Another Visit to Nantes, France

I’ve been holding onto this photo for a while, wondering what sort of post to put together. It dates back to December of last year, and the class of high school students in Nantes, France who read the first two chapters of Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud and then wrote what they thought would come next. While I enjoyed all of their efforts, I allowed readers to vote for their favorites. You can check out the whole project here. The whole class received some stuff relating to my book, and the groups chosen as winners received paperback copies of my book.

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Right now Amazon is selling the paperback copy of Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud for $3.66, and I just found out the sequel, The Squire and the Slave Master, should be available in paperback in September (the eBook is available now), so I thought this a good time to share this class photo and re-post the winning stories.

Group 3 Chapter Three

The Forest of Doom

“Cedric, I have never been this far.” Owen said. “Have you already travelled to the Land of Fire?”

Cedric grinned “Haven’t any of your books recounted the story of the wizards?” Cedric asked.

“No, you of all wizards should know these stories have been forbidden since the Wizard Rebellion.”

“Indeed Owen, they have been banned. We are bred within the Land of Fire. Wizards have always been linked to dragons and witchcraft. But each of you forgets, wizards are the descendants of fire”

Owen then remembered himself at a younger age, trying to understand the origin of wizards by entering Old Master Dennison’s chamber. One day he had managed to get inside and the sight before him was beyond imagination. He had seen shelves of ancient writings dating back to the Age of Light! At that moment Master Dennison had rushed in and pulled him out of that room. From that day on the room had always been locked…

“Owen, I am returning to my ancestral land” Cedric said.

As they were silently moving forward, they suddenly heard something rustle in the branches. Was it an animal or a human being?

“Owen! Ride as quickly as you can! Someone has been following us!” shouted Cedric. He rode as quickly as he could, not daring to look behind. He knew Cedric was right behind him but he saw none of their foes.

Owen had never fully trusted Cedric. His mother had been killed by non-traditional magic. And the king’s bastard would never forget such a thing.

“Owen! We can stop now,” called Cedric.

Owen awaited the arrival of the wizard to ask him: “What was that?”

“Dark Magic, Owen” answered Cedric with no further explanation.

“But what was it, an animal?”

“I do not know. But trust me, running was the only solution. Dark Magic is very dangerous. However this means we are followed.” Who could possibly be following them? Nobody knew they had left the castle. Except… maybe…

“Riders approaching!” shouted Cedric.

Strangely enough they seemed to be soldiers from Wittentun. As they approached, Owen recognized them.

“Friends, how come you are so far from the castle?” inquired the young prince.

“Queen Andrea sent us. We have come to help you. Since your departure things have changed. There have been more and more occurrences of witchcraft within the realm.” answered Ansfrid, one of the most fierce and truthful soldiers to be found in Wittentun.

The bastard started asking himself questions. Could he really trust Queen Andrea? What was she doing during his absence? He did not like the feeling of his father being left alone with her.

“Ansfrid, you may escort us to the Land of Fire but no further. Send the two other riders back to Wittentun, and make sure they inform us of our Queen’s next actions.” ordered Cedric.

“I do not trust my mother-in-law,” Owen whispered to him.

“A good thing” he answered.

“Tomorrow, we shall reach the Forest of Doom, it will be the first step of our adventure,” Cedric announced.

“Good, the faster we get out of that place, the better” Ansfrid pointed out. “The forest of Doom is the legendary culprit of darkness. It is said dark forces and evil wizards live there, awaiting doomsday.”

The small group settled in the forest as the moon appeared even brighter in the sky. During the night Ansfrid woke Owen and Cedric.

“There was something over there, it was coming our way!”

“Cedric, look out!” hollered Ansfrid.

A black arrow missed Cedric’s throat “Everyone under cover!” shouted the soldier. Once again they had not seen the person behind this treachery. The sun was rising, peeking faintly through the trees, so the three companions decided to set out.

They finally arrived at the forest of Doom. Here the forest was so dense they could not see any ray of sunlight. It was the most ominous place Owen had seen until now, and this was not his normal life being a bastard prince.

After a few seconds of hesitation our three saviors entered the Forest of Doom. The first thing they saw was a sign. It said “Beware!!” with blood and the placard was mounted on a dead person’s body. Cedric took no notice of it, however, the others looked at each other in a strange manner.

“Come on you scaredy-cats. This is nothing compared to what you are going to see in the Land of Fire.” sniggered Cedric…

And of course he was right. The quartet had a perilous journey ahead of them. Owen, Ansfrid and the soldier followed Cedric and passed the hanged man disgustedly. Even though it was the morning and the sun was shining, they lit up torches. The canopy eclipsed the daylight completely and the obscure woods showed no sign of friendly life.

“Are you sure passing through this forest is the only way?” questioned Owen with an unsteady voice. He was of a brave kind but this place seemed so hostile that he was becoming more afraid as they were carrying on.

“Stop casting doubts on my decisions. There is no better way of reaching the Land of Fire fast. We may encounter some undesired and aggressive creatures but do not worry, we will survive.” answered Cedric in a calm and confident voice. Owen looked at him with shocked eyes but tried not to show his fear; the thought of dying had never been so realistic.

They walked for hours and hours without stopping and luckily did not meet any attacking creatures or evil wizards. In fact, they had not seen any living being since they had entered the forest. At the end of what seemed a day they decided to stop and sleep for a few hours.

“Getting rest is very important. If we are tired and stop at irregular times we will lose track of the days. The wizards who live in this forest use dark magic to confuse the rare people who enter it. Legends say that some travelers get so lost and mentally disoriented because of dark magic that they never get out and haunt the place forever.” warned Cedric.

Now Owen was in a constant state of anxiety which exhausted him even more. He fell asleep in no time knowing that Cedric was staying up as watchman. But the three men had walked a very long distance and Cedric’s level of attention was unusually low.

The area was plunged into the dark except for the petty fire they had lit. The red flames projected worrying shadows on the surrounding trees. The air and the very flat ground were humid and cold. Cedric estimated the sky to be now dark and the moonlight lighting the landscape, but he could not be sure because of the trees concealing the firmament. He had done his job well, Owen and Ansfrid were fast asleep and it would be harder for dark magic to affect them. He knew well enough that this was the time wizards or creatures came out and looked for easy victims.

At first he heard nothing. A complete silence fell on the gigantic forest. Anybody would become crazy with such a deep and unsettling stillness and absence of sound. But Cedric had already experienced it and knew it would not stay this way for very long. Strangely it did. For too long… The quietness was paralyzing, Cedric had never seen such an unusual blackout in the Forest of Doom and it kept him from moving. His heart started beating faster and his breath was the only thing he could hear. His fellow travelers were still sleeping but he could not even detect their breathing. Suddenly the very few remaining flames of the fire disappeared in a split second. Cedric shivered it was now very cold and the night was pitchblack. A thought came across his mind. Maybe they were lucky and had stopped in an area where there was no dark magic to be found. Maybe it was just a very cold night and wizards and creatures did not come out of their hideouts. With this cheering reasoning, Cedric decided to close his eyes for a few minutes. He was drained and would not be able to stay up until Ansfrid’s watch turn. The silence was still complete and about half an hour went by before Cedric opened his eyes again. His heart stopped for a couple of seconds. All around their campsite about a hundred grey spectres floated in mid-air. They were terrifying. They were all different but had the same empty look, there were no eyes in their sockets just black holes. Cedric then understood they were the lost travelers he had mentioned earlier. It was not a legend! He knew they would not waste their time on him, he knew how to protect himself. But they were going to try to take control of the three other men when they woke up. A single look in their eye sockets and they would start to be confused and lose their memory. Cedric had to find a way to warn his sleeping companions without them looking first at the phantoms. If he moved or tried to protect them, the ghosts would come closer towards them and attack the three other men straight away. But something else saved them from the threatening ghosts…

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a blast blew up all the shades. At first Cedric did not know what it was but then he remembered: it was a dark magic spell. So the person behind the spell was not actually trying to save them but to attack them without being interrupted by the specters. Owen and Ansfrid woke up with a start. Cedric said they were in danger so without further thought the four men jumped on their horses and fled without even looking behind them.

However, they had forgotten dark magic always attracts ancient creatures…

When they finally stopped, Owen instantly asked: “Cedric, what happened?”

After a few moments, he answered: “Dark magic, Owen, dark magic… A wizard was going to assault us with obscure enchantments…” he answered as if in a trance.

As he finished his sentence, a very strange creature of some kind appeared between the trees. Under his breath Cedric whispered “Oh my God, it cannot be! It is the legendary Cacus!”

Cacus was supposed to have been killed during the battle of the Eagles. The legendary creature standing before them was a fire-breathing giant and the only way to kill it would be to shoot directly at its neck, where its heart was supposed to be. “Damn, I completely forgot. Legendary creatures are attracted by dark magic.” Whispered Cedric.

Cacus ran straight at them with his gigantic hammer. Owen tried to break the creature’s weapon with all his strength. Cacus saw him coming and swung its hammer at Owen’s head. The prince fell to the ground, his armour scattered to pieces. Ansfrid with all his courage, charged the giant but had to draw back because of the fire which blazed out of its nostrils. Cacus was going to unleash its final blow, when suddenly a black arrow the size of a spear appeared from nowhere, piercing the creature’s nape. The legendary beast fell abruptly to the ground. “Owen, are you alright?” shouted both of his companions.

“Yes, I am” he said “Thanks to her!” Owen was pointing in the direction of Yara who was running towards him to help him up.

“What are you doing here?!” asked the young man in surprise.

Group 15 Chapter Three

After one straight day of walking, Yara, Owen and Cedric found an inn in Goblinshire, where they could sleep, eat and have a drink. After drinking a little too much, Cedric, Yara and Owen had become the best friends in the world.

“I don’t know how I could sleep with the awful smell”, said Cedric unconsciously.

“Yes, I won’t feel safe knowing that those thieves are hanging around”, Owen replied.

A few goblins at a neighboring table were looking at the three friends in an offensive way.

Cedric decided it was the best thing to do to insult Indicus, brother of Sativarius, King of goblins. After one minute, the tavern was a real wrestling ring. The strength of Owen, the intelligence of Yara and the magic of Cedric, allowed them to win the battle in no time. But only one goblin escaped: Jack Horror. He told king Sativarius, who decided to form a small army of thousands of the best creatures of Goblinshire. Aware of nothing, the three friends continued their route to the great wizard through the arid desert of Kussland. But the journey was long and the weather was hot and it was now at three days of walking when they arrived at the magical city of Frisianton. They were running short on provisions and the goblins were close to arriving in the town. That was when things started to be bad.

“Oh!” Cedric said.

“What is the problem?” replied Owen

“Goblings are heading to Frisianton from the east and will be there in a few days, we have to move faster. What’s the problem with a few goblins when we have beaten a hundred!” said Yara, joking. And what if there are thousands of trolls, ogres, orcs, goblins and a Sonarian dragon?”

In a second, their material was packed and the friends moved to Frisianton as fast as possible to form their own army and fight fiercely the vicious goblins. After walking for two and a half days they finally arrived at a billboard indicating that they were close to the city, creating a release for the three young adventurers, but it was nothing compared to what they were about to discover…

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Truth or Lie with Crystal Collier Concludes

If you checked out my Truth or Lie post with Crystal Collier last week, where I told two truths and a lie, now you can learn which story was a lie. The stories went like this:

1. I know some guys in a local St. Louis band called Earl. Back stage at one of their shows at the Pageant, they asked me to go out after the break and play bass, which I did.
2. I’ve met Rob Zombie. In a strange sort of creepy, quazi-ironic way, I met him on Easter Sunday.
3. I have a tendency to win front row seats to concerts. I’ve seen Billy Joel, Elton John, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers all from the front row.

Check out Crystal’s blog post this week to learn which is the lie. And congratulations to Susan Swiderski for guessing correctly. She wins a paperback copy of Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud and an eBook copy of The Squire and the Slave Master. While you’re there, you can check out Crystal’s Top 10 List of books in 2015.

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Today I Tell a Lie with Crystal Collier

As the title says, today I’m on Crystal Collier’s website telling a lie. I also tell two truths, so as the song goes, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” right? And speaking of songs, my two truths and a lie are all music related. Your job is to decide which of the three is the lie, and leave your guess in the comments section. Of the people who guess correctly, a drawing will be held for a paperback copy of Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud  AND an eBook copy of The Squire and the Slave Master. (US and Canada only for the paperback. If someone from another country wins, the eBook will be substituted.) So get to guessing, the contest closes at 1:00 EST on January 12.

 

Exciting Book News to Start the Holiday Season!

Two new books are available in time for the holidays. Well, one new book and a new version of an older book.

Unveiling the Wizards Shroud is now available in paperback.

Literary Classics International Book Awards - Young Adult Award Winning Book

As the only son to King Kendrick, Owen despises the idea of being king one day. Magician may be the only career he’d like less. He has dreaded the days leading up to his fifteenth birthday, when his father will certainly declare Owen heir to the throne. But at the birthday celebration, his father falls ill. The only person in the kingdom that may be able to save him is a magician-the very same magician Owen holds responsible for the death of his mother.

Owen and his companions will have to travel the continent of Wittatun in search of the cure for King Kendrick. On the journey, they will battle strange beasts and harsh climates, befriend extraordinary magicians, and meet a dragon before returning to Innes Castle-where much has happened in the days since they departed.

 

Paperback available for $9.95 from:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble

eBook available for $5.50 from most retailers; on sale for $2.75 (USD) from Amazon and Muse It Up Publishing:

Muse It Up Publishing

Amazon:

USUK; CA; FRAU; BR

Barnes & Nobel
Smashwords
OmniLit
Apple iTunes

Coming November 26, The Squire and the Slave Master: Saga of the Wizards: Book Two. It’s currently available for pre-order at the special price of $2.99 (regular $4.99) from select vendors with more to come. Currently an eBook only.

The Squire and the Slave Master 333x500The award winning Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud (CLC’s Best First Novel 2014) chronicled Yara, Owen, and Cedric’s quest to revive King Kendrick from a dark, magical spell. After the adventure to save King Kendrick, Yara’s everyday life has grown monotonous. The dull work of learning her father’s blacksmithing trade and the pressure from her parents to decide what she plans on doing with her life has her nerves too stressed.

Lucky for her, a surprise messenger from the castle brings the king’s request. She’s to join a collaborative mission between the Central and Western Domains of Wittatun to stop a recently discovered slave operation in a land to the west.

It’s imperative she keep secret not only her magical abilities from any possible traitors, but also her gender. The people of the Western Domain have a superstition prohibiting girls from sailing. But a chill wind carries the distinct odor of sabotage. Can one girl survive to destroy an evil rooted much deeper than mere slavery?

Pre-order from:

Amazon
Muse It Up Publishing

 

The Squire and the Slave Master–Cover Reveal!

Two of the most exciting days for an author are the day you get your cover and Release Day. Well, the first has finally come for The Squire and the Slave Master. Not only am I going to reveal the cover for the first time, but I’m also going to share an except. I originally shared this excerpt as a short story titled The Message on Lightning Quick Reads in July which had a theme of Freedom.

Before I get to the fun stuff, I have a little business/self-promotion to get out of the way. Muse It Up Publishing, the publisher for Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud and The Squire and the Slave Master, is celebrating its 5 year anniversary. From now until October 4 you can enter the coupon code 5YEARS2015  in your cart and get 50% off your total order. So take some time to browse around. While you’re there, you may notice Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud is already on 50% sale for $2.75. So with this coupon code you can have it for less than $1.40. If you haven’t read it yet, now is the perfect time before The Squire and the Slave Master’s Release Day.

Okay, I’ve put it off long enough. Here’s the cover. Just like the first book, C.K. Volnek also designed this one.

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Blurb

The award winning Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud (CLC’s Best First Novel 2014) chronicled Yara, Owen, and Cedric’s quest to revive King Kendrick from a dark, magical spell. After the adventure to save King Kendrick, for Yara, everyday life has grown monotonous. The dull work of learning her father’s blacksmithing trade, and the pressure from her parents to decide what she plans on doing with her life, has her nerves so stressed she snaps at her father’s slightest teasing.

Lucky for her, a surprise messenger from the castle brings the king’s request for her to join a collaborative mission between the Central and Western Domains of Wittatun to stop a recently discovered slave operation in a land to the west. King Kendrick and Owen want her to accompany the mission as a secret weapon disguised as a squire.

She has to keep secret not only her magical abilities from any possible traitors, but also her gender. The people of the Western Domain have a superstition prohibiting girls from sailing. But a chill wind carries the distinct odor of sabotage. Can one girl survive to destroy an evil rooted much deeper than mere slavery?

And now the excerpt:

“Sir, the third ship has arrived.”

Casimir didn’t turn from the window. “Yes, Bronislaw, I’ve seen it. Prepare your men for battle. Hold a few back as guards. If any of the slaves turn against us, execute them.”

The sound of Bronislaw’s footsteps faded as he exited the chamber.

A bird flew past the upper chamber and caught Casimir’s attention. I thought I killed all the birds. Oh well, I’ll get rid of this one too.

He raised his staff but lowered it when the bird redirected for the temple. A scroll of parchment dangled from its ankle. The bird landed on the altar in the center of the room. Casimir approached it with caution. It held up a leg, and he removed and unrolled the scroll. The letter didn’t have a signature, but it didn’t need one. He recognized the handwriting from years of correspondence.

I’m free. I understand what you plan to do, but it must stop. You aren’t powerful enough with magic. The temple will open a portal to the underworld, but you’ll never manage to close it and whose body do you think he’ll take? Someone so powerful won’t survive in a body with no magical experience. He will exhaust it in less than a day. Surrender your plan and join me in the swamp in the Southern Domain. Argnam already built the necessary accommodations there.

The paper flashed into flames on his palm. “You had your chance. I have a plan and a reasonable backup plan, which is more than you’ve ever had.”

The bird pecked at a pair of tiny beetles scurrying along the wall. With the flick of his staff, a green orb of light shot and hit the bird. A singed smell and a few feathers were all that remained.

From the window, he could see troops following the path from the beach to the temple. He watched the ships for the sign. A few flashes of light came in quick succession from the southernmost ship.

“Damn!” He thought back to the note. “It’s all right. I can still do this even though he doesn’t have the magician.” He held his staff high and returned a message in flashing lights. “Change of plans. We have to capture Mansfield. Alive.”

Three lines of slaves faced east in anticipation of the troops coming through the woods. Perfect.

Casimir closed the towering double doors as he exited the chamber. With his staff and a brief incantation, he placed an invisible barrier on the room. He took a piece of stone from a pile of rubble in a corner and tossed it at the door. In a flash, it became dust and smoke. Smiling, he left in search of Bronislaw.

Outside the door of the temple, the slaves waited for the pending battle. Bronislaw had taken a spot on high ground where he could overlook the battle soon to unfurl.

Casimir strolled up to him. “We have a new arrangement. They lost the magician. I need Mansfield alive. If you find him, bring him to me.”

Bronislaw nodded and signaled to his lieutenants.

He returned to the entrance of the temple and watched the battle unfold. The first troops emerged from the forest to an onslaught from the slaves. They had probably expected to hit them with a surprise attack, but the slaves had known. Casimir had known. Casimir always knew.

The second group emerged with their swords and shields at the ready. The slaves matched them well in strength but outlasted them in stamina. Most of the fishermen from Beroe had little or no battle training.

Mansfield’s men had one major disadvantage that greatly outweighed even their lower endurance or their lack of training. Twice Casimir noticed the soldiers relinquish an opportunity to slay their opponents.

They don’t want to kill. They see my slaves as innocent victims.

Another group emerged from the trees. They almost exclusively donned long beards and, barring their sunburns, looked a lot like many of the more recently acquired slaves. Some of the slaves hesitated; others dropped their weapons.

Now we’ll identify my dedicated servants, those who recognize what they have gained by coming here.

Several slaves, most of them having significantly different appearances to the men from Beroe—taller, more muscular, darker skin, some thin with scraggly beards—turned their attention to the traitors. With their weapons lowered, they had no defense. A distant voice shouted, “No!” Heads and limbs splashed into pools of blood as men turned on each other, betraying their former lives for the promises of their master.

We Have A Winner!

Well, I don’t know if we have a winner or not. I’ve never made a post with a poll before. Since I had to schedule this post ahead of time, I don’t know exactly what it will look like. If I made a mistake, and all you can see is the poll with no results, I will have results as soon as I can. You can always click ‘View Results’ at the bottom.


Vote for Your Favorite Student Version of Chapter Three
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Relive the entire experience:

Intro and Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud: Chapter One
Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud: Chapter Two

Student Versions of Chapter Three

Group 1
Group 2
Group 3
Group 4
Group 5
Group 6
Group 7
Group 8
Group 9
Group 10
Group 11
Group 12
Group 13
Group 14
Group 15

Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud: Chapter Three