Well, it’s Halloween time once again. Every year this holiday becomes bigger and bigger. I have yet to understand why. It made sense to be important when I was growing up getting candy. During college it was important because there were always good parties around this holiday. Now I’m quite a bit older and perhaps a little wiser and the day is just a time to send my youngest daughter and grand-daughter out to try to get their fair share of the spoils of the season. Yet, even the neighbors have fake gravestones in their yard and imitation spider webs around their doorway. If I did that some kid would probably get tangled in the webbing and trip over a grave stone. In the end I would get sued. The kids I talk to lack the killer (not literal) instinct for the season. My older brother explained Halloween to me this way. It was our solemn duty to go out and collect more candy than Mom and Dad gave away. If we failed to do so then we were not holding up out end of the deal and we would have been better off saving all that energy running around and staying home eating our folks’ candy instead of handing it out. That seemed un-American. (Even though we were in Canada at the time.) So every year we would get out the graph paper just after Labor Day and draw a map of the neighborhood. Then we would mark the houses that gave the best candy the year before with highlighter. The rationale was if we were running short on time we could just skip to those houses. Then we would memorize the map and work out the most efficient route to ensure we did not hit the same side of the street twice. There was no time or light to look at the map on the battlefield. We even marked the homes where the parents worked late so we could concentrate on those houses later. The next problem was logistics. There was no time in the brief trick or treating zone to go home to drop off excess candy so we needed a way to transport our haul. Dad was our inspiration as he had been a farmer growing up and taught us that 50 pound onion sacks were elastic enough to give but strong enough not to break with even the largest candy hauls. It was a lot of work but we were prepared. Mom always made fish sticks that night. We hated fish sticks and I think it was some protest of hers to the gross amount of candy we would be taking in. We ran from house to house from 5PM to 10PM. It was always nice to hit the houses at the end. Sometimes they were out of candy but when they weren’t they would often just empty their bowl into your bags to end their night. We never counted on having left over candy at home for two reasons. Either mother would be sure to give it all away. Or in the off chance she still had some left, she always made sure to buy a kind we didn’t like so we wouldn’t eat it before the big day. One year she gave out McDonald’s gift certificates for free soft drinks. It turns out she drastically overestimated the number of kids who would be coming to our house and bought too many certificates. It wasn’t like these days where we eat out most weeks. We went to McDonald’s twice a year. So the last night the remaining certificates were good I persuaded Mom to take me there and we used all we could carry. The two of us brought home 32 Cokes and root beers and still had gift certificates we didn’t use. Needless to say the pop all went flat before we could drink them all as a family. I don’t see that kind of dedication in today’s kids. They bring their little plastic jack-o-lantern and have it full by the time they make it down half of the street. That’s no haul. In that case Halloween wins unless you are one of those evil people to goes trick of treating without giving out any candy (shame on you.) Were we a little over the top?…sure. Did we take it too seriously?…maybe. Did we bring in more candy than our family gave out?...always!
The good people at Solstice Publishing have recently signed me to a new 3 year contract to keep my books in print with their fine organization. They are going to be moving them to their Solstice Shadows department aimed at more of the fantasy crowd. In doing all this they are going to have their artists make new covers for the books and that’s where this blog comes into play. I have many ideas for covers but something in me said, “What would my readers like?” So I put that question to you. Give me your suggestions for new covers for “Quest for the Red Sapphire” and “Sapphire Crucible.” They will be starting on the second editions soon so I need to make my decisions but this is the opportunity for you to chime in with your opinions. My fans are the greatest and have given me great feedback. You can even email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to hear from you.
The quest begins.
Anvar lit his pipe and walked over to the rail. “Many years ago, Dirk was building his business. Items of great rarity were of particular interest to the blossoming middle class of Fraylic. In his travels and dealings, he came into the ownership of the staff I hold before you. Though quite ordinary in appearance, it had some sort of life within it. He said the staff, was in fact, a living being! In some way, it communicated with your father. It claimed to be part of a puzzle which would lead the one who solved it to find the Red Sapphire.”
“Please tell me you are not referring to the all powerful magic gem of father’s bedtime stories?” Linvin asked in disbelief.
Anvar was indignant. “You said you would listen. Do you want to hear this or not?” Linvin held out the palm of his hand in a submissive gesture and hung his head, as he waited for the story to continue.
Anvar stared angrily at his nephew before drawing on his pipe and picking up his story. “The staff told Dirk that there were other parts to the puzzle. More importantly, it told him that the Red Sapphire had chosen whom it wanted to use its power next. It chose Dirk’s son, Linvin Grithinshield.”
“To have the gem, would give you unimaginable power. That power, was to be used to fight the spread of the evil that infests our world. The problem Dirk saw, was that you were still a boy. Any education he could give you would only help you run a business, not safeguard the world.”
“You needed to be prepared, trained and hardened. The best place to train you was in Valia with Sedemihcra. He alone possessed the volume of wisdom needed to one day handle the power destined for you.”
“Jelena could not have been more opposed to the plan. She had her own aspirations for you, as you know. Sending you away, to the other side of the continent, seemed ludicrous to her. In spite of her avid displeasure, your father did what he thought had to be done and sent you away.”
“While you were gone, he continued the search for the other parts of the puzzle. Dirk thought that he could find the Red Sapphire and then send for you to return home. After several years, he traded for this key.” Anvar took a gold chain from around his neck. Dangling at its bottom was a brilliant golden skeleton key. He handed it to Linvin and continued to speak.
“There was one final piece he said he needed before calling for your return. During his inquiries about it, Dirk came to suspect that he was not the only party looking for the pieces he had and sought. The other mysterious bidder was thought to be very powerful and possessing limitless resources. It became a great concern to your father, but even that concern, was not enough to ebb his obsession with his goal. After many years, he told me that he had found what he sought in Ravensburg. It was his intention to travel there and return within six months.”
“I cautioned him about setting out alone to make the trip. Your father, however, would not hear of letting anyone in on his plans. His instructions to me were to guard the key and staff while he was gone and look after your mother. Should he not return, I would be her only protection. He left on his journey and was never heard from again.”
“When your mother and I determined that he was not coming back, we began to suspect foul play. There was a break-in at the store, in which nothing was taken, but the office was obviously searched. Besides that, my movements and those of your mother were watched by darkened figures in the shadows. Dirk’s trip looked to have been a trap. Someone wanted the staff and key.”
“Jelena thought I was wrong about my conclusions and decided to bring you home to run the business. I voiced great concern. If Dirk were indeed killed for the staff and key, the murderer would next target his family. By bringing you back into the fold, I felt that the wrongdoer would be spurred to action. The close confines of all the possible targets meant the time would be ripe to strike and find what they sought. Jelena, as it turned out, was just as stubborn as Dirk. She forbade me from speaking of the topic with you. In her mind, the whole foolish quest had died with your father, and if the danger was gone, there was no reason for her son to stay away any longer.”
As you now are aware, the threat was not gone. Jelena was targeted by someone very professional and slowly given poison in some form. We only discovered that the illness was inflicted intentionally at the very end.”
“Realizing her errors in judgment, she sent for me. We decided that the killer could not be allowed to gain the staff and key your mother still concealed. You and I would be their next targets. The only choice was to bring you these items and set out in search of the Red Sapphire.”
“It is my guess, that the assassin or assassins will search the manor and then ravage mine. Once it is determined that what they seek is not to be found, they will come here. If we leave in the morning, it gives us, at best, a two day head start.”
As I work on my 4th book I find myself in a quandary. I was writing away, following my blueprint I had laid out before starting the task. Then the story began to take on a new life. Characters didn’t respond the way I had planned. I found them going in different directions than originally intended because that just seemed to be how the characters would react. I wrote and wrote as the words flowed from me and then I stopped. I looked at where I was in the book and had no recollection of the event from the story line. So I went back and read the blueprint in bullet-point again. The story was way off track and going in another direction. The question placed before me was whether to follow the new, unplanned path or go back and rewrite a relatively small (chapter) section of the book. It sounds like an easy answer, doesn’t it? I made a plan. The plan made sense. I followed the plan to this point. There is no reason to deviate. I should go back to where I went astray and change it to how I had originally envisioned it. So why have I been stuck at this point for weeks. There have been distractions and other problems to occupy my time and creative energy. But such instances have happened in the past and I have continued to write. After all, writing is the fun part of everyday life for me. I was avoiding the problem. Why would I do that? I have used this quote before but there is no harm in using it again when it rings true. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith was once on one of those “Making of…” shows where the band was making an album and the producer was trying to cut out songs from a list on the wall that was too long to all fit on the new cd. Every song he wanted to remove from the list made Tyler angrier. In the end the talented singer stormed out of the room without removing a single song. After he calmed down he talked to the camera crew and basically said, “These songs are my babies and it’s like someone’s killing one of my babies. How can I love one more than another?” At the time he was not making sense to me. I knew which songs made the cut for the album since this show was released after the disc became a smash and everything seemed to fit. Now I sit here looking at these two paths in the story I have created and I see Mr. Tyler’s wisdom. I have been putting off the change because it would kill one of my “babies”. The story would go on in a certain direction and the other storyline would cease to exist. I worked hard on that other story. It came out of me. I created it and I would be destroying it. Can you see why the decision has been so difficult? It’s not writer’s block, it’s writer’s excess. I suppose that’s why musicians have a third party producer who is not attached to the work to make these calls. With me, I have to cut one story free and move on. It is gut-wrenching but must be done. The saddest part is no one will ever know the other path existed but me. Who would have thought Steven Tyler could be so deep and wise?
There’s a show called “Extreme Coupons” in which a person will go into a grocery store and buy $600 worth of groceries and spend only about $20. They have ingenious ways of achieving this through methods like double couponing (they don’t do that around here), having a coupons worth more than the product and the excess can go toward another purchase, and then there are in-store specials where you do things like transfer a prescription to their pharmacy and they take $20 off your grocery bill. To prepare, these people spend up to 40 hours a week clipping and collecting coupons. They keep them in binders and have them organized better than the IRS. (That’s not saying much but you get the point.) In the end they have a massive haul but when you look at it, they must have to order pizza a lot because I don’t see many actual meals there. Sure, they have 200 tooth brushes, 20 bottles of detergent, 30 boxes of cold medicine, 16 boxes of Cheerios, 10 bottles of toilet bowl cleaner and 12 cans of disinfectant spray, but what’s for dinner? It’s easy to poke fun at these ridiculous situations but then I take my moment to reflect. I start to think about myself and realize if I had more time on my hands and more compulsion I would not be too far from where those people are. After thinking it over, I hate to pay full price for something. It makes me physically ill. If I buy something that I know there is a coupon for or a sale usually on, it will bother me. If I go to a movie, I always try to get there just in time to catch the matinee because I see no point in paying more to see the same movie. When my shoes broke (literally) for work and I had to buy new ones right then, they weren’t on sale. So I watched the ads as the store had a price match for 30 days and sure enough, they went on sale and I took my receipt in for my $10 credit. There is an ad section in the back of my church bulletin and my favorite haircut place routinely puts $4.00 off coupons in there. I needed a haircut today and looked at the back of the bulletin. There was no coupon where it should have been. Having already put off my haircut for a month I went and bit the bullet. When the stylist was done I mentioned it was a shame they took the coupon out. She said they didn’t take it out. It was just moved to the inside section. I hung my head and paid full price. When I returned home I looked at the bulletin and there it was in black and white. You may say it was only $4.00 but to me it was like I took that money and threw it in the garbage. I am bummed. Then I went to fill out a $5.00 rebate for some insoles I bought but the receipt was missing and I couldn’t do it. I refuse to order a pizza without a coupon or deal of some kind. I buy a specific manufacturer of cars because my father-in-law retired from there and I get a family price. When my windshield needed to be replaced I scoured the yellow pages (the real ones made of paper) and found a coupon for a discount. If I go grocery shopping and find out after I get home that I did not give one of the coupons to the clerk, I will seriously consider going back and having it adjusted even though I know I will waste more money than that in gas just going there. If I don’t go it will haunt me and if I do go I’ll feel pathetic. Perhaps it would not take such a great push to nudge me over to the dark side.
I feel like a little action today
Linvin took a sword for each hand and boldly kicked the double-doors of the jail open. He stepped through immediately after and caught the doors with his hands on the back swing. Before him there were six bewildered goblins in various positions, as though they were frozen.
A cold glare came to Linvin’s face as he took stock of his opponents and their positions. In a bold move he spoke. “I have no interest in killing you today. You have two choices. You can tell me what I want to know and leave peacefully…” The goblins drew their swords and formed a semi-circle in front of the intruder. Linvin sighed and slammed the doors closed without turning his body. His eye glazed over with the madness battle brings and he said, “You should have taken the first choice.”
First Linvin faked to his left and then attacked to his right. In the round, tight quarters he had to be sure not to be enveloped by the group. With his left sword he parried a strike from the goblin to his right. With his other hand he slashed across the opponent’s throat with just the right depth to cut the windpipe and not become stuck in the bone of the neck. Following through the motion, he spun around the falling enemy and found himself directly behind the next goblin. With a short, firm thrust he pierced the back of the goblin’s armor and drove the blade through until the tip came through the front. Though the strike was effective, there was no timely way to retrieve that sword. I miss Falconfeather right about now, he thought as he tugged at the well-lodged weapon.
Linvin waited for the other four to close on his position. Then he shoved the body of his last victim into the two goblins in the middle to stall their progress. With a sword still in his left hand, he hacked behind the knee of the goblin to that side. The brute’s hamstring sliced cleanly and he went straight to the ground. Linvin showed no mercy as he stomped his boot heel into the fallen soldier’s neck and broke the bone with a loud snap.
Flipping his sword from his left to his sword hand he turned his attention to the goblin on his right. The goblin struck downward with his blade in an effort to exploit Linvin’s exposed side. The former general would have none of that as he grabbed the soldier’s wrist with his left hand and shook the sword loose. Linvin again slashed at the throat of his foe, not wanting to lodge another blade in the body of an enemy. As before, the goblin fell dead.
The final two goblins had worked clear of the body and closed on Linvin. The great warrior was breathing fast and placed his hands on his knees in order to catch his breath. The goblins saw weakness and attacked. Linvin, however, was only acting in a successful effort to bring his prey to him. He sprung from his hunched position and rammed his blade through the armor of the enemy to his right. Releasing the trapped blade he turned to see the final goblin had lunged past and had his back to Linvin. In a final move for end-game Linvin took hold of the goblin’s head from both sides and twisted violently to the left. The neck snapped and the last goblin fell dead.
The streets slowly emptied as the sun began to set. Linvin was pouring himself another mug of ale when he noticed a familiar horse coming down the street. He walked over to the edge of the railing and sipped his brew while the horse walked over to the nearby stable.
An old elf dismounted and summoned the stable boy. He gave the boy instructions and then pulled a coin from his pocket, to give to the lad. Taking hold of a bag and a staff from his horse, the old elf turned and headed for Linvin’s tree.
Linvin smiled as his uncle came up the street. “Anvar; do not tell me you are so old that you need a staff to walk now!” Linvin called down.
Anvar spied his nephew and retorted with a smile, “I only carry it to swat people who annoy me!”
“You had better leave it at the door then or I might find myself meeting the end of that thing,” Linvin joked as Anvar reached the front door. He gestured for his uncle to come in and then returned to his rocking chair. In a few moments, Anvar had joined him on the balcony.
“Still lounging about doing nothing,” he jested.
“That is where you are wrong,” Linvin answered as he walked toward his uncle. “I am quite busy drinking ale. Would you care for one after your journey? It is my turn to buy, after all.”
Anvar laughed and hugged his nephew tightly. “I’ve missed you, boy!”
“And I you,” Linvin replied. “Come; fill your cup and sit down. Your trip has been quite long.”
“Soon that distance will seem very short,” Anvar said as he sat down with his ale.
“Your message made it sound like we were going on an extended trip.”
“Not a trip,” Anvar said before drinking some ale, “a quest.”
Linvin laughed so hard he nearly spilled his drink. “Oh come on,” he chuckled, “a quest? You sound so serious!”
“This is serious!” Anvar fumed as he stomped the staff on the ground. “Everything is at stake right now! Our lives and the lives of those around us hinge on the decisions we make this night. You are ignorant of all that I speak. In that way, I envy you. I sometimes wish I did not know all that I do.” Anvar’s soft eyes began to fill with tears.
The comments had caught Linvin off guard. The conversation had taken such a dramatic turn so quickly. He found himself dumbfounded and waiting for Anvar to continue.
After wiping his eyes, Anvar produced a letter and handed it to Linvin. “This is a letter from your mother. Read it slowly.” Anvar stood and looked off as Linvin opened the letter. He recognized the hand writing as belonging to his mother.
My Dearest Son,
Nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing your smiling face just one more time. Added to my list of regrets, is not being able to do just that.
This will be my last contact with you. I have taken ill and I will no longer have life when you read this. No normal malady is to blame for my condition. My physician has informed me that someone, who went to great lengths to make my death look natural, has systematically poisoned me. I do not know who did it or how, but I fear I do know why. The subject is too delicate to trust to written words. They may find their way to the wrong people. I can only tell you to listen to your uncle and go with him. He will be able to guide you and protect you as I thought I was doing. I see now that he was right about many things and I have been a fool for many years.
I never told you how proud I am of the man that you have become. You are good and honorable. Perhaps that is why the recent events have taken place. Forgive me, my errors in judgment. Though well intentioned, they have brought ruin on us all.
Go with Anvar and do not look back. Only by fulfilling your destiny can you make the deaths of your father and I something that served a purpose.
Never has a mother known such joy, as having you for a son.
So today was the day to take my oldest daughter to the oral surgeon. Our dentist said he didn’t necessarily see anything wrong with the teeth about to come in but thought it would be a good idea to see him. Since my D.D.S. diploma has not arrived in the mail yet, certifying me as a dentist (and I don’t think it ever will) I bowed to his wisdom and agreed to the free consultation. (By the way, it wasn’t free after all…go figure) This same daughter had perfectly fine looking teeth 4 years ago when we were told she needed braces. We kicked that one around and finally went with the orthodontist’s recommendation then as well. He said her back teeth would come in at an angle and wear down quickly if it was not fixed. Well no one wants that. So I agreed. Today the oral surgeon comes in and looks at the chart for about 30 seconds then he says to my daughter, “Do you want to be sedated completely during the surgery?” Wait a minute. Back up. “What surgery?” I asked. “To have your daughters wisdom teeth removed,” he said. Totally in shock I asked, “Which ones?” He responded, “All of them. All 4 have to come out.” Sitting back in my seat I exclaimed, “I can’t believe this. Our dentist never said there was a problem with the teeth. I thought at worst one or two had a problem but all 4 are bad? She hasn’t even complained about them.” “Well there isn’t a problem with them yet,” the surgeon said. “But when they come in they could become impacted or infected or (he gave like 6 other examples that all sounded dreadful). We don’t want to take the chance of those things happening so it’s easiest just to pull them all now.” Am I missing something here? We are removing healthy teeth just in case they become problems down the road? Good thing we don’t do that with people. So I said, “Look, I had all my wisdom teeth come in at the same time and it hurt but they are all in there just fine.” The oral surgeon said, “They may be alright now but they are probably decaying and one day you will have a hole through one. Then you’ll have to have it removed and it will be very painful. You’ll wish you had had them removed a long time ago.” There’s a comforting thought. So this wasn’t really an evaluation at all. It was simply a scare-session to make you set an appointment to have 4 healthy teeth pulled that haven’t even come in yet. Perhaps it’s the conspiracy theorist in me but I wonder how much of this has to do with the patient’s wellbeing and how much of it has to do with the fact that there are 2 dental schools in this smallish city churning out dentists who stay in the area. It seems every mini-mall has one. Are these procedures necessary or are they ulta-preventative to generate business. I know I’m probably off in left field on this one but removing healthy teeth on the off chance they cause problems down the road is like shooting people because you are afraid they may contract Ebola. The sad part is, in the end I’ll probably go along with it and have the teeth out. What is this world coming to?
Have I mentioned lately how much I hate Windows 8? Well it’s time for a refresher. I was just trying to sign a new contract with my publisher but I needed Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to access it. The problem was I didn’t have that program installed on my computer. Now I have learned a thing or two since my last rant and knew to go to the Charms bar and type in Adobe Acrobat Reader. Sure enough it comes pre-loaded on my computer. It was Version 5. So I installed it. As soon as I went to use it I received a message that said “Version not compatible with your system.” Then why did they load it on in the first place? I followed a link on it to their help site that promised chat support if I could just answer a few questions. After answering several questions I was sent to the forum. There were over 23,000 questions about problems with Windows 8. I scanned them for about 10 minutes and then gave up on that idea. After trying several different ways to get to the chat screen so a human could talk me through this I ended up time and again in the forum. I guess as Rick Myers used to say on the “Saturday Night Live” skit “Coffee Talk”, Adobe’s answer to every problem is to “Talk amongst yourselves.” After closing the web I uninstalled the useless Adobe program and returned to my magic Charms bar on Windows 8 and searched again. There was a download for a free version of Adobe 11. Now we were getting somewhere. I went to the page and it said it was for Windows 8 and it was not Trial Ware. (If you don’t know what that is, it’s like a great first date with a woman and then you find out she’s a prostitute!) So I downloaded it. Suddenly my antivirus found a threat…then another, and another, and so on and so on until I had 6 virus threats flashing and the download was telling me my computer had errors and if I clicked the button to continue, it could fix them. That was the only way to finish the download. Well I wasn’t falling for that. I closed the window and exited the download. Then I pulled up the internet to try Adobe the old fashioned way. Instead of my home page coming up, a blank one did. Blankidy blank blank! Then the virus warnings started flashing again. I went to my control menu and deleted everything I had downloaded today and then called my antivirus people. 2 hours later they said they had removed all the infected files and asked what had happened. I told him and he was nice enough to (while he had control of my computer) go to the Adobe website and download what I pray is the appropriate software. I tried it the Windows 8 way and I totally ended up with a raw deal. A good friend of mine had suggested that I try downgrading to Windows 7 but I hear Windows 9 is on the way and it is very similar to Windows 8. I would be further left behind if I regressed now. So here I sit with my Windows 8 like the cat you paid too much for and is hissing and scratching at you all the time. You can’t get rid of it. You just have to try to deal with it as best you can. So if you didn’t get my point here, let me reiterate…I HATE WINDOWS 8! And I’m not too happy with Adobe right now either.
Fantasy fiction is my passion. This series embodies my love for a good story and action. You will find it to be many things, but not boring! Read what you love and love what you read...