Ulrich – An Old English Style Epic

Over on Twitter (you can follow me @steelstashwrit1. Been a while since I promoted that), an auther (@ulzaorith) I follow posted some amusing definitions of various literature styles. This got my mind working and I thought it might be fun to try some of those styles out, especially since I am waiting for beta readers to get to me.

The first style is Old English. This style has a fair amount of alliteration and a somewhat poetic feeling. It also has a lot of Vikings which made sense since Old England also had a lot of Vikings. The stories of Old English tend to fall into two camps, religous and epic. Hopefully, I managed to be just epic enough.

Amidst the austere landscape he sat, watching
and waiting as the sun slipped past the shore.
In the deepening darkness, his mind
sought refuge from the demons.
Thrice they had traveled to his home.
Thrice they have trespassed against his people.

Screams shattered the peace of Ulrich’s
meditations with their savage fury.
He rose to his feet and ran towards
The raucous din of battle. Light flashed.
Along the ground, green flame burned
and snaked its way towards the walls.

With a barbarous bellow, Ulrich lunged
at the closest demon to him, a meaty
paw shoved into the mage’s maw, choking
off the prayer of power it
attempted to cast. Ulrich tore the jaw
from the invader, blood bathing
his chest in a crimson coat. The throes
of death where loud, but they failed
to mask the mob surrounding him.

“Thane!” a voice from the crowd called.
“Surrender and save your life.
We demand only five bushels of grain
plus ten silver for the mage you slew.”

“I am Ulrich! Son of Ulfinn!
I am the champion of Tyr!
Thrice I have slain your kind. Thrice
I have killed Pictusing pirates.
Who are you to make demands of me?”

“I am Galan, who raided the
city of Celcamoth, who razed the
fortress of Alba. Your village
is nothing to me but supplies.
Do not barter your breath for bread.”

Ulrich sneered at the crowd before him.
“Bold words for one who hides
like a sheep in the flock when
facing the wolf. Wrestle me like a man!”

Galan stepped forth and dropped his
hammer to the ground. The earth
shook from its weight. “As you wish
Ulrich, son of Ulfinn. Die as you see fit.”

The two men circled and stalked, each
sizing the other, studying how
the other moved. When they embraced,
the clap of hand on flesh was thunder.
The two men stayed locked, frozen in
effort. The moon rose with silvery
light while neither man was able
to oppress their opponent’s strength,
each holding the other still.

Ulrich smiled suddenly, slipping an
arm low. Galan was caught by
surprise as he was lifted
into the air. With a mighty heave,
Ulrich threw the Pictusing
into the village wall ten
feet away. Dust and debris
drifted down. Ulrich ran forward and
straddled Galan.

His formidable forearm fell
onto Galan’s chest. The crack of bone
Broke through the falling stones.
Galan wheezed with weak effort
to seize Ulrich, but the harder
he struggled, the deeper forearm and
bone shards drove. With a spasm of
pain and a racking cough, the speck
of blood on pursed lips heralded the end.

Ulrich rose and turned to face
the remaining Pictusings.
“Go now, and tell of the fall
of Galan. A mighty mountain thrown
to the earth. Mourn his passing
at my hand. Warn your brethren
to leave this village alone.”

The Pictusings fled Tyr’s
favored fighter. Ulrich turned to
the village gates and entered as
the scriba came out to inventory
the fallen foe for Lord Caesarium’s tax.
The Romulean would see to the
administration while the Thane
would see to a bath.

Let me know your thoughts. You have any old epics you enjoy? Tell me below. And as always, I mustache you to stay fantastical.

Random Thoughts – Worldbuilding Through Architecture

Worldbuilding can be tough. Creating new cultures and civilizations. I’ve talked a little before on how to add a little flavor with the 3 Ms (Merchants, Mercenaries, and Mauraders), but today I want to look at how architecture and environmental design can inform the reader about your society.

There were a few books that made me really think about this. The Bobiverse series has an alien species that build massive ships with large cargo holds and compartmentalization. In Children of Time, the spiders build with silk and their structures are in a constant state of change. But what really made me think of architecture as a worldbuilding aid was in Space Team. In that book, when the main character first arrives on the alien ship, he sees what he describes as “chairs and not chairs.”

Now many creatures have the ability to change their environment to better suit their needs. Any creature capable of creating a complex society would have to have this as well as the logistics of providing for large numbers require it. This environmental change can be as complex as creating weather machines, or building cities, or it can be as simple as irrigation or making a boat. Even making a chair or not chair is a level of environmental change.

But the question is how do these changes and designs inform the reader about society? Well, let’s look at some of our previous examples.

In the Bobiverse series, the aliens use giant ships with compartmentalization. They also travel from planet to planet, stripping it of its metals to return to their homeworld. The function of the vessel is to carry large amounts of raw material, hence the size. The compartmentalization is reminiscent of life we find here on Earth…insects. Bees and ants tend to have compartmentalized structures. They are also hive minds, a trait shared by the Bobiverse aliens. That little detail draws a parallel that the alien physiology did not.

In Children of Time, the spiders build their structures with silk, a material naturally produced. They designed their homes as large chambers to house several members of a peer group. They also change the layout of their homes and other structures at will and as necessary. This shows that not only is their society based on biological technologies, but it is also highly adaptable. At several points in the story, the spider’s society changes completely to adjust to new developments.

Even in our own history and societies, we can see examples of how building design can inform us about a society. When I think of ancient Greece, I see open plazas and forums that promote the exchange of ideas and thought. The courtyards and lack of walls, while not historically accurate, give a sense of community.

Rome was a mix of military function and highly developed social forms. A vast bureaucracy and military power, many of its buildings were designed to be standardized. A Roman fort was a Roman fort, regardless of if it was located in Germany, Britain, or Carthage. Its temples, however, were quite elegant due to its observances of highly developed rituals.

The Roman Catholic Church has amazingly designed cathedrals full of some of the best paintings and sculptures in the world to both show glory to their God and to display its wealth and power. American skyscrapers reach towards the heavens as a symbol of industrial might and independence. The Japanese developed intricate joints to connect support beams due to a lack of metal for nails that offer the feel of precision and discipline. Russian towers have a distinctive bell shape to prevent snow accumulation, hinting at their hardiness and resourcefulness.

How you design your world’s buildings and furnishings can offer a lot of insight into the culture and can give the reader clues as to what that society generally feels. But what other examples can you think of? How do you use building design to add not just distinctiveness, but character, to your world? Let me know in the comments, and as always, I mustache you to stay fantastical.

Random Thoughts – The Problem with Time in Sci-Fi

Time brings an interesting problem to sci-fi. In any other genre, time can almost be ignored. Either it matters to the story or it doesn’t. This can be its own issue, but that is mainly a logical or consistency thing. In sci-fi, though, time becomes integral to the discussion. This has to do with the fact that so much of sci-fi has to do with space.

I recently read two books that highlighted the problem of time and the two solutions to it. The first book was Orphans of the Sky by Robert Heinlein, and the second was Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. The solutions were a generational ship and hibernation/stasis respectively. That’s right, this is a double book review and random thoughts. And warning, there will be spoilers for both.

In Orphans of the Sky, Hugh is part of the crew of a ship headed to a far off galaxy. It’s been an unknown number of generations since the ship took off, but it has been long enough that everyone has forgotten what their mission is. They know they are on a ship, though they don’t understand that it is a space ship or that anything exists outside of the ship. The ship is all of reality and all that there is.

The external conflict is a fight between the humans that Hugh is a part of and mutants who hide in higher levels of the vessel. Hugh is captured by a group of these mutants where he is taken to Joe-Jim, a two-headed mutant who leads one of the strongest gangs. Hugh manages to befriend Joe-Jim and is exposed to the true nature of reality, the ship, and its mission.

He attempts to convince the humans to ally with the mutants in order to accomplish their original mission. Everything seems to work towards this plan, but a sudden betrayal by the Captain reveals that the humans want to maintain the status quo and their new society. The mutants are all killed while Hugh, his friend, and their wives are barely able to escape to settle on the planetary goal of their ancestors.

Children of Time starts with a group of scientists over a terraformed planet. Their goal is to introduce a group of apes to the planet along with a virus. This virus is designed to improve evolution among the apes. As they are about to launch the apes and virus, a terrorist plot is revealed that destroys the ship.

The virus is just barely launched where it crashes to the planet and finds a suitable host in several of the insect and arachnid species. The virus works in the spiders, causing them to grow larger and smarter over hundreds of generations. They form a complex society, battle and domestic ant colonies to serve as biological computer systems, and become the dominant species on the planet.

In addition to this plotline, there is another that follows a group of humans from Earth. Earth has been used up and has become uninhabitable. Scraping together the technology of a lost past, they are able to create a ship to carry the remains of the human race to a new planet. The crew is placed in stasis for the trip, though several members of the key crew are woken up periodically to address various problems such as attempted mutinies, god complexes, and finding a suitable planet to settle on.

Ultimately, the solution to the humans’ settlement problem rests with the world the spiders have claimed. Pushed by the existential dread of extinction, the humans and spiders clash for control of the planet.

Both books are great. Orphans of the Sky does have some very problematic issues with how it views women, and I completely understand any who can’t get past that. The only good thing is that it is only brought up maybe twice in the story, so it does not act as a huge distractor. It is fun and thought provoking despite this, and I give it the Silver Stash.

Children of Time is amazing. Really, if you are a fan of sci-fi, read this book. It tackles interesting questions, sets up it plots well, and the spiders aren’t that bad. Trust me, I’m an arachnophobe and I’m saying read this. My only issue is the actual resolution to the conflict. Ultimately, this book gets the Steel Stash. It’s amazing.

Now that the books are out of the way, let’s look at how they handle time. Like I said, time is one of the most important aspects of space sci-fi. To paraphrase Hitchhikers’ Guide, space is big, like really, really big. Space is stupid big. Distances in space are so great, they are practically meaningless. They become measured in how long it takes light to travel to them.

Think about that. Distance is measured by how long it takes one of the fastest phenomenons we know of to travel. We don’t do that on a planet. We can see and imagine distance on a planet. You can conceivably walk from one end of a continent to the other. You can travel around the Earth. To travel to another solar system, you have to find some way of accelerating to the speed of light and then it will still take you decades.

This means that the only solution to space travel, well without a handwave of faster than light travel, is to either have a generational ship or to use stasis. Find some way for your grandchildren to reach the planet or freeze yourself.

Orphans of the Sky uses the first approach. With generational ships, you end up with some interesting problems and questions. What happens if the crew forgets? What happens to society? What about concepts like free will and democracy?

Of course, the last question is probably one of the most important. Unfortunately, it is one of the easiest to answer as well. A generational ship can’t be a democracy. People have a habit of not always choosing the best solution for the whole. With a ship, you only have what you have. You are severely limited on resources. Democratic and capitalistic models are not likely to work unless you massively over-design everything. Of course, that has its drawbacks as well in terms of cost of construction. So everything needs to be rationed.

Even if you have the ability to provide abundance for everyone, there is still the issue of maintenance. It is a ship after all. It needs to be repaired. It needs certain actions. Over a short timeframe, that may not be an issue, but what happens when you need more engineers, technicians, and specialists? Do you let society decide? Do you beg? Or do you put the mission and survival of everyone onboard above individual wants and tell people what they need to do?

Of course, another solution to the people issue is to alter the society to place a higher value on these jobs. This can be accomplished through extra perks and incentives, or it can come on the form of veneration and deification of the command. This is the direction that Orphans end up going in. The original captain, Jordan, became a god to the people of Hugh’s time while the mutineer Huff became the devil. The Captain wasn’t just a job, but a position of honor and power, not for the common man.

One of the values of Orphans is that not only does it ask these questions, but it also explores the issues that they can bring up. Jordan’s writings, ship manuals and technical logs, become holy documents. One must be initiated into the grand mysteries of a scientist to even read them, and even then, these things aren’t for question. They are merely to be followed.

This, of course, leads to the problem of the power-hungry. Hugh wants to complete the sacred mission that Jordan set out on. In attempting to do so, he works with several key members of the scientists to overthrow the Captian and install a new man who will finish the mission. The new Captian, however, just wanted power. He found an opportunity and seized it, using Hugh and the mutants to gain his position before disposing of them.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have Children of Time. The crew was all put in stasis. For many members of humanity, they fled a dying Earth, went to sleep, and woke up on a foreign planet. For some, however, they kept waking up throughout the trip. The eyes of humanity during the trip is a scholar named Mason. He was a student of the past and knew the old languages and programming. Any time the ship encountered some piece of old tech, he was woken up to help translate and provide advice.

This led to some interesting questions from him. Objectively, he was hundreds of years old. Subjectively, he was only a few decades. This was a thought process that his mind continued to struggle to comprehend. How do you reconcile those two thoughts? How do you realistically rationalize the idea that you aren’t eternal? Or insignificant? How do you face the endless march of time when you constantly blip in and out of it. How do you reconcile time itself when even time becomes meaningless do to your constant jumps forward?

For the humans of Children, distance is a meaningless concept. No matter how far anything is, it is only a single night’s sleep away. For those who kept waking up, time loses its value as well.

Of course, these questions are the reason why sci-fi is such an influential genre. It is one of the only genres that can ask questions like these, that can explore the human psyche and experience through them.

But what do you think? Do you feel there are different ways to approach these problems? Different questions you want to explore? What answers do you have? Let me know your thoughts. And as always, I mustache you to stay fantastical.

Rose Nexus Updates

Whew. Draft 1 of Rose Nexus is complete. In fact, I am about halfway through my first draft edits on it.

This story turned out to be a bit more than I had originally intended. I thought it was going to be just a simple little short story. Instead, I managed to get it into somewhere around 24k words currently. Of course, that is making this first revision a bit of a challenge. After all, when I started writing, there were several things I glossed over because they weren’t really that important. Now I have to go back and fill those parts all in.

In addition to the general growth of the story, it has expanded the scope of the world as well. For those of you who follow me on twitter, you have a bit of an idea. For the rest, here is a little taste of the world.

The Romulean Empire was blessed with a mysterious substance known as oraculum. This moss-like substance allowed them to create flying ships and conquer all of Terra. In addition, it was discovered that oraculum would allow the Romuleans to extend into the heavens and explore the cosmic sea itself. They quickly began to colonize planets and extend their influence into fourteen provinces.

Another boon was the discovery of magic. The gods blessed Lord Caesarium with immortality and magic. Caesarium, in turn, granted his people with its uses and long life. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t struggle. Colonies revolt, pirates raid the Cosmic Seas, and unknown horrors lurk in the darkness.

This is the backdrop that our hero Brennus finds himself in. A relatively young magus (mage), he is sent to find the source of a mystic illness. Will he succeed or will he be crushed by foreign magics?

Of course, with the expansion of the world and setting, Rose Nexus is likely to only be the beginning. I have several other stories planned for the Romuleans as they attempt to control their empire. The current plans right now are for those stories to stay in the 20 to 30 thousand word range. Nothing intimidating. A good afternoon read (hopefully).

Of course, the motivation to get these out quickly does need your help. Follow me here or on twitter. Beat me up on facebook. Heck, with enough interest, I might even figure out the whole newsletter thing. Or just keep an eye out on Kindle Unlimited.  Regardless, I’m excited about exploring this universe, and I hope you will be as well. (Here’s another taste, a flash fiction I put up a while ago.) And as always, I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.

D&D Story – The Beginning of Bob

Ever wonder how a wood elf becomes a cleric of a tempest god in a port city?

Spring came and Bobalietha celebrated his fifteenth year. It was a year of decision, of elfhood. As with all wood elves of the Shaythean Woods, it was time to choose his purpose in life. While it would still be decades before he would be allowed to sit before the council, his physical maturity was at the point where he would be able to start developing the skills he would give the community.

Life within the Shaythean Woods were uneventful, especially for a young elf full of vigor and energy. The spiritual practices felt empty and hollow to his mind, lacking in some aspect. There was something missing from them that Bobalietha could not place his finger on. As such, he could not imagine choosing a life inside the confines of the village.

When he was called before the council to announce his intent, there was little surprise when he volunteered to join the Southern Garrison. The outpost rested on the southern end of the woods, just north of the city of Waterdeep. It was an important post for the Shaythean Woodelves as a point of information and trade with the many cultures who frequented the port city.

Upon arrival, Thurodan, the garrison’s captain, assigned him various duties. The garrison was staff by volunteers, limiting its number to a mere twelve, and all members had to do their part. Bobalietha fletched arrows, ran messages, and helped with the maintenance of the barricades and palisades. Most of the buildings and the barracks rested within the trees on the edge of the woods, though a single, fortified building sat on the ground to conduct business and as a final defense.

Bobalietha admired Thurodan. The elf was pragmatic and fair. There was no duty that he did not help perform, a true example to the elves underneath him. Once, a group of goblins attempted to raid the garrison. Thurodan thrust himself into battle, felling three of the five himself with a mighty swing of his hammer. Since that raid, Bobalietha put down his spear and attempted to teach himself the warhammer.

After staffing the garrison for six months, one of the famous coastal storms swept past the wards of Waterdeep and drove towards the Southern Garrison. The elves scrambled from their treetop outposts towards the safety of the ground building in order to protect themselves from the winds and hail. Outside the building, the winds roared, tearing saplings from the ground and blowing away the defenses of the outpost.

The earth trembled in the storm and the building shook. The central crossbeam, a mighty oaken log, cracked and began to slide down. The walls leaned drunkenly inward and the roof sagged. Thurodan strode forward and placed himself under the massive beam, bracing it against his shoulders and holding it in place. Thunder crashed from outside, ringing in their ears. Hail drove through the weakened roof and struck the ground around them. Despite it all, Thurodan held that beam, seemingly immovable as the oaken support had been.

Alas, like the crossbeam, Thurodan began to waiver under the weight and ferocity of the storm. His knees trembled. Sweat streamed down his face. Bobalietha, in his youthful excitement, darted forward and reached out towards the beam in an attempt to help his captain. Within moments, his arms trembled violently. The weight was too great for him to manage, and he was unable to provide any meaningful help.

Suddenly, a bolt of lightning crashed through the roof and struck the ground at Thurodan’s feet. The world disappeared in a flash of white, the sound like so many metal objects striking the ground. When his vision cleared and his senses returned, Bobalietha found himself laying on the ground and staring up at a giant man.

His physique was near perfect. His biceps bulged like boulders on his arms. His back rippled with each movement. With seemingly no effort, he took the beam from Thurodan’s shoulders and held it in both hands, pressing it above his head.

He turned his head towards Thurodan and smiled. “Kord smiles upon you.” The divine accent was unlike any Bobalietha had heard, the very words sounding thick and muscular. “Your strength has called to him and saved your people Thurodan. Accept his call. Become his messenger to the people of Waterdeep.”

Thurodan said nothing, was unable to say anything, in the presence of this divine creature. All he could do was nod. The man reached out and placed his hand over Thurodan’s head. His giant grip engulfed the elf’s face. Energy crackled in the air and Bobalietha saw Thurodan’s body tense.

Pushing himself to his feet, he ran towards the creature. He had no idea what he would do, just that something had to be done. Pain ran through his shoulder as he felt like he crashed into a rock. The rock rumbled with laughter, looking down at the scrawny wood elf. “Easy boy. I would never harm a cleric of Kord and temple master.”

Thurodan’s body relaxed and he motioned for everyone to move outside. His eyes had become as gray as storm clouds, a flash of lightning playing over them. Before Bobalietha could follow, the divine man grasped his shoulder. “You have spirit boy, but you are too scrawny right now. Behold! The blessings of Kord!”

Electricity shot through his body and his felt it grow and expand. When the pain passed, he gasped and looked down. Before the storm, he was short for an elf, with a lanky frame. Now he stood at six feet, his shirt drawn tight against his arms and chest. Thighs and calves bulged within his leggings.

Even more impressive than his new physique was the feeling of electricity within him. He felt the rumble of thunder within his chest. His own heart pumped lightning, causing the hairs on his arm to rise. He laughed softly at the gifts, the laughter driving out the remaining pain.

“No gain, no pain bro,” the herald said. Bobalietha left the building and the herald disappeared. With the absence of anyone holding the beam, the building collapsed behind him. The storm still raged about them, though neither Bobalietha nor Thurodan had any fear of it. There was no reason to fear a display from their god.

“Bros,” Thurodan began. His voice was a deep boom, the touch of Kord changing its tone as well as his speech. “Kord saves those who lift! Join me bros, to spread the message. We will establish our gym temple within the city and teach the people the prayers of the bench, the squat, and the deadlift. They will pray with every curl. They will pray with every lunge. We shall guide them along the path of brodom. From brotoges to bros. From gym rats to brofessors.

“Brotoge Bobalietha.” Thurodan turned his stormy gaze on the boy. “You have been blessed with Kord’s gainz. Will you answer?”

“Master Brofessor,” he answered. “I will follow the path of the Iron Church…and call me Bob. It is a stronger name.”

“Very well Brotege Bob. Let us go spread the good news. A new gym is open.” With that, they led the way to the city of Waterdeep followed by the other ten wood elves. Over the years, the temple grew, a haven for wood elves seeking another path. Bob discovered the missing piece of his spirituality was action, movement, the ability to overcome what was impossible yesterday.

He rose from brotege to bro and guided others along the paths. He taught the ways of the Iron Church. He spotted them on the holy lifts and motivated them through the penitent’s path of cardio. He worked tirelessly in his devotion to be worthy of the gifts Kord bestowed upon him.

Then one night, he sat in front of the temple, deep in meditation, the smoke from his pipe curling about his face. His spirit called out to Kord, and a whisper answered him. Thunder rumbled in the distance and the wind changed directions. The signs pointed to a new path for him. Opening his eyes, he looked out into the darkness and saw a small group dragging the body of a dragonborn through the streets.

“Bros. Come closer. Let me help your friend…”

Content Creation, Timelines, and Rants

Its funny looking back. I ended up taking a long hiatus from everything meaningful when it comes to writing and stories.

Now I could justify it all. I moved across country. Hell, I just moved to a different country. I read a book that was just so far outside of what I liked, not only could I not finish it, but it took me months to get the desire to read anything.

The truth is, though, that this content creation wheel we have to ride is a giant pain in the ass. Tweet thres times a day. Post regular blogs. Get a newsletter and shoot that out monthly. Engage with both your audience and with other writers.

Screw that.

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone who does well with indie publishing does these things. But with Twitter? Well established authors just tweet whatever they want. Politics, retcons, rants. As for non-established? Well, they just post things to the writing community. They following are other writers.

Good for them. Really not trying to discourage. I’m not trying to write for other writers though. I don’t care what my MC would do if they were thrown into GoT or the Potterverse or at high tea with the high queen of such and such.

Its why I barely engage with the Facebook groups anymore too. Most the posts are things like that. The few posts that do ask questions and seek advice, most of the comments are “well my chars…”

Look, like I said, if these things help you, great. Some people love exploring what their chars would do in situations outside of the book. They like the mashups. Those questions are probably why they became writers in the first place.

For me…I had stories I wanted to tell. Of course the rub is that i spent so much time trying to create content to engage that I never had time to work on my stories.

So here is what I am going to do. I’m hoping off the regular timeline train. When I finish a book, I’ll post a review. When I get bored and write a flash fiction, I’ll throw it up. If I have random conversations with myself like this one, well I’ll toss that up as well.

My tweets will still be related to my worlds and stories (at least as much as 280 characters will allow). And probably sales and giveaways as well…at least when I add new short stories to Amazon. Or books. One day I’ll finish one of those.

As for now, I have this really weird idea in my head about witches and multiverses and magical detectives. So follow on here or Twitter, @steelstashwrit1, if you want mostly story driven things. Or don’t. And feel free to comment support or arguments. I’ve been wrong before.

But whatever you do, I need y’all to stay fantastical.

Flash Fiction Friday 010 – Dabaumon

The forest was dark despite the the clear, mid-afternoon mid-skies. Torvin pulled his cloak tighter against himself to ward off a sudden chill. The old ones spoke of the Black Forest but only in hushed tones. It was an ancient place. A place still held under the sway of the old laws.

He did not like the mission that sent him deep beyond the borders of the forest. A young knight had escorted a woman into its depths several months ago and never returned. The villagers all assumed her and her escort dead. Unfortunately, the knight was from a prominent order who wanted proof of the death.

“Bloody knights and their bloody codes.” Torvin spat at the thought of Knights Protector. Easy enough for them to sit in their high towers and make demands. Poor fools like Torvin were the ones who had to carry them out.

The tracker let his mind continue to wander down it’s angry path as his feet followed the game trail. This was the most likely road they would have taken. In the distance, he heard a strange rustle. The forest had been acting stranger since the knight’s disappearance.

“Ta hell with this.” Torch spun around and turned back towards the edge of the forest. It would be dark soon and he wasn’t going to spend the night out here alone. As he turned, his eyes landed on a strange looking tree in his path. He blinked, sure that the tree hadn’t been there before. Tentatively, he stepped forward towards it.

The tree was gnarled and twisted by the wind. Jagged branches grew all over, clawing the sky in dark malice. It shifted and shuddered suddenly, uncoiling in a grotesquely humanoid shape. It’s trunk split open with a sickening creak, revealing rows of mishappen teeth and unending darkness. The eldrich horror lurched forward, the movements like that of a sickly predator. The stench of rot and decay wafted on the breeze, carrying the promise of death should one fall in it’s grasp.

With a terrified scream, Torvin clawed at his eyes, desperate to rid himself of the image lumbering towards him. His screams were cut short by the rising wind and darkness overtook him.

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. For more on the Black Forest and the knight Torvin was searching for, check out Salvation on Kindle Unlimited. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. We also have our first newsletter coming out at the end of this month with an exclusive short story. Make sure you sign up and as a special thanks, you’ll receive another short story for free.

Flash Fiction Friday 009 – It’s Raining Tacos. Hallelujah!

When a magician goes to lunch, his intern is left alone in the workshop. The intern is hungry, however, and decides to use a little magic to help fix the situation. What could go wrong with that?

Jeff continued to sweep one corner of the workshop. It was a mindless task. Hell, it was a task that didn’t even really need to be done, but it made him look busy. That was important when the master was in one of his moods. Or any of his moods. Or awake. Jeff had learned that over his five years here. Look busy and don’t ask too many questions. That suited Jeff fine, and his lack of ambition often made the master feel better about his lot in life.

The mood today was good. The experiments were going well and the universe responding like it should. It was almost noon when the master cried out with joy. “I’ve done it!”

Jeff came running center dais. It was a large circle, raised by several steps. It held a small table, a stand for the master’s spell book, and a cauldron as well as the master himself, beaming in the glow of the boiling liquid. “Jeff, look! Distilled essence of will power. Just the thing to help all those college kids with their finals. Slap that in an energy drink can, toss on the FDA warning, and boom! We’ll be as big as Monster and more popular than Adderall.”

The master gave himself one final smile before placing a hand on his stomach. “But that is an issue for after lunch. See you in an hour.” With that, the master strode from the dais and disappeared into the noise of cars and humanity outside the shop.

Jeff stood there a moment staring into the cauldron. He carefully lifted the spoon that had been used to stir the mix, pausing with it just before his mouth. Surely a little taste wouldn’t hurt. After a few more seconds of hesitation, he tentatively licked the spoon…and felt nothing.

It was odd. The master was so confident, but Jeff didn’t notice any change to his mood or desires. He did notice a rumble in his stomach. The mention of lunch brought Jeff to the realization that he did not eat breakfast. He also did not feel like any of the fast food chains that were close by. What he wanted was a good taco. There were just no good tacos in the neighborhood.

The thought occurred to Jeff that there was a solution to his taco problem sitting on the table next to him. Picking up his master’s pointy hat, Jeff put it on his head as he thumbed through the spell book. It was the first time he had ever really read any of this book so it took him a few moments to get used to the format. Once he got the hang of it, it was a few more minutes of searching until he found the spells that he needed.

Jeff put a lid on the cauldron to act as a tray and lifted his hands into the air. He began to rattle off the spells that he had seen, his voice floating through the warehouse like the many particles of dust he swept. When he was done, he stared expectantly at the cauldron’s lid.

Nothing appeared on the lid. Jeff dropped his arms in disappointment and placed the hat on the table. Before he stepped down, however, a tortilla floated from the ceiling and landed on the cauldron. It was followed by some shredded beef, a sprinkle of cheese, and a glob of sour cream. Laughing, Jeff lifted the taco and blissfully began to eat.

His laughter faded after two bites. Another tortilla was falling from the sky. And another. And another. Each one was followed by shredded beef, cheese, and sour cream. Before long, the workshop was filled with the flurries of tortillas, the patterings of beef, the drizzles of cheese, and the plops of cream. He did not know what he had done, but he had created a tortilla storm.

Shock gave way to fear as the storm continued. What would the master say? There was only one thing to do. Jeff quickly picked up several tacos and ran for the door. He did not stop until he was two cities away and looking for a new job.

Meanwhile, the master returned after lunch to find his workshop caught in a downpour of tacos. At first, he was angry at what was going on. As he carefully picked his way through the showery fiesta, he saw the book and hat were not as he had left them. A few moments of investigation gave him all the hints that he needed. The potion apparently worked and his unmotivated assistant had apparently created the storm for lunch.

Placing the hat on his head, the master lifted his arms in the air and began to chant. He shrank the storm to a tiny cloud that he sealed in a jar. Another enchantment was placed on the jar to pause the storm whenever the jar was closed. In addition to a new motivating energy drink, the master also had the start for a food truck business now. All in all, today was a good day.

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. We also have our first newsletter coming out at the end of this month with an exclusive short story. Make sure you sign up and as a special thanks, you’ll receive another short story for free.

Flash Fiction Friday 008 – Hugs, Not Wands

All ages face difficult questions. These questions always need a lot of thought and logic to figure out. Can a father help his daughter understand the challenge of answering these questions?

“Why do we hate protesters so much daddy?”

Torvin blinked, his mouth slightly agape as he turned to look at his daughter. “What do you mean sweetheart?”

“My news feed is full of people talking about how protesters belong in jail or that they are wasting their time. How it must be nice not to have real jobs.” Trina didn’t even loft her head from her crystal, one finger casually flicking up to show more of her feed. “No one seems to want to talk about the issue.”

Torvin cleared his throat while rubbing the back of his neck. “Well, baby…I suppose that’s because it’s easier to talk about protests than issues.”

“Why?” She turned her eyes up towards her father, her brown orbs bright and inquisitive in the way only a child could have.

“Because a lot of people see magic as a right and when you start talking about more education and limiting what people can do, they get angry.”

“But isn’t magic dangerous?”

“Of course it is sweetheart. So are a lot of other things, though. It gets complicated real fast.” Torvin’s brain was already hurting and he wasn’t that deep into the explanation.

“So people make fun of protesters to avoid trying to figure out answers to the problems.” Trina’s lips turned down slightly.

“Maybe. No. I don’t know.” Torvin grunted slightly. “It gets complicated. Some people don’t want to talk about the issues. Some people don’t like seeing these protests all the time. So people just want to be mad at others wanting to change things.

“And that’s why it’s so hard to do anything. You have to wade through the reasons why people are resisting and address their concerns. That’s why we have the Conclave.”

“Ok daddy.” Her voice was distracted, absent any interest or attention. Torvin loomed down to see her back on her crystal watching some video or another. That was the problem with young centaurs today. Not enough attention span to finish a simple conversation.

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. We also have our first newsletter coming out at the end of this month with an exclusive short story. Make sure you sign up and as a special thanks, you’ll receive another short story for free.

As always, I mustache you all to stay fantastical.

Random Thoughts – The 3 M’s of Worldbuilding

World building is hard. So is figuring out how to have fantasy creatures interact and engage with that world. But how do you introduce those creatures early if they don’t play a role until later in the series? The 3 M’s answers that question.

So I am in this awesome writer’s group on Facebook. The people there are great. They are also super helpful, always willing to offer help and advice on story issues. Occasionally, though, you get some random jackass who has never published a book who tries to speak with authority and offer their two cents…Well, not being content with being just a jackass on Facebook, I have decided to expand on one of my ideas here for you fantastical people.

There have been a lot of question on Fantasy Writer’s Support Group on worldbuilding. Not just how to create a new world and populate it with interesting peoples and creatures, but also how soon or late to introduce these elements. Many of these writers have plans for a multi-book series, and they want to keep book one very mundane and ordinary with barely a hint of fantasy creatures, only to introduce these different races in later books.

Initially, my advice was always to get the creatures out there as soon as possible in book one. It’s fantasy. Fantasy creatures are allowed to be there. Besides, you don’t want to have book one feel like some type of historical fiction story only to do a genre bait-and-switch in books two or three.

Now, this is still my advice. To quote Martin Luther (the theologian, not the civil rights leader) “Here I stand. I can do no other.” I never really gave a lot of thought to how to actually do this, though.

After all, it is easy to say “toss those creatures in there.” It is harder to do. Where do you put them? What if you have a xenophobic government? These were questions I did not have an answer to…

Until now.

The 3 M’s of Worldbuilding:

Merchants, Mercenaries, and Marauders was the answer I needed.

There are certain groups that are pretty much ubiquitous in every society, especially medieval based societies. These groups are merchants, mercenaries, and marauders. Let’s break it down.

Merchants are one of the few groups of people who are pretty universally welcomed. They bring new and exotic items from across the globe…or a new tray to bake bread on. Either or. Either way, merchants have a lot of freedom of movement. They are also a group that is easy to have other races fill.

After all, in our own history, you could get raided by a Viking ship today and tomorrow another Viking ship will show up to trade with you. (Ok, it wasn’t that extreme, but you get my point.) Merchants can show up anywhere and be accepted. Maybe not trusted, but accepted.

Mercenaries are another group that is all over history. There is the famous story of the Anabasis where 10,000 Greek mercenaries traveled to Persia to fight for Cyrus II. They typically tend to show up more in later history as gunpowder led to strong, centralized governments capable of raising the taxes to pay for them, but fantasy loves its mercenary bands.

Historically, these mercenary bands travel all over the place. The Vikings (geez, again!?) sent a group of mercenaries into Asia, these mercenaries became bodyguards, then these bodyguards took the crown and established Russia. (Slight exaggeration on the timeline, but still a true story.) So it is easily possible to have a mercenary group of a different race, especially if your fantasy has a war going on.

Finally, we have marauders. These are your raiders and pillagers. (Vikings strike again!) But in this sense, I use marauders more to represent criminal organizations because I am an author and alliteration is awesome. (Also because MMCU or MMG doesn’t quite flow off the tongue.)

Any xenophobic society is going to attempt to push outside races away from good, societal jobs. This leads those groups to have to find some means of surviving. Raiding, stealing, and selling secrets are all good ways to earn money for those who don’t have the burden of living up to a society’s moral codes. (Granted, it also leads to stereotypes, but that’s not the point here.)

Now, the other awesome thing about the 3 M’s of Worldbuilding is that you don’t have to focus on these groups. There doesn’t need to be a whole lot of explanation behind them or a deep dive in their cultural history. These groups are just there. They form the background.

They also get your creatures in the story easily. You can explore them later at your leisure. They can impact the plot whenever you want. But they are already there and you don’t have to worry about them coming out of nowhere.

So what do you think? Are the 3 M’s helpful to you? How do you like to build your worlds?

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to check out the latest Flash Fiction Friday post. Follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. We also have our first newsletter coming out at the end of this month with an exclusive short story. Make sure you sign up and as a special thanks, you’ll receive another short story for free.

As always, I mustache you all to stay fantastical.