Get your spring reads right here. This week only (April 9th- April 12th) All titles are $0.99 or FREE.
Happy All Hallows Eve!
You’re here, which means you have the chance to unearth a ton of great books.
Several are free. Many others are only $0.99.
I’ve got fantasy, horror, sci-fi, philosophy, and even a pair of alcohol-fueled memoirs.
Crawl through the graveyard and go here here to view my entire catalog, including everything I’ve slashed for this one-day event.
To get a feel for what I’m offering, peruse some of my cover art below.
As always, I appreciate your Amazon reviews.
Catch you later,
As I publish more and more books, I find myself wanting to create my own cover art.
It’s risky business, I know. If I paint something that looks too homemade or ‘arts and crafty,’ I could repel audiences with subpar art.
I’ll probably still keep reaching out to my favorite artist, Amanda Makepeace, for all of my major novels.
But for other, stranger, darker releases, I might keep trying my own brand of shadowy art.
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To dive into the series that inspired this piece, click this.
Until next time…
I’m hunting for honest reviews of my deepest, darkest fantasy novel yet, Nether Kingdom.
At the world’s edge, Andelusia awakens to the terrible realization that all her dreams have come to nothing. No matter that her father, the warlock, has fallen into exile. No matter that the enemies of mankind have retreated into darkness. When the shadows in her heart cause the seasons to change and deadly storms to sweep across Thillria, she knows what will come:
Click here to buy and review!
Nether Kingdom is the third and final book in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy.
It can be read as a standalone novel.
Books I and II are here:
Master of sci-fi and fantasy
Creator of Coffee Table Philosophy
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I knew it’d be a mistake the moment it was over.
But I did it anyway.
He was a ghoulish old king. He’d extorted, terrorized, and murdered to fill his coffers. His brothers were thieves. His wives…both of them…were daggers in every man’s back.
His subjects hated him. His enemies feared him. The ground he walked turned black beneath his boots. His bathwater reeked of death.
Every family who’d even a chance at sniffing the throne, he’d exiled, poisoned, or butchered. When his cousin’s coup d’état failed, the ghoul burned the usurpers’ children alive, drowned his cousin’s mother, and hung the collaborators’ bodies from gibbets so high even the crows dared not a single sniff.
It was time for the King to go. Everyone knew it. Everyone wanted it. His black towers had too long stood like knives on the kingdom’s throat.
When the three exiles came to me on autumn’s second eve, I knew what they wanted. One carried a chest of silvers. The other dropped a satchel of ingots on my table. The third stood in my doorway, the moonlight shining on his back. He was a weathered, ancient thing. Twenty years in the sand had done him poorly. I smirked, my dagger folded against my wrist in case he did something stupid.
“Lady Lusia, will you?” he asked.
“Will I what?” I pretended not to know what he meant.
“The Ghoul…the King…the hundred-year old nightmare haunting the eaves of every house in Lyrlech. Will you?”
“No.” I glanced out my window. I couldn’t see the black towers, but I knew they were there.
“Why?” asked the weathered man.
“He’s only a few more years left in him,” I scoffed. “Not worth it. I’m too pretty for the gibbets.”
“You don’t understand, Lusia,” he sighed. “If he dies, his brother becomes king. It’ll only get worse.”
I considered it for a moment, then countered, “Exactly. If I kill the Ghoul, it does nothing. The noose around our necks just gets tighter.”
“But Lusia, his family will be there. His brothers. His sons. His grandchildren. All under one roof for the first time in years.”
“So?” I smiled.
“You can save us,” he pleaded. “You’re the best. Everyone knows it. The Stiletto, they call you. You’re the only one who can deliver us from darkness.”
“You’re right,” I smiled. “I can. But I won’t.”
I got tired of waiting. I flicked my knife and split the three men neck to belly. They died quietly. Their blood drained onto the floor, but the night moved none at all.
I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over.
…but the Ghoul had paid me well.
* * *
The Stiletto, along with a volcano of other dark, eerie, and fantastical tales, appears in:
Machina Obscurum features a host of writers doing their best to darken your world with short, deadly stories and quick-as-knives fiction.
It’s available right now.
The end is near. After so many years of studying, of waiting for a sign, it becomes apparent to me that the return of darkness is a planned event, a spoke in the universal clock waiting to be ticked. Heed me well, my friends. The Sleeper walks among us. His presence in our world, long-awaited, is a grave warning that the Ur will soon assail us. He may come to us in any guise, be it a man, a woman, even a child.
It matters not. He must be found.
If we do nothing, if we lie on our laurels and ignore him, he will draw the curtain of night forever down upon us.
Final “Letter to the Lords of Grae” by the warlock Dank
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In other words, the Kindle Edition of Nether Kingdom is here.
Click Lady Makepeace’s dark, dark cover to check it out.
Tyrants of the Dead.
The world’s end.
movie book in the Tyrants’ trilogy.
Pretty much the darkest thing ever.
So the cast has to be perfect, right? Kinda like this one.
Let’s get to it…
Emmy Rossum – She’s back again as Andelusia Anderae. She’s more powerful and beautiful than ever. Everyone wins. Except her enemies.
Timothy Spall – Notable for his excellent and creeptastic work in Harry Potter and Sweeney Todd, Tim will make a sublime, wicked, and barbarous Unctulu come to life. Part-time assassin, full-time vulgar sadist, I wouldn’t pick anyone else to pull this role off.
Tom Hardy – Ladies, feast your eyes. Good acting lovers, feast your hearts. Tom Hardy has the chops to pull off pretty much any role, but in Nether Kingdom he’ll shine as the quick-witted, womanizing pirate Daedelar. Is he good? Is he bad? Wait and see…
Christina Hendricks – Of Mad Men fame. She’s strong. She’s badass. And she gets to play the no-BS role of Nephenia, Princess of Yrul. No man stands a chance with her, save for one…
Nathan Jones – Remember this guy from Troy? He was only onscreen for about a minute before Brad Pitt killed him, but he definitely left an impression. A massive, dangerous, inhumanly strong dude is needed for the role of Unctulu’s sidekick, Thresher. Lock Nathan behind a few hundred lbs. of iron armor and give him a sword big enough to cut the world in half. And afterward, he can pull off double-duty as the undead horror, Myklokain. Get to killin’, Nathan.
Benedict Cumberbatch – Most of you know about him. He’s killing it in Sherlock, and more recently, his leading role in The Imitation Game. But in Nether Kingdom, we’ll never see his face. He’ll be voice-acting only, a la Sauron in the Hobbit movies. Only this time, he’ll be even more diabolical. He’ll be the one and only voice of the world…ending…Ur.
Richard Armitage – Mass murdering, swashbuckling, king-butchering, nation-destroying. Leave your Hobbit and Robin Hood roles in the dust, Richard. As the wicked Lykaios, you’ll pretty much get to be the worst dude ever. Have fun. If I could act, this is the role I’d want.
Unknown – Marid of Muthem. Finally, I’m stumped. We’ll need someone young, British, and believably cast as Andelusia’s lover. He’ll have to be innocent, yet full of wanderlust. Plus pitifully in lust with our heroine. Suggestions??
Daniel Southern – Saul of Elrain. Crankier than ever.
Henry Cavill – Garrett Croft. Good guys gone bad.
Lee Pace – The Pale Knight, Archmyr Degiliac. Bad guys gone…well…badder.
Daniel Radcliffe – Ghurk Ghurlain. A quick role, to be sure. But another one who’ll get to crush on Emmy Rossum. Better than Hermione, anyway.
It’s gonna happen.
It’s only a matter of time.
Nether Kingdom – Spring 2015
The following 10 questions are from my Coffee Table Philosophy book, 101 Questions for Women.
10 Questions for Women:
A cultural way of existing everyone should embrace?
An over-simplified method of pitting men and women against one another?
Or a concept you personally don’t put much thought into?
No Dating Until You’re 50
What is the most valuable life lesson a mother can teach her daughter?
What about her son?
Explain the differences, if any, in the lessons you’d teach one or the other.
Suppose you were queen of the world and everyone in it.
Name three cultural/ideological changes you’d put into place.
Global Fight Club
In your opinion, are men inherently more violent than women?
If yes, is it due to:
The environment we live in?
If women were, on average, physically stronger than men, would they be more violent than men?
But will he take out the Garbage?
Whenever you meet an attractive man for the very first time, what is your first and most instinctive thought?
The Few and the Many
Imagine the world will end in five years.
The government’s plan is to construct one spacecraft for each family. Each ship can hold a family of four. The ships will fly to a nearby star system and drop you off on a habitable planet.
The problem: You and your spouse have four children.
Stay on earth and wait for the end? Leave two kids behind?
Or convince your spouse to send the kids alone without you?
Back to the Beginning
In your estimation, for how many years after your death will the memory of you and all that you’ve done linger in the world?
In other words, considering the way you’ve lived your life, how long will people remember you?
What about the residual effects of knowing you? How long will those last?
Consider that the lessons you taught others might be retaught…forever.
The Laminated List
Imagine you and a significant other have an agreement allowing you each to make a list five names long.
Each name must be a celebrity. If either of you meets someone on of your list, you’re allowed to have sex with them.
Suppose your mate actually meets a celebrity on his list. Are you really ok with him sleeping with her?
What if you met someone on your list? What then?
No Pink Bullets Here
Pretend you’ve been given the authority to rewrite the rules of warfare. In other words, the power is yours to decide how armies engage, how prisoners are treated, and which weapons are lawful and unlawful to use.
Now describe how you think the next World War would go down with your rules in place.
The Object of Everyone’s Desire
If you could be the last woman alive in a world fully populated by men, would you?
101 Questions for Women
AKA: The busiest year ever.
Painting. Writing. Editing. Publishing. Not Sleeping.
Let’s start with the painting. I got it in my big, fat head that I could all-of-the-sudden graduate from creating terrifying landscapes and up my game to painting beautiful women. In a single bound. Bad idea, right? Previously I’ve painted stuff like this. Wish me luck?
So after about two weeks of drawing, brushing, agonizing, and touching up, I’m about 70% finished with my huge canvas, Andelusia. Lots left to be done. I’m terrible. But I figure, to Hell with it. Here’s the breakdown:
I figure 30-40 more hours and I’ll be done. Kidding. 4-5 more hours, tops. And then I’ll spend a lifetime kicking myself for every imperfection.
Such is art.
Next up: 101 Questions for Men – Part II in the Coffee Table Philosophy series, is due to hit bookshelves about 30 seconds from now. My inspiration to write these evolved from a party I went to during which everyone was nose-deep in their cell phones. I tried to break the ice by asking philosophy questions…and lo, it worked! Just a few questions lasted us the entire night. And now I can’t stop writing them.
Book III in the series, 101 Questions for Women, is also due out this month. It’s been the hardest to write. And the most fun. If these things keep earning interest, I’ll expand the series even more. 101 Questions for…anything you can think of. So check the series out. Seriously. I think there’s something for everyone in it.
And now for the real meat. The coup de gras. The sword on the world’s throat.
After a few mild post-production struggles and an overhaul to the ending, the moment is almost here. Nether Kingdom, Book III in the Tyrants of the Dead series, and darkest of all dark fantasy epics, will cover the world in shadows. Any. Day. Now. I hope you’ll love it. Big time.
Thanks for clicking. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being here. If you’ve the time, check out my ever expanding library on Amazon. Come back soon to see the finished Andelusia painting. Stick around to catch the new cover of 101 Questions for Women. And keep your eyes peeled for the press release of my upcoming two-book series, Darkness Between the Stars.
Until next time.
It began eons ago.
I had a dream. A throttling, terrifying, I-remember-every-detail kind of dream.
A few days after I had it, I drove to a craft store, bought a giant parchment-paged journal, hand-painted the cover, and wrote my dream inside. I made maps of the places I’d imagined. I designed a Dungeons & Dragons setting based on the worlds I’d seen. I invented games using tiny fragments of the story I’d unlocked inside my head. I obsessed over it for a long while.
And then I let it go.
For many years, it lay dormant inside me. It became a fantasy never realized, a story I daydreamed of, but rarely spoke of. It was destined to fall into my mind’s cobwebs. And likely, to be forgotten.
In the early 2000’s, everything changed. On a frigid winter night, with no one else near, I experienced thoughts I’d not entertained before. Alone in the dark, I started naming the places I’d dreamed of. I drew pictures of people who existed only in my head. I knew I couldn’t hold it in any longer.
I decided to write a book. Three books. Almost a million words. Already 10+ years of my life.
All three follow Andelusia Anderae, Garrett Croft, Saul of Elrain, and the terrifying agents of the Nether. I like to think of it as the darkest of all dark fantasy trilogies, but in truth it’s stuffed with love stories, tales of sacrifice, and allegories for redemption and the true meaning of courage.
Behind all my machinations, all three books are based on a single dream. One evening’s nightmare, if you like. The books truest subject is man’s primal fear of darkness and the unknowable experience of death. And it’s not until the third and final entry in the trilogy that I get to show the true antagonist. The monster behind the curtain. The demon under the bed.
Ladies and gentlemen, the cover of Nether Kingdom:
Yes. That’s one of the Ur. Aka: One of the tyrants of the dead. Special thanks to Amanda Makepeace for breathing unlife into it. If you’re in need of spectacular custom art, please look Amanda’s way. She did two of the three Tyrants’ covers. And I love her for it.
Within the next six weeks, Nether Kingdom will hit stores in e-book and paperback form. It’s significantly shorter than Down the Dark Path, but longer and assuredly grimmer than Dark Moon Daughter.
With it, the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy will come to an end.
And I can lay this thing to rest. At last. Forever.
Until I start the prequel – Darkness Between the Stars
Dozens of Characters
One Civilization bent on Mankind’s destruction
Welcome to the official Tyrants of the Dead glossary. Herein you’ll find descriptions and blurbs for every major character, place, historical event, and artifact appearing in the Tyrants’ trilogy. This appendix is for all the folks who’ve read the books and for those who are thinking about it. Fear no spoilers! No major event taking place in any of the three books will be revealed.
Scroll down to begin!
Andelusia Anderae – A young woman from the tiny Grae village of Cairn, Ande (as she’s known to her friends) dreams of a life that is not hers. She is the title character in Dark Moon Daughter.
Archmyr Degiliac – Also known as the The Thillrian, The Pale One, and the Pale Knight. The son of a hated Thillrian lord, Archmyr murders so many of his father’s rivals as to be branded a butcher and forever exiled. He comes to prominence after being captured by the Furyon Empire and recognized for his ruthlessness.
Arjobec – A captain in Furyon’s legion, the aging Arjobec serves as a guide and oftimes moral compass for his master, Dacin of Dageni.
Bruced (Bru-sed) – Fiercest warrior of Gryphon, but soft-hearted and loyal. Bruced’s hatred of the Grae province of Mooreye is legendary.
Dacin of Dageni – The youngest of the Furyon warlords…and the most powerful. Dacin was raised in the brutal Furyon province of Dageni, largest of the slaver colonies. He defeated the hated Davin Kal in the span of three years, and is swiftly recognized by the Furyon Emperor as the warlord most capable of destroying Graehelm.
Daedelar – A swarthy Thillrian captain-for-hire, Daedelar boasts of having once sailed to Cornerstone and back.
Dank – Also known as Dancmyrcephalis or the Little Man, Dank is an advisor to House Gryphon, a well-traveled sage, and (as some believe) a sorcerer dabbling in black magicks. His oaths to himself far outweigh any promises he makes to Graehelm or its lords.
Emperor Chakran – Furyon’s suzerain. To seize the Furyon throne, Chakran allies with Malog, rumored stronghold of the world’s last (and most wicked) sorcerers. Chakran desires the rebirth of Tyberia, a legendary nation he believes is his birthright to rule.
Emun Gryphon – Lord of Gryphon, and most popular of Graehelm’s Councilors.
Garrett Croft – Friend of Rellen, and most feared soldier of Mormist. To earn redemption for crimes against Graehelm, Garrett makes an oath to Emun Gryphon to forever protect the Gryphon household.
Ghurk Ghurlain – A captive in Thillria’s dreaded Sallow province, Ghurk is the son of a powerful Thillrian lord.
Grimwain – A swordsman and fallen knight. After being exiled from Romaldar for making threats against the Romaldarian king, Grimwain travels east to the Mohrlahn, seeking the aid of the Anderae.
Jacob Nure – Nephew to the ailing Grae king and renowned for his martial prowess, Jacob is closest in line to the throne.
Jix – A diminutive Thillrian man in the service of King Orumna. Jix is tasked with fulfilling many of Orum’s strange requests.
King Orumna – The most corpulent and ineffective king Thillria has ever known. King Orum prefers to eat his way to prosperity than do anything to advance his kingdom.
Lord Ahnwyn – Lord of the Graehelm stronghold of Gallen Hold. Leader of the famed Triaxe Knights. Warden of the south.
Lord Lothe – Lord of Graehelm’s Barrok province, and the general of Graehelm’s northern army.
Lord Tycus – An ambitious Thillrian lord. Tycus is often fair, but just as often harsh.
Marid of Muthem – A young soldier in the employ of Duke Ghurlain, Marid is woefully in love with Andelusia.
Marlos Obas – A cranky captain of the Gryphon guard, Marlos is appointed by Rellen to lead a cadre of soldiers to Mormist.
Myklokain – Rumored to be a member of Grimwain’s family, Myklokain is long-dead, but not.
Nentham Thure – Lord of the hated Grae province of Mooreye. Tall and crow-beaked. Councilor Nentham is universally disliked by his peers and rumored to have designs on Graehelm’s throne.
Nephenia of Yrul – Daughter to a high Yrul lord, Nephenia is married off to a Romaldarian noble in the hopes of gaining Yrul’s complicity during the war to come.
Ona – A mysterious and stunningly beautiful young woman from far southern Thillria.
Rellen Gryphon – The only child of Emun and Sara Gryphon, and the youngest of the high captains in Graehelm’s military.
Revenen – The Lord of Malog. Eldest of the Archithropian line.
Saul of Elrain – After Saul’s family is displaced by raids from the north, Saul bargains with Elrain’s king. In return for the promise of his family’s safety, he accepts the grueling task of delivering an important letter to the lords of Graehelm.
Sara Gryphon – Emun Gryphon’s wife, and the wisdom behind many of his policies.
Ser Arjobec – A Furyon captain, guide, and among the most trusted of Dacin’s advisors.
Ser Endross – Hardiest (and luckiest) of Ahnwyn’s knights, Endross is perhaps the noblest soul in all of Graehelm.
The Ur – An ancient civilization from beyond, beneath, and between the spirit realm, the Ur desire vengeance against mankind for removing them from power.
The Uylen – A race of cursed humans living in a haunted Thillrian forest. In recent years, it’s rumored the Uylen have wandered far from home seeking fresh prey.
The Warlock – The son of a powerful Archithropian decendant, the Warlock’s plans for Thillria are far-reaching.
Thresher – A masked iron knight in the service of Romaldar, the terrifying Thresher accompanies Unctulu and relentlessly hunts Romaldar’s enemies.
Unctulu – A loathsome servant of Romaldarian lords, Unctulu is entrusted with the care of the Needle, an ancient Ur artifact.
Vom – A powerful pupil in Revenen’s care, Vom trails Emperor Chakran throughout the war to ensure the Emperor follows Malog’s plans.
Wkhzl – A weary old shopkeeper in the Triaxe fortress city of Kilnhome. The strange relics contained in his store are like no other in the world.
Wrail – A wicked man from the nation of Romaldar, Wrail claims to possess powers of the Archithropian line.
Archaeus – Capital city of Romaldar. Filled with white marble towers and elegant stone dwellings. Archaeus is also home to the dreaded Wolfwolde.
Cairn – A small village in northwestern Graehelm. Andelusia’s home. Cairn is a peaceful place, but harbors more than a few dark secrets.
Dageni – A smoking, pitted, volcanic province of Furyon, Dageni is home to tens of thousands of slaves who toil to extract precious Dageni ore.
Darken – A stinking, swampy forest in southwestern Furyon. Darken was once the site of an Archithropian burial ground, and is avoided by all wise folk.
Denawir – Capital city of Thillria. Denawir’s gardens are legendary, but less so its king, Orumna.
Elrain – Far north of Graehelm, Elrain’s colonies surround a massive lake. Scholars postulate Elrian was the site of the earliest battles between Archithrope and Niviliath.
Furyon – Not quite the foul, reeking realm Graehelm’s lords predict, Furyon is a land of beauty and deep culture. Until, that is, Emperor Chakran remakes it to serve the war against Graehelm.
Graehelm – The largest of the modern nations, Graehelm is ruled by both a king and an oligarchy of councilors. The Grae lands are largely inhabited by the decendants of Niviliath, the losers of an ancient war against the Ur-worshipping Archithrope.
Grandwood – The vast forest in Graehelm’s heart. Home to the hugest trees in all the world. Grandwood itself is larger than most smaller nations can claim.
Gryphon – The home of Eumn, Sara, and Rellen Gryphon. The old-world city is placed strategically between the Graehelm capital and the troublesome Mooreye province.
Illyoc – The largest city in Furyon. During the Emperor’s rule, Illyoc is transformed from a peaceful trade hub into a stronghold of war, complete with vaulting black towers and cathedrals to house Furyon’s nobles.
Malog – The black citadel of Furyon. Home to the direct decendants of Archithrope. Not built by mankind.
Midnon – A black fortress hidden somewhere in Thillria, Midnon is the Warlock’s stronghold.
Mooreye City – With seven gates and mighty walls, Mooreye City, citadel of Nentham Thure, has long been a source of worry for the rest of Graehelm.
Morellellus – Furyon’s prime trade port, and the harbor for its armada of warships. Morellellus was once a simple trade port, but has been completely remade by Chakran into a fearsome city.
Mormist – The mountain and forest realm of eastern Graehelm. Mormist is the buffer land between Graehelm and the sea (and Furyon).
Romaldar – A realm of vineyards, rolling hills, and silver lakes. Romaldar’s people have always envied Graehelm, but have long lacked the power to make a meaningful challenge to their northern neighbor.
Sallow – In Thillria, no place is more feared than Sallow. Its twisted trees and slate-capped mounds have long sheltered the dark, dismal Undergrave.
Shivershore – Southernmost province of Thillria. Hard to reach, harder to endure. Lying next to the Selhaunt Sea, Shivershore lives up to its name.
The Cornerstone – An island created by the Ur. A twisted, magical place where nothing ages. The site of the bottomless pit built by the Ur to ensure the doom of mankind.
The Nether Chamber – A dungeon far below Romaldar’s capital city, Archaeus. Thought to be a breeding cavern for the spirits of the Ur.
The Undergrave – A network of caverns below Thillria. The caves run too deep to be man-made, and yet…
Thillria – Weakest of the world’s nations, Thillria’s sometimes brutal climate and lack of resources render it uninvolved in the affairs of more powerful lands.
Triaxe – Mountainous home of the sturdy Triaxe knights. Southernmost vassal of Graehelm. Triaxe is also home to Erewain, largest mountain in the known world, and the legendary site of mankind’s final battle against the Ur.
Verod – A crumbling castle in westernmost Mormist, Verod was once home to a huge Graehelm garrison, but no longer.
Yrul – A great valley surrounded by sharp, jagged peaks, Yrul is home to a proud, strong people who are hated by most civilized lands.
EVENTS OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE:
Archithropian War – The two thousand year-long war between rival nations, ended only after millions of deaths, countless cities turned to ash, and entire swaths of landscape brought low.
Destruction of Davin Kal – The precursor to Graehelm’s invasion. Emperor Chakran ordered the death of the Davin Kal as training for his protege, Dacin of Dageni.
The Rebuilding of the Five – Legend tells that during the Archithropian war, the lords of the east, having failed to subdue Niviliath after a thousand years, chose to unearth and remake five artifacts of the Ur and use them to destroy their enemy. In truth, only one was remade. The others were simply found…and used.
The End of Tyberia – Little is known about the supposed realm that once stretched from Elrain to Thillria. Scholars say it was a powerful kingdom fractured and divided by Graehelm lords of old. This claim alone is enough for Emperor Chakran to propel Furyon into war against the Grae.
ARTIFACTS AND RELICS:
The Ur Blade – Though never called by its true name in the books, the Ur Blade was fashioned to be the destroyer of all other swords. When used in battle, the Ur Blade can summon Ur fire and draw upon its wielder’s passion in such a way as to make them nearly invincible.
The Eye – Some believe The Eye was one of the five artifacts left behind by the Ur. This is untrue. The Eye was fashioned by men, and is merely inhabited by the Ur.
The Greyblade – Fashioned from a fallen meteorite by a master Romaldarian weaponsmith, the Greyblade is given to a powerful knight during his search for Grimwain.
The Moonblades – Grimwain’s twin swords. Pale as milk. Almost translucent. Utterly unbreakable.
The Needle – Several Needles have been found since the fall of the Ur, each with a different power. One in particular, the largest and most deadly, is unearthed by a Romaldarian knight in a graveyard under the moonlight.
The Orb – Rebuilt twice since the fall of the Ur, the Orb of Souls was the prime weapon of Archithrope and of Malog. The giant black sphere, lined with pale tines at its base, feeds upon death in order to enslave the living and ultimately ensure the Ur will be resurrected.
The Pages Black – A book of ten pages, each containing a different and increasingly more horrific power. The Ur despise the Pages, for the powers therein belong to them, and yet they adore whenever a mortal uses one of the spells.
The Tower – A common misconception is that Malog is also the Tower. Untrue. The Tower lies in Thillria, existing as a conduit for the Ur to influence mankind, among other things.
Wkhzl’s Dagger – A knife given freely away by the shopkeeper Wkhzl. It’s not meant to harm the living, but has a different purpose entirely.
Copyright 2014 – All rights reserved
J Edward Neill
Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy
What follows is a free excerpt from Nether Kingdom – Book III in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy.
Nether Kingdom is by far my darkest work yet. In writing it, I plummeted into my mind’s lowest caverns, wandering paths I never knew existed.
The full version of Nether Kingdom will arrive in time for Christmas 2014, just in time to darken the holiday season.
I hope you enjoy this excerpt.
Servants of the Sleeper
An hour before dusk, they came to Mooreye.
As the sunlight drew back from the crumbling towers and broken streets, the two stalked the grounds as though they were the city’s new masters, free to despoil the kingdom of the dead. They moved like smoke, soundless as spirits, drifting through alleys and hollowed homes. The shadows of a thousand burned-out buildings lay heavy on their backs, and save for the plaintive caws of the quarreling crows, all was quiet in their wake. Mooreye lay dead, a tomb for the fallen, a stark reminder of what the Furyons had done.
Just before nightfall, the pair began their work. Their stage was Mooreye’s grand courtyard, in whose center a pale tower speared from the weeds, and whose sides were fenced with iron spikes taller than any man. The first of the graverobbers, a bulbous beast of a man named Unctulu, licked his lips and wormed into the loam, his fingers like hungry larvae searching for their next meal. Nearby, Thresher drove his rusted spade into the dirt, sloughing aside huge gobs of soil. Their work was rapid and inelegant, for none were near to question it. No one had been to Mooreye since the Furyons destroyed it, and none were likely to come after the robbers’ work was finished.
No man, no matter his origin, could claim such hideousness as Unctulu. As he knelt in the twisted grass and speared his maggoty fingers into the earth, his sparsely-toothed grin split his face like a festering scar across a pale, misshapen melon. Worse was his cadaverous skin, quivering over his bones, flapping beneath his half-rotted raiment of leather and rags. His only possessions were his bag, stuffed with all manner of moldering food, and his belt lined with some twenty cork-sealed vials, clinking constantly as he dug. Unctulu was heedless of the sweat rolling from his hairless, malformed head, and unaware of the gurgling, toad-like sounds oozing from his throat. Had anyone asked him, he would have told them he relished his disgustingness, that it was ‘not ‘Tulu’s job to be pretty.’
Compared to his companion, Thresher seemed a titan, moving ten times more dirt than Unctulu. He said nothing as he tore great shovelfuls of soil away, and he never tired. Thresher’s face lay hidden behind an eyeless, featureless iron mask, and his body beneath rusted, lobstered mail. How it was Thresher saw the world, and how he exhumed so swiftly, none would dare ask.
“Ah, Thresh, this is too easy, yes?” Unctulu gurgled. “A month more and we’ll be back home, feasting like kings. Well, you might not feast, but I will.”
If Thresher heard, he gave no sign. Wordless, he continued to dig. His armor groaned and shuddered, but he moved as though completely unencumbered, gouging out great chunks of black earth with each stroke.
“Slow, slow.” Unctulu patted a mound of soil. “I can smell it, can’t you? The grave’ll be as shallow as the Sleeper said. Easy work, after so long to get here.”
Five shovelfuls more and Thresher hoisted his spade over his shoulder, laying it to rest beside the steel greatsword on his back.
“Good, good.” Unctulu lapped up a strand of escaping saliva. “Yes, yes, this is the spot. Pale bones, we’ve found. Right where Master said.”
The evening sky dimmed to a deep, somber gray. Burbling, Unctulu rummaged through his bag and produced a spherical lamp. “Yes, Thresh. Much better.” He stoked the lamp until it glowed like a tiny moon. “My eyes…not like yours. Need a little light for digging.”
In the lamp’s pallid light, Unctulu clawed a last few fistfuls of dirt away from the hole Thresher had dug. “Look, look.” He shivered with satisfaction.
“This is the one.”
Half-covered in rotted clothes and decomposed beyond recognition, the corpse beneath Unctulu’s fingers was laid out in awkward fashion. “Buried right where he died.” Unctulu’s smile broadened. He dug the dirt out from between each rib, each spinal disc, each brittle bone from collar to knee. Smacking his lips, he removed a vial from his belt and poured its contents along the length of a protruding hip. The foul liquid fumed and sizzled, melting the rest of the dirt away. “Now, now,” he cackled. “Looksey, looksey, Thresh. What have we here?”
Greedily, he ran his fingers along a leather belt looped around the corpse’s hip. Two empty scabbards were affixed to the belt, one to each side. Unctulu tugged the belt and scabbards loose, afterward dousing each with a second phial of black liquor.
“See, see…” He slid one finger across the faint symbols etched on the scabbards’ steel caps. “The Raven. The crossed swords.
“The marks of the Pale Knight.”
The scabbard and belt were no ordinary items. The courtyard was no ordinary plot of land. The dry, dead grass and all the streets of Mooreye had been the site of a great and bloody battle. “Every grave, every cairn.” Unctulu grinned hideously, “Grae or Fury, dead and gone. But not this one. Of all the corpses here, this one’s different. Thillrian, he is. The worst of them, right where he should be.”
Unctulu rose. Beside Thresher, hulking and silent, the bloated man stood a full head and half shorter. “Now is the time, Thresh.” He looked up. “Give me the item.”
Thresher reached for the plate covering his left shin, finding a narrow seam betwixt the joining of two greaves. With fingers locked in a coal-colored gauntlet, he withdrew the object hidden therein. The night trembled, the breeze stopped blowing, and the last of the day’s light faded away.
The object was to blame.
It was a gnarled, needlelike tine, thick as a man’s thumb at its widest and sharper than any dagger at its point. Long as a thighbone, it looked fashioned of polished obsidian, but in truth its make was unknowable. When Thresher held it high, it made the shadows move, stirring the darkness like stew inside a cauldron.
Unctulu looked longingly at the tine, his throat welling like a toad’s. “It’s time, Thresh. Remember what we’re here to do. Now and only now, you’re to let me have it. If I don’t give it back, you’re to butcher me, but otherwise I’m to use it.
“Just. This. Once.”
Thresher released the tine. Unctulu grasped it from its thicker, duller end and waved it from side to side as if to carve a lesion in the night. When Thresher reached for his sword, Unctulu grimaced. “Oh, all right. Well and well. Good and good. I’ll play nice.”
Thresher left his sword in its scabbard. Sniffing the air and swiping the saliva from his chin, Unctulu hunched over the exhumed cadaver. “If you’d eyes, Thresh, I’d tell you to close them. This’ll not be pretty.”
Unceremoniously, he stabbed the tine into the soil, wounding the dirt next to the corpse’s ribs. The tine punctured soil and loose stone as though they were water, sinking down to half its length. Gurgling, Unctulu left it in place, sharp end pointed to the heart of the earth, the other aimed straight at the star-pricked sky.
“A long way we marched,” he drooled. “And all for one man. How many nights have we blackened the road, Thresh? How many times did the Grae almost catch us? I’d sooner raise up the whole city than this one cruel carcass. But it’s as the Master wishes, and so we’ll do as we’re told.
“We’ll bring him back.”
The tine lay half-buried in the loam. Mist arose from the punctured earth, the grey vapors swallowing the open grave and slinking across the bones like a tongue. Unctulu’s lantern light played across the mist. It gleamed white at first, then blue, then lavender. Unctulu held his breath as the vapors thickened, the mist winding in ever tighter circles around each bone, adhering to the marrow like mortar.
“Look, Thresh. It’s working.”
A tremor rattled the courtyard. The grasses near the grave withered and turned to ash. Where once the cadaver’s brittle bones had lain bare to the night, fresh tendons reknit themselves, and muscles, raw and red, took shape. Layer upon layer, pale flesh stitched itself atop a template of veins and sinew. Organs pumped to life, and a new heart spasmed, thumping a black rhythm in a body eight years dead.
Faster than Unctulu could swallow ten breaths, the body became whole. The deep shadows lessened, and the night’s natural sounds resumed. Unbroken, the tine expelled itself from the dirt and rolled to a stop at Unctulu’s feet.
“Disgusting, wasn’t it? It’s different watching it happen to someone else.” Unctulu snatched up the tine. “Ah…well…I suppose you’ll want this back.”
Thresher snared the black tine and slid it back into his greaves.
The body stirred.
The man in the grave seized a sharp breath and exhaled.
“Look at him.” Unctulu gave a three-toothed grin. “Not jealous, are you Thresh? Seems eight years in the dirt leaves a man in better shape than eight hundred. Worry not. You’re still prettier.”
Thresher tilted his head. Behind his iron mask, thoughts unknowable roiled.
“You want to know?” Unctulu asked.
Thresher remained still.
“Of course you do,” said Unctulu. “This’ll be the last of the ones Master raises, leastways for now. No one wanted him during his first life, and no one but Master wants him now. Look at him, whiter than his bones, waking up from his nightmare. Well…if his dreams were rotten, he deserved it. More than any other, I’d say. More even than me.”
Thresher tilted his head again.
“That’s right, Thresh. Don’t you know who this is? This be Archmyr Degiliac, mass murderer, ruin of the Furies, butcher and raper and slaver. The Pale Knight, they called him.
“And they’ll call him worse yet.”
Copyright 2014 – J Edward Neill – All rights reserved
Let’s face it. I’m likely the worst artist on Tessera. If you want beautiful, colorful, deep art, check here.
A few months back, I shared a few sketches I drew ages ago during the inception of Down the Dark Path. Each sketch depicted a fragment of the story as I’d originally dreamed it. My pattern was: I dreamed it, I drew it, and years later, I wrote epic fantasy novels about it. It sounds simple. It wasn’t.
Recently, I dug up about forty additional sketches. Most (read…all) I sketched during my early twenties. They’re simple, sometimes juvenile, and somewhat faded by years spent moldering in an ancient paper envelope. Even so, to this day they reflect my early conceptual visions of the Tyrants of the Dead series. If I were a true artist, I’d spend my time painting reimagined masterpieces for each one.
But I’m not.
So you get sketches…
We begin with a tower deep in Grandwood. It’s ten stories high, surrounded by oak trees, and hides a wizard’s laboratory in its walls. I named this tower Gryphon. About ten years after this sketch, I wandered back to it. I decided Gryphon needed to be an entire city, not one lonely tower in the woods. And so Gryphon, home of Rellen, was reborn.
This was my original concept sketch for Rellen Gryphon, one of the heroes of Down the Dark Path and Dark Moon Daughter. Rellen later lost his halberd, became younger and blonder, and sat atop a horse instead of a bizarre, long-snouted mutant mule, but his pose…reining up to watch the Furyon horde draw near…still belongs to him.
Long ago, I only had the vaguest notion of what the bad guys in the Tyrants series looked like, but this is how they began. I’m not spoiling anything, because the modern-day Ur look very little like this trio. And yet, somehow…I still remember the night I dreamed them. White eyes… Pale as death… Whispering black thoughts into fragile minds…
Nothing fancy about this dude. Every other sketch I created in the beginning just happened to be of a ghost, a ghoul, or a skeletal horror. I suppose this guy could be the murderous spirit who shows up in the swamps of Furyon. You’ll just have to read it and decide for yourself.
It’s no secret. Women are usually more pleasant to draw and dream of than zombies, ghosts, and stone towers. These two ladies were characters who lost their spots in Down the Dark Path during the great 200k-word ‘let’s make this novel more serious’ culling. Even so, I remember them, though these drawings do them no justice.
Now we’re getting somewhere. This is my first sketch of the Soul Orb. (The final version graces Down the Dark Path’s cover.) Notice the ghoulish faces at the Orb’s base and the demonic eyes gazing out of its center. This is among my favorite sketches.
My original concept for Dark Moon Daughter’s antagonist, the Warlock. He later lost the horns and the jewelry, but kept the hood. Because…you know…every diabolical wizard needs a sinister cloak to hide behind.
And lastly, a bit of adolescent fun. The original Andelusia was sassy, sneaky, and completely willing to use her beauty to snare men’s adoration. Here she seems to be saying, “What are you looking at?” And yes, she’d have used that knife. You probably had it coming.
That’s pretty much all the sketches I have related to the big fantasy trilogy. Maybe someday, after I write my fiftieth novel and the ideas cease to flow, I’ll get some art lessons.
I could definitely use ’em.
J Edward Neill
Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy
Oops! A week without skulls! What has the world come to?!
This week, let’s dip back into freebie-ville. It’s simple. You blow up the comments section with a funny caption of my favorite animal in the entire world (her name’s Sticky Buns). Whoever makes me laugh the most wins a free, signed, softcover copy of Dark Moon Daughter, which releases in about two weeks. It’s pretty easy to make me laugh. So if more than one of you bust my gut, I’ll consider multiple free copies.
Contest ends on Midnight -Friday, April 4th.
Quite by accident, this week’s blog…
If not for a cup of chance, I’d have drowned Tessera in an entirely different ocean of bones. But an old friend stumbled upon a twenty year-old folder I thought I’d lost ages ago, and I found myself unable to resist writing about it. Not that twenty years is all that long, but to me, still a wee lad, two decades feels like an eon.
I haven’t always been a writer. Well…maybe a little, but not in the way I am today. Long ago, in the primeval soup of early creative-dom, I fancied myself an artist of a different kind. Not with quill, ink, and keyboard, but with markers, pencils, sketch books, and posterboards. I airbrushed T-shirts, made huge Slayer banners (signed by the band!) and silkscreened dark, crazy images onto every bit of cloth I could find. Those were different days. My stories lived on the tips of my fingers, not in the cavernous void inside my skull.
And then one day I started sketching.
I can’t remember the exact moment. It must’ve been cold outside, or rainy, or both. My mind wandered realms both dark and mysterious during those days. I’d already dreamed up the stories and characters which would later become haunt the pages of Down the Dark Path, but I’d gone no further. Lacking the skill or the means to write an epic fantasy, I likely locked myself in my room, climbed on my captain’s bed, and started drawing the images that’d been locked away in my mind’s dungeon. I wasn’t particularly good at it. I hadn’t attended but a few art classes, and while the teachers had taught class I’d never done anything but daydream. I was a novice, an oaf, a blunderbuss of smudgy pencil rubs and cheap not-meant-for-real-art pens. Even so…
So without further ado, I humbly offer my earliest fantasy scribblings. These are the images I first dreamt of when mortaring the bricks of my first epic novel in my mind. I beg only that you forgive their simplicity, and perhaps appreciate the strange glory of passion without talent:
– My first try at a Graehelm knight. In retrospect, he needs a saddle, but what did I know? Ignore the tree and tower in the background. They were part of a different sketch crowded on the same page.
– Look at this ghoulish guy. He’s one of my favorites. He never actually appears in any of my novels, but I like to think he could. He’s reaching out for you. He doesn’t want you dead. He wants you to join him.
– Another dead dude. A precursor to the Furyon warlords. I always liked the head of his spiked flail. Imagine getting whacked by that thing…
– Ok, so maybe one spiked flail head wasn’t enough. Here I sketched two. And if you couldn’t already tell, I really liked (ok, still like) imagery of undead warriors. This hasty little sketch is cartoony and anatomically goofy, but I still thought it belonged. Maybe he’s an undead guardian of the Furyon fortress of Malog. Or maybe he’s a Sarcophage, whom we don’t meet until Book II…
– I drew this guy with but one villain in mind. Here lies Grimwain, the Sleeper, the mover of all the world’s pieces on the chessboard of doom. His hood should be deeper, but I feel I nailed his beard, his collar, and his white, starry, and soulless gaze. He doesn’t appear until Book II.
– In the beginning, the heroine Andelusia Anderae inhabited a role far less ‘benevolent’ than who she eventually became. She was harder, grittier, more roguish and fantasy trope-like . This was my first conceptual sketch of her. Clumsy? Yes. Are her boobs too big? Probably. But something in my teenage mind saw a rare emotion in her eyes, and thus was born the Dark Moon Daughter.
Thank you for indulging me. I’ve a ton more sketches, some of which I might hurl up on Tessera should even a mild clamor arise. It’s strange to think that once, so many years ago, I wanted to be a painter, a sculpter, and a fantasy artist god. Thank goodness I kept my day job, right?
Until next time,
Once upon a time, I contended for the title of the world’s biggest movie buff.
Every week between 1990 and 2008, I’d scan the roster of movies coming out that Friday (or Thursday night, if I felt like wrecking my sleep patterns). Typically between 5-8 new movies would pop up on my radar. Honestly, I wanted to see almost all of them. I’d set aside a large portion of my paycheck to see the ones that excited me first, but early in the next week I’d shell out more cash to see the ones I felt only ‘meh’ about. The quality of the movies became less important than the quantity. I found things to like about ALL of them, no matter how terrible, boring, or absurd.
After I cleaned out the theaters of anything even remotely watchable, I’d rent VHS tapes (remember those?) and later DVDs from Blockbuster. I went back and watched movies I’d already seen a hundred times (I’m looking at you, Terminator, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Braveheart). I’d rent foreign films whose characters’ names I couldn’t pronounce and whose titles have largely leaked out of my mind, but whose subtle lessons stuck like super glue. I’d watch and watch and watch. I’d go to work and quote, quote, quote. I’d try to help all my friends by telling them which movies were awesome and which ones sucked and which ones, “…just aren’t for you, Russell.”
At some point in 2009, I fell off the wagon. Real life began to shove my movie obsession aside, and the urge to write novels late into each night defeated my lust to consume endless film. I went from ‘…watches 4-7 flicks per week’ to my current state of ‘…has only been to the theater twice in three years’ and ‘…hasn’t sat on the couch and watched a good movie in eons.’
To this day, some of those movies, however random, stick with me. Some have influenced my tastes, others contain quotes I can’t let go of, and still others I’ve absorbed parts of for use in daily life. Yes, I know that’s weird. Eating movies and find them nutritious. Copying fictional characters’ behaviors. What the f@#$(? .
So here are some of the ones that really stuck. Go ahead and laugh, roll your eyes, and maybe reminisce a little bit. But mostly, enjoy:
- I try to wear shades resembling the Terminator’s. Yes, really. And no, I don’t (…look like the Terminator. Sadly…)
- Whenever it rains, I quote Braveheart’s, “Oh it’s fine Scottish weather, madam. The rain’s falling straight down. Well, slightly to the side-like.”
- I keep three naked female vampires in my castle’s basement, a la Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and I feed them babies (ok, that’s not actually true)
Speaking of movies, I hear this will one day make for a great one.