The wind is whistling through the tiny gaps in the windows with the sound of a conductor’s whistle on a train. The pitter patter of rain outside is causing the sump pump to run every few minutes. On the road out front cars drive the speed limit through the waterlogged street and send a shower of water pluming out each side. So goes a rainy day in Nebraska. My mother took delight in rain storms and I suppose my enjoyment of them comes from her. When I was a child we would snuggle up under blankets in front of a log fire of cedar. She made hot tea and biscuits. We would watch the lightning and then count how many seconds until the thunder came so we knew how many miles away it was. It was fun. Years later we lived right on Lake Erie. To be precise, we lived about 20 feet away from the break wall. When storms came up the lake became fierce. We were out on a covered, screened porch and watched the waves come in. When it was a big wave we braced as the entire house shook from the water hitting the break wall. Once in a while the waves were so strong, the water would penetrate the screen and get us wet. We saw logs, deck equipment and small boats pass us by. So when I see a day like today, I think about those days and smile. A storm is only a storm if you’re told it is.
Publishing is a cutthroat business. That lesson was brought home to me when the publisher of my last two books informed me they were going out of business on the 31st of this month. They said they could not compete with the rising costs of the business and competing in the marketplace. It tells you how much competition there is even in publishing. Right now a lot of the smaller companies are closing their doors and the big ones are scaling back. As for me, I’m not worried. I will find another publisher to pick up those books. That’s what I have an agent for. I will come out of this alright. It will just take time. So if you were waiting to buy one of the last two books, you will have to wait a while longer. Check back for updates.
Stynard was feeling particularly flippant and posed a question. “If you are so great, why can’t you just fight them all for us? No one else need be put in danger. You claim to be such a great warrior. Prove it to us and handle this problem.”
Argentoe could take no more. He cuffed Stynard in the ear with an open hand like a schoolboy. “I do not think I want to hear your voice again until at least this afternoon.
“As always, I will do the lion’s share of the fighting if you all choose that route, but there will be far too many enemies for me to control at once if at all. If you vote to fight, be prepared to lose lives.”
There was a moment of talk at the table as Stynard shriveled in his seat. Tibare stood and spoke for the group. “If the Trogos kill the livestock, we may as well be dead anyway. We will have no way to farm, no way to take goods to market and little to eat. Our lives will be over here. If you will help us, Argentoe, we will do what we can to fight.”
Argentoe smiled and patted the great brute on the shoulder. “That is nearly word for word what I had determined as well, but I needed you to choose to fight. In anticipation of your response, I have a plan ready to go. If everything goes exactly according to plan, no one will be put in danger and we will win. Mind you, if everything goes exactly as planned that will be the first time in history.
“Corilon will lead the women to the barn where they will force the animals into the corral. They can smell the enemies about and will not want to leave the barn. It is imperative that they enter the corral. First, they need to walk off the nervous energy they have built up or they will end up tearing down the barn themselves. The second reason is that we want the Trogos to get a good look at their target. When they attack we want them to focus all their attention on that barn. This way they can trust their eyes and their noses.
“Once the animals are in the corral, Doronin, Giltore and Stynard will scythe long wild grass from the plain. There is no sense burning through our hay now. Corilon and her group will gather the grass and feed the animals well. Then they will be sure the troughs are full of water.
“Rolanna, this will be the last hot meal for the day. There is no reason to fill the air with even more delectable smells for our adversary. For the rest of the day we will eat dried meats and rations.
“Tibare and I will be on wagon duty. There are two weak points on these buildings; the doors and the roofs. Since the wind continues to blow from the north, we can expect their attack to come on the south side of the barn where there is not a corral in the way and there is an unobstructed path from the south double door of the barn to the forest.
“The two of us will take the coverings and supports off the wagons and then turn them on their sides. On the north side of the barn, we will push one directly against the doors once they are shut for the night with the stock inside and the lock is in place. The wagon will lie horizontally with two wheels sticking out flat on the ground and no room between it and the door. To be sure of that we will drive stakes into the ground behind it to prevent the Trogos from moving it out of position or creating enough space for one of them to slip between the wagon and the door and use its claws to shred the gate. Then another wagon will be placed behind it to prevent access to the first wagon. On the south side, only one wagon will be staked into place. I plan to have a fire burning over there and we cannot afford to have it too far from the barn. For good measure, a fourth wagon will be staked in front of the smoke house.”
Tibare looked at the barn and the wagons before interjecting a thought. “You have all the wagons lying on their sides. That means a Trogo could climb on top and attack the top of the door. Why not stand the wagons backward against the barn doors so they are completely covered?”
“That is fine thinking,” complimented Argentoe. “I thought of that and there is a problem. Giltore, how strong are those roofs we built?”
Giltore stumbled a little as he stood. He had not expected to be called upon. “They were built from tree limbs and sticks and held together with twine and pine tar. We live in a fairly temperate climate so I designed them to withstand wind and rain more than weight.”
“Could it hold a man?”
“Provided he was gentle with his footing, I should think it would hold.”
“What if a Trogoandras bigger than Tibare jumped from a standing wagon onto the roof?”
Giltore sighed. “The beast would fall right through.”
Argentoe turned to Tibare and said, “That is why we cannot stand them up. The gates to the barn are made of solid logs. Even with their claws, it will take time to work through them. What we cannot afford is to allow them access to the roof. That area is reserved for us.
“Just before nightfall, you will all climb carefully onto the roof of the great house. Space yourselves out so you do not put too much pressure on any one place. Carry your swords in case they are needed. Do not move around or you will fall through the ceiling and become dinner for a Trogoandras.
“I will take my bow and hold position on top of the barn. Any Trogos making it on top of the wagon will be cut down. They will have to be near as I have a limited number of arrows left and they will be hard to strike at a distance in the dark. If all goes well they will find the northern door to the barn too hard to access and focus on the southern door. If I can kill or wound enough of them, it is their nature to decide the price of their meal is too high and move off for good.
“There is the chance, however, that some will smell the fear on you and try to assault the great house. The roof is lower there and you could be within their limited leaping range. With luck, I can keep most of them busy and there will only be a couple with which to contend. If one of you falls, all of you descend on the beast. Attack it in numbers. Remember, do not try for killing blows as your sword can easily become lodged. Stab at it. Your goal is to drive it off, not kill it. Their hide is strong, but it is most vulnerable at the rear.
“Does everyone understand what I expect them to do?” The table was silent as they all looked at one another hoping someone else had caught the details. In the end, they nodded. “Good,” noted Argentoe. “Now let us eat before we begin work.”
“Be seated,” he commanded, and the gallery took their seats.
A scribe sat in the alcove to record the events of the meeting.
“The first order of business,” he recited, “is the Lord of
A well-dressed gentleman came forward from the crowd. “My
liege,” he stated with a bow, “there is disturbing news about the
Unclaimed Territory. With neither Sartan nor the empire legally
permitted to introduce combat units into the disputed region, a
potentially volatile trend has emerged. Settlers from the Kingdoms
of Romadon, Rador, Valia and even the empire have begun settling
in the fertile region with little to be done about it. Now that you
have withdrawn our forces from the region, we have no leverage in
“How is that a concern to the empire?” Mandrean inquired
while accepting a drink from a servant.
“Sire,” stated the lord, “our informants tell us that Valia for
certain and perhaps each of the others has secretly promised
protection to the settlers as an enticement to move there.”
Mandrean had heard every word but was, after all, a man of
slow wit. Realizing that the significance of the information was
indeed lost on his master, the lord elaborated.
“Do you not see the implications for us, Sire? If that prairie is
settled and these nations provide protection, it is an underhanded
method of claiming the territory. Once the farmers are in place,
these kings need but only claim that there is a danger to their
people and send armies to protect them. They would appear to the
world to be innocent lambs but are in fact preying wolves. We
would be forced to either accept their annexation of the region or
fight three powers. The issue must be scrutinized.”
Mandrean grew agitated when the issue was brought into
perspective. “That land should have been ours years ago,” he
insisted. “Are you sure of your facts?”
The lord shuffled his papers and looked away. “We are certain
that the settlers are squatting and that they are doing so in
increasing numbers. As for the support guaranteed by the other
factions, we have one spy’s report from Valia and no others.”
“So this threat is little more than speculation at this time, is it
The lord became less at ease. “Sire, I truly believe that my
concerns are valid on this matter.”
“Fine. Then find out how correct they are, and report back to
me with something more definite. I am not inclined to mobilize our
forces without good reason.”
Snickering was heard from the gallery after the statement. The
sound set the emperor into a tizzy.
“Who laughed?” he yelled. No one spoke. The hall was silent.
“If I find that fool, he will be dead.” Still, no one spoke.
Seeing that his point was made, Mandrean returned his attention
to is Lord of Diplomacy. “What else have you?”
“Your regional commanders have been briefed on the other
matters, and they will address them in their reports.”
“Then waste no more of my time talking,” Mandrean told him.
The lord returned to his seat.
I will be appearing on Twitter today, March 15th at 5Pm Central Time. To join just go to the search page and enter #asktheauthor and you will be connected with me. Then you can ask whatever you like. I will be thrilled to converse with my fans. See you at 5PM.
My good friends at Terryluvsbooks have been kind enough to do an interview on me. It is quite the honor. Here it is for your reading pleasure. http://terriluvsbooks.com/index.php/2017/03/03/rivalg/
Hi, Cool Papa Ike, welcome. What prompted you to write your book?
S.J. McMillan, what a remarkable, intelligent and talented woman she is. May I add that she is my daughter? This classy gal was the published author of the family. I had a bee in my bonnet about a story line that was about a grandpa and his cathouse. She got a laugh out that and said my personality fit that notion better than her. A couple of weeks later, I took on the gauntlet and started writing. I discovered writing Grandpa’s Cathouse was fun. That led to writing Grandpa’s Copasetic Conundrum. That was even more fun. I like having fun so a third book got cranked out. Now I have started a fourth. Three books in eight months all because my daughter said, “You should write it”…
Tell us just a little about the story, isn’t it sort of coming of age?
My character Sam came of age like no other. In Grandpa’s Copacetic Conundrum he reflects on his initiation into a society of gifted and talented gentlemen. He takes you back to his days of youth which set this whole conundrum in motion. With the misfits, characters and experiences he had, it certainly does describe one unique coming of age. As this grandpa reflects on his memories he admits that life is full of conundrums and with a little luck you can keep them all copacetic. Guess Grandpa’s Copacetic Conundrum sums it up pretty well.
In as far as writing, who were your biggest influences?
Mark Twain is at the top of the heap in my estimation. His books, speeches, interviews and everything written about him is right up my ally. I do appreciate Kurt Vonnegut, Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Salinger, Heller and all those writing geniuses. I find inspiration in comedy. From movies to television, those images rattle my brain with persistence. That muck between my ears is full of curious peccadilloes. Grandpa’s Copasetic Conundrum has a plethora of these influences crammed in all those pages.
What sets you apart from other writers?
In Grandpa’s Copacetic Conundrum there is a phenomenon that is explored. This theme is that we are all wired differently. Safe to say, I’m wired in a unique way. This singular wiring of mine comes out in my writing. I don’t copy any particular style and would pity anyone who would attempt to copy mine.
Can we expect more books?
Grandpa’s Copacetic Conundrum was my second book. Grandpa’s Courteous Obligation is a great sequel to it, and it’s ready for editing. My first book was Grandpa’s Cathouse and it’s ready for the editor as well. I have started book four. Surprise! It’s a Grandpa book too. I don’t foresee any lack of Grandpa Books. I’m having too much fun to quit.
If you were to give just one piece of advice to other writers, what would that be?
Writing Grandpa’s Copacetic Conundrum was so entertaining. Everyone has a story. I would suggest that if you have one you want to share, get with it and tell your tale. I like to have fun. I’d hate to think anybody would consider writing work. So, I would say, be sure to enjoy the experience and have a good time with it. Now, if you are wired differently and love to work, then get to work. Make your writing a copasetic conundrum.
Writer’s Block is like an ice cream headache for writers that never goes away until you find an answer to your writing problem. There are two kinds of these headaches. The first one is finding a topic to write about. This is the more difficult of the writing problems. You have no point of reference to reflect on at all. So you sit there in front of the monitor with the blank screen and the cursor blinking over and over again. It feels like the cursor is rubbing in the fact that you have no idea what you are going to write about. You go get a beverage or a snack. The cursor is still waiting for you upon your return and making you angrier. Let’s say it’s a paper for school. They usually give you criteria for the paper. Take that blueprint and inject your own style into the paper. You have your own flare. Everyone does. Tell the story the way you want to and it will flow like a river from your fingers. Perhaps you’re writing a story and have no idea what to write about on the page. Think deeply about things you know. Think off topics that interest you. If you’re writing fiction take one idea you think is cool and extrapolate on it. Maybe someone’s done you wrong and you want to write about a cruel double-cross. Write that on a sheet of paper. Then write the next thing that comes to mind. Maybe one girl steels another girl’s boyfriend. Wrire that down. Maybe they were childhood friends but it changed in high school when the girl doing the steeling got into drugs. Write that down. Hey, I have a pretty good book started! After you are done take your page and place numbers in pencil by each one in the order they happen. I say pencil because you’re likely to change the order. You now have the layout of your story. If you come up against something you don’t know about, research it! There are bound to be experts on the subject who read your work and you don’t want to look like a phony.
That’s the first kind of Writer’s Block. The second kind happens when you’re in the middle of your story and you hit a dead end. First try going back over what you’ve written and try to pick up the story. Sometimes it’s just that simple. You can change the story so long as the change doesn’t affect the main storyline. Then there is the last resort. Treat the story like a rope and fray the ends. Pick apart the last part you have written and find a thread to weave a new storyline in so the rest of the story can go on while you discard the frayed ends. That’s my advice and it works for me. Good luck and good writing.
They’re there for the good times. They comfort you in the bad ones. When you’re sick, they’re right there by your side letting you know they love you. I’m talking about dogs and cats. It’s not all sweetness. I put my dog in a kennel during the day for a reason. If I leave him to his own desires, the carpet will be torn up, the garbage will be everywhere, he’ll poop in my office (one of his favorite things to do), and chew on my leather chair. The kennel doesn’t sound so mean now, does it? But if I’m home sick he’ll lay beside me all day and bark at anyone who enters the home. My daughter has a cat that is large and overweight but craves attention. My daughter works two jobs and takes 24 credit hours in college. When she comes home she is wiped out. That doesn’t stop her cat crawling up next to her in search of affection. He practically slides under your hand and always gets the affection he has missed all day. It is said that having a pet lowers your blood pressure and thereby your chances of a heart attack. Pets also have short memories. This is both good and bad. If you are ill-tempered or a moment the pet won’t hold a grudge if you yell at him or her. On the other hand, if the pet does something wrong and you scold them, they will soon forget about it and go about their merry way. Yes, there are downsides to owning a pet: damage to the house and furniture, veterinary visits, food, and making the yard into a field of poop or making a litter box that’s disgusting to change. Still, even with all this, we love our pets. Their part of the family.
Linvin peered through the glass. The fog was indeed being stirred. With the ever-increasing light, he saw an ocean of pikes pointed at the sky. They moved slowly but deliberately toward Linvin’s line.
“How many would you estimate, Victolin?”
The cavalry leader too, had been watching through his lens. Putting it down, Victolin answered, “Six, maybe seven thousand at most.”
“Not the great host we would expect. Almost what we would be hoping for after two major battles in two days.”
“Sir, we should ride round behind them now and attack from the rear.”
“Yes,” Linvin said calmly. “That sounds like the correct move right now, but they are marching too slowly. They must know they outnumber us by a wide margin. Goblins rarely maintain their composure when battle looms. That is especially true when they expect to win. Yet the army we see marches at a snail’s pace. I do not trust it.”
“They may be unsure of their footing in the fog,” Victolin suggested.
“Perhaps,” answered Linvin, “but we will wait all the same.”
The pikes advanced on Linvin’s line. When they were five hundred paces away, their heads came into view. At two hundred paces, their enemy was totally uncloaked. They wore hides fashioned into armor. Their pikes were nearly three times the height of a man. Various secondary weapons were worn at their sides.
Fardar stared at Linvin’s infantry with great intensity and increasing distress. “Why do your archers not fire? They are well within firing range.”
“Patience, Lord Fardar,” Linvin replied calmly. “Their war chief is fishing right now, but I am not biting.”
Soon the goblins were fifty paces away from the line. They lowered their pikes to point at Sculla’s infantry and marched on in a loose phalanx formation.
Sculla himself was positioned in the middle of the front rank. His men stood at attention, awaiting their leader’s command. “Javelins!” Sculla yelled. The men each grasped one of their javelins and on command, hurled the weapon at their enemy.
The salvo was accurate and lethal. Nearly the entire first line of goblins fell in an instant. The next several rows suffered heavy losses as well. Even so, the army pressed on toward the Valian line. At twenty paces, another round of javelins proved even more effective than the first. Goblins fell, screaming in pain. Without shields, they were easy targets. Even with their horrible losses, the goblins reached the line and attacked.
With the goblins’ front lines decimated, the initial contact was only in a few places along the wall of shields, leaving large gaps in the marsh dwellers” ranks. Feverishly, the goblins struck out again and again with their pikes, but their blows were blunted by the disciplined formation.
“Arrows?” asked Fardar.
“Not at this time, Lord Fardar,” Linvin answered patiently. “In the previous two battles, we held them at the wall and did our damage with arrows. Their war chief is testing me. First, he wants to see if we have archers. If we do, he wants me to exhaust my arrows on his weaker troops.”
“Then why not encircle them with your cavalry?”
“Again, Fardar, he looks to see if I have cavalry. This is bait. The trap he hopes to spring waits at the edge of the fog.” Linvin handed the glass to Fardar. In viewing the far edge of the battlefield, he could just barely make out ranks of heavily armored goblins in tight formation.
“We would be caught between two forces.” Linvin explained.
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...