Friday, September 30, 2011

Fiction Friday - Rose and Blade 4

It's Fiction Friday! That means you get a piece of my original fiction... for free.

This is the third chapter of "Rose & Blade," a novella related to my published novel "Children of Aerthwheel." For the previous chapters, see the link at the top of the page.

Rose and Blade


In the balcony outside the queen’s chamber, Deliera sat on a stone bench and gazed at the courtyard below. A team of gardeners tended to the vast bed of pale roses that filled the middle of the great lawn.

"The roses look like white sand from up here, don’t you think?” Queen Adelia asked.  She stood in the doorway between the chamber and the balcony. When Deliera only nodded, Adelia said, “You are weak.”

"Yes, sister Queen," Deliera said. "Yet still I breathe
Adelia leaned on the stone wall of the balcony next to her sister and said, "Is there pain?"

"A bit," Deliera said, "but it passes easily. I think of something else and it goes away.  A moment ago, I thought of the young roses that fill your courtyard. How they’ve grown so strong despite the poisoned dirt into which they burrow. And that pleasant thought drove the pain into hiding, at least for a time."

Adelia sighed, "I wish my healers could help you."

"They've done all they can," Deliera said with a deep sigh. "This is a sickness no conjurer can touch."

At each of the four corners of the palace walls stood a single priest, each wielding one of the sacred holder’s stones to produce a protective field about the entire structure. Most of the time this membrane of energy went unseen; but there were moments when, for one reason or another, the layer flickered or resonated.  And when it did this, it was visible to all who happened to be paying attention.  In these instances, it was obvious that the field was blue and dome-shaped.  Each priest stood guard for eight hours at a time until another came to replace him. 

They were a loyal lot, theses priests who served Adelia.

"Do you know what's happened?" Adelia asked.

"I sensed it," Deliera said. "I felt it yesterday. I haven't been able to sleep since."

"Two dozen of my soldiers are dead," Adelia said. "Did you know that?"

"Yes. Though not by Azariel's hands. Not exactly."

Adelia's eyes swam in tears that threatened to explore the curves of her face, "Have I created this for myself?"

Deliera smiled, "The wheel turns. We fight its weight or we follow the path it carves."

Adelia stared at the sky beyond the protective field above her palace. There were no clouds and only an ashen blue oblivion, a reminder of the ways her ancestors had broken the world so long ago.

“It turned against my men. It fought against my own wizards, the very priests who would protect it from Azariel's mutant forces. What does that mean? What have I done to anger it so?"

"Perhaps it prefers to be called a man," Deliera said with a hint of a smile. "It is, after all, a human being. And he has a name."

"But he is ours," Adelia said. "He is our gift from the old mages. How could he turn against us?"

"I believe you know the answer to this question," Deliera said.

"And what do you suggest, sister?"

Deliera sighed and said, "This gift, as you call him, merely serves fate as do we all. His path is drawn as plainly as yours. Perhaps it has diverged from your own, but the lines may yet intersect before all is finished. He is no gift. He is a human, a powerful human, and he has a purpose. You cannot deny his purpose by keeping him in that tomb."

"If he's gone, then my priests will lose their power," Adelia said.

"And that, sister, is why Azariel took him," Deliera said. She drew a deep breath and said, "Without the gift, you are weak. And the war will continue."

Tendrils of blue energy began to drift from Deliera's head towards the protective dome generated by the wizards. She said, “I can help, though. This is why you keep me in your chamber, is it not? So you may utilize the power I wield.”

Adelia grasped her sister's wrists and said, "Don't do this, Deliera. Come back."

Her sister drew the spirits and spoke what they felt. Their knowledge was hers, but for a time.

"He is torn between worlds," she said with the voices of spirits long dead. Her eyes shimmered silver as she spoke. "He does not belong here. His destiny is forged in fire and written in blood."

Adelia slapped her sister across the face. Deliera's eyes went pale green again and she gasped for air. Her body trembled.

"Forgive me," Adelia said. "You mustn't waste your energy. Not now, not at the twilight of your life."

"I want to help," Deliera said, "but I cannot reach into their realm as I once did."

Adelia moved forward and held her sister in an embrace. The truth was simple.

Deliera would soon be in one of the very spirits with whom she could communicate.

"You're not as strong as you used to be," Adelia said. "Just rest. Don’t let your illness overwhelm you, sister."

Deliera gazed over the wall of the balcony and said, "This sickness, it's not the curse you claim it to be.  It's no virus or disease.  I have the secrets of the gods trapped in my mind, you see?  The spirits left these things in my head and I can't let them out on my own.  So they're killing me.  All the knowledge of the ancient gods is trapped in my head and now I’m bleeding out.”

A tear danced down the side of Deliera's face and she said, "I wish I could help. Let’s hope Azariel misunderstands the importance of the man he freed from the earth."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tease It Tuesday - The music of Ideamen

It's Tease It Tuesday, where I tempt you to enjoy the imaginations and talents of artists far more skilled than myself.

This week's Tease It features the band Ideamen from Chicago.

I discovered the Ideamen earlier this year while trying to find music to listen to while I wrote what would be "Children of Aerthwheel." The moment I heard the song "Cavity," I knew there was something special about this band.They had me from the first hook.

With flavors of punk, progressive, alternative, and groove metal, the Ideamen offer a brand of music that is not available on most radio stations. What brand is that, you ask?


Fresh and unique. Original.

That's not to say I don't recognize some of their influences. I can hear hints of bands like Faith No More and maybe some System of a Down; if you listen closely, you can also hear echoes of bands like the Doors, Stone Temple Pilots, and Incubus.

Despite this, everything they do is presented in a refreshing and interesting way. Each song is like a novella set to music, filled with thoughtful and clever lyrics. There is a story in every verse, a climax in every chorus, and by the time any given song is finished, you can't help but feel like something magnificent has just occurred.

I can't say anything else but this: Buy their album. Find them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. And tell everyone you know that the future of music is here.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Fiction Friday - Rose and Blade 3

It's Fiction Friday! That means you get a piece of my original fiction... for free.

This is the third chapter of "Rose & Blade," a novella related to my published novel "Children of Aerthwheel." For the previous two chapters, see the link at the top of the page.

Rose and Blade


The automaton’s internal engines whirred and whined as it spoke to Azariel.

"Three battalions await your orders."

It was a pear-shaped machine built by the older people and salvaged for Azariel's personal use, now outfitted with a transmitter that allowed him to communicate with his soldiers. The robot stood chest high and filled the air with bitter steam. On its domed head was the transmitter that would send Azariel's orders to the troops at the far edge of the territories.

The hall was silent, save for the machine's persistent buzzing. Azariel's companions, mostly fellow warriors and soldiers, stood in quiet anticipation.

"Allow me a moment to gather my thoughts," Azariel said with his eyes closed. He stood at one of the hazy portholes that overlooked the ocean side of the airship. In the distance were the great steel behemoths that once bore holes into the ocean floor and leeched black blood from the planet itself.

"My Lord," the automaton said, "fifteen hours have passed since the battalions reached their current positions. They grow impatient."

“Open a direct feed," Azariel said. "Let me speak to him, Tinker."

The machine whirred and clicked, then Commander Delaquar's voice thundered through a small speaker on the automaton's chest. The hall was filled with his curse-ridden proclamations. He spoke in what many called the Mud Tongue, a lower and cruder form of speech handed down from the old people. He was a reformed mutant from the edge of the Outland, one of the few who had retained enough of their humanity to integrate into what remained of this so-called society.

He was in mid-sentence when the feed opened. He growled, "...and if you don't give us a damn order now, we'll just march right up to the enemy lines and start fighting on our own. You tell him that, you God forsaken robot! You tell him he can kiss my sweating ass if he doesn't want to give an order!"

"You just told me yourself, Commander Delaquar," Azariel said.

"Lord Azariel," the Commander said, trying to restrain the angry tone of his voice. "I apologize for the profanity, but my men need an order. It's bad enough we've traveled miles into the Outlands, almost to Lucero, but we're also low on rations. We've encountered no priests and the heat is worse here than I've ever seen in my life. Two of my men have heat sickness or some kind of radiation flu. It's been fifteen hours since we arrived at these filthy ruins and we have no idea what we're doing."

"Those ruins are the relics of your own ancestors," Azariel said. "Treat the place with some damn respect."

Azariel felt himself slip into the Mud Tongue. He smiled.

It was a natural and welcome transition.

"Ancestors or not," Delaquar said, "we're running the risk of getting pinned down here. So please let us know what the plan is, Lord Azariel. Or we'll make our own."

“The plan is simple, Commander. There is a vault beneath the so-called ruins upon which you stand. It is buried approximately one hundred seventy two feet below a structure called Bunker C, at the end of an underground service elevator shaft. You get to that vault and you open it, but you have every available weapon drawn when you do so. Do you understand?"

"What's in the vault?"

"Something unique," Azariel said, "and very valuable to the Good Queen."

"A weapon?" Delaquar asked.

"Some might think so," Azariel said. "It is a man. A very old and important man."

Delaquar said, "My Lord, should we be afraid of this old man?"

With a half-smile, Azariel said, "You should worship him." 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday Wisdom - Discipline

It's Wednesday Wisdom, when I pretend to be an expert and you pretend to listen.

A side note - This post is late getting online. It's my fault. And that's quite a coincidence given the topic for this week's Wednesday Wisdom.

*   *   *
Ask any given writer what the most important part of the writing process is and they’re likely to cite such romantic notions as imagination, inspiration, or coffee. And while most of these things are important in every writer’s life, none of them answers the question.

A seasoned author will tell you: it’s all about discipline.

Too often, we creative types fall victim to distractions or, even worse, procrastination. The muse comes singing her sweet and tantalizing song; but we shrug our shoulders and say, “Go away. I’ve got other stuff to do.” And what do we do?

We browse the internet, Tweet at some friends, watch television, play a video game, read a book, stare at the blank screen with only a few minutes left in the day and say to ourselves, “Darn. Maybe I’ll write tomorrow when I have more time.”

The problem is we never let ourselves have more time.

This is where discipline comes into play. Our time is one of the few things we actually own; what we do with it is a direct reflection of how much we care about ourselves and the projects we hope to finish. When we carve away the day’s minutes, we have no one but ourselves to blame.

Discipline involves more than just saying, “I’m going to write.” Being disciplined means we are strict and we know how to manage our lives in a way that is most productive for the creative process, even if that means you set aside a half hour in the morning or an hour before bed.

The difference between a lazy writer and a disciplined writer is simple: the lazy writer lets time tick away. The disciplined writer makes the best of each fleeting moment.

Your Wisdom

Are you a disciplined writer? How do you avoid distractions and seek out those valuable minutes instead of letting them slip away?