I have always had a kind of love/hate relationship with wolves. Perhaps it was the steady diet of fairytales that were read to me as a child. When I was little, I always imagined riding in a beautiful red sleigh being chased by a wolf pack in deep snow. The heavy laden branches above us sent pure white snowflakes drifting down on a scene of terror and savage pursuit. I’m not certain whether scenes like that ever actually took place historically or they were simply conjured by my overactive childhood brain. The image seems universal, however, just look at Disney’s Frozen. The fact remains that both my sister and I dreamed of wolves as children, decades ago.

If you’ve read Among Wolves, you know that Devin suffers from “waking dreams,” a malady where the dream lingers for a few seconds even after the sleeper has wakened. I have experienced the same phenomenon since I was a child and my sister must have, too, at least when she was younger. Both of us claimed to see wolves traipsing around our bedrooms in the middle of the night. The wolf in my room always exited into the hall, blocking my escape to my parents’ room or the bathroom. I would lie awake in terror that he would come back in and eat me! My sister’s wolf simply walked around her bed, his tail held proudly aloft so that she knew his position even as she huddled under the covers with the quilt pulled up to her eye sockets.

I’ve never quite forgotten the fear those nightly wolf visits elicited. I think that’s why I was so enthralled with the French legend of The Beast of Gevaudan when I first ran across it. The possibility that a man could train and command wolves while learning to run with them himself, was too good a storyline to pass up! I adore Chastel as a character. The man is a Comte, he’s elegant, funny, and undeniably good company AND he has the same love/hate relationship with wolves that I have. His family’s ability to shapechange has set them apart from their peers and irrevocably complicated his own life. And yet, he loves, actually yearns, to run with his wolves! He is a man with many layers to his personality and I hope to explore that aspect further in future books about Llise.

My actual knowledge of real wolves is limited. When I wrote the scene where Devin encounters the wolves in a cave in Before Winter, I had to run it by a family member, Adam Katrick, who heads Wolf Guard in the state of Vermont. I wanted to be certain  my wolves were behaving realistically. Oddly enough, my instincts were correct and I felt more in touch with Llise’s wolves than ever before.

All of this simply proves that writers’ minds are complex treasure troves of everything we have ever experienced. A childhood dream can be woven into the tapestry of a country poised on the edge of revolution, with an array of characters and subplots. Never discount any item of information, no matter how slight. Like an artist, a writer builds a creation, line by line, until it’s something wonderful and new!

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Ode to Autumn

Today theOak2 wind changed. It swooped down from the north, rustling the maple leaves and whispering through the spruce needles. Fallen leaves skipped and frolicked across the field, cartwheeling end over end. After weeks of waiting, Autumn finally made its way to Western Pennsylvania.

Fall has pushed relentlessly against a summer that seemed endless. Eighty degree days slipped gradually into seventy degree weeks, with a few scattered frosty nights. Trees remained green or shook off tired brown leaves to cover the ground. It seemed that all the beauty and wonder of fall might be postponed for another year. Last Friday, I saw the first hints of color – weeks later than I ever remember – and by Monday the hillsides were dotted by trees in fall shades. We seem to have lost our vibrant reds though, a result of the drought we had in September. The trees are clothed in subtler shades this year, soft mustard yellows, dusty rose, and delicious tones of pumpkin. I associate these colors more with the oaks, which often save their display for November. But this year, the maples have copied their tones tending toward pastels rather than splashes of brilliance.

Normally the turning of seasons reassures us, tapping into our genetic memories of a thousand brilliant autumns before this one. It was jarring when fall did not appear at its appointed time this year. The brown leaves falling hinted at trees dying and the awful suspicion that something was vitally wrong with the world around us. Even now, when fall colors have finally emerged, they are different, subdued, and hesitant. Tonight’s pounding rain may bring them down.

Our last two winters have been warm with very little snow. White Christmases seem to be a thing of the past. Living in the northeast has lost those sharp seasonal boundaries that regimented our lives so recently. What will children growing up today remember of autumn and winter – insipid ghosts of those former seasons? I, for one, welcome the colder temperatures and windy days, snowflakes, frost, and ice, for they comfort my soul. They reassure me that some things are still unchanged on this planet that we call home.

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img_0286-1On September 21, Harper Voyager UK is releasing Before Winter, the third book in the Wolves of Llisé trilogy. Before Winter arrives as “digital first” and Harper Voyager has also discounted both of the first two eBooks: Among Wolves and Grim Tidings, so you can acquire the whole set inexpensively!

Although I placed the trilogy in an imaginary empire, the narrative has a strong French flavor. This story has allowed me to air my political and social views about the importance of education, health care, and the plight of the poor. But there has been another thread running through all three books: my characters are not only Christian but Catholic. Perhaps, that seems like an odd quirk coming from a Presbyterian!

Catholicism has always played a strong part in my life. My father, an architect who specialized in Catholic schools, brought priests home to dinner on a regular basis. As a very small child, I knew them simply as kindly men, who brought me stuffed bunnies and promised to build me a treehouse, as soon as my father drew up the plans!

That gentle early impression led me to spend my first two years at a Catholic College. I spent my last two at a Presbyterian school but emerged as a kindergarten teacher, welcomed back to Catholicism when I was offered a job at our local Catholic School. It was the icing on the cake that my father had designed the building!

I felt completely at home with the ritual of Mass, welcomed it really because it seemed to call to something basic and traditional inside of me. I tried hard to show Devin’s love for his church. I, also, have a set of rosary beads. I found them with my mother’s jewelry after she died. I immediately wanted to keep them, but wondered where they had come from. I still don’t know, but I realize she must have cherished and valued them, too. I use Anglican Prayer Beads almost every night and I wanted Devin to cherish his rosary just as much as I did mine.

Writing books gives authors the rare privilege to tentatively show readers what matters most in their own lives. We bare our souls a bit with each new story. I hope you can find something in my characters that touches your heart, as well. I have given my heart to them to share with you.


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Among Wolves final Cover Grim Tidings4  img_0286

I expected a certain amount of relief when I finished Before Winter, the last book in The Wolves of Llise trilogy. Yes, it’s nice to have finished all the edits and proofreading but I feel a sense of loss, too. I have lived daily with these characters for three years, had them brewing in my head for lots longer than that and it’s hard to shift gears to start something else.

My computer is filled with ideas – everything from full manuscripts to first sentences and catchy titles. I have one completed YA novel, a nearly finished historical novel, ideas for three middle grade novels, and about a zillion picture books just waiting for me to touch them with my magic keyboard and bring them to life! There is no lack of ideas. I’ve just lost my momentum.

When dialogue creeps in my head, as it does constantly, I hear Devin’s and Marcus’ voices. I think of new quips for Gaspard, waving his wine bottle in hand. I want to probe the depths of Angelique’s soul, and find out what really makes her tick. And where is Armand’s orange cat? That remains unresolved and I am a cat lover, so I want to know. I want to explore the other provinces of Llise! They  are still a mystery and as tantalizing as anything else I have lined up for attention on my computer.

With just under a month until Before Winter is released in eBook, I want to bask a little in the glow of having finished three novels! But I will still dream of Llise and imagine what will happen to my beloved characters next. Could Before Winter be the ending or is it just the beginning? Only time will tell!




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It’s hard to believe that I am deep into the structural edits of Book #3 in The Wolves of Llise series. The Harper Voyager team designed this gorgeous cover. It’s my favorite of the three books! I love the colors, the hint of frost on the fall leaves, and that brass button that is given to Devin in Book #2 as a token of entry to Madame Aucoin’s home. Fall is my favorite season by far and this cover epitomizes it!

This  book was a long time coming. Months passed with a few feeble attempts on my part to begin and then finally in December when there were dozens of other things demanding my attention and an unexpected hospitalization that only just had me home for Christmas, my head was suddenly full of dialogue, scenes, and new characters. I felt as though my head would burst before I could lay everything out on paper. Before Winter emerged fully grown on the computer screen. Words tumbled out, the count growing with each day, and I spent the next 3 months deep in the northern provinces of Llise. Four days a week, I took my breakfast upstairs to my office, skipped lunch, and emerged staring vacantly around 6:30 in the evening. I barely saw my husband and daughters, because my writing devoured most of my day. 
Writing can be as addictive as adrenaline – coursing through your mind and body until you can’t think about anything else. It becomes so important that you forget to eat or drink or sleep or pay your bills on time. The creative process provides its own energy, burning bright and true. It can also burn you out but you are unaware you are being consumed by it while you are in the throes of giving birth to a novel. It’s no secret that I usually get sick after I’ve finished a book.  It’s worth it though. It’s just the price I pay for putting my thoughts into words on paper.

Before Winter is the third book in a trilogy, but I am loath to leave these characters behind. There is still so much of Llise to explore. Already I am toying with where a fourth book might take these characters I have grown to love and have created with my own mind and hands. Creation is heady stuff! I’m not about to stop now!

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I’m happy to have Among Wolves included in this giveaway by other Harper Voyager authors. If you haven’t bought a copy yet – here’s your chance to get one free!
Family is such a comfort. There’s your blood family and then there’s the family you create through shared experiences. There’s no better shared experience than writing, and many of the authors from Harper Voyager have become close. We love to support each other.
And we love to do things together! Like chat about science fiction and fantasy books.
And super lucky for readers, we like to give away books together, too!
Please check out this collection of magnificent science fiction and fantasy books! Then use the rafflecopter below to enter to win a paperback copy. Or if a book sounds too good to miss, links are included so you can go ahead and purchase.
We will choose three winners/each winner will receive four books. (Note: Winners must provide a US address.) The contest runs from Saturday, March 4th until March 15th. Please remember to tweet about the giveaway for extra chances to win!
And be sure to join us for our monthly twitter #SFFChat at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm EST on Monday, March 6th. We’ll be chatting about every aspect of being a writer: querying, editing, drafting, marketing, and much more. We want you to join our SFF Family.
Giveaway Books

“What on earth would I gain from that?” I asked him. “Risk my own neck by violating my banishment just to leave you? The sentence placed on me if I return is execution. If I’m entering the mountains again, I’d damn well better get something out of it.”

Exiled from the Silverwood and the people she loves, Mae has few illusions about ever returning to her home. But when she comes across three out-of-place strangers in her wanderings, she finds herself contemplating the unthinkable: risking death to help a deposed queen regain her throne.

And if anyone can help Mona Alastaire of Lumen Lake, it is a former Woodwalker—a ranger whose very being is intimately tied to the woods they are sworn to protect. Mae was once one of the best, and despite the potential of every tree limb to become the gibbet she’s hanged from, she not only feels a duty to aide Mona and her brothers, but also to walk beneath her beloved trees once more.

A grand quest in the tradition of great epic fantasies, filled with adventure and the sharp wit—and tongue—of a unique hero, Woodwalker is the perfect novel to start your own journey into the realm of magical fiction.

Following the events of Elixir, Mabily “Mab” Jones’ life has returned to normal. Or as normal as life can be for a changeling, who also happens to be a private detective working her first independent case, and dating a half-fey.

But then a summons to return to the fairy world arrives in the form of a knife on her pillow. And in the process of investigating her case, Mab discovers the fairies are stealing joy-producing chemicals directly from the minds of humans in order to manufacture their magic Elixir, the dwindling source of their powers. Worst of all, Mab’s boyfriend Obadiah vows to abstain from Elixir, believing the benefits are not worth the cost in human suffering—even though he knows fairies can’t long survive without their magic.

Mab soon realizes she has no choice but to answer the summons and return to the Vale. But the deeper she is drawn into the machinations of the realm, the more she becomes ensnared by promises she made in the past. And in trying to do the right thing, Mab will face her most devastating betrayal yet, one that threatens everything and everyone she holds most dear.

Three brilliant novellas. One fantastic story.

Collected together for the first time, T. Frohock’s three novellas—In Midnight’s Silence, Without Light or Guide, and The Second Death—brings to life the world of Los Nefilim, Spanish Nephilim that possess the power to harness music and light in the supernatural war between the angels and daimons. In 1931, Los Nefilim’s existence is shaken by the preternatural forces commanding them … and a half-breed caught in-between.

Diago Alvarez, a singular being of daimonic and angelic descent, is pulled into the ranks of Los Nefilim in order to protect his newly-found son. As an angelic war brews in the numinous realms, and Spain marches closer to civil war, the destiny of two worlds hangs on Diago’s actions. Yet it is the combined fates of his lover, Miquel, and his young son, Rafael, that weighs most heavily on his soul.

Lyrical and magical, Los Nefilim explores whether moving towards the light is necessarily the right move, and what it means to live amongst the shadows.

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Porch Swings and Spring Peepers

frogJust at dusk I walked down to put several letters in our rural mailbox. It was so lovely and warm that I sat down on the cushionless porch swing. The spring peepers were trilling their songs in our pond off the patio. They sounded really lovely like distant bells. The problem is that little froggies shouldn’t be peeping in February. My tulips shouldn’t be up and my roses shouldn’t be putting out new leaves. Today it was 70 degrees. Tomorrow’s low is supposed to be 14. If you are a plant, an animal, or a human this weather is difficult to cope with. My sweet little peepers will probably flash freeze tomorrow night and I’ll have to fish their little bodies out of the pond with a rake – yuck!

Three geese flew overhead, honking. I heard them long before I saw them and then they flapped over the porch roof and were gone, their calls growing more distant. Then one goose returned going the opposite direction. First, I thought he was lost and had missed his connection with the first group. Then, my storyteller persona kicked in and I thought “Ah, he’s going back for his mate.” I wait in anticipation of seeing the happy couple fly back to join the other geese but it didn’t happen. He must have been lost, after all. His calls faded away long after he was gone from sight. So much for happy endings. It would have made for a much more exciting blog had they been reunited! I’m sorry if you are disappointed but I was, too.

Darkness fell and the porch swing made its familiar grating sound. Suddenly, something answered it very loudly from the corner of the front yard by the fence. It was a cross between a croak and a quack and it got rapidly closer. It answered the porch swing’s every backward swing. I wasn’t sure whether to stay or run. It was dark enough by then that I couldn’t see anything out in the grass but the sound continued, getting louder and louder as it made its way step by step to the porch. I decided it was still February and I should go inside. Some days just don’t go the way you’ve planned.

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Home For Christmas

I love Christmas. I always plan my vacation for the last few days of Christmas week – time for baking cookies,  wrapping gifts, and putting the final touches on holiday decorations.

I heap the mantels of our old farmhouse in pine and holly, tucking twinkle lights and pine cones in the greenery. I swag our beautiful old railing with pine and lights from the walnut newel post, the whole way up and around the hallway upstairs. I used to decorate five trees: one each for the living room and dining room, one in front of the middle window in the upstairs hall, one in the upstairs living room, and a kitchen tree with popcorn and cookies. I’ve cut back since renovations have added a family room. The main tree goes there and I only add a tree in the living room now. When we restored our kitchen, I painted our cabinets a deep farmhouse red and eliminated the bulkheads so that I could top them with pine and lights, too. However, none of this outshines the cherished traditions we have established over the years with our two daughters.

They both spend Christmas Eve at our house where we have a very simple supper of their favorite potato soup and go to the candlelight service at our church where my younger daughter currently serves as associate pastor.  Afterwards we hurry home to snuggle into new Christmas pajamas and gather to drink eggnog and eat cookies by the fire. Finally, as midnight nears the final presents are tucked under the tree. The stockings are stuffed in bedrooms amid much secrecy. The Night Before Christmas is read (Remember I’m a children’s librarian and some traditions are sacred!) and then we’re off to bed. Sometime during the night the stockings are smuggled stealthily into our upstairs living room and hung on the mantel in the dark amid giggles and an occasional stubbed toe!

On Christmas morning, we share a breakfast of scrambled eggs, orange slices, and sweet bread topped with my mother’s traditional orange butter. Afterwards, we take giant mugs of tea or coffee, festooned with snowmen, angels, or reindeer and retire to the family room. We sit around the tree, aglow with lights and savor the unwrapping of each gift. The pace is different now. Gone are the days when two little girls rushed down the stairs to tear open their presents but Christmas is no less sweet.

We take our time enjoying each other’s company, trying on new hats and scarves and taking goofy pictures that will make us smile for years to come. When the gifts are open we put out an array of snacks on the kitchen island and work together to put casseroles in the oven for Christmas dinner. We set the table with our Night Before Christmas plates and use my grandma’s beautiful sterling silverware. We light the candles and talk over dinner, wishing the day wouldn’t end. But it does. The girls pack up their gifts, their boxes, and bags and say goodnight among hugs and usually a few happy/sad tears on my part.

I don’t know how long we can continue this cherished celebration. Eventually, distance or marriage may cause this pattern to readjust but we’re experts now at doing that. As toddlers grew into teenagers and finally into career women, our Christmas celebration changed too. The huge, extended family gatherings are gone as loved ones have passed on and siblings have moved away. Our pace is different now. The emphasis is simply on being together, setting aside this one day to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour as a family and holding onto as many traditions as we can for as long as life allows us. Merry Christmas!

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Book Two Paperback Release Day! — Among Wolves- Nancy K. Wallace

It’s publication day for the paperback of Book Two of Nancy K. Wallace’s fable-based fantasy Grim Tidings! In Book two of the Wolves of Llise trilogy,we continue to follow Devin Roche, the son of Llise’s ruler, in a land where keeping historical records is forbidden. To do so would mean imprisonment – or death. Only bards may share […]

via Book Two Paperback Release Day! — Among Wolves- Nancy K. Wallace

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Today I am welcoming to my FairySockmother blog two amazing collaborative authorspitchfork-of-destiny who have a really awesome book coming out November 1st! I first discovered Jack Heckel through a delightful series The Charming Tales. They include a delightful mix of classic fairytales and humor. To what do you credit your love of fairytales – was it a childhood addiction or did you wander into a fairytale in a past life?

 First, we’d like to make sure that your readers know that Jack Heckel is a penname used by John Peck and Harry Heckel. We’ll make sure that we answer with an H: for Harry and a J: for John as we go through the questions.

 harry-heckel10H: I’d like to say that I wandered into fairytales in my past life, but I’m pretty sure that’s not true. My first fairytales came from Disney, I remember Snow White and Cinderella being some of the first movies that I ever saw. My mother loved Snow White. At some point, I had a book of fairytales as a kid, far darker than the Disney movies, and I was both terrified and intrigued by them. Since then, I’ve been caught on a path to fantasy, whether in the form of fairy godmothers, mythical winged horses, or one ring to rule them all. Although sci-fi has a role in that as well. I think my favorite fairytale might be Doctor Who.

 J: I like the phrasing of this question: ‘wandering into fairytale.’ It reminds me of how soDSC00601.JPG many fairytales start themselves, with the characters wandering out of their safe worlds and into the wilderness. As for me, my wanderings began at a very early age with a wonderful illustrated edition of Grimm. Since then the fables have become a sort of obsession. I love reading and watching different versions of the stories and seeing how they change and take new forms for new generations.

John, I used “wander into a fairytale” because that is so often the way fairytales begin. I doubt that Sleeping Beauty had any intention of becoming infamous when she prickled her pinky on that stupid spindle!

How did you choose which fairytales to include in your books? Did you pick your favorites or simply plug in the ones that fit well as you went along?

 fairy-taleendingcover11H: I think the answer is that we found the ones that fit, but we knew that we’d have elements of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in our novel. John is really the expert on fairytales on our team, and the idea for the book was originally his concept. What do you think, John?

J: Thanks for the shoutout, Harry, but the choice of which stories to include is definitely collaborative. I would say that the fairytale archetypes that make up the underlying plot of the Charming stories (Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and so on) are selected very carefully, but most of the references seem to insert themselves almost of their own accord. The wonderful thing about fairytales is that they speak a common language, and so they naturally want to be told together. I’ll give you an example, when your characters are talking to a bunch of precocious goats it seems only natural that they might mention their run in with a well-dress cat.

Absolutely, I agree, especially since I grew up having some very wise old goats as pets. You can’t even imagine some of the tales they told! 

Is The Dark Lord part of The Charming Tales, a standalone, or the first in a new series?

 H: The Dark Lord is a novel that can be standalone, but we plan to have it be the first in a series. We are working on a proposal for a sequel and have a tentative title and thoughts on the third book. It has a darker tone but has fun with epic fantasy much in the same way that The Charming Tales series fractures fairytales.

J: The writing begins again! We are in fact in the process of working up our outline and initial chapters for the sequel to the Dark Lord. But, for those Charming Tales fans out there don’t dismay, Harry and I have an outline for a third book in that series ready to go as well.

The cover of The Dark Lord is phenomenal! That eerie mist creeping through the window send shivers down my spine. Did you use a new illustrator for this book?DarkLord FINAL cover[9].jpg

 H: We had our own cover artist for A Fairy-tale Ending and The Pitchfork of Destiny because we were looking for a certain style for the series. However, we changed for The Dark Lord, as it has a different tone. Our cover artist for this series is… the art department at Harper Voyager Impulse! They engaged us in the process and offered us four options and responded to our feedback. We are very pleased and thankful for their hard work.

J: I just want to add another big thank you to the Harper Voyager Impulse art department. There is nothing more fun that looking at four fantastic mockups of your cover and agonizing over which to choose.

The one you chose really is awesome!! I can’t wait to read the book! The title of The Dark Lord evokes Harry Potter; what sources or incidents inspired you to write it?

H: Certainly, there’s some Harry Potter, but we were much more inspired by Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons. We tried to incorporate elements from a number of sources. This book is our homage to the great fantasy literature that has filled our lives.

J: The real inspiration for The Dark Lord is that there is a “dark lord” in almost every high fantasy novel you read. That being may be called Voldemort by Harry Potter or Sauron in Lord of the Rings or Torak in the Belgariad or literally the Dark One in Robert Jordon’s Wheel of Time novels, but he, she or it is always there, and usually wears black. It is the presence of these archetypes, similar to the Prince Charmings and damsels in distress in fairytale, that we love to play with in our novels.

Having been obsessed by The Lord of the Rings in college, it makes me want to read this even more!

Without revealing too much, can you give us a sneak peek at this new book? I, for one, can’t wait until it’s released!

 Thanks! November 1st is the release date, and we are excited too. Here’s a sneak peek at a section of the book:

Hello, my name is Avery, and I am the Dark Lord.

If you have ever read any other accounts of dark lords or, gods forbid, been under the thumb of one yourself, your first thought should be, “What is a guy named Avery doing being a dark lord?”

At least, that’s what I was thinking as I watched the final battle in the War between Light and Dark from the highest balcony of the tallest tower of my Fortress of Despair. Far below, on the poisoned steppes of the Plains of Drek before the blood red gates of the stronghold, men, elves, and dwarfs united against all the forces of evil: me and my army.

All day the Army of Light had been advancing inexorably, but every inch of progress came at a terrible cost in blood and death. It was awful to behold, and I wanted nothing more than to turn away, but I wouldn’t let myself. Since this war, for better or worse, was being fought at my bidding, I felt the least I could do was bear witness.

And so I did, though I was not sure how much more I could take.

The worst of it was the smell. No matter how hard I tried to abstract myself from what was happening on the battlefield, the smell would not let me. It was a mix of something burning and something metallic, something sweaty and something rotten. It got into my mouth and made me want to spit.

Gods, what could make such a smell?

The images that formed in answer to my unspoken question made my stomach lurch and my hands begin to shake uncontrollably. I grasped the rough wall of the parapet to still them, and reminded myself again that this was necessary and that good would come of it. The reassurance had worked well at one time, but over the past few months it had grown threadbare with overuse.

I was brought back to the present as the stone beneath my hands shuddered violently. Looking down I saw that the Army of Light had fought its way to the very walls of the fortress and even now were battering at the gates. My defeat seemed certain. I mouthed a prayer of thanks and was about to retreat to my throne room to await the inevitable when I heard voices drifting up from a balcony below.

“Cravock,” a familiar voice roared. “What news?”

I peeked over the edge of the parapet and saw Morgarr the Slaughterer, the merciless general of the Army of Evil, and his sniveling reptilian servant, Cravock. Morgarr was standing in full battle armor surveying the carnage of the battle with an imperious glare. Cravock squirmed and prostrated at his heal. Morgarr should have been down with his men. Those were my orders. But I couldn’t blame him for disobeying. I wouldn’t have wanted to be out there either.

“Your Great Wickednessss,” Cravock hissed, “the enemy isss at the gatesss. You mussst do sssomething before it isss too late.”

“I must?” Morgarr roared. The hell-forged plate that encased him rippled as it tried to contain his rage. He hefted Death Slasher, his black double-headed battle-axe, and pointed its curved blade at the half-lizard, half-man. But while Morgarr’s attention was on Cravock, and Cravock’s attention was on Death Slasher, the living eye embedded in the handle of the battle-axe was staring up at me with a burning hatred. It was hard to say if the Army of Dark was more afraid of Morgarr or that battle-axe, but for me there was no contest. Death Slasher was terrifying.

I ducked back out of sight while Cravock whined, “Pleassse forgive me, Great Dessstroyer. I meant no insssult. It isss only that I thought—”

“I do the thinking, toad,” Morgarr shouted. “You do my bidding. Order out our reserves, the blood orcs, the twelve-headed rage demons, the viper dragon—empty the fortress if you must!”

I almost felt bad for Cravock, because I knew he wasn’t going to be able to do any of those things. Earlier this morning I had given orders to ensure that the blood orcs were led into an ambush and destroyed. Last night I had painstakingly removed each of the twelve heads of each of the twelve-headed rage demons. And a couple of days ago I’d freed the viper dragon from his magical enslavement with the command to fly off and never return.

Cravock hissed, “Your Wrathfulnessss, we have no reservesss. The blood orcsss have been routed, the rage demonsss dessstroyed to the lassst head, and the viper dragon hasss not been ssseen sssince the night before lassst. All that we had hasss already been deployed. Only the power of the Dark Lord himssself can sssave us now.”

“That displeases me greatly,” Morgarr said quietly. “I must have an audience with my master.”

That was my cue. I left the balcony and made my way down to the throne room. As I descended, the Fortress of Despair shook with the impacts from siege engines and explosions from magical spells. I could hear distant shouts of triumph. The enemy had breached the gates, and from the number of abandoned guardrooms and barracks I passed, my army had been broken. Even the murk-scaled kobolds and mindless gibberlings that normally lurked about in the shadowy corners of the keep had fled. The forces of good would face no further resistance. A vast weight lifted from my shoulders.

When I reached my inner sanctum, some signs of normalcy returned. Flanking the entrance were my ever present gaunt-fiend honor guard. They snapped to attention and I swept between them as the doors closed behind me. I mounted the stairs of my dais of skulls and arranged myself atop my throne of skulls to wait the end. To pass the time I pulled out a small notebook and began chronicling my last day as the Dark Lord.

Everything had to be properly documented if I wanted to have any chance of including this in a later publication.

I had barely begun recording my impressions of the final battle when there was a loud boom and the doors to the chamber were thrown open. Morgarr stood in the vaulted doorway, bowing, his great horned helmet tucked under his arm. I gave him a negligent backhanded gesture. He ducked his head and ran forward, prostrating himself before the stairs to my throne. He remained there at my feet not daring to meet my gaze, though I could not say the same for his cursed battle-axe. Its red eye glared at me knowingly.

“Rise!” I commanded, and then realized that I was still holding my notebook. Hastily, I shoved it under my seat and tried to assume my most diabolical expression.

By the time my gaze was properly ominous Morgarr had already begun to plead. I cleared my thoughts and tried to focus on the behemoth of a man before me. “. . . I have done all that I can, Dark Lord. The enemy has breached our defenses. The legions of undead have been shattered. The beastmen and brigands have fled like dogs. The blood orcs are no more, the rage demons have lost their heads, and the viper dragon has abandoned us. The Heroes of the Ages will be here in moments. There is nothing more that we can do. We are lost without you, my master. You must unleash your powers to save us . . .”

I will spare you the rest of what he said. Suffice it to say there was a lot of blame shifting, minimizing, and justifying going on. When he finished I fixed him with one of my well-rehearsed, pitiless stares.

What’s next after The Dark Lord? Do you have any more manuscripts waiting in the wings?

 We have a proposal for a sequel to The Dark Lord, but we are also determined to write another book or two in The Charming Tales if sales permit. As for other manuscripts, we have ideas for several, but nothing concrete as Jack Heckel. John has started work on a few manuscripts for solo novels, and Harry has a number of manuscripts including some for his Crimson Hawks and Krueger Chronicles series as well as for a superhero series featuring a female hero named Rigel.

Have you always written fantasy or is there another genre that interests you as well?

 J: Most of my writing and inspiration contains an element of the fantastical in it, whether the genre be urban fantasy, fairytale or science fiction, but I do have a deep and abiding love for the locked room mystery novel. I have a dream of writing a series of classical whodunits with a curmudgeonly detective and lots of confusing plot twists. One day. All I need is my hand guide of obscure poisons and I figure I’ll be ready to go.

 H: I love fantasy, but for many years, I was known as an author of horror roleplaying games. I love sci-fi, having written material for Star Wars and Star Trek roleplaying games, and I like superheroes as well, so all things geek. Additionally, I have a desire to write at least one piece of literary fiction before the end of my writing career.

We have a lot in common because I love both Star Wars and Star Trek. How fantastic that you wrote material for the role play games!

Last but not least, every writer needs a support group. Who’s there for you to bounce ideas off and act as a sounding board for you?

H: Obviously, we work as a team, so that helps immensely. I have numerous friends who are writers and receive support from nearly everyone I’ve ever worked with. If I were to make a list, I’m not sure where it would end. Ultimately, my biggest support comes from my wife and my daughter. Without them, I don’t know how I’d write.

J: I couldn’t say it any better than that and so I won’t try. Harry, my family and friends are best support any author could ask for.

Please come visit us at www.jackheckel.com!

Kindle version of The Dark Lord: https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Lord-Jack-Heckel-ebook/dp/B0105URUZM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476932863&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Dark+Lord+heckel

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-dark-lord/id1010696115?mt=11

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-dark-lord-jack-heckel/1123384146?ean=9780062359339

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-dark-lord-5

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Jack_Heckel_The_Dark_Lord?id=neH1CQAAQBAJ




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