Self Hosting

A big thanks to all of you who have followed this blog.  I know I have been absent of late.  But I want you all to know that I have been working diligently at creating a better web presence.  Part of that creation has involved a move to a self hosted site with greater functionality.  The site is still green, but offers many opportunities to expand.  And I want to take the time to share it with you all.  Please take the time to follow the new site at:   WWW.MLHallBooks.COM.

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Finaly Some Breathing Space

Not long ago I blogged about The Hats We Wear.  It was apparent at that time I had way too many hats.  It’s been almost a month since that post and I have been methodically trimming back the hats.  In fact the hat rack is looking down right barren right now.  Anyhow, the goal was to get into a situation where I could spend more time here and on other social networks (I use Twitter and Goodreads).  It looks like I’ve achieved that goal.

One thing I have not given up is my writing time and I have been busy working with the Rogue series.  I originally intended to self-publish Rogue: The Streets of Caltania (Current working title) in the spring.  However, I am planning three books in the series and have decided I want to write all three manuscripts before launch.  So as it stands the first book (mentioned above) may not be available until fall of this year.

For those of you who have purchased and read The Apprentice, thank you and I hope that you have enjoyed it.  And special thanks to those who have reviewed it on Amazon.

The Apprentice, Free Trial!

The apprentice is free to download from 3/17/13 to 3/21/13. It can be downloaded at Amazon by clicking “The Apprentice”

The Hats We Wear!

We all wear them. Hats that is. Sometimes we wear multiple hats in a day. Sometimes when we’re lazy, we put on the lazy hat and just lounge around all day. Other times we are forced to be productive and wear the hats of our trades or the hats of our responsibilities.

The consequence of filling your hat rack with hats is stress, especially when you find you have more hats than your hat rack will hold.  So the logical thing to do is to take a long hard look at the hats you are wearing and decide which ones are most important to you, and which ones you can remove to decrease the stress in your life.  I’ve had to do just exactly that.  Here’s a list of a few hats I wear:

Father

Husband

Emergency Room Nurse

Student (Currently continueing my nursing education)

Writer

Self Editor

Blogger

Subsistance Gardener

And I could go on with many other hats i wear throughout the day, and year.  But you get the picture.  Some of these items in particular take greater amounts of time than others.  And as you might guess, item number four takes up a significant amount of time, as does the final item i’ve listed.

So I’ve decided it is best for the time being to take off some of these hats and wear only the ones I have to, allowing for the more important hats of Father and Husband.  Fortunately the education hat will take care of itself at the end of the year (I will be finished with that).  But the remainder of these hats will be relegated to the rack in the rear closet, only to be dusted off on rare occasion.  So in short, this blog will remain only as an announcement of completed projects.

Availability Update

After further consideration of diversifying the publication of The Apprentice, I have decided to make it available only through the KDP and enroll in the KDP select program which allows some free promotions (not allowed if you are published elsewhere)

This does not mean that I will not pursue Smashwords in the future. Smashwords is a wonderful self-publishing opportunity, but I feel that developing readership is more important at this time. KDP facilitates providing books to readers on a free basis through promotions and lending (i.e. getting more books into the hands of readers)

Again, I apologized for the confusion I have created for anyone interested in this book!

The Apprentice Is Available!

“Stricken by forbidden love, an apprentice in a secretive military group saves his king’s betrothed while struggling against betrayal and revenge.”

Actually it has been available on Amazon for a couple of days.  The book is now available at the smashwords website as well as Amazon. You can check it out by following these links:
* The apprentice at Amazon

So that’s it for now.  Back to the keyboard to work on Rogue, the sequel to The Apprentice.

“The Apprentice” Sample.

Chapter 1

Artamos De’spada knew he shouldn’t have bothered with the book.

The trio of Black Knights had traveled north for five days to meet the young King Lorenzo Altair’s betrothed, the Lady Leona De Santis of Bermania.  To Artamos’s surprise they had traveled in the open, not bothering with the precaution of guard duty or hidden camps.  At first he had been upset by his mentor’s lack of security, but gradually he fell into the relaxed routine, thinking to use the unexpected campfire to read by.  But his two companions interrupted him so regularly that he barely read two chapters in five nights.

He read anyway, holding it so the campfire reflected the pages.  A short chunk of wood served him as a stool, too small for his gangly height of six-foot four inches.  His knees jutted upward like two awkwardly angled branches, and his elbows winged out from his thighs, twin bony projections.

Dressed in the dark padded leather armor of the Black Knight society, and with his black cloak splayed out from his rounded shoulders, young Artamos looked very much the vulture, hunched over the book, his hawk like nose nearly touching the pages.

“Are you reading that book or preparing to eat it?” Falita Kain asked with a chuckle. She strolled past Artamos on her way to the horses.

“It’s dark.  I have to get close to see the words.”

“I assume you are reviewing notes for your trial.” Adrian Rizzo said, his usual dry delivery tainted with insinuation as he referred to Artamos’s coming test to become a full-fledged member of the Black Knights.

“I wasn’t aware he could write.  Let alone read,” Falita said.

Adrian stretched out on his bedroll near the fire, elbow angled to support his head.  He watched his young apprentice, and chuckled, “I wasn’t aware he was a good enough student to take notes.”

Artamos gave an exasperated sigh and flipped the book shut, laying it next to his bedroll with calculated precision.  “Is it offensive to you that I’m cultured enough to read?”  Artamos asked, the ire of five nights missed opportunity lacing his words with both accusation and satire.

“No,” Falita called, grunting with the effort of lifting her saddle.  She walked near the campfire and plopped the saddle down.  “It’s offensive to us that you can read.”

“I can’t help that neither of you can,” Artamos countered.  He grinned, for both of his companions were educated to the written word.

“It’s not that we don’t know how,” Adrian replied, “It’s a matter of importance and timeliness.”

Artamos arched a curious eyebrow as he regarded his instructor of five years from across the fire.  Adrian was a small and muscular man, not anywhere near Artamos’s height.  Drawn lines of experience creased the corners of his eyes and flecked white his late growth of beard and mustache, and his blue eyes glittered back at Artamos with mirth.

When Artamos fell under the sullen Knight’s tutelage he thought the man unfriendly.  He even suspected the knight hated the idea of taking on an apprentice.  But gradually Artamos came to understand the circumstances of Adrian’s life.  A life of service that left the older man sallow, direct, and grim faced.  A fact that made “Rizz,” as he was known by his companions, a welcome adviser and warrior for any campaign, and generally left his enemies—and students alike—confused and fearsome of his intentions.

Artamos adopted Rizz’s straight-lipped expression and asked, “What is a matter of timeliness?”

“Is this the time or place to be reading?”

“My trial doesn’t begin until Lady Leona arrives,” Artamos said, “Until then, I am free to read if I want.”

Falita laughed.  “So you think!  Let me tell you.  My trial started the moment I left the castle.  Much the same as yours.”  She spread her blanket out before her saddle so that she could use the leather seat padding as a pillow.  She mumbled, “And some days it seems it never ended.”

Artamos paid little attention to her, his eyes fixed on Rizz.  “When did the trial begin?”

“When do you think it began?”

“I didn’t think it had.”

“What is the trial?”

Artamos clasped his hands in front of him and leaned over his knobby knees.  A furtive look bending his eyebrows brought a smirk from Rizz, prompting a quick response from Artamos, lest he be considered slow.  “The moment we left the castle,” Artamos replied, remembering Falita’s words.

“You’re a quick student tonight,” Rizz said, a tease flavoring his dry inflection.

“I’ve done alright so far,” Artamos said.  He chose his words carefully, avoiding I guess at the beginning of the statement, considering how that might ruin his credibility.  “We’ve traveled north for five days without incidence.”

“I might add that your campsite selections have left us open and exposed.”

“Not to mention cold and uncomfortable,” Falita complained.

Rizz frowned, “If you expected comfort, why did you join the Black Knights?”

“It was that or become a thief and work for the mob bosses in Caltania,” Falita said, her coarse wool blanket muffling her words.

“Perhaps with your quick wit, you may have sequestered enough wealth from the streets to have bought your own manor house by now.”

“I thought the service would be a more,” she hesitated, “honorable route–”

“To lavish comfort?”  Rizz finished for her.

Falita squirmed in an attempt to draw more warmth from the blanket by rolling it beneath her shoulders.  ”Yeah, I expected to spend my time in castles, protecting noblewomen.”

“This must be a real disappointment for you?”

“Only the sour company,” she said.  Rizz arched an eyebrow and stayed poised in position to watch the wool-cocooned woman.  It was a few moments before she added, “And the cold ground.  No roof.  And lack of pillows.”

A bemused smile found Artamos’s lips.  Rizz twisted to better view his new target in the verbal sparring match.  Artamos let his gaze find the flickering flames.  He should have known the trial began when they left the castle.  How foolish he must seem in Rizz’s eyes, having allowed the trio to camp in the open, marking their travel route with burned out campfires.  It would be a wonder if he passed his trial at all.  That’s if he hadn’t already failed.  He gave the smoldering ash trail left by an earlier piece of wood a quick kick, splashing it back into the fire, causing a momentary flare of the red coals.

When he regarded Rizz again, the surly old knight had flopped over on his back, an uncharacteristic smile bending the corners of his thin lips.  “I much prefer the open road to the stuffy confines of a castle,” he said, staring happily into the cloudless night sky.

Artamos asked, “What is expected of me?”

“What do you expect of yourself?”

“Success.”

“I see,” said Rizz, turning an imperious eye on his young student.  “So that’s why you camped us in the open every night and without setting a watch.”

“I didn’t realize I was in charge.” Artamos said.  For as Rizz’s apprentice, he had never been in charge in the past.  From his point of view, his trial mission would be to bring the Lady Leona to Caltania safely, a mission that would not begin until they intercepted her coach, and until then he would not be in command of anything.

“So you allowed us to wander north along the Sea Cliff Road—which I might add is a rather exposed route—for five days of camping in the open, with no guards, and you never once thought to take control of the situation?”

An uncomfortable heat rose into Artamos’s cheeks.  He managed to keep his volume subdued when he answered, but he couldn’t help but bite off each word.  “You were in charge.”

Rizz rolled onto his side.  His sharp blue eyes bore into Artamos’s, judging and warning all at the same time.  “Artamos, how long have you trained beside me?”

“Five years.”

“When we rode south to scout a battle plan before the Pict invasion, did I camp us in the open?  Did I set a watch every night?” Rizz asked, referring to a warlike nomadic tribe that had once threatened Cromania.

Artamos opened his mouth to protest, “Those were dangerous times and the Pict’s are dangerous people.”

“Always assume the worst Artamos, and you will be prepared for the best.”

Artamos’s ire deflated against the wisdom of Rizz’s words.  He understood his recent failure.  “I should have taken command that first night on the road.”

“So you detected a problem from the start?”

“I thought you were being a little lax in our travel north, but I never thought to question you.”

“I suspect you wouldn’t,” Rizz said.  “You’ve been taking orders from me for five years.  But, regardless of rank, you should never allow anyone to compromise your safety or the safety of the group.”

Artamos nodded in understanding, though a frown crossed his angular features.

“Don’t be to hard on yourself Artamos,” Rizz said, noticing the young mans downtrodden look.  “Learning to take command isn’t easy.  It takes great confidence and a willingness to exert that confidence over others.  You will understand in time.”

Falita groaned from beneath her blanket.  “Do you think one of you could throw another stick of wood on the fire?”

Artamos, now aware that he was fully in command, protested the idea.  “It’s best not to build a large fire.  You can move closer if you are cold.”

Smiling, Rizz flopped on his back and flicked a finger skyward to cue Falita’s coming complaint.

“It’s cold!  And we haven’t seen a single person since we left Caltania.  A little more wood won’t hurt.”

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t anyone watching,” Artamos replied.

“So now you are going to become conscious of our safety,” Falita said with a frustrated snort.  She poked her head from under the blanket to glare at Artamos.

“Don’t mind the princess,” Rizz replied,” She has her own tale to tell of the trials.”

Falita gave a great sigh and dived back beneath the safety of her wool blanket.

“I think it might do our boy some good to hear how you left Baron Lo Bianco naked on the balcony of his town estate,” Rizz said.

In a flurry of tangled feet and blanket, Falita came free of her bedroll; her face tinted the rosy pink of embarrassment.  “Shut up Rizz!”

Rizz only grinned and ignored her.

Falita leaned out from her bedroll to grab a chunk of wood.  A spear slammed into the soft padding of her saddle, right where her head had been!

Chapter 2

Sensing movement behind, Artamos dove forward to the right of the campfire, a move that took him right over his weapon belt.  He tucked head under shoulder, somersaulting over the bedroll, grasping the short sword and heavy throwing knife as he went.

Coming to his feet in a ready position, Artamos saw a large man crash into Rizz.  Apparently Rizz hadn’t seen the spear strike from his angle, and was now caught off guard.  The man was at least a foot taller than Rizz and probably outweighed him by a hundred pounds.  He held a dagger before him in two hands, pressing it beneath his weight while Rizz wriggled frantically beneath him, trying to fend off the thin blade.

To the right, Falita was on her feet, weapons ready.  An ugly red headed woman dressed in fur skins circled her, spear in hand.

Without a second thought, Artamos realized Falita could handle the woman.  Rizz needed his help.

Artamos charged forward, short sword in his right hand and the heavy throwing knife in his left.  But before he could reach Rizz, a man leapt at him from the left, striking down at his head with a longsword.

Artamos pivoted in mid stride, his twin weapons coming up in a cross to stop the deadly strike.  Setting his feet beneath him, he managed to deflect the next attack, a straight line thrust to the abdomen.

Artamos darted forward behind the strike, using the deadly and well practiced techniques of evasion that were the Black Knights primary martial method.  Right behind the sword he came, using his heavy knife to hold the retracting blade at bay, he closed the distance.  His short sword darted forward, tip aiming to pierce the soft tissue beneath the man’s chin.  A second before the short sword struck home, another sword flashed across from the left, slapping his thrust aside.

He did the only thing he could.  Propelling himself forward and to the left, he slammed his shoulder into the second man’s shoulder with enough force to knock him backwards.  Artamos would like to have followed up, but the first man was too skilled, and he was instantly pivoting to accept a backhand stroke off his crossed weapons, short sword and knife.

The second man recovered quickly.  Artamos was suddenly on the defensive, his twin weapons darting side to side, high and low to fend off attack after attack.  He became aware of the short sword and heavy throwing knife’s disadvantage; reach!

The man sorely pressed Artamos with the advantage of his longer weapon.  That fact alone drove home one of Rizz’s many lessons.  Attack when the spaces are tight or from the flank.  Especially when you can’t be seen.  But there was no way to capitalize on any of those skills, exposed as he was.

All he could do was dance and parry against the furious strokes of his two opponents.  He had one trick left to try, and that was the heavy throwing knife.  There was a reason the Black Knights chose it as a second weapon over the dagger.  Its forged blade was heavy, nearly twelve inches of sharpened steel with a wide leaf like double edge.  The thing was as much a utility item as a weapon, and it served well for ranged attack over short distances.

The problem, Artamos realized, hands stinging from the weight of another heavy blow, was that he needed the strength of two weapons to defend against the greater leverage of the longsword.  Could he afford to loose the knife?  Would taking out one of his opponents be worth putting himself at a disadvantage against the other?

Artamos decided as he blocked another blow, if he were to answer yes to either of those questions, he would have to pick out which of the men was most skilled.  That would be the man to take out first.

* * *

Falita, more experienced by two years than her younger counterpart, learned long ago to never lay her weapons out of reach.  From the corner of her eye she noted with approval that Artamos was making an impressive show of defending himself.  She couldn’t worry too much about him now.  She had her own problems, ugly as they were.  The tools of her trade rested comfortably in her hands.  She circled the hideous red headed woman.

The woman was filthy with ragged fur skins covering her upper torso and hips.  Her twisted and yellow upper teeth jutted out over a too fat lower lip in a way that made her talk with an odd sort of lisp when she threatened Falita.  “Put the toys down missy and gives us yer purse.  And I might kill ya clean.  Better’n let’n that lot ‘ave their sport with ya after we’re done,” she said, giving a curt nod of her head to indicate the men engaging Artamos and Rizz.

For any lesser woman, or man for that matter, the taunt might have provoked sufficient fear.  Falita was neither.  She was a Black Knight, and among one of the most accomplished of their martial order.  In deed, a few had gone so far as to comment that if Falita had been born a man, and possessing a man’s strength, she would easily be the greatest fighter in Cromania.  More times than not, Falita made those same men eat their words with her blinding speed and fearless nature.

The red headed woman brandished the spear, point first toward Falita’s abdomen.  Falita circled calmly, working her short sword and knife through deliberate defensive patterns, her icy blue eyes holding a deadly and unnerving calm.

The ugly woman’s hands fidgeted, ringing the shaft with short nervous strokes.  Patience wearing thin, she gave a growl of contempt and lunged, spear aiming to disembowel.

Falita’s short sword broke smoothly from the defensive pattern, and with blinding speed.  It snapped down, driving the spear wide as Falita angled her body to further pass the razor tip.  Her left hand snaked out like the strike of a viper, still out of reach of the woman who had used the full length of the spear shaft, a small matter for Falita who flicked her wrist, releasing the heavy knife into a short flight to the hollow of the woman’s throat.  It buried itself to the cross piece, just missing her spine.

Over came the short sword, a lightening stroke that severed fingers, dropping the spear to the ground.  Then Falita lunged forward, reclaiming her grip on the heavy knife.  The short sword thrust before Falita’s weight, driving in and upwards beneath the ribs, its tip finding the woman’s heart.

There they stood, face to face over a contest that lasted less than five heartbeats.  The red headed woman stared with disbelief and terror into the icy blue and murderous eyes of the woman she had taunted only moments ago.

Falita held that gaze, a grin finding her full lips.  “Thanks for the warning.”

Falita shifted back, ripping her weapons free.  The woman fell to her knees, and Falita wasted no time kicking her to the ground. She stepped over the dyeing woman.

Rizz still squirmed beneath the large man, somehow managing to keep the dagger at bay while he battled for position.  Artamos worked furiously at defending himself against the longsword-wielding thugs.  It occurred to her that both men were in dire straits.  Who to aid first?

Zen in the Art of Writing

I’m not sure that I can define zen for everyone. In fact, I know that I cannot. I believe it is very different for all of us.  Because how we enter zen is what determines its flavor. It’s a lot like those tootsie pops we had when we were children. There are many different flavors, but once arriving at the center we always find the same tootsie roll.

My first experience with zen came through study of martial arts. It’s the root cause of fully embracing physical and mental discipline coupled with respect for all life around you. And what I received from my training was a sort of self awareness that budded confidence.

I’ve always suffered from confidence issues. And honestly, the further I have slipped away from training in martial arts, the farther I have fallen. Self-doubt is a real kicker, and I am thinking it is something very prevelant within creative people. Even some interviews I have read envolving very successful fiction writers, indicate (by their own words) they strugle with confidence problems. Some have gone so far as to claim manic depressive disorder.

I struggle with these issues as well. And certainly I lean toward the manic depressive state of mind. No, I don’t seek drugs or medication to control it. I see that as a bandaid and not a fix.

Yesterday was hard for me. That layer of self doubt rose to the top once more and I began questioning myself. Why am I doing this? I have responsibilities. I need to get out and find a real job. This is just a pipe dream? (As my buddy Dave would say.) And of course, none of the words I wrote yesterday were good enough.

So by last PM, after helping my wife to put our children to bed, I was beating myself up pretty bad. Worrying about everything from my ability to succeed to meeting my personal responsibilities to actualizing my personal life goals.

My wife and I talked till almost midnight about it.  And our conversation ultimately led me back over the years to my youth, and the fifteen to twenty years I spent seriously practicing martial arts.  What had I gained from that experience?  Physical fitness.  Self-defense techniques.  Like minded friends.  Self discipline.

All of that pales against the self discovery I found there.  Being personally comfortable with yourself and your choices.  I’ve made an awful lot of choices in my life because I had to.  I was forced to in order to meet the societal norm.  But in a lot of those cases, the choices pulled me further away from that person I wanted to be.

So the true reason of this rant is to express the importance of zen in our lives.  Or more importantly to understand how zen shows us the path to becoming ourselves.  It is the real fix to the things that trouble us.  It teaches us to be comfortable with who we are, to bend the societal norm around how we perceive our lives.

Think about your heroes.  The people you look up to.  Have they found zen?  Have they become themselves?  I think the answer is yes.  It is especially evident when you look at those people who have achieved high levels of authority within a company.  They achieve those levels because that is who they are.  They allow themselves to embody that persona and believe that the choices they are making are the right ones.  That is who they want to be.

So who do you want to be?

If you are reading this blog, it is likely you are a writer.  Or you are aspiring to be a writer.  Don’t decide to do this.  Just be this.  Be a writer.  And if you are haveing issues with confidence and submissions.  Consider my wife’s words, “I could never do what you do.  Do you understand what it takes to write something and stick it out there for the world to see.”

My wife is quickly becomeing my greatest hero.  And She makes a good point.  If you are writing and posting words to a short story, novel, blog or whatever else, you are shareing a piece of yourself.  So set aside the confidence issues and the manic depression, and understand the strength it took to willingly share a part of yourself.  Seek the piece of mind that comes with knowing who you are or who you aim to be!  And be that person!

Outlining and Creativity

I just rolled out of bed and ate breakfast.  I know, I’m looking at the clock too.  And 0900 is a little late for me to be rolling out.  But I have had this rash on the back of my neck ever since I had that virus a week ago, I don’t know if it is because of medication or if i’m allergic to something else in the house.  Wierd!  Anyhow, I took some benadryl before bed last night.  I woke up with the Benadryl hangover and was slower moving this morning than usual. The rash does seem to be going away!

Anyhow, its another day of writing the first draft of Rogue.  I’m ready to start chapter 10 today.  I’ve missed my quota a couple of times, do to unexpecteds, like in a previous post where I mentioned the entire family getting sick on Tuesday.  Oh well.  I still have the rest of next week off.

Anyhow, I responded to a blogger on my recent post.  Crimsonprose commented about creativity verses extensive planning.  Turns out her and I are both extensive planners and we both still get those Aha! moments while writing.  I think I want to keep this kind of short (I’m planning to share an excerpt from Rogue)  but the point is that an outline, no matter how extensive, is really little more than just a planned trip that gets you from a starting point to an ending point.

Here’ s a quick analogy.  Have you ever gone on vacation?  Sure you have.  Shortly after my wife and I got married we decided to visit Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.  Living in Illinois, we planned our route down through Kentucky, through the cumberland gap, and on out to Colonial Williamsburg.  I don’t remember the highways we chose for our course.  But as we rolled into Kentucky, we noticed a squigly line on the map that cut through the center of Kentucky, generally heading for Cumberland.  I believe it might have said something like scenic byway or something like that.  Can anyone hear the banjo music!

At any rate, we zig-zagged across Kentucky.  Here’s how it happened:

“Hey sweetheart, check this out!” I said, unfolding our wrinkled map of Kentucky.  Janel was just climbing back into the Talon SE.  We’d stopped at a little hick gas station outside of Louisville for a potty break.

 “What am I looking at?”  She asked.

I traced a squiggly line that snaked its way down through Daniel Boone National Forest and east on toward the Kentucky border.  “This looks like it might be a pretty drive?” I said.  I’d always been enamored by wild places and natural beauty.

Janel frowned.  “Do you think we have time for this?”

“Sure.  Check in at Colonial Williamsburg isn’t until 7 p.m.” 

“Ok,” she said.  “As long as you are sure.”

“I’m certain.”  A half hour later the little red sports car pealed off the interstate with a youthful naivety.  We picked up the highway and was very soon snaking our way eastward, goggling at the gorgeous Kentucky countryside.  The further we went, the more depressed things got.  Two room bungalow’s became trailers, and then just shacks like something out of the yesteryears of Jed Clampet. 

Our attitudes mirrored the scenery, but checking the gas gauge told me I was better off to keep moving forward. There had to be a gas station ahead, and I was sure we’d be pushing it to turn back.  The road was now careening along shelfs cut right into the timber lined mountains.  Steep drops hemmed the narrow road on one side with fear, just as the cliffs created a physcial barrier on the other.

We started to meet dump trucks.  Not the small kind.  But the large kind like you see rolling out of a quarry. They roared around the corners so fast they looked as if they were skating on two wheels.  And with no guard rail to the right, it quickly became a concern.  Which of the lesser of two evils would I choose. Getting crushed or flying over the steep bank. 

My white knuckles gripped the wheel tighter with each passing moment.  Janel had mostly stopped talking.  And both of us were quite certain we would be lost forever in the Kentucky hills.

“Wouldn’t a Dairy Queen be nice,” Janel said, right out of the blue.  I don’t know what prompted it. Maybe she was just trying to think happy thoughts, something to get her mind off the harrowing experience of meeting those huge rock trucks.

“I don’t think we’ll find one of those around here.”  I hadn’t no more than finished the statement when the road snaked around the mountain to the left.  It widened out some, and on the right was an F/S feed store with a couple of small white houses next to it.  As we rounded the bend, to our left was you guessed it, a Dairy Queen. 

There was a giant hole in a sheer rock face.  I don’t know if it was natural or man made.  But the Dairy Queen was nestled inside of it like a bug in a cocoon.  Just it’s colorful head sticking out with big red and white letter and a picture of an ice cream cone!

An hour and a half later we were back on sixty-four, headed east.  We checked into our rooms and Colonial Williamsburg with just fifteen minutes to spare.

So that is what happens when creativity takes over a plan.  And it usually leads to some sort of adventure you will talk about for the rest of your lives.  And as I write Rogue, I find this same sort of happy divergence from the plan happening.

So I can identify with Crimsonprose when she says, “I too am a thorough planner, yet I have found that it’s those unexpected antics of the unruly characters that give the book that kick of sheer creative brilliance.”  And if any of you have not checked out her sight, you can check it out here by clicking on Crimsonprose.  Or her other site in which she shares with us the Feast Fables.

Finally, I want to share with you a little excerpt from Rogue.  It’s still in its rough draft form, so please ignore any typos or misspellings.:

     Rogue removed the pointed probe and layed her ear to the lock.  Gently she inserted the feeler and counted out the number of tumblers and their arrangement.  It was nearly identical to the lock on Damora’s warehouse and within seconds she had rolled the last tumbler out of the way.

     She swung the door open and scooted inside, quickly latching it behind her. Staying low so as not to silhouette herself against the windows, she slipped over to the desk.  There was not much else in the room, so she figured it was the safest place to start.

     She slid the bottom drawer open.  There was just enough light from the candle to see inside.  But there wasn’t much there.  One thing did catch her attention.  Three eggs lay at the bottom of the drawer.  An odd place for eggs she thought.  She reached in and gently pulled out one of the brown eggs.

     It didn’t feel quite right.  And as she turned it over, she discovered a small hole in one end that had been capped.  She picked the wax free and sniffed at the opening.  Immediately her eyes began to water, and she had to fight back a sneeze.  Pepper bombs!  She’d heard of those, a nasty distraction tactic employed by some of the more devious members of the street gangs.  The eggs were first hollowed out and then finely ground hot pepper and salt was poured in.  The egg was then sealed and could be crushed in the hand to be thrown into the eyes of an assailant.

     Rogue regretted that she had uncorked such a useful item.  She tucked it back into the drawer and extracted the remaining two, placing them into her belt pouch.

     She slid the drawer shut and opened the next one.  This drawer was litter’d in parchment.  And Rogue, unlike many who grew up on the streets, could read.  She didn’t know how she had learned.  That was probably a part of her missing past.  But she had learned, and she busied herself leafing through the documents.

     Mostly she scanned for the word ruby or magic.  But neither graced any of the pages she reviewed.  And pretty soon she stumbled across some interesting documents regarding shipping routes and smugglers.  Some of the information she found interesting, thinking she might be able to use it if she ever had opportunity to escape Caltania.  And so she allowed herself to get lost in the documents.

 

* * *

 

     He had almost dozed off when the fine filament tugged at his pinky finger.  He had tied the string so that it would alert him when either door, front or back, swung open.   Positioned just inside of the constables sleeping quarters, Artamos came awake the instant he felt the pull.

     At first he thought he had imagined it.  The pull was so slight.  And when he first peaked into the main room, he saw not a hint of movement.  He almost laid himself back against the wall, but the that funny prickly feeling at the back of his neck got the better of him.

    He stood quietly, staying within the shadows of the darkened doorway and peered into the room.  At first he thought he was seeing a shadow. But then as his eyes focused on the smooth and graceful movements, he realized otherwise.  And he couldn’t help but marvel at the intruders stealth, he moved without a whisper, cunningly staying low so as not to be silhouetted against the windows. 

     “How did you get in here,” Artamos mouthed quietly to himself, watching with amazement as the figure disappeared behind the desk.

     Soon he heard the slightest of scraping as a desk drawer slid open.  Then it slid shut and the next drawer whispered on its slide.  There was the slightest crinkling of papers, and Artamos new the intruder had found the file drawer.

     He gave it a few moments.  Plenty of time for the intruder to become engrossed in the papers.  Then he eased over to the desk, peering over it at the hooded figure.

 

* * *

 

     At first, the movement hadn’t really registered with her.  It was only a tiny shift of a plank beneath her feet.  And that could have just been her shifting her weight.  So engrossed was she in the papers about the shipping, that she hardly even noticed. 

     In deed, if it had only happened once, she may have never thought twice about it. But when it wiggled a second time beneath her foot, Rogue froze.  Her senses suddenly became attuned to everything in the room.  Even the subtlest air current could set the experienced young woman on edge if she recognized a change.

     There was the constant flicker of light.  The buttery smell of the candle.  And the stillness of the air around her.  But there was something else.  It was feint, but present.  A rhythmic movement of air; someone breathing. 

      A prickly feeling rose up her spine, tingling her scalp.  Slowly she looked up, and her breath caught in her throat.  There on the opposite side of the desk was a tall gangly man.  He was well above six feet with angular, almost hawkish features.  His white flecked black hair suggested he might be in his mid forties.  And his black padded leather armor marked him as a Black Knight.

     “Find what you were looking for?”  He asked, the rigid line of his lips offering not a hint of his intention. 

     Rogue’s hand slipped into the belt pouch, extracting one of the eggs.  The movement was concealed by the angle of the desk.  She took a steadying breath and stood easily, cupping the egg in her right hand, concealed. 

     “No.” she said simply.  Then on a whim.  “Do you know anything about a magic ruby?”

     The man blinked, and his grim expression changed to utter shock.  “What?” He ducked low, leaning forward as if trying to peer beneath her hood.  “Who are you?  Do I know you?”

     Rogue crushed the egg.  There would never be a better chance.  She threw its contents square into his eyes.  Then she was running and through the door.  She heard him curse behind her.

So much for keeping it short LOL. I think this is my longest post to date.

A Quick Update on Rogue!

Well, I’m not nearly where I thought I would be at this point.  I just finsihed the big chase and Artamos is faced with a decision to kill or wound the heroine.  As it stands, five chapters have been roughed in with about 21,000 words written.  Not nearly what I planned, but then some unexpecteds have come up.

We awoke Tuesday morning to three puking children.  Vomit was all over their bedroom floor.  Some was on our bedroom floor.  And the real announcement for me (My wonderful wife was awakened by the sick kids and already in cleaning mode) was being puked on by my son!  Yuck!

Anyhow.  The morning was spent taking care of sick young’ens, steam cleaning carpets, and washing bed clothes.  So the only thing I wrote on Tuesday was about a 2500 word prologue.

Anyhow.  I don’t know how things are going where you all are at.  But everyone in this part of the country is battleing a couple of viruses.  One attacks the upper respiratory system and seems to be lasting about a week and a half.  We all had that a couple of weeks ago.  The other is this stomach thing.  It doesn’t last more than a day, but boy is it miserable.  Yeah, we were all blessed with it as well.

Anyhow, I’m very happy with Rogue to this point.  It’s turning out to be a really fun book to right with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing.  And my favorite, lots of action!  As I have commented on other forums, I am an extensive planner.  I know all the scenes in advance.  At least I think I do!  But sometimes the charracters take over with their own personalities and guide me down unplanned paths.  And as it happens, Rogue has taken control of my fingers on many occasions and set me to typing up unexpectedly.

At any rate, I’m having fun with this book and can’t wait to share it with you all.

 

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