Thursday, June 30, 2011

Someone is playing the system, but don't spend a hundred bucks on one of my books

If you want to buy one of my books, I thank you! If you're patiently waiting for Sexton Sand (Sexton Chronicles IV), I thank you.
   My books are for sale in paperback, hardcover, and file download at The prices are good and Lulu has deals on the books often.
   But the other day, I discovered my books are for sale at Amazon in hardcover. The problem? They shouldn't be. My books are for sale there as Kindles or paperback.
   Some third-party vendor is buying my hardcover books from Lulu and selling them on Amazon for $148-$190. Don't pay that much. You're not doing me any favor, and you're not doing yourself any favor by doing that. I put the caution out there because someone did buy one of my books for that kind of money. I'm flattered he thinks it's worth it, but...

I think the third-party vendor will be handled quite easily by Amazon. I learned the hard way that Amazon scours the internet for the lowest possible price on a book. If it finds a price lower than the one they offer, they reduce the price. They did that with Storm Clouds Over Sexton when I raised the price for the Kindle version. They'll do it, I'm sure, for the hardcover copies of the Sexton Chronicles.

In fact, now that someone bought a copy of Return To Sexton for a whopping $173. Amazon pulled the listing. I'm glad they did. I never wanted the hardcover to be for sale on Amazon anyway, but that's a different topic for a different day.

I do want you to buy my books, of course. See the links at the bottom of the page. Click them and they'll take you to the best price on the books, directly from the source. Buy the books and we'll both feel good. They're quality tales. Yes, I want to sell books to you, but I don't want to see you get ripped off.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sexton Sand--the first three chapters. You saw them here first!


Tom had no idea how it was supposed to work. Fighting enemies, whether they were members of Sexton's Protectors Guild, shape-changing druids, or hordes of Crescen soldiers was easy compared to what he was about to do. If he screwed up fighting, the only penalty was death. This time the odds were different, the stakes higher. He was more nervous than he would have been if he was about to go into battle.
He was on a beach outside the living quarters of Benecala, the Mage of Sexton. If he was in America, he might have a better idea of how to proceed. He would walk in, disregarding the man's position—or the deadly destructive power of his magic, of which there would be none—and talk to him man to man. He would tell him of his love for his daughter and announce they were going to get married. Quaiva was no help, but that was probably his fault. He hadn't asked her how to proceed, and she couldn't or wouldn't read his mind.
How long had she been in there? He wished he still had his watch. At least then he would know how long he'd been waiting. He was trying not to think about Andy—in captivity somewhere in Crescens. On the other hand, thinking about Andy's troubles made his nervousness seem trivial. Benecala probably wouldn't turn him into anything that slithered or oozed. On the other hand... He cut the thought short. The other hand was that he had no idea what was going to happen when the door behind him finally opened. It had been nine days since Andy was captured. Nine long days and he was no closer to rescuing his friend, and no closer to marrying the woman he loved.
The door opened and he all but jumped to his feet. Quaiva smiled at him without saying a word, turned her back, and walked back into the room. He walked in and closed the door behind. Benecala was sitting in a chair with a high, padded back. His black and gray beard appeared to have been combed recently, and his long black hair wasn't as greasy as usual. Must've been time for his annual bath, Tom thought. Quaiva was on a padded bench on his right. He couldn't help but smile when he looked at her. This was a rare occasion—seeing her as a daughter—and she looked much younger than she was. Her brown hair was tied back in a long braid with a red ribbon on the end that matched the color of her dress. Her ankles were together on the floor and her back was straight. She smiled back at him, but only with her eyes.
Sit next to my daughter,” Benecala said. He steepled his fingers. “I want to see how the two of you look together.”
Tom's nerves got the best of him. He blurted, “Sir, there's something I have to discuss...”
Tom did. It didn't lessen his nervousness when he realized he followed the order without thinking about it. To sit, he had to take three steps and turn. The old fart must've used magic, he realized, or I would still be on my feet. His fingers wanted to twitch. To hide the nervousness that would show, he crossed his legs and clasped his hands over his knees. He wanted to speak but knew better. Benecala's tone made it clear who would speak next, and he wasn't going to do that until he was good and ready.
My daughter has asked for permission to wed you.”
Tom's eyebrows went up. He glanced at Quaiva and saw her blush. “Excuse me?”
Benecala chuckled. “She did not discuss this with you?”
Of course! Sir, I'm just...surprised...she asked your permission.”
A father has some say in these matters. It is a tradition I do not wish to see broken. Is that not how it is done in your world?”
Tom laughed. “Where I come from, the man asks permission from the father of the woman he wants to marry. ...Sometimes.”
Silliness. The man needs no one's permission save that of the woman.”
That was my thought, but I'm willing to bow to tradition.” he wanted to look away from the wizard and look at her, but didn't quite dare. He had the sense she was wildly amused by the whole thing.
She,” Benecala continued as if Tom hadn't said a word, “belongs to the father until he decides otherwise.”
He met Benecala's gaze; he wanted to see every nuance. There was something there, and although he'd known him a long time, he couldn't tell what it was. “What have you decided?”
It seemed like a long time before the reply came. The wizard stood. He turned his back on the couple on the bench and looked at the sun and clear sky through the open window behind him. Somewhere nearby, a bird sang. When he turned to face them again, he was smiling. “I have decided to welcome you as my son-in-law, Thomas. Quaiva, dearest girl, he is an excellent choice.”
She clasped Tom's hand and squeezed. He didn't look at her. He was afraid he'd join her if she was crying.
If you wouldn't mind waiting in the hall again, Thomas, I would like a few words with her.”
Tom didn't try to hide his surprise. He looked at Quaiva and nodded when she smiled at him and glanced at the door. She wasn't crying. That helped. “Okay. I'll wait outside.”
Her palms were sweating, but she wouldn't wipe them on her dress like a cook's assistant. This wasn't part of her plan. There should be nothing further for the two of them to discuss on this matter until after he had a chance to become accustomed to the idea and was prepared to plan the ceremony. She knew him better than anyone else living or dead, and she could see there was something on his mind.
He crossed to her and caressed her cheek. When he released her, he took a step back and looked at her. “How proud your mother would be,” he said in a whisper. “And I am proud as well.”
Thank you, father.”
He looked at the door, then at her with a scrutiny she didn't know how to interpret. “Does he know you carry his child?”
Her heart all but stopped. She had no spittle in her mouth, and her tongue felt swollen. A hard swallow made it easier. How could he know such a thing, when she wasn't sure herself? How would he feel about it? That he knew was beyond question. She chastised herself for not being forthright about her suspicion.
He seemed to read her every thought and allowed her to play them through her mind. There was a pitcher of water on a table next to his chair. He poured some for her and handed her the cup. With a laugh he said, “You are not thinking clearly, my dear. If you were, you would have known I would see it in you. These things warm my heart.” He smiled with as much warmth and happiness as she had ever seen from him. “We return to my question. Does he know?”
She stood. “I only suspected it myself...and apologize for not thinking you would see it as clearly as you see light.” Her apology was waved away. She swallowed and glanced at the door. “No. He does not know. He must focus his attention on the rescue of Andy from the Crescens. To ask otherwise of him would tear him apart. He will not know about my...”
Don't try to stop me! Please.”
I was not stopping you.” He chuckled. “I was but finishing your thought.”
I was going to say 'pregnancy.'”
I am telling you that you will have a daughter.”
The devilish twinkle in his eyes was much closer to the look they normally carried, but she didn’t like that it was aimed at her. “You were saying...?”
She aimed a finger at him. “You will tell no one I’m pregnant. And I will not tell him until he comes back safely with Andy. Then and only then, if he will still have me, will we marry. Agreed?”
He embraced her. “I will do as you ask.”


John was waiting at the door when Tom finally got to his room. He was leaning against the wall with his arms folded over his chest and a big grin on his face. There was a sack on the floor next to him. “How did it go?” he asked. “I see you’re not a toad yet.”
Tom rubbed his chin. It had been a long day, and he was tired. “Not yet anyway.” He glanced at the sack in John’s hand. “Did I lose a bet with you?”
No. Why would you ask that?”
That looks like a sack of laundry, and you’re waiting outside my door. Is it a welshing if I don’t do your laundry because I don’t remember the bet?”
It would be.” John laughed. He picked up the sack and nodded at the door. “Benecala said I had to bunk with you. These are my clothes.”
Tom was too tired to ask, and too tired to argue with any response asking might have brought. He shrugged and reached for the door handle. “You get the couch. There’s only one bed.”
You have a couch? How do you rate?”
Academy grad. There aren’t a lot of perks that go with that, but this is one.” he smiled. “Rent is due daily...a silver. I get the bed and the first shower in the morning.” He opened the door.
You have a shower?” He wasn’t sure if Tom was kidding or not. The last thing he expected was Tom stopping in the middle of the doorway. He walked right up to him. His eyes bugged when he saw the room was lit. Candles on the table in the middle of the room gave enough light for him to see the bed, the couch, the doors on the balcony, and what made Tom stop in his tracks.
His royal majesty, King Rolof of Sexton, was sitting in the chair. The candles were burned half down, and there were little puddles of white wax on the table. He’d been there a while. They hadn't seen him since they got back. Not that they expected to see him. Kings had better things to do than wait for a couple of guys to come back from a failed mission. John smiled at him. He liked the king... They liked the king. He looked healthy and vibrant. His red hair shined in the candlelight and his teeth looked white under his beard when he finally smiled.
No,” Tom said.
No?” Rolof repeated. “I haven’t said a word, and you start with a no?”
Tom sat on the bed. “I’m very tired, and John probably is too. No offense intended, your highness, but every time we see you, you want us to go on a mission that could get us killed. I figured I’d save some time and just say no.”
Rolof stood. He crossed to the bed and clapped Tom on the shoulder. His grin was infectious and both men joined him. “I came to ask no favors, nor to send you on a mission. “He shrugged. “I reserve the right for that at a later time, of course.” The smile faded from his face. “Let us not forget that I’m the king.”
It’s good to be the king,” John said. He was thinking of a Mel Brooks movie and almost laughed. His brain pictured Rolof telling all the pawns—living people in lawn chess—to jump the queen. It almost made him giggle. Sleep. He needed sleep, and soon.
Tom yawned. “What brings you to my room in person in the middle of the night?”
Rolof let go of his shoulder and extended his hand and shook hands with Tom. “Congratulations are in order. I understand you and Quaiva are engaged to be wed!”
Tom’s eyebrows rose. “How did you know?”
Why do I have to keep saying it? I’m the king.”
Jon said, “And people tell you everything? The only people that now are the folks that were on the boat, and the sailors on Quarick’s ship, and Quaiva, and me, and Benecala. Who told you?”
Know you nothing about rumors?” He glanced at the expression on John’s face and let loose a booming laugh. “Yes, I suppose you do. What you do now know is that my people have a habit of assuming I neither listen nor care to listen to comments not directly addressed to me. If I sit long enough in one place, with a royal and ponderous expression on my face, the people around me assume I’m thinking royal thoughts...governing from the limits of my skull, or some other nonsense.” His next laugh was almost a giggle. “You should hear what the chambermaids prattle about when they give me baths.”
John shot Tom a look and saw laughter in his eyes. “Do they give you baths too?”
Do I look like a king?”
A little...around the eyes.”
Tom shook his head. “You came to congratulate me? Thank you, your majesty.”
Rolof’s expression turned serious. “I will stay out of your wedding plans, of course. Still, you must know this: I have no wife and no daughter. The closest persons in this castle to royalty other than myself are Benecala and Quaiva. She is not now, nor can she ever be a princess, but when she weds no one by appearances will know the difference.”
A royal wedding?” Tom asked. His expression was almost comic. “You’re kidding. Please tell me you’re kidding.”
Do I look like I’m kidding?”
John leaned forward and put his face close to Rolof’s. He turned to Tom and smiled. “He doesn’t look like he’s kidding.”
I see that.”
Rolof turned to leave. He stopped next to the door. “One more thing, gentlemen. I know your friend Andrew was captured. I count him as one of my personal friends. Nothing will stop you from affecting a rescue, I know. You probably plan to leave soon, correct?”
Jon looked at Tom. He couldn’t read anything in his face, but he knew his friend would want to leave at first light and ride hard for Crescens. He was all for it if that was the plan. They were already nine days behind him and it would take several more for them to reach Crescens and start looking.
Soon,” Tom answered.
You need to rest for a couple of days before you go. I can see the exhaustion in both of you and I am—according to most—not an observant man. Three days will not make a difference in your mission. Stay and rest.”
We’ll take that under advisement, sir.” Tom smiled. His yawn was real.
The king nodded. He looked at John and smiled. “Benecala asked me to give you this.” He reached under his belt and pulled out a small pouch. It rested in his palm.
What is it?” John asked.
Rolof closed his hand over the pouch and squeezed. He threw it to the floor. A cloud of orange flew into the air and he backed out the door covered in haze. In the hall, he continued to hold his breath until he could hold it no longer. That damn wizard could pack a lot in a small package, but he didn’t say how fast the dust would work. He felt sleepy himself, but knew he didn’t breathe much of it in. If he had, he would sleep for a long time.
There was no noise from within the room. John and Tom would sleep for three days. Resting would arm them better for their mission than anything else he could give them. For his part, Rolof decided a hunting trip to his forest in the north would be in order. He would return to the palace in five days...two days after the Americans woke up and left for Crescens.


Andy opened his eyes. Bright light. Hurts. He closed them again, but stayed awake. Groggy. He was, but could feel himself growing alert. The last thing he remembered was getting the crap kicked out of him by a mob of Crescens in the tunnels under the Fortress Balfour. After that things were a blur: captivity, chains, getting carried—probably drugged, but maybe under that damn druid’s spell—on a land route to somewhere. How long ago was that? He had no idea.
He opened his eyes to slits and tried to get used to the light. Prisoner of war. The term rattled around in his head for a while. But why? They didn’t hesitate to kill everyone that got in their way. What’s special about me? Other than coming from a world they couldn’t imagine existed, he couldn’t think of anything. It wasn’t like he was a great warrior, or a prince, or a general in the Army of Sexton. As a hostage he wasn’t worth much. He had no rank, so they wouldn’t think he could give them enemy plans.
He moved his hands, which were untied, over the mattress under him. It was odd they put a mattress in a prison. The place didn’t smell bad either. No stench of sweat, no reek of urine, no odor of moldy straw. What the hell was he lying on? He wriggled his hips and didn’t hear the crunch of straw. If he didn’t know better, he would think he was on a feather bed. His eyebrows went up when he opened his eyes. The light was sunlight filtered through sheer curtains. There was a pillow under his head. A nice, soft pillow. Nice digs. Too nice. He wondered if he should be alarmed. Could he move? His ribs hurt when he sat up, but it was an aching pain rather than the stab of broken bones. His lips felt funny. Swollen? He moved his jaw around with his hand, remembering a few punches to his face while they were in the tunnel. He was dressed in something that looked and felt like silk pajamas. He ran his hands over his thighs, enjoying the feel of the fabric, and grinned when he realized he wasn’t tied up in any way.
The room was small and clean. Very clean. The floor was some kind of tile: green with flecks of gold. The walls were white, and the window did indeed have sheer curtains over it. A warm dry breeze blew into the room and fluttered the curtains. To his right was a door with a peaked arch at the top. There was no handle on the inside and he figured it was locked. It was a prison of some sort, but what kind of prison? If he was in Crescens, and he had no reason to think he was anywhere else, why was he in a nice place? There was plenty of poverty in the country. He was sure they didn’t have money to treat all prisoners this well.
He looked to the right and saw a table against the wall. On it was a pitcher and a plate with some kind of bread on it. His stomach rumbled at the sight. His legs wobbled when he stood, probably from lack of use. He couldn’t remember the last time he stood up or walked after the beating in the tunnel. Five or six steps took him to the table. He spilled a little of the water when he gulped it. Rather than waste the spilled water, he smeared more on his face. There didn’t’ seem toe any bruising, but there were a few tender spots that were probably pretty banged up for the first few days after the beatings. There was a lot of stubble on his face. Maybe he’d grow it into a beard.
A knock at the door brought a chill to his spine. He put the cup down and looked at it without saying a word. It opened, and a woman entered. She glanced at the bed, then looked deeper into the room and smiled when she saw him. A word whispered over her shoulder, and the door closed behind her.
It took him a second to realize who she was. The blond hair and blue eyes, the ready smile over white teeth, and the shape of her hips and breasts under the black dress did the trick. It took another second to get his lungs to work well enough to push breath and words out. “Sarah?”
Sarah was on of the wives of their friend Raj—an exile from Crescens who became their friend and got them into the spice trade, which was illegal in both countries, and who—Andy remembered with a gulp—went on to become King Rajahd’een of Crescens, the man responsible for starting the war. “Is that you?”
She smiled. “I am quite happy to see you awake. Are you well?”
He blinked and grinned. “Am I well? Um...I guess. How long have I been here?” Before she could answer, he held up a hand to stop her. “I mean. Where am I and how long have I been here?”
She shook her head and looked away. “I came only to see that you are well. I am so sorry, my friend, but I am not authorized to answer any of your questions. Is there anything in the way of food or drink I can get for you? The bread and water are here only to break your fast. Other foods are available to you. Perhaps you would like fruit or wine?”
She smiled. “What, pray tell, are tacos?”
Ground beef heated until brown, served in flat bread with tomatoes, and lettuce, and cheese on top. A little spice added to the meat would be great.” his stomach rumbled loud enough for her to hear and make her giggle. “Four or five of ‘em should do the trick.”
Yes, please.” Hot damn! I just invented tacos!”
I will see what I can do. In the meantime, you should rest. You have a meeting in a few hours. I will wake you when I bring the tacos.” She knocked once on the door. It opened and she smiled at him as she backed out.
Wait! Who is the meeting with?”
Her head poked back in. “Why...with the king. King Rajahd’een. Who else?”
The door closed. He heard a bolt click. Feeling tired again, he looked at the bed and sighed. “Tacos on the way, brought by a hot chick in a tight dress, a feather bed, and a king coming to see me. Things could be worse, I suppose...” The bed felt good. He was asleep in minutes.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Excerpt: Chapter 79 of Sexton Sand (Sexton Chronicles, book 4)

Chapter Seventy-nine
They were in the woods on the road between Crescen and Sexton, not far from the canyon where the Bandit Brigade saved Tom and John’s bacon. The sun was in it’s wakening period between sunrise and full light of day. Mist mingled with dew and they could see the horse’s breath. Andy pulled the feedbag off the horse’s snout and looked at Tom. “Do you think he’s okay in there?”
   Tom put their rolled tent on the cart next to the coffin with Raj in it. He looked at the thing, looked at Andy, and gave a half shrug. “I hope so. He’s used to heat and we kept the box covered.” He grinned and managed to look a little sheepish when he did. “He’s a desert guy... Shouldn’t need much water.”
   John patted the horse as he walked by. “I don’t think any of us wants to open the box and check on him. Or do we?”
   Tom climbed on the wagon. He sat on top of the coffin and looked down at John and Andy. “Let’s go.” Andy climbed on the buckboard and picked up the reins.
   John hesitated. “What if he’s dead in there?”
   Andy chuckled. “Then we already have the box.” He winced at his own joke, remembering that under the demon was their friend. They hoped.
   “Are you sure we shouldn’t check on him?”
   Tom laughed. “By pulling out the nails and standing ready to fight him and his magic with our bare hands when it turns out he’s fine?”
   “If you have a better plan,” John snapped, “I’d be happy to hear it.”
   “I have a better plan.”
   Andy was shaking his head. John looked at him, then glared at Tom. “What is it?”
   Tom didn’t answer. He stood. Like a cheap magician at an American carnival, he swept both hands next to the coffin, met Andy’s eyes, then John’s. Without a word, he jumped in the air and landed on top of the coffin. He kicked his heels across the top in a rough approximation of a tap dance.
   The reaction from inside the box was immediate. It rocked hard enough that Tom almost fell off it. There were no shouts from inside—Raj was gagged—but there was no doubt that whatever was in there, King, demon, or friend, was very much alive. He stepped off the coffin and stood in the cart, looking at both his friends. “Looks like he’s pretty healthy in there. Might not smell too good, and he’ll probably need a bathroom break when we’re ready to let him out, but for now I think we’re doing checking on him.”
   Andy was laughing too hard to say anything. He looked at John’s face and kept laughing while he gestured for John to take a seat next to him.
   “Let’s go.”
   Andy snapped the reins once John was seated. They moved back to the road, toward Sexton.
   Inside the coffin, bound and gagged, Rajahd’een seethed...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Now you can get the first 3 Sexton Chronicles in the iTunes store

Sexton (Sexton Chronicles, vol. 1)                            Sexton Spice (Sexton Chronicles, vol. 2)                                   Storm Clouds Over Sexton (Sexton Chronicles, vol. 3)

My first novel, and it won't be available much longer

I started Return to Sexton before I wrote Sexton, in Clive Cussler's guest room in 1986, and didn't publish it until 2011. It stands outside the Sexton Chronicles, but much of it fits with the series. It's not a bad first novel...which is why I decided to publish it. However, there is a limited availability. I am going to pull it at 11:59 PM on June 30, 2011. If you're interested in this collector's edition Sexton book, but it now.

I'm not kidding about pulling the book, just in case you were wondering.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sexton Sand sample chapter--Chapter 74

Here's a sample chapter for you, while you wait for the book: Sexton Sand (Sexton Chronicles IV)


   Benecala was in the corridor near the hole he used to escape the fortress. Given the fight atop the wall, it was the only place he was reasonably sure would have no druid presence. His senses were keenly attuned to magic, but virtually any practitioner would have been able to feel the power hurling around above his head. He did something he almost never did—he ran toward the nearest stairs. The only magic he could feel as he barreled up the stairs was druid magic. For all he knew, Niccolo was dead already.
   The blackrobes stood five feet apart, three spectral shapes in black, staring at a pile of rubble that was the top of the outer wall moments before. The tall one in the middle took a few steps toward the smoking rubble and stopped. He looked at the one on his right and raised an eyebrow. There was no sign of their enemy. 
   “He must be dead,” he said to the others. “There was nowhere for him to go.”
   “Our magic is strong, united as it was.”
   The tallest of the three said nothing. He pushed a corner of a shattered brick aside with his boot. “There is more to him than met the eye.” The others were looking at him. His red eyes glinted in the morning sun. “He is not of this world, and will have magic we do not know. Caution is called for.”
   “I thank you for your estimation of my powers.”
   The voice came from behind the tallest blackrobe. He stiffened. Without turning, he looked at his companion on his left. Their eyes met for a fraction of a second and no words were exchanged, but each knew the other’s thoughts. As one they spun and cast black destruction directly at the source of the voice.
   They saw the wizard, smiling. His sword still sheathed at his side, his arms spread at his waist. Their spell blasted through him, but left him untouched. Their surprise was palpable.
   He vanished. Reappeared behind their comrade on their far left. As one the two blasted—sending a tentacle of power toward the other druid, who spun neatly out of the way with a yelp that sounded like a dog bark. He spun as well, joining their blast.
   The wizard vanished again.
   Nick could play the game all day if he chose. He was leaning against the outer wall that ran along the right side of the square around the courtyard. It was too far from the druids to hear them speak, but their confusion was both obvious and humorous. He thought it odd that men who were capable of assuming the shapes of a variety of animals never thought of illusion. They weren’t shooting at him at all. They were shooting at a projected image. Still, it was a game with no point but putting off the inevitable. Sooner or later he would have to flee or fight. The energy the druids spent casting their spells didn’t come from them. Unlike Nick’s magic, theirs came from their god—or some other source he didn’t understand.
   There was a change in the air, magic from somewhere. It coalesced near him, close enough to startle him. His hands came up and a spell formed on his lips, but he stopped both when he realized the man he was looking at—who came from nowhere, it seemed—was on his side.
   He grinned. Looked, shook his head, and grinned again. “Welcome to the fun, Lord Benecala,” he said.
   Benecala didn’t answer at first. He was watching the druids look at each other in confusion. “They will understand what you’re doing, you know. Very soon, I should think.”
   Nick put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. “They’re probably going to be mad as hell when they figure it out. I like that.”
   “You would.” He grinned back at the American. The other Americans he knew would have been shocked at the sincerity in the smile. “They cannot be allowed to live.”
   “My sentiments exactly.” His grin faded. He was looking over Benecala’s shoulder at the blackrobes. They were done with the illusion, apparently. All three sets of red eyes were fixed on them. None of them moved. None summoned power.
   The moment lasted several seconds. The breeze blowing over the fort remained constant, and Nick remembered the extent of control over the weather the druids had. He could hear Benecala’s deep smooth breaths, and feel his own heart beating in his chest. It was hot. Sweat was beading on the back of his neck. Nick ignored it. “What are they waiting for?”
   Benecala didn’t look at him. “I do not know.”
   As if that was the cue rather than something else, there was movement into the courtyard. Men came from inside, a lot of men. Nick looked down. He recognized the uniforms of the Crescen army. They came in from all sides, in silence, in some sort of formation. He estimated there were sixty or seventy men in all. They were looking up at them.
   “This just got interesting,” Nick breathed.
   “It will get more interesting in a moment, I would wager.”
   “More interesting?” He chuckled. “Do we want that?”
   “I think so.”
   Nick heard a screaming, whistling sound from their right, from the bay below. He felt his eyebrows rise, and shot a glance that direction. He could see a cloud of smoke from the side of the ship in view. Before he could process what it was, there was a crash of brick. The wall shook, and he almost lost his footing. “What the hell?” came out his mouth almost before he realized it.
   “Cannon fire.” Benecala grinned—the ghastly one.
   “They have canons?” He glared at the wizard. “Since when?”
   “Since you Americans started arriving in droves.”
   Before Nick could say another word...all hell broke loose.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Links to my books: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, and Nook

Been looking for good fun reading... A little something to make you smile and forget the cares of your day? Try mine. I stand behind them.

Here is a link to the best place to buy my books in all formats except Kindle:

If you have a Nook, they're available from Barnes and Noble. Below is a link to a search that reveals them all. For the record, I'm not the David J. Steele who wrote the book about clinical experiences, and I hope he'll forgive me for hoping you buy my books before you buy his...

Here's a link that'll take you to my Nook books:

And here's the link to my page at Amazon. If you'd like to buy my paperbacks, please buy them from Lulu. You'll pay the same price...but Lulu will give me more of the money, and pay me in a timely manner. Amazon's author payment track record bites the proverbial weenie.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sexton Sand--hang on to something when you read the end of this, book IV of Sexton Chronicles

I like putting action packed endings on my books, and Sexton Sand will certainly have one. I have the pieces in play: the characters, the conflict, the setting. Here's the tickler, the setup, if you will...
  • Tom, John, and Andy have a simple task: keep possessed King Rajahd'een locked up and under control while they smuggle him out of the country
  • Benecala is on a ship, headed toward Balfour, where an American wizard--who was once a student of his, then an enemy--is faced with more than one black robed druid, each with a bad attitude and worse breath.
  • Rorak and his merry band of bandits is in deep doo-doo in the capital of Crescens
  • And the whereabouts of a talisman of great power, the Sexton version of a famous earth gem, is in the hands of the druids.
Here's a sample, from Chapter 71 Sexton Sand:

Chapter 71
   Nick’s bootheels clicked on the stone as he walked the corridor away from the chamber and headed back to the courtyard. The sound echoed off the walls until he passed the hole in the wall and glanced out at the bay. It was going to be a hot day; he was starting to regret the heavy denim shirt that was a good idea when he was still in Michigan. Only part of his attention was on where he was going. The rest of it was focused on sensing Benecala. Residual magic clouded his ability to find the wizard, and he wondered if the same applied to Benecala, until it occurred to him that there was a possibility, albeit slim, that the wizard might have taken him at his word he would stay in America.
   He wanted to get outside before using magic to try to find Benecala. The walls of the fortress wouldn’t hamper his ability, but the stench of the place was starting to get to him and the idea of standing in the sun and fresh air was appealing. A breeze blew in and stirred up dust on the floor. He glanced at a swirl of it around a pile of rubble and saw a rat...with a red glow in its eyes. He didn’t break stride, pause, or slow his moving eyes.
   The rat was a druid, a high priest in the order at the very least, and if it was there it wasn’t alone. He wondered if it would confront him, or just follow him. There was a chance, a very small chance, the druid didn’t know him for what he was. Odds were good the druid, even in rat form, would know he was looking at a man with significant abilities. Druids trusted none but their own, and that trust was far from absolute—a fact Nick had used to his advantage in the past.
   He continued up the stairs, moving past the door from the courtyard he had entered. Three more rats skittered out of his way as he went. He made a light in the palm of his left hand and held it at his waist. The rats that had moved past him didn’t look at him. He felt magic and sensed greater than animal wariness from them. The feeling brought a tickle of anxiety to his neck. Three or four black-clad druids carried a lot of firepower.
   The door at the top of the stairs wasn’t locked. He stepped through into brilliant sunshine on the outer wall of the abandoned fortress. Under more normal circumstances he would have closed his eyes and let the sunlight and fresh air wash the stench of death from his mind. These weren’t normal circumstances. He sensed thick malevolence from behind, and kept walking until he reached the wall. With his palms flat on the outer wall, he leaned forward and took a deep breath of the salty air. The water looked blue and peaceful, a stark contrast to the environment he just left.
   There was a ship in the distance on his far right. He couldn’t tell by looking at it if it was coming his way or not, but he could sense one of the passengers was Benecala. He smiled. The old man knew he was there, and he expected no less. He would know if Benecala was to set foot anywhere near him on earth.
   “Quis es?” a voice from behind asked.
   Nick smiled without turning. That the question was in Latin told him the druid was familiar with earth, and knew Nick was as well. It wasn’t good news. The blackrobe wanted to know who he was. “Ego nihil ad vos. Sim peregrinus curiositate saluto. Simul relinquam.” He was a little rusty with Latin. He hoped it meant he was none of the druid’s concern, a traveler who would be leaving soon.
   “You lie,” the druid said in Sextonese.
   Nick turned around. “You’re right, of course.” He bowed his head slightly.
   Standing in the doorway was a stocky man of dark complexion. He looked very old to Nick’s eyes. There were deep lines around his eyes—probably from too many days in the sun and too many nights peering at the moon for clues to the future. His beard was white and trimmed close to the face. His eyes glowed red under his heavy eyebrows. Black robes covered him from head to foot. His hands were clasped together just below his waist, but the seemingly harmless position of his hands didn’t fool Nick. He knew how quickly those hands would be able to direct magic against him.
   “Where is the gem?” Nick asked mildly.
   “That is none of your concern. You will leave this place now. Whether you leave this world or not is entirely up to you. It makes no difference to us. You make no difference to us.” He raised a finger and pointed it at Nick. “There are no gems here. There never have been gems here.”
   He let his shoulders slump. “Then I shall go, and look elsewhere. Gems are exceedingly rare in my world, even more rare than they are here. Sometimes old places like these have them in forgotten places.” He turned and cast a look out over the water. Speaking without turning he said, “Is this not a beautiful view? I admire the beauty of this place.”
   “Yes,” the blackrobe said. True admiration rang in his tone. “It is a beautiful world, and will be much more so when mankind is no longer here to taint it.”
   Nick was ready. He pulled his hands away from the wall, closed his eyes, and summoned power—power that was much easier to tap in Sexton than it was anywhere in his world. He turned and brought his hands up, and paused only for a fraction of a second when he saw the blackrobe wasn’t alone.
   ...There were two more standing with him...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Ending the book ritual--I think all novelists have one, whether they admit it or not.

I designed the final cover for Sexton Sand last night. The manuscript isn't finished yet, but it's close. People with traditional publishers don't get to design their own covers, but I'm still a self-published author so I get the privilege of designing my own cover art. I also get the privilege of doing everything else for the book. Someday I hope I'll be able to trade those privileges for the privilege of cashing royalty checks with commas in them, but until then I get to do my own artwork.
   My wife is one of those detail by the rules kind of people, which is one of the many reasons I love her. I'm not quite the antithesis of that, but I'm not much for rules unless they make sense at the moment I'm considering them. In her mind, the cover should be the last thing I develop, or the first, but definitely not the I'm-almost-done exercise.
   I'll tell you why I do it, why I like to design the final cover just before I write the ending. It's because I always experience a little trepidation just before I write the ending. Oh, I know how the book is going to end before I design the cover. That's not the problem. And now that I'm my own publisher, I know I can have the book ready for sale within a couple of hours after the final edit. That's not the problem.
   The problem with finishing the book is the let down. Yes, I always feel a little lost right after I finish a book. I feel satisfaction of completion...but then there's a lull, a mental pause, before I type chapter one and start the next book. I never want to take a break after I finish a book, but my brain (a thing I sometimes refer to as a fictional character I call Ralph The Muse) needs to take a break.
   Maybe this time it'll be different. After I finish Sexton Sand, I'm going to finish a book I've already started--a non-fiction account of the 9 weeks I spent in Peru in 1987. It was an interesting time, and a lot of the world called Sexton started with what I felt, saw, tasted, and feared in those days in Peru, when the country wasn't very stable. That book will be called: "Everything is Tomorrow?" 
   I'll be darned. I just plugged two books in one post.