the other side of the room.

Jameson gasped. “The king’s making an announcement!”

Ryn took the bird into his hands. “Go. I’ll catch up with you. I have to find a place to hide him.”

Jameson huffed. “Okay, but hurry. If the king doesn’t see you in the plaza, he’ll ask me what’s up. I can’t keep lying for you.”

“Just go,” Ryn snapped.

Jameson hurried out of the room.

Alone with the crow, Ryn let a grin steal his face.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The LZR Project - Episode #17 Now Available!

Episode #17 is now available for download in PDF format for your reading pleasure, and best of all, it's only $1 for those not on a series subscription! Check out the official web page for links to individual episodes. Want to subscribe to The LZR Project and only pay once to get a new episode each and every Wednesday - and catch up on back episodes? Head to https://gumroad.com/products/LqzG for more information.

In this episode: After a clandestine meeting with Mr. Big, Sean Amorou heads to the Pleasure District to meet a new contact known only as Viper. But which will be more lethal - the secret weaponry Sean is there to pick up, or the independent contractor who's as venomous as a snake?

Enjoy!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Christians and Writing and Stirring the Pot

Is it okay for Christians to stir the pot with their fictional writing, to raise questions we know will receive negative reactions or challenge millenia-old beliefs? Are we allowed to put words to paper that may end up tearing down the strongholds of 'religious' thinking? Are we heretics if we write anything other than G-rated Christian fiction?

These are questions I found myself pondering last week. On the tail end of releasing a multi-author anthology filled with stories that define the edgy Christian speculative fiction genre, I can already sense the naysayers peeking around the corners, sniffing for blood. "Christian fiction can't have edgy content," they grumble. "Cursing and violence are absolutely prohibited in your novels - if you call yourself a Christian writer." "You wrote a story that had sexual content in it? You're a pervert, plain and simple." "Why would anyone write about alcoholism, kidnapping, murder? Dismemberment? GASP!" *faints*

All sarcasm aside, I'm not surprised when edgy material (ie adult content, violence, cursing) in Christian fiction causes a stir. There are many professing Christians who hold to the belief that including edgy content in Christian fiction is the same as having a bag of week-old trash on the dining room table during Thanksgiving dinner. It just doesn't belong. It stinks, it's filthy, and it distracts from the beauty of the dining room table.

I've finally come to realize that this stir that's constantly being caused because of what I write is actually a good thing. What I write isn't just challenging the boundaries of 'Christian' fiction with the nature of the story itself, but also with the content found within these stories. Did you know that Jesus caused controversy? It's true, despite what version of the Bible you may have read as a child. He was constantly turning everyone's beliefs upside down. He was constantly questioning - and debunking - the status quo. He stretched - and sometimes broke through - the boundaries of peoples' beliefs to show them a new way of thinking, a non-'religious' way of thinking. He came to bring truth, and sometimes the truth goes against the very structure - mental, religious, physical - that people have established within and around themselves.

To break through these boundaries is exactly my reason for writing edgy Christian speculative fiction. When I first penned Black Earth: End of the Innocence, I realized that everything I had written before was based on my childhood belief that Christian fiction had to be squeaky clean - that 'Christian' meant 'Family Friendly'. I couldn't have curse words, I couldn't have any kind of sexual content, I couldn't have anything that resembled more than cartoon violence - and sometimes even that was going too far.

These are things I told myself based on what I saw in the publishing market, in our culture, and in our Christian community. I think that's why I stayed close to the Young Adult genre as I grew up, because it more easily catered to squeaky clean Christian beliefs. But once I started writing out the rape scene that occurs in my novel, End of the Innocence, I felt...well...free. Not just as a person, but as a writer. The scene was written according to what the story demanded. I didn't go into ridiculous and senseless detail, but I didn't shy away from the subject matter either. My character needed to be raped for her story to have purpose, and I couldn't just write, "She was raped. The next day...". Omission works well for some things, but I don't subscribe to the 'rule' that omission is the solution in every single storyline, in every single book.

Here's the way I look at it. If you have a light bulb, you don't stay in a brightly lit room with it. You travel to a dark room and install that light bulb to bring the light to other areas of the building. You don't need a light bulb in a room that is filled with constant sunshine. That light bulb is needed in the room that has no windows, that is filled with shadow. But in taking the light bulb to other dark rooms, you have to encounter the darkness. You don't know there is a need for that light bulb until you encounter that darkness and recognize it as darkness.

I think some Christians who are writers have steered away from being controversial in all the right ways because they are either afraid of being rejected by the Christian community (or the secular community), or they are too busy being 'religious' about the wrong things. I know that first one applies to me. I struggle with wanting everyone to approve of everything I do. I want to keep the peace, I want everyone to get along. I don't want to rock the boat because it will disrupt my daily routine. I don't want the Christian community coming at me with pitchforks because they don't understand - or don't want to take the time to try and understand - why I write what I write.

I know that many Christians read Christian fiction so they don't have to confront worldly things like they would have to in much of the secular fiction that is out there. But writing and reading about the contrast between good and evil is writing and reading about life. You can stick your head in a book and pretend the darkness isn't there. But once you get done with your book and take a good look at the world around you, you'll find that we live in a dark and fallen world full of crime, tragedy, and constant strife.

But we have a savior who died to save all of us from that darkness, a bright light against this tapestry of darkness. And I write what I write to take that light to the dark rooms of the human soul.

photo credit: neonzu1 via photopin cc

photo credit: josemanuelerre via photopin cc

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Friday Muse - Salt's Punishment

As I mentioned in my big update post a few days ago, I'm doing away with Flash Fiction Friday and switching my Fridays to The Friday Muse. Flash Fiction Friday required me to write flash fiction every friday, and much of the time I wasn't writing flash fiction according to its definition. Instead, The Friday Muse will allow me to put up character sketches, brief stories, or notes on projects I'm working on to give all of you a glimpse into my process as a writer.

Today's piece is actually a brief story that I had to write for the Writing.com October NaNo Prep Challenge. This is a protagonist backstory for my upcoming NaNoWriMo novel. Enjoy!


Salt's Punishment - 
"Your crimes against these women is deplorable," Judge Sacrot grumbled into the microphone from high up on the judge's bench overlooking the arena.

Salt looked around him at the massive crowd filling seats in the arena, their faces painted red in mixtures of anger and malice. He shifted his wrists in the metal restraints behind him, dismayed that his own community would rise against him. Those women deserved what happened to them, he thought. Judge Sacrot will never see it that way, though. He is corrupt, as is the entire government of this world.

Judge Sacrot sighed, the sound mimicking a gust of wind through the arena's speaker system. "Salt, we will forever be grateful for the help you have given us in the past. You saved our kingdom from the Hemotpots. You saved us with your ingenuity when the drought came. You've have been instrumental in our survival here on Eckor."

The crowd booed and hissed. Judge Sacrot allowed them to release their verbal rage upon the man standing in the center of the arena.

Salt glanced down at his feet. His thick brown boots were sprinkled in the ash that covered the entire floor of the arena. The ash came from the Hert volcano to the south, and filled the underground caverns via the wind currents that swept through the main tunnel entrance from Spring Valley.

Salt felt the scarf covering the bottom half of his face slipping and thought to ask one of the guards that were posted on each side of him if they could readjust it for him. The ash did nothing but disrupt his breathing when he came into contact with too much of it. The scarf helped block the ash from getting into his nostrils and then into his lungs, but with the high concentration of it in the arena, he wouldn't last long before it began to upset his chest.

The booing and hissing finally died down after a minute or so. Judge Sacrot moved his mouth to the microphone again. "You understand, Salt, that even though you have been a hero in the past does not excuse your crimes now? This crowd wants blood. This crowd is outraged by your venomous behavior these last couple of days. What do you have to say for yourself?"

Silence filled the arena as all eyes turned toward Salt. The guard to his right reached over and gently pulled down the scarf from Salt's mouth so he could speak.

Salt cleared his throat and spoke loudly to the crowd around him. "I have nothing to say for myself. You labeled me your hero when it was convenient for you. And now you have labeled me your enemy just the same. Those four women that I maimed were out to destroy this community. You think I raped them? You all think I did heinous things to their bodies, things that your mind does not want to grasp? I did. But I did it to protect all of you. All four of those women were imposters, fakes, charlatans. They started a brothel, for crying out loud. And you did nothing to stop it. They poured out their perversion upon our community by tainting the fine men of this place. They even tried to taint me.

"That's when I gave them a taste of the medicine they wanted so badly."

The booing and hissing returned with a vengeance. Salt could not raise his voice high enough to compete with it, so he stood silent, dreading what was to come next. The crowd wanted blood, and Salt knew Judge Sacrot - with how corrupt he was - would give them exactly what they craved.

Judge Sacrot shouted into the microphone, calming everyone. The roar died, and for a second before Judge Sacrot continued, Salt could hear nothing but a simple shuffling of feet in the stadium seats. It would be a good time to run, if there were not guards posted around every entrance and exit of the arena.

"Salt," Judge Sacrot continued, "you have been judged by your peers. You are hereby sentenced to the punishment withheld for those who have committed such acts as you have. By raping, you have stolen a woman's innocence. By mutilating the flesh, you have stolen pieces of their identity. In return, you will be stripped of your own identity."

The guards on both sides of Salt drew closer to him, fearing he would run. But there was nowhere to run. This was the end of the line.

Judge Sacrot continued. "You will be properly disfigured, mutilated as those four women were. Your fingerprints will be taken from you. And, because one of those women was my daughter, you will have your memory stripped from you. I do not want my oldest daughter moving through that sick mind of yours any longer. You will no longer be Salt. You will be a nobody on the outside, because you are a nobody on the inside."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The LZR Project - Episode #16 Now Available!

Episode #16 is now available for download in PDF format for your reading pleasure, and best of all, it's only $1 for those not on a series subscription! Check out the official web page for links to individual episodes. Want to subscribe to The LZR Project and only pay once to get a new episode each and every Wednesday - and catch up on back episodes? Head to https://gumroad.com/products/LqzG for more information.

In this episode: Arriving in the city known as Destiny, Veronica Amorou confronts XS. With the chance to finally kill the leader of Anaisha's most notorious human trafficking ring, Veronica is forced to choose between pursuing vengeance or saving innocent lives.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Change of Season

Phew! It's been a crazy couple of months. We (as in The Crossover Alliance) just published our very first anthology of edgy Christian speculative fiction. I'm about to (finally) finish work on the multi-book digital packs of my Black Earth series. And, I redid all of the covers for the books in my Expired Reality series - a fact that I am very proud of. I mean, just look at the new cover to Lost Birth! 

Anyway, now that all of that is behind me, I have finally found some time to settle down a bit and start sketching out my project list for the next year. Fall, I think, is the perfect time to do so. The leaves are changing, the air is cooling, and you can just smell change. Or is that pumpkin spiced latte?

Either way, change is definitely in the air. There are a slew of changes I am about to make to my online presence, and there is a beautiful batch of new projects (and some old) that I am going to be working on over the course of the next year.

Let's take a look at some of them, shall we?

Goodbye Facebook Page - 
Yep, I'm going to delete my Facebook Page. Not my personal profile, but my author Page. Facebook has changed drastically since the first day I set up my Page, and now, even though I have 486 people liking the page, the most FB has allowed to see a single post in the last month or so is 37. That's 37 people out of 486 that were 'allowed' to even see a post that I put on my Page. It's challenging enough trying to get people to like a post or interact with it in some way, now I have to pay FB in order for people who have already proclaimed they like my Page to see the contents of my Page?



No thanks. I don't have the time or energy to fight with FB, and my time and energy could be better spent investing in Twitter - which I will be doing more of. My plan is to get rid of my FB Page in the next few weeks, so this is your heads up.

Goodbye Flash Fiction Fridays - 
Don't worry, I'm just saying goodbye to the title. I'm still going to write something each week and post it on Fridays. It just may not be flash fiction. By definition, flash fiction needs to be a complete story, and some of what I have been writing for Flash Fiction Fridays are not complete stories but character sketches, themes, world building, etc.

Flash Fiction Fridays will now be known as The Friday Muse, and will continue this coming Friday.





Hello Blog - 
As I mentioned in an earlier post, this blog has been lacking in content. I've really just been using it to mention new episodes of The LZR Project, Flash Fiction Fridays, or...well, that's been about it. From now on, a new post will go up every Monday, and the topics will range from my experiences with self-publishing, the challenges of writing/publishing my unique genre, or I'll just muse about how great the life of a writer is - I do get to kill off characters who don't agree with me. I love being a writer.

NaNoWriMo 2014 - 
It's that time of year again! With National Novel Writing Month right around the corner (November 1st), I have started the Writing.com October NaNoWriMo Prep Challenge. Each day in the month of October, I sketch out the setting, characters, and themes to my upcoming NaNoWriMo novel to get ready for the frantic November month of writing.

This year, my NaNoWriMo project is something I am especially excited for, because the story itself benefits both of my fictional series. I decided to write out the back story to Legion, the vile alien species responsible for the destruction of multitudes of planets in both of my series. Legion is one of the prime villains in my Black Earth series, and is an almost viler villain in my Expired Reality series, especially in the later novels to come. This will truly be an exciting novel to write, and my plan is to publish it Spring/Summer 2015.

Other Projects This Next Year -
The third novel in my Expired Reality series (written/published)
Audio dramas
Black Earth short stories
Desperate Betrayal (Expired Reality series short story)
The Crossover Alliance Anthology - Volume 2
Two special top-secret projects (one a novel, the other a mini-series)

Look for more from me in the coming weeks, especially on Twitter, my blog, and my email newsletter. Speaking of which, if you haven't signed up for it yet, you can at this link. Until next time! I have some projects to work on...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The LZR Project - Episode #15 Now Available!

Episode #15 is now available for download in PDF format for your reading pleasure, and best of all, it's only $1 for those not on a series subscription! Check out the official web page for links to individual episodes. Want to subscribe to The LZR Project and only pay once to get a new episode each and every Wednesday - and catch up on back episodes? Head to https://gumroad.com/products/LqzG for more information.

In this episode: Veronica Amorou heads to the city of Destiny to find and kill a man by the name of XS. But while she pursues a disturbing remnant of Simper Creed's human trafficking organization, she finds a city that doesn't quite belong on Anaisha.

Enjoy!

Friday, September 26, 2014

New Release: The Crossover Alliance Anthology - Volume 1

The day is finally here! I'm proud to announce the release of The Crossover Alliance Anthology - Volume 1. This is a seven author, nine story project that began shortly before the start of the new year. Each short story in this awesome collection falls within the edgy Christian speculative fiction genre. You'll find science fiction, fantasy, and horror. You'll find Christian themes. And you'll also find real-world content. All of it comes together to bring to life unique fiction that I guarantee you have never read the likes of before. Check out the official webpage!

The Anthology is available in paperback and digital formats from the following booksellers:
Amazon.com (paperback)
Createspace (paperback)
Kindle
Nook
Smashwords (free)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The LZR Project - Episode #14 Now Available!

Episode #14 is now available for download in PDF format for your reading pleasure, and best of all, it's only $1 for those not on a series subscription! Check out the official web page for links to individual episodes. Want to subscribe to The LZR Project and only pay once to get a new episode each and every Wednesday - and catch up on back episodes? Head to https://gumroad.com/products/LqzG for more information.

In this episode: Veronica Amorou thought Simper Creed - a crazed human trafficker - was dead. But when she spots the mark of slavery on a fashion colleague, Veronica realizes Simper's network may not be as dead as she thought.

Enjoy!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #30 - The Girl

The Girl
Doctor Ephod pointed to the young girl behind the viewing glass. She was asleep in the small room, with only four walls and a floor covered in potting soil to keep her company.

"She has the power to create life," Ephod said.

Doctor Curt huffed. "We know that, E. We've been observing her for three months now. She's only done so on two occasions, and both were in rooms full of water. She has yet to do it in this room. What I want to know - what the panel wants to know - is who she is. Where did she come from? What are her origins?"

Ephod watched the young girl intently. Her bare feet and fingernails were caked in soil. Her face hid behind a curtain of long blue hair that acted as a shroud for her countenance. She wore nothing more than a simple purple dress that went to her knees. It was the only thing she had been wearing when they found her in the middle of the crater in the Wastelands.

"You've grown attached to her, haven't you?" Curt asked.

Ephod shook his head adamantly. "No."

"You lie," Curt snapped. The man's thick black eyebrows raised in accusation, like sabers readying to come down to decapitate Ephod. "While you've been watching her, we've been watching you."

Ephod tried not to act surprised at the admission. He had his suspicions that the panel's eyes were all over the research facility, but he didn't know how extensively they had been scrutinizing him. He shrugged, sighed, and pointed to the girl again. "What do you want me to say? She's a beautiful specimen."

"That's all she is, Ephod. A specimen. An alien."

"I know that. I was there when she was discovered."

Curt grumbled something under his breath, but Ephod couldn't make out what.

The girl suddenly shifted, and Ephod felt his heart skip a beat. Curt moved in close to the glass, and they both watched as the girl sat up and moved the hair out from in front of her face. Her eyes glowed a ghastly blue, and her lips were covered in small pieces of dark soil which she brushed away with her thin arm.

She stood to her feet, watching the two doctors as she did. Ephod knew the girl didn't trust them - and she was right not to. She stretched her arms out to her sides and wiggled her fingers and toes.

"What is she doing?" Curt asked.

Ephod shrugged. "I don't know. She doesn't usually do anything other than claw at the soil."

"Yes, I know. But you refused to put into your reports why you think she claws at the soil."

"I never included my thoughts on the subject because I don't know why she claws at the soil. I have an assumption - she's trying to find something to create life from - but since it's just an assumption, I figured the panel didn't want it included in my report."

Curt moved his lips close to Ephod's right ear. "The panel wants to know every damn thought that runs through that tiny head of yours. You're on our dime. We own your thoughts when you're within these walls."

Ephod ignored Curt's intrusive proximity and continued to watch the girl. She simply wiggled her fingers and toes. Nothing more.

Curt moved his face away from Ephod's and grunted. "I have serious doubts about you, Doctor Ephod. Doubts that I find myself having to continually remind the panel of. I think you've been compromised by this subject."

"Why do you say that? I've done exactly what you - and the panel - have asked me to do. I put her in different environments, I observe her day and night, and I turn in reports on my findings. I haven't helped her to escape, I haven't done anything to interfere with the tests. I don't know why you're so suspicious of me."

Curt huffed. "I don't trust you, E, because my gut tells me you're up to no good."

Ephod shrugged and half-smiled at his colleague. "Your gut is wrong. I'm one of the good guys, Doctor Curt."

"That has yet to be seen."

Ephod watched as the girl closed her eyes and lifted her hands above her head. The ground suddenly shook slightly, and the soil near her feet began to shift and crack. A bright green stalk broke through the soil and rose high enough to clear the girl's head to reach the ceiling.

"No!" Curt shouted.

The stalk burst through the stone ceiling allowing for a burst of sunlight to enter the girl's room, bathing her in a warm glow.

Curt ran off down the hallway, no doubt to get security.

The girl opened her eyes and looked directly at Ephod. She lifted her right foot off the soil and stood like a flamingo for a few seconds before she lifted her left foot and floated in the air. She smiled warmly at Ephod, and then she rose out of the opening and into the midday sky.

Doctor Ephod fled down the hallway in the direction opposite Doctor Curt, glad he had been given the chance to smuggle a mound of vine seeds inside the room's soil the night before.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Struck Down, But Not Destroyed

I've been feeling a lot like Batman lately.

If any of you have ever played Arkham Asylum, the video game, then maybe you can relate. In the beginning of the game, Batman escorts the Joker to Arkham to make sure he gets into his new home safe and sound. The Joker of course breaks free, and all hell breaks loose as you are tasked with venturing through Arkham to find and stop the psychotic clown.

The part that I can relate to is Batman's physical appearance by the end of the game. See, at the start of the game you are Batman - you have a fresh, clean superhero outfit, you're fit as a fiddle, strong as an ox. You ooze confidence and strength. But as the game progresses, you'll notice Batman's appearance change. His suit becomes torn and ripped in places, his face and body become a bit bruised and broken. Even his speech begins to sound winded and worn. By the end of the game, you can see the effects of the turmoil that Batman has endured trying to stop his arch enemy.

This last July marked five years that I've been doing this 'author thing' full time. These last five years have been exciting, scary, and challenging. Most people talk about leaving their 9-5 job to take a risk on an entrepreneurship, but they usually have a good savings account to catch their fall or a spouse who is bringing in enough funds to cover the deficit. Not us. We took a step of faith with $0 in our savings account and my wife only making $9/hour in a 32/hour a week job. We stepped out on a promise - that God would watch over us and our finances while I built my career as a writer. (To read more about this promise, grab Of Dreams and Faith.)

I've gone through quite a bit these last five years. I've definitely grown spiritually. I've learned how better to be a dad and a better husband. I've learned to prioritize relationships. I've learned that obedience is better than sacrifice - one of the hardest lessons to learn. I've learned that God knows better than I do, even if I won't always admit it in my heart.

And I've learned a ton about writing, self-publishing, and entrepreneurship. 

But all this learning has come with a price. I feel a lot like Batman at the end of the game. I started out strong, wild-eyed, and full of optimism. Now I feel winded. The bruises and cuts are starting to sting. I can't go very far without having to catch my breath. I'm beginning to wonder when night will break open into dawn.

At the moment, my project list is intentionally slowing to a crawl so I can take the time to take stock of my writing career. Though some might not really consider it a 'career'. I have self-published six fiction novels, one non-fiction book, and one fiction novella...and I have made one digital sale this month. O.N.E. No paperback sales, one digital sale. My 'career' feels like it has come to a complete standstill. Only thing is, this isn't the first month I've seen this. I've had many, many months these last five years that have been in the dumps sales-wise.

It's definitely been more than a little discouraging at times. By the world's standards, I have been incredibly unsuccessful. I've had more than my fair share of critics (including family and friends) whisper in my ear, telling me to go and get a 'real' job. I've struggled hard to grasp marketing strategies, I've struggled to make sense of social networking, and I've struggled to become a 'salesman' to friends, family, and strangers to get them to buy my books.

It's a good thing then that my success isn't defined by this world's standards. God has given me purpose in my writing. These last five years, He has taken care of every one of my needs while I've sat at a desk and bled across the page. And even though I have practically no sales right now, it doesn't mean I am unsuccessful. Even though I am not on a bestseller list somewhere, even though my book isn't found in the front lobby of your local bookstore, even though the internet isn't abuzz with my author moniker - it doesn't make me unsuccessful, as a person or a writer.

I've learned so much about self-publishing these last five years, and I sense God is taking everything I have learned and is bringing me back full circle to the beginning to break through this wall that's been here since day one. God wasn't going to push me through to the next season of my life - a season when I finally harvest the seeds I planted many many winters ago - when I wasn't ready as a person. My character needed some work. My way of thinking needed some work. My perspective on life needed some work.

These five years have been all about growing, all about becoming a man, refined in the fires of experience, ready to walk into this next season. And even though it seems right now that I'm about to go down for the count - and I feel like I'm about to go down for the count - God won't let me. My own steel will won't let me. Through success or failure, I'll keep getting back up in my pursuit of God's promise. I may not be able to see the fruit of my labor right now, but I know it's coming. God doesn't waste His time or ours. Everything has purpose. 

 

Even though I'm in the 153rd round of this fight, I guarantee you I will either win this round or get back up to see my 154th round. And even though I would have liked for this fight to end after the third or fourth round, even though I would have loved to see my writing take off after the first or second year of doing this gig, I'll stick with this until they run out of round numbers.

At times, it seems like the odds of this fight are stacked against me. The odds of the publishing world, the odds of my unique genre taking off, the odds of a nobody crawling to the top of the slush pile. But it doesn't mean that success won't come my way. It will. In God's time. In God's way. God loves working through the underdog, especially the underdog who refuses to give up. His strength is made perfect in my weakness.

2 Corinthians 4:8,9 -
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The LZR Project - Episode #13 Now Available!

Episode #13 is now available for download in PDF format for your reading pleasure, and best of all, it's only $1 for those not on a series subscription! Check out the official web page for links to individual episodes. Want to subscribe to The LZR Project and only pay once to get a new episode each and every Wednesday - and catch up on back episodes? Head to https://gumroad.com/products/LqzG for more information.

In this episode: When a mysterious girl approaches Carrie Green with a rumor that Alex Waterford is still alive, Carrie travels to Lysallis University to prove the girl wrong. But what she finds is more than just the spirit of a dead foe...

Enjoy!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #29 - Jeran and Emily

This week's piece is actually a rough part of a prequel to one of the stories you'll find in the upcoming anthology I am a part of. The story this is a prequel of is called Doors of Babel, and the anthology - The Crossover Alliance - Anthology Volume 1 - will be due out September 26. If Jeran and Emily's last name - Huxley - sounds familiar, it's because this story and the one in the anthology are actually prequels to my novella, Drather's Story. Enjoy!

Jeran and Emily
The sirens wailed in the distance. In another reality, at another time, those same sirens would have been used to signal some kind of natural disaster – such as a tornado or a hurricane. But not in this dark age. The sirens were indicating the approaching raiding party.

Jeran Huxley tied the front of her long sweater and rushed into the small bedroom where Emily slept. The six-year-old girl was fast asleep, dreaming – one would presume – of ponies and dollhouses. Jeran hated having to jolt the girl awake, but if they didn’t escape before the raiding party arrived, they would be killed, raped, or something worse.

“What is it, Mommy?” Emily groaned as Jeran shook the girl somewhat violently. “I was dreaming.”

“I know, Honey, but we have to go. Remember what I taught you? Remember the drills?”
Emily rubbed her eyes and sat up in her bed. “Yeah. I remember.”

“Get out of bed, get dressed, get your bag, and meet me in the living room.”

“What are those sirens, Mommy? They’re loud.”

Jeran brushed her hand through the girl’s tangled hair and grinned. “I know. They won’t be on forever. Get dressed. I’m going to grab our other things.”

Jeran left Emily to follow through with the actions she had taught her. Jeran rushed down the dark hallway and entered their lit kitchen where a duffle bag half full of canned food sat on the counter. Jeran continued filling it from the open cupboard above the refrigerator, her mind racing to remember the drills she had run her and her daughter through every other day.

She finished packing the duffle bag, zipped it closed, and set it on the floor before rushing into the living room for another bag she had on the couch, half full of weapons and ammunition. She double checked the three pistols within, making sure they were loaded and ready to fire, and then zipped up the bag, satisfied she could aptly defend her daughter if need be.

As was her habit the last few days, Jeran glanced at a photograph on the bookshelf. In it, she, Emily, and Jeran’s husband, Jed, stood in a field of green grass against an Arizona sunset backdrop.

“You wanted to walk out on us, bastard? Fine.” She slammed the picture frame on its face, shattering the glass.

The sirens stopped. Jeran went to the large window and peered through the blinds on the street outside. Orange lamps filled the road with an ugly glow. She saw neighbors from the house next door packing up their vehicle. They were frantic, without a plan, and probably headed to their deaths. Jeran had tried to talk sense into them weeks earlier, tried to warn them about the impending raid, but they wouldn’t listen to her.

Most didn’t listen to her.

Most in their town believed Legion and the falling stars to be a fairytale. The stars hadn’t fallen over Jennastad, so why would anyone believe the news reports that they had fallen elsewhere?
Most believed the stories about Nathan Pierce, his sister Daisy, and the President of the United States to be a fabrication. A ruse. A conspiracy.

Not Jeran. She believed everything. And when she heard that a nearby prison had failed to keep its inmates within its fortified walls after a freak supernatural incident occurred to kill the guards instantly, she knew it would only be a matter of time before those prisoners decided to pour out into the nearest town – their town. The crier – a man by the name of Joseph – believed her, and did his best to hold town meetings to warn of the impending raid. Few listened. But because of Joseph, the siren had been activated tonight. Lives had been saved.

Did you get to safety, Joseph, or is your body hanging from an upside-down cross somewhere in town?

“I’m ready, Mommy!”

Startled, Jeran swung around and caught her breath when she found her daughter standing in the middle of the living room with her pink backpack strung across her back.

“Good, Honey. Now, go grab the bag of food from the kitchen, and let’s get going.”

Her daughter rushed off to the other room while Jeran peered through her blinds once again. Her neighbors were pulling out of the driveway in their beat up station wagon.

Gunfire suddenly filled the street. The windows of the vehicle shattered and the car rolled backwards into the wall across the street. Jeran noticed a group of men entering the street from the right of her house. Each was armed with a rifle, and each was clothed in a blue jumpsuit – prison garb.

Jeran rushed from the window and went straight to the kitchen where Emily was told to go. But the girl was nowhere in sight.

“Emily?” Jeran whispered. She quickly flipped the light switch off and made her way down the dark hallway, peering in Emily’s room, the master bedroom, and even the bathroom only to find no sign of her daughter. “Emily?”

She opened the door to the garage and gasped when she saw a woman in a black skirt and black blazer standing next to their SUV, Emily’s hand in hers.

“Let go of my daughter,” Jeran growled. “Now.”

The woman nodded and let go of Emily’s hand. Emily slowly drew to Jeran’s side. “She said her name is Sarah,” Emily said.

“What are you doing in my home?”

“I’m here to help,” the woman answered.

More gunfire rang out beyond the walls of the garage. Jeran heard screaming in the distance.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Sarah. Jed sent me to retrieve you two and bring you somewhere safe.”

“My husband never mentioned your name. Get the hell out of my garage.”

“Your husband hasn’t been here for the last week, has he? You thought he ran out on you, didn’t you?”

Jeran put her palms over Emily’s ears. “He’s a bastard. He left us in the middle of the night. I haven’t heard from him since.”

“He’s been working with me to find a place of safety for you and your family. He knew if he told you about it, you would want to follow him. He didn’t want you to get hurt.” Sarah put her hands in the air. “I’m not here to hurt you. I have no weapon. I just want to take you to a place of safety. A place far from here.”

Jeran heard more gunfire, only this time it sounded like it was just outside the garage door. “Let me grab a few things, and we’ll go with you.”

“Excellent,” Sarah said, lowering her arms to her sides. “Jed will be very happy to see you.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The LZR Project - Episode #12 Now Available!

Episode #12 is now available for download in PDF format for your reading pleasure, and best of all, it's only $1 for those not on a series subscription! Check out the official web page for links to individual episodes. Want to subscribe to The LZR Project and only pay once to get a new episode each and every Wednesday - and catch up on back episodes? Head to https://gumroad.com/products/LqzG for more information.

In this episode: While David Corbin's pacifist ideals are commended by Howard Grey during a meeting showcasing Grey's experimental technology, David is informed that an enemy unlike any he's ever seen is readying an attack on Anaisha - an attack that may force him to change his views on non-violent means to take down his opponents.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The LZR Project - Episode #11 Now Available!

Episode #11 is now available for download in PDF format for your reading pleasure, and best of all, it's only $1 for those not on a series subscription! Check out the official web page for links to individual episodes. Want to subscribe to The LZR Project and only pay once to get a new episode each and every Wednesday - and catch up on back episodes? Head to https://gumroad.com/products/LqzG for more information.

In this episode: After the Lazerblades fail in their attempt to capture Mr. Big, Cybil Corbin - aka Persimmon - decides to take matters into her own hands and returns to the crime scene to find blackmail to sway her brother's actions.

Enjoy!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #28 - Tiffany Sweet

This week's Flash Fiction Fridays piece is a sneak peek at the some of the background of one of the characters from my Expired Reality series. I actually wrote out the background to this particular character during National Novel Writing Month 2009, and hope to publish that novella at some point in the near future.

In the meantime, enjoy today's short nugget.

Tiffany Sweet
Jensen Alcon stepped three feet to his left and stood in front of the next research pod. This one was particularly larger than the last three he had done a routine checkup on – it was bigger, more advanced in its technical workings, and was being used to isolate a human rather than a creature like the others. The stainless steel surface of the cylinder-shaped chamber glistened under the fluorescent lighting of the lab, adding a hint of refinement to the somewhat macabre task at hand.

Jensen held his clipboard out in front of him and cleared his throat. He didn’t like participating in experiments on humans, but – as his colleague, Roc, had put it, Wedges weren’t normal humans. They were super powered beings, putting them in a classification of their own.

Jensen only half believed that lie. He half believed it so he could move forward and do the work he was getting paid to do. Squelching his conscience was just part of the job.

“Subject 7A4T,” he said, hoping Roc – who was monitoring him from the security panel in the other room – wasn’t paying attention to how nervous this made Jensen feel.

“Just get it over with, man,” Roc’s voice boomed over the lab’s speakers.

“Leave me alone,” Jensen said.

“I want to go to lunch. They have that buffet place that just opened down the road. Hurry up so we can get there before the crowds show up.”

Jensen sighed and read aloud the fact sheet on his clipboard. “Subject 7A4T. Name: Tiffany Sweet. Age: 16. Family is deceased. Mother was a baker, and her father owned a bookstore. Tiffany’s powers are…erratic.” Jensen glanced up at the camera in the ceiling that he knew Roc was watching him through. “Erratic? That’s all it says here. Is that why her powers were put into dormancy?”

“Just read the sheet, man. Nobody really cares what it says. Just read it for the record, open the chamber, and check on the experiment before naming it.”

“She’s not an experiment, Roc. She’s a human being.”

“Man, we’ve been through this.”

“You have your way of dealing with things, and I have mine. I don’t want to think of her as a test tube or a beaker. She’s a young female. A human. Endowed, maybe, with powers beyond our comprehension. But still human.”

“Just finish your damn job so we can eat, man! I’m starving!”

Jensen input his sixteen-digit alphanumeric code into the security panel on the front of the chamber and stepped back as the chamber hissed. White mist swirled up from the bottom of the unit as the front shield lifted up to reveal the female within.

Her appearance shocked Jensen for more than just a mere moment. She was nude, and her arms and legs were strapped into the chamber by a silver-colored flexible alloy known as Silvertech. Nobody had ever escaped Silvertech, nor had anyone ever destroyed Silvertech. Jensen briefly remembered reading a newspaper article about the Eneran military wanting to use Silvertech to build their tanks.

He shuddered at the thought of indestructible tanks.

The girl’s breasts were covered by her long, pink hair that had grown down to her hips. The most striking trait about her though was her bright turquoise-colored eyes. In the chamber, their ‘experiments’ were put into cryo sleep – which happened immediately upon activation – and caught some of their subjects with their eyes open.

“Are you getting off on the experiment, man? Hurry up!”

“She’s…stunning. Not her flesh. Her hair. Her eyes. One could get lost in those eyes…” Jensen mused.

“We need to get you a girlfriend. I heard there’s a lot of women that eat at that new buffet down the road.”

“I’m not looking at her like that, Roc. There’s something special about her. I can’t place my finger on it.”

“Just name her, and let’s go. My stomach is crying out somethin’ fierce!”

“Alright. I’ll name her…Turquoise. Turquoise Wedge.”

“Great. You named your new girlfriend. Now, can we eat, please?”

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The LZR Project - Episode #10 Now Available!

Episode #10 is now available for download in PDF format for your reading pleasure, and best of all, it's only $1 for those not on a series subscription! Check out the official web page for links to individual episodes. Want to subscribe to The LZR Project and only pay once to get a new episode each and every Wednesday - and catch up on back episodes? Head to https://gumroad.com/products/LqzG for more information.

In this episode: The Lazerblades lead a raid on Mr. Big's warehouse in hopes of finding his mysterious assistant, Shaonna Ryshay. But when an outsider interferes with the operation, Veronica finds that her task to kill Shaonna is just the beginning of a long night.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Crossover Alliance Anthology Release Date!

I am proud to announce the release date for The Crossover Alliance Anthology - Volume 1: Friday, September 26th. On that date, the book will be available in paperback and digital formats.

This is a project I have been spearheading for months now, and it contains a compilation of unique short stories from some of today's most prolific authors. If you've never heard of edgy Christian speculative fiction, you will once you've read this anthology!

About the book -
By traversing beyond the boundaries of Christian and secular fiction, this phenomenal collection of edgy Christian speculative pieces will transport you to the furthest reaches of space, the chilling snow-drenched plains of fantasy, and the deepest, darkest corridors of the human heart. While journeying through these fantastical worlds, let this prolific gathering of authors shine a glimmer of light your way and reveal Christ in a very dark, very real world.

Keep tabs on the official Anthology web page for upcoming information on the included authors and a special book trailer.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #27 - The War

The War
“What story do you want to hear before dinner, Jimmy?” Grandpa Jim asked.

Jimmy settled on the couch near his grandfather. “Tell me about the War that you and your friends were in. I haven’t heard that one yet!”

Grandpa Jim nodded. “Yes, yes. Those were dark days indeed. The War itself lasted only hours, but it felt like weeks before we came to the end of it.  By that time, I had lost all of my companions, and I found myself alone to fight the horrible artificial intelligence known as The Core by myself.”

“How did you do it, Grandpa?” Jimmy asked.

Grandpa Jim let a smile bleed across his face. He up held the pointer finger of his right hand. “Luck and strategy, my dear boy.

“See, it all began for the four in the foyer of the Tower of Roses. We had to fight our way through that place first before we could even get close to the Core. Things got a little dicey, but we managed to make it out of there alive. Once we found the blue key – which we needed in order to get through the exit – the place went nuts with enemies. Ronald, my best friend, took it upon himself to cover our backs as we battled our way out.

“Did you and your friends escape?” Jimmy asked as he scooted across the couch, closer to his grandfather.

Grandpa Jim frowned. “We did, but not before we had to fight a beast the likes of which you may indeed see in your lifetime. An experiment gone awry. The four of us were weak when we first met up with the beast, but by the end, it was just me and Ronald left. Craig and Tootsie died in the battle.” He turned and stared out the living room window, his eyes catching sight of the drifting clouds outside. “They were good companions to have on an adventure like that. But they were still new to the game, still green to the strategy it took to fell that beast. They didn’t know what Ronald and I figured out too late into the battle: The beast had a weak spot, a glowing disc on its forehead. Once we realized that, Ronald and I shot up that thing until it finally exploded all over the place, leaving a mess of coins behind.”

Jimmy scratched his head. “Coins? Why would it leave coins behind?”

Grandpa Jim shrugged. “I don’t know. It just did.”

Becky peered into the room, her sparkling blue eyes catching Grandpa Jim’s attention. “Are you filling my son’s head with nonsense again, dad?”

Grandpa Jim laughed. “Of course not.”

Jimmy waved his mother away. “Not now, Mom! He’s telling me about the war.”

Becky rolled her eyes and huffed. “Dinner’s almost ready. Can you two wrap this up, please?” With that, she vanished, leaving Grandpa Jim to finish his tale.

“As I was saying, we defeated the beast, Ronald and I. From there, we advanced to the deepest part of the war, the inner Core. This was a terrible place of demons and traps. We had some close calls. It was in that place that I lost some of my hearing. The sound of the explosions was too much for my fragile ears. The volume in that place was too high.

“We finally made it to the central Core, though. Before we knew what hit us, Ronald was cut in half by a mining laser.”

Jimmy gasped. “What did you do then, Grandpa?”

Grandpa Jim laughed, happy to have the full attention of a ten-year-old. “Well, I did what I did best throughout the whole war. I pulled out my rocket launcher and went to town on the Core and its diabolical artificial intelligence. I made it out with one point of health – but I made it out.”

Jimmy scratched his head again. “One point of health? What does that mean?”

Grandpa Jim patted Jimmy on the back before standing to his feet. “You’ll know what it means soon enough, kiddo.”

Becky returned to the doorway.

“I’m hungry!” Jimmy exclaimed as he ran to the kitchen.

Becky stopped Grandpa Jim in the doorway between the two rooms. “You really think it’s healthy to fill his head with such things?”

Grandpa Jim shrugged. “What things?”

“The War? Really? Is that what you’re calling it now?”

“It was responsible for the loss of some of my hearing. You know that.”

“I do know that. I was there, remember?”

He smiled warmly. “I do remember, Tootsie. Maybe after dinner…”

Becky shook her head and put her hand on Grandpa Jim’s shoulder. “Dad, I love you. Really I do. But Jimmy is too young to play those kinds of games. You know that. And I’m…well, I’m too old. That was a one-time thing, okay?”

Grandpa Jim gently moved his daughter to the side and passed by her as he made his way to the kitchen. “You’re never too old for video games, sweetie. Never too old.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The LZR Project - Episode #9 Now Available!

Episode #9 is now available for download in PDF format for your reading pleasure, and best of all, it's only $1 for those not on a series subscription! Check out the official web page for links to individual episodes. Want to subscribe to The LZR Project and only pay once to get a new episode each and every Wednesday - and catch up on back episodes? Head to https://gumroad.com/products/LqzG for more information.

In this episode: Vector returns to give David Corbin advice on how to capture Mr. Big, but when she reveals the existence of a deadly woman who is assisting the crime lord, David has to decide whether or not Vector's information is actually a prelude to a trap.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Emergence

It's been a while since I've talked about myself. Please don't take that as an egotistical or narcissistic observation. I'm simply pointing out that it's been a while since I pulled the curtain back and let others see me as more than just an author, but also as a husband, father, Christ-follower, gamer, reader, and all-around geek. I've been blogging about The LZR Project, Flash Fiction Fridays, and cover designs, but I haven't really been all that personal. At least, I don't feel like I have. And I think a big part of it is the season I am currently in.

As most of you already know, God called me and my family to the Bay Area over a year ago. The journey out here in itself is a grand story of faith, but you can read about that in my book, Of Dreams and Faith. Once here, we were under the impression we would be participating in a church plant in the city of San Francisco. That was the major reason we thought we were being moved to the Bay Area in the first place. Things with the church plant didn't work out (for us personally), which in turn led me to feel as if I had lost my focus, and I found myself crying out to God for direction. 

This last year has been rough. I've been living in unfamiliar territory out here in the Bay Area. I've been away from friends, from family, from familiarity. I've had my faithful wife by my side, my son at my heel, but even after a year I still don't feel 'settled' here in the Bay Area. I've felt more like a stranger in a strange land, a nomad for lack of a better description. To top things off, we just confirmed that God is calling us back to Arizona, although the specifics of 'when' are yet to be determined. This leaves us in a sort of limbo that has got me a little antsy to move forward into the next season.

The question that plagued my mind at one point was this: What has this last year been for? If the purpose of moving us here to California was to be part of a church plant we are no longer a part of, than what are we doing here? Granted, we've wanted to live in California for many years, but now that we've been here a while, we realize that this isn't the place we're going to settle in, at least not right now. So, could God have made a mistake by calling us out here? Did we make a mistake by not following through on the church plant? Did God blunder so badly that He made us waste all of this time, energy, and these resources to move to another state simply to exist?

Not hardly.

See, the last year has given me a lot of time to think. A lot of time to pray. A lot of time to look into my heart and spirit and find out who I really am. A lot of time to grow. This time spent in California has given me discipline in trusting God in unfamiliar surroundings, apart from companions, apart from my comfort zone. This time has given me the ability to shut out the voices of others (good or bad), and focus on my relationship with my wife, my relationship with God, and my writing career.

With this journey, though, came a side-effect. As I focused more and more on what God tried to reveal to me, I shrank further and further away from my online persona. I've updated friends and family on a very rare basis, I've pumped out information about my writing projects - but with no real heart to the posts, and I've essentially become a hermit. Again, this is how I feel I've come off as of late.

I've taken to disguising myself much like the wizard from the Wizard of Oz, pulling the curtains closed while my author persona takes over for me.

It doesn't help that I also tend to have a dual personality where sometimes I am a supreme introvert, and other times I am a supreme extrovert. Sometimes I look at being an author as merely a business, putting aside all personality to make room for business-related news. Every now and then I'll say something funny on Twitter, and then leave my account for weeks on end without another word said aside from notifications of the latest blog post which is about my books. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with posting about my writing. This is my God-given career, and (if done right), the information about my writing projects via social media can be a great conduit to let people know what I've been up to.

This last season has sort of reminded me of the transformation a caterpillar takes to become a butterfly, residing within a cocoon for weeks, sometimes months, before emerging, transformed. While inside the cocoon, the caterpillar isn't concerned with the outside world. He is simply focused on his transformation, his growth.

It's time for my emergence. It's time for me (and my family) to enter into the next season. I'm stronger, more focused, and more passionate about my relationship with God, my life, and my career. Keep an eye out for more from me in the coming weeks.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #26 - Dead Train

Dead Train
The smell is what wakes me. Then the movement of the train. My first instinct upon being assaulted by the aroma of death and decay is to panic, however, within a split second my memory takes the movement of the train and assures me that the smell simply means that I am alive.

I find nothing but darkness upon opening my eyes. Decaying flesh rubs against every part of my body, and I have to work hard not to vomit – which will only make things worse. I’m still on a train full of corpses. I stowed away on it after feigning my death in the EX chambers in the city of Soral. I didn’t actually think I would get away with faking my death and hiding on this train to escape the genocide. But I did.

I shift my weight to the left and right and manage to wiggle to the front of the pile of death and enter a very small space in the train car that is not occupied by corpses. I roll down the pile of bodies and hit my head on the wooden floorboard. I use my arms to push up from the bloodstained floor, take a deep breath, and look over to the pile of bodies. Hundreds of bodies. The heads are covered in black sackcloth, but the bodies have been stripped nude, and most are covered in boils, bloody lines, or acid-eaten patches.

I stand to my feet and brush myself off. I confirm that I am still dressed in my brown skirt and white blouse. My black denim coat has managed to keep most of the filth off my blouse, however, I feel patches of blood as I run my fingers through my long hair. I’ll need to shower once I find a safe place to settle.

A loud screech nearly blows out my eardrums as the train suddenly decreases its speed. Since I have been out cold, I’m not sure how far I’ve traveled from Soral. I know the destination of the train was supposed to be Baruck, but I have no idea how close we are to that destination.

I glance around to see if there is an exit to another train car, but most of the car is occupied by rotting corpses. The only doorway off the train is the large sliding one in front of me. I move the door latch to the right and slide the door open.

Snow.

Ice.

We are nowhere near Baruck.

The train comes to a complete stop. The same panic I felt upon awakening attempts to creep in again, but I will not allow it to cloud my focus. I have to get as far away from the train as possible before the authorities find me alive. I glance at one of the bodies. The flesh has been covered in acid that has torn away a good portion of the skin, leaving an open gash allowing me to see bone and muscle. I have no desire to turn out that way.

A siren rings out, and I know now that they’ve been alerted to my presence. I had heard that these trains had heat sensors integrated in them, but I hoped it had been rumor and speculation.

The train is a good three feet from the ground. I hop down without issue. I glance to my left and find a small company of blue armor-clad Sentries closing on my position. Blue laser blasts fill the space between them and me as I make a run for the patch of woods a few kilometers in front of me.

The snow isn’t too deep, and I’m able to run without too much hindrance. My sneakers are not the right type of shoe to be wearing in a pursuit such as this, but it’s nothing I can change at the moment.
A bolt hits my shoulder and I feel the sting of heat and needles. I keep running, realizing that they are starting to draw back from the pursuit. I keep running, nearly out of breath, until I reach the entrance of the woods.

Looking up, I understand why they fell back. The trees are tall, stretching so high into the overcast sky that I cannot make out the tops of them. The bark is black, and there are splotches of red paint cast across the trunks. Blood? Paint? I don’t want to find out.

“Sarah Groves!” one of the Sentries calls out.

I turn my back to the woods and give the small squad of Sentries my full attention. They are almost an equal distance between me and the train. Five of them. The leader is in yellow armor.

“Surrender, and we will take you in without issue.”

“Bullshit!” I shout. I have no desire to turn into one of the corpses inside the train car. I know that is what will happen to me if I turn myself in. However…I turn to the trees behind me. Black bark. Red splotches. This couldn’t possibly be the Blood Grove, could it? The Blood Grove is nowhere near the vicinity of Soral. Why would the train be moving through this area of Anaisha?

“We all know you’re not going to enter the trees. Come with us, and you will be safe. You will have a proper trial in Soral.”

“You lie!”

The Sentry in yellow armor holds up his arms and chuckles. “You have nowhere else to run.”

“I do,” I whisper. I turn and thrust myself into the patch of trees, uncertain which is a worse fate to face.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The LZR Project - Episode #8 Now Available!

Episode #8 is now available for download in PDF format for your reading pleasure, and best of all, it's only $1 for those not on a series subscription! Check out the official web page for links to individual episodes. Want to subscribe to The LZR Project and only pay once to get a new episode each and every Wednesday - and catch up on back episodes? Head to https://gumroad.com/products/LqzG for more information.

In this episode: During a mission to Crystal City to find the Sindaris Stone, Carrie Green finds a vision of her questionable future with David Corbin.

Enjoy!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #25 - Moonlight

Moonlight
I packed my bag light in case trouble decided to pursue me along the road. It was a mistake leaving Avernon, but if I stayed with her she would have been killed. We both would have been killed, probably in our sleep. Instead, I decided to kill her in her sleep. Not actually, but figuratively. By leaving while she slumbered, I know she will awaken to a nightmare of my creation. I doubt she will ever forgive me. It is for the best, regardless if she is ever able to see it that way.

I shift the bag higher on my shoulder, shoving my fingers between the bag strap and the bone of my collar in the hopes of alleviating the dull pain the weight of the bag is causing. Even though I did pack light, the strap of the bag itself seems intent on tearing through my skin.

The path in front of me is mostly dark, save for slivers of moonlight that sneak through the massive tree branches spread overhead. A dark fog attempts to flood my path, but the slivers of moonlight will not allow it to consume my way. I am glad for this. I sense ill specters within the fog, but have yet to see them.

The air is damp, and my lungs feel as if they are filling with wet cotton. I wonder how long it will take for the Separsese to catch up with me. Even though I displeased him by stealing the talisman, he will not be pleased when he discovers what I did with it. He will undoubtedly hunt me to the corners of the planet. That is why I had to leave Avernon. That is why I had to leave my love behind, sleeping, naked after a night full of passion. I doubt I will ever cross paths with one like her again. If 
I don’t outwit the Separsese, I doubt I will cross paths with anyone ever again.

Suddenly, like mice scurrying out of the path of giant’s feet, the slivers of moonlight which have kept me company thus far flee, and the dark fog fills in the path around me. I am left in pure darkness. I set my bag on the ground and quickly pull out my pack of matches, lighting one upon the side of my shoe. The small glow barely illuminates the area around me, but it is enough to show me who I face here in the Drashard Woods: the Separsese.

His face hangs in the darkness as if he has no body. The wrinkles traveling his face create a map upon his countenance, one that hints at many adventures and much age. But the texture of his face is nothing to his eyes which glow a soft amber color in the darkness. The smile upon his lips are filled with poison as he opens them to speak to me.

“Victor. Did you really think you could outsmart me?”

“You came for your talisman?” I ask.

His body comes into view. He is wearing a flowing purple robe. It is what he usually wears when he sentences his people to execution. “You took a holy artifact. Where is it?”

He circles around me, but I refuse to follow him with my sight. Instead, I stand straight and tall in the hopes of hiding my fear. “I don’t have it.”

“You destroyed it?”

I nod.

The Separsese hisses like a serpent. “Why?”

“You were going to use it on me, weren’t you?”

“How do you know that? The talisman you took was the Oborong. An ancient artifact with the power to heal. Why would I use that on you?”

“In order to heal one, it drains the life from another. You were going to use it to drain my life to heal you.”

He stopped and grinned madly. “More clever you are than I ever gave you credit for. Yes. My intention was to destroy you to build myself up. However, now that you have destroyed the talisman, I will have to take your life in other ways. First I will drain your life, your blood, and then the blood of your beautiful Avernon. And the blood of her child.”

My heart slams against my ribcage, screaming to get out of my chest. “Child?”

“You did not know?” he says, flashing his rotted teeth. “She carries. I sense the power in the life she holds within her womb.”

“Leave her. Take me. I’m the one you wanted all along.”

“Yes, but you have destroyed the artifact that would have allowed me to fill myself with your essence alone. Now I need more than just yours in order to fill myself with life. That child will be the perfect source…unless.”

I can’t help but sneer. “Unless what?”

“I will allow you and your significant others to live. You pledge yourself to me. Your spirit. Your soul. Your life. You do my bidding, and I will allow you to live.”

“Never.”

He shrugged. “Fine. Have it your way. Lay down.” He waves his hand and I feel my body collapse to the dirt. “Roll over.” I roll onto my back. “Die.” My insides suddenly feel as if they are being drowned in corrosive acid.

“No!” I scream.

The pain stops.

The Separsese looks down upon me. “Did you say something?”

“I will serve you,” I say with a whisper.

He waves his hand and I stand to my feet. I feel something prick my right hand. I look to it and see a strange purple skull stamped into my skin.

“Go back home,” the Separsese says. “Go back home and enjoy your Avernon and enjoy your new child. Just know that I will have need of you soon.”

In the blink of an eye, the Separsese is gone and the slivers of moonlight return to my side like fair-weather friends.