Tag: Swordplay

Kingdom Asunder by Thaddeus White

Posted December 9, 2016

Princess Karena is all that stands between the House of Penmere and ruin. The King, her brother, was gravely wounded in a failed assassination attempt, and once-loyal followers are flocking to the treacherous Usurper’s golden embrace. But Karena knows the surest defence is attack, and will stop at nothing to destroy any rival to her brother… or herself.

Against her, the Usurper musters a vast army to crush Penmere once and for all, but in a war of treachery those closest to you can be the greatest threat.

[goodreviews isbn=”B01N8UF799″ buyinfo=”off” bookinfo=”off”]

Off to See the Wizard by Clay Johnson

Posted September 28, 2016

At the end of most heroic quests, after a plucky band of heroes has averted the apocalypse, all is well, and everyone lives happily ever after… (until the next book in the series.) Now, for the first time, readers get an in depth look into what really happens after the quest. This is the collected case file of the Grand Inquisitor’s investigation into the Misery Reach debacle. Read first hand as the participants try to explain their actions and make their case. Did the Demon Lord Krevassius really try to end the world just to impress a girl? Would everyone be better off if the Wizard Galbraith hadn’t invented a quest in order to stave off criticism? And what about an elf queen peeing on a Minotaur? A swordsman’s losing battle with a young raccoon? And the transvestite assassin with a heart of gold?

[goodreviews isbn=”B01BQGGGEK” buyinfo=”off” bookinfo=”off”]


A Facet for the Gem (The Tale of Eaglefriend Book One) by C. L. Murray

Posted May 7, 2016

In a land of eagle-riding knights, bloodthirsty beasts, and a ruthless prince, no border is safe for long. And as smoke billows from the only blockade standing between the great city of Korindelf and certain doom, young Morlen races to escape the inevitable siege. Thrust from the chaos with thousands of snapping jaws on his trail, he discovers that the abilities he’s buried all his life are awakening—and it could not have happened at a worse time.
War has come, and he doesn’t dare rely on his untested talents after stealing the coveted Goldshard, which makes strength and invincibility just a panicked whisper away. His dependency on it carries him through many dangers, until it becomes an enemy far worse than those he must fight hand-to-hand. And the allies he meets on his quest are just as troubled: a legendary warrior too afraid to leave his sheltered paradise, a wizard tormented by his past, and a disgraced king who has lost any hope of saving his people.
A FACET FOR THE GEM is a coming of age fantasy that brings Morlen from distant kingdoms to sprawling airborne battles, into the fiery breath of a stony dragon and side-by-side with a lady knight who is the last person in need of rescue. Follow him as his epic adventures culminate in a final showdown against swords, fangs, and greatest of all: his own fear.

[goodreviews isbn=”B01C9JT5BY” buyinfo=”off” bookinfo=”off”]

Author Interview: P.F.Davids

Posted November 17, 2015

pfdavidsphotoI’m P.F. Davids, fantasy writer and author of Lesser Evil.  I write from my little place in Central Florida.  When I’m not writing, I’m playing tabletop games, or watching numbers go up in the latest RPG.

  • When did you first discover your love for writing?

When I was very young.  Some of my earliest memories are of making little picture book stories for my mom.  It’s really all I’ve ever wanted to do.  During High School, I did novelling as my senior career project.  College saw me take a path through the IT field, but I never stopped writing.

  • Do you have a favourite place to write?

A boring answer, but my bedroom.  The more unique thing is when I write: typically 90% of my writing has gotten done between 12 AM and 5 AM.  I’ve always been a night-owl, and those hours after everyone has gone to bed and before the sun rises are so peaceful and free of distractions that I can really focus on putting my thoughts to words.

  • Do you have a writing routine or process that you adhere to?

My programming professor probably gave me the best advice (or worse, depending on your point of view): keep some candy or other snack about you, so if you reach a problem that is particularly frustrating you can take a bite and keep your calm.  This advice has worked for me in writing as well, keeping a nice stack of snacks about really helps me when I struggling with writer’s block or a certain paragraph that I know what is supposed to be said but just won’t get phrased right!  Course, probably not the healthiest habit, but it helps.

  • Are there any authors or specific books you aspire to?

Joe Abercombie’s First Law trilogy really opened my eyes to modern fantasy.  Or I should, shattered my perception as to what good fantasy had to be.  While I’m not really a student of the Grimdark style (as I still like my stories to have a more hopeful or heroic overall tone), it did shape how I view my writing drastically.  I’m hoping to eventually find that perfect balance between classical fantasy elements and modern fantasy as inspired by him.

  • What inspired you to write Lesser Evil?

I was told by a certain friend that he liked my villains more than he liked my heroes.  So I decided to do an exercise where I told a story from villain’s perspective to see what I could learn from that in terms of telling my heroes story.  I ended up really liking some of the characters that I came up, so I retooled them for an upcoming NaNoWriMo challenge.  I actually failed my goal that year, but by that time I was determined to see the project through. 

  • Can you tell us a little about your book?

The book is a play on the classic story of good versus evil,  with the question at the forefront being, “If a good man does evil to fight evil, can he still be considered good?”  Kester Belisario’s order is on the verge of extinction at the hands of the Serpentine Empire, and the only hope they have is to assassinate the Empire.  To this end, Kester must recruit an old enemy of the Church, a man cloaked in darkness whose evil deeds are legendary.  If they can work together without killing one another, they might just succeed.

  • Do you have a favourite amongst all your characters?

I don’t like to play favourites with my characters.  There are some who are easier to write than others, though.  Writing a character like Reis, who plays naturally on my darker side, and whose sarcasm matches the way I normally think, is fairly easy for me to write for.

  • Does your book contain a message for readers to consider?

Each book is different for every reader.  I will leave it to readers to decide what messages to take from it.

  • Would you be interested in sharing a teaser?

Taken from Chapter 3, the first Reis point-of-view chapter.

Why did his research always seem to take two steps back for every step forward?

Reis sighed and leaned back in his chair.  He tried in vain to wipe the sleepiness out of his eyes with his hands.  He had worked through the night, as he often did, and had been positive, as he often was, that he was on the verge of a major breakthrough.

Well, I suppose a result is a result.  Now if I could just figure out what it means.

            He could feel himself getting frustrated, a familiar anger rising up inside him.  It would not do.  Anger had its uses.  It could drive you in combat, it could motivate you to press on against rough conditions and impossible odds, it could blind you to pain and sorrow.  But alchemy required a cool, logical mind.  Reis closed his eyes and forced himself to take a few deep breaths.

Green and red, saved from the dead.  Blue and black, a life you now lack.

The annoying little rhyme played over and over again in his head.  With his eyes closed he could even see the thick spectacles of his alchemy teacher staring over him as he was forced to repeat the rhyme until it was burned into his mind.  Elixirs should all turn one of those four colors.

So why the hell is it purple?

            Reis opened his eyes, looking again at his unusual concoction.  It was not the strangest result his experiments ever yielded, but it was certainly among the most puzzling.  The color told him nothing.  At least when a failed experiment turned blue or black he could get an idea of what went wrong based on the shade.  But purple?  That was meaningless.  For all he knew, the experiment was a resounding success and he had just discovered a new type of elixir.

He raised the vial up to his nose and took a deep sniff.  The smell turned out to be just as useless as the color.  It smelled sour at first, but then he began to notice a distinctly salty scent.  None of that made sense.

Was one of Lesser Evilmy ingredients contaminated?

            He had no choice but to check all his ingredients for purity.  He grumbled to himself when he thought about the amount of tedious work that would require.  There was no getting around it, though.  Alchemy had zero room for error.  Even the smallest contaminants would cause a concoction to take on unwanted properties.  Any future experiments could be compromised if he did not ensure his stock was up to quality.

Reis got up slowly from his chair behind the lab desk and stretched his legs.  It was good to move around again after being cramped in the lab for so long.

He stepped out into the second floor hallway.  He was greeted as always by the strong smell of sulfur from one of the rooms down the hall.  For all the advances he made, he had yet to come up with a solution to stench.  Fragrant candles, perfumes, even scented cloths held to his nose failed to alleviate the stench.  He had grown mostly used to it by now, and fortunately it saw no use in his recent elixirs, so he had no need to smell it up close.

The doctors who had built this mansion had the clever idea to do so in two layers.  There was the outer layer, which encompassed the hospital and other public areas.  To separate their home from the hospital they built another layer inside it, almost a house within a house.  It made sense; it helped keep their personal and business life separate.  Plus, in the winter it was easier to warm just the living area as opposed to the whole mansion.  When Reis had found the mansion the outer layer had already fallen to disrepair, the roof rotting, the hospital leaking, the walls seemingly near collapse.  The inner layer had fared much better against the elements and Reis had been able to perform some basic repairs to get it into livable condition.  He also spent quite a bit of coin procuring quality furnishings, so he could continue to live the lifestyle to which he was accustomed.  As Reis walked down the hall he passed several comfortable chairs, their cushions plump and ready for him should he desire a break.

It had seemed like the perfect arrangement to him.  The mansion’s outwards appearance of rot and disrepair discouraged visitors and enemies alike, while inside he had all the comforts he desired.  At least, until the Empire decided to pay a visit.

The pushy colonel had left Reis little choice.  He would have preferred not making such a powerful enemy, but he was not about to be pressed into the Empire’s service either.  There would undoubtedly be consequences; the Empire knew where he lived and had surely learned of the colonel’s demise by now.  Reis wondered how long he would have before they came marching in force towards his home.

He would have to move on before then.  It would be a pity abandoning the place he had lived in so long, but Reis was not one for sentimentality.  The worse part would be abandoning his massive stock of alchemical components.  Even if he hired a cart to assist him, his stock was too large to take with him and many of the ingredients would become contaminated in the process.  Which is why it was so crucial for him to make some progress in what time he had left.

The first store room came up on the left.  The occupants before Reis had likely used this room as a child’s bedroom.  Now it was filled with shelves containing jars of powders, oils, plants, preserved animal parts and insects, dried leaves and grass, solid crystal fragments.  All the common alchemical ingredients, as well as some that were not so common, such as blood and gemstones.

Reis checked each container in turn.  He checked the seals, smelled the contents, ran the powders through his fingers.  He found no signs of contamination.  He checked the next store room, and the last one down the hall.  In none of his inspections did he find anything that suggested contamination.

No closer to solving this mystery.

            Reis was running out of options.  At this rate the only way forward would be to test the elixir, and he sure wasn’t going to drink it with no idea of what it would do.  He was going to need to find a ‘willing’ test subject.

            And he knew just where to find one.


  • What would say has been your biggest challenge and achievement in writing Lesser Evil?

Getting the book ready to be published was a brand new challenge for me.  Going from cover design, interior formatting, editing… oh, editing.  Thankfully, I had great help from talented cover designer and an editor who cut me deal.  Oh, and many friendly proofreaders.  Couldn’t have done it without them.

  • What have you learned about yourself as a writer through writing Lesser Evil?

I learned I am capable of a complete book, from beginning to end to publication.  Really, something I was not sure I would be able to do.  Now that I know I can, I can’t imagine anything stopping me going forward.

  • Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors?

Yeah, write.  It seems simple, but just sitting down and writing is much harder than it sounds.  Getting those words on pages is a great struggle for all writers, particularly new writers.  I suggest taking a crack at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) one November if you are the kind whom a deadline would be beneficial.

  • Anything else you would like to say?

Support your local bookstores!  (Also, small bookstores, I wouldn’t mind your support as well)

  • And finally, do you have any future works planned?

I’m currently working on the second book in the Lesser Evil trilogy, which I will make an official announcement of in a couple of day.  And being a trilogy, you can expect a third book as well.  I’m also in the planning stages of major series, which I can’t go too much into right now (mostly cause the notes are such a jumbled mess right now), but it is a single series with each book telling the journey of a single character.

You can find Lesser Evil on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lesser-Evil-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B015JAQ10I/

And Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26705917-lesser-evil

You can follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pfdavids/

And Twitter: https://twitter.com/PFDavids



Review: Lesser Evil by P.F.Davids

Posted November 13, 2015

Lesser Evil

P.F.Davids contacted me to ask if I would read Lesser Evil and provide an honest review in exchange for a copy, however, it is available on Kindle Unlimited so I obtained the book via this method.

Lesser EvilKester is one of the last surviving defenders of the Church of True Light. With the Serpentine Empire closing in, Kester finds himself on a desperate mission to recruit the aid of one of the Church’s greatest enemies: a man who is often called a demon. When his ideologies are tested, Kester must choose between upholding the tenants of the Church and completing his mission.

There is nothing Reis wants more than to be left alone to his research. But when the Empire comes knocking, Reis is left with no choice but to fight back. Knowing the imperials will not stop coming for him, Reis is left with one path. If his research is to continue, Marcus Serpentine must die.

Together, the two may have a chance to cripple the greatest military force the world has ever known…if their conflicting ideals don’t make them kill each other first.

The story telling

Lesser Evil begins at the heart of a conflict between Serpentine’s imperial soldiers and the Church of True Light. It begins in medias res, introducing the reader to the conflict, the stakes, and key characters while moving the story forward. The first paragraph sets the scene briefly: ‘bodies littered the room ahead,  stripped bare with faces twisted in agony,‘ while the reaction and interaction between Demos, Collette and Ottone orientates the reader with current events.The narration blends smoothly with the dialogue. The narrative voice in each of the chapters is clearly defined and where used, reads like the POV character’s natural thought process.

The environment brings to mind that of a medieval setting with its transport by horseback, sword battles, old buildings and secret passageways…

As the story progresses the reader is introduced to Kester, a young soldier in the Church of True Light, recently promoted to a position of responsibility, he devises a plan that may yet save the Church from annihilation.

My thoughts

If you enjoy a work of fantasy with a ‘light versus dark’, ‘good versus evil’ premise than I believe you will enjoy this book. The atmosphere is established early on, as are the motives of both the Church of True Light and Serpentine. The characters are multi-dimensional, with each of the key characters having shared and personal obstacles to overcome. Throw a little alchemy into the mix, a pinch of a misunderstood ability with balanced pacing and tension and you have a book promising a great read.

As I warned the author is our email exchange, I am not one of those people who can force myself to read a book that does not hold my interest (I’ve been known to give up on books after the first few pages), but with Lesser Evil I found myself orientated into the history, world and characters needs early on. The writing lured me into the tale P.F.Davids has penned and held my interest. With each page turned I found myself wanted to read and learn more and look forward to the next installment of the Lesser Evil trilogy.

Author Links:

Website: http://www.pfdavids.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PFDavids

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pfdavids

Goodreads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14391176.P_F_Davids









Lesser Evil by P.F. Davids

Posted November 10, 2015

Kester is one of the last surviving defenders of the Church of True Light. With the Serpentine Empire closing in, Kester finds himself on a desperate mission to recruit the aid of one of the Church’s greatest enemies: a man who is often called a demon. When his ideologies are tested, Kester must choose between upholding the tenants of the Church and completing his mission.

There is nothing Reis wants more than to be left alone to his research. But when the Empire comes knocking, Reis is left with no choice but to fight back. Knowing the imperials will not stop coming for him, Reis is left with one path. If his research is to continue, Marcus Serpentine must die.

Together, the two may have a chance to cripple the greatest military force the world has ever known…if their conflicting ideals don’t make them kill each other first.

[goodreviews isbn=”B015JAQ10I” buyinfo=”off” bookinfo=”off”]

Author Interview: Brenda J. Pierson

Posted October 16, 2015

BJP Author PhotoHey there, Indie Sci-Fi/Fantasy! I’m Brenda J. Pierson, epic fantasy author hailing from Tucson, Arizona. My bio pretty much says it all: writer, bookworm, avid gamer, lover of tacos, and crazy cat lady. If the term “geek” is associated with it, I probably like it. I’m into everything from Doctor Who to Magic: the Gathering. If I have to pretend to be normal, I like to hike, camp, and crochet too.

  • When did you first discover your love for writing?

My first foray into writing was when I was six years old, believe it or not. I was desperate for a pet rabbit, so I wrote and illustrated a “book” called My Take Care of Bunny Book in order to convince my parents I was responsible enough to have one. It didn’t work out—I did draw a picture of me walking the bunny on a leash, after all—but I’ve never really stopped writing. I started my first fantasy novel when I was 19 and I’ve been at it ever since.

  • Do you have a favourite place to write?

My amazing husband has helped me turn the spare bedroom of our house into an office, and him and my dad (an amazing carpenter) worked all summer making me a giant writing desk. It’s my own private space where I can think and work, and I only have to share it with the kitties. I’m so blessed to have it.

  •  Do you have a writing routine or process that you adhere to?

I do my best writing when I’m half asleep, funnily enough, so I try to get to work as soon as my husband leaves for work. 2-3 hours 5 days a week is usually my standard writing schedule. Too much more than that and my creative juices run dry, and that’s just ugly.

  • Are there any authors or specific books you aspire to?

When I grow up I want to write like Brandon Sanderson. His Mistborn novels, and more recently his Stormlight Archive books, are sheer brilliance. But my very first writing inspiration and still one of my all-time favorite novels is The Demon Awakens by R.A. Salvatore. There’s something magical about that novel that just gets me all excited, no matter how many times I read it.

No Hill Without Treasure Cover

  • What inspired you to write your first book?

My debut novel, Soul of the Blade, was inspired by a piece of driftwood and a nap. I’d found this awesome root in a creek while on vacation, two branches joined at the bottom. Being the weirdo I am, I kept it. On our way home I dreamt this piece of driftwood was a magnificent double-bladed sword with the soul of a snarky assassin inside. It took me several tries and about four years to figure out how to make the novel flow, but it was well worth the effort.

  • Can you tell us a little about your book?

Soul of the Blade is about an assassin who gets his soul stuck in an enchanted sword, and in order to save himself he has to save the world. My second novel, No Hill Without Treasure, is about a man who has to battle half-sentient Destruction magic monsters while fighting the same magic within himself. I’m also the co-editor of Wings of Renewal: A Solarpunk Dragon Anthology, which is a massive collection of stories revolving around dragons and green energy.

  • Do you have a favourite amongst all your characters?

Oh goodness. I love all my characters, but I do have a bit of a soft spot for the villain of Soul of the Blade. He’s just really, really evil and loves it.

  •  Does your book contain a message for readers to consider?

I write a lot about overcoming inner darkness, breaking out of what the world expects you to be, and finding your true self and living the life you want. Soul of the Blade has a running theme of trust and acceptance, while No Hill Without Treasure strongly focuses on creating your own destiny rather than following what fate seems to have set out for you.

  • Would you be interested in sharing a teaser? 

Sure! Here’s the opening to Soul of the Blade.

Aeo stormed into the king’s dining hall, sword bared, a trail of muddy footprints in his wake. It had taken little more than a glare and a grimace to send the ornamental guards scurrying away. Pathetic. They were supposed to protect the king? They were a waste of good armor and steel.

The massive table, a single slab of cedar polished to a mirror shine, was set with a feast that could have fed a small village. Haunches of meat, loaves of bread still steaming from the ovens, bowls of custards and more things Aeo didn’t care enough to identify. The smells combined until it was a sickening mixture of grease and sugar.

Fewer than a dozen posh noblemen were seated around the table. Aeo’s sword-arm itched to slay these gluttons like the stuffed and basted carcasses they gorged on.

He lifted his sword, letting the gleaming steel reflect the firelight. A few of the men glanced at him, but the meal continued more or less uninterrupted.

Aeo walked up to the table and dropped his sword directly on its center. Metal clanged against wood and table settings, upsetting several goblets of wine and splattering pudding on the nearby nobles.

The decadent meal was forgotten. Conversation hushed as every eye turned to him.

“Next time you send me on a contract, at least make it a challenge.”

He pulled a nobleman’s scarf, emblazoned with the crest of Halkron, soaked in the wearer’s blood, from his pocket. It followed his sword onto the table. Aeo smirked as the noblemen around the table blanched and fingered their own scarves.

He turned his eyes back to his employer’s. The man was short and pudgy, soft from a life of rich food and richer pockets. Aeo could reach him and slit his throat before he even realized he was in danger.

The king of Arata dabbed at his chin, leaving a smear of oil on his face. He tried to intimidate Aeo with a steely look of power and control. Aeo did his best to contain his laughter. That might work on politicians and sycophants, but Aeo was an assassin. The world’s best assassin. Empty threats didn’t scare him. But then again, not much did.

The king waved his guests away. They tried to maintain their composure as they scurried away from Aeo. Aeo just smiled. He could smell their fear even through their suffocating perfumes.

When they were alone, the king leveled his gaze at Aeo. “Do the words ‘secret mission’ and ‘tell no one’ mean nothing to you?”

Aeo stepped around the table, helping himself to tender duck and soft, fresh bread. “Please. Anyone could have infiltrated that camp. Your nephew may have been the prince of Halkron, but he was a miserable strategist and an annoying little twit. No one will miss him.”

“My sister may!” the king replied, slamming his ham-sized fist onto the table. A moment later he winced and rubbed it. “Don’t doubt the harlot’s love for her son. He was the closest thing she had to civilization in that barbarian’s court.”

Aeo rolled his eyes. The king acted like Halkron was some gods-forsaken land filled with heathens and animals, when all that separated its people from Arata’s was a river and a slightly darker shade of hair.

“That boy was her life.”

“And now he’s dead.” Aeo licked grease from his fingers.

“If anyone were to find out I was involved …” The king stood and started pacing, pausing to pick up the bloodied scarf with two fingers. “You were supposed to eliminate my nephew and make it seem as if another Halkronian was to blame. How can that plan work if you show evidence such as this to anyone you run across?”

The scarf fluttered back to the table.

“Are you saying you don’t trust those whom you dine with, Your Majesty?” Aeo teased.

“I can’t afford for this plan to fail,” the king replied. He fiddled with his many rings, sending flickers of gold and gems sparkling around the room. “Arata desperately needs a reprieve from this war. Halkron’s first strike caught us off-guard, and we’ve yet to recover from it. If it became known I had my nephew killed, Halkron will hit us with everything they have. Our army can’t stand against that.”

Aeo snorted and reached for a goblet of wine. “Families.”

He continued to pick at the nobles’ plates while the king paced and muttered. Aeo ignored him. The man may be ruler of the richest nation on the continent, but he was an idiot. The only reason he still held his throne is because of Aeo’s subtle political influence. Or his blade. Whichever.

While Aeo enjoyed eating the king’s feast and watching him sweat, another man entered the dining hall. He was close to Aeo’s own not-too-impressive height, but where Aeo had the solid look of a well-muscled warrior, this man was thin like a scholar. He held himself rigidly, as if the serenity plastered on his features masked the tension of a drawn bow. Aeo kept himself calm by sheer willpower. There was only one person in Arata who could make Aeo feel like a guilty child, and this was him.

Even the king, who was supposed to be the ultimate authority in all of Arata, did his best to remain invisible around this man. “Mage General,” he greeted.

“Your Majesty,” he replied. Somehow he managed to make the title sound like a mockery instead of a respect. It might be the only thing Aeo liked about him. “Allow me to extend my regrets at the loss of your nephew.”

The king shot a glare at Aeo. “I just received the news myself. How did you hear?”

“I am a mage, Your Majesty. Surely you can’t think Halkron is out of my reach.”

“Of course not.”

Aeo shook his head. He may as well kiss his boots and offer him the throne at this rate.

The Mage General looked toward Aeo. He inclined his head in the tiniest, most insincere greeting Aeo had ever seen. “I trust you are well?”

No thanks to your training, Aeo thought. Years of conditioning to turn me into the king’s assassin didn’t set me up for the happiest life in the world. “I do my best with what I have,” he replied.

“And that is all we have ever asked of you.”

The Mage General turned away, brushing Aeo off as if they had never spoken.

Even though the mage’s eyes were averted, Aeo didn’t dare release the shudder building inside him. Any contact with the Mage General, no matter how trivial, always left Aeo with a sheen of cold sweat on his forehead. One look into his eyes and Aeo could almost feel the man’s magic intruding into his thoughts, twisting and tearing them apart in order to make him obey. It didn’t matter that ten years or more had passed since his conditioning had been deemed complete. Aeo would never be able to hold onto his confidence in that man’s presence.

While Aeo tried to maintain his composure, the Mage General grasped the king’s pudgy arm and pulled him aside. From the tone of their whispers and the king’s scowl, it was clear he wasn’t happy with the topic. The Mage General grew more animated as he pushed his point, waving his arms toward the west and pointing to the ground as if to stab it with his forefinger. The king shook his head, without much conviction, not even trying to argue after the first few attempts.

“I’d hoped it wouldn’t come to this,” he said aloud, his tone weary beyond imagining. He didn’t look back to the Mage General. Instead, he raised his eyes to meet Aeo’s. “I have another contract for you.”

“So soon?” Aeo asked. “I’ve not had any time to enjoy my coin.”

“Your drinking and whoring will have to wait. This is urgent.”

Aeo sighed. “Of course it is.”

The king glared at his sarcasm, but Aeo just stared back. He took another drink of wine, not blinking.

The king looked away first. Coward.

“You say you want a challenge. I’ll give you one. Have you ever heard of the Bok’Tarong?”

Aeo shrugged. “Rumors. It’s supposed to be some kind of enchanted, double-bladed sword. Wherever it shows up, people die.”

“Do not discount such legends so quickly,” the Mage General said as he approached. The intensity in his eyes made Aeo put his food down, at least for a moment. “The Bok’Tarong is very real.”

“If you say so.”

The Mage General glared at him like he was a child in need of a good beating. Aeo had seen that look–and received the corresponding beatings–many times in the past. It took all of his willpower to return the glare without flinching.

The king interrupted their contest of wills. Aeo wasn’t sure whether he did so to stop it or because he was unaware of it. “How would you like to take that blade for your own?”

Aeo paused. That would be plunder worthy of his skill. And if the rumors were true, Aeo would never have competition for the title of best assassin in the world again. Not like there was much as it was, but still.

“You know my rule. I will not slaughter without reason. My target must have earned his death.”

“Yes, yes, the assassin with a conscience. I remember. The one thing we couldn’t beat out of you.” Aeo quirked an eyebrow at that, but said nothing. The king didn’t seem to notice. “I assure you, whomever bears the Bok’Tarong has more blood on his hands than you do.”

“And with the Bok’Tarong in your possession,” the Mage General added, “the tide of war will turn in our favor.”

Aeo saw something he didn’t quite understand in the Mage General’s eyes. He wasn’t just supportive of Aeo taking the Bok’Tarong–he was pushing for it. For reasons Aeo couldn’t begin to fathom, the Mage General needed Aeo to have it. “What’s so special about this sword, anyway?” he asked, forcing his tone to be one of calm and disinterest.

“It is, indeed, enchanted,” the Mage General replied. “One of the few enchanted weapons in the world.”

“What does the magic do?”

A pause, no longer than the blink of an eye. “Only the bearer of the weapon can be sure of that. The communion between bearer and blade is what makes the magic so potent.”

He was hiding something. Aeo was sure of that much. He knew more than he was saying, and that didn’t bode well for Aeo. The magic didn’t worry him, but the Mage General’s intensity did. If this was some plan to be rid of him …

The king, in a rare moment of insight, had noticed Aeo’s hesitation. He stepped in front of Aeo, leveling as firm a gaze as he could muster on him. “Your next target is the bearer of the Bok’Tarong,” he announced.

The order reverberated in Aeo’s head. The words burrowed through his thoughts and into his heart. Whether or not Aeo would have accepted was no matter anymore. The king had ordered–Aeo would obey. He didn’t have a choice anymore. His conditioning as the king’s assassin guaranteed that.

Aeo rose from the table and drained his goblet. “Where can I find this man?”

“He travels without reason. Who knows where he is now?”

Aeo glared at the king. “Then how am I supposed to find him?”

The king shrugged as if he couldn’t be bothered with details like that. “Ask around. Commoners love to tell tales. Someone who’s seen this sword will want to brag about it.”

“That isn’t much to go on.”

“You say you’re the world’s greatest assassin,” the king replied. For the first time in their long partnership, Aeo heard something bordering on true authority in his voice. “Surely that means you can find one man with a remarkable sword.”

Aeo squared his shoulders. If the king would challenge him, then Aeo would show him just how great he was. “The next time I see you, Your Majesty, the Bok’Tarong will be mine.”

He spared a glance at the Mage General, but little else. He wouldn’t say anything to him until he returned with the Bok’Tarong. Then he’d have something to rub that arrogant look off the Mage General’s face with.

Soul of the Blade Cover

  • What would you say has been your biggest challenge and achievement in writing?

One of my biggest challenges has been against myself. I have a host of medical problems which leave me constantly fatigued and in pain, so putting in the time day in and day out to actually make progress is a huge achievement for me in the first place.

  • What have you learned about yourself as a writer through writing?

I’ve learned I really do need a plan. At first I’d get a single idea and start writing without a clue where I was headed. Years of painful rewrites and deleting entire chapters has taught me to take it slower and figure out the story I want to tell before I charge in blindly. But I’ve also learned to trust my instincts. Some of my favorite plot twists or unique elements have come from an off-hand comment I made while writing, or a phrase I put in without thinking. Sometimes I think my subconscious is a better writer than I am.

  • Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors?

Write a lot and read even more. Take every opportunity you can to learn more. And never, ever, ever give up.

  • Anything else you would like to say?

Just thank you. Thanks to everyone who reads indie books, who writes reviews, who works to spotlight the little guys. The fight against obscurity is demanding and sometimes it feels like we’ll never get noticed. So to everyone who supports indie authors: y’all rock. Thank you.

  • And finally, do you have any future works planned?

I do! I have a prequel novella to Soul of the Blade, titled Soul of the Guardian, that’s due to release very soon. I’m also working on a new novel called Joythief. It’s set in a Persian-inspired fantasy world, with a poison that kills the part of a person they love the most. My protagonist is a princess-turned-thief who has to fight to preserve magic and save the world while losing her skills and identity as a thief.

WoR Cover


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