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Monday, December 9, 2013

Indie Review - Writing About Magic

Writing About Magic, by Rayne Hall, is a part of a series of books Ms. Hall has written to help writers hone their craft.  This book focuses on adding magic to fantasy fiction.  It can be found on Amazon.  I downloaded using the Amazon Prime Lending feature.

I met Rayne Hall on Twitter, and she has quite the presence there.  She tweets often, and is very helpful to other authors.  I highly recommend following her and engaging her if you get a chance.

Magic obviously is a big part of my fantasy writing, and many of the questions and criticisms of my early work focus on how I write magic.  Magic in my writing comes across vague and confusing.  I recognize this shortcoming, and so when I saw Ms. Hall had a book on the subject, I jumped at the chance to read it and learn something.

I do not know what I expected from the book, but I was struck first that it reads like a textbook or reference manual.  If I understand correctly, the author actually has taught this subject matter in a classroom setting, and the book feels as if it was pulled directly from that environment.  Each chapter even ends with a number of "homework" style questions/activities so that the reader can go and practice what was just taught.

At first read through, I was a little taken back by this style, but as I finished the book, I appreciate the way Ms. Hall tackled the subject.  Ms. Hall is not concerned with changing your voice or telling you HOW to write.  The book focuses more on what magic is and what role it plays in stories.  She then breaks down many different forms of magic from which to build a magic system around for your own world.

If magic is to be believable and serve a purpose in our writing, then we as writers must do our homework.  An inconsistent magic system, or a system where magic immediately solves all problems can destroy the story I'm trying to tell.

Ms. Hall has certainly done her homework in creating this resource.  She draws heavily from real world systems of "magic" in order to explain the style, training, etc. of the various styles of magic.  She then encourages the reader to take this information to create a new system that works for his world.

For this reason, I highly recommend Rayne Hall's Writing About Magic.  I consider it a vital resource in creating a magic system for my own work.  Though I "borrowed" the book through Amazon Prime, I will add it to my permanent collection, as I expect to refer to it often.  I also look forward to reading Ms. Hall's other books on the writing craft.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Indie Review - The Belgrave Daughter

This week for my Indie Review, I have the privilege in participating in a "Blog Tour" for a new young author's debut novel.  Zara Hoffman's book, The Belgrave Daughter is releasing today and Ms. Hoffman has asked a number of blogs to participate and review her book throughout the week.  The entire list of blogs discussing her book are here.  There is even a raffle for free copies of the book, here.

Zara is a 16 year old author I recently met on Twitter.  She gave me a copy of the eBook for an honest review as a part of her blog tour.  You can find the novel on Amazon.

The Septemgeminus Prophecy states: "A powerful sorceress with blood laced in gold sevenfold shall determine the fate of the world."

Fawn Belgrave's magical powers are the coveted prize in a bet between God and the Devil.

When she meets Caleb, the dark angel assigned to seduce her, Fawn's life is turned upside down.

In order to do a fair review, I must first be honest and say I am not the target audience for this book.  The book is a young adult fantasy romance with witches, angels, and demons about a college age woman.  As a mid-thirties father of three and fan of high fantasy and science fiction, this book is not one I would normally pick up and read.

As I've said in the past, my reviews are here to encourage independent authors and to connect them with potential readers.  Ms. Hoffman's debut work is worthy of such a review.

I was most impressed with the emotion expressed throughout the novel.  Fawn Belgrave experiences a series of ups and downs throughout the book, and the author does a wonderful job of conveying believable emotion throughout the novel.  She wrestles with love and lust, trust and betrayal, loneliness, etc. and I could empathize with her feelings and reactions throughout.

Ms. Hoffman often jumps between the thoughts of several different characters throughout the story, and the effect can be jarring at times.  Several times, we read the inner thoughts and feelings of Fawn and then Caleb in the matter of a couple of paragraphs.  It can be difficult to follow along, and I would suggest Ms. Hoffman try and maintain a single point of view for each scene in order to help clarify the flow of the story for the reader.

I found Ms. Hoffman's descriptions of magic, heaven, hell, and supernatural beings fascinating.  She has created a universe full of intricate rules and details, and I felt she stayed consistent throughout.  But, as a new reader to this world (and this genre in general), I found myself wanting more explanation.  I would have appreciated a little more time spent building up the world early in the story.

When I started reading The Belgrave Daughter, I was worried I would not be able to finish the book.  It is a genre of story that I do not seek out, and it deals with characters and situations that at first do not resonate with a reader like me.  That said, as I continued reading, I needed to see where the story would go.  I found myself fascinated by the characters, and quickly read through the book's 156 pages.

I commend Ms. Hoffman for finishing an endeavor of this nature at such a young age.  I am impressed that she is willing to tackle very difficult subjects, like spirituality, betrayal, forgiveness, love, and even depression.  I believe Ms. Hoffman should continue writing, as I am certain she will only improve her craft as she continues. 

The Belgrave Daughter is a romantic young adult modern day fantasy.  I recommend it to anyone who enjoys these types of stories and is looking for a quick read from a growing young author.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Indie Review - Call of the Herald

Call Of The Herald, is the first in the Godsland series of young adult fantasy novels by Brian Rathbone.  You can find Brian's books at  Several, including Call Of The Herald, are available as eBooks for free.  I downloaded this book free from Brian's site, as I recently met him on Twitter and appreciate his tweets throughout the day.

Echoes of the ancients' power are distant memories, tattered and faded by the passage of eons, but that is about to change. A new dawn has arrived. Latent abilities, harbored in mankind's deepest fibers, wait to be unleashed. Ancient evils awaken, and old fears ignite the fires of war. When a Catrin Volker, a teenage horse trainer, inadvertently fulfills the prophecy of the destroyer, she becomes the most feared and hunted person on all of Godsland. With the help of her friends, she must convince the world that she wants only peace.

Mr. Rathbone has done a wonderful job of creating a world and letting us know about it progressively as each chapter of the story unfolds.  Catrin's homeland is separated from the wars and troubles of the rest of the world, but that quickly changes when the great Zjhon empire determines the prophesy of their destruction can be undone by attacking Catrin's home and killing the coming "Herald."

I was very impressed with the amount of detail Mr. Rathbone used to describe the rural community Catrin lives in.  It is obvious that the author understands this lifestyle (his website hints that he grew up with a farming background), and his love for horses particularly shines through.  That said, this detail also slowed the story at times, and Mr. Rathbone occasionally used farming, boating, and horse training language that I was unfamiliar with, as I'm much more a city boy.

I was equally impressed with the author's description of magic in the book.  Magic is a foreign and rare thing for the people of the Godsland, and so magic is described from Catrin's view as she becomes aware of it around her.  The true source of the magic (nature, divine, etc.) is kept hidden through much of the book and I expect its secrets will continue to come out as the story unfolds in the rest of the series.  I enjoyed this approach, as it kept me interested, and it made magic feel like an integral part of the story.

The book starts slowly, as Catrin's life is simple and slow paced.  It took me a while to come to care for her and her friends, but as the pace of the story picked up I found myself riveted and had no trouble flying through the last half of the book.

The book is written in third person, but primarily from Catrin's point of view.  I found myself a little confused at times, as the book jumped to random characters' points of view from time to time in order to explain a parallel part of the story.  I had no context for several of these characters, and I wonder if Mr. Rathbone will bring us back to them in the future.

I enjoyed Catrin's story, and look forward to reading the rest of the series.  While the book does not end on a cliff hanger, it is obvious there is a lot more story to tell.  Lots is left unfinished and many questions are unanswered.  I am excited to read the rest and find out what happens.

Call Of The Herald is a strong opening to what looks to be a fun, magical, epic adventure for adults and young adults.  I recommend this book to anyone looking for a fantasy novel with a detailed, fleshed out world and the time to read what I expect is a compelling series.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Upcoming Posts

Happy Monday to you.  Here are a few updates on what's been on the site recently and what's to come over the next few weeks as we head into the holidays.


Last week I posted the fourth review of an indie pub'd book here at  I hope my reviews help you find books from independent authors that you can connect with and enjoy.  Have you read any of these books?  I would love feedback on my reviews, both positive and negative. 

Over the next three weeks, I have three more books that I will review.  I am currently working through reading them.

  1. First up is Brian Rathbone's Call of the Herald - The first book in his Drawing of Power trilogy.  Brian has many of his books available for free through his site, and so I grabbed the first book to review.  You can see many of his books here.
  2. Next, I am reading Zara Hoffman's debut novel, The Belgrave Daughter.  I am actually participating in something I haven't seen before: a "Blog Tour."  The week of November 25th, leading up to the release of The Belgrave Daughter, Zara has partnered with Grape Vine Book Tours to feature reviews of her new book across several blogs (2-3 each day that week).  I think this is an interesting opportunity, and I look forward to participating.  My review will post on that Monday.  You can see more about Zara's book tour here.
  3. Finally, I am going to read and review an independently published book that is not fiction.  I follow Rayne Hall on Twitter and try and converse with her when I can, as she has been writing for many years and really understand twitter.  Along with fantasy fiction, Ms. Hall also writes books about writing.  I'm going to read her book Writing About Magic and review it on the site on December 2nd. 

Short Stories / Ryndaria

Over the last six Fridays, I posted six "flash fiction" short stories.  A few months ago, I would never have believed I would get that much done.  I plan to continue posting one story a week through the end of the year.  This Friday, I hope to have part three of my series of stories about Kundit the dwarf and the city of Faubersil.  I think this will take four to six stories total to tell the entire tale. 

After that, I would like to come back to some characters I wrote about previously.  To do so, I want to take a poll.  You'll notice a poll on the right side of the site.  This lists the various characters I've written about so far. 

I will run the poll for two weeks.  After the poll closes, I will write a story about whichever character gets the most votes. 

You might notice more than six characters listed on the right.  I wrote a few stories in the past (before I learned the "flash fiction" approach) to go along with some miniatures I painted.  If you liked those characters, vote for them. 
Here is a list of the characters in the poll, and a link to stories about them:
  1. Shadow (Shadow's Lament)
  2. Aelar & Aelar Jr. (The Trouble with Junior)
  3. "King" Cedric (Treason)
  4. Helick Stonecleaver and the white Dragon (Giants and Dragons and Orcs, Oh My!)
  5. Kundit Fauberhand (Obsession and Voices In The Dark)
  6. Charis the Halfling (Halfling Sleuth)
  7. Kurssix the Lich (Godslayer)
  8. Dhenir the elf (Truce Forged)
Please leave comments and questions below about the poll and any of its characters.

Thanks, as always, for reading.  Come back Friday for another story!


Friday, November 8, 2013

Flash Fiction - Voices In The Dark

Welcome to another Flash Fiction Friday post.  I said last week's story was the first part of a much larger story.  This week, I couldn't leave Kundit, Sendar, and Tanas alone, so I wrote part two of the story.

If you missed last week, I suggest you read it first - here.

On Monday, I'll talk more about painting and other generic thoughts.  I have three books on deck to review, and I plan to review all three  in consecutive weeks starting two Mondays from now.  I'll talk more about that next week.

Enjoy!  Remember, please leave a comment.  If you want to chat more, you can find me on Twitter or Like me on Facebook with the links on the right hand side of the site.

Voices In The Dark

Kundit's prey was close. The dwarf wizard tracked the fleeing human to a series of old tunnels.

Instead of heading toward the surface world, as expected, the cunning illusionist delved deeper into the mountain. Kundit spent a significant number of coins on scrying rituals to track Tanas down.

Kundit's spells led him below the city of Faubersil. He recognized the dwarf carved halls. Decades earlier, he dwarves driven mad by an ancient, evil dragon in these very tunnels.

“You shouldn't have come.”

The voice echoed from the tunnels ahead of the dwarf.

“I don't want to hurt you,” the voice whispered, this time directly behind Kundit. He spun around and drew his wand from his belt.

“Like you hurt my brother?” the dwarf said into the hall. He turned back around and crept deeper into the old tunnels.

“I gave him what he wanted!” The voice grew in pitch and echoed all around. “He gets to be with his beloved, dead wife, forever.”

Kundit forced himself to ignore the illusionist and continue his search.

“You need to stop.” Kundit recognized desperation in the voice. “You can't find us. He'll make me kill you.”

The dwarf tried to hide his surprise at the mention of another, but he stutter-stepped and stumbled.

“Tricks won't save you this time, Tanas.” Kundit straightened up and pressed on through the winding corridor. His wand glowed then faded as he cast a spell to see through Tanas' illusions.

“Leave,” the voice whispered from behind.

“Me,” from up ahead.

“Alone!” Tanas' yell echoed all around Kundit.

“You're coming back with me, Tanas.” Kundit steadied himself, trying to sound calm. “I need your help to cure Sendar.”

Kundit could sense the mad mage was close. The illusionist's ventriloquist trick grew more erratic the further in Kundit moved. He had Tanas cornered.

Kundit wanted to hurt his brother's tormenter, but he knew only Tanas could lift the curse that left Sendar in a permanent hallucination.

“Don't make me kill him!” The yell echoed from further ahead, no longer a magical trick. Kundit held his wand out, ready to counter anything Tanas cast.

“You don't have to kill anyone.”

The dwarf came to a corner and peaked around. Tanas stood in the middle of a large empty room, probably the abandoned entry of an old dwarven keep.

“Don't come any closer!” Tanas pointed a small wand toward Kundit with one shaking hand. In the other, he held a sword up and back near his head. “Don't make me kill him.”

Kundit barely heard the last sentence as Tanas mumbled to himself. The dwarf stepped out from cover, wand up.

“You're not going to kill anyone Tanas.” He walked toward the distracted human. “Come back with me and we can save Sendar. He doesn't have to die.”

Tanas looked up, eyes wide. Sweat ran down his face. His hands trembled, and his head twitched as if he tried to hear something.

“I won't kill him!” he cried as he plunged his red-hued blade into his own chest.

“No!” Kundit rushed to the dying human.

As the dwarf approached, Tanas lay in a growing pool of blood. Kundit sobbed, realizing the one who could save his brother was dead.

Then, Kundit noticed the sword.

He recognized the pommel of the weapon, formed from the same purple dragon's scale his brother stole.

He pulled the magnificent blade from the dead man's body and held it up, not noticing that no blood stuck to the reddish-silver metal.

The sword was the key. Kundit understood the sword held the secrets to solving all his problems.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Indie Review - James & The Dragon

James & The Dragon, by Theresa Snyder, is a children's fantasy novel, available on Amazon (here).  I met Ms. Snyder on Twitter, and she is a delight to converse with online.  She gifted a copy of James & The Dragon to me for an honest review.

What would you do if you were adopted by a dragon? When ten-year-old orphan James nearly drowns in a bog, he finds himself rescued by Farloft, a centuries old dragon with a glittering collection of treasures and an even richer collection of stories. But, dragons and boys are not meant to live together – or are they? When Laval – a wizard harboring a secret hatred for Farloft finds out about James, he sees his chance for revenge.

Theresa Snyder's tale of a dragon and two very different humans pulled me in from the start.  She has created a powerful, character-driven story.  These three characters are easy to understand and relate too, yet complex enough that they don't come across as caricatures. 

Farloft the dragon especially steals the show.  The ancient, thoughtful, and caring dragon lives a self-imposed exile, bitter toward and separated from humans, but his true feelings and nature come out as he gets to know James.

The world Ms. Snyder created is harsh and cold.  Though the kingdom itself comes across a bit bland at times, this actually serves the story.  Ms. Snyder contrasts this present darkness with fantastic stories of the world's past, as told by Farloft.  Tales of magic, war, and powerful wondrous items setup what I expect will be further intrigue in future books of the series.

Ms. Snyder markets her book on Twitter as geared toward nine to eleven year old boys.  This is fitting, as James, an orphan in a plagued land, is about ten years old in the story.  I gave James & The Dragon to my own nine year old son to read, as I think he will really enjoy it.  I expect this will be a series we can share together.

Ms. Snyder's writing is clear and concise, and easy to read.  The book is well edited and the story and plot flow without any hiccups.  I am confident my nine year old will fly through the book's 60 pages in short order.  I look forward to his reaction to this tale.

The first book of The Farloft Chronicles grabbed me and would not let go.  The story builds up to a fitting climax and satisfying ending.  Ms. Snyder has done a wonderful job creating a world I look forward to going back to. 

James & The Dragon is a great story for young boys.  I found myself taken back to the innocence of my own youth, when dragons were terrifying and yet awe inspiring.  I highly recommend this story to anyone looking for a fun, magical tale.  This is a story any dragon-loving reader should pick up!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Flash Fiction - Obsession

Welcome back!

This week, I experimented with my story writing.  Most of my stories are "scenes" that describe the action in close detail.  I tried to pull back a bit when writing this story.  I wanted it to come across as a tale of history.

Sendar's story takes place back in Ryndaria's history.  I expect this to be the first in a series of stories to tell the story of Faubersil and the ancient dwarves and their magic. 

As always, I would love feedback.  How does the story flow?  Do you have any major questions?  I hope it leaves you wanting to know what happens next!

I included a couple pictures of my latest miniature painting work as well.  This is Kundit, the dwarf wizard and a lizardman.  I think these are two of my best paint jobs yet!  I hope you enjoy them.

Thanks for reading.  Next Monday, I should have my review of Theresa Snyder's James & The Dragon ready!


Long ago, Sendar Fauberhand, a dwarf of the ancient dwarven city Faubersil, grieved the loss of his wife Cora. A terrible disease afflicted the dwarf while she was still young and before the couple had any children.

To dull his suffering, Sendar hired Tanas, a powerful human illusionist, who lived in the city under the mountain. In those days, the greatest wizards of Ryndaria were dwarves of Faubersil, and spell casters from all over the world lived and studied magic in the city.

Tanas cast spells of enchantment on Sendar, allowing the dwarf to believe his wife lived again. Sendar would see his wife alive and well. He spent his time with this false reality, but these illusions lasted only a short time. Sendar spent his modest wealth reliving the fantasy, until no money remained.

Sendar's need for the illusion overwhelmed the poor dwarf. He ate little and ignored friends and relatives. His every thought was of seeing his wife again.

As the days went by, Sendar would scrounge up enough coins for a short visit with the illusion. Each time his desperation grew as reality flooded back.

The cycle repeated for weeks until Tanas refused to continue. “I hate seeing you do this to yourself,” he told the dwarf.

The illusionist offered an alternative. With the right components, he could create a magic wand that would summon the illusion of Sendar's wife for a short time each day.

Sendar focused his time on gathering what items he could for the wizard until only one element remained.

The final ingredient for the wand was the scale of a purple dragon. The unmatched intellect of purple dragons allows them to control the minds of others. They are skilled enchanters and illusionists, and their scales store a portion of that power.

Sendar knew he could not buy such a rare scale nor find a dragon, but he felt blessed by fate. He knew who had such a scale and how to get it.

Sendar's older brother, Kundit, kept a dragon scale in his study where he taught magic at one of the city's prestigious universities. Decades earlier, Kundit, a well known and esteemed wizard, coordinated a raid to defeat such an ancient dragon.

The creature burrowed close to Faubersil and tormented and corrupted the minds of many citizens. The battle with the dragon, and its charmed minions, cost many lives, but the dwarves defeated the beast.

Sendar went to his brother, asking for help with his obsession. He apologized, telling Kundit he wanted to move on with his life and reconcile with the family. Sendar deceived his brother and stole the scale.

Before Kundit recognized his brother's deception, Sendar delivered the scale to Tanas. The human completed the ritual, but instead of a wand, as he promised, Tanas forged an enchanted sword. The human wizard used the power of the blade on Sendar and fled the city.

Kundit found Sendar near death and babbling his wife's name. Though the younger dwarf healed of his physical wounds, he remained cursed by the evil blade, lost in an hallucination of his wife.

Monday, October 28, 2013

On Recent Site Changes

Nearly one month ago I transitioned over to the new format, with two updates each week.  On Mondays, I post reviews of works by other independent authors, or create posts like today that look at my own creative process.  On Fridays, I post flash fiction that takes place in the world of Ryndaria.

For today, I'd like to discuss my takeaways after a month of producing content for the site and talk a little about what I've been working on.

Monday Reviews

I think the review posts continue to go well.  I completed reviews for three books in October, and all the authors seemed to appreciate the work and the feedback I was able to give.  I learned a lot and tweaked my reviewing format as I went.

One big change I made with my Rule of Thumb review was to go without a rating.  When I started, it seemed obvious to give a score to each book, but after reviewing a couple books, I realized my system for rating contained some flaws.

A rating system is not consistent with why I review books and post them to the site.  I see my reviews as a service to authors and their potential audience.  I want to connect readers with authors they may like.  The reviews also give me an opportunity to read a bunch of books I wouldn't otherwise read.

I do not feel comfortable giving an author a bad review in public.  I do not think it helps anyone to share a poor review of a fellow independent author's work.  I do not intend to be a critic that tells you which authors to stay away from.  I aim to highlight books I find that I enjoy, and share those with my readers.  If I find a book I feel is not worth reading, I will decline to post a review.

When talking about this with a friend, it became evident a rating system doesn't really make sense.  If every book I review is going to be 3, 4 or 5 "dragons," what does that mean?  The rating is meaningless since there are never 1-2 "dragon" books to compare with.

I do re-post my reviews to sites like Amazon and Goodreads.  Since those require a rating, I give a rating when I post the review.  So if you are really curious, you can look up my reviews on those sites.

I have a couple more stories in the pipeline to review.  Next up is James and the Dragon by Theresa Snyder.  I should have it ready by next Monday!

Are you an author looking for a review of your work?  Please find me on Twitter (@Ryndaria) and let me know.

Fantasy Flash Fiction

I completed my 4th flash fiction last Friday.  Each story is a little different in style and tone, and I continue to experiment with each new story I write.  I am still on track to release a new story each Friday, and will continue into the foreseeable future.

I hope you get a sense of the world of Ryndaria as you read these stories.  It is a dangerous world, and full of diverse peoples and societies.  I think it is obvious I am influenced by worlds such as Middle Earth (from Lord of the Rings), various Dungeons and Dragons settings like the Forgotten Realms, and even the reality of the world we live in.

Writing such short stories is more difficult than I originally thought it would be.  My earlier stories were much longer, yet said much less.  I think the practice of writing flash fiction will help clean up my writing style.  When I start to write longer stories again, I expect they will be much better reads.

I enjoy writing these stories, and I feel I improve with each one.  If you are looking to learn to write flash fiction (or any short story), I suggestion you look at Holly Lisle's free flash fiction course on her website,

I appreciate the feedback I've received for these stories, and hope you will consider posting feedback in the future.

In a couple weeks, I plan to put a poll up on the site.  I will ask you to vote on the story or character that most resonated with you.  One piece of feedback I continue to get is people want to hear more about these characters and their stories.  I will focus on writing more stories about the characters that receive the most votes.

Painting Miniatures

Many of you found my site through the pictures of the Dungeons and Dragons miniature figures I painted.  I received these minis from Reaper Miniature's ( "Bones" line of plastic, unpainted miniatures.  With Kickstarter, they raised over $3 million last year, allowing them to create molds for over 200 unique figures, and my support earned me their "core" set. 

They are doing so well, they just finished a 2nd Kickstarter campaign that raised another $3 million!  They can now produce hundreds more plastic miniatures next year.  I look forward to the many new figures that will be available next year when they complete production.

I continue to learn a ton about painting these figures.  I want to dedicate a post to them in the near future, but I learned taking pictures of these little toys is very difficult!  As my wife and I learn to take better pictures, I will write a more detailed post.

Thank you for reading today.  Please leave a comment below.  What would you like to see me tackle next?  What works for you and what doesn't?  I love any constructive feedback you might give!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Flash Fiction - Giants, and Dragons, and Orcs, Oh My!

Thank you for joining me for this week's story.  This story is based on the frost giant miniature (from Reaper Minis) I started painting a few weeks ago.  I also finished painting him this week, so you can see a picture inline with the story.

I hope you enjoy Helick's story.  Please leave a comment below.  What do you think about the characters and their actions?

Giants, and Dragons, and Orcs, Oh My!

Icy wind howled through the mountain pass. Helick Stonecleaver and his fellow frost giants concealed themselves among the rock. The fifteen foot tall giants' cold blue skin, white hair, and gray clothing allowed them to blend into the snow, ice, and rock on the peak over-looking the pass.

General Stonecleaver surveyed the area as the sun rose behind him, content his six soldiers remained hidden in the shadows, even from his own eyes. The experienced warrior hand-selected these giants from the elite 100 soldiers under his command. If this was to be his last mission, as Queen Sappira promised, these were the men to see it through.

The old general felt for his great stone sword and clutched the hilt, the familiar grip comforting his anxiety. The sun rose over the mountain peak, revealing a band of dozens of pale-skinned orcs. The general noted the muzzled young dragon, smaller than a mountain bear with scales white as the snow, with its wings tied down by thick rope.

While the frost giant leader still enjoyed obliterating the nasty, troublesome orcs after years of war with the fast-breeding pests, the dragon remained his focus. Wild dragons caused considerable trouble for the frost giant kingdom. Formidable opponents, a single adult dragon consumed the same food, treasure, and territory as a clan of giants.

Whatever their intentions for the beast, the orcs could not be allowed to keep a dragon in captivity. Helick and his men planned a quick assault: slay the subdued dragon first, and kill as many fleeing orcs as possible.

The boulder hurtling through the air at Helick and his men changed the plan.

The experienced warrior found cover as the rock slammed into the mountain below his position. Helick looked back out and saw two more rocks flying toward him. He ducked back as he glimpsed the heads of two frost giants behind the orc troops beyond the crest of the path.

Questions raced through Helick's mind. Why were fellow giants assisting the foul orcs? Had he been double crossed? The general pushed the thoughts away.

Prepare for battle,” he roared as he again grabbed his sword.

The orcs yelled back in reply as a number of them charged the pinned down giants. Two more rocks blasted the mountainside.

On his command, Helick Stonecleaver's most trusted compatriots countered the oncoming charge. They threw rocks and unsheathed swords, clubs and axes. The well-coordinated warriors tore through the lead orcs.

Boulders continued to fly in, knocking back and slowing the giants' offensive. The orc horde swarmed the seven warriors and overwhelmed them.

Helick, knocked down on his back, swatted away orcs as they rushed in on him, stinging him with their spears and swords. He knew his men lay dead or dying, their mission failed.

Orc cries of triumph turned to shrieks of terror. The general watched as orcs fled all around him.

The wounded general lay bleeding in the snow as the yells and shrieks of battle subsided. He willed his broken body and started to rise. A bloody claw, missing a talon, pressed down on his chest with unnatural strength, pinning him to the ground.

Helick lay helpless as the dragon rose its head above the giant's own. Helick glared, refusing to let the monster see fear in his eyes.

The dragon stared back, measuring up the wounded giant. It nodded its head, as if in thanks, then backed away from the general, spread its wings, and flew away. Its parting roar echoed along the pass.

Helick Stonecleaver looked at the carnage left in the dragon's wake. Slaughtered orcs littered the ground around his fallen comrades. The general forced himself up to look for survivors and answers.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Indie Review - Rule of Thumb

Rule of Thumb

Rule of Thumb, by Scott Baughman is a Sci-Fi adventure thriller, available on Amazon (here).  I met Mr. Baughman on Twitter, and he gifted me a copy of Rule of Thumb for an honest review.

Set in 2042, Rule of Thumb looks at the pervasiveness of technology in our lives.  As social networks continue to grow and permeate our identities, what would happen if we lost access and ceased to exist, according to the civilized world?  Can those in power truly cut us out of society, removing our identity?  Adrien Faulk discovers first hand the dangers of such a world in this Sci-Fi adventure.

Mr. Baughman does a wonderful job creating a believable near-future.  The first two chapters of Rule of Thumb sucked me right into his world.  He introduces us to Smith, a detective Mr. Faulk hires to help retrieve a lost item.  Mr. Smith prefers the "old" technology of the early 21st century, as a great contrast to the new technology of 2042.  Smith still reads the New York Times (on paper!), dines on unhealthy greasy foods, and drives an old gas powered Mustang.

The back and forth banter between Adrien and Smith helped explain the differences (both subtle and distinct) between present and future.  Their contrasting world views setup the story, and keep it moving forward.

What begins as a simple mystery of a lost family heirloom turns into an international adventure full of conspiracy, action, and intrigue.  The story flows quickly from scene to scene and does not waste any time on long exposition.  It is a quick read throughout.

The book is written in first person perspective, which I must admit is difficult for me.  I follow along first person stories just fine (and Mr. Faulk's thoughts are detailed and easy to follow), but often I find myself annoyed with the main characters of such books because I know too much of what he or she is thinking.

That said, the book is well written and easy to read.  I noticed very few, if any, typos and the formatting is clean and painless to navigate on an e-reader.  The author's clear and direct prose never confuses and keeps the story moving without hiccups.  It seems to me appropriate effort went into proofreading and editing the work.

I most enjoyed reading the author's version of future New York.  The people and technology of the high speed, high tech world are well defined and believable.  By the end of the second chapter, I was ready to settle into an urban thriller.  I must admit, I was disappointed when the story took a turn and left New York for more of an international adventure.  I hoped for more of Mr. Baughman's version of the city.

At times, the pace of Rule of Thumb races along.  I feel that the author has too many story elements for this books 140 pages.  Without giving the story away, the final third of the book contains several twists and revelations.  Before I could digest and come to terms with each one, the next showed up.  After reading the story, I feel there were a number of plot points and reveals that could be saved for later books in the saga.

After reading Rule of Thumb all the way through, I get a sense that Mr. Baughman knew where he wanted his characters to go, but did not always know how he wanted to get them there.  There are a couple scenes in the book that drive the story forward, but the characters end up surviving unbelievable situations to get to the next scene and location (particularly evident on their trip to South America)  These scenes felt like short cuts, and shook me out of the story for a time. 

I believe the story and characters would be better served taking a longer path.  This reinforces my belief that there is actually more than one book possible with this story (or a longer, more epic book perhaps).

Rule of Thumb is jam packed with action and surprise twists and turns.  Mr. Baughman's world of 2042 is believable, dangerous, and compelling.  I recommend Rule of Thumb for anyone looking for an imaginative, futuristic action-adventure tale.  I am excited to see where Mr. Baughman takes the story next!

You may have noticed there are no purple dragons here.  As I evaluate the point of my reviews and what I hope to accomplish with them, I realize a rating system is not the right way to go with  In my post next week I will explain in more detail why I do indie reviews and why I think ratings won't be as useful as I would like them to be.  This is not to imply that Rule of Thumb does not deserve the coveted dragons.  It was a very fun read.  :-)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Flash Fiction - Treason

I went in a little different direction and stretched myself with this story.  I admit, I'm nervous about how it will be received. 

Does it make sense?  Does the ending satisfy? 

Without giving the story away, I hope you enjoy.  Please leave comments below on what you thought.  I will probably post more on this story later based on the feedback I get.  This story evolved as I wrote it, and it took on a life of its own.  I learned a lot writing it!

Here, for your reading pleasure:


Even from his private chambers deep within the castle, King Cedric the First felt the low rumble echoing off the castle walls. The king glanced between the faces of his advisers and personal guard, looking for answers.

"What are we to do?" he asked the room, eyes bulging.

"Your men will defend the castle to the last, Sire." Solomon, the King's uncle answered.

King Cedric sighed. "How did this happen? Who's even attacking?"

The king sat confused at the sudden attack. Peace marked his six year reign as king of Duwari, a small coastal kingdom. His ambassadors kept peaceful relations with neighboring nations. Increased patrols kept the roads clear of orc and goblin hoards.

"It looks like a riot, Sire. An uprising."

Cedric stomped his boots against the stone floor as he paced the room. The king dismissed Joab, Captain of the guard, to organize the castle defenses..

Solomon cleared his throat. "Your majesty, perhaps you would like to sit down."

King Cedric scowled and looked at his uncle. An armored soldier burst through the door, interrupting the tension.

"Your majesty," the soldier's voice echoed out of his iron helmet. "The outer courtyard is lost!"

"How?" Cedric squeaked. "Farmers and merchants cannot stand against my men."

"The troops surrendered, Lord. Many even turned to join the rebels." The panicked soldier stood at attention, awaiting the king's reply.

"What magic is this?" Cedric asked.

"Sire, perhaps we should regroup elsewhere," Solomon spoke up.

Cedric clenched his fists. “Never,” he spoke through gritted teeth.

"We can review our options from a safer location.” Solomon walked over and put a hand on his nephew's shoulder.

The king relented. He turned to the messenger.

"Hold the keep with your lives. No one gets through, and no surrender. Tell Joab to deal with any betrayal in kind."

The knight bowed and rushed from the room. Solomon pulled a small stone from the wall at the far end of the chamber.

A click sounded within the stone wall. The room shook as the wall moved, revealing a stairway heading down into darkness.

The king motioned to his two personal guards. One moved to the passage, leading the king and his uncle down. The second bolted the chamber door and took up the rear, pulling a lever to close the wall behind.

The lead guard grabbed and lit a torch. Cedric followed close behind. He pushed the soldier on, ready to be out of the dark, dank passage and out the hidden exit in the rocky hills behind the castle.

Cedric soon saw daylight and breathed a sigh of relief. His sigh became a shriek when strong hands grabbed him at the exit.

King Cedric squinted in the sunlight. Cedric's guard lay on the rocky ground with a tall heavyset farmer standing over him, crude sword pointed at his back. Other farmers and townsfolk pressed in on the king, subduing him and his companions.

What's the meaning of this treason?” His voice rose in pitch as he spoke.

For treason,” King Cedric recognized the voice, “and the murder of King Edgar VI, you are under arrest.”

Cedric narrowed his eyes in hatred and terror as the speaker, Prince Edgar VII, approached.  Cedric protested, fought, and begged as his captors dragged him to be hanged.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Indie Review - Antics

Here is my second review since the overhaul of  I hope you find it helpful.
As always, please leave a comment below on what you found helpful or confusing about the review.  I want these reviews to help people find indie authors they can connect with and enjoy.  If this review doesn't tell you enough, let me know what is missing!
Indie authors out there - if you would like a review, please send me a tweet on Twitter.  In the future I will include a submission form here on the website.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Flash Fiction - The Trouble with Junior

Flash fiction #2 is here and ready for your reading pleasure.  The next story is about two characters I introduced previously, Aelar and Aelar Jr., when I painted their miniatures.  This little story takes place when the son is still a small child.

My lovely wife took a few new pictures of the miniatures, this time with some goblin enemies I finished painting this week.  I think they turned out well.  I kept them simple, but tried to bring out a little extra detail to really make them pop.  I can't wait to bring them against my players next time I am Dungeon Master!

I hope you enjoy the story.  I ended up rewriting it from scratch this week, and I do hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The tone is a bit different than last week.  It takes place over several scenes and is in third person. 

As always, please, please, please comment below or on twitter.  I want (need!) your feedback. 

Thanks for reading.  Next Monday, I will have a review of another indie author's work up.

The Trouble With Junior

Aelar stirred, distracted from meditation by his son's cries. Noting the darkness outside, the elf sighed. He smelled the dirt and sweat of his soot-covered leather uniform lying on the floor.

Junior's habit of needing attention in the middle of the night wore on the tired elf. Aelar spent all his energy laboring for the humans of a small village. He earned just enough to feed himself and his infant son.

He surveyed the small, run-down cottage and sighed again. He promised his wife, Feliah, adventure, riches, and comfort. He failed, and she left.

A renewed cry from Junior snapped Aelar to attention. He saw the baby teetering on the top of the child's crib railing, before the little elf fell to the hard floor below.

Aelar's natural reflexes and long-ignored training sprung into action. He dove into a roll, stretching under the tumbling child. Aelar Jr.'s diapered bottom landed gently into his dad's outstretched arms.

Lying on the floor, Aelar once more let out a long sigh before he smiled and hugged the infant close.


One year, and a dozen employers later, Aelar and Aelar Jr. shared the old cottage with two halfling roommates. The two little men often asked why Aelar refused to return to his forest home. With their own ancestral homeland destroyed over a century ago, the halflings scolded the elf for his pride.

Aelar replied to the questions with silence. He could never explain his self-imposed exile to anyone.

Most humans hiring unskilled, non-human laborers refused when they saw little Junior strapped to Dad's back. A few gave Aelar a chance, but their patience did not hold long. The little elf, now toddling around, found all sorts of trouble at the dangerous work sites. He climbed into an oven at a bakery, fell in a hole at the rock quarry, and caused a minor stampede of pigs at a local farm.

Each time, Aelar thanked the gods he was close by to keep his son from harm. Then he cursed them for his fate as he left to look for new employment.


By the time Junior was three, father and son exhausted enough small village hospitality and relocated to Gateway, a city nestled in Sentinel Bay on the eastern coast. The larger city afforded more anonymity for the elves and more opportunities for work.

Aelar found work with a crew repairing and rebuilding a portion of the city's south wall, damaged from goblin raiders. Many on the crew enjoyed the energy and random ramblings of the toddler. They shared many good-natured laughs at the stress the little one caused his father.

Late one afternoon, Aelar stood atop the city wall adjusting the plumb line for the next section. He heard his son call out from behind.


Aelar turned to see the tiny elf scramble up to stand on the twelve foot stone wall.

“Junior! How?” he yelled. The boy, surprised by his own accomplishment, stumbled, and Aelar watched his son tumble over the side.

Cries of alarm from the crew below confirmed the father's fears. He knew he could not save his son this time. He called out and reached anyway.

Aelar looked down to see Junior tuck his head, flip mid-air, and land in a crouch to the cheers of the crew.

Aelar let out a great sigh and smiled, a new idea taking form. Junior needed to train. They had work to do.

Monday, October 7, 2013

First Fiction Lessons

Happy Monday to you.

This week, I do not have a book review for you, as I am in the middle of reading several books right now.  I expect to have two reviews over the next two weeks though.  I'm close to finishing two books.

On Friday, I posted my first "flash fiction" story.  I posted other stories on the site in the past, but with Shadow's story, I wrote with a distinct beginning, middle, and end.  I tried to incorporate the lessons I learned from the free flash fiction course that Holly Lisle offers on her website, How To Think Sideways.  There are a bunch of great resources and classes on her site.

I think the hardest part of writing flash fiction is the ending.  Even though the ending is less than 10% of the words in the story (you should end a flash fiction story in less than 50 words), the ending is what gives the story meaning.  It completes the story, reveals something about the character or the world, and should answer "why am I reading this" for the reader.

I hope Shadow's ending made sense to you and that you want to see more of him.  I enjoyed creating the character and giving you a taste of him. 

The next hardest thing about flash fiction, for me, is I wanted to tell you more!  It is hard to constrain the story to around 500 words.  I'm sure many of you wonder who Shadow is, how he got in this predicament, and where he is going next.  With a story of this kind, those details have to be left out, as there isn't room to include them all. 

But, that doesn't mean I can't come back to Shadow again in the future!  I look forward to seeing where his adventures take him next time, especially since he left under messy circumstances.

I appreciate the comments on the blog and on twitter.  After taking Holly's class and learning what it takes to write flash fiction, I think I learned even more by actually going through the process and finishing a story.  I see what worked and what may have been confusing.  I can see pieces of Shadow's story I may have done differently if I were to do it over.

My next story comes this Friday.  It is a little different in tone, but I am equally excited about sharing it with you.  I hope you come back to see it soon.

I wanted to share a quick picture of my latest miniature painting.  The frost giant is not progressing as I hoped, so I decided to take a break from him and work on some monsters.  These little goblins are simple and small.  As you can see, I have the first couple colors down.  By next week, they will be complete and you'll get to see the finished product. 

Aren't they just adorable?  You can see how different they are with the giant general looming over them.

I still have over 200 miniatures to paint, so I will be busy for a long time.

Those of you into gaming miniatures, have you seen Reaper's new Kickstarter?  They are running a new drive to add even more plastic "Bones" minis to their already expansive line.  I recommend you check it out, there's a ton of great stuff there.  I can't wait to get my hands on the "gelatinous cube!"

See the Kickstarter Here

One final order of business.  I created a Facebook page.  I know some of you don't use twitter as much, but want to see my updates.  Facebook is the next best thing!  If you have suggestions on how I can make it worth your time, head on over and "Like" the page and leave a comment!

Thanks again for reading!  Don't forget to comment below or send me a note on Twitter.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Flash Fiction - Shadow's Lament

OK.  Here it is!  My first attempt at flash fiction.  I hope you enjoy it.  Please, please, please leave a comment below or message me on Twitter (@ryndaria).  As I learn to write these, I want to know what worked and what didn't.  I respond to every comment and tweet directed my way that I can.

On Monday, I will discuss the story a bit and the process I went through in writing it.  See you then.  With that, here it is.

Shadow's Lament


I winced at the name, one I chose in the arrogance of youth. I heard the sarcastic mocking in the voice. The face of the speaker showed he enjoyed my discomfort with the ridiculous name.

"Yes, Boss," I replied, eyes lowered. I spoke the well-earned name of the one sitting behind the large mahogany desk in front of me. I glanced to each side, taking in the smirks of Boss' two dangerous lackeys, the Twins.

"Ya failed me, son." His voice softened. "You lost something of value to me. How we gonna make this right?" He invited me to give a suggestion.

"I dunno, Boss," I stammered. "Maybe..."

"I'll tell you what's gonna happen," he yelled as he slammed his large hand upon the desk. "You're gonna gimme that pretty little black blade o' yers, and you're gonna thank me for lettin' you keep workin' fer me!"


The Twins circled around close while Boss finished his speech. Before I understood what I said, something hard struck from behind while a large fist slammed into my stomach.

Dizzy and out of breath, I fell to my knees and held my stomach. The need to throw up overwhelmed, but I worried how my employer would react if vomit decorated his fine exotic rug. I tried to breath.

Boss stood up from his desk and walked toward me. I understood why he negotiated behind that big wooden desk. It hid how short and fat he was.

He towered over me while I knelt.  I held my stomach and tried to keep the blade's pommel from his grasp.

"Look Shadow, we're both reasonable men." I blinked away any remaining tears as he smiled down at me. "The Twins and me ain't gonna steal yer sword. I know it's important to ya." He bent down so I could see his face.

"But we are gonna stay here until yer convinced it's worthy payment fer yer mistake."

My thoughts jumbled around inside. I understood the situation. I had no choice.

I bargained anyway.

"Boss," I panted. "Let me pay you back another way." I started to raise my head up, but Twin One grabbed my neck, forcing me to look at Boss' shoes. "I'll get it back, or find you something even better," I negotiated.

Boss sighed and shook his head. He lifted my chin with one hand and tapped my cheek with the other.

"It's the principle of it, Shadow. I'm not gonna hurt ya bad, boy. Ya got too much work to do. But I am gonna convince ya." He nodded to Twin Two.

The brute walked over to a door behind the desk. A yell escaped in protest when it opened, revealing David. Little brother looked scared, but he was in one piece.

"Boss," I stuttered as the thug pulled David's hand to the table. Twin One held tight, forcing me to watch as the little fat man lifted a hammer and brought it down on David's hand with a sickening thud. David wailed.

"Okay," I whispered, eyes closed.

I gave them what they wanted. 

As I grabbed David to leave, I shook my head. Boss could have had better than his own blood staining that glamorous carpet.

I hope you enjoyed Shadow's story.  I have a feeling this won't be the last we hear of him. 

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Indie Review - The Legend of Finndragon's Curse

Today begins a new phase of  As I read various works by other independent authors, I will post reviews of the ones I enjoy here on Mondays.  Make sure to return on Friday for a short story (flash fiction) from the world of Ryndaria.

Please leave comments below.  I appreciate any and all thoughts, suggestions, and criticisms of the review.  Let me know what you enjoyed and what you think I left out of the review.

Finndragon's Curse

The Legend of Finndragon's Curse, by Richie Earl is Mr. Earl's first self published novel.  The young adult fantasy adventure is part one of a two part series.  I was introduced to Mr. Earl on Twitter, and found his book on Amazon here.  (note: I purchased the book)

After Emma, Megan, and Scott Davies' father disappeared, all they had left were memories and his tales of an ancient kingdom near their home in Wales.  The curse of the King's own wizard, Finndragon, caused the kingdom to disappear.  Legend says the lost castle and its people are locked in an eternal struggle against Finndragon and his demon horde.  After finding a clue to their father's whereabouts, the children set off to find Dad and unlock the mystery of Finndragon's Curse.

As I read Finndragon's Curse, the tale first reminded me of my own children.  As a father of three, I appreciated the individual personalities of each child.  Emma, the oldest, is strong willed and feels responsible for her sister and brother.  Megan is free spirited and quick to find joy and laughter in any situation.  Scott fears nothing, and is quick to attempt dangerous feats against his sisters' wishes.  Mr. Earl's experiences as a father are apparent in his writing.

The children drive the story forward, searching for their father.  Without spoiling too much of the story for you, they deal with magic, demons, and ancient knights as they unravel the legend behind the lost kingdom.

The book is the first of a two book series, with a satisfying ending that sets up the second concluding book of the series.  I am excited to find out what happens in the second story.

My criticisms to the book are mostly technical.  While I found no issue with the spelling, punctuation, and grammar, Mr. Earl's first book could use a professional edit to clean up the prose and pacing.  I really enjoyed the story, but at times became distracted. 

Reading a recent post of Mr. Earl's work in progress on his new blog here, it is obvious that the author is working to improve his writing style, and in my opinion he is having success.

One final nitpick is with the formatting of the eBook on Amazon Kindle.  There is no "table of contents" in the Kindle version, and I could not jump between chapters.  This is a feature I have become accustomed to as a Kindle reader, and I recommend any indie author try and implement this in their eBooks.

Nitpicks aside, the story is a fun read.  I expect Mr. Earl's writing will only continue to improve, and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future.  If you have not checked it out yet, I highly recommend Mr. Earl's new website.  On it, he features the first 1000 words of books from independent fantasy and sci-fi authors, as well as reviews of independent works.  (Full disclosure, I will post reviews on his site in the future.)  If you want to "try out" some fantasy fiction before you buy, I suggest hitting up

Score:  4 out of 5 purple dragons.

Finndragon's Curse is an enjoyable tale of magic, courage, and family.  It suffers from some technical and pacing hiccups, but I look forward to reading the conclusion in book two!  I recommend The Legend of Finndragon's Curse for anyone looking for fantasy fiction from independent authors, and at 99 cents, the book is a great value.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Three Days to Go!

I sit here this morning nervous with excitement!  I set a goal a few weeks ago to stay consistent with this new passion of writing, and Monday is the deadline.

To recap for those of you just joining (and there are growing numbers of new visitors each week), I will transition to consistent twice a week posting.  Posts will come Monday and Friday.

Mondays will be devoted to discussing what I am doing.  I will review other independent and budding authors' works, as I read them.  I will talk about painting miniature figures like the one to the right.  I will share the things I learn about writing, blogging, and social networking.  Mondays are my opportunity to share and let you know a little about me.  I also hope to learn more about you, through comments below!

To kick off the new format, this Monday I will have a review of Richie Earl's "The Legend of Finndragon's Curse."  Richie is also the founder of "1000 Worlds in 1000 Words," a great new blog that showcases the first 1000 words of independent authors' works.  I highly recommend you check it out, if looking for more great indie fiction.

Fridays are all about the fiction; the stories.  In the past, I posted random short stories as they came to me, but they lacked any formula or consistency.  To correct this, I took a wonderful course offered by Holly Lisle on "flash fiction."  These stories, of 500-1000 words, have a consistent structure the course teaches.  The course also helps writers organize their thoughts in order to write a story like this.

Thanks to Holly's amazing course (which you can find here and which is free!), I will write flash fiction stories about the world of Ryndaria and post them here each Friday.  I hope to give you insight into this war-torn world through these stories.

 I have five stories nearly complete from the course.  I don't want to give too much away, but the characters of the stories are:
  • A war-weary frost giant general
  • A hungry dragon
  • A failed thief
  • A tired elf
  • A king under siege
I am excited for what is to come next week, and I hope you will join me.

One final item.  You may have noticed some minor changes to the blog setup this week.  I want to create a blog that is simple and easy to navigate.  I appreciate your comments down below if anything is not working correctly or is difficult to navigate. 

Please comment below, or say hi on Twitter (@Ryndaria).  I do my best to answer every comment and tweet that comes my way. 

Thank you, as always, for reading.

Monday, September 23, 2013

One More Week

Today's post will be a short progress update.  I am on track for my blog transition to complete next Monday!

As a reminder, my plan is to post twice a week; Mondays and Fridays.  Mondays I hope to post reviews of other works by fellow independent authors, as well as progress updates and insights into the stories I am working on.  Fridays will be "Fiction Fridays" and I will post short stories and excerpts from my work.  I will also post pictures of any miniatures I paint to go along with those stories. 

On the writing front, I mentioned in my previous blogs that I am taking a short writing course on "flash fiction."  For the class, I will write five short stories (approximately 500 words each), and those will be the first five Fiction Friday posts on the site.  I have the characters mapped out for each story, and have the beginnings of four of them complete (almost done with #5).  It will take some effort, but I believe I will have all the stories complete by next week.  Expect the first story up on October 4th!

My reading habits are still the same.  After some Bible time, I read Finndragon's Curse, by Richie Earl in the mornings.  I read ANTics, by Dakota Douglas to my children at bedtime each night.  I am enjoying both books, and look forward to sharing reviews of them with you when I finish.  I started The Black Collar, and look forward to reading it more intently once I finish Finndragon's Curse.

Painting the frost giant I showed you last week goes slower than I hoped.  Larger miniatures are much more difficult to paint.  They require a lot more paint, have more detail, and just take longer.  I'm working through it, and hope he turns out as I expect. 

Finally, a request to you.  With the transition to a more consistent format, I wonder if I should overhaul the look of the blog.  What do you think about the current color scheme?  Is it readable?  Any changes you more experienced bloggers might suggest?  I figure now's the time to make a change, if any!

Thank you, as always, for reading.  Be sure to drop me a comment below.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Transition Progress

I wrote earlier in the week on my desire to work up a consistent blogging schedule.  Today, in order to start getting into the habit of blogging every Monday and Friday, I want to give an update on my progress.

I started writing a handful of short stories this week.  I plan most Fridays to include story posts for your reading pleasure.  The class I am taking from Holly Lisle is really helping, and requires that I write five short stories (flash fiction) as a part of the class.  I will write the beginnings for all five, then the middles, then the ends.  I completed the beginnings for two of the stories, and have ideas for the other three.  I plan to finish the beginnings by early next week in order to start on the middles.

I plan to have all the stories take place in Ryndaria (though that might not be clear in the story itself due to the 500 word confines of flash fiction).  They will further flesh out the world and give me a number of new characters to build off of.  So far, writing these stories has been a lot of fun, and I am excited to show them to you when they are finished.

I plan for Monday posts to be a mix of posts like this one, where I share what is going on with my writing (and painting... more on that in a moment) and reviews of other works.  I want to support fellow indie authors out there by letting you know about them and what they are writing.  I currently have three books I am reading and hope to review when they are complete:

  • The Legend of Finndragon's Curse by Richie Earl.  He also runs a fantastic blog: 1000 Worlds in 1000 Words ( where he posts the first 1000 words of fellow indie authors' books.  I highly recommend checking the blog out and I will have more thoughts on the book soon enough.
  • ANTics by Dakota Douglas.  This is a children's story set in the world of ants.  I met Dakota on twitter this week, and this book looks fun.  It is our next story time book with me and the kids, so the review will include their opinions as well.
  • The Black Collar by @OfTheWilds.  This is fantasy fiction posted on a blog about a dragon, from the dragon's point of view. 

The final update for today is on miniature painting.  I hope to paint a mini for each short story I post on the blog, but I will not hold stories back waiting for time to paint.  I am currently working on this frost giant general for one of the flash fiction stories I am working on.

As you can see, he is still very much a work in progress.  First, he is a much larger mini than the others.  He's a giant!  The figure is at least four times the size of the others I painted.  This means a lot more paint, and a lot more potential detail.  So painting him is slower than I expected.
Second, I wanted him to have blue skin, as frost giants tend to have.  This meant mixing colors to try and get the right tone for his skin.  I think it turned out pretty well, but it is a little uneven as I had to mix several separate times to make enough paint to cover his skin.  I should be able to clean that up with the final coat.


Since he lives in the frozen mountains of the north, I hope to be able to add an icy look to him in the end.  I expect I will do that with a lot of dry brush at the end after I complete the base coat and give him a good coat of wash.

Any suggestions on what colors to use for his clothes and weapons?  Please feel free to comment below.  I am open to suggestions on how to finish him!

Oh, before I forget, I have one more item on my painting.  I hope to convince my wife to help me out with pictures of the minis in the future.  She is an amateur photographer (gaining experience and taking classes herself), and I would love to feature some of her talent on the blog.  Those of you that know her, maybe you could put in an encouraging word for me?  :-)

Thanks again for reading.  I am excited for what's to come with and I hope you are as well.  Please, leave a comment or two down below.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Blog Plans

I want to make sure I post regularly and give you readers insight on my writing progress.

After writing Kurssix' story and posting it last week, I found myself a bit tired from the experience.  I set a deadline and goal: finish painting the miniature and get the 1000 word story posted by Monday morning.  I met my goal, and I'm pretty happy with the results.  I had a good number of hits last week, and even several retweets on Twitter, which is great!

I did not make much progress in writing Asa's story last week.  I'm probably half way through the first chapter.  I know what chapter two is (I even wrote it once in the past, though I will re-write it), and chapter two is where the story starts moving forward.  For chapter one, I hope to give enough background that the reader cares about Asa and what he goes through.  I admit, I am struggling writing it down.  I'm pushing through though.

In the meantime, I also realize I need practice writing short stories.  I like Kurssix' story, but I recognize there are some issues with it that could be cleaned up to help the story flow a little better.  You may have seen a couple tweets from me over the weekend asking for resources to improve my short story writing.

To help me in this endeavor, I am taking a course by Holly Lisle ( on writing "flash fiction" - short stories of 500 words.  The course is three lessons, and I am working through lesson one now.

The course will have me write five flash fiction stories as I go.  I plan to share them all with you (many with painted minis) on the blog when they are finished.  The basics of each story are already written down (according to Holly's lesson one rules, which you can find at her site).  Now I am writing the stories themselves as a part of the course.  I am excited to see how they turn out.  I hope you will enjoy them also.

Over the next few weeks, as I learn the ins and outs of writing flash fiction, I probably will not have new stories to post on the blog.  I will continue to update you on my progress as I finish the flash fiction course.  Once that is done, expect one new short story a week.  I expect most of them to take place in Ryndaria, but a couple may not at this point.

Finally, I try and spend part of my morning (remember, I get up early now!) reading new fiction by independent authors.  I will post reviews of these works when I finish.  I expect these reviews will help you find other great indie authors.  There are lots of unique, wonderful stories out there.

Thank you for reading!  As always, find me on twitter (  I hit the 400 follower mark today, doubling my followers in the last 2 weeks!  I participate much more on twitter now, so feel free to tweet me!

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Kurssix, Knight of Death, Lich, Godslayer

Far from the nation of Greystone in the world of Ryndaria, across the eastern ocean, live a society long descended from ancient dragons.  These draconic humanoids built the sizeable Saurane Empire radiating from their ancestral home, Mount Yrlandist. 

The Saurians worshiped the dragon-god Yrlan, who dwelt within the mountain.  The ancient dragon slept for decades, and even centuries at a time, usually waking long enough to prophecy to his worshipers.  Only chosen Saurians visited the lair of the ancient beast, seeking the chance to hear his wisdom.

Yrlan's children spread amongst the great continent over the centuries.  The Saurians believed themselves descended from Yrlan's offspring.  The great dragons, known by the silvery shine of their scales, lived throughout the land.  To meet one was considered a great honor among the Saurians.

There lived a young Saurian knight by the name of Kurssix.  When his younger brother (a fellow Saurian knight and Kurssix' closest confidant) was killed in battle by the errant arrow of a comrade, Kurssix obsessed over bringing his lost brother back from the dead.

Kurssix' obsession led him to the necromantic arts.  In secret, he searched out the magic of the undead.  He hoped to find a way to bend this dark magic to his will, that he might bring his brother back to life.  He learned to control undead minions and speak to the spirits of the dead, coaxing the secrets of the spirit world from them.

He understood he delved into magic long forbidden to his people.  The Saurians honored the dead, even those of their enemies and the other races of the world, and to defile the dead's rest was itself punishable by death.  Kurssix hid his secrets well.

Over the years, his obsession led to paranoia, corrupting the knight's mind.  Kurssix became drunk on his growing necromantic power.  The death knight believed the power to raise his brother existed, but he feared he would meet his end either in battle or through Saurian justice.  He concentrated his efforts to seek out ways to protect himself from death.

Kurssix convinced himself the answer lay in immortality.  He could continue his search if only he assured his longevity.  He found his answer in the ultimate display of necromantic power:  become a lich.
As a lich, the Saurian death knight understood he would himself become undead, retaining his mind and growing his necromantic powers.  A phylactery, an item created to hold and protect Kurssix' soul, needed to be created.
Creation of a phylactery required the death of a living being.  The older and more powerful the victim, the more difficult it would be to destroy the phylactery.  The magic imprisoned the soul of the murdered creature and forced it to protect the phylactery for eternity.  Only destroying the phylactery destroys the lich and frees the soul of the protector.
In Kurssix' mad mind, only a dragon's soul was worthy and strong enough to protect his phylactery.  He set out to destroy the most powerful dragon in existence, Yrlan the dragon god.
Kurssix spent months in seclusion, formulating his plan.  He found the spirits of two of Yrlan's dragon children, long dead, and forced them to reveal the secrets of their father's lair.  The necromancer raised an army of undead to prepare for battle at his command.
Kurssix timed his attack carefully, sending his undead minions into the countryside near the capital during the Festival of the Ancestors.  During this annual festival, no Saurians visited the lair of the ancient dragon.
Kurssix only needed to deal with the magic that protected Yrlan from intruder.  Kurssix coerced the details of these traps from the ghosts of Yrlan's children.  He hoped Yrlan did not change them in the many decades since those offspring died.
Kurssix found the secret entrance to the base of Yrlan's lair, and crept along the maze of tunnels.  He brought two powerful undead minions with him, a vampire and a slain bear he raised from the forest.  They would protect him from any other creatures that might be in the tunnels, and Kurssix would use them as fodder for any unforeseen traps.
Kurssix' confidence grew as he traversed the path to the dragon.  He dispelled the powerful magical wards and traps, recognizing they remained unchanged.  Within an hour, the Saurian and his minions reached the lair of the ancient god.
Upon entering the dragon's chamber, Kurssix gasped at the size of the creature.  The ancient dragon, his silver scales dulled with age to look more like iron, filled the massive chamber in all directions. 
Kurssix crept along the edge of the chamber, attempting to reach the dragon's head without disturbing its deep sleep.  He commanded his vampire minion to take on bat form and fly above the dragon while his bear guarded the exit.
The dragon's head rested upon the floor of the chamber, nearly 20 feet in length.  Two horns jutted from the top of its head, each twice the size of Kurssix.  The mad necromancer stared in awe at the great beast and thought to retreat, but his ambition and obsession overwhelmed him.
He cast the spell he prepared and practiced over the previous months.  If it worked, he would know power beyond anything imaginable.  If it did not, he would join his brother in death.
Kurssix spell drained the life force of the sleeping dragon.  The spell awoke Yrlan from his slumber, but too late for the ancient god to change his fate.  In a fit of rage, the dragon breathed its last, sending sparks of flaming acid out at his assailant.
The acid and flame engulfed Kurssix, destroying his armor and him with it.  Yet the spell completed, and Kurssix found himself reappearing next to his phylactery, a young dragon's claw, naked but alive.
He was a lich.  Kurssix felt the coldness of undeath and the power that came with it.  He felt the presence of his undead minions around him, and summoned them to his side with a thought.  Drunk on power, and angry at the dead dragon for causing him pain, Kurssix took a piece of the dragon's horn and one of its scales as trophies.
Kurssix strode from the mountain, confidant he could now complete his work.  As he exited the mountain tunnels he heard the distant sound of battle as his undead army continued to distract the Saurians.
Knowing they would come for him and disturb his work, Kurssix fled his homeland for the west, across the great ocean.  He found himself in Greystone, where he created a great magical lair to continue his dark work.
Kurssix the lich was a recent adversary of the Dungeons and Dragons group I occasionally run.  The party never fought the lich, but instead attempted to destroy his phylactery before he could be revived after a centuries long banishment.  They were successful in destroying the phylactery (or were they??).
I enjoyed writing this story as I painted this latest mini.  I used all the techniques I have been practicing, and I think the paint turned out really well.  I especially like the leathery look to the wings covering his shield.  I hope the pictures bring out the details well enough.  I think I need to have my wife take pictures of my minis in the future, as she's the one with the photography training!
I hope you enjoyed it as well.
Thanks for reading!