The Friday Fiction featuring Alexes Razevich

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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

Researching a Fantasy Story, and How Mythology Helps by Guest Author Craig Boyack

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If there are two things you have learned about me from following this blog, it’s 1. I love mythology, and 2. I love researching mythology! It seems I am not alone; fellow author and blogger, Craig Boyack, has dropped by to tell us how mythology helped pave the way for grounding one of his recent novels, Cock of the South, which I recently reviewed on this blog, and which featured on The Friday Fiction. So without further ado, here’s Craig…


Ali asked me to visit today with the topic of researching a fantasy. Many people think there is no research involved in fantasy, and that authors make it all up. This isn’t true, and we must ground our readers in some kind of reality they can relate to. This is more than having air and gravity. Readers have expectations and it’s important to consider those.

The Cock of the South is a Dwarven fantasy. I’ve already made a promise to my readers that I must fulfill. It must have dwarves in it. Everyone knows dwarves are small, hairy, semi-grouchy miners of some kind. They’ve all read a book, or heard a fairy tale to cement that in place. Many of them watched some pretty popular films about dwarves recently.

This isn’t to say I can’t change things up, but somewhere along the line I need to fulfil this promise.

My Southern Dwarves are a conquered people at the beginning of the story. They’ve scattered to the four winds as refugees. I wanted to bring something new to the characters, so I placed them in an area with no valuable minerals at all. Mining was off-limits. This is where my research began in earnest. I wanted them to be characters of the Earth, but adapted to their environment. I made them into quarrymen, stone carvers, masons, glass blowers, and potters. This led to even more research into what kinds of stone they work with, what a pit kiln involves, etc.

I avoided putting them in the typical Scandinavian setting. Southern Dwarves, hmm? The Cock of the South is set in a Greco-Roman environment. Looks like my stone is going to be marble. I also made another promise to my readers. This setting comes with its own expectations.

The setting led to another round of research. I bought a copy of Bullfinch’s Mythology. I poured through reams of data about both Greek and Roman religion. I needed monsters too, and found a wealth of them. It would have been easy to let Gods and Goddesses take over the story, but they don’t. There were minotaurs and rustics that failed to make the cut. The story is full of cyclops, centaurs, and satyrs. I even wound up checking part of the Bible when researching the cockatrice.

I also twisted one of the oldest myths on its head. I needed to establish the dominant civilization in the area, and still have the freedom to change things. I decided that Remus killed Romulus, and Rome was never founded. Remus took its place, and while they are similar (they were brothers after all), I had the freedom to change weapons, tactics, trade routes, and more.

At this point, I’ve managed to ground almost everyone who reads this story. They have a reference point that allows them to move forward with the tale. It may be The Lord of the Rings for one reader, the Odyssey for someone else, and maybe even The Bible for another.

There was a huge amount of research that came after this. Grecian pottery, the Cambodian Plain of Jars, and the recipe for Dwarven sand. (Which probably landed me on some NSA watch-list. Don’t make this at home kids.) I even researched dwarf breeds of milk cows, but you’ll have to read the story to find out why.

I needed other humans around too, so I learned about the Paeonians, Goths, and slaves. When I used these characters, and the fantastic ones, they all needed to be distinctive. Each society demanded a period of research. The Internet became my best friend.

The promise of fantasy, the Greco-Roman setting, and Dwarves, are all fulfilled. There was still a ton of room to play and make things up as the tale came together. The research helped me build fences to focus my story on where it needed to go.

All stories require research of some kind. Medical thrillers, police procedurals, inter-racial romances, science fiction and all the rest need to be grounded in reality at some point. They also need to keep in mind the promises made on the cover and in the blurb.

I went down the rabbit hole again today with a paranormal tale I’m writing. The New Orleans cemeteries I want aren’t working out for me. They still might, but I have more research to do. Where has your research led you?


Craig’s other books


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I was born in a town called Elko, Nevada. I like to tell everyone I was born in a small town in the 1940s. I’m not quite that old, but Elko has always been a little behind the times. This gives me a unique perspective of earlier times, and other ways of getting by. Some of this bleeds through into my fiction.

I moved to Idaho right after the turn of the century, and never looked back. My writing career was born here, with access to other writers and critique groups I jumped in with both feet.

I like to write about things that have something unusual. My works are in the realm of science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy. The goal is to entertain you for a few hours. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Follow Craig’s blog      Check out Craig’s novels      Tweet to Craig onTwitter       Craig on Goodreads


The Friday Fiction featuring Michael Fedison

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The Eye-Dancers

Excerpt

Peering out his bedroom window, his eyes flattened into squinting slits, Mitchell Brant saw her.

“No,” he said.  “It can’t be her.  It can’t be.”

But it was.  She had come again.

He looked away, at the night-shadows on the floor, at the sheets jumbled and strewn on his bed.  Maybe she wasn’t really out there.  Maybe it was just an illusion, some odd distortion of the light.

He looked out the window.

She was still there.

He felt the fine hairs at the nape of his neck stand up.  Gooseflesh, cold against the stifling humidity filtering in through the open window, speckled his forearms.

The girl was standing under the streetlamp, looking straight in at him—the same way she had last night and the night before.  She was just a child, probably no more than seven years old—his sister’s age.  What was she doing out in the street, alone, well past midnight?  Was she a runaway?  And why had she come three nights in a row?

He tried to look away again, but he couldn’t.  It was as though the girl had cast a spell over him.  “What’s with you?” he said to himself.  “Just go back to sleep.”  Instead, he stood up.  She had raised her right arm above her head, waving at him frantically.

“Help me.”  The voice filtered in through the window.  “Why don’t you . . .?”  The girl’s voice.  And yet, there was something different about it, something off.  It sounded hollow, as if it had originated from a dark place, a secret place, cold like the grave.

The grave.  Maybe that was the answer.  Maybe that’s where she had come from.

“No.”  Her voice rose, more insistent now.  “Don’t be so silly.”

He reached for the window.  He wasn’t going to let her fool him.  He’d just finished the sixth grade last week, and he wanted the chance to live long enough to begin seventh grade in the fall.  Communicating with ghosts was great when kept within the safe confines of horror stories or movies.  But not here.  Not on his quiet small-town street.  Not in real life.

He grabbed the window sash, pushed down.  Instantly, he was transported to his front lawn!  How had that happened? The girl, still standing in the light, gestured even more vigorously now that Mitchell was outside with her.  He knew she had worked some sort of magician’s trick on him.

“Who are you?”  He looked down at his feet and saw they were moving—in the direction of the street, the light, the girl.  He tried to stop them, but it was as if they had a will of their own.

As he neared her, he was able to get a better look at the girl.  She had the bluest, deepest eyes he had ever seen.  They were mesmerizing.

She also had an airy quality to her.  The light from the streetlamp filtered through her, as though she were only partly there, only a small portion of her flesh and blood.

I was right, he thought.  She is a ghost.

“Stop it!” she said.  “Stop calling me that.”

He reached the sidewalk, nearly face-to-face with her.  He closed his eyes, but they stung, so he opened them and looked up, at the streetlamp.  A small gathering of luna moths aimlessly fluttered about, landing on the bulb, then jumping off, occasionally flying into each other, as if drunk from the light and the oppressive humidity.

“Help me!”  The girl’s voice, so near yet so ethereal, caused Mitchell to lose his balance.  He fell, landed on the pavement, scraping his knee.  A trickle of blood snaked down his shin.  “Come with me,” the girl said, and offered a hand. But he knew better.  Once she grabbed him, she would never let him go.  She would lead him through the darkened streets, past the statue of the white, marble lion that marked the center of town, and on to the Bedford Cemetery, where she’d force him to serve her for all eternity in the form of some tortured, wandering spirit.

The girl’s hand brushed against his, a faint whisper against his skin, and then the sensation was gone.

“Come with me,” she said again.  “Please.”  He told himself not to look into her eyes, but he did.  He couldn’t resist. It was like looking into two blue pools of sky-water.  Somehow, he was sure that if he looked into those eyes long enough, hard enough, he would see where the universe ended, and began.

He stood up, wanting desperately to turn around and flee back into the house.  But he wasn’t able to.  Her eyes wouldn’t let him.  The night air, muggy, close, felt like a dull weight intent on forcing him back down to his knees.

The girl said, “Yes, that’s the way.  Keep looking into my eyes!  That’s the way I can take you with me.”

He tried to look away, but couldn’t.  He just continued to stare at her blue, blue eyes.  He stared until her eyes seemed to expand, the shape of them lengthening, widening.  He stared until the blue in her irises dilated and spun, slowly at first, but gradually picking up speed, spinning round and round, faster, faster.

He screamed then—the loudest, longest scream of his life.  He would wake up his parents, his sister, the neighbors. Maybe they could reach him in time to save him.  Maybe they could—

Suddenly, he was back in his bed, thrashing and kicking and yelling, “Let me go, let me go!”  It took a moment for him to gather his wits.

It had been a dream, a nightmare.  That was all.

He sat up.  Was that all?  What would he see if he dared to look out his window?  Would the ghost girl still be there? Not wanting to, but needing to know the truth, Mitchell glanced outside.

No one.  Only the mosquitoes and the spiders and the night birds, creatures that he couldn’t see but knew were out there.  But at least they were a part of the natural world.  They belonged.  The ghost girl didn’t.

He hopped out of bed, too wired to lie still.  But as soon as his feet touched the floor, he grimaced.  There was a stinging pain in his left knee.  Groping his way through the dark room, he reached for the lamp atop his dresser and flicked it on.

His knee was bleeding.  A small strip of skin had been scraped off, and the blood, though drying, was still trickling down his shin.  How could he have scraped his knee in bed?

Then he remembered.  He had done it in his dream.  He’d fallen in the street when the ghost girl had reached for him. But if it had only been a dream, why was his knee bleeding now?

He limped to the bathroom, where he washed the wound and then bandaged it.  He reminded himself not to wear shorts in the morning.  On top of everything else, he didn’t need Mom asking questions.

He had no answers, anyway.  He had no idea what happened.  Had he dreamed of the girl in the street—tonight, and last night, and the night before that?  Or had she really been there?  He tried to think it through.  It had seemed like a dream. But since when did people scrape their knees in a dream?  Had he been sleepwalking?  He’d never known himself to sleepwalk, but how could he know, if he was sleeping while he did it?

“C’mon,” he said, staring at his reflection in the bathroom mirror.  It was a tired-looking reflection, with the last hints of fright still manifest in the eyes.  “Don’t be stupid.  It was just a nightmare, that’s all.”

But as he walked into the kitchen, turned on the tap, and slurped the water as it streamed out, he knew that the truth was very likely more complex, and more troubling.

He turned off the faucet, wondering why water always tasted so much better straight out of the tap.  He tried to think about that, ponder it, anything to get his mind off the ghost girl.  But it didn’t work.  How could he forget her?

“Cut it out, Mitchell,” he said.  “Just quit it.”

He needed to get back to sleep.  When he was little, if he’d had a bad day, his mom used to tell him that everything looked better, and happier, in the morning.  He hoped she was right.

But when he returned to his room, sleep still seemed a long way off.  His bed, with the disheveled sheets and sweat-drenched pillows, didn’t look very restful.  He needed something to calm him.  He opened the lower drawer of his dresser. Piles of old comic books, bagged in protective Mylar sleeves, greeted him like devoted friends.  He picked up the top comic, a worn copy of Fantastic Four no. 99, and sniffed it through the sleeve.  He loved the smell of old comic books.  It was musty, but in a special way, like the smell of his grandfather’s attic littered with knickknacks and family mementoes.  A treasure-house smell.  He had asked his sister to sniff some of his comics once, but she thought they reeked.  Well, what did she know?  She was just a little kid.

He took the comic out of its sleeve and read it, even though he knew the issue by heart.  But it did the trick.  He got lost in the story, savoring the artwork, the dialogue, the sheer fantasy of the plot.  When he put the comic book away thirty minutes later, he felt ready for bed.

He climbed in, wondering if he should glance out the window again, to see if the girl was out there.

“She isn’t,” he said, but he didn’t look.

He lay there, his mind racing, and it seemed to him that he wouldn’t get to sleep.  He did, eventually, but it was a restless sleep, as he thrashed throughout the night.  When he woke up, a few short hours later, he was quite sure he had dreamed again, though about what he couldn’t remember.


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You can find ‘The Eye-Dancers’ on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. If you fancy a paperback, you can get one from Amazon or Createspace.


michaelfedisonMichael S. Fedison was born in Rochester, New York, and now lives with his wife, Sarah, and regal cat, Luke, in the green hills of central Vermont. Michael has been writing creatively for as long as he can remember, and has had short fiction published in several literary magazines, including Iconoclast and The Written Word. He works as a full-time technical writer and also is a freelance proofreader and copy editor.

Michael has been a lover of imaginative stories his entire life. He enjoys any story that takes you by the hand, lifts you up, and transports you to another place, a new and creative way of looking at the world around us.

Connect with Michael at his blog; on Twitter; at The Eye-Dancers Facebook Page; and at Goodreads.


Thank you Michael for joining me on the Friday Fiction today, it has been a pleasure to meet you! Your book is already on my To Read list, as you can see on the sidebar of my blog, and I’m looking forward to reading it. Best of luck with it!

Book Review | The Cock of the South by Craig Boyack

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With this book, author CS Boyack has proven two things;

  1. He is a brilliant story-teller (I already knew this, having previously read ‘Panama’).
  2. That writers can excel in more than just one genre.

By his own admission, ‘The Cock of the South’ is Boyack’s first foray into fantasy. Never one to be daunted, he has thrown himself wholeheartedly into the challenge and come up trumps with a whole new spin on what we accept as the norm for this genre.

This is not a story about good against evil, although such conflict does occur; it’s not about big battle scenes, although there are some (and exciting and detailed, they are too!); it’s not about weird and wonderful mythical creatures, although there are plenty; it’s not about doomed and unrequited love triangles, although there are romances; and it’s not about handsome musclebound heroes, although heroes do show up, albeit in the most unlikely packages.

Set in the Roman-Greco era, even this has a twist. Boyack is a master at turning everything on its head with that infamous ‘but what if’ question. Cobby is a southern dwarf brought up by humans to be totally unaware of his true heritage, although it is evident to everyone else. When disaster strikes, he sets out on a journey to find the truth. His fair-mindedness, ingenuity and cunning soon have peoples of all races flocking to him as their leader, leading him to a conclusion he could never have anticipated.

And here we come to the crux of the story. Although set in a historical context among mythical peoples, this story is a very current and human one; it is about equality, acceptance, belonging, self-reliance, independence, teamwork and hard graft. Without moralising, Cobby takes a group of displaced peoples of different races full of enmity and animosity towards each other, and melds them into one society which works together to achieve a common goal, namely, to find a safe place they can call home.

In doing so, Boyack shows he has done his homework. The dwarves have the secret of ‘black sand’… of course! So that is how they were able to carve out such wondrous underground cities. They also know how to build forges, make tools and weapons, brew alcohol, make cheese, blow glass… their list of skills is endless, and the author gives us just enough of an insight into these real ancient technologies to make it interesting, but not overwhelming.

All this is blended seamlessly with a plethora of mythological references to keep the fantasy fans happy. But the greatest strength in this story is the growth of Cobby himself, from someone much maligned and of little consequence in the world he grew up in, to respected and beloved leader, strategist, warrior, lover and king of the new world he has created.

If you are currently mourning the end of a certain movie about an adventurous band of dwarven misfits, and are wondering “What next?”, I advise you to look no further; ‘The Cock of the South’ is definitely the book for you.


You can find Craig on his blog, Entertaining Stories. You can check out ‘The Cock of the South’ and all his books on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

The Friday Fiction featuring K.A. Krisko

Cornerstone- Raising Rook [cover]


Cornerstone: Raising Rook

 PROLOGUE

For his thirteenth birthday, his father gave him a rock.

Lorcas got up earlier than he wanted to, because it was bright and sunny and he couldn’t sleep. He staggered downstairs to breakfast in his pajamas. He slid into a chair across from his father, who was sitting primly behind a neat plate, his napkin and silverware precisely aligned with the edge of the table and his glass forming an equilateral triangle with the plate and the tip of his spoon.

“Well!” his father said brightly. “It’s the birthday boy!” He tilted his head from side to side, happily observing the meal before him.

“Mmmph,” Lorcas grumped. His mother set a bowl down in front of him, followed by a box of cereal and a spoon. Lorcas grabbed the milk from the middle of the table.

“Thirteen!” his father continued, still looking at his breakfast. He picked up his fork and knife. “A special birthday! And of course I have a special present for you!”  Continue reading

The Friday Fiction featuring Craig Boyack

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“This excerpt is from a fantasy called The Cock of the South. I hope to have it published on Amazon by the end of summer. This involves a group of dwarves who become refugees from the humans. The setting is Greco Roman, and it gets pretty violent in places.

“The dwarves, a few other fantastic creatures, and some downtrodden humans are on an exodus away from their pursuers. In this scene, they meet one of the supporting characters who isn’t from around these parts. I hope you enjoy it.”


 “What are you building here?” Cobby asked.

“It’s dem camels, by golly,” the fellow said in a nasal tenor. “They gets all jumpy when the mountain shakes and the whole string runs off into the lake.”

Cobby smiled at the way he said “dey, yumpy, and ven”. The story didn’t make much sense. The fellow kept his back turned and focused on his job. “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

“Big string comes from the east.” He pointed without looking up. “When the mountain shakes, those camels goes crazy. They running around knocking down porches and everything. Then one of the boss camels, she runs into the lake and they all follow her. They’s all carrying silver bars and they sink just like an anchor, by golly.

“Then this here smart guy comes who says he can get the silver. He makes this pump and some tubes out of ox gut. It blows air into a funny hat he wears and now he looks for the silver. He pays me to work the bellows.”  Continue reading

Book Review: Cornerstone; Raising Rook by KA Krisko

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I really enjoyed this book. It gripped me from the start and wouldn’t let me go until the last word was read.

Krisko has a unique imagination when it comes to building her fantasy worlds. This is the reason why I like her work so much. Unlike the Stolen series, though, Cornerstone; Raising Rook takes place in our own familiar world, yet the story it tells is anything but familiar. One suspects this from the very beginning, with the enormously atmospheric artwork on the cover. It builds a certain level of expectation, and Krisko does not disappoint.

You might describe Lorcas, the main protagonist, as one of life’s losers. A graduate in Wildlife Biology and Graphic Illustration, his life is a lonely one in terms of his career choice, his recently failed relationship, and his friendships. With his father dead, and a strained relationship with his mother, Lorcas, who is suffering from depression, decides to take off to his family’s abandoned summerhouse on the coast.

On the cliff above the summerhouse lies the cornerstone, the rock which his eccentric father gave him as a gift on his thirteenth birthday. Suddenly, Lorcas finds himself compelled to collect more stones, in an attempt to rebuild the castle which once stood there.

So Lorcas is drawn into a surreal adventure, in which he soon becomes part of the local community, a group known as the Fell Ken, who all share the same goal. And Lorcas discovers that he is the prophesied Lorecaster, destined for magical greatness.

Whilst all the trappings of Lorcas’s life are normal and recognisable to us, Krisko skilfully and unobtrusively immerses us in the magical, the fantastical. Gradually, the history of the castle and the Fell Ken are revealed to us as Lorcas himself learns them. And strangely, it doesn’t seem unnatural.

Most fantasy stories detail an epic battle between two opposing forces, good against evil. In this story, it becomes increasingly hazy as to which side is good, and which is evil. Whilst rooting for Lorcas, I couldn’t help feeling that some of the actions taken by his new friends are unusual, not quite acceptable. As I read on, I began to feel suspicious about the Fell Ken’s intentions, doubting which side Lorcas is on, yet couldn’t put my finger on anything definitive. I hoped I was wrong.

Whilst the story is complete and self contained, it ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger(pardon the pun, for those who have read it!), implying that there is a sequel in the offing. I sincerely hope so!

This is masterfully written, subtle, convincing, surprising. I recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy, but is sick of the same-old, same-old. Krisko’s writing is fresh and original, and Cornerstone; Raising Rook is as much a tale of magical realism, as it is of fantasy.