Winter Flower by Charles Sheehan Miles


Rating : 5 of 5 Stars

Charles Sheehan Miles is an old Secondlife buddy of mine and he has a super power. He had an uncanny ability for trapping you within the lives of his characters and making you cry right along beside them. I have read many of his books and even when I have reread the same one a couple of times, I still needed a box of tissues. This is true of the Last Hour in particular, but even the Last Hour couldn’t compare to his new release, Winter Flower.

With Winter Flower, I didn’t go through one box of tissue but two. I almost needed a third.

Charles has a wonderful narrative voice and is gifted with capturing the POV of each character and allowing them to tell you their own story. You really get to feel all of the rage, pain, fear, loneliness of the Roberts family as they navigate a series of tragedies that are stunningly real. Some make poor choices, others get trapped in their own grief, and some do whatever it takes to survive a horrible situation.

Unlike Charles’s other books, this is not a romance, or light reading. Winter Flower is an in depth look into the ills of our society and what it means to be human, complete with a flicker of hope at the end.

And as a footnote, before I go. Charles, you made me miss Erie Isle, dammit.

The Long Way Home

It was unfortunate that the coldest time of the night was right before dawn, even in the winter. It was bitterly cold during the warmest part of the day, so when the coldest hit, it became cold enough to freeze hell. Jane stared at the windows for a few minutes longer. She was not looking forward to the walk home, but on the bright side, it wasn’t snowing at least.

She would have killed for enough spare cash to buy a cab ride home, however, she was going to be short on rent as it was. The only good thing about working the midnight shift at the local McDonald’s was that she wasn’t going to starve. This wouldn’t be the first time that she had needed to live off of stale fast food and she doubted that it would be the last.

Jane finished wiping down the tables and slipped back behind the counter. There was still a few things that she needed to take care of before the morning crew started to arrive.

“Hey Babe.” The large man leered at her, and the entertainment of the evening just arrived. A few hours late. On this shift, there was always one. Some drunk bastard from one of the numerous bars down the street would stagger in and demand more than just a greasy burger. They usually showed up shortly after 2 am, right about when the bars closed. Jane didn’t know where this guy was hanging out for the past couple of hours. He was more than a little late. “Why don’t you blow this joint and come home with me eh?”

Jane stepped back. “No. I don’t think so.”

“Awe, come on.” He leaned as close at the counter would let him. “I will show you a really good time.”

“I am afraid that I am going have to ask you to leave.” She replied.

“Why do you have to be such a stuck up bitch?”

Jane took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “You have to either order something or leave. Only paying customers are allowed to hang out here. Especially at this time of night. You understand.”

It was nights like these that made Jane seriously consider finding a new job.

“But you haven’t given me my burger yet.” He pouted. “You gotta give me my burger.”

“You didn’t order one. What would you like?”

“Babe.” The man took his hat off, used his fingers to brush back hid fading hair. “You know what I want.”

Gods, how she hated people. She really needed a new job. One where she didn’t have to deal with this kind of crap day in and day out. But the truth was, between her three jobs, she just didn’t have the time. She couldn’t afford to take time off of any of them in order to find something better. In short, she was stuck here, working the graveyard shift while being leered at by a man who was more than old enough to know better and was most likely married.

“I have other duties to attend to.” She went on. “If you could tell me what you want, I can get your order under way.”

He winked at her and did as she asked. “Give me a double big Mac.”

Jane gave a sigh of relief. The boss hated it when they had to have a customer removed from the place. If it wasn’t for the fact that the labour board would fine him big time for firing her, she would have been let go along time ago. If Jane didn’t have to toss the man out, she would save herself the trouble of dealing with a cranky boss.

Jane took her time awhile later to finish sweeping out back and running a wet mop through the kitchen. Everything was already done in the front and the drunken creeper was still lurking out there. It was precariously close to the end of her shift and in another half hour or so her shift was about to end. She eyed the man from the back. It was hard to say if he would let her be or if he was going to try and follow her home. That had happened once or twice.

“I got the garbage.” Mitch said, as he came and stood beside her. “After the night you had, I wasn’t comfortable with you taking it out. The natives were restless tonight.”

Jane huffed. “That is the understatement of the year. There must have been something in the air tonight cause there is nothing else to explain it. Can’t even blame it on a full moon this time. And thank you. I wasn’t looking forward to going out there.”

“Its still dark out there.” Mitch offered. “You want a ride home?”

Jane paused. Her gaze fell on the predawn shadows that lay beyond the window, then shook her head. “Nah, I will be fine. I don’t live that far away and I am sure that I can get myself home before the sun comes up.”

Mitch snickered. “I knew it. You are a vampire. You are going to turn into a pile of ash with the first rays of the sun.”

Jane rolled her eyes at him. “No more than you are. I just happen to know that you like to stay late in order to flirt with the new chick. What’s her name again?” Mitch turned a deep red. “And I am tired. I really want a good long nap before I have to get up for work again.”

“I don’t know how you do it.” Mitch looked out the window. “Three jobs. When do you find time to sleep?”

“Mostly I don’t.”

“Well, ff you are sure, the offer is there. Just be safe eh? I would hate to have to break in a new person if something happened to you.”

“I would hate if something happened to me too.” She replied. “There wouldn’t be anyone around to feed my fish.”

“You have a fish?”

Jane grinned at him. “Of course. Fish make the perfect pets. They don’t make any noise and they don’t die from loneliness if you spend every waking moment working. I swear, if I couldn’t nibble while I am working here, I probably wouldn’t eat at all. I am always either going to work, working, or going home after work. What can I say? I have no life.”

“You should get yourself a man.” Mitch advised. “Then he could help you out. Men are useful you know.”

“Why, Mitch,” Jane tilted her head. “Are you offering?”

Mitch threw up his hands and backed away. “No, not me. You are too temperamental for my tastes. I like my bits just as they are.”

Jane laughed. “Your safe. From me at least so you don’t need to worry. Your bits will be intact for Sarah? Is that her name?”

“Close.” He returned her grin and waved her off. “It’s Sonya.”

“Sonya then.” she smiled. “I am almost done here. You mind if I take off a few minutes early? I kinda want to be gone before mega-bitch comes in. I really don’t feel like dealing with her, and there is something that I need to do before I get home.”

Mitch made a show of looking at his watch. “I don’t know.”

Jane sighed.

A smile slowly crept across his face and he gave her a sidelong glance. “Okay,” he said. “Go. I will cover for you. There is only five minutes before its time for us to sign out anyways.” Mitch made shooing motions with his free hand. “I can take care of the rest.”


Minutes later, Jane was out the door without even a backward glance. Leacherous drunken dude didn’t even look up when she walked past.

The wind hit her as soon as she stepped outside the doors. Jane gasped once, then twice. It was the cold more than relentless movement of air that robbed her of her breath and what little warmth that she could muster.

She only lived a few blocks away. If she walked there right away it would only take her twenty minutes or so to get to the closest that she called an apartment. She took a brisk place

A north wind picked up the newly fallen leaves and made them dance about her feet as she went. It played with her hair with phantom fingers and pulled at her jacket here and there. The streets were always quiet at this time, but tonight they were unusually deserted.

What could she say? Cities as a rule didn’t sleep. As tired as Jane was, there was someone who she wanted to talk to first. That meant that she would have to take the long way home and it was cold. Jame thought it over as she pulled her tattered coat around herself.

This time of year Clive like to hang out in the ally behind the nearest Subway. He liked it there. Apparently there was a vent there that blew warm air when the ovens were going. He told her that it was the best way to stay warm in the winter. She just shook her head at the thought. Clive was a character and a good friend. Jane smiled. He was her only friend, if only because he was the only person who was around when she had a spare bit of time to socialize.

It wouldn’t take her much longer to go around to Clive’s box than it would if she went straight home. Jane really wanted to check on him and see of there was anything that he needed. She worried about him during the winter. The forecast over the radio called for a deep freeze over the next couple of days. She would see if he needed any extra blankets, or even better, maybe she could convince him to sleep on her couch over the next few days.

Jane paused. The ally was just ahead of her and she peered into its depths. She couldn’t see much. The ally stretched beyond the reach of the yellow light of the flickering street lamp and went into a darkness that was so complete that not even shadows dared to exist down there.

Clive had told her more than once that the dark made it a safe place to sleep. You couldn’t see the boxes that the homeless used for shelter from the street and that meant that they could rest relatively undisturbed. Jane could see his point. From this end of the ally the only thing that she could make out were the dumpsters. She pulled the collar of her jacket up to protect the back of her neck.

He isn’t there.

A chill ran down her spine. It was more than just the biting north wind robbing her of what little warmth she possessed. The longer she stood there, on the space where the sidewalk became the ally, the less she wanted to take even a single step down that path.

He isn’t there. There is no one down there that you want to meet. It’s best if you take a different way home. But she really wanted to see him. What did it say about her that she was willing to forgo checking on the only person whom she could call friend?

Jane took one step. Her toe rested right on the edge of the shadow, then she turned. Clive was a career street person. He had told her once that he had spent most of his life on the streets. The man knew ways to survive that she couldn’t even guess at. Clive would be alright. She was more likely to die from the cold out here than he was.

She stepped back, then took another. Without thought she turn back into the light and simply walked. Jane didn’t pay any particular attention to where or how fast. She simply trusted her feet to carry her home.

Her path eventually wound itself around to her favourite short cut home then stopped. Jane paused at the edge of the ally’s mouth and stared into its shadows. She had come this way hundreds of times and this morning was no different, but the fresh memory of the other ally that lead into nothing but darkness, she wasn’t going to attempt to step into another. All of the same shadows were there, all of the same dumpsters and garbage cans. It was all the same rusting fire escapes hanging from the aging brick, but she just couldn’t bring herself to take even the smallest step inside.

Don’t go that way. A thin silvery voice echoed through her mind. It was the same voice that tile her that Clive wasn’t there. It’s not safe to go that way tonight. There is someone waiting in there for you. You do not want him to find you.

Jane shivered from more than the winter wind. She had heard that same voice before in the midst of her own thoughts. It had even saved her a time or two when she listened to it and took heed. Jane would listen to it now. The combination of the mass of cranky customers at work, along with the empty streets and an absent friend, made her inclined to listen.

Jane flipped her collar up against the northern wind and pulled her jacket tight. She stepped back into the newborn light of the dawn and avoided the shadows and took the long way home.

Into the Dark

He ran as fast as his lags would carry him. He really fucked up this time and this time they were not letting up. He didn’t know. How could he have known? Never in his worst nightmares did he imagine that things such as them existed. This was the real world. Things like them belonged in bedtimes stories about the boogyman and things that went bump in the night. They didn’t belong.

The air burned with each breath. Pain shot from his knee and laced itself up his leg. He couldn’t stop. He didn’t dare. He was always told that there were worse things than death, but he hadn’t believed. He didn’t believed until he had looked deep into that inhuman gaze. All he could do now was run.

Light shown ahead of him. That is what he needed now. A place with a lot of light, and people too. They wouldn’t take him where they would be seen. Where could he go? This was the middle of the night in downtown Ottawa. Wait, suddenly he knew. The old McDonald’s just up the street. It never closed.

He ran. Something fell behind him with a great ringing clang and he jumped forward. The ally ended just ahead. He could see the light of the street cutting through the shadows.

A lone wolf sang out into the night. It echoed through the night, and rang out between the towering buildings and filled the dark shadows. It was closes and fear granted him greater speed. He sprinted along and almost didn’t hear the choirs of inhuman voices that rose to answer. They were close. There was no time for him to wonder how no one heard that alien cry. There was nothing that he could do but run. Fear filled his feet and sped him along.

He burst into the light of the street. There was more light here, but not enough. Instinct guided him. He was close, but was he close enough to make it? Golden arches arose in his vision, an ironic beckon of life beckoned to him.

Almost there. He told himself. Just keep running. You will make it.

Something dark, blurred and utterly formless struck him from the side. He went skidding along the pavement and slammed into the base of the light. He kicked at the clawed talons that wrapped themselves around his wrists and ankles. Something rough wrapped itself around his nose and mouth. Robbed of his ability or breath or scream, he twisted, bite and fought until the world disappeared into darkness.

His coughing awoke him. He took deep rasping breaths, but it was like breathing fire. Something, that was not rope, twine or anything else that he could identify, bound him. He wiggled about to get free but that only made the dark substance squeeze painfully tight.

“Enough of that little one.” The voice rasped from the shadows. He looked around, but couldn’t find it’s source. It seemed to come from the deepest shadow that drank what little light there was and made it its own, but he couldn’t be sure. “You have hurt us deeply, but we forgive you. You are only mortal and cannot understand.”

“I don’t have it.” He cried out. “I don’t even know where it is. I fucking swear on my life.”

“Oh,” The voice rasped. “We know, but we don’t believe you.”

It moved. He just stared. His eyes followed the movement but his mind failed to comprehend what he was seeing. It just wasn’t possible to anything to move in that jerky insect like grace. Nothing should be able to move like that.

“We really do forgive you.” It reached and wrapped a claw around his arm. It drew up close. He couldn’t move. He could only stare into the hungry darkness as it stared back into him. The hair on the back of his neck pricked up and he shivered. Cold breath froze his bare skin. He tried to turn away butit held him too tight. “Because we can make you understand. We can make you one of us. Then we will know everything. Don’t be afraid. It will only hurt for a moment. Then you will never feel anything ever again.”

The world fell to darkness as the thing enveloped him. The shadow crawled all over him as if it were a swarm of insects. It wormed its way beneath his clothing. It forced itself into his ears. He choked as it filled his nose and mouth. He tried to scream but only succeeded in breathing it in.

He burned. He froze. He was in pain and he was in ecstasy. A thousand sensations flooded his being all at once. Voices filled his mind in a great maelstrom of torment and pain. Every voice cried out for him to save them, but there was nothing that he could do. The beast tore through his skin and dug deeper. It wasn’t just consuming his flesh. It was taking everything that he was and everything he would ever be and tearing it out.

Piece by piece the darkness consumed him. His voice joined the chorus of the damned briefly until he was no more.

Northren Lights


Are you fucking kidding me?

Alright. I will tell you again, from the beginning. I will warn you, though, you are not going to like or believe anything I say. You are not going to believe a single fucking word.

Why? Well, because, I don’t believe a single word that is about to come out of my mouth and I was there. I saw the whole thing. I know exactly how it sounds, but I swear to you. Everything I am about to tell you is the god awful truth. I am not crazy. I wish I were, but unfortunately for both of us, I am not.

I can’t tell you the exact day when I first saw him. Or, even where. I was hitching along the northern stretch of highway one going through northern Ontario. There is little that I can say about exactly why I was there. A ride went bad and I got out of the car, and yeah it was bloody cold. If you have lived all of your life within city limits, it would be hard for your to imagine just how fucking cold it gets up there in the middle of winter. When it is that cold, you don’t stop moving. It doesn’t matter how tired you get or how long you walk on that road, you keep the fuck moving, because, it you stop, if you rest, you won’t ever wake up again. It won’t matter how many layers of clothing you are wearing. If you stay still for long enough, that bitter cold will worm its way through to your bones and suck the life right out of you.

So, yeah, when the car stopped for me, I got in. It didn’t matter where he was going at that point, or if he was safe, or if he was drinking or if I smelled some good shit, I was getting in that car. I needed to at that point, because after a few nights of walking through bugger fuck no where, I knew that I wasn’t going to make it through one more night. What can I say? People like me don’t have anything to loose. Sure, he could have killed me, but if I stayed out there I was fucking dead anyway.

I got in the car first. Fred or whatever his name was stopped for that guy sometime after he picked me up. I climbed into the backseat with my pack and let him ride shotgun.

Right from when I first set eyes on him, I didn’t want him touching me or my stuff. Picking him up wasn’t my call, it wasn’t my car. I don’t even know how he was alive. You see, an experience traveller like me comes prepared. You don’t need to be a genius to know that 40 below zero is fucking cold and to put on the layers, but this dude, he was fucked in the head. There just isn’t any other way for me to explain it. All he had on was a windbreaker over a t-shirt. He didn’t even have a toque on. I don’t know how he got all the way out there without his ass getting frozen off.

“Where are you heading?” Fred asked the guy.

“Just up the road a bit. I will show you where to let me off.” He replied. “I have to meet someone up there. I just hope that they will wait for me.”

“Good friends of yours?” I asked.

He nodded. “Yeah, you could say that.”

Fred turned his attention back to the road. “We will get you there. You just sit back and get your self warm there. Just be sure to”

Our new comer smiled weakly and settled in. I did to for that matter. It would literally be hours before we reached a town or something. Okay, I admit it. I dozed for a while. It’s not the safest thing to do while hitching, but sometimes you gotta catch a few winks while you can. It was sometime later when I woke. It wasn’t so much the car slowing down that woke me as much as it was Fred quietly arguing with the guy.

“But there is nothing here.” He was saying. “I don’t even see a car or anything parked here, and it is going to get bloody cold after dark.”

“This is the place.” The dude replied. “They are expecting me to be here. It doesn’t look like they are here yet, but I will be fine.”

“I am just not comfortable with just leaving you out here.” Fred sighed.

“I’m with Fred here.” I had to put my own two cents in. “You can die out here if you’re not careful. It won’t take long for your ass to wind up frozen solid, and no one will find you till spring, if ever.”

“I will be fine.” He insisted.

“Just be sure that you want me to drop you here.” Fed said. “This is like the middle of nowhere. There isn’t even so much as a telephone pole out here.”

“And you are going to freeze man.” I quipped. “Or get eaten by wolves or something. Come with us to Sudbury or what ever the next town is called.”

He shook his head and continued to bundle up. I passed my spare gloves to him and he pulled those on to.

“I am going to be late.” He said. “I wish that I could take you too, both of you, but you need an invitation. They don’t like strangers.”

Fred and I exchanged looks. It was pointless to argue with the man as that point. You can’t argue with fucked up in the head, crazy like that. You just never know when someone like that is going to turn on you.

“Alright then,” Fred said. “Alright, I will let you out. But we are going to wait.” Fred and I exchanged looks and I just nodded. Leaving a man out in the cold like that, in the middle of winter, that is like a death sentence. “If you get too cold, come on back and I will take you somewhere, where you won’t freeze your ass off.”

I don’t know what he was thinking and I am not sure if I really wanted to know, to be honest. That man, he didn’t hang out on the road, or start walking along the highway. He climbed over the snowbank and headed into the bush. He didn’t have the gear for that sort of thing and I knew then, or at least I thought I knew, that he was a goner. He got right to the edge of the trees and that is when everything got weird.

The world got bright, and even though, it was still daylight, the northern lights came out to play.

Those lights were the most beautiful this you could ever see. Look, I’ve been around. I’ve even been up north and by up north I mean far up north. So, I can tell you that I have seen the northern lights and they don’t even come fucking close to what I saw that night and I have never seen anything like that. Those lights, they came down from the north and jived. They blocked out the sun and jived. Those colours danced so bright that you couldn’t see anything else. We couldn’t help but loose site of the guy. We couldn’t see anything other than those lights man. It was all just dancing colours, I don’t even think that there are names for any of those colours. So, yeah, since we couldn’t see shit, no snow no trees, not even the hands in front of our faces, if we even cared to look.

Then just like that, is was gone. Nothing was there, and everything was back too normal. Except for that dude. He was just gone. I asked Fred to wait and he said that he would. That Fred, is a really good guy by the way. I got out of the car and went to see where he went. I am not a tracker or anything like that, not how hard can following tracks through three feet of snow can be?

They didn’t go far. I followed his trail maybe, I don’t know, fifty feet into the bush. It didn’t lead anywhere, it just stopped, in the middle of clearing. You might want to get some experts or something out there to take a look, cause, from where I was standing, there was no where he could have gone. Three feet of snow remember. I know that sounds fucked up, but, I would have seen where he went. It was still daylight and, okay, I just don’t what else to say.

We stayed there for quite a while. It was getting dark when Fred decided that it was time to get moving. We didn’t say a word. Neither one of us wanted to just leave him there in there in the middle of nowhere, but we had to get our asses moving if we were going to make it to the next town before a blizzard or something hit. I went and found myself a bottle, as soon as I climbed out of the car and got shit faced. I don’t know what happened to that dude, and I never saw Fred ever again. Never wanted to, if I am going to be honest. I just want to forget what I saw that night. I am not crazy, but that is what happened. I am not going to try to explain it.

The Dreaded About Page

You want poetry? I got poetry, how much do you want?

You want shorts? I have those too. Let let me brush the dust off and give them a bit of a polish and they are yours.

Novels? Full length.? Challenge accepted.

You want me to finish my About Me page? *runs away screaming*

Why you may ask? Well, it is because About Me pages are about the only bit of writing that I have never successfully completed. Oh, I do know that they are essential for connecting with my readers, however, they just seem trite. I am a writer and I can write on a whole host of topics and genres, however, when it comes to writing about myself, my first instinct is to run and hid. This is why the About Me pages on this blog, on my Facebook Page and on Twitter are pretty much empty.

The thing is, when it comes to talking about my self, I really don’t know what to say. I am a ordinary being of the human variety and there really isn’t anything interesting in my everyday life. Which, when I think about it, is the probable reason why I have an over active imagination. It is much more fun to mull over the best way to escape the zombies if I happen to be at work when the apocalypse happens than staring at the clock, and waiting for it to tell me it’s time to go home.

Once I am home, I usually write most of my daily musing down somewhere because sometimes, there will be something in there that will be too good to let go but not to weird to be story worthy. I am well aware that popcorn really isn’t dried and roasted smurf brains, but the thought did creep me out a little. The industrial farming of smurfs for human consumption  isn’t a thing, but maybe it should be.

The short of it is, my writing is the most interesting thing about me and the average About Me page demands more than, “Hi My name is PD Sampson and I am a writer.”

Eventually I will find that magic formula for talking about myself, but until then I will hid in my wardrobe, drink tea and eat chocolate, and prey that no one notices the blank page.

The Harvesting by Melanie Karsak


Have you ever picked up a book thinking that is was one thing, only to discover that it was something better? The Harvesting is that book. It is balsamic reduction on ice cream. There is no logical reason why those two should go together, but they just do. And they are delicious. The Harvesting starts out as a typical zombie apocalypse yarn in much the same style as the Walking Dead, but very quickly, supernatural elements creeps in and gives the over all work a whole different flavor. The Harvesting is a beautiful blend of horror and supernatural fiction. Karsak did such a masterful job in the blending of the two genre that there is no sense that it is contrived at all. It made for a very compelling read which sucked me in, despite a few flaws.

One of the best things though about this book is it’s heroine. Layla is unapologetically a warrior spirit. The most refreshing thing about her, is that she doesn’t fit into the over done trope of the female fighter with the tragic past. Karsak has successfully moved beyond the age old idea that a woman warrior needs to have some sort of trauma as a trigger for her to take up the sword. Layla is a warrior, just because she is a warrior and nothing more. This makes her a delightful character with a strong voice which draws the reader in. Unfortunately, the rest of the inhabitants of this world fall a bit short.

The characters which inhabit the Hamletville are very well rooted in reality. This makes it very easy to believe that they are ordinary everyday people who have been tossed into an impossible and horrific situation. Every kind of person that one can find in a small town, even the kindly priest and the town gossip can be found there. While, they are all believable, most are so ordinary as to be bland. This is their downfall. There just isn’t any, even those who are instrumental to the movement of the plot line, that are truly memorial, or stood out in any way. Most simply became a mass of faceless people which Layla needed to save and protect.

Though, the most disappointing thing about this work, is the fact that the emotional content is flat. The reader should have been devastated right along with the heroine of the story, when the grandmother died and even more so when Layla discovers that the old lady knew what was coming. Furthermore, for a heavy angst story arc of a love triangle between Layla and two brothers, it just feels empty and contrived. There is no angst or anguish and everything is simply a matter of fact. Even at the ending when Ian become vampire destroys himself to save her. We should have been weeping at that point.

Over all, there are good point and bad points. I wasn’t my intention to focus on the negative, but they were there. It was a damn good read with a really good narration. It just wasn’t above average in any way. I would give it 3 stars out of 5.

A Broken World

I was going through a bunch of papers the other day and I came across an old manuscript that I had abandoned a long time ago. I got to reading it in order to get a feel for what it was and I couldn’t imagine why I never got around to finishing it. It had the potential to be a great work of art. The plot was thrilling, the characters were complex and easy to relate to, and there was enough action to keep you reading.

There was also large gaps in the narrative. And by large I mean, gaps large enough to drive a mac truck through. These gaps in the narrative, I came to realize didn’t come from holes in a pretty sound plot line, they came from the fact that the world in which my characters exist is broken.

You heard me right. I broke the world and it is going to take some doing to put it back together again. When non-fiction writers are doing their research, us fictioneers are breaking… er,,, building worlds.

World building, as it turns out, is just as important to literary works as everything else. It is way too easy to forget that the environment, both natural and otherwise, is something that characters interact with every moment of their lives, just as we do. How the world around them works, often dictates the circumstances that our hero’s find themselves in and sometimes influences the actions of our hero in the most subtle and profound ways.

As a reader, we see this in all of our great works of fiction. What purpose would Anne McCaffrey’s dragons serve if life devouring thread wasn’t falling from the sky? Would Harry Potter still be “The Boy Who lived,” if there wasn’t magic in his world? We just never really think about it.

However, as a writer, it is essential that we do think about these things and have an idea of what is going on in the worlds we create. It does have an effect on the stories we capture. When there is a hole in the over all environment that our heros inhabit, it can and in my case, did lead to massive holes within the narrative.

I will eventually go back and finish that particular manuscript. It is a story that is too epic to leave in the bottom of my sock drawer. I just have to take the time to reimagine the world where it takes place because that will determine a lot of the factors that my trusty group of heros will have to contend with.

The Most Important Thing.

Today I was asked a rather serious question and it took me quite by surprise. I was asked, “What is the most important thing that a writer should know?”

I was stunned to say the least. I simply don’t see myself as a bastion of writer’s wisdom, not do I see myself as a professional writer, as I still grind out most of my days in the usual dead end job. However, is was a serious question and I believe that it deserves a serious answer.

So, I put my feet up, sipped on some coffee and gave the question some serious thought.

The first things that came to the forefront of my mind were the usual suspects; grammar, spelling, vocabulary and proper usage.

I am a bit of a grammar Nazi, so it isn’t all that surprising that grammar was the first thing to come to my mind. It is after all the key to clear communication and that is what writing really is all about, connecting to your audience and communicating your ideas and stories.  Sharing one’s vision with the world is next to impossible if one’s audience cannot understand what is being said. So, yes, grammar is an important thing, it is not THE most important thing. Excellent books on grammar are a dime a dozen, and it only takes a little bit of practice to master it. The same goes for proper usage.

It is almost the same with spelling and vocabulary. As a writer type person with mild dyslexia, I can firmly testify as to the usefulness of the modern spellchecker. While the spellchecker may be your friend, it is my lifesaver. On a good day, I might be able to spell my own name, just maybe. On a bad day, I count myself lucky if I don’t misspell every single word. This of course doesn’t stop me from writing. I still have tales to tell and I am not going to let a little thing like bad spelling stop me. Though I do hate my vocabulary to be limited to what I can spell. Along side my trusty spellchecker, my dictionary  is my best buddy. I have even been known to sleep with one, cuddling it like a teddy bear.

So, if the usual suspects are not the most important things, because they can be worked on and around, what is?

All of the more advanced skills, character development, finding good solid plot lines, dialog ect. can all be learned and mastered with a bit of determination and a whole lot of hard work. They can also be worked on and around.

I sipped some more coffee and stretched my legs out and look up at the painting hanging off my wall. I found it.

A long time ago, when man still lived in caves, I used to be an artist. I could paint the most wonderful and beautiful images. The only difference between now and then, is that now I paint those pictures using words instead of colour. As a painter, the one thing that is more important than everything else, is for the artist to finish the work, to be sure that each and every painting is utterly complete. It doesn’t matter if there is flaws in the picture. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You can always do better next time and if you paint enough, you will get better. You will improve. Being perfect, isn’t the most important thing, finishing what you start is.

In this respect, writing, is exactly like drawing, painting and all of the other arts. It doesn’t matter if ones story isn’t perfect, or if there are a few awkward spots. Even a few run on sentences could be overlooked as long and the work is complete and fully finished. In all things, the artist, in this case the writer, with get better over time.

The most important thing for a writer to know, is how to finish the work, and make it complete.

Chasing Fireflies, a Bit of Summertime Fun


This review is a day late, but then I got the file very late on the night before it was supposed to come out. For that dear readers, you have my apologies. It was well worth the wait and I this anthology a lot. It is the perfect book to curl up with on those bright summer nights when the stars are peeking out and the mosquitoes are out to drink your blood.

Summertime it the season of romance after all and there isn’t anything better than a great romance. This book just happens to have nine, coming from a set of extremely talented indie authors. While I did like some stories more than others, all of them were good satisfying reads.

I particularly enjoyed The Doctor and the Demon, Scarborough Fair.  I liked these stories, not just because I do admittedly have a strong preference for fantasy and supernatural elements in the fiction I read, but also because they had strong characters. Both of these stories featured the kind of characters that like to do their own thing regardless of what their creators might want.

I also really liked A Summer Affair. I loved the over all,old harlequin romance feel of the story. Okay, I know that I really shouldn’t admit to liking Harlequin romance book in public, but they are a guilty pleasure. They are a lot like old friends. A Summer Affair has that feel to it and it also managed to break the mold when the heroine makes an unconventional choice at the end.

While I am here, I also want to make a special not on The Eye of the Storm. I am a bit biased when it comes to Diane Morrison’s work as we have been friends for quite along time and I am quite familiar with Shaundar and his host of brave companions. However, don’t let that keep you from reading it for yourself. It is an excellent romance and it touched on a lot of rather deep modern themes, and challenges one to look closer on how we think of things like race, duty, and matters of the heart.

All the Crown Jewels. Part Two

“Okay,” He breathed, still being careful to keep his voice low. “We are in. You have an idea of where the treasury is right?”

Kara shook here head. “No. Where would the fun in that be?”

He stifled a groan.

“Don’t worry.” She went on. “We will find it. It will be where the most guards are.”

Stark sighed. They kept their ears open and strolled through the passage. It opened abruptly onto a rather large cavern which had been fashioned into a training yard. Barracks and what appeared to be the armoury was embedded in two of the three walls that faced them and a gate dominated the third.

There was considerably more light here as well. The flickering gaslights and torches of the city were gone. In their place were bright glowing orbs. They filled the empty space with eerie blue and green, unwavering light.

“We can’t stay here.” Kara murmured. “There is no cover. That gate must lead into the palace proper, but where are the guards?”

“I don’t know.” Snark replied. “And I don’t care. It’s bad luck to look too closely at found coin. Let’s go.”

The pair dashed across the open space to the gate. Even here, there were very few shadows. The gate had been cut into the wall seamlessly and all the stone had been polished to a mirror shine. All the better for maximizing what little light there is underground. In all of the known world, there was no one better at stonework than a dwarf, and it seamed that only the best laid hands on this gate and the palace beyond.

Their luck was holding. Not only were there no guards stationed at this gate, it had also been left open. Snark followed Kara through and gently closed the gate behind them. Open gates, especially those leading into the homes of kings, had away of drawing unwanted attention. He didn’t pull the bar down though. It was always best to leave possible escape routes open. One never knew when one was going to be needed.

They kept to the shadows as best they could. It wasn’t long until they found their way into the palace proper, and the place was filled with more of that eerie blue and green light. There was far more light here than Snark had expected, and it was quiet. It would have been easy to avoid any patrolling dwarves because they would have heard them coming. The average dwarf wouldn’t be able to sneak up on a man if his life depended on it. Dwarves simply just didn’t know how to move quietly.

Which made the silence of the palace corridors grate on Snark’s nerve all the more. Where were the courtiers? The dukes? The earls? Or whatever passed as nobility here in this nation? And the servants, where were they?

This is wrong. Kara signed. It feels too easy. There is no way these halls should be empty like this. We should have seen someone by now.

Agreed. He replied. Let’s just find that treasury and get out of here. I don’t want to get caught up in whatever is going on here.

The layout of this place is starting to feel familiar to me. Her fingers twitched as her she looked around. I think that the treasury should be close to the royal apartments.

Just lead the way to the gold. He winked. I will follow.

Snark followed her as she lead him through the grand halls of the palace. If there was one thing that he could appreciate about dwarves, it was this. They liked to build in a nice ordered fashion. This made it difficult to get lost and much easier to find what one was looking for. They kept off the main corridors as best they could. Kara had a good sense of direction and a almost supernatural knack of ending up exactly where she wanted to be. Snark, well, he did get lost in his own house once. In his defence, he was awfully drunk at the time.

They came to a junction where several corridors came together and it was here that their luck gave out. Heavy footsteps bounced off the marble walls, making it impossible to determine the direction that they were coming from.

“Crap.” Kara swore. “Where are they coming from? They are coming closer.”

“Damned if I know.” Snark replied. “I have an idea.”

He ran to nearest lamp and blew it out. Kara, following his lead did the same and the pair of them crowded into the shadows behind one of the columns. Snark hoped whomever it was would pass by without noticing them.

A pair of kolbolds rounded the corner, followed by another pair. Snark wasn’t up on kolbold livery, however he could guess that the over large goblinoid creature that loomed over the rest was a person of importance, a chieftain or maybe a shaman perhaps.

Next came the dwarven king. He was paced by two kolbold warriors, one on either side of him. He still held the emblems of kingship, the jagged crown that shown from his brow, and a sceptre which was heavy and little more than a heavy mace. It was quite clear that the king was no longer running the kingdom. His once proud head hung and his gaze rarely left the polished floor. Lines of magic threaded themselves through the dwarven king’s aura and seemed to be feeding from him.

The entire procession marched pasted Kara and Snark and didn’t seem to notice anything at all amiss.

Kolbolds! Her fingers quickly flashed in front of his face. What the hell are kolbolds doing here?

He shrugged. How the hell am I supposed to know? He signed. I think the better question would be, what are they up to and how can we get in on the action?

Kara crossed her arms and glared at him.

Isn’t it obvious?

Okay, dumb ass. Her fingers flashed. Explain.

Snark sighed. Dwarves in general do tend to have a lot of coin. While it is true that they don’t mine a lot of it, they do mine a lot of other metals. Iron, copper, silver and of course mithril. Mithril is worth more than gold. We shouldn’t forget that people pay a hell of a lot for dwarven crafted weapons. Even the stuff that the dwarves throw away as junk is far better than what the most skilled blacksmith can make.

Her eyes went back to the scaly bat like creatures. So, she replied. They are here for pretty much the same reason we are.

Pretty much. He agreed. But hey. This doesn’t change anything. We are still trapped here. The entire dwarven nation is still hunting the city and the countryside for us. That hasn’t changed, though I suspect that we had disrupted their plans by swiping the idol.

What are we going to do now?

Snark grinned. Did you see the size of that diamond?

Kara’s sudden grin matched his own. And that crown looked pretty shiny too. I don’t think that the king really needs it anymore now that the kolbolds are running things.

They took extra care as they moved away from the door. Kolbolds in more civilized lands are seen as brutish creatures, and for the most part that was true, it was never a good idea to underestimate them, or dismiss them as purely vermin. Those ears of theirs could hear almost as well as the bats that they resembled and they were known to have powerful shaman’s among them.

Snark knew for a fact that there was one close by. He didn’t know the purpose of the lines of energy that snaked through the stone around them; there was no way for him to know, but it was a good solid guess that it wasn’t anything good.

Shuffling steps echoed from the stone around them. Snark grabbed Kara and pulled her with him through the nearest door.

“Mine!” A high pitched squeaky voice protested.

They slowly turned around.

A short kolbold stood in the centre of the room with a dwarven child dangling from his arms. Blood pooled around the creature’s feet and soaked into the rug. Small limbs and the occasional torso were piled high off to one side. In the farthest corner from the grim scene, a dwarven woman was bound hand and foot. She struggled fiercely against the ropes that bound her while a small group of children cowered behind her.

The kolbold dropped the corpse. Snark flinched. “They were given to me,” The kolbold pounded on his chest. “Grimloch. Grimloch the bold. Grimloch the sneaky. You no take them.”

The Grimloch creature pulled a squealing infant from the arms of its sibling and cooed as he caressed the child’s head. He opened his mouth wide revealing jagged teeth and moved to pierce the baby’s skull.

Kara let fly. Her dagger buried itself to the hilt in the kolbold’s eye. Instantly Snark rush forward and caught the babe before the body could hit the floor. He breathed a sigh of relief as he cradled it in his arms and looked the little one over.

“I bloody well hate kolbolds,” Kara muttered under her breath. She plucked her blade from the cooling body and wiped it clean on it’s rags.

Snark looked up from the baby in his arms and glanced at the group of dwarves. “So much for not being seen. What should we do about them?”

Kara shrugged. “Leave them as they are. We can’t take them with us and we can’t let them roam about on their own. They would just raise the alarm to our presence and they probably would just get eaten by the kolbolds out there.”

The dwarf maid squealed and shook her head vigorously. She tried to tell them something around the gag that was clenched between her teeth.

Snark blinked. “I think that she can understand us.” He stepped closer to get a better look at her. “You know, this might be the queen.”

“Really?” Kara went over to stand beside him. “Are you sure?”

“I am pretty sure.” He replied. “No servant or underling would wear any of those jewels. That ruby is flawless. I think that is diamond dust in the grooves of those hair things that she is wearing.”

“Clips.” Kara corrected him. “They are called hair clips.”

“Whatever.” Snark brushed the hair from the dwarf’s eyes. “That is a royal circlet. If that isn’t a sign of royalty them I am a orcish bard.”

Kara snickered. “You are an orcish thief. That is almost the same thing.”

Snark leaned over the queen and examined the ropes that bound her. He adjusted them, making them both more comfortable for the dwarf and more secure at the same time.

“It’s too bad that we have to leave them here.” Snark said. “We can’t afford to get caught and between the kolbolds and the children, she is going to have more than enough to worry about than what we are up to.”

“What are we going to do with this little guy?” Kara waved her hand at the baby in his arms.

Snark looked around the room. “Give me a few moments.”

It didn’t take long for the pair of them to scrap together a make shift bed for the babe. They placed it next to the queen and placed the now drowsy child within it.

After that was done, Snark pulled a spare dagger from his boot and thrust it into a near by table. One that was just out of the queen’s reach. Kara arched a brow. “Are you sure that you are not going to need that?”

“No.” He replied. “But she is going to need something in case one of those kolbolds wander in here looking for their buddy over there. If she is smart, she will get herself and those children some where safe as soon as she manages to get herself free, and forget that we were here at all. I don’t want to leave her defenceless. I am just buying us some time. We should be long gone before she has managed to cut herself free.”

“Makes sense.” Kara shrugged.

He turned towards the door, then stopped. “Just one more thing before we go.” Snark smiled at the queen and her eyes narrowed. “I think that we should take our reward for saving them now. Since, we have no intention of ever coming back this way.”

Kara nodded and went to listen at the door. Snark’s slender fingers plucked the circlet from the queen’s brow. He held it up to admire it a moment before adding it to the idol that was stowed in his bag. Her rings and the golden chain that held the ruby quickly followed. The worry and desperation in the dwarf’s eyes quickly turned to astonishment, then rage.

Snark merely shrugged at her expression. “Nothing is free in this world. This is a small price to pay for the life of the little one. Don’t you think so?”

The dwarven queen snarled at him.

“Are you done yet?” Kara asked. “I can hear movement in the corridor. We have to get our asses out of here before we get pinned down.”

“All done.” Snark saluted the queen and turned away. “Time to move on.”

The dwarf screeched at him as he silently slipped through the door leaving her and the children behind.