01/31/15
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Beast of Maug Maurai Update (and Sample)

It’s been a long time coming, I know, and I apologize profusely. I am currently finishing the the third book in The Beast of Maug Maurai trilogy. My tentative release date is February 17, although looking at what has to be done still, that’s a bit optimistic. I do, however, want to have it released by the end of February, and I am very motivated to get it done. I might put it up for pre-order for February 29, 2015. Yeah, I know, not funny. Okay, but I’m not kidding about putting up for pre-order. That would ensure that I finish it on time. How does February 28 sound? (Edit: I had to push it back so I could make it available for pre-order. Release date is now March 10, but it will be available for pre-order very soon!)

To hold you over until then, or perhaps to tease you a bit, here’s an unedited passage from the manuscript. Enjoy! And thanks again for your continued support.

“You think it was the demons of CWNCR?” Drissdie muttered. “I heard the demons can look like trees. We shouldn’t be here, in the forest. No, we should just leave, d’you suppose?”

Lokk Lurius shoved saplings aside and stomped onward. He was never lost in a city. Cities made sense. Even the Outer Line cities of Eridia, with their cattle-path roads and winding alleyways. Cities were created by humans, and even the most twisted of settlements contained a logic that could be unraveled. Forests were unreasonable things. Twisted and purposeless. They were a disease. A crazed affliction of the land.

“I heard CWNCR is the gateway to the Dark Place,” Drissdie continued. “I heard Mundaaith himself travels through CWNCR when he comes to Celusia, d’you suppose? And that anyone in the forest when Mundaaith arrives dies. Just like that. Dead. Except I heard you get a lot of pain before you die. You fall and you feel the worst pain you ever felt. I know a lad, Frynn, he says that you stay in pain ‘til Mundaaith leaves the forest? I can’t think of nothing worse than that. You think you stay in pain for days? Wouldn’t you just die? I think you’d just die. No one could stay in that sort of pain for days, could they? You’d go mad, d’you suppose?”

Lokk Lurius spun in a slow circle, staring up into the thick canopy of Maug Maurai. How far had they gone from the camp? The imbecile had run for at least a mile. Only the sound of his sobs had allowed Lokk to find him. And when they walked back for a mile, the camp wasn’t there.

Unreasonable forest. A damned plague of the land.

“Do you think the others are dead?” Drisside rubbed his hands together, as if washing them. “Do you… do you think the demons got them?”

They had wandered for hours, shouting for the others. But the forest smothered shouts. Murdered sound.  And the campsite remained hidden from them. They were lost. Ridiculously lost. Frustratingly, unreasonably lost.

Lokk walked forward a dozen paces and listened for any sound of the squad.

Drissdie had sworn that he recognized a leaning feuryk tree. Had sworn he knew the way back. So Lokk had followed the fool for another mile in the wrong direction. Traveling one mile in the wrong direction was trouble in Maug Maurai. But two miles was a death sentence. If left alone for long enough, the two of them would eventually find their way out. But Lokk had heard enough to know that Maug Maurai never left you alone.

He should have let Drissdie run to his death.

The mercenary spun again in a slow circle, but the carpet moss was like a green mist, veiling the world in sameness. How did Sage find his way through this labyrinth? How did an Eridian mercenary find himself here, lost in a murderous Laraytian forest?

Drissdie Hannish.

The fool had doomed them both. A forest was the only enemy Lokk couldn’t kill. Drissdie Hannish had led him into a trap. An unreasonable ambush of grasping branches and slashing thorns.

“What do you think the trees were firing at us? I think it was snot. Frynn says demons can cover you in snot to keep you from moving. You think they were trying to capture us? So they could bring us to CWNCR, d’you suppose? Maybe they—”

Drissdie inhaled his next words as Lokk grabbed him with both hands and snarled.

†††

The two soldiers plodded silently through the endless maze of Maug Maurai. Lokk wore a scowl that grew more profound with each crackling footstep. And Drissdie Hannish wore a gag.

They waded through a wide stream, plodding for several hundred paces to avoid a long line of sinister brambles. When they returned to land, it was to clamber over a fallen oak more than ten feet thick.  A hundred paces past the tree, Drissdie made a series of word-shaped moans.

“Take it off again,” Lokk replied, “and I’ll have your tongue.”

Drissdie’s moans grew louder. He jabbed a finger toward the left again and again.

“If the word demon or snot comes out of your mouth,” Lokk said, “I will cut you into strips.”

Drissdie shook his head, looked toward the left and jabbed his finger again.

Lokk yanked the leather gag—made from Drissdie’s tabard—away from the young soldier’s mouth.

“We walked past that tree, d’you suppose? There was a black bird in it. Remember? It had a yellow beak. Really pretty. I remember. It was sitting on that branch, d’you suppose?”

Lokk studied the tree and shook his head. “Different tree. Put the gag back on.”

“Maybe…maybe we should just stay here, d’you suppose? Until the others find us?”

Lokk took a long breath, ran a fist over his brows. “No one is going to find us.” He turned to face Drissdie. “We are miles from anyone, in a forest that kills people.” He took a step toward the young soldier. “No one will hear us. No one will see us.” He took hold of Drissdie’s tabard again and pulled the soldier close, their faces inches apart. “Maybe I’ll just kill you now,” he snarled. “Save you the misery of being eaten. Because we’re on our own.” He shook Drissdie and the young soldier’s helm tumbled off and thumped on the moss. “Do you understand? No one is going to find us! No one!

A voice called from the forest. “Oi! Someone there?”

Drissdie and Lokk—faces still inches apart—turned to look. A hulking shape crashed through a laurel patch.

“Found you,” said Black Murrogar. “Where are the others?”

06/27/14
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“The End”

Just wrote those words on the Emaculum manuscript a couple days ago. The final volume of The Scourge trilogy is off for editing this week and should be released toward the end of July! To say I’m excited is an understatement. It was a bittersweet moment finishing this series. Thank you, to everyone who helped make book 3 a reality.

To celebrate, I’m posting an appetizer from Episode 1. Happy reading!

 I hold out a hand to stop Tristan and we listen. The hoofbeats grow louder. I can hear voices in the distance, and then, much closer, the sound of weeping.

Cold water spatters my cheek as I sweep away a leafy branch and scan the forest. A figure stumbles through the brush and nearly falls. It is she who weeps.
The woman glances back toward the road as she walks, then scans the forest floor, her gaze sweeping wildly among the hawthorn and gorse. Someone has tied a cord around her waist and attached a fox tail that dangles from her backside.
A maiden walking alone, looking frightened, and weeping. I want only to reach Elizabeth, but how can an honorable man ignore such a scene?
Tristan and I rise and push through the wet sprigs toward her. I give a whispery shout: “Do you require assistance?”
She shrieks and backs away from us, thick tears tumbling from her dark lashes. The perpetual drizzle has soaked her clothing. She is young and dangerously thin, her black hair unbound. The thin chemise she wears is wet and torn. It clings to her and hangs off one shoulder, revealing smooth skin on a bony frame.
“I haven’t found it yet!” she screams. “I need more time!”
I hold a finger to my lips and make calming motions with my other hand. “What haven’t you found?” I take a step toward her and she backs away, shaking her head.
“The arrow.” She pants as she speaks, the panting of someone about to fall into desperate sobs. The white chemise is soaked through, revealing every feature of her reedy figure. I wonder when she last ate. “I can’t find it,” she continues. “You arrived too soon. I didn’t have a chance.”
I glance back at Tristan, who sneers at me. “You couldn’t give the poor maiden more time, could you?”
“That’s not helping, Tristan.” I take another step toward her, pull my cloak off and place it over her shoulders. “I know nothing about an arrow. Why must you find it? Are you in danger?”
She stares at me, tilts her head and sniffles. “You’re . . . you’re not part of the hunt?”
“I’m just trying to get home,” I say. “Which hunt do you speak of?”
“Witch hunt, indeed,” Tristan says.
A horn sounds, loud and very close. Men shout. Boots crash through the forest. The woman flinches at the sounds, the tears flowing again. “Please, help me.”
I look toward the road. At least five or six men. Tristan and I glance at one another. He raises his crossbow as I draw my sword. No knight with any honor could do anything else.
“Thank you, sirs.” She lifts her skirt and walks away from the road slowly. Her shoulders hunch as she scans the forest floor. Tristan and I look to one another, then back at her. She scowls at us. “Hurry! We must find the arrow. Red fletching and stripes painted on the shaft. Anon! Anon!”
“What fun,” Tristan says. “I hope we find it.”
“What game is this?” I ask her. “Are you in danger or not?”
“There! Is that it?” Her voice rises, then strains with anguish. “No! It is a branch!”
I look back toward the road. Shapes plunge through the mist-drenched scrub. They will see us soon, if they have not already. I take hold of the woman’s arm and turn her to face me. “Are those men going to harm you?” She shakes her head and I sheathe my sword. “Let’s go, Tristan.”
He lowers his crossbow and we crash through gorse, northward away from the men.
“They will take my maidenhood,” the woman cries. “They will fill me with their seed and leave me to starve.”
My sword flashes out from its sheath and Tristan’s crossbow rises. We lurch back toward her.
“Perhaps,” Tristan says to me, “you should have been more specific in your question.”
“Rape is harm, maiden,” I mutter. “In case this sort of thing comes up again in the future.”
The first two men push through wet leaves, laughing, but what they see is not funny, and their humor dries up. Tristan and I stand shoulder to shoulder. My sword is pointed forward in mid-guard. His crossbow is strung and loaded and aimed in their direction. We are not thin, we are not dainty, and neither of us wears a fox tail.
“We can’t seem to find the arrow,” Tristan says. “Care for a war-bolt instead?”