Laurel A. Rockefeller — Peers of Beinan: The Great Succession Crisis

Great-Succession-Crisis-cover-crisis-moonTitle: Peers of Beinan:  The Great Succession Crisis

Author: Laurel A. Rockefeller

ISBN: 1479144800

Page count: 186

Genre: Science Fiction, Action-adventure, Romance

Price: $7.99

 

Author Bio:

Laurel A. Rockefeller is a talented writer, commercial photographer, amateur educator, and social scientist originally from Lincoln, Nebraska. A gifted soprano and song-writer from childhood, Laurel’s first publications were poems and songs in local newsletters. 1991 changed all that when the American Tolkien Society published her poem “Why Bilbo?” in its prestigious Winter, 1991 edition honoring the 100th birthday of J.R. R. Tolkien.

Laurel’s first prose publications came in 2003 when a central New Jersey newsletter published several of Laurel’s historical research papers. In 2008, Laurel was published twice by Bird Talk magazine. More publications followed – on Helium, Examiner.com, and Yahoo Voices. Today, Yahoo Voices has published over 130 articles by Laurel on everything from politics to religion to movie reviews to historical research to how-to guides and beyond.

Laurel A. Rockefeller is a graduate of the University of Nebraska with a BA in Writing, Psychology, and History.  She currently lives in Johnstown, Pennsylvania with her cockatiel, Mithril.

 

Laurel-headshot-2012-06-16Tell us about your book:

Great Succession Crisis is a science-grounded work of fiction set in another galaxy.  Drawing upon Earth history and anthropology, planet Beinan is a complete world with its own weights, measures, cultures, religions, and constitutional monarchy.

Great succession Crisis is the story of a young princess, Anlei, daughter of Beinan’s sovereign Queen Isabelle who faces a personal and political crisis when the Great Council of Beinan refuses to overturn an ancient law rooted in the clan warfare of their distant past.  This law states that no woman may pass the crown to her daughter, only to a son.

After the Great Council refuses the royal petition to change the law, Anlei finds herself a political pawn in a chess game of competing noble houses with nothing less than her virtue, her life, and the future of planet Beinan at stake in a political thriller that will have you guessing right through the final chapter.

 

How long did it take to write the book?

Underlying research in mathematics, physics, and astronomy were conducted in March, 2011, before writing a single paragraph to the book.  Writing of the first draft took 14 months, after which Great Succession Crisis began its series of revisions lasting from June through about November, 2012 (correcting minor errors post-release).  Editorial persisted beyond August, 2012 in part because key names in the book (such as the planet name, terms for Beinarian days, even key character names) changed about four times during the writing process.

 

What inspired you to write the book?

Great Succession Crisis (and, by extension, the entire Peers of Beinan trilogy) was inspired by some of my favorite science fiction television, motion picture, and book series.  Careful and thoughtful analyses of these favorites revealed to me a list of “dos” and “don’ts” for science fiction series.  For example, the idea for the unique weights and measures comes from original Battlestar Galactica.  Political themes were inspired by Babylon 5, Star Wars, and a non-science fiction influencer:  the West Wing.  J.R.R. Tolkien showed me the wisdom of creating a complete and original world rather than borrowing from the works of others.  And Benji, Zax, and the Alien Prince really inspired this book as a personal, character-driven story about a young princess trying to find her way through difficult circumstances.

As much as I LOVE Star Trek, it taught me not to use Earth-references for non-Earth cultures and planets while also teaching me how to explore current events in a way that invites discussion, not offense.

 

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

Great Succession Crisis (and the entire Peers of Beinan trilogy) is rooted in research.  The writing of this first book began with a lot of hard work researching the latest scientific discoveries and working with an engineer to precisely calculate planetary conditions for Beinan.  This has also involved a lot of time watching PBS’s “Nova” which I think is a highly under-watched source for scientific data.

Once I developed the basics of my world, I let my imagination flow.  Process-wise I free wrote a lot, creating a first draft that ultimately became very different than the final form you see today.  In my first draft, I essentially gave away the ending in chapter one.  In the spring of 2012, about a year after laying down the book, I engaged in some very brutal rewrites, shaping my villain and creating the suspense that I think makes this book more than just a collection of astronomical calculations!  It was also in this time that I re-named key people, places, and terms, even the book title, several times.

Last, I wrote the prologue and epilogue to serve as a bridge between this book and its sequel, “Ghosts of the Past,” which is set three generations later and explores the consequences of the choices made in Great Succession Crisis.  It was only at this point that I realized that I had applied my vast knowledge of history (I’ve been a re-enactor with the Society for Creative Anachronism since 1990) to the book, in particular the stories of Queen Catherine de Valois and Queen Elizabeth I whom I have studied extensively.  Another big area of SCA influence:  the heraldry!

Something I learned in researching and writing this book and book two (in process) is the importance of learning as much as possible about as many different subjects as possible.  As a character-driven author in particular, I have found myself studying more things I previously avoided learning about simply because the story merits it.  For example, you cannot describe a sword fight if you don’t know the vocabulary of fencing.  I have found that the more I learn, the better the story gets!

 

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

That’s a hard one because my purpose, like J.R.R. Tolkien’s, is entertainment first!  But I hope that readers finish book one eager to read book two to see what happens next.  I also hope that readers have a greater appreciation for what it means to be born a female in a royal family, the particular price these women, going back from antiquity through the present, really do have to pay in their lives. I hope we can be kinder in our judgment towards these women.  I also hope that in exploring this subject of gender and politics that maybe, just maybe, our current political system will leap ahead when it comes to social issues that face women and just in the sheer number of women serving in leadership roles across our country.

 

Where can we go to buy your book?

Most major retailers (including the ibookstore) offer “The Great Succession Crisis” in at least one version (digital, paperback, large print paperback).  The best places to get the digital (from an indie author pov) are on Smash Words (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/211181 ), Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Great-Succession-Crisis-Beinan-ebook/dp/B008YKSKYQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357496432&sr=1-1). For paperback, check out Create Space (https://www.createspace.com/3969238) or Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Great-Succession-Crisis-Laurel-Rockefeller/dp/1479144800/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346946730&sr=1-1&keywords=laurel+a+rockefeller).  Large print copies are at Create Space (https://www.createspace.com/3971580) and Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Great-Succession-Crisis-Large-Print/dp/1479159948/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357496511&sr=1-1&keywords=large+print+great+succession+crisis )

Links to all of these are on my website at www.peersofbeinan.com/where.html.

 

Any other links or info you’d like to share?

Please visit www.peersofbeinan.com.  Not only will you learn about each book in this trilogy (book two is more than half finished as of this date), but I include some neat extras on the website.  For example, book two features numerous songs (I am first and foremost a singer-songwriter!) whose lyrics are posted on the website well in advance of the book’s release.

 

Excerpt from book:

Except from chapter two of the “Great Succession Crisis”

 

The knighting of a squire was one of the oldest and grandest ceremonies for the Knights of Ten-Ar—and proudest.  In a cavern-like ceremonial chamber that resembled a temple built slightly underground, Lord Culain, Lord Prince Bevin, and several of the more academically accomplished squires of Ten-Ar processed to flutes, zithers, and the Beinarian version of a soprano shawm, a light, sweet double-reeded instrument.  In the amphitheater-like setting sat Princess Anlei in a place of honor among other dignitaries.  Behind her were many of Corann’s classmates, all dressed in their finest fabrics and brightest colors.  As Bevin and Culain took their ritual places, the music changed to a heraldic tone, signaling those in attendance to rise.  Corann glided in his processional in a crimson tunic and trousers, his clothing unbelted and unmarked in any way; even his soft black leather shoes were unremarkable.

Though his heart soared, especially when he dared to look at Anlei in her lavender gown, he maintained the composure of a man who had been in vigil all beinor long and endured many trials and tribulations to reach this point.  As much as his spiritual abilities allowed him to survey the soft contours of her soft body, he refused to show anything…though deep in his heart and even reaching his conscious mind, he felt pleased at her beauty.  He noticed the way Anlei had braided and ornamented her hair in silver ribbons and white pearls around and through her crown braid.  Silver and lavender ribbon streamers fell out of the pins placed in her hair and a white rose-like flower with the softest and most alluring fragrance served as a center piece comb at the center back of the braid, just above it and anchoring just under it.

Anlei was…breath taking!

Almost against his will, Corann smiled at her as he reached his assigned ceremonial spot.  Anlei smiled back.  Composing himself once more, he knelt and looked into Lord Culain’s green eyes.  Lord Culain laid his hands on the crown of Corann’s head, “Corann, son of Cariadoc, for many yen-ars have you studied and suffered, enduring the trials set before you of mind, body, heart, and spirit.  Now the journey’s end has come and a choice lies before you.  Do you choose to join the brotherhood of Knights of Ten-Ar as is your birth right by your father, Lord Cariadoc…or leave this monastery for the temple that is also, through your mother, your birth right?”

Corann’s grey eyes beamed with spiritual devotion as he grasped Culain’s wrists ceremoniously, “Master, hear me now before these witnesses!  I choose as I have always chosen all my life:  to dedicate my mind, body, heart, and soul to this house and this place!  If the brotherhood will have me, I vow myself to be, now and for forevermore, sword brother and peer, a lord of Ten-Ar.”

Lord Culain removed his hands from Corann’s head and anointed the center of his brow with fragrant sacred oil, “Then in the name of the Knights of Ten-Ar and as your master, I confer on you the rank of Knight and Lord of Ten-Ar!”  With a nod, one of the squires knelt nearby, bearing a great sword in a gold and silver scabbard and on a strong leather belt in a bright green.  Kneeling, Lord Culain girt it about Lord Corann’s waist.

Rising, Culain turned to Bevin who in turn turned to a second squire bearing a narrow silver-like circlet on a cushion.   At the front center of the very narrow band was a great marquise-like cut bright blue gem with strong, triangular corners that sparkled like an earth diamond and displayed a pattern of light onto other objects when the Beinarian sunlight shone strongly upon it.  Lord Prince Bevin picked up this circlet and handed it to Culain who ritually held it over Lord Corann’s head, “Lord Corann, Knight of Ten-Ar, this, as much as your sword, is the sacred symbol of our house.  As your sword aids in obtaining the peace, let this blue stone of wisdom guide you in keeping the peace.  May your soul always travel in harmony with the goddesses and may they always help you find paths that will unite, and never divide, our people!”  Corann’s grey eyes met his as the circlet softly lowered onto his head and into his hair.  He felt the weight and the stone’s energies at once as Lord Culain kissed his forehead like a father and with his forearm raised him up from his long kneeling position.  “Brothers of Ten-Ar, nobles of many houses, I give you Lord Corann, Knight of Ten-Ar!”

Realizing he was on his feet and fully initiated, Corann allowed himself to smile, but his gaze quickly wandered to Princess Anlei who smiled at him discretely like a shrewd political princess.  As the gathering rushed to greet him and congratulate him, he noticed that she did not, waiting and keeping her gaze as far from the crowd as she could.  Lord Corann could not help but to recognize the training and allowed the crowd to thin on him before he made his own moves towards her direction.  Food and drink by now were being served as part of a formal reception.  Lord Corann grabbed two glasses of something that resembled a sparkling wine and walked to Anlei, extending a glass to her, “You look like you were waiting for something to happen…or perhaps someone!”

“A princess does not need to rush into the fray like some …starving creature, but moves deliberately, with a purpose.  I did not think for a moment that this gathering would end without you speaking to me at some point,” she smiled, accepting the glass and taking a sip.

“You know me well for someone who has only known me a few xiao-shir,” smiled Corann.

“You forget…I’ve seen you around the palace many times!  Do you really think that you and grandmother were completely alone during all those meetings?  Grandmother let me get away with more things than you realize!”

Corann laughed, thinking about times at the palace as a youth when Queen Wehe tutored him, “People think your grandmother is the evil queen at times, but she’s really not that bad!  She can be a real kind and generous soul!  I would not be surprised at all if you turned out more like her than people guess!”

Anlei laughed, “Who me?  Like my grandmother? Her royal priestessness?  Perish the thought!  I’m a woman of science, not faith!  I am not sure any of these goddesses are real at all…and I don’t see any point in this religious mumbo jumbo!  Why anyone would confuse her and I beyond the obvious genetic similarities is beyond me!”

Corann tilted his head and opened his mind psychically, allowing himself to sense her more deeply.  This was, after all, his first real time alone with Anlei to speak to her as two people!  He blushed from what he sensed.  What is it with her to enchant him so?  Such a soul!  Could any soul be more beautiful?!  Why did she try to cloak it with this faux atheism?  Or could it be that she did not herself realize how much she actually believed in the goddesses? “Maybe on some level you think all that is religious nonsense.  But I wonder if perhaps your adverse opinion of religion has more to do with the practice of religion than with divinity itself, Anlei.  It’s important not to confuse the two.  One may see the faults with the way that people worship or talk about religion and see abuses in our religious system—and these are valid.  But the system and practice is not the same thing as theology or the beings behind it.  They say that on many other worlds, other cultures struggle with these issues. It is not just you remotely!”

“You surprise me, Lord Corann!  I know you are a student of my grandmother’s, but I did not think of theology as the first subject of interest to any knight of Ten-Ar!”

Corann smiled softly, “You might be surprised how we knights of Ten-Ar are actually educated.  In arts of war, yes, certainly, but that is only perhaps 20% of our education now.  Hundreds of yen-ars ago…yes, it was much more about fighting and defense of our people.  But now we understand that the best way to defend our people is with clear thought and strong minds.  We are a house of peace more than war!  It should really not be so surprising my father Lord Cariadoc fell in lust with one of the most powerful priestesses in the temple…well, so they say! “

Anlei smiled back, “You mean as my grandfather fell in lust with my grandmother?”

“Something like that yes!  Isn’t it strange how we both owe our existence to the lust of some man over some powerful priestess…and that same priestess’s willingness to use his desire to attain something she wanted?  Your grandmother wanted to become queen and bear legitimate heirs to the throne.  My mother wanted to stay in the temple, but bear some powerful son who would merge two powerful lines…and still have the right to be part of this…noble house!  I am sure that even the best efforts to protect the innocence of a princess have not kept you from hearing of that most unfortunate custom among the houses regarding the best way to disgrace a rival house—or rival individual for that matter?” Lord Corann spoke carefully now, particularly of such a delicate subject, no doubt, to a woman now entering prime age to be victimized.

Anlei looked into his eyes, suddenly afraid and vulnerable, “I am aware of it, yes!”

Corann met her eyes.  Perhaps it was his training, and perhaps it was an immediate effect of his elevation…he felt this overwhelming need to protect her, “Do not fear it from me, Your Highness!”  Taking her hand, he knelt, “I pledge to you, my princess, ever shall I serve you.  The sovereignty of your house is in my heart.  I pledge by my life and by my death as a knight of Ten-Ar, never shall a man place a hand on you in violence or hate—or if he should and evade my sword at the time, I swear by my life and death to avenge you!”  Turning her hand, he kissed her palm to seal his vow, then kissed her palm twice more very tenderly out of desire.  Anlei felt a wave of spiritual energy crawl up her arm from his kiss, stealing her breath.  She stumbled by a step.  Instinctively, Lord Corann steadied her with his hand…softly on her delicate waist.  The soft fabric caressed his fingers.  The sweetness of her body for just that tiny instant enraptured him.

Steadied by him, Anlei regained her footing and with her hand tugged on Corann to rise again.  “Thank you!” she whispered in his ear. Resuming a more appropriate distance of two friends talking, she replied, “Your service is accepted, Lord Knight Corann.  Gladly will I take you as my protector.  Keep your vow to me always, Lord Knight Corann and never let anyone—not yourself, not a friend, not a foe — common, noble, or royal — lay a hand on my body except in kindness, friendship, or love.  As daughter of Queen Isabelle I charge you with this task for all the beinors of your life and mine.”

Lord Corann drew his sword.  It gleamed brightly and sharply in the hidden lights, “From this moment until death, I am yours…protector, friend, and servant!”

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Jackie Castle – Illuminated

Illuminated-6x9front-JpegTitle: Illuminated (book 1 of The White Road Chronicles)

Author: Jackie Castle

ISBN: 61766_1622672770601_1349917546_31687158_541899_n978-1481194624

Page count: 338

Genre: Fantasy

Price: Print 11.99; Ebook: 2.99

 

Author Bio:

I’m first and foremost a storyteller. However, I make money by substitute teaching and selling books at a local bookstore. This pays for my storytelling habit.

I reside in north Texas, but I spend the most time in my imagination. If you catch me staring off into space, I’m probably traipsing through the woods of Fae, wandering the white path through Alburnium, or some other Wonderland that exist in my wild imagination.

 

Tell us about your book:

The prophecy says that a child born of the Illuminated will bring an end to the dark rule over Alburnium.

Lord Darnel, ruler of Racah, possesses that Illuminated one, to make certain the prophecy never transpires. He captured Alyra when she was a small child, taking her memories of where she came from and her identity. But he never managed to quench the longing in her heart to find her way back home.

Alyra, called Princess, knows she doesn’t belong in Racah. And she is not Darnel’s daughter. All she has to prove this is a medallion she’s kept secret.

Until the Messenger Dean is brought to Racah as a prisoner. He also has a medallion. He says the golden disk means she is really from the kingdom of Alburnium.

Alyra now flees for her life.

She seeks the truth behind the medallion and who she really is.

What she finds is a narrow road, strange traveling companions, and a kingdom where nothing is what it first seems.

 

How long did it take to write the book?

The first draft took me less than a year. I attended a couple of writer’s conferences and spoke to editors about the book, but it wasn’t ready at the time and ended up sitting on my computer for a few more years.

Then, indie publishing opened up and I realized the possibilities of this new open door. In the summer of 2012, I returned to this book, re-named, rewrote and polished. I had learned so much in those years while the novel sat.

In the process, I fell in love with this story, the characters and the world of Alburnium all over again. And here we are. Book One is out, book two is now going through the rewrite process and book three is coming to life in my journal.

I write all my books long hand first before they go to the computer.

 

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

I really had to learn that dirty word: Discipline. Ugh, such a bad tasting word, don’t you think? Kidding.

Really, I determined that I would do this. I had so many half finished projects, but I wanted to see this one through. So I figured out my best writing time and worked on at least one chapter a day. I’d rewrite, edit, read to my critique group, then add more edits. Even after all that, I read through the book again before sending off to an editor.

I developed a system to help me stay on track. Each book has its own little notebook. The notebook is divided up into a chapter a page. I would document what I had done for each chapter, and make a note of what I wanted or needed to do next. That way, when  I sat down to write again, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I get distracted real easy and I will sit for hours trying to decide what I should do, especially when I have a lot to accomplish. Making list and notes has saved me so much time and helped me get more done.

 

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

First and foremost a good, exciting read. I also hope that anyone questioning their value will be encouraged to find their own path to their dreams.

 

Where can we go to buy your book?

Amazon, Barnes and Noble Nook and Createspace

 

Any other links or info you’d like to share?

Visit my book site. www.jackiecastlebooks.com

I have character bios, post about the books and even a playlist of music I listened to while writing the story. Check back often because I’ll be adding more about the people and towns of Alburnium, and more.

 

Excerpt from book:

Illuminated

Book 1

White Road Chronicles

Chapter 1

 

Winter’s grip on the mountain realm crept along the stony dungeon floor and seeped through the girl’s thin slippers. A biting chill encircled her legs, as gooseflesh spread up her back and down to her chapped hands. Shivering, she wished spring would hurry and show itself.

She pitched fresh hay into what were once stalls for horses and other livestock. Now King Darnel, ruler over the city of Racah, used the area to hold new slaves captured from the neighboring towns his forces had overtaken.

Her hand slipped over the weathered handle. A sharp jab sent tears welling in her eyes. She dropped the pitch fork, sucking at her splintered palm, covered in scrapes and scabs from previous injuries. To think, she’d traded a life of fine warm clothes and leisurely work for this. She picked the sliver from her hand. Every last injury was completely worth it.

“Hey, Princess.”

She spun toward the voice. Tarek stood in the doorway. Four pheasants hung by their legs from a strip of leather tied around Tarek’s belt. He wore the customary gray trousers and black shirt of the kitchen help. A spiteful grin crinkled the edges of his green eyes as he took in her work. Long, wheat-colored hair fell in his face and over the collar of his tunic.

At nineteen, he towered over her by nearly a foot in height and possibly two years in age. She had no memories of her past, including when and where she was actually born, or even more disturbing, her real name. From what little she did remember, she placed her own age somewhere around seventeen summers.

Darnel, who’d somehow managed to steal her memories, had ordered everyone to call her Princess, and they did so with much snickering and laughter. His little joke, she was sure.

Tarek pushed open the sliding door. A wave of cold air swirled in, stirring up dust and flecks of hay. “Ben wants you to bring a bucket of water out to the new arrivals. Right now.”

She replaced the tool on its peg, then grabbed her thin cloak before heading outside.

Tarek blocked the exit, leaning against the frame with arms crossed over his strong chest. While she spent most of her time cleaning, taking care of Ben, her overseer, or searching the various tunnels worming beneath the mountain fortress, he hunted outdoors or chopped wood. Her pale white skin stood in complete contrast to his darkened sun-kissed color. Oh, what she’d do to trade places with him. Yet she’d not complain. Her job in the dungeon was much more preferable to the one she previously held.

“Looks like this group came a long way. What a wasted bunch of bones. Though something about them must be important, if you ask me.”

Wanting to get away from him, she darted around and hurried toward the pump. The charcoal-gray castle towered hundreds of feet above, the stone walls blending into the cliffs. Below, nestled amongst the crags and plateaus lay Racah, consisting of stonework buildings and forlorn homes surrounded by high ramparts and steep peaks that circled the city.

Tarek trailed her like a lost puppy. “That Baykok Captain, the creepy one they call Bezoar? He brought them in himself.”

She froze, her gut twisted. She had no desire to meet the inhuman creature-man today. Grabbing the pail, she set it under the spout. Her splintered hand burned when she grasped the lever and pumped.

Tarek leaned closer until his tanned face was inches from hers. “And,” a taunt hid just below the surface of his words. “You’ll be happy to know your father is out there to greet our new guests, as well.” He bit his upper lip, keeping the mocking grin in check.

She gave the pump two more good pulls. “Aren’t you suppose to help cook for tonight’s banquet? Wonder what Darnel would say if he found out you were shirking your own responsibilities to play messenger boy?”

His annoying grin grew slack. Brows furrowed, he spat, “King Darnel. And I work hard. Even his majesty has bragged on my hunting skills. Unlike you, I appreciate my position and only want to serve my King to the best of my ability.”

“Such a good little lap dog you are. Why don’t you go fetch a bone or dig a hole and leave me to my own work?” She took up the pail handle and made her way toward the front of the prison where Ben would be waiting.

The weight of the bucket lightened as Tarek held the handle from the opposite side. She glared at him, despite being somewhat grateful for his help. He said nothing more as they walked. When the group came into view, nearly fifty people dressed in dreary, ragged clothing, she stopped a moment to gather her wits and steady her panicked thoughts. Just as Tarek said, Bezoar and Master both attended this group’s arrival.

Why?

“He’s not my father.”

Tarek’s brow arched.

“I wasn’t born to him.” She met his narrow-eyed gaze. “I wasn’t. I came from another place, like them. And like you. This isn’t my true home.”

His chest rose with a deep intake of breath which he slowly blew out. “Perhaps, Princess, we are better off here in Racah. I am. My family now has work, food to eat, decent shelter. Where we came from, nothing grew. Everyone was starving.” He brushed away the blond bangs from his face with his free hand. “Look at them. Their clothes are torn, ragged. Bet they will be glad, as well, once they see the King means them no harm.”

Princess shook her head. Tarek had no idea the evil Darnel was capable of. She hoped he’d never find out.

When Tarek left her, she paused needing to completely clear her mind. Humming a silent tune, she headed for the gathering.

Bezoar sat upon his huge black steed. He resembled a living skeleton with grayish skin that clung to his thin body like a grubby, wet sheet. His long, boney fingers hooked around a leather whip hanging from the saddle horn. Deep-set, yellowed eyes peered from beneath the hood of his black cloak.

“Sire,” the Baykok hissed, pointing to a man thrown over the back of a packhorse. “The messenger was a bonus. He’s been spreading his propaganda amongst the towns. I ordered his life spared for the time being. You did request I bring such filth to you when we found them.”

Lord Darnel chuckled with satisfaction. “Yes, that is a bonus, my good captain. Anytime we can stop such liars is indeed fortunate.”

Keeping the silent melody playing, Princess moved toward the group, making sure the dungeon master Ben was between herself and Master Darnel. Ben wore his colorful robes, the purple, red, and yellow striped fabric billowing in the breeze. As she approached, she noticed his hand gripping his cane so tight his chestnut-colored skin paled. Though Ben was known to have a terrible temper, age and arthritis had tamed his angry outbursts. Since she’d taken over many of his responsibilities, he generally treated her decently.

More importantly, he ignored her long disappearances while she searched new tunnels for a means of escape.

Ben nodded toward the chained group, then ordered in his deep, throaty voice, “Give ’em something to drink, girl.”

Behind the messenger’s horse stood a long line of men, women, and children, all thin and haggard. Their condition most likely resulted from their trek across the barren land that surrounded the mountain. The castle itself, built into the heart of the cliffs, was nearly impenetrable, as well as inescapable. Climbing the only road leading into the city was difficult on horseback… and even more-so on foot. No telling how long they’d gone without food or rest. Bezoar didn’t concern himself with such human needs.

The prisoners clustered around her, eager to quench their dry mouths. They grasped the ladle greedily in their scraped, bloody hands. Princess avoided the scared expressions on the children’s dirty faces as they gulped the cool water. Yet one dark-haired girl, about the age of five, reminded her of the first time she’d entered this forsaken city. Had the same look of terror been in her own brown eyes?

Princess dared a glance toward the man strapped on the horse. He raised his bruised head. A long cut tore down the side of his cheek. With his one good eye, he stared at his surroundings in defiance. A gold medallion hung from his neck.

Her breath caught when her heart lodged into her throat. Forgetting the prisoners, Princess stepped closer. Water sloshed over the rim and onto her feet. She steadied the bucket, then handed it to the eldest man in the group to hold. She had to see that pendant.

The messenger’s face softened when he caught sight of her staring at him. She quickly turned, not wanting him to know she’d noticed him.

She chanced a glance at Master Darnel, surprised he wore his finest attire to greet a bunch of shoddy prisoners. He stood tall, a smile plastered on his smooth, handsome face. His deep purple button-down coat was trimmed in silver thread. Upon his head sat a silver crown, inlaid with rubies and emeralds, which had been collected while digging the tunnels throughout his mountain lands. His polished black boots stopped just below his knees.

Several large, brutish men flanked Darnel. She’d heard the newly appointed governors, who would run the new towns, were being presented at tonight’s banquet.

She shuddered when one of them grinned at her and elbowed a trollish-looking man, who stood beside him. They whispered something, then broke into chuckles, all the while never taking their eyes off her. Princess’s gut twisted, wondering what they found so humorous. She took the bucket from the elder and stood to the side, searching Ben’s face to see if he’d give her the go-ahead to take them inside.

Ben remained a statue.

Darnel motioned to his men. “Release the messenger so he may stand with our other guests.” His mocking smile widened.

Two soldiers untied the messenger’s hands and feet and shoved him off the beast headfirst. He crashed to the ground with a loud groan. One man grabbed the pail from her and tossed the remaining water in the man’s face. He staggered to his feet.

His nicely tailored clothes were bloodied and torn. Dirt caked his beard. The medallion hung outside his shirt, the symbol of a horn glinted in the morning sun.

The disk was different, yet similar. What could that mean?

Darnel stepped closer, scanning the group. She felt his stare and despite all attempts not to look, her eyes finally met his cold blues. His hateful laughter sounded inside her head. Think. Fill your mind to keep him out!

“How fortunate-” Darnel addressed the crowd, “-for all of you to be brought here at this exciting time in the history of my empire. We are, this very day, in the process of establishing new cities and villages in the western frontier. And you, most fortunate ones, are to be the first to inhabit them.”

Now she understood why Bezoar and the governors were there. This group would be forced to build those cities. Maybe that was the reason behind his increased attacks on the border lands. He needed more slaves to send out west where he hoped to increase his kingdom. She gazed toward the rising sun, knowing something hindered his progress in that direction. Something that plagued her dreams and pulled at her heartstrings.

“My territory is expanding. My governors and I-” Darnel waved to the beast-men standing behind him, “-are discussing how best to achieve this. We petition you, good people of Racah, to listen to our ideas and consider joining the quest to revive these lands under my rule.”

Princess shook her head and muttered, “Working as slave laborers.”

With a gasp, she snapped her mouth closed. Those standing around her whispered to each other. They’d heard her! An outburst like that might result in more lashings. She chewed her lip, daring a glance at Ben whose brown eyes narrowed on her in silent warning.

The messenger’s voice boomed over Darnel’s speech.  “Lies! Do not fall for this imposter’s deception.”

The closest soldier shoved the butt of his spear into the man’s gut. “Shut up, fool!”

The man fell to his knees wheezing.

Princess gaped at him. He’d be the dragon’s supper if he didn’t quit.

The messenger took in a winded breath and continued, “Resist him! For the army of the true King is at hand! Do not give in to this evil traitor and his ways! Stand firm while time remains.” He leaped to his feet and darted out of the soldier’s reach. His steel-gray eyes scanned the frightened prisoners.

Don’t listen to the ranting of a fool, daughter! Darnel’s voice rasped in her head. She flinched, and tried once again to control her thoughts. The man continued talking, but she couldn’t separate his words from Master’s.

“The time of this evil one’s reign….”

Foolish girl, have you not learned your lesson yet? Darnel stood still as a statue, an amused look on his calm face. His cruel eyes flicked in her direction. I would be prepared to forgive your insolence and restore you to your rightful position.

Her head pounded from trying to block his thoughts.

“…his army approaches as I speak.”

The snap of Bezoar’s whip cracked the air as it tore into the messenger’s back. He flicked again, and another streak ripped open his shirt and skin. The man bowed over, going down on his knees in the mud.

“Enough,” hissed Bezoar, drawing his sword from the sheath. “I’ll take care of this, Sire.”

Heart racing, Princess stepped between the dark hooded creature and the crouched man. “The dragon hasn’t been fed in awhile, Master.” She met Darnel’s arctic glare.

Her mouth went dry at her own audacity. She’d have been better off staying out of the way and as quiet as possible. But she couldn’t let them kill the messenger. Not yet.

“The dragon doesn’t care if he’s crazy or not. She’ll eat him all the same.”

The people standing around her gasped.

The eldest prisoner spoke up. “Perhaps we should listen to the Messenger.” He pointed a dirty finger at Darnel. “That tyrant ordered our towns to be burnt to the ground, then says he wants us to help rebuild? Shoulda left us alone in the first place if you ask me.”

Darnel closed the distance between himself and the old man. His hand clamped around the prisoner’s neck. “I did you a favor. You’re homes were crumbling, you had nothing to eat—”

“That’s ’cause you’ve stripped this land of all that’s good. I remember what it was like. I remember when we followed King Shay—”

With one quick movement, a dagger appeared in Darnel’s hand and swept across the man’s neck, splattering the bystanders in blood. The old man crumpled at Master’s feet, red puddling into the ground. Darnel, ignoring the screams coming from the on-lookers, turned to Ben, his blue eyes flashing with rage.

“I’ll expect you to convince them to accept my offer. If there are others who wish to join the messenger at my dragon’s dinner, don’t hesitate to comply.”

Ben nodded, then motioned for a couple of soldiers to escort the remaining group inside. Bezoar ordered the body to be dumped in the pit and the messenger to be taken to the holding cell until the dragon’s feeding time.

Princess moved to follow Ben when a strong hand clamp down on her arm. Darnel yanked her around so she was face to face with him.

“It’s your fault that man died.”

She started to protest that he had the dagger not her, but he cut off her words.

“Stupid child. When will you learn that I mean to sever anything or anyone who denies my authority? If you refuse to serve me, I will find other means of curbing your disloyalty.”

From behind her, the messenger yelled, “Don’t give in, freedom is at hand!”

She watched as the soldiers dragged him to the dungeon.

Darnel gripped her chin, his fingers still wet with the man’s blood. He turned her face back to his. “You are running out of time, daughter. My patience with you wanes.”

“Will you also feed me to the dragon, Master?” she asked, emboldened by the messenger’s chants of Freedom! filling her heart.

“I’ll not give you such an easy way out, my dear.” He shoved her away, then strolled toward the castle with his governors following. The troll-man kept looking back over his shoulder at her, smirking.

Princess reached into the inner pocket she’d sewn into all her skirts and pulled out a small golden disk which fit perfectly inside the palm of her hand. A tree had been engraved on one side. The other side had a fire flame surrounded by what might be a burst of light. Her medallion was similar to the messenger’s yet different.

“For freedom!” He continued to chant. Suddenly, the sound of a loud smack brought complete silence from within.

There wasn’t much time. She needed to hurry.

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Michael Frissore – Puppet Shows

puppetsfront[1]Title: Puppet Shows

Author: Michael Frissore

ISBN: ISBN-10: 1927044529; ISBN-13: 978-1927044520

Page count: 122 pages

Genre: Humor, Short Stories

Price: $8.99 Print; $6.99 Kindle

 

Author Bio:

Prior to Puppet Shows, Michael Frissore published two adorable poetry chapbooks called Poetry is Dead and Long Blue Boomerang and a lovely, easy to carry, ebook called The Thief. His work has appeared, as if by magic, in nearly 100 publications in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K, and he still brags about being included in a humor collection alongside comedians Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman and David Cross a few years ago. Mike grew up in a fictional town in Massachusetts and now lives in Oro Valley, Arizona with his wife, two children, two cats, and a little cartoon alien only he can see. He blogs at http://themikefrizz.blogspot.com/

 

Tell us about your book:

Puppet Shows is thirteen humorous, outlandish, surreal stories about talking monkeys, a barber living inside a genie bottle, flying sock puppets, and a superhero named Root Beer Float Man.

frissore

How long did it take to write the book?

Most of these stories are like babies of mine that go back years. They were all published in literary journals between 2008 and 2011, but writing them – there are a couple that have remnants going back to when I was in college in the mid-nineties. So it’s been a long journey for these stories. This book has been my dream for a long time.

 

What inspired you to write the book?

I’ve always been a fan of absurdist humor, whether literary or in film and television. I started reading Woody Allen and S.J. Perelman in college – Allen because I loved his movies and Perelman because he had written a couple of Marx Brothers screenplays. Prose was what I love to write, but I’m also a huge Monty Python fan, which I think shows itself in Puppet Shows.

 

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

I’ve tried for years to have a routine, but it’s as chaotic as these stories are. Research depends on the project. I’m writing a novel now that I’ve been doing research for. The extent of research I did for Puppet Shows was viewing the Wikipedia page for organ grinding for about ten minutes. Beyond that, dealing with absurdism and suspended disbelief has its perks for those too lazy to do any research.

 

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

Oodles and oodles of laughter, possibly to the dismay of the undergarments you’re wearing.

 

Where can we go to buy your book?

I would love for you to buy from the WAMM site at http://www.writersamuseme.com/michaelfrissore.htm.

 

Any other links or info you’d like to share?
I do have a blog at http://themikefrizz.blogspot.com/.

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Excerpt from book:

From The Adventures of Root Beer Float Man

 

My name is Sparky Nonpareils, and I’m a reporter for the Daily Sun. I also moonlight as Root Beer Float Man, supreme crime-fighting machine. I get my name from the cold, frosty treat from which I get my powers, kind of like Popeye with spinach, if you didn’t already get that correlation.

Among my powers are super patience, X-ray belching, and the ability to scream like a little girl. I can also make a really good quiche. My story begins…well, I don’t actually have a story. No one at the ice cream parlor ever needs my help, and I can’t even replace the toner in the printer at work without breaking into tears. The only story I have is my editor threatening to fire me because my stories always contain “misspellings” and they’re always “torn out of a notebook” and “written in colored pencil.” I try to tell him “I am Root Beer Float Man!” He usually replies with something like “Well, then float yourself across the street and get me an onion bagel. Extra cream cheese.” I may have to kill him. Then what will they think of Root Beer Float Man? They know a prison cell cannot contain me. It couldn’t contain me with all those stalking charges. It couldn’t contain me when they arrested me for indecent exposure in 1997, 2001, and again in 2007. It couldn’t even contain me for that phony animal necrophilia charge.

Oh, now you’re judging me? This is the end of my story. I’m going home.

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