For those of you who don’t follow this blog on a regular basis, my computer blew up about 6 months ago and I had to buy a Windows 8.1 machine. Not all my files or knowledge for that matter were compatible. So every little while I go to find something and discover to my surprise it is not on my new computer. This time the missing item was a hefty portion of songs I had acquired over the years. Many of the missing songs happened to be Christmas songs I like to hear this time of year. They aren’t just your old department store songs. These are ones like Bruce Springsteen singing “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” and “Merry Christmas Baby”, Bryan Adams singing “Run, Run Rudolph”, the Beach Boys singing “The Little Saint Nick” and U2 singing “Please Come Home.” I never hear these versions on the radio or in stores. For some reason though, I have to hear them for it to seem like Christmas. If they are truly gone I will be most disappointed. I like to think most families have traditions. We like to get the big 14 once Toblerone bars (this year I could only find the 7 once ones) and we each get a caramel and chocolate dipped apple from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory rolled in different toppings. I happen to like the crushed Snickers Bar topping. It is my belief that wrapping paper is radioactive as we all hold off wrapping our gifts until Christmas Eve. It’s like we’re afraid to touch the paper or something. On that day I get off work and wrap, pick up the apples, and then we all go see a movie. (Like the last 2 years, this year we’re going to the Hobbit. I am an Epic Fantasy writer after all). After that we go to church. We leave out milk and cookies for Santa. As a child we always left out Diet Pepsi and cookies. My father gave up drinking when I could barely walk but is addicted to Diet Pepsi. When I would ask mother why the other children left out milk and we left out pop she told me milk might spoil by the time Santa reached our house and he could stand to lose a few pounds anyway. All those years I never put it together. Crazy. It has taken me years but I finally see why my parents were so reluctant to get up on Christmas morning. Aside from the fact that they always wrapped after we were asleep, they knew what most of the presents were. It’s kind of like your children want you to get up to watch a movie you have seen and they haven’t. You would just rather sleep but their constant pestering reminds you that this is not about you. It is about them and that the day is coming when there will be no one to wake you on Christmas morning. Maybe the pestering isn’t so bad after all? I used to play my Christmas music from the computer but since that no longer appears plausible, I will likely turn the cable to the Christmas Music Station. By the way…I hate windows 8.1! Okay. Now I feel better. I have my big gift for my wife which I have planned for months and always end up as an epic failure. That’s a blog in and of itself. As I always say, though, “I fail miserably with the best of intentions.” In the near future I will have the sounds of just my wife and me and these days will be memories and traditions I can only hope transfer to my children. Let’s hope I at least have my music back by then.
The person stopped before them and drew back the hood of the robe. Long, brown flowing hair descended about the shoulders of a radiant woman’s face. Her skin was soft and flawless save for several tiny wrinkles. They were only visible to those who could look past the sheer beauty of her face. Her eyes were a delicate shade of brown surrounding a darker circle.
She addressed the guards firmly. “I desire and audience with Lord Mandrean.”
Neither guard changed their expression or pose. One responded. “Lord Mandrean has not left his chambers this morning. He will not be disturbed, Madame. Return to your quarters and we will relay your request. If he desires your company, he will send for you.”
The woman was infuriated. “You tell that Rotund Sow, I demand to see him immediately. You know who I am.”
“Indeed, Mistress,” replied the guard. “You are Concubine Number One. I am to show you respect. That being said, you wait to be summoned like any of the other seventy-three concubines.”
Number One angrily pounded the door. “You will see me.” she yelled through the wood. “I will not move from this spot until we speak. Do you hear me?” She kicked at the door repeatedly. No movement could be heard inside. The tirade continued in a most unladylike fashion for an extended period.
During that time a formally dressed gentleman with neatly cut red hair approached. A slave girl of impeccable youth and beauty walked on either side. Having traveled the hall, they reached the brass-hinged doors. All three of them bore silver trays with food covered to retain heat. When they could go no further, they paused and the man addressed Concubine Number One.
“You know full well he cannot hear anything through that door Betrimpia. Why must you continue to make a mockery of yourself?”
Betrimpia relented in her attack on the door and turned to respond to the man. “At least you have the courtesy to call me by my proper name, Fendri.”
“I know all the original names of my Master’s concubines,” Fendri answered. “I also know which ones are requested in his chambers. You were not requested last night. Considering the fact he has not risen for the day, I highly doubt he summoned you this morning.”
“He never calls for me anymore,” she snapped. “He just leaves me down there with all of those young, brainless whores to fret away my time.”
“It is true,” said Fendri, “that you do exceed his other concubines in maturity on many levels. To your credit, My Lady, time has been unusually kind to your appearance. A fact I am sure is not lost on our master.”
“Were he half as kind as you, Fendri, the situation would at least be tolerable. Instead I am shut away like a leper. Well, I shall not be ignored any longer. I will have words with him. He must leave there eventually and I will be here at that time.”
Fendri shook his head in disappointment and then looked at the guards. With a single nod of his head, he gave them instruction. Each Imperial Guard took hold of an arm of Betrimpia’s and dragged her struggling body away from the door. Then one man held her while the other opened the door for Fendri and the slaves. As Fendri prepared to enter he told her, “I will inform the Emperor that you are here.” After he and the other servants passed beyond the doors, the massive entry was shut and the guards returned to their original positions.
“Linvin,” he said meekly, “I want to apologize for my actions earlier today. I promised to obey you and well, I am sorry. Until I held the staff, I really did not believe deep down that the Red Sapphire even existed.”
Linvin took deep breaths as the bandages were placed. “And now?” he asked in a pained voice.
“Now,” Rander replied, “I am both humbled and frightened. It was easy to not feel fear when I felt we were on a frivolous camping trip, but now that I see there is real danger, my feet move forward more slowly.”
“The dangers out here have not changed cousin,” Linvin pointed out. “Your awareness is simply heightened.”
“I’m not just talking about the dangers out here Linvin. What about the Red Sapphire itself? I mean, what do we really know about it? No one has seen it in generations and the stories I’ve heard make me question whether this is something we even want to find.”
“What stories are these?” asked Linvin.
“Old elves in the village used to tell stories about it. They said it was used to destroy armies and towns. It started fires and killed all who stood before it. Such power is not meant for this world Linvin. Now that I know it is real, I think maybe searching for it is not such a wise move.”
“Those stories are told from a certain point of view,” Linvin pointed out. “Those town’s people had a very narrow view of the world. Varns is a conservative town, with people who distrust what they do not understand and if they do not understand it, then it must be evil.”
“I see the Red Sapphire as a tool. Like other tools, the one who wields it, determines the use. A sword, for example, can be used to bring peace or end peace. Only its bearer can decide which will happen.”
“But that sword,” Rander began, “may be bringing peace by destruction. If you are the one on the receiving end of that sword, you may not find it so peaceful.”
“Peace,” Linvin explained, “can only be found when the threat of force is present. After all, is peace not defined as an absence of force? Without that threat, there can be no reason to seek peace. As long as one person wants to control another, their hand will only be stayed by the threat force provides.”
“Then by your definition Linvin, right and wrong are only determined by what side you are on.”
“Is that not how the world works?” Linvin asked. “Men who go to war always feel that they are in the right. Those who fight them surely feel that their cause is just. If one side of a coin is up, then the other must be down.”
“Then that would prove that the old elves were right,” Rander surmised. “If you were on the receiving end of the Red Sapphire’s power, then it would be an evil thing.”
“That,” Linvin retorted, “is exactly why I must find it before the people who murdered my parents do. In the wrong hands, it could destroy the world as we know it.”
“But does that make yours the right hands?” Rander asked. “What would you use it to do? Perhaps from someone ease’s perspective, you would be the evil one.”
“The staff made the Red Sapphire’s purpose most clear,” said Linvin. “I am to safeguard the helpless and defend those who cannot defend themselves. That is my charge and my destiny. It is no coincidence that my life has trained me for the purpose of standing as one against many. The Red Sapphire has entrusted me to use its power. Now, I must repay that trust by fulfilling the responsibility for which I have been predisposed.”
“Let’s assume that you find the gem before the killers do,” Rander supposed, “what will you use it for? I mean the lofty goals you speak of are fine, but how will you not become what you hate? Power has corrupted many a man Linvin. Would you use that power to seek vengeance against the assassins? If you destroyed them, would you not be just as evil as they are? It is your two sided coin again Linvin. From their perspective, you would be the one in the wrong.”
Linvin paused a moment to collect his thoughts. “We each define morality by what is in our own hearts. If I were to find my parent’s killers, it would be hard for me not to make them pay for their crimes. As for my other deeds, I would rely on my own conscience to guide my hand. If the Red Sapphire chose me to use its power, then it must view morality in the same manner as I.”
“How would that morality embrace vengeance?” asked Rander.
After another pause, Linvin answered most strenuously, “It would be embraced as bringing justice, not revenge.”
“Ah, you see,” Rander said, “those are the two sides of your coin. To you, it is justice, but to them, it is vengeance. In the end, it is really the same. You would use force to gain peace. Can you understand now why I am scared?”
“Every man,” Linvin began, “must draw a line and say the things on one side are right, and the things on the other side are wrong. There will always be those who see it differently than you. When my days are done, I want to be able to say that I defended those principles and the people who believed in them. If I hold to those beliefs, then I will have made a difference worth remembering whether I find the Red Sapphire or not.”
“My question to you, Rander, is whether you will be with me on my side of that line, or will you stand opposed?”
It was Rander’s turn to think over his response. “If I look deep into my heart cousin, I would like to think that I am on your side. That does not mean however, that I will not challenge your views if they conflict with my own.”
Linvin laughed and said, “Why would you stop now?” Rander could not help but laugh along with his stricken cousin.
I have an excerpt from “Quest for the Red Sapphire” on The Heavens Garden website at http://icetrail.blogspot.com/2014/12/quest-for-red-sapphire-book-review.html
Check it out!
I was preparing to send some information to a blog which had agreed to review “Quest for the Red Sapphire” and went to the file where I keep all my blog materials. To my surprise I found file after file interlaced with mine referring to one of the SIMS games my youngest daughter likes to play. To make myself clear, this was a mild annoyance. None of my files were disturbed. They were just jostled around. I have watched my daughter play SIMS and the graphics are amazing. The point of the game is lost on me. As near as I can figure it is like the game of Life on the computer where you create characters and have them grow up, work and have families. I thought video games were meant to escape from all those things? No matter. To each their own. When I was younger I played my share of video games and have no room to condemn. The graphics may not have been what they are now and the stories were not so intricate but I fretted away too many hours to count. One thing I did do (although not as much as my editor/father wanted) was read. There are more good books out there than ever before but reading is not a social activity. Gaming has become something friends can do together on line or do by themselves and then talk to one another about how the game is progressing (like SIMS). When you read it is time taken for yourself. Unless the book is widely known or been made into a movie, others don’t have any idea what is going on in your story. It makes for difficult water cooler conversation the next day. The lack of social aspects is one of the things I love about books. If you are like me, you have a full day of stimuli from coworkers to television and sometimes you need to unplug. Therein lays the beauty of a book. You unplug and read in silence. Whether you are granted that silence or not is another matter. Video games are great but like movies they show you one person’s vision of a scene or character or even the entire story. When you read a book you see things as you imagine them. How many times have you read a book and then watched the movie only to be disappointed? I’m sure if you liked the book you also liked the movie but think of how many times you have said or heard, “The book was better.” The book will always be better because you liked it in the form you imagined it. The movie is shot from someone else’s point of view. Video games have become books you write as you go along and share with friends. There is no fault in that. Nevertheless, the day will come when your reflexes slow or the games become too advanced or too boring when you will sit down with a good book and get lost in your imagination. In the meantime I must make sure I email the piece about Linvin and the Red Sapphire rather than the file on my daughter’s SIMS character with the brown hair and the puppy that plays in the yard.
I pride myself on the time I spend organizing my stories. They are conceptualized, bullet pointed, placed in order and checked for storyline and flow. Then I sit down and write the book. That is the way I write. It works for me and I don’t leave out important facts. I discussed the matter with a colleague who wrote quite differently. This person came up with an idea and just wrote. They went wherever the mood took them. Having been so disciplined for so long I thought it might be fun to throw caution to the wind and just write on the next section of the book I am currently writing. It was exhilarating. I wrote faster and with greater zeal than I usually did. Everything was going so well and then I hit a wall. I was so far off the storyline that it was impossible to get to where I needed to be in the tale. Should I just continue and throw the blueprint away? It was time to look at what I had written. The words were good but the story was a mess. I jumped from topic to topic and missed crucial pieces of plot and character development. There were items that would come into play later in the book I had forgotten to write into the passage. In reviewing the bullet point plan I saw that I had totally missed the mark on the story. It sounds easy to just continue on my fanciful flight but I am in the middle of a book in the middle of a series. This is a house which is half way built. One cannot go and start building in whatever direction they want at this point. This is the time to stick to the blueprint or else you will have a disaster on your hands. I did what I find hardest in this world. I deleted a large section I had written and rewrote it according to the plan. It was heartbreaking to see the fun, uninhibited words disappear forever but it had to be done. Once I had it fixed everything followed beautifully and I even was able to add a few unplanned touches to jazz it up for me as the writer. So is my friend’s way of writing wrong? Certainly not. It works for that person and I applaud that. It is fun to write by the seat of your pants and throw caution to the wind but for me it is paramount to driving at night with my headlights off. I don’t know where I’m going and it’s only a matter of time before I crash. For me, the time to go wild is before the blueprint is ever made. Then I can go off in whatever direction I want. Once I choose a path, however, I must plan it and stick with it. Perhaps I’ll do something on the side unplanned. As for my books, I will stick to the plan.
Mandrean turned and snapped at the Magician. “Oh do shut up.” Once again the Emperor looked at the map. He noted the positions of the pawns. “We will squeeze and annihilate Grithinshield for what he has done this day. His body and those of his family will be dismembered and dispersed to the every town or village to show the people what happens to those who cross Emperor Mandrean.”
“Gramlick,” Mandrean inquired. “If you were Grithinshield, tell me what your course of action would be? I trust only you to think like a great general with clear goals.”
Gramlick was disappointed by his master’s choice of action and found it to be a sad irony the Emperor suddenly valued his opinion on an issue he lobbied against. He felt spiteful for a moment but thought better of the move. The decision had been made. He would do his part to serve his Emperor. “If I were Linvin, my first goal would be to exit the borders of the Empire with all due haste in the direction of my homeland. I am told he was seen fleeing south. That supports the theory.” He stood and staggered to the Southern Province on the map. “He knows his biggest obstacle is the Sorrowful Sea. If he can find his way past it he stands an excellent chance of making his way through the Unclaimed Territory to Sartan.”
“So the question is how he plans to overcome the huge obstacle before him. Linvin sat here in this room and saw where every one of our Divisions was stationed. He even knows their strengths and weaknesses. That plays into his favor. There are three possible ways of overcoming the lake as I see it. He could try heading west to go around the shore and find a crossing of the Silver River. I highly doubt he would take that route as our absurdly high concentration of forces in the region makes a stealthy escape nearly impossible. While he has tremendous power at his command, if I were in his position I would not welcome a battle with substantial forces. He has his kin with him and the Princess. Combat would be a last resort. Therefore, I believe he will not head west.
“He could head east around the lake and cross the Mystic River. He knows that path as my colleague mentioned in his rants. If I were Linvin I would guess that we would expect him to take that path and overcome the garrison. I would therefore expect the garrison to be reinforced with urgency. The question would be whether he believed he could reach the river mouth before word of today’s events could transform into troop movements. He scattered our horses at the messenger stables to delay such deployments. Fortunately he is unaware or our carrier birds. Orders will move faster than he expects. Linvin is a superior general and wants to avoid any fight at all. Again, if I were in his shoes I might bypass the river mouth and try to find a crossing for the river further east. He knows our forces are stretched thin in the new province and all eyes will be on the ferry where he crossed before.
“The only problem with that logic is the little he knows of the area is a swamp where its vapors overcame his party leading to his capture. He has a wealth of experience fighting in swamps in Valia, but I would be leery of leading my party that way even with such experience. For all he knows the swamps could continue all the way to the Great Eastern Sea. Extending his time in the Empire increases his chance of detection and capture. That would be my last resort.
“The final way out is the one I would choose. I would head due south to the lake, commandeer a vessel and sail to the south shore of the Sorrowful Sea. It provides the quickest escape and will take him past green troops he could likely evade. He would have us waste time and resources covering the flanks while he escapes down the middle with ease. It would be as simple as it would be brilliant.”
Sorry this is late. My internet was down.
Rander was beginning to fall asleep when he heard rustling from the trees across the clearing. He perked up and looked closely at the area. Though his eyes saw nothing out of the ordinary, his ears heard the snapping of branches caused by an animal running in the woods.
He turned to signal his brother, but noticed that Bander was preoccupied trying to swipe a mosquito buzzing about his head. Rander dared not make a sound in fear of revealing his position. He waved an arm to get Bander’s attention. The gesture went unnoticed. Bander’s interest was totally held by the flying nuisance.
The sound from the woods grew louder and was repeated in unison from other nearby clumps of trees. Rander could wait no more. He placed an arrow on his bow and fired it at his brother. It struck the tree near Bander’s head. The suddenness of the event nearly caused the burly elf to fall from his perch.
He drew back an arrow and turned to see his attacker. When he spied his brother looking at him most crossly, Bander relaxed his bow and stared at him with his head slightly cocked to the side. Rander feverishly pointed to the woods from which the noise had originated. Bander stared at the woods with the same confused look he had been showing Rander.
Suddenly, the trees began to shake. Bander joined his brother with his bow ready to fire. It was not long before a heard of deer leapt from the woods and into the clearing. Without hesitation, the elves fired. Their aim was true and two deer fell immediately. The rest of the herd charged down the clearing with great haste.
Rander pulled a second arrow from his quiver and fired again at the fleeing game. The arrow struck a deer in the hind leg and knocked it to the ground. Bleeding badly, the animal tried to get to its feet and resume running.
Not wanting to lose the precious meat, Rander dropped his bow, drew a knife and slid down the tree to finish his task. As he neared the fallen game, he noticed that it was not looking at him as it tried to escape. It was looking back at the woods it had just left.
Rander stopped next to the deer and turned curiously to look at the woods as well. All he saw was a charcoal colored blur as he was knocked to the ground. An immense pain came from his leg moments later. He looked down to see his calf entirely lodged in a Trogo’s mouth. It shook its head back and forth so hard that the motion lifted Rander off the ground. With one last swing of the head, it threw Rander several feet in the air before he landed and rolled to a stop.
The wounded elf was in shock and looked about for the beast. To his horror, more creatures than he could count had entered the clearing and were surrounding him. They growled and snarled as they moved closer. Time passed slowly as Rander awaited the attack. He screamed for help, but his voice was overcome by the sounds of the Trogos. Having sized up their prey, the one with Rander’s blood in his mouth attacked first.
My publisher, Solstice Publishing, has come up with a new cover for “Quest for the Red Sapphire.” Tell me what you think of it. It is an exciting time.
Yesterday was not a scheduled blogging day for me but it was a red letter day. What happened to make December 1st so important, you might ask? Here are a few of the things. In 1913 Henry Ford began the first moving assembly line. In 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man resulting in her arrest and started the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The underground transit system connecting England with continental Europe or “Chunnel” was finished in 1990. Celebrating birthdays were Grammy winning singer Bette Midler who was born in 1945 and the late, great comedian Richard Pryor born in 1940. There was another birth of note on December 1st. She is not yet a star outside my home but her melodramatics are worthy of the Academy’s attention. My oldest daughter turned 18 yesterday. Her birth was…unusual. At the time my wife wasn’t due for a couple of weeks and we were going to have family over in the afternoon of Black Friday for Thanksgiving as we lived a couple hours from the nearest relatives and I had to work at 4 A.M. Friday morning as a manager for Montgomery Ward. Going to someone else’s on Thanksgiving was not practical for my work schedule or my wife’s comfort. The baby had dropped and with it being our second child, we knew it was wise to stay home. I would be off work by the afternoon to help with dinner and our guests on Friday. That was the plan. So I went to work and the other manager who was supposed to open with me overindulged in the “spirit” of the holiday and called in. I told the operator to hold all manager calls as I would be the only one there to handle the masses. The doors opened at 6 A.M. and people began to attack one another to try to get $29.99 roasters and $69.99 bread makers. By 7 A.M. we were out of the door busters and everyone wanted a piece of me. A crowd of shoppers gathered yelling profanities that they did not procure one of the desire items. As I tried to calm the situation, the operator paged for me. I answered and said, “I told you to hold all my calls.” The operator said, “It’s your wife and she says it’s important.” I took the call. She said, “Honey, do you think you could, sort of like, come home?” I told her I could not possibly and then asked why. She replied, “Well, I’m sort of in labor.” At that moment a woman was literally hitting me with her purse to get my attention. I said to my wife. “Sweetie, I love you, but I need to know for sure or I will lose my job. Are in labor or not?” She became angry and said, “Why would I call if I wasn’t in labor! What stupid question. Why did I even bother calling you? I should have called my mother.” I told her to calm down and I would be home right away. When I hung up I called the operator and told her to call the other manager and tell him he had 15 minutes to get into the store (He lived 5 minutes away) or I was walking out and leaving the keys on the office desk. I went about calming down the crowd and took executive authority to issue rain checks. (I had the authority.) Then I headed for the back and put on my coat and boots. 14 minutes after my call the other manager walked in the door and I tossed him the keys, saying I was off to the hospital. I went home and took my wife to the hospital and waited all morning…and afternoon…and night. Saturday I received a call from work saying I was going to be terminated for walking off the job without a good reason so I reiterated to my wife, “No pressure here Babe but you’ve gotta produce a kid or I’m out of work.” Her labor continued all day Saturday and the doctors did nothing for her. Then Sunday morning my precious daughter decided to enter the world around 11A.M. I knew at once she would be a considerate girl because she made sure to be born before the game of the week in football came on. Having learned from my son who hated me ever since I was the one to pull him out of the little baby warmer right after birth, I let the nurses pick her up and hand her to my wife. She screamed and cried until she was tired. Only then did I pick her up and we have been best pals ever since. From being 9 pounds then to a grown woman now she will always be my baby. She goes to college next year. I hope it’s not too far away as everywhere she goes, she takes part of my heart with her. Happy Birthday Baby!
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...