The Friday Fiction featuring K.A. Krisko

Kathy aka K.A. Krisko… did you see what I did there? 😁… is my lovely author-friend who I met on GoodReads years ago. I loved her Stolen series, but then I read Cornerstone: Raising Rook, and it quite blew me away! This is grown up contemporary fantasy, in the way that Stephen Donaldson writes grown up contemporary fantasy (only not at all depressing, lol!). In fact, its probably more magical realism. I waited and waited for the sequel, and then she snuck it onto Amazon without so much as a  glittery fanfare or a three minute warning! Needless to say, I devoured it, but she still left me hungry for more… in a lovely, satisfied, just-room-left-for-desert kind of a way. 😍 And don’t forget to Give the gift of a book this Christmas! Have a happy one!



chapter one

Jack Bright lowered his binoculars and glanced over his shoulder. The quick look provided him with a view of Kyle’s backside. His cousin’s son was draped over the aft port rail, retching into the Pacific.

Jack turned away quickly. He knew he shouldn’t have brought Kyle, but the young man had begged him, partly to show his girlfriend a good time and partly, he claimed, because he wanted to see where his brother had died.

The Boston Whaler Conquest rolled in a figure eight pattern in the swells that reverberated off the rocky cliffs. The girlfriend, Terry, sat on the forward deck, her back against the front of the pilothouse. Her expression was inscrutable beneath over-sized sunglasses. She didn’t seem to share Kyle’s nausea.

Jack braced himself against the pilothouse on the starboard deck and raised the binoculars again. He followed the cliff face to the top, where the steeple of the castle’s chapel poked into the sky: dark, Gothic and malevolent.

The castle. That damned castle.

“The end of Earth as we know it,” Jack muttered under his breath.

Kyle staggered over, face pale, and gripped the grab rail. “You think he’s still up there?” he gasped, nodding briefly at the castle. “Maybe just held captive?”

Jack shook his head. “It’s been too long, Kyle. Korrin’s gone. We have to accept that. And this is the closest we’re going to get to that thing at this point.”

The hairs prickled along the back of Jack’s neck, and he looked up at the sky. There was a big black bird up there, flying lazy circles, gradually working its way down closer to the boat. Jack wasn’t fooled by the shape; that was no natural bird, but undoubtedly the castle’s Lorecaster, its wizard, flying his shadow-form in the shape of a raven. After what Jack had done, or attempted to do, to the castle, the young Lorecaster was a sworn enemy.

Jack strode over to the pilothouse, ducked through the door, and started the boat’s motors. He swung it around and headed further out to sea, partly to relieve Kyle’s nausea. But he slowed again just a quarter-mile south of where the castle loomed on the cliff. There, a huge slump littered the base of the cliff with debris, including the remains of five houses and some of their occupants. All of them had been Jack’s friends, co-workers and employees of the environmental lobbying group Earth Natural, of which he was president.

Jack felt a twinge of guilt as the boat slipped quietly by the slump. After all, he had, at least indirectly, caused the slump when he’d tried to blow up that cursed castle on the hill. His only consolation was that all of the people who’d died had known what they were risking.

“Hey, there’s a trail over there,” Kyle said plaintively, pointing to the cliff near the slump. “Maybe we can take a little hike.”

“That trail goes right up to the castle,” Jack replied. But Kyle’s pale face garnered some sympathy. Poor kid was still seasick.

“I can put the boat in around that outcropping past the slump,” he acquiesced. “I’ve done it before. You can scramble up to the top of the rocks there, and it’s far enough away from the castle to be safe.”

“Maybe we can wait there, and you can drive back and pick us up after you bring the boat home,” Kyle suggested miserably.

“The only road to this area runs past the castle and the Lorecaster’s house,” Jack said. “Sorry. You have to go home on the boat.”

They puttered past the outcropping and Jack swung the boat around behind it, bringing the bow up close to a big rock in a sheltered cove. Terry threw the bumpers over and scrambled onto the rock holding the bow line. Jack cut the motors and followed Kyle out of the pilothouse. There were several trees rooted in the cracks of the rock, and he tied the boat off to one of them with a quick-release knot.

Terry scrambled easily over the rock and jumped down to a bit of sand behind it. Kyle, a little heavy around the middle, followed more slowly. Jack waited impatiently. He might be twice Kyle’s age, but he was fit and agile.

Once off the rock, Jack led Terry and Kyle to the cliff and picked his way up through the boulders. He had visited this cove a number of times before. It was a way to get close to the castle, to observe what was going on there, without driving up to the isolated little neighborhood where it sat. He knew he could hike around the outcropping to the slump at low tide, but he’d also figured out how to scramble up to the top of the cliff.

Stunted firs clung to crevices here and there. Animal trails wound off through the deepening forest as they gained the top. The surge of the Pacific Ocean faded and the summer heat settled over them. A few insects landed on Jack’s arms and neck.

They turned north at the top of the cliff. After a quarter-mile walk, Jack motioned Kyle and Terry to stop and he crept forward alone. A small neighborhood lay beyond, a few summerhouses in little clusters. Jack could see the raw edge of the residential road’s pavement where the slump had taken the five houses closest to the cliff down to the sea below.

Kyle and Terry came up behind him and stood staring. The lower neighborhood, at whose southern edge they stood, was tucked in amongst the firs, drowsing in the mid-afternoon heat. The houses of the upper neighborhood were more exposed, and behind them the land rose steeply. On top of that rise stood the castle, sentient and malevolent.

Jack felt his pulse quicken. This was the closest he’d been to it in a long time, and he almost imagined it knew he was there. Involuntarily he stepped a little further behind the trunk of a tree.

“I can’t believe Korrin walked into that thing,” Kyle whispered. “He had a lot of guts.”

Or he was an idiot, Jack thought, but aloud he said, “Remember it wasn’t as complete then as it is now. The bigger it gets, the more powerful it becomes. I’m sure Korrin wouldn’t have gone in there if he didn’t believe he had the advantage.”

“He took the sword,” Kyle said, his tone reverent.

“Yes. I wish we could get it back,” Jack muttered. “One of the most valuable tools we had, and now it’s in their hands.”

Terry stood with her hands on her hips, a slight smile on her lips. She was not, after all, one of the Knights of Earth Natural, like Jack and Kyle. Kyle had told her about the castle, but Jack didn’t know if she believed it.

“You want me to walk up there and get your sword?” she asked. She grinned as she said it. “I’m not one of you, your castle won’t bother me. Right?”

“I’m not sure about that,” Jack warned. “Besides, we have no idea where the sword is. Somebody would see you if you went wandering around up there and would want to know what you were doing. Most likely the Lorecaster.”

“I’ve seen him before,” Terry said. “Kyle pointed him out once in Seaside Heights. He’s not so scary. Just a skinny guy with a unibrow and a ponytail.”

“Don’t underestimate him,” Jack growled. “He’s young and he doesn’t know his power yet. But it’s there, and he most likely knows you’re connected to us, too. He was flying his raven-shadow around earlier.”

Kyle and Terry both looked up at the sky, but the raven was not to be seen.

“You feeling better now?” Jack asked Kyle. “We should get back to the boat. This is risky. I don’t know how far the castle’s influence has spread, but we’re probably at the edge of it.”

“I guess,” Kyle sighed. “Just get us back to the marina as quick as possible, okay? I feel better when you’re going faster.”

Jack led them back through the woods to where the trail dropped off towards the ocean. He paused a moment, his eye caught by motion above them. The raven was there again, circling lazily high over the boat.

He let his eyes rest on the vessel a hundred feet below them. He’d taken the 27-foot ocean sport-fishing boat as partial settlement of a suit against a developer who’d failed to follow state environmental mitigation requirements. He’d named it the Natural Seize, a play on the name of his organization, Earth Natural. He smiled a little in satisfaction.

With a jolt of adrenalin, Jack realized that the Natural Seize floated free. It was no longer tied to the tree. The bow line floated in front of it, and it backed slowly away from the shore, bobbing and rolling.

“Hey!” Jack yelled, as though the boat might respond. He scrambled down the cliff as fast as he could, slipping and sliding on the loose dirt. Several times he went down on his butt. His hands scraped against rough rock. Small prickly plants clinging to the barren cliff side stabbed him. Finally he staggered onto the narrow gravelly beach at the bottom. He edged around the big rock on slippery stones. Waves washed back and forth, wetting his shoes. The boat floated just beyond his grasp.

Jack waded further into the ocean, the seawater shockingly cold. He felt his jeans grow heavy. He thought for a moment that if he was going to swim, he should take them and his shoes off, but he didn’t have time. The boat was picking up speed as it floated further out of the cove. He needed to get to it fast.

He sucked in a lungful of air, braced himself, and dived forward into the surf. He felt his knees hit underwater rocks and was glad he’d kept his jeans on. He made some forward progress into deeper water with a breaststroke and then switched to a front crawl.

He was a strong swimmer, but open ocean wasn’t his preference. Swells splashed him in the face and he tasted salt. The cold sapped his strength quickly, and his heavy clothes and shoes dragged at him. He flipped over onto his back for a few seconds to rest. Kyle stood on the shore, Terry on top of the big boulder, watching him. The raven circled overhead.

He flipped back over and started swimming again. The rocking of the boat became more pronounced as it reached the edge of the protected water of the cove and began to encounter the larger waves of the open ocean. It was drifting southward, too. There was another outcropping that way. Another couple of minutes and the boat would slam up against the cliff. If the motors were damaged too badly he wouldn’t be able to start it and turn it into the waves, and it would eventually founder and break up against the rocks. The consequences would be dire. He was pretty sure he couldn’t make it back to shore at this point. His only chance was to get to the boat and get aboard.

He poured the last of his strength into his efforts. Another two minutes and he reached the starboard side of the boat. The outcropping loomed, each wave washing them nearer. Jack grabbed one of the bumpers and hung on to rest for a moment. Then he let go and dropped back into the water. The ladder was around the back; he worked his way aft.

The dual motors stuck out at a steep angle as he’d lifted them to avoid any rocks on his way in. The burred edges of the propeller blades caught at his arms as he went around them. For a moment he had a nightmare vision of the motors coming on by themselves, but he didn’t think the Lorecaster could do that. He was in more danger from the cliff, now just feet away.

Finally he grabbed the ladder and heaved himself up. He staggered forward and yanked open the pilothouse door. The boat shuddered as the starboard outboard struck the rocky cliff. A moment later the port motor roared to life and Jack spun the wheel to bring the lolling Conquest around into the incoming waves.

Jack steered the boat out into the ocean and swung around to make the correct approach to the cove. Bringing it alongside the rock was a little trickier with only one motor, but he didn’t want to start the starboard one until he’d had a chance to take a look at the propeller.

Terry grabbed the rail and held the boat in long enough for Kyle to step aboard, then jumped on herself.

“You want me to drive?” she asked through the pilothouse window as Jack brought them out away from the cliffs. “You need to warm up.”

Jack glanced at her. “You know how?”

“I’ll be okay out here,” she replied. “You’ll just have to take over when we get to the marina.”

He relinquished the wheel to her and stepped out into the sun on the back deck. He kept an eye on the castle retreating on the horizon as he stripped off his wet shirt and shoes. Kyle handed him a towel, and he roughed it through his hair and over his chest.

Drier and warmer, he stepped back into the pilothouse, away from the wind. Terry didn’t seem to be having a problem piloting the boat. Jack leaned against the window to her right and allowed himself to consider how close a call that had been. He realized he was shaking, from the exertion as much as from the chill.

“You think that was a coincidence?” Terry said after a few minutes.

“Hell, no.”

“You think the castle’s trying to kill you?”

“Me and everyone else it doesn’t like.” Jack glanced through the back window of the pilothouse, but they were too far away now to see the steeple. “Can’t say I blame it; I tried to blow it up once.”

A long moment went by. “So you believe the castle’s alive, then,” Terry finally said.

Jack ran a hand through his wet hair. “Not exactly. It’s inhabited by some sort of entity that lives in its stones. And it’s evil.”

Terry shrugged, but she kept her eyes on the ocean in front of the boat. “What’s evil, after all?”

“Well, I’d say some alien intelligence that wants to change the Earth as we know it is evil,” Jack said. “The castle’s growing, and the more it grows, the more rocks it inhabits and the more powerful it gets.”

“Me, I’d say that evil is something that can only be done to people by other people,” Terry replied. “Maybe you should back off and quit pissing it off. Seems like it’s got all the power in this relationship.”

Jack sat down on the forward berth and rested his elbows on his knees as the Natural Seize cut the water smoothly up on plane. Backing off was one thing he couldn’t do. There was Korrin to avenge, and all his friends who’d been lost in the slump he’d created himself. That was the most important, because he had to prove to himself that their deaths were both unavoidable and meaningful. He couldn’t agree with Terry; evil had to be an external thing. And he knew where it lay: inside that castle on the cliff, not inside his own mind.


see all kathy’s books here

 

Author KA Krisko
Author KA Krisko

K.A. Krisko currently lives in northern Colorado with her two Australian Cattle Dogs. She grew up in the Mojave Desert and Sierra Nevadas in California, went to college in Colorado and Arizona, and received an MS in Forestry. Since then she’s lived in states from Texas to Montana. She enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, walking the dogs, mountain biking, skiing, and snowshoeing, and indoor activities like DIY, reading and writing, as well as dog training and trialing in K9 Nosework.

She has published a number of fiction and non-fiction literary shorts, a number of fantasy-fiction novels: The Stolen Trilogy (“Stolen”, “Crypt of Souls”, “Hyphanden’s Box”) and “Cornerstone: Raising Rook,” and one mystery.

find out more about kathy and her books on her website

Read an excerpt from Cornerstone: Raising Rook here

Read my REVIEW of Cornerstone: Raising Rook here

The Friday Fiction with Charles E. Yallowitz

Now on Amazon for $2.99!
LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE:
THE MERCENARY PRINCE

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen
Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Delvin Cunningham has left the champions.

Lost to his tribe in the Yagervan Plains, fear and shame have kept the former Mercenary Prince away from his homeland. With his confidence crumbling, he has decided to return and bring closure to his past. Reuniting with his old friends, Delvin’s timing could not be worse as a deadly campaign is brewing within Yagervan’s borders. Dawn Fangs are on the march and these powerful vampires are determined to turn the entire region into a graveyard.

To protect his family, friends, and two homelands, Delvin will have to push his doubt away and become the cunning Mercenary Prince once again.

Art by Jason Pedersen
Art by Jason Pedersen

Please feel free to put this on your ‘To Read’ list on Goodreads by clicking below:

The Mercenary Prince on Goodreads!

Excerpt from The Mercenary Prince

With the hint of a smirk, Selenia quickens her pace and unleashes a barrage of blows on her former student. Each strike and stab is deflected by the sweat-covered champion, his speed increasing to match her every time. At one point, the half-elf leaps forward and is struck in her stomach by his shield, which forces her to flip over his head. The headmistress lands in a crouch and whirls around to block the counterattack, the point of Delvin’s sword gently running along the leather patch over her stomach. Realizing that he is still holding back, Selenia bats his next attack away and delivers a painful kick to his exposed side. The blow knocks him against the fountain and he comes dangerously close to falling into the water.

While rubbing his bruised side, Delvin circles the headmistress who turns to continue facing him. He makes a few feints that she refuses to acknowledge because they are clumsy and pathetically amateurish. The gathered students and teachers shout for more action, all of them believing the brown-haired warrior to be afraid of the legendary woman. None of them realize that his circles have been getting tighter and his fake attacks have caused Selenia to misjudge his distance. It is something she realizes when Delvin makes a quick swing for her hip and their weapons strike closer to their hilts than she expects. The moment the half-elf steps back to gain some space, her former student pushes forward with precise strikes that mirror the onslaught she previously unleashed. Without a shield, the headmistress finds it more difficult to block every attack and has to twist her body away from several attacks. The movements prevent her from throwing a kick or punch, which would probably hit the shield that he has yet to include in his advance.

Selenia eventually catches Delvin’s blade and slides her weapon along its edge to step within his swinging range. The pair push against each other, their muscles straining to gain the upper hand. Every time one of them is about to gain ground, their opponent shifts enough to continue the frustrating stalemate. With a grunt of exertion, Delvin moves his shield in front of the headmistress’s face and blocks her view. Knowing she is expecting him to push forward, the warrior falls onto his back and lets the surprised half-elf’s momentum slam her face into the wooden disc. The back of his head bounces off the ground as he flicks his wrist to deliver an extra shot to Selenia’s chin. She rolls away from him to recover her senses, but Delvin scrambles to keep her in reach and continue his attack as they stand.

“You actually hit me,” Selenia states when she notices that her nose is bleeding. She ducks under her opponent’s swing and aims her hilt for his stomach, the blow only grazing his shirt. “I think you’ve achieved two firsts for this academy, Delvin. Nobody has ever drawn my blood or made me dizzy during a match.”

Want to Dive into the Adventure from the Beginning?

Collage by Chris the Storyreading Ape Cover Art by Jason Pedersen
Collage by Chris the Storyreading Ape

Find all of these exciting adventures by visiting the Amazon Author Page of Charles E. Yallowitz

So charge up your Kindle and end 2015 with an adventure full of action, humour, old friends, new enemies, grudge matches, tears, ale, and vampires.

author-photoAbout the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: Legends of Windemere 

Twitter: @cyallowitz

Facebook: Charles Yallowitz

Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

The Friday Fiction with Geoff le Pard

Geoff needs no introduction on this blog; he has practically become a regular of late having taken up residency on the Friday Fantastic Flash! As a member of the Bloggers bash committee, and proponent of #1000voicesspeak, he has become quite well known around the blogosphere. Well, in case you hadn’t heard, he has a new book out, and here he is to tell you all about it.

Ali has kindly offered me the chance to share with you a little about my new book, My Father and Other Liars.

The extract below is the start of chapter five. Before this point we have focused on the two main protagonists, Maurice Oldham and Lori Ann Beaumont. In this scene we meet Isaac Beaumont for the first time. Isaac is Lori Ann’s father and the current head of the Church of Science and Development. We already know about the Church, its focus on genetic research at the university it funds and that an investigation is underway into the possible misuse of certain Federal grant monies it receives towards that research.

I wanted to share this with you because (a) It begins with a description which for me is quite long but since it relates to the fictional town of Beaumont where a lot of the action takes place is crucial to the narrative – how do you feel about this? I explored locations over at the Daily Echo last week; (b) We hear a little about the investigation but also the internal stresses at the University – in this context we come across two important characters for the first time: the Professor in charge of the genetic research, Jacob Stzinski and the Chief Operating Officer of the Church and the acting head of the University, Dan Albertstein – do these introductions leave you intrigued? (c) We are also introduced to Gina Peroni, Isaac’s PA and friend to his daughter who it turns out has crucial part to play in the story – what do you surmise about her from this section? (d) Apart for the opening chapter that probably changed ten times, this was one of the most difficult sections to write, mostly because I was trying to answer the questions I’ve posed above.

A lot happens in this part, most of it via dialogue. As I’ve written over at Sacha Black’s Writespiration, having effective dialogue is a real skill and difficult to master. The combination of the longish opening description, the significant information dump and Isaac’s internal and external dialogue make it something I want to change every time I read it. So what do you think? What would you change?

Beaumont is a modern town situated close to the panhandle to the north west of Oklahoma. It is within 100 miles of Enid, the nearest town of any size. In the 1987 edition of Towns and Cities of Oklahoma Beaumont, then called Cooloon Heights (pop 1720) was described as ‘a bustling little throwback to a distant age of ranching and staging posts’; that ‘while the oil and gas wealth that has benefited other parts of the north of the State did not extend to Coolon Heights, the town has grown with ‘the unexpected and unbalancing addition of the Church of Science and Development’s growing community’. That year, two changes that would dramatically alter the landscape occurred. First, Pastor Joseph Beaumont persuaded the town council to change the town name to Beaumont on a promise to drill for new water supplies, and second, Isaac Beaumont, his son, produced the first sketch of what was to become the Beaumont Christian University campus, later renamed the Christian University of Beaumont. The development was rapid. The old town survived but as a twee museum piece of boutiques and coffee shops serving the university’s growing population. The campus itself, shaped like a fan with each Faculty housed along one of the spines, was dominated by a 15 storey monument of glass and steel, designed with more than a nod to Mies van der Rohe. This centre piece, at the hinge of the fan and called the Cornucopia building, housed the headquarters of the university, the Beaumont Charitable Foundation and, at the top, the administrative offices of the Church itself. Isaac Beaumont, now Pastor of the Church, occupied a corner office that looked out over the town. Whenever he needed inspiration, for a sermon or an essay or any one of the many interviews he gave, he would stand and stare to the west, calling to mind the stories his Father told him of that first bumpy truck ride when he found Cooloon Heights and knew he’d come home.

Isaac was a tall man with a straight back and the remnants of blond hair, mostly now silver. His blue eyes shone in the light from the hot Oklahoman sun. He turned away from the window, having briefly caught his reflection, distorted by the angle of the glass; it made him look tired and older than his 57 years. He glanced towards his PA, Gina Peroni, bent over her notepad. She had short blond spiky hair that Isaac felt sat oddly with her conservative dress sense. She was waiting for him to continue the read through for Friday’s sermon, but his concentration had gone.

He said, “You know, Gina, several times I’ve thought I missed the cut and thrust of the university, helping shape its future but talking to Professor Stzinski earlier reminded me what a… a pain it can be.”

She smiled up at him. “He did sound animated, sir.”

“You heard? Jacob was pretty loud.” Isaac paused, wondering if he should say anymore.

Gina said, “Can I do anything, sir? In Mr Albertstein’s absence?”

“No Gina. Jacob’s just a little paranoid. You’d think, after the press he’s just had, he’d be happy.” He picked up a sheet and read, “The Chronicle called him ‘genius’ and The Monitor said he was a ‘once in a generation marvel’ and Beaumont Christian University is the ‘go-to place for budding geneticists’.”

“It hasn’t all been favourable, sir.”

“What have I missed?”

“The Oklahoman was pretty rude, I thought.”

“Was it?”

Gina shuffled her papers, avoiding his gaze. Isaac smiled. “Come on Gina. Tell me the worst.”

She coughed. “It implied that you didn’t know what you were getting into when you recruited him and you’ve been lucky so far. Pretty churlish I thought. It said… it said you must be crowing.”

Isaac smiled as Gina lifted her head. “That’s pretty good for those fellas, don’t you think? After all they usually display their Southern Baptist prejudices quite openly.”

“I think they feel we are a little too liberal, sir, taking on the Professor.”

Isaac smiled. “First folks to call us liberal. That wouldn’t please Dan.”

Gina nodded. “Did Professor Stzinski say why he was upset, sir? Was it Mr Albertstein?”

Isaac hesitated before continuing. “It’s nothing really. And yes, it seems to be Dan’s fault this time. Apparently, Dan agreed to one of the department’s main funders, the Medical Research Funding Bureau, he said, sending in a team to do a check and, of course, according to Jacob, their sole aim is to disrupt him and his work. I’d not heard about this.”

He glanced at Gina but her head was down. “It sounded harmless enough to me. As usual Jacob expects me to sort this out.”

Gina nodded. “I’m sure Mr Albertstein can quiet him, sir. Maybe during your 2 pm call you could mention it?”

“Dan’s good at polishing Jacob’s ego, isn’t he? Yes, probably best if I ask him to speak to Jacob.” Isaac looked at the picture that dominated his room, a reproduction of Raphael’s Madonna and Child. Another reminder of his Father. “Sometimes…” He shook his head and looked back at Gina. “Sometimes it’s easier dealing with the egos of TV producers than those of scientists and administrators, that much I have learned. Now, this interview with the Chronicle…”


My Father and Other Liars is the second book by Geoff Le Pard.Published in August, it is available as an ebook and paperback on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

His first book, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle can be found on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls.

Cover Reveal | The Experimental Notebook of C.S. Boyack

Craigs cover

This is the cover for Craig Boyack’s new book… isn’t it fab? It just screams “Pick me up and read me!”. I love it. It has an air of mysticism and magic about it, as if Dumbledore and Gandalf may once have opened its ancient covers and learned their magic from its precious dusty parchment.

And magic it is, too. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an advance copy, and couldn’t put it down. Mind you, I have been a fan of Craig’s since I read Panama, and each book he has produced since then has got progressively better and better. I particularly enjoyed his last book, Will o’ the Wisp (you can read my review here).

But this one is just a little bit different to all that has gone before, because it contains a collection of his best short stories. How can I describe a Craig Boyack short story? Eclectic, whimsical, unexpected, magical, weird, unique and out of the ordinary. When it comes to his writing, Craig certainly thinks outside of the box.

Chock-full of an entertaining mix of twelve short stories and flash pieces, this book is a gripping read, and great value for money at 99c. Here are my faves;

It begins with Jack o’ Lantern, a Hallowe’en Flash piece with a very surprising ending. This is followed by Something in the Water, a tale with a classic ghost story feel, and which contains a thrilling aerial dog fight, btw. Bombshell Squad features the very luscious robo-girl, Lisa Burton, a character from Craig’s first book; I really loved the detail and sumptuous descriptions in this piece. My next fave was Diplomat, a dragon tale with a fantastic sting in the tail. The Soup Ladle of Destiny is a true fairytale reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm, and can be enjoyed whatever your age. 50 Gallon Drum is another flash piece with a lovely atmosphere and a stunning twist in the last sentence. A Tale of Rebirth is an upcycled version of the classic genie in the lamp story with a genius finish which I just didn’t see coming. Finally, Transference is a wacky tale in which the author makes a cameo appearance. What am I talking about? He’s the star of the show!

So I picked 8 out of 12 as my faves, but I could have listed them all. Go get your copy and decide for yourself. Its available now. You can find Craig on his blog, Entertaining Stories, and on Twitter. You can buy his books on Amazon. com and Amazon.co.uk.

The Friday Fiction featuring Alexes Razevich

Khe_alexes


Extract from KHE by Alexes Rasevich

I pulled my cloak tight, as though that could keep me safe if she awoke from her trance and grabbed for me. On my knees, moving slowly, I began to gather my few things. If the snow had stopped, I’d try to make it to the kler. Even that fearsome place seemed better than staying here with her. All I had to do was get past her to the cave opening.

The babbler sighed deeply. I swung my head around to look at her. My hands were clenched into fists. Her eyes were open and clear. She stared as if waiting for me to do something she both dreaded and expected.

“The storm is full-fledge,” she said calmly. “It won’t stop for three days. You head out into it now, you will freeze to death.”

“I see mud on your foot casings. The snow probably turned to rain awhile ago.” I cocked my head and listened, but heard no telltale drip of water. “Has the rain stopped, too?”

The babbler picked at the mud on her casings. “I was hungry. The stream plants are delicious, but you get dirty fetching them out. I found that sled and those goods while I was out.” She tilted her head back and stared at the rocky ceiling. “You do remember that I was a weather-prophet. Long, long ago. Before—” Her emotion spots erupted brown-black with anger.

As quickly as it had come, the color vanished from her neck. When she spoke again, her voice had the flat cadence of weather-prophets on the vision stage. “The storm will rage three days, then lessen. On the fifth day, it will rain slightly. On the sixth day, the sun will warm the land and cloaks will not be needed.”

The fire had nearly died out. I fed it more branches and sat back. I stared at the babbler, trying to judge how much of what she said was true, how much was madness speaking—and how frightened of her I should be. Had she really been a weather-prophet? Could she still do it?

“The storm will be at its height tomorrow at mid-day.” She waggled a long, pointed finger at me. “I wasn’t just a prophet, you know. I was First. I could always taste the weather before anyone else—better than anyone else.”

The emotion spots on her neck flared bright green, the color of pride. If she hadn’t really been a prophet, she certainly believed she had been.

Her mouth crinkled, spreading her lips over her teeth. “I’ll tell you a secret. Coming snow doesn’t taste cold at all.”

Best to let her talk and stay on her good side. If she were right about the storm, I’d be stuck in our shared shelter for several days.

“What does snow taste like?” I asked.

“Like blood—what did you think?” She laughed and hugged herself.

“I see by your clothes that you’re a country doumana,” the babbler said. “No doubt you stare up at the sky and watch the clouds, judge how the wind is blowing, see what colors circle the moon, and guess your weather that way. Then you consult the vision stage and let a weather-prophet tell you how close to right you’ve come. But if you’ve got the knowledge, you just open your mouth and taste. Rain is like sour fruit, makes my mouth pucker. Heat taste like dirt.” She patted my leg with her filthy hand. “There now, isn’t that a good gift I’ve given?”

She’d given me nothing, but I said, “Yes. Thank you.”

“Oh, the doumana thanks a babbler. That’s a pretty bunch of manners they taught you at Lunge commune.”

Before I could say more, her eyes rolled back in her head and she went rigid again. I couldn’t know how long this fit would last. I crept past her out the large chamber we shared, to the smaller front cave. Snow was falling hard and fast. I wasn’t going anywhere for a while.

The babbler’s voice came from behind me.

“What did you say your name was?”

I made my way back into the large chamber.

“Khe,” I said, and suddenly very much wanted for her to have a name. When babblers were cast out from their communities, they left everything, even their names. Babblers didn’t mind, so they said. Insanity robbed them of the will to care. They said babblers didn’t even care about their own lives and died quickly once they’d departed. But the state of this babbler’s clothes and body made me think she’d been away from her kler a long time.

“When did you leave your community?” I asked.

The babbler’s full lips curled back from her teeth. “Long ago. Two years? I’ve forgotten.” Her eyes lit with a sudden thought. “I was fourteen then. How old am I now?”

She licked her fingers to wet them, turned her left arm so the inside faced up, and smeared away the dirt covering her wrist. I leaned close to her arm, to see. We both stared at the cluster of small blue dots on her skin, two rows of seven and a third row with four.

“Eighteen.” She seemed delighted with the discovery.

I blew out a breath. She’d survived four years on her own. Maybe I could survive the Barren Season and into First Warmth.

“How old are you?” she asked.

My emotion spots flamed. I didn’t know how to answer her. I turned over my arm so she could see the dots on my wrists, four rows of seven and a fifth row of six.

“Thirty-four,” the babbler said and wiped her hands against her mud-splattered hip wrap. “One more year and you’ll return to the creator.” She stared at my neck. “Not too happy about that, are you?”

My heart clenched like a fist. To return to the creator was a joy, but not when almost two-thirds of my life had been stolen away, my span unnaturally shortened not by accident or illness, but by greed. Lifetime I wanted back.

I glanced away and took a deep breath, drawing the stale air of the cave into my lungs and holding it, then letting it out slowly, the way Tav had taught us to calm ourselves, back when we were hatchlings. Long before my defect was discovered. Before my abilities set Simanca’s eyes aglow.

“Put some wood on the fire,” the babbler said. “It’s almost out again.” She hugged her arms around her thin chest. “I haven’t had a fire for…who knows how long? No firestarter. Lucky for me to have found this sled with so many useful things packed on it. I’ve been cold.”

“It’s my sled,” I said. “I built it. Those are my things.”

“Hmm,” the babbler said. “Put some wood on the fire anyway.”

I fed small sticks to the embers, glad for the warmth. When they caught and flared, I added a few broken branches. We’d have to conserve, though, if the storm was really going to last as long as the babbler predicted.

“You can stay,” she said. “It never gets wet in here. And the wind doesn’t blow through.”

I rubbed my neck, comforted by the familiar touch of my own skin. “Thank you.”

The babbler bit the tips of her dirty fingers. “Are you going to stay?”

“Until the storm stops.”

“Are you going to pay?”

“What?” I asked.

“There’s a cost for hospitality.”

My stomach tightened and my neck itched.

The babbler hummed under her breath, a long low sound: arrumm, arrumm.

“I don’t have food to offer.” I said. “I only have what’s on the sled.”

Arrumm. Arrumm.”

“I could maybe spare one of the knives.”

The babbler stopped humming and pointed one dirty finger at me. “All this time, I’ve been alone, without the sound of another’s voice.” She leaned close. “You must tell me your history as it happened, completely and in detail. Then you must listen to mine. Conversation and companionship is the price I ask.”


 

 

 


About Alexes

 

Alexes Razevich was born in New York and grew up in Orange County, California. She attended California State University San Francisco where she earned a degree in Creative Writing. After a successful career on the fringe of the electronics industry, including stints as Director of Marketing for a major trade show management company and as an editor for Electronic Engineering Times, she returned to her first love–fiction. She lives in California with her husband. When she isn’t writing, she’s probably playing hockey or on a trip somewhere she hasn’t been before.


Find Alexes here

Khe

US: http://www.amazon.com/Khe-ebook/dp/B00987OLVU
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/tags-on-product/B00987OLVU

Ashes and Rain

US: http://www.amazon.com/Ashes-Rain-Sequel-Ahsenthe-Cycle-ebook/dp/B00WDQSL3W
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ashes-Rain-Sequel-Ahsenthe-Cycle-ebook/dp/B00WDQSL3W

Shadowline Drift

US: http://www.amazon.com/Shadowline-Drift-A-Metaphysical-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00JEP2GBI
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadowline-Drift-A-Metaphysical-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00JEP2GBI/

Website

http://www.alexesrazevich.com/

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/AlexesRazevichAuthor

New Releases Mailing List

http://eepurl.com/08229

The Friday Fiction featuring Jason Parent

775854 Jason


Something Alien

Home. The word evoked peace. Its manifestation conjured more. In a rigid landscape, frozen yet alive, home meant salvation.

The modest clay walls of her adobe were arms held aloft in the promise of a welcoming embrace, baked strong by a hot sun now moons away. Snow cloaked her residence like a cowl, heaping in knee-high drifts on each side of her doorstep.

And there, it stopped. Not an errant flake dared enter. Each withered and died on her threshold along with the burdens of her world. Rayle would permit no sickness to sully her home, no disease of the heart or of the mind to enter her walls.

But today was different. Her mind could not find its balance. The sight of her children, sleeping without care or worry, blood-red reeds piled high and thick to keep them warm—an image tranquil like the lapping tongues and crackling embers of a warm fire pit—made her tremble.

Fear punishes those who cultivate it, she knew, but Rayle couldn’t help being afraid. They were coming tomorrow, they who would recondition her world, leaving only scraps of the old, vanquishing all that she was.

Would her children know her then? The world in which they’d mature would never again be the world in which they were born. Hers were the children of dying ways, too young to understand tradition, too pure to realize deceit. New marvels, shiny and magnetic, garnered more appeal than a natural history they’d barely known. Would they comprehend what made Rayle hope and sing, dance and laugh? Could they feel what made her love?

She listened to the soft breezes slipping in intervals through their pursed lips, a soothing cadence. After tomorrow, would their sleep come so easy? Rayle’s eyes blurred. Would excitement blind them to caution?

 Rayle slid free the beast that was strapped to her back and dropped it near the fire. Her day had been spent hunting game across the sky-soaked tundra, toiling hard for her reward, for their survival. She eyed her kill with pride.

She sat at her clay table and pulled her hide boots from her weary feet. Soon her children would smell the fresh meat. They would need food, but she was unable to eat. Her appetite had been slain by the worry of what lay ahead.

Change comes when strength falters, Rayle thought. I must be strong.

She shook her head, wondering what was really at stake. Preservation of a way of life? Survival in its purest sense? The questions were beyond her ability to answer. She knew that today was good and yesterday was grand and all the days before that were as they should have been. She had everything she needed. Her babies never lacked a thing.

She pounded her fist against the table. Little Kaya stirred. Rayle froze. Her daughter’s eyes drifted slowly open, then closed, another moment of decency spared.

Let them have this. Tomorrow comes too soon.

Barefoot, she tip-toed out of the hut. The snow and mud felt alive beneath her feet, seeking shelter in the curves of her nails. Stars lit up the sky, looking innocent, hiding the masters of time. Hiding them.

She looked at the red grass she had reaped and baled, sprung from land she had cultivated: her land. She admired the fishery she’d made along the stream that ran down from the mountains. Her imagination, her volition, had allowed her to be. It had always been enough.

The stream’s silvery water darted through crags and fissures. Along the shore, among rocks of gold, the night worms were wriggling. The rocks were valueless; the worms were sustenance.

Rayle approached the stream, listening to its racing waters and the calls of the many creatures that called it home. She had taken from it only what she needed—nothing more. She choked back her contempt for what would be a parasitic trespass, intruders who wanted everything, who had no understanding of harmony and balance.

Cupping her hand for a drink, one of her three fingers slid into the snow, leaving an indentation. She stared at the marking, no more than a divot in the snow. Was this all the mark she would make on her world? Was this all that would be left to remember her by? Soon, this land would belong to another, a stranger to her ways. And when the snow melted and the suns returned, how long would it be before she’d be forgotten?

Rayle sighed. Futility, she thought, the notion bringing something short of acceptance. She dug her fingers deep into the mud and laughed. Three trenches to mark my passage. The dirt will know that I once tamed it. And tomorrow, they come to tame me.

She tried to picture it, the dark and light fleshy things and their declarations of goodwill. She saw them landing in their vessels, spreading their dogmas like parents to children, to her children. Coming to craft another’s world in their image, she thought, snorting. To them it was Planet X, a world not unlike only they knew how many others. To Rayle, it was home.

“Civilization” they had called it when they made first contact. “A better way of life” they professed as they told her people how to live. They raped her society of its individuality. They destroyed what made them free.

Rayle cried for tomorrow. Behind smiling masks and false promises, the humans brought extermination.

She glanced down at the carved earth. A smile crept across her face as she thought of her children, their big green eyes always looking to her for nurturing and guidance. Her mark had been made. There, she’d be remembered.



In his head, Jason Parent lives many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso. In a prior life, Jason spent most of his time in front of a judge… as a civil litigator. He has since swapped legal pads for notepads with no regrets.


Jason has a brand new book called People of the Sun which you can VOTE for on KINDLE SCOUT. Basically, the most popular books as voted for by readers will be published by Amazon Kindle, and you, the reader, will receive a free copy of the book as a thank you for voting, so why not hop over there right now, and support Jason’s book? You can buy Jason’s books on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. You can also visit his website, or connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you Jason for appearing on The Friday Fiction this week, I am delighted to feature you on my blog, and good luck with People of the Sun!


If you are an independent author, you too can have your work featured here on The Friday Fiction. Don’t be shy, just drop me a line about you and your books.

The Friday Fiction featuring… ME!

Visual Tweet4 Conor

No, I haven’t run out of authors to feature here, I have a fair few fab scribblers already lined up for your future delectation, but I thought as this is my blog, I might promote my own story  on it now and again. This excerpt comes from my new book, Conor Kelly and The Fenian King, which is Book Two of The Tir na Nog TrilogyContinue reading