Archive for March, 2012

This week’s challenge gave us the setting for the story.  Actually, Wendig was kind enough to give us 3 choices for the setting.  Only one of them would make any sense with the characters I’m using, so it was an easy decision.  It had to take place in an abandoned amusement park.  My inspiration was the old Land of Makebelieve in Upper Jay, NY.  I’ve never been to the area, so I don’t know how accurate this is, but it’s been destroyed by a flood by now anyway.  At the time this story takes place, at least one or two buildings (hopefully including the one I’m describing) were still at least partially standing. This story is more character development than true story.  Hopefully, you’ll still enjoy it.

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“What is this place?” Lenora crawled under the snipped wire fence, following her new-found friends.  Shane reached out a hand to help her stand.

“It’s an old theme park,” he explained.

Kendra suddenly appeared at Lenora’s elbow.  “And when he says ‘theme,’ he means it.  It used to be called Makebelieve.  It was kind of dorky, but totally great for little kids.  It had, like, all these storybook houses and fairytale things all over the place.”  Kendra shrugged.  “Guess it coulda been cute before it got all drowned.”

Lenora frowned.  “Oh don’t worry,” Shane wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her away from Kendra and Ian, who had been trying to steer her towards an algae-covered pond.  “It wasn’t that bad.  Well, it was.  It totally sucked for the owners of the place.  But nobody got hurt or anything.”

“Come on, man,” Ian whined.  “You didn’t even let me tell my ghost story!”

“That’s because your ‘ghost story’ is nothing but a lame attempt to make a campfire horror story to freak people out.”  Willow rolled her eyes.  She stuck her balled-up fists on the hips of her designer jeans, which were now spotted with mud.  “So are we gonna stand here all night and blab or are we going in?”

“In!” Kendra practically flew down the slight path through the weeds and brambles to a dilapidated shack.  The torn and filthy siding may once have been white.  A blue and moldy shudder hung off a window.  Lenora was surprised it was even still attached.  It looked as though one solid breeze would rip it away from the building.  Shadowy tree limbs reached down, pulling the gaping maw of the night’s blackness down over the two little stubs that stuck out of the roof.  Apparently, the blackness had already taken a bite years earlier.  Lenora saw no sign of what had once graced the building.

Ian followed close behind Kendra.  Shane kept his arm casually draped over Lenora and led her between the remains of two posts.  The door had been replaced by a very new-looking piece of thin particle board.  Someone had used blood-red paint to scrawl “X-Men” near the top and “Intruders will be fed to Wolverine!” on the bottom.  Kendra pulled up in front of the door.

“Which one of you guys did this?” she pouted.  “I wanted it to look nice.”

“Who do you think did it?” Willow crossed her arms.  “Seriously, Shane?”

“Yeah, have you ever even picked up a comic book?  Wolverine doesn’t eat people!” Ian shook his head.

Shane shrugged.  “I found it amusing.  If you guys really hate it, we can always pick up another board and paint it up together or something.”

Lenora shocked everyone by suddenly snorting.  “I get to be Wolverine, right?  Well, She-Wolverine, I guess.”

Willow and Shane laughed with her, relieved that she was finally joking.  She had been living with them for nearly four months and during that time she had laughed a grand total of three times.

“You can be whoever you wanna be, Nora,” Shane granted.

The board almost fell from its makeshift hinges as Kendra shoved it open.  Willow went right to a small wood-stove in the middle of the room.  She tossed a couple of wood blocks in the open door and set them on fire.  The glow illuminated a teenager’s dream hide-out.  Comfy furniture, rescued from the trash by the cash-strapped kids, sat scattered all over the small room.  An empty cooler dominated one of the short walls.  A slight mildew smell clung to the whole place, but that somehow added to the charm.  Posters plastered the walls, showcasing the interests of each person who frequented the place.  A tattered area rug partially covered a rusty-red splotch near the wood stove.  Lenora wasn’t sure she wanted to know what it was.

Ian snapped his fingers, pulling Lenora away from her observations.  “I forgot something in the car!”  He slipped out the door.

Shane patted an armchair next to him.  The puffy arms burst at the seams.  Lenora dropped down and sank into the cushions.  She smiled.  Shane started pointing out some of the other amenities of their hang-out.  “We’ve got food stashed in the cabinets under the window.  There’s games over in the corner.  There’s magazines here somewhere,” he stopped himself and frowned.  “But those are mine and Ian’s, so you probably don’t want to see them.”

“Probably not,” Lenora agreed.  “So we just kinda hang out here?  We drove half-an-hour to hang out?”

“Why not?” Kendra popped an Oreo in her mouth.  “There’s nobody telling us what to do here. We can use our powers without getting in trouble.  There’s no pressure to do anything if we don’t want to.  And besides…” the door snapped open again with Ian’s return and Kendra nodded towards him, “we can have this as much as we want.”

Ian held a bag of ice, a six-pack of Guiness, and a bottle of Tequila.  Willow relieved him of the liquor and left him to dump the ice into the cooler.

“Won’t we get in trouble?” Lenora asked.

“Never have yet,” Shane grabbed a warm beer.  “Don’t worry.  We’re not stupid.  We’ll sleep it all off before we head back home in the morning.”

Lenora accepted a glass of ice from Willow.  It couldn’t hurt.  Not if we’re careful.  It’ll make me feel better anyway.  Amber-colored tequila slopped into the glass, filling in all the cracks in the ice.

As soon as everyone had their drinks, Willow raised hers in a toast.  “To our newest friend!  May we be all the stronger for her presence!”

Lenora’s throat burned with the first of many swallows.  Each came easier than the last.  By the end of the night, she didn’t even care about the rationalizations anymore.  Her world extended only to her friends.  Did anyone else even matter anymore?

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BeckonI feel like a label needs to be attached to this book — WARNING: THIS BOOK MAY CAUSE INSOMNIA.  Seriously, I had a couple of sleepless nights whilst reading Beckon.  It didn’t help that I was sleeping in an unfamiliar bed in a cabin in the mountains of Virginia at the time.  Perhaps my reaction is atypical.  Whatever you do, don’t let my warning keep you from this book.  It’s well worth an extra cup or two of coffee in the morning.

The sleepy little town of Beckon draws people to it for many reasons.  Most are brought, one way or another, by the mysterious Thomas Vale.  Few ever leave.

What begins as a trek to validate his father’s work takes a turn for the terrifying when Jack and his companions get trapped in the fascinating, but deadly world beneath the mountains in Wyoming.  As they try to navigate the seemingly untouched ecosystem, they soon realize that becoming lost is the least of their worries.  A desperate struggle to survive shoves them into the not-so-welcoming arms of a previously-unknown people group.

Elina uses her police officer training to track a white van to Beckon.  The same van was seen the day her cousin disappeared.  Someone promised jobs to the occupants of the van, but it never made its way to Las Vegas as they said it would.  Instead, it always came to Beckon.  And the people in the van never made it home.  It doesn’t take long for Elina’s interest to catch the attention of Thomas Vale.

Miriam Wilcox is losing her mind.  Her husband, George, cannot bear to sit idly by and watch his beloved wife succumb to an incurable disease.  He jumps at the opportunity to take her to Beckon when Vale contacts him with a business proposition and a cure.

What would you be willing to do to live disease-free, forever?  Could you make a deal with the devil to save your loved ones?  After all, as Thomas Vale argues, the history of mankind is violent, filled with people killing other people in an effort to keep their families and lands safe.  But what makes one life more valuable than another?

First things first: I have to apologize for not posting for a week.  I went to an AMAZING retreat with some of the ladies from my church.  I had to leave my house at like 5 AM on Thursday.  I had absolutely no desire to wake up extra early just to put something up here.  Next time I go away, I’ll set some stuff up to automatically post or something.

Back to today’s story —
This week’s flash fiction prompt was a title.  Obviously, the title had to be “The Fire of the Gods.”  Yes, some of the characters are being set up to be incredibly disturbing.  That’s intentional.  Don’t worry; I’m not losing my mind.  It kind of hurts to write that kind of character, especially since they could go either way.  I’m kind of thinking these might become main villains at some point in time.  Anyway…Here you go.  Enjoy.

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“What will they do if they catch us?” Kendra tucked a lock of stray mousey-brown hair behind her ear and leaned against a tree to catch her breath.

“Don’t stop, Kendra!  I don’t really want to find out,” Ian grabbed her hand and dragged her along behind him.  He pulled her on a zigzag path through the trees.  The sun was going down.  The night would bring him the advantage if they could just keep running a little while longer.

A shotgun blast ripped a branch apart twenty yards from Ian and Kendra.  Kendra shrieked.  Ian shoved her head down just before another blast bored a hole in the trunk behind her.

The gunshot gave Kendra an energy burst.  She outpaced Ian for a second as they sprinted to the next copse of pine trees.  Ian was several feet in front of her when he yelped and disappeared in the semi-darkness of the forest.

“Ian!”  She bit her lip and choked back a cry.  Panic wanted to take over her mind.  She fell to her knees to peer at the dark patch where Ian had vanished.  The panic nearly won when a pale hand shot out of the hole.  Ian’s hand latched around her wrist.

“Shut up!” he hissed, pulling her wrist down so her head was level with the opening of the hole.

“Are you okay?”

“Get down here.  We might be able to hide for a little, figure out what to do.”

Kendra let Ian gently pull her into the hole, which turned out to be the opening of a small cave.  They huddled in the corner of the cave furthest from the small entrance.  Kendra wrapped her arms around her knees and shook.  Ian glared, unblinking, at the entrance and bared his teeth.  If the hunters found them now, before it was fully dark, he wouldn’t be able to take them all down, but he wasn’t going to be caught without a fight.

Feet stamped through the dense patch of trees.  Men shouted overhead.  Someone fell and cursed close to the cave entrance.  Someone else dropped a huge backpack directly on top of the hole.  If they picked it up in a hurry during the night, they just might avoid seeing the cave.

Ian longed to whisper to Kendra, to tell her his plan.  She had to stay put, no matter what.  He was a fighter; she wasn’t.  There was no way she could take on the trained hunters above them.  But he could.  Once the sun went down, he would become one with the night, sneak out of the grave-like cavern, and start slitting throats.

He groaned inwardly.  How had it come to this?  Willow planned the raid perfectly.  They all had their parts to play and had done so without a problem.  Kendra spoke to the computers to get them access to the building.  Ian grabbed one of the boys, Shane grabbed the other boy and one of the girls, Nora grabbed the other girl, and Willow started a massive fire on the other side of the town as a distraction.  They weren’t even going to hurt the kids, not really.  They would take the children’s memories and identities and deposit them in an orphanage half a world away.  The children were just toddlers.  They wouldn’t really miss the memories and the orphanage was a good place, with good, kind caretakers.  The parents were the ones they wanted to punish. They were all partially responsible for Nora’s breakdown.  It had all made sense at the time.

And then things went terribly wrong.  One of the boys wouldn’t stop crying.  Ian had clamped his hand over the kid’s mouth.   He hadn’t realized that the child had a problem that kept him from breathing through his nose.  It wasn’t long before Ian realized that the boy had stopped struggling.

Ian choked back vomit at the memory.  He shook his head.  He would deal with that if they all made it back to the complex.  For the moment, he couldn’t afford to think past this night.  He had to focus.  Besides, he sneered, I’m not getting out of here alive.

Willow observed the men from the perfect cover of the high branches of a pine tree.  Sap soaked her black pants and hoodie, but she didn’t care.  Ian and Kendra had disappeared an hour ago into some little cave in the ground.  She figured the cave was supported by the interwoven roots of all the trees and other plants.  She wasn’t sure how they would manage to get out without being seen.  Ian is probably planning some kind of heroics.  If she knew Ian, he was torturing himself because of what he had done.  By accident!  If the stupid kid hadn’t screamed, it never would’ve happened.  She had to do something.  Nora and Shane had already disappeared.  Whether they had been captured, killed, or managed to get away, she had no idea.  But she did know one thing: she wasn’t losing anyone else.  Not tonight.

The sun hit the tops of the trees.  The whole forest seemed to go up in a blaze.  Willow got an idea.

All of the fires she had ever set had been started with small flames.  She’d been practicing with larger flame balls, but she had never made one on her own, in uncontrolled circumstances.  She would only have one chance at this.  If she failed, Ian’s guilt wouldn’t matter.  Kendra’s fear would dissipate.  And Willow’s own anger would never flare up again.  If she failed, they would all die.  But if she succeeded, they would all survive to fight another day.

She dropped silently onto a pile of rotting pine needles and oak leaves.  She flung her arms out to the sides and called fire from her core to caress her arms up to her elbow.  A few hunters had time to aim their guns before hell-flames erupted from her fingertips and set the whole copse ablaze.

The Grim

Posted: March 12, 2012 in Short Stories

Chuck Wendig has done it again.  This flash fiction challenge has been the hardest one for me yet.  The challenge was to write a story (1000 words or less) and include 10 out of a list of 20 words.  I used a randomizer to choose my words: dinosaur, beast, tornado, research, finger, sparrow, fever, cape, flea, and scream.  This story takes place about a week after the “Roast Beef on Ciabatta” story from a few weeks ago.

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Lenora screamed as a sparrow crashed into her window.  “Stupid bird,” she muttered.  It had only been four days since all of her memory returned.  Every little sound and shadow convinced her of impending doom.  She turned back to her computer, determined to finish her project before the storm became too threatening.  She figured it was bound to get bad, considering how desperate the sparrow had been to leave the area.  I wonder what would happen if Superman flew into a thunderstorm, her eyes glazed over as she pictured the scene.  His red and blue outfit clashed with the black clouds.  His ridiculous cape wrapped around his head, blinding him.  She giggled.

“Forget it,” Lenora leaned back in her chair.  Dinosaur research can wait.  Who cares about ancient dead things anyway?  This was the first time Lucas and Shane had let her out of their sight since she had attempted to leave the compound and hunt down her attackers.  She hadn’t gotten far before they found her, but Lucas had lost his mind.  He had been so furious.  It’s not like she would have gotten hurt.  She was more than capable of taking care of herself now.  And he couldn’t have been mad about her plans to hurt them.  They were evil.  If anyone deserved a slow, painful death, it was them.  She shook her head, tossing a few strands of honey-brown hair into her eyes.  She had no idea what was wrong with her mentor.

A sudden chill swept over her body, raising goose bumps on her arms and forcing her teeth to chatter.  She wrapped her arms around her torso and dragged herself to the kitchen.  The fever had attacked her randomly ever since the memories had resurfaced.  The doctors thought that maybe her body was trying to make the past seem like a bad fever-dream.  She didn’t care.  All she knew was how to make it better.  She stuck water in the microwave and grabbed her favorite mug and a teabag of strong Irish tea.  While the water heated, she dumped honey and lemon juice in the mug with the teabag.  Once her tea was finally ready, she curled up on the armchair in the dark living room.  Lightning flashes lit the room like a strobe light.

She thought about picking up a book, but the idea of thinking made her head hurt more.  Instead, she just sat and drank her tea.  Absently, she scratched the fleabite behind her ear.  No one bothered to tell her how quickly fleas can attack when you’re running through a field in the summer time.  She had to learn the hard way.

She was still staring out the window a few minutes later when another flash of lightning illuminated an ambitious cloud as it tried to funnel into a tornado.  Tornadoes used to terrify her.  Now she knew that this world contained far worse things than natural disasters.  The electricity was still on, so she grabbed the TV remote and hit the power button.  One finger lazily traced the numbers until she could tell the position of each number in the darkness.  Two seconds after she turned to the weather channel, the TV went dark.  One glance outside showed that all the buildings in New Avalon had been plunged into darkness.  The rain and the dark combined into a nearly impenetrable wall of inky blackness just outside the window.

Lenora simply sat in the pitch black with her tea.  Every flash of lightning that broke through the black startled her, but what frightened her more was what she could see in the split-second that the world turned to day.  A great beast sat just across the lane from her house.  Lenora’s eyes widened.  She gulped.  The next lightning came in a burst – six flashes in quick succession.  The longer light allowed Lenora to take a better look at the creature.  It was huge, easily the size of the panther she’d seen at a zoo when she was little.  Her eyes narrowed.  That shaggy straw-colored fur and the mangled ear could only belong to one wolf.

“I can’t believe Lucas is still watching me!”

Earlier this week, I reviewed the fantasy book Masters of the Veil by Daniel CohenCheck out the review here.  Daniel was gracious enough to agree to do a Q&A with me.  His novel is available now from Spencer Hill PressGo grab a copy.

Melissa: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Daniel:  I graduated with a degree in business management but I’m trying my best not to use it. Obviously, I love writing, but really I just love books in general.

Melissa: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Daniel: Rock saxophone. I’ve been playing tenor saxophone for about fifteen years now, but I still have a lot to learn. I actually just moved to Austin, TX (the live music capital of the world) to try my hand at the music scene. Turns out that everyone here is amazing so it’s going to be rough.

Melissa: Where did the idea for Masters of the Veil come from?
Daniel: Simply put, I love fantasy novels. Harry Potter, Name of the Wind, Lord of the Rings… love ’em. I wanted to write my own, but I wanted it to be my own (if you catch my drift). I didn’t want to borrow anything from my literary idols. I wanted all the magical creatures, plants, games, theories, and techniques to be completely of my own creation. It took a loooooong time to come up with this world, but I think it was worth the effort.

Melissa: How did you get involved with Spencer Hill Press?
Daniel: I love SHP so this one’s going to be long.
Spencer Hill Press has been an absolute blessing. My first novel, The Ancillary’s Mark, was published by a different independent press with a very common business model. Publish a lot of books quickly and then move on. I’m not trying to bash my first publisher (I’m very grateful for the opportunity they gave me) but it’s just not the model that I found appealing for something that I put so much love and life into. I did all of the marketing for The Ancillary’s Mark myself, and part of that was contacting book bloggers with the hope that they would review my book.
I honestly can’t say enough good things about book bloggers. You guys rock.
In my marketing efforts, I kept seeing this one book called, Minder, by Kate Kaynak popping up on these young adult blogs with all sorts of fantastic reviews. I did a little snooping and found that the publisher was this really small independent press called ‘Spencer Hill Press’ that specialized in my genre. They only had three books on their roster and they all seemed great. Their model was exactly what I was looking for. They wanted to grow the careers of young authors. This model meant that they only published a select few titles a year and that they truly believed in what they represented.
Jackpot.
I was so incredibly lucky that they accepted me as one of their authors. Kate Kaynak, the author of the acclaimed Minder turned out to be my editor and I couldn’t have been happier with the work she did (and oh boy did she make me work!). Since I joined very close to Spencer Hill’s inception, I was able to watch both their authors and the company grow. One of their authors, Jennifer L. Armentrout, became a bestselling author with her book, Half-Blood, which is fantastic, btw. I would highly recommend anyone agented or unagented to look into Spencer Hill. The staff is brilliant, but the best part is that they actually care. Plus, they have a great family feel. Shout out to the other SHP authors!!!!
Phew. Ok, can you tell that I love my publisher?

Melissa: What was your favorite chapter or scene to write?
Daniel: The final scene. I can’t say any more than that because I don’t want to give the ending away to those who haven’t read it yet. But wow, that scene was intense to write.

Melissa: There’s a first chapter teaser for Children of the Veil at the end of  Masters.  Can you tell us a little more about that project?
Daniel: That’s a toughie. The best I can do is be vague because I don’t want to give away what happens in the first book. Children of the Veil is about ¾ of the way complete and, in my humble opinion, is even better than Masters. It dives further into the workings of the magical world and the reader really gets to know the characters on an emotional level. But the real treasure is in the antagonist.
Oh boy is he intense.

Melissa: Do you ever get writer’s block?
Daniel: Yes. I’m actually going through a terrible bout right now. It really helps that the reviews of Masters are starting to trickle in, because people seem to really like it, and that’s giving me the drive to keep writing.

Melissa: Do you work with an outline or just write?
Daniel: I have an outline, but in the heat of writing things seem to always change. However the bones of the story tend to stay pretty close to what I have planned out.

Melissa: Do you do all your writing on the computer or do you prefer pen and paper?
Daniel: I write the actual manuscripts on a computer but I always have a pen and paper with me because ideas love to strike me while I’m in the oddest places.

Melissa: Do you listen to music while you write?  If so, what’s in your writing playlist?
Daniel: A lot of authors tend to listen to music when they write but for some reason I can’t do it. I am a huge cliché however and I usually write in coffee shops. They tend to be quiet enough, but not too quiet.

Melissa: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Daniel: I know this is going to sound pretentious (and I apologize for it) but I have found that there is a huge difference between writing and being an author. I started as a writer, but I find myself slowly drifting to the other side. Writing is fun. Being an author can be horrible. If you’re serious about becoming an author, be prepared to sacrifice for your craft. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but real writing will consume you. The best advice I can give is be careful, and make sure to find time for friends, family, and real life.

Melissa: Seriously, where did all the beautiful and bizarre creatures and plants of Atlas Crown come from?
Daniel: I’m so glad that you like them! When creating, I put myself in sort of a trance, and honestly have no idea where the ideas come from; they all just sort of find me. Sometimes the ideas don’t come and sometimes they come in droves.

Melissa: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
Daniel:  People tended to complain about the romance in The Ancillary’s Mark.  And they were right, too. But it was a good thing. Since I was aware of my problem with romance, I concentrated on making it better in my next book, and even better in the next book (Children of the Veil).

Melissa:  What’s your favorite book of all time?  The one you can re-read over and over and never get bored?
Daniel: It tends to change often, but I’ll give you my top three.
 1. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
2. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
3. The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

Melissa: If Sam Lock were real, do you think the two of you would be friends?
Daniel: I do like sports and magic. So we’d at least have something to talk about.

Melissa: If Masters of the Veil was made into a movie, who do you picture starring in it?
Daniel: It’s funny that you should ask. I did a piece over at Fiktshun where I cast the main characters. You should check it out: Fiktshun Guest Post: Masters of the Veil Author Daniel Cohen
 There’s even photos!

Melissa: Your short fiction piece, “Every-Mother Knows Best,” is included at the end of the book.  How did you get the idea for a reverse fantasy?
Daniel: Haha, that story was very interesting to write. I was playing with the notion that by reading fantasy, we can better understand our own reality (a yin and yang sort of thing). So I decided to explore what it’s like from the other side of the fantastic.

Melissa: Is there any chance that you might expand “Every-Mother” and its world for a full-length book?
Daniel: Maybe one day, but I’m going to have my hands full for a while with the Veil trilogy. Plus I’m planning on launching a blog with short stories centered around my two favorite new characters from Children of the Veil, named Yorick and Framliss. They’re hilarious. 

Either/Or

  1. Chocolate or Vanilla?
    Chocolate
  2. Dark side or Light side?
    Light
  3. Star Wars or Star Trek?
    Neither.  I like LOTR 🙂
  4. Tea or Coffee?
    I like tea, but I need coffee.
  5. Summer or Winter?
    Definitely, definitely, definitely summer.
  6. Beach or Mountain?
    Too close to call
  7. Sweet or Salty?
    Salty. I’ll take dinner over dessert any day.

Thanks so much, Daniel, for doing this Q&A!  It’s been a blast! We’re looking forward to Children of the Veil and wish you all the best in your writing endeavors!

I love GMasters of the Veiloodreads.  It is officially my favorite website.  Without the Goodreads First Reads program, I never would have been introduced to Cohen’s books.  I’m surrounded by book-lovers at both my jobs and then listen to podcasts and read blogs about the latest sci-fi/fantasy books, so I always have plenty of trusted recommendations for what to read next.  Ordinarily, I wouldn’t pick up a book without having heard something very positive from someone I trust.  The exception to that is books that I get for free (ARCs or other giveaways).  Now I can’t wait for the next book in this exceptional series!  (Really?  2013?  I have to wait? Darn.)

When I received my copy of Masters of the Veil, I figured it would be similar to most other YA Fantasy.  I expected a fast-read with cardboard characters, a hot romance, and a clichéd magic system.  What I got instead was a quick-paced read (not quite the same as fast-read; this is better) with very three-dimensional characters, the beginning of a potential romance (did I mention that I can’t wait for book 2?), and a fabulously unique magic system.  The details of the settings, especially of Atlas Crown, are well-thought out and descriptive.  Cohen shows people exactly what the city looks like without inundating the reader with pages upon pages of description.

The story begins with a high-school football star, Sam Lock, in what is supposed to be his defining moment in the field.  When everyone around him suddenly freezes, he finds him world quickly turning upside down.  Soon he discovers that, not only is he capable of using the Veil (Cohen’s source of magic), there are two groups of sorcerers that each want him on their side.  Sam meets a group of people in Atlas Crown that, for the most part, is eager to include him in their lives, whether he wants to join them or not.  Most of them try to help him understand his new-found powers, always pushing him to learn about and explore and, most of all, control his connection to the Veil.  Another group, one that is no longer welcome in Atlas Crown, also wants Sam on their side.  They will stop at nothing to take control of the Veil for their own purposes and believe that Sam is the key to achieving their dark ends.

The Masters of the Veil is published by Spencer Hill Press.  Spencer Hill started in January of 2010.  As of now, they are still a relatively small publishing group.  They specialize in “sci-fi, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance for young adult readers.”  They make the claim that their books all have an “’I couldn’t put it down!’ quality.”  From what I’ve seen of this book, I’m inclined to believe them.  I generally get a little frightened when I start books from small or independent presses.  There are too many out there who care more about quantity and speed then quality.  If I feel as though I need an editor’s red pen to read a book, it’s not worth it.  This company doesn’t seem like that.  I’ll have to read more of their books to have a more total opinion, but I like what I’ve seen so far.  I don’t recall any glaring typos in this entire book.

I adored this book.  If you like any magic-based fantasy, you’ll love it, too.  Go pick it up.  Support the smaller publishers.  Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

Here’s the latest flash fiction.  This week’s prompt from Chuck Wendig required me to put my music collection on shuffle. The first song to come on was to become the story title.  We were even encouraged to use the song’s lyrics or tone as the basis of the story.  Considering I have 6 days worth of songs on iTunes and some of them are incredibly bizarre, I was reasonably afraid of what song would pop up.  I have no idea what I would have done if something like Die Zauberflote or Kung Pao Buckaroo Holiday had been at the top of the list.  Thankfully, Loaded Gun by Flatfoot 56 won the day.

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Lucas stared down the barrel of the shotgun.  He didn’t know exactly what would happen to him if Markus pulled the trigger from that distance, but he knew one thing for sure.  No Fae power would be able to bring him back.

“Markus, no!” Lenora tried to get his attention.  “Lucas is one of the good guys!”

“No!  He’s one of them!”

“So am I!  You gonna try to kill me, too?”

Markus wavered for a moment.  He clenched his jaw and glared at Lucas.  “I don’t know,” he whispered.

Lenora blanched.  “Markus…”

“It’s just…I can’t take this,” his hands shook.

“Look, I know it’s hard to deal with.  But it’s gonna be okay,” Lenora pleaded.  “Just put the gun down.”

“I can’t.  If I put the gun down, he’ll change and kill me.”

“No.  I won’t,” Lucas held up his hands in surrender.  “I don’t kill people.”

“Yeah, you do.  I saw you back there.  You’ll change and eat me!” Markus’ voice rose with each word.

“Oh please,” Lucas sneered, suddenly fed up with Markus’ fear.  “If we wanted  you dead, you’d be dead.”

“No.  I have the gun.  You make one move and you’ll be nothing but red splotches all over the room.  Your kind bleeds red, right?”

Lenora scowled.  “You couldn’t shoot us both at the same time, moron.  You kill him, what do you think I’ll do to you?”

It was Markus’ turn to pale.  “Why?  What is he to you anyway?”

“He’s like the big brother I never had.  I would do anything to protect him.”  For a split second, Lenora’s eyes went from gray to icy-blue.

“Lenora, no.  You’ve been through enough.  I’m not going to let you kill your ex to avenge me.”  Lucas changed his focus to the man with the shaking gun.  “If you have to kill someone tonight, fine.  I’m sick of this.  If you’re going to kill me then just do it.  Be a man and either put down the gun or pull the trigger.”

Markus’ bottom lip quivered.  “Will you leave?  Will you both leave my town alone?”

“That’s all we want, jerk-face,” Lenora growled.

“Lenora,” Lucas warned.

The barrel of the gun dipped until it pointed harmlessly at the floor.  Lucas moved dashed forward and ripped the gun from Markus’ hands.  He emptied the shells onto the floor before tossing the gun away.  Markus gulped.  “Why?”

“Why aren’t we ripping you into a thousand pieces?” Lenora crossed her arms.  “Good question.”

“Nora,” Lucas put an arm around her shoulders.

“What?  He had a gun on you!”

“And he didn’t pull the trigger.”

Markus sank into the threadbare couch and looked at the other two.  “Why aren’t you killing me?  Are you afraid of getting caught?”

“No.”  Lucas shook his head.  “Human cops would just see a freak animal attack.  They would assume that you, for some reason, brought two big dogs to your ex-girlfriend’s apartment and that they turned on you.  And since they wouldn’t be able to find Nora either, they’d probably assume that you or the giant dogs did something to her, too.”

“And we’d certainly be able to take you, gun or no gun,” Lenora barked.

“But we’re not like that.  We could be vicious.  I know plenty of Fae who would have no problem with us destroying you, even before you threatened us.”

“Why?”

Lucas nodded at Lenora, who suddenly had an interest in the peeling wallpaper.  “You broke her heart.”

“I didn’t mean to, I just…”

“I don’t care!” Lenora exploded.  “I don’t care about your reasons.  It doesn’t matter anymore.  His point was just that many of our kind would be insulted that I had been with a human at all.  You dumping me would just be icing on the cake.”  She turned to Lucas.  “Can we just go now?  I want to find Shane.”

Lucas nodded.  Nora headed to her room to throw a few essentials into a backpack.  Markus tried to leave as soon as her back was to him.  Lucas grabbed his collar and slammed him into the wall next to the door.

“Let go mmmm,” Lucas covered Markus’ mouth.

“Don’t scream.”

Markus nodded.  Lucas’ bright blue eyes were just inches from his own.  Slowly, he lowered his hand.  “I need to know that you’re not going to tell anyone about all this.”

“What the heck would I say?” Markus squeaked.

“Give me your word.”

“I won’t say anything.”

“Swear it,” Lucas demanded.

“I swear, I won’t tell anyone anything about you or her or any of this.”

“If you do…” Lucas let go of Markus’ collar.  “Let’s just say that not all of our kind are as forgiving as I am.”