Sample Sunday ~ May 20, 2012

This sample is taken from The Red Cross of Gold I:. The Knight of Death.Image  The first in the Assassin Chronicles series. Here we have the Knight of Death at the mercy of Cecile Valentino and her demented attempt to extract information from Sir Ramsay concerning his supposed immortality.

Valentino sighed and slid onto the desk facing him.  He tried to focus on her, but his eyesight was dimming and blurring.  He shifted his gaze to Merry’s face instead.  A much more pleasant view if it was to be his last.

“Your Brother’s apprentice shared his secrets with me before he left,” Valentino resumed her speech.  “One of them was of particular interest, but unfortunately, Master, Edgard d’Brouchart did not impart it to him in its entirety.  It is Edgard d’Brouchart I want to meet.  You know where and how he can be found.  Just tell me how to find Edgard d’Brouchart, and I will cease bothering you.”

Mark found it very difficult to concentrate on her words.  If he had not been feeling such pain in his stomach, he might have felt very good… very, very good.  The poison was in the soup.  She had not been joking. He tried to swallow and found even simple actions were becoming difficult.  He continued to stare at the Pixie hoping inanely he would not drool on his shirt in front of her.  She was beginning to look more and more angelic against the fuzzy haze behind her and certainly an angel would not mind if he drooled a bit, would he?  She… he… it?  What were angels after all?  Male?  Female?  Did it matter?

He could no longer see their bodyguard and didn’t know if it was his failing vision or if the man had moved.

Valentino leaned into view.  He blinked and drew his head back wobbly on his neck, trying to focus on her face.  “You’re probably wondering what is wrong with you.” 

He nodded though there didn’t seem to be much of a question about it any more.  He just wanted her to move so he could see Merry again.  At least he could die with something pleasant in his mind.

“You know full well I can’t kill you with poison, but I can still give it to you just for grins and giggles.  Remember?  We may be able to defeat death, but we will never be able to defeat suffering.  I’ve already seen you can bleed like a mortal man and you can feel pain like a mortal man.  Think of the unlimited research possibilities… the list is endless… and the subject would never die… at least not permanently. Just tell me where d’Brouchart is, and I’ll take up my inquiries with him, otherwise I know people who would be very interested in such a research subject.”

Mark looked at her whimsically, and then winced when she snapped her fingers in front of his eyes.  He could still feel the pain in his stomach, but it didn’t matter anymore.  Nothing mattered. 

The heat abated suddenly, and he shuddered as the sensation of being dipped in icy water started at his feet and spread up his legs, finally gripping his heart in a vice momentarily before traveling rapidly up into his throat, choking him, making it impossible to draw a breath.  He took a perverse consolation in the fact, once he was dead, he would have proven Valentino wrong about his immortality and Miss Meredith Pixie would weep over his body when they buried him.  He was neither immortal nor rational.  He would be dead and then she would feel foolish.  He used his last few seconds of lucidity to smile at Cecile before he slumped in the chair.

“I know you are past answering me now,” Valentino continued talking to him. 

He wished his ears would also stop working.  Would he have to die with her voice ringing in his head? 

“This is just a little preview of what is to come.  I am particularly proud of this potion. I created it to kill rats.  I do hate those bastards.  Don’t you?”

Her voice was finally fading.  He heard Merry call his name one time before his ears popped and then there was silence, though he could still see his lap through the fog.  He felt something warm fill his mouth, and he thought his teeth were falling out.

“Sir!  Sir!”  A dirty ragamuffin’s face peered closely at him in the dim, filtered light. 

He slung his head and water flew from his hair in all directions.  New pain stabbed his side as he gasped for air. 

“Up here.  Give me your hand,” the boy spoke to him in Latin.

The urchin reached down one grubby hand and Mark stretched up to take it feebly, nearly pulling the scrawny boy in the water with him.  The boy braced himself expertly against the rocks in front of him and strained with all his might, pulling Mark slowly up the rough wall toward the cramped opening in the side of the well.  The sounds of shouts and screams echoed down the shaft from the street above. 

Sancta Maria! You must come out of there,” the boy shouted at him urgently in broken French.  “They will be back for your body.  They’ll want to hang it over the wall and put your head on a pike pole!”  The boy was from Europe.  Not one of the natives of Jerusalem.

With a great groan and an even greater effort, he lifted his foot and planted it on the wall, reaching up with his other hand to grip the ledge where the boy waited frantically. The boy counted to three and he pushed up with all this strength while the child pulled on his arm.  He fell into the passage on his stomach and the dagger pushed deeper, causing him to scream in the boy’s face.

“Get up!  Get up! Come on, Master!  Sancta Maria!  In the name of God, hurry!”  The boy shouted in his face and tugged on him, refusing to allow him to rest. 

Mark struggled up on his knees and used one hand to crawl haphazardly down the dank, stone hole with the boy pushing him from behind.  He could smell the stench of the dead, the newly dead and the long dead.  His chain mail jingled and grated against the stone over his back. He clutched the hilt of the dagger in his hand to keep it from moving as much as possible. 

The battle was lost.  The city had fallen to Saladin’s warriors.  The sounds of the fighting in the streets above were fading as he moved on as quickly as he could into the ancient stone foundations of the Holy City.  The dagger burned as if it were super heated.  Blood ran over his hand and dripped onto the rock beneath him.  He realized the boy was no longer behind him, but pushed on as best he could.  A few moments later, the boy was back with him, more frantic than ever.

“Hurry!  Hurry!  Don’t stop.  The city is burning!”

Without warning, he was falling again in the darkness, deeper into the bowels of the catacombs to a lower level.  He tumbled down rough steps, screaming with each bounce he took.  He didn’t think he could make it to wherever they were going before the knife disemboweled him.  The boy was suddenly beside him in the greenish darkness.  The glow from the well’s hidden passage barely illuminated the child’s dark face.

How had the child come to be in the well?  Who was he?

“This way,” the boy spoke perfect Latin, explaining they would be safe in the catacombs as he pulled and tugged him. 

When he heard the echoing shouts of more assassins behind them, Mark hobbled after his unlikely rescuer.  A distinctive scraping noise echoed in the passage.  The boy had gone back for the weapon in the face of incredible danger and was dragging the heavy weapon along with them.  Mark’s feet felt like lead in the wet boots and his armor felt as if it would crush him.  He dropped the chain mail leggings and the gauntlets as he went.  He still had his mace, his shield and two of his three knives.  He couldn’t pull off the chain mail hauberk under the tabard due to the dagger in his side.  Tangled in the small loops, it actually pinned his armor to him.  He stopped and leaned against the wall, gasping for air. 

The boy came back, taking his arm again. 

“You can’t rest here, Sir.”

After a few deep breaths, Mark stumbled forward again.  Soon they came to another ledge and below in the blackness, he could hear the sound of more water.  He leaned against the wall again, supporting himself with one hand.  There was absolutely no hope of making it down another set of stairs alive.

“I can’t,” he said simply in Latin.  “Give me the sword.”

The boy bobbed about him like a small monkey squinting in the dimness at the dagger’s hilt protruding from his side.  Presently, the glow of a torch illuminated their surroundings.  He squinted at the clever boy, who was now examining the hilt of the dagger in the light of the torch.  The child apparently lived in this horrid place.  There were pots and blankets, leather bags and sacks strewn about the floor behind him. He jerked away from the child when he touched the knife.

“Stay still, Sir. You must be strong, Master,” the boy said and took hold of the hilt of the knife. 

Mark Andrew knew what was coming next, and he knew it was necessary if he had any hope of surviving.  There would be ransoms to be had.  Negotiations to be made.  He steeled himself, held his breath, wrapped his free hand over the boy’s smaller hands and nodded when he was ready.  The pain was more than he could bear when the dagger came free.  He instinctively took a swing at the street urchin, and they went over the side of the ledge, both screaming all the way down to the cold, black water below.  The icy liquid enveloped him, freezing him instantly as he breathed it into his lungs.  The world went black and then brilliantly white.

Mark snapped his eyes open.  It took several moments for him to realiz he was still looking into his own lap.  The blood from the wound inflicted by the Saracen’s dagger stained his clothes.  The smell of the gory mess was sickening.

“Bravo, Sir Ramsay.” A woman’s voice cut through his mind like the Saracen’s dagger.  “Twelve minutes.  Twelve Knights.  Twelve Disciples.  Twelve months.  Twelve signs in the Zodiac. What a coincidence.  What else do you do in twelves, Mr. Ramsay?  Truly remarkable.”  Valentino was overjoyed.

A – Z Blog Hop Challenge

So this is the first time I’ve ever entered or should I say participated in a Blog Hop.  It should be an interesting exercise for getting my head back into writing and away from editing for a while.  I hope to do a themed set of blogs starting with A, of course, and continuing on through the month of April (my favorite month of the year except for October) with Sundays off for good behavior.  I’m considering a number of subjects for my blogs and it would probably make sense to, once again, write what I know.  I’ll probably do something I’ve always wanted to do and write about things that happened or had to do with my career at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.  For those of you who think that is some highfalutin government entity, let me set you straight from the beginning:  It’s just a fancy name for ‘Prison’ or ‘the Hoosegau’ or ‘the Big House’ or ‘the Slammer’ or ‘Club Fed’ or ‘the Greybar Hotel’ or ‘the Calaboose’ or ‘the Pokey’ or ‘the Clink’.  Get the picture?  I worked for the State of Texas for 24 years total, 23 of those were behind bars as a so-called ‘State Official’.

Believe me, there are plenty of stories behind those walls and fences and most of them come from the inmates or convicts or confinees or incarcerated felons or whatever you want to call them.  And some of them make a great deal of money entertaining the general populace with tales of woe and horror, bemoaning their fates or glamorizing their stints behind bars as just part of their ‘Career Path’ as a criminal.  Very few stories come from prison staffers, but let me also enlighten you, that doesn’t mean there aren’t as many interesting stories from the right side of the bars as there are from the left side. (You all know that the left side is considered sinister because that is the shoulder that the devil looks over, right?) (You also know that the very word sinister means ‘left’, right?) (And you all realize that this is where the Leftists get their name, riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.  But, hey, I’m not political, I’m apolitical, not to be confused with asexual.)  So anyhow, I’m thinking that my career inside the Big House will be a fertile landscape for the A-Z challenge.

So wish me luck, boys and girls and for God’s sake, if you come by and read my blitherings, leave a comment so I’ll know you were here!

 

Sample Sunday ~ March 25

This week’s sample is from my stand-alone novel: Tempo Rubato ~ Stolen Time my tribute to Wolfgang Mozart.  Genre: Mixed Romance, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Mystery.

Prelude

WEST TEXAS – Early Spring 1995

The elderly gentleman pushed back one of the bothersome locks of wispy, white hair and shook his head slowly as he opened the heavy door of the cramped glass and steel control booth. Behind him, in cool, air-conditioned silence, an intricate array of lighted electronic panels, digital displays, oscillating graphs and readouts looked like something straight out of a late night Sci-Fi movie. A gust of super-cold air rushed past his ears along with a babble of seemingly incomprehensible voices speaking French, English, Italian, German and Spanish in a cacophony of confusion. He stayed back near the door to avoid being trampled by the scurrying crowd of medics, technicians and company executives all dressed in surgical blues replete with masks and gloves. All, that is, except for one: a strikingly beautiful blond woman standing aloof, oblivious to the activity around her, but critically attentive to the object of everyone‟s concern. Her clear blue eyes betrayed just a touch of coldness in contrast to the blood red rose adorning the lapel of her perfectly tailored white suit. She could have been twenty-five, thirty-five or anywhere in between. No lines or creases marred her face, only her elevated position with the company and her air of complete control indicated her age to be more the latter than the former. She turned her head slightly as if the old man‟s stare distracted her and nodded to him ever so slightly. He returned the acknowledgement with a stiff little bow and an unseen shudder before turning his attention to the center of the low-ceilinged room where the last reverberations of a high-pitched whine were dwindling along with the level of conversation as everyone seemed to pause, waiting for the cold fog swirling about the room to dissipate. The old gentleman squinted to see through the mist beyond the coiled rows of conduit encircling a depression in the center of the room.
All commotion ceased as a figure began to emerge slowly from the depths of the fog, awkwardly backing up a ladder attached to the inside of the conduits. At the top of the ladder, he stepped carefully over the frost-covered coils feeling his way with his booted feet on a raised metal platform where a team of masked medics waited with a surgical gurney. The man wore a long, wool overcoat and a black tricorne hat. He stooped under the weight of what proved to be the seemingly unconscious form of someone wearing what appeared to be a white nightgown. A second man‟s head also adorned with a tri-corn hat appeared above the coils laboring with the gowned figure‟s legs. As the threesome cleared the top of the coils, it became very apparent that their burden was not at all unconscious, but very much awake and very much unhappy with the entire situation.
The old man smiled sadly as he picked up several muffled curses directed at the two booted men. It was his native language, German. The old man edged forward, concentrating his attention, trying to see the man‟s face.

Everyone in the circular room burst into a renewed flurry of activity. The medics helped to secure the man on the gurney strapping his arms and legs down with Velcro fasteners. As soon as the gurney reached the bottom of the ramp, an agitated crew of technicians, medics and doctors immediately blocked the view. The two oddly dressed men were left standing on the platform, forgotten in the melee. It was impossible to catch a glimpse of the patient. Everyone was talking at once and the old man‟s ears were again bombarded with half a dozen different languages. He took two more steps forward.
“BP: ninety over forty,” a female voice called out.
“Respiration: rapid, shallow,” a different voice announced.
“Temp: one zero four point four,” a male voice intoned almost simultaneously with the last.
A tall man wearing glasses over the top of his surgical mask stood at the head of the gurney, apparently the doctor in charge. He issued orders left and right as he bent over to peer at the patient‟s head. The medics shifted positions in response to the doctor‟s orders to begin attaching various monitors and intravenous tubing to the patient‟s arms, chest and head.
The elderly man watching the excitement brushed back the vexatious wisp of hair subconsciously and stepped closer as the undulating crowd cleared a bit exposing the patient‟s face for the first time. The unhappy center of attention did not appear to be very old, at least not as old as some who had passed through this way before; however, it was impossible to accurately judge his age due to the hideous swelling and discoloration of his face. His long, blond hair lay in disheveled strands about his head and his large gray eyes were sunken above dark circles. It was clearly evident that he was suffering from some dreadful disease, which had taken a terrible toll on his physical appearance. The old man winced; he had not expected him to look so bad even though he knew he would have been ill for quite some time.
The patient blinked at the bright lights above the gurney in confusion and fear, and then suddenly turned to look directly at the old man who now stood not more than three feet away. The feverish gray eyes sent an almost electric shock through the old man causing him to catch his breath. A nurse stepped between them blocking the view momentarily. When she moved again, he saw that the patient was still looking at him and realized that the man was trying to speak to him. He could contain himself no longer.
“Stille, sag’ ich!” he shouted in German clearly angry.
The old man‟s outburst startled the crew into silence as they turned to look at him in disbelief.
He raised one gnarled hand to point at the man on the gurney.
“Let him speak!” he said in heavily accented English.
The patient‟s eyes were still locked on the old man.
“Wo bin ich?” his voice was scratchy and barely audible.
The medics looked at each other frowning.
“Ist’s Fantasie,” he continued with difficulty “du ich noch lebe? Sag mir, der

lustiger freund, wer du seist?”
The old man smiled through tears in his eyes as he recognized the familiar words.
“Fantasie, nein. Der Vogelfanger bin ich ja…” he answered the patient‟s question with the proper response.
The blond man turned his eyes back toward the ceiling. He was actually laughing though not loudly enough to hear clearly.
“What?!” The doctor recovered his own voice and glared at the old man. “What did he say? What did you tell him?”
The old man smiled and shrugged.
“He vanted to know vere he iss and who am I.”
“Well, what did you tell him?!” The doctor demanded again.
“I tolt him he iss not dreaming and I told him that I am the bird catcher,” the old man smiled at the irritated doctor.
“Frieda!” The doctor directed his attention to the blond woman still standing in the background. “Get this fellow out of here! I have work to do!” He nodded his head toward the elderly man.
Without further ado, the doctor went back to his examination. The old man brushed the tears from his cheeks and turned to face the woman who smiled at him and beckoned to him to join her. He walked slowly toward the doors leading from the cold, concrete room. Perhaps this one would make them sorry that they had tampered with the works of God. Perhaps this one would be the key to his own future.
“Albert?” The one called Frieda caught up with him in the brightly-lit corridor outside the chamber. “You should know better than that, my friend.”
She slipped her arm under his as they continued down the hall. He simply sighed and did not respond.
“We really should spend more time together, you and I,” she said pleasantly. “We have a lot in common, you know.”
Another shudder passed through his soul.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002MPPOZW

Author Interviews Reader!

In light of all the author interviews floating around, (you know the ones: Blogger interviews author; Reviewer interviews author; Author interviews author; Reader/Fan interviews author) I thought I might turn that POV just a tad and take it to the next level.  Author Interviews Reader/Fan.

Of course, anyone could do this, make up a reader or a fan and answer their own questions.  It depends on the integrity of the author doing the interview, right?  So, as a reader, you must decide whether my Reader/Fan is a real person or not.  But any way you look at it, it could be fun… or not.

First, let me introduce my Reader/Fan.  Everyone give a hand to Mr. Dave Allen, long time reader, fan, critic and cyberspace friend of mine.  Dave has been reading the The Red Cross of Gold:. Assassin Chronicles and other works of mine since before I was rich and famous… er, I mean he will keep reading them and re-reading them until I am rich and famous.  I’m going to ask him some questions and he’s going to give his honest responses.  Remember, people, these are his actual responses, not mine!

1. Hello, Dave! Glad to have you here with me today and thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me.  I’m going to ask you some question and I encourage you to feel free to give your most candid answers.  Never mind my presence.  Are you ready, Dave?

Dave: Sure. Can I ask a question first?

2. Well, of course, you can ask anything you like, Dave.  Authors always love to get questions from their fans.  It means their writing has inspired insight and thoughtful reflection.  Go right ahead.

Dave: Will there be a test at the end of this?

3. Ha! Ha! Ha! No, no, of course not.  You can ask questions any time you like.  Are you ready?

Dave: Good. That makes me feel better. Without sounding cliche-ish, what inspired you to write this series, Assassin Chronicles?

4. Oh, well, uh, I’ve always been interested in the Crusades and the Knights and soldiers, who made the almost impossible trek from Europe to the Middle East just to kill or be killed in the name of God.  While studying the crusades, I came across an enormous amount of information about the Orders of Knights extant at the time and the Knights Templar and what happened to them piqued my curiosity immensely.  The more I read about them, the more fascinated I became with the Order and its supposed connections to King Solomon and King Solomon’s magic. The more I read, the more divergent my studies became until I was brimming over with facts, speculations and more questions than ever. After a while, I needed to put all that information to use, so I thought writing a fictional tribute about knights in the modern age might be fun.  But, wait! Enough about me, Dave.  You got me going there.  Now, back to the interview.  How long have you been reading the series?

Dave: Oh, yeah. Well, I have a tendency to do that.  Now I bet it didn’t take me near as long to read them as it took for you to write them. Do you have a certain amount of time you work on your books each day?

5. Ahhh, well. Yes, I guess not.  I supposed it took about 10 years for me to write the series altogether.  I started the books when I was about 38 years old, but I don’t want to say how long it’s been since I finished the series because that would make people start adding numbers in their heads and hate math.  I also hate getting old. I think I’ve always worried about aging and not aging gracefully.  You know, us Libras tend to be a bit vain when it comes to personal appearance.  I was worried about getting wrinkles and gray hair a long time before I actually got them.  Now, I have people tell me salt and pepper looks good on me.  I say salt and pepper belongs on sunny-side-up eggs.  Oh, crap! There I go again.  Ha! Ha!  Now, let’s see… where were we?  Do you prefer reading books with more or less action, development, description or dialog?

Dave: Well, what would a book be without all those things in some measure?  Of course, I prefer lots of action… you know, blood, guts, sex, killing… Viking Berserker type action. I noticed from reading your books, you have a lot of details about the characters and their backgrounds.  Was that a tremendous amount of research or did it just come naturally?

6. Uhhhh, come naturally?  You mean was I born with the story in my head?  No, I already said I did a lot of research.  Would  you please try not to indulge my rather long-winded nature and keep me on track, Dave?  We are, after all, here to ask you questions, get your opinions, not mine. Ha! Ha!

Dave: Oh, sure, Brandon, no problem.

7. Brendan.  Brendan Carroll.  Ahem.

Dave:  Oh, sorry, Brandan.  I’ll try to keep you focused.  I know how you writer types are.  Always ready and more than willing to talk about your own interests and such. Yakking endlessly about subjects that normally bore the hell out of everyone else.  Right.  So! Your artwork for your covers is fantastic.  They really lend credence to the titles and re-enforce the storyline. I especially like the one that Sue did for you with the sword on the cover.  It’s exactly how I imagined it.  How did you come up with that particularly design, anyway?

8.  Oh! You mean the cover for Book XXV! The Ancient Evil.  I love that image.  I can never thank Sue Guerth enough for making that for me.  I’ve been trying to get it out there for years. Three pieces of shining gold, braided together and hammered flat, honed to perfection by the angels, themselves and protected by magic so that it never needs sharpening, never nicks or breaks.  Topped with the ancient symbol that predates the Templars by millennia.  Yes, I love that cover, myself.  So long in coming… oh, dammit, Dave! You did it again!

Dave: Did what?

9. Never mind.  Did you begin reading the series in eBook format or paperback?  I put the book out in paperback before I use the new Amazon platform for Kindle eReaders.  Did you perhaps read a so-called real book, or did you start it out on an eReader and what kind of eReader do you personally prefer?

Dave: Oh, I’ve read it in both forms, paperback and eReader.  I own a few Kindles, different styles, an Ipad, an Iphone and a Nook.  I couldn’t decide which machine I liked best.  I even had one of my grandchildren read the books aloud to me when I was in a coma for six months.  Did you know I was in coma for six months, Brandon?  Well, let me tell you, it’s not near as easy as you think, being in a coma.  Man! I just wanted to slap that doctor who suggested that Margaret read to me.  Have you ever met my Margaret, Brandon?  She has a voice like a lawnmower.  Nice girl, but I don’t think she will ever marry.  Hell, she could have read for the part of what’s-his-name in that movie Slingblade! You know, “I like how you talk.”

10.  Ahem! *cough *cough

Dave: Oh, sorry, but that child worries me, Brandon.  Let me ask you something.   Where do you think eBook sales are heading?

11.  Well, I don’t know, Dave.  I’ve done my best to promote and encourage everyone I know to read as much as they can whether they read my works or not.  People are becoming too dependent on electronic devices… now, don’t get me wrong, I love the Kindle and the Nook and every other eBook Reader in the world. I mean, after all, they are how I get my paycheck. Ha! ha!  I mean, I like paperbacks as well, but shit, Dave! I need to ask you a question.

Dave: OK, shoot.

12. *sigh. Do you… would you… have you ever recommended my books to anyone else? I mean, would you recommend my epic fantasy series to other readers of fantasy?

Dave: I have a couple dozen close friends that have purchased your series and we look forward to each new book being released.  They asked me to ask you if you are writing the books as you publish them, or do you have a deep vault of at least another 100 books in the Assassin Chronicles series?

13. Oh, really? You think they would read another 75 books or so?  Oh, pshaw! I wrote them all awhile back and now I’m just getting them ready for publishing.  I’ve had some terrible trouble with formatting and such for some of them, but I think I got them pretty well straight.  Of course, typos and grammar are killers when you are self-publishing.  All you can do is cross your fingers and hope that there aren’t too many of them and that your work is good in spite of them.

Dave: Yeah, I know what you mean.  I used to work for this place that made chicken feed.  My job as a quality control manager was to make sure the feed tasted good to the chickens.

13. Huh?

Dave: See, I had this group of about twelve chickens, hens, they were. Prettiest bunch of feather fluffers you ever saw… anyhow, I’d take them samples and then make sure the feed tasted good to them.

14. Oh, you would see if they ate it or not?  Whew, I thought for a minute you meant you tasted it. Ha! Ha!

Dave: Oh, hell no! That would be stupid, Brandon. But you don’t know much about chickens, do you?  They’ll eat almost anything you put in front of them.

15.  Well, then… Dave, what difference did it make if it tasted good or not, and how the hell did you figure out if it tasted good, if they eat anything and everything?

Dave: You could tell by the look on their faces.  It they liked it, they smiled and if they didn’t like it, their right eyes would twitch like this… *twitches eye… anyhow, Brandon, look. This series, the new one, about the apprentices, is really a great concept.  I look forward to more volumes in that series as well.  And we, your fans, would thoroughly enjoy you writing a book concentrating around Sir Champlain, perhaps reminiscing about his personal adventures with the other Knights.  Also, what would be the chance of getting Champlain’s Bar-Be-Que recipe?

16. *muffled noises.  Which one?  Beef, lamb, pork?  You realize that Sir Louis Champlain is a fictional Templar Knight over 800 years old, right?  I don’t really talk to him that much.

Dave: Well, the next time you see him, ask him about that recipe, Brandon.  I bet he’s had time to perfect his rub.

17.  Aye! And there’s the rub, ladies and gentlemen.  That wraps up our interview, thank you, Dave!  Hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.

10.

Dave: I’ve enjoyed participating in this interview with you and is there any way you might disclose when the next book… what is it?  Book twenty-seven? Is coming out?

March 4 ~ Sample Sunday

This sample is from the twentieth book of the Assassin Chronicles series entitled “Cross Purposes”.  The series follows the adventures and misadventures of a band of semi-immortal warrior Knights fighting their way through the modern world on their way to Armageddon, the Last Great War.  In this sample, some of the members of the Order have found themselves in the dark recesses of the Abyss fighting supernatural forces with a combination of might and magic.

“Down!!” Luke Matthew’s voice dominated the howling in the cavern momentarily and the two fighters crouched immediately in front of him. A great swirling, yellow light shot out over their heads and they wrapped their arms over their hair fearing fire, but this was not fire. It was light! Tremendous! Blinding! The Boggans screamed in unison as the light seared their eyeballs, blinding them. They began to turn and run and trample each other in their panicked flight to escape this new and unexpected menace. In their haste and terror, they beat and hacked and skewered each other, adding to the deafening din in the great cavern. Even the seven people cowering in the alcove screamed with the Boggans. The light grew and filled the entire subterranean chamber from top to bottom and wall to wall. Barry watched from the barest slits between his fingers as the swirling yellow spread, twisted, coalesced and spread again over the howling mass of hairy, black bodies. After several minutes that seemed like hours, the screams died with the Boggans as they either escaped into the cracks and crevices from whence they had come or lay dead on the rocky floor. The Knight of the Baldric was appalled at the sheer number of beasts exposed by the coruscating light which revealed the extent of the peril into which they had stumbled. As the howling and groaning and moaning subsided, they could actually hear the light swishing back and forth like the sound of a flooding river and the floor seemed to vibrate under the force. “Don’t look at it!!” Luke’s voice cut through the noise and Barry squeezed his eyes shut. “Stay down and be quiet!!” Barry scuttled backwards, bumping into Jozsef in his haste and was startled as the apprentice shoved him viciously. He regained his footing and then the three of them turned together and tried to huddle about the healer and the two women over the body of Anna. When the light subsided somewhat, Luke Matthew stood up slowly and stepped over the nearest bodies, shielding his eyes with his free hand. The yellow light coalesced once more into a small sphere of brilliant beauty and then elongated slightly before assuming the shape of a man. The light faded abruptly and only the barest glow, like that of a single candle shone about the figure. “Bombarik!” Luke shouted the name and the figure fell on one knee, bowing its head before the Knight. “Master!” The Djinni answered him in a deep, resonant voice. “You have done well,” Luke told him and his voice wavered slightly. “You have earned our gratitude.” “Master.” The Djinni raised his head and looked at him from deep, glittering eyes. “It is not gratitude that I would seek for my services.” “What would you have of us?” Luke asked him. “I would have my freedom.” “One small battle won does not freedom ensure,” Luke told him more forcefully, trying to muster all his faculties and wits. Dealing with a Djinni was risky under even the best of circumstances. The last thing he could afford to do was show signs of weariness. “Two battles then? Three? What is the price of freedom, Master?” The Djinni smiled at him above his long beard. His sing-song voice reminded Luke of Lemarik. He also moved his head in the same bird-like manner as the son of Mark Andrew. Luke wondered briefly if this might be another of his brother’s progeny. “I will decide what price you must pay. You were not kind to me, Bombarik.” “I was not your slave at the time, Master. And I must tell you, I was quite impressed with your valor and courage. You fought well and long against the Queen. Had it not been so very dangerous, I would have applauded you even then. If I had but known you would vanquish her, I would have joined you from the beginning!” The Djinni held out both hands in supplication. “I was merely doing the bidding of my former mistress. You cannot hold that against me now. Look what I have done for you! I have vanquished your enemy! I have served you well. You said as much yourself.” “But I need more from you,” Luke insisted. “What is your wish, Master?” The Djinni stepped a bit closer and Luke Matthew stood his ground. It would not do at all to show the fear he felt in his heart. This was not a Djinni of the Marid tribe. Not related to Lemarik or Mark Andrew. Luke’s mystery told him that much. This one wore the turban of the Ifrit. A much more volatile and treacherous tribe than that of Adalune Kadif. They were able to change into serpents or scorpions without warning. They could fly and they had an affinity for playing with fire. Much like Luke was now doing. He also knew that the Marid, such as Lemarik, and the Ifrit, such as this one, were old and bitter enemies. Fortunately, not many were around in this day and age. This one wore the full armor of a soldier ready for battle. An ancient battle. Leather and copper and semi-precious stones of yellow and green covered his arms, legs and body. An intricately wrapped yellow turban set with a green stone and a black feather covered his hair. “We need light. Our companion is injured. We would leave this place.” “This is a dark and treacherous place, Master.” The Djinni looked about the cavern. “I can smell the presence of the dark ones here. I can provide light as you have seen and camels!! What more could you ask, Master?” “Camels?” Luke pondered this. “Ohhh, yes! Great and wonderful beasts, but very temperamental creatures. How many would you wish?” “Enough to carry seven, one unconscious,” Luke told him and folded his arms doubtfully. He knew that the Djinni could not create anything. He wondered how this creature would provide camels in this Godforsaken hell hole. “One moment.” The Djinni began to spin and again the yellow light increased. Luke covered his face as bits of sand and rock swirled into the air. The Djinni had become a sort of tornadic spout of light in the center of the cavern. The whirlwind was sucking up the bodies of the dead Boggans along with loose rocks.

The Assassin Chronicles is available at Amazon.com, Smashwords and in paperback format.  Thank you for reading.  Comments are welcome.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004BSGWMW

Sample Sunday ~ February 26, 2012

The following sample is from The Red Cross of Gold XXVI:. All That Is Fallen. In this particular piece, Lucifer is still working on his ORIGINAL assignment.  Lucifer? you say… THE Lucifer?  Yep, that’s the one.  If you haven’t started the Assassin Chronicles, remember to start with Book I:. The Knight of Death.  The series is available at Amazon for Kindle $2.99.  Most volumes are available in paperback as well from Amazon.  If you are a member of Amazon Prime, the first book of the series is available for lending from the library.

NOTE: the book was published with a flaw in the formatting/chapters, which has since been corrected, but still received a 5-star review even with the error included.  For that accept my apologies.  

 http://tinyurl.com/All-That-Is-Fallen

Lucifer went down on one knee and lifted his arms to the sky.

Michael and Galen took up positions well away from them on opposite sides and watched the horizon for signs of approaching danger.  They turned their backs to the proceedings as Lucifer began to chant in the high sing-song voice they had learned to dread and love.  In all their years with the grim troop of warriors, they had never learned a word of the language they spoke to one another, but they knew better than to look back as Lucifer performed the necessary rite to banish this monster back to the chaos from whence it had come.  The sky deepened from light blue to dark purple and then a green flash erupted behind them.  A hot wind buffeted them, whipping their hair into their faces and then it was over.  The two Templars turned about and saw the smoking patch of seared earth where the beast had lain.  Azael and Ariel gathered their net and began to fold it between them.

Lucifer motioned the two men over and sat down on the stump of termite mound.  These things always seemed to drain him temporarily.

“My sons.”  He said after a moment as they knelt on one knee in front of him.  They were bedraggled, dusty and smeared with grime.  Lucifer, on the other hand, seemed immune to dirt.  He was as pristinely clean as the first time they had laid eyes on him and he seemed endlessly aggravated that they needed water for baths and drinking and other things that he found time consuming and wasteful, such as food and new clothing and boots from time to time.  And never mind the calls of nature!  Lucifer simply did not understand and did not want to understand the workings of the human body.  At one point, when Galen had broken his arm in a tumble down a gully, the angelic chieftain had threatened to leave him for the vultures before Michael had intervened and Lucifer had healed the wound with the wave of his hand.  But time and circumstances had shown Galen to be as fearless and courageous as any of his warriors and Lucifer had grown fond of him in spite of his disdain for his humanity, which he insisted that they could do away with any time they chose and join him in form and spirit.  Both Galen and Michael had sat long into the nights pondering this possibility, but neither of them had ever figured out exactly how they might accomplish this feat short of committing suicide.  “I have sent a message to Uriel.”

“My uncle?”  Michael’s face lit up.  Even though they had been with these creatures of light for a very long time, neither of them seemed to have aged a day.  They still looked like they had when they had first found the angels in the basement of the Wewelsburg tower.

“Yes, yes, whatever.”  Lucifer waved one hand tiredly.  “I have sent him a message.  I had hoped to clear up this infestation before returning to the north, but it seems the more we destroy, the more we find.  It has been said that one should always do what is to be done with all strength and heart until the work is finished, but I can see no end to this labor.  If there were others, in other parts, doing other similar things… then perhaps this would be our purpose, but these are not the days of old. It is my opinion that they are too great in number for us to pursue one by one.  Our services may be better spent elsewhere.”

Michael nodded.  They had banished an average of two to three creatures a day for at least ten years and always there were more and lately they had been growing in size and ferocity.  This latest one had been quite formidable, but there were bigger, even uglier things wandering in the wastelands that had once been Africa.  There were no more elephants.  All the giraffes and zebras had been annihilated.  The great herds of antelope and wildebeests were decimated and even the lions and hyenas were disappearing as these voracious creatures roamed the land, killing and eating everything that moved including people.

“May I ask you a question, Master?”  Michael ventured when he did not go on.

“Of course, my son.”  Lucifer’s expression changed.  They had exchanged many ideas in the time they had spent together, but they had never reached any common ground.

“Why do you stay here?  I mean, don’t you have a home… somewhere… up there?”  Michael looked up at the sky.

“Ahh.  Yes.  Home.”  Lucifer bobbed his head up and down rapidly.  “We have what you might call a home.  Yes.  But we have a duty here.  Before we were captured, we were fighting the evil one.  When we were released, we found that he was as yet unvanquished.  Our work here is not finished.”

“You were not sent here to protect mankind.  For what purpose did you fight the Ancient Evil?”  Michael risked another question on a touchy topic.  He had tried to question the chieftain before, but had received a knock on the side of his head for his impudence.

“We serve the Creator.”  Lucifer told him blandly.  “It is our purpose.  Nothing has changed.”

“Do you… are you…”  Michael floundered.  He was treading on very thin ice.  “Does the Father still communicate with you?”

Lucifer’s eyes narrowed sharply and Michael cringed, expecting another blow for his trouble.

“Unlike men, I do not have to be reminded of my duty.  I am told once.  That is enough.  When our work is finished, He will call us home or send us elsewhere.  I would not presume to question His will.  If He did not approve of what we are doing, He would let us know.”

“Then how do you know that it is time to go North?”  Michael raised both eyebrows.

Sample Sunday ~ February 12, 2012 (2/23/2012 Auspicious!)

It seems that the Chevalier du Morte simply cannot stay out of trouble.  His reckless abandonment of the Rule of Order pertaining to the company of women may get him into worse trouble than ever when it comes choosing his ladies with a bit more discernment.  In Book 26 All That Is Fallen, things are still rumbling on toward the possible end of the world as we know it.

Book 26 is the latest novel in the Assassin Chronicles series: The Red Cross of Gold. Currently available at Amazon.com for Kindle.

“I missed you.  Did you miss me?”  She asked him as he collapsed in his latest favorite chair and began to pull off his dirty boots.  Sophia sat down on the footstool and helped him with them.  It seemed ages since he’d pulled them off and had a nice, long bath.

“How long has it been?  Five years?”  He asked her and then rubbed his right foot.  He’d put a stone bruise on it the day before when he’d slid down from the horse in a rocky patch in a neighboring meadow. 

“Nine.”  She told him.  “Nine years, three months and sixteen days.”

“That long?”  He scrutinized her unchanging features.  She was still as fresh as the day he had walked with her in the garden at Wewelsburg.  “What did you say brought you here?”

“I have been waiting for you.”  She told him again and then got up, carrying his boots to the hearth.  She set the muddy boots on the stone.  “Would you like some tea?”

“That would be nice.”  He told her.  Her presence baffled him.  She should have been married by now, but then she was not exactly a normal girl… woman.  And she had never answered his questions concerning her origins.  Though he had thought of her many times, he had managed to push her out of his mind for the most part, hoping that the question of Sophia Cardinelli would either answer itself or simply go away.  But, as always, neither had happened and here she was… yet again.  He watched her trip lightly to the library door and then sighed as she disappeared. 

Surely someone else was home… somewhere.  Perhaps she had brought over a husband or a fiancée from the big island.  Lavon would not be in the old laboratory.  His new lab was in the old schoolhouse and was three times bigger than Mark’s had ever been.  He had no idea when or how or why Lavon had taken up alchemy, but he thought it was probably because of his uncle, Armand de Bleu.  Lavon had spent quite a bit of time with Armand when they had been isolated in the Abyss and the underworld directly after the war.  Lavon had combined his own mystery of the Wisdom of Solomon with the alchemical knowledge he had learned from Ramsay’s attic and was a sort of genius at inventing and manufacturing everything that they could possible want or need in the absence of what had been simply a matter of picking up the phone and ordering from any variety of online stores.  Lavon, Philip and Christopher had salvaged all the Order’s computers, but there was no Internet, no World Wide Web.  Mark did not miss these things, but the younger members of the Order did.  The only connection they had was the strange link to the computer in Paddy Puffingtowne’s home in Kilkenny.  Some things never changed. 

Sophia was back before he could decide what to do next.  She carried a tray with tea and cookies which, ominously enough, indicated she had been expecting him.  How she had known he was coming was a matter of speculation.  He hadn’t even known he would be there until that morning.

“You like oatmeal cookies?”  She asked as she set the tray on the table between the two chairs facing the hearth.

“Is there any other kind?”  He asked and smiled at her in frustration.  He had just made up his mind to disappear upstairs for a much needed bath. 

Sophia put three cookies on a china plate and then poured him a cup of tea.  In spite of his need to part company with her, the tea smelled wonderful.

“Sugar?”

“Plenty.”

“Cream?”

“Is it real?”

“Is there any other kind?”  She smiled up at him as she bent over the table.

“This is very nice.  Thank you.”  He accepted the cup of tea and balanced the cookies on his leg.

“You really don’t want to be here having tea with me, do you?”  She sat down in the other chair with her own cup of tea.

“Actually, I think I would be better in the tub.”  He said and then choked on the cookie he was trying to eat in one bite.  “I mean, I need a bath.  I would smell better.”

“You smell fine to me.”  She laughed.  “Like vanilla and oranges.”

Mark frowned at her.  Could she smell him like Lucio could smell people?

“But of course you’ll want to clean up before supper.  I made your favorites.  Hotch-Potch, Bannocks and Black Bun.”  She announced and his face darkened.

“How did you know I was coming home?”  He asked her quietly.

“It is my business to know.  My name is Sophia, or have you forgotten?”  She raised one eyebrow.   “Sophia, knowledge, wisdom.  How could I not know?”

“Ye’d best change th’ subject.”  He told her and reached for the last of the cookies, intent upon eating them all and then leaving.  “Now tell me why ye’re really ’ere.”

“Waiting for you.”

“I know wot ye’re sayin’, but ye didna come oll th’ way from th’ oilands just t’ wait around me ’ouse fur me fur nae reason.”  He set the cup on the tray and stood up.

“No, I came because I knew that you would never come looking for me even though you should.”  She looked up at him and nibbled daintily one of the cookies.

“I fail to see why I should come looking for you.”  He told her sharply.  “I didn’t lose you.  You weren’t missing.”  He had regained his control and now headed for the door.

“That’s very funny, Saint Ramsay,” she rolled the R’s protractedly.  “You have been looking for me for a long time, but that is another matter.  I have a message for you from Lucifer.”  She said as he stepped into the hall.  He spun about and came back toward her angrily as if he would drag her from the chair.

“Whoy did ye not tell me t’ start with?”  He asked and refrained from touching her.

“I though you should relax a bit first.”  She shrugged.  “I know I wouldn’t want to just ride in and be assaulted with worries and woes before I even had a cup of tea!  Why, it wouldn’t be civilized.”  She tilted her chin up.

“Well, furget th’ civilities and tell me th’ message.”  He leaned down to look into her face.  They had not heard from Lucifer, Galen or Michael in twenty years.  This was a monumental bit of news.  Lucio had had Simon conduct a memorial service for his son, presuming him to be a casualty of the war.  Luke Matthew on the other hand, refused to believe that Michael would not be coming home sooner or later.  Mark’s anger toward the young woman was quickly replaced by a number of conflicting and overlapping emotions ranging from joy to dread.  He had looked high and low for the elusive angel and his small band of warriors. 

Sophia stood up slowly and looked at him closely.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather take a bath first?  I could draw one for you and then tell you the news while you’re soaking.”  She said and he drew back as if she had slapped him.  Amazingly, his first inclination was to take her up on the offer.  It sounded reasonable enough…

“I dunna think so.”  He said after a moment’s hesitation.  Too long!

“But you were considering saying yes, weren’t you?”  She smiled at him.   “No one is here, but us.  Surely you are not concerned with what other people think of you.”

“Well, you should be!”  He said irritably.  “It would not be proper.  Now just give me the message.”

“Hmmm.”  She crossed her arms over her stomach and then tapped her thumb against her bottom teeth thoughtfully.  “Now I seem to have the upper hand here.  What if I refused to tell you unless you are soaking in the tub?”

“I could simply read your mind.”  He shrugged and smiled wickedly at her.

“You would not do that.  Not again.  It would not fit your new image.”  She shook her head.

“Wot new image?!”  He frowned.

“Your image!  You know, Mark Ramsay, the Prophet, the Sorcerer, the Magician, the Beloved Teacher and Healer.”  She continued to smile at him.  “I know you didn’t mean to do it, but you did it.  Everyone talks about you.  We may not have television, radio and newspapers, but word gets around.  A bit slower, I admit, but it gets around and it grows as it goes.  You are England’s miracle worker.  The new Merlin to Luke Matthew’s Arthur.  Didn’t you know?  We’ve heard about your exploits even on the islands.  You might as well grow a long white beard and wear a pointed hat!  The children speak of nothing, but you.  You are a legend in your own time… no, that’s not fair, you’ve lived too long for that to be relevant.  But you are a legend, nevertheless.  Some people think that your brother would not have been able to do what he did without you and you know that it is true.”

“I will not stand here and discuss the King’s business with a girl.”  Mark Andrew began to grow angry again.

“A girl?”  She laughed and stepped back, pressing her hand over her mouth.  “I didn’t know you were chauvinistic, Sir Ramsay.  I thought you were more enlightened, more… Celtic in your notions of the status of women.  Isn’t that why you decided to make your home in Scotland?  Because it was more Celtic?  Isn’t that why the great Myrrdyn came to Wales and Northumbria?  Because they were the last bastions of the Celts?  The inventors of chivalry?  You invented the Celts, Sir Mark!  You raised them up from the darkness and set them on this great adventure.  Do you now deny your own beliefs?  Would you cast me aside simply because I am a woman?  I hardly think so.  Don’t you know what it is you are looking for?”

“Ahhh.”  He shook his head and placed one hand on his hip, turning about and looking up at the ceiling.  “You want to fight?  You see yourself as Queen Boudicca?  I thought you were Italian?”

“You know better.”  She smiled.  “I’m Scottish.  A Celt.  Or at least as much as you are.”

Mark placed one hand against his forehead and then dropped both hands at his side. 

“All right!  Come on upstairs and draw me a bath.  A true Celtic woman would not shirk from such a thing.  After all, how would you know if I am worthy of your attentions if you don’t sample the wares before you buy?”

“Oh, now you remember, do you?”  She smiled at him and came to take his arm.  “And you think you might be worthy of my attentions?”

“I think I might fit the bill.”  He told her as they left the library together arm in arm.

“And what if I decide that you are not the legend they say you are?”  She asked as they climbed the stairs.

“Then you can go back and refute all the tales.”  He told her.

“I hardly think that it would be fitting to relate it in public.”

“You might change your mind and become an acolyte.  You might go stark-raving mad and run off naked in the woods.  You might want to write a book or compose an epic poem.  You never can tell.”  He glanced sidelong at her.

“And do you not think that you might compose some poem for me?”  She asked him.

“I’m not very good at composing.  I might recite one or two verses.”  He smiled and opened the door to his room. 

Sophia stopped at the threshold and looked about the very feminine room.

“Wot?”  He looked about as well, trying to find whatever was wrong.

“It’s not what I expected.”  She said quietly.

“Oh?  D’ ye think thot th’ counterpane matches th’ panels or d’ ye think thot I shud use more mauve?”  He pulled her inside and closed the door firmly.