Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giveaway- The Victor

Just a quick post to let you know that a copy of The Victor is being given away over at Whispered Roars. I'm trying out some outlining software called Snowflake Pro, and I'll be sure to post my thoughts later.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Curse of the Spider King Winners!

Hello everyone. My apologies for taking so long to post, especially with such a crucial post as the winners announcement for a 3 book giveaway! You've all been waiting long enough, so I'll get right to it. The winners are...


Congratulations, you three! And thanks to everyone for entering. I hope to give you plenty more chances at some cool prizes! If I start to slack on the posting again, just yell at me in the comments section. As it is, I have many ideas for some cool posts ahead. (They've been piling up)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Behold the Dawn Winner!

The contest for a signed copy of K.M. Weiland's new book, Behold the Dawn, has come to a close. Thanks for entering everyone! And thank you Ms. Weiland for being so active in the comments section. That always makes it more fun.

The lucky winner is... (via Random.org) .... Lynnae! Congratulations Lynnae! To claim your prize, email me at Yodelingdwarf (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address. Thanks again for entering everyone. And remember, you can still get your hands on a copy. Head over to Amazon or kmweiland.com, to name a couple of ways.

(Double click to view trailer in its original format)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Author Interview and Book Giveaway!!! K.M. Weiland's Behold the Dawn

It is my pleasure to welcome novelist K.M. Weiland to the Yodeling Dwarf. She has agreed to endure an interrogation--er, interview. And if that wasn't kind enough, she's giving away a signed copy of her new book, Behold the Dawn, to one of you lucky Yodeling Dwarf readers! I'm reading it right now and loving both the intriguing plot and the entrancing writing style

I met K.M. Weiland through a mutual friend who told me to add her on Facebook. In fact, this guy, Sterling Woomert, is mentioned in the acknowledgments of Behold the Dawn as a valued critique-er. Pretty cool, huh? And now the interview...

Jacob: First, why don’t you tell us a bit about your latest book. What’s the premise?

K.M.:Behold the Dawn is a medieval epic, set against the backdrop of the Third Crusade at the end of the 12th century. It tells the story of Marcus Annan, a renowned competitor in the brutal tourneys—the huge mock battles that remained wildly despite being banned by more than one pope. Annan, haunted by the secrets of his past, is confronted by a mysterious monk who demands that Annan help him seek vengeance for a wrong committed sixteen years earlier. Against his will, Annan is drawn into the conflict, and he journeys to the Crusade in the Holy Land, where he rescues the widow of an old friend and attempts to deliver her to safety in Constantinople. But he soon discovers that the past he’s been running from is finally catching up, and if he hopes to survive, he has no chance but to face it.

Jacob: You live in the sand hills of western Nebraska. What drew your imagination all the way to the Third Crusade?

K.M.: That’s the magnificent thing about imagination: It knows no bounds! I’m really a pretty eclectic person. I’m interested in so many historical eras, and I want to explore them all. But the Middle Ages has always held a special allure for me. I grew up with stories of Robin Hood and William Wallace, Ivanhoe and King Arthur. I’ve always been fascinated by the dichotomy of brutality and romance that the era presents to the historical tableau. So when I read a snippet about William Marshal (“the greatest knight who ever lived”), his conquests on the tourney fields, and his eventual pilgrimage to the Holy Land, my imagination immediately grabbed hold of it.

How do you view your relationship with your characters? Are they real people that apparently only you can see, a collection of characteristics designed for you story's purposes, or something in between?

K.M.: Something in between, I suppose. They start out as a very wispy idea, with only a few concrete elements, and then slowly solidify as I get to know them better. The progression of the plot and the development of character is inextricable. You can’t have one without the other. So, in a sense, I design my characters specifically to fit my story’s purposes—but the story’s purposes also mold themselves to the characters.

Writing is a strange dance between characters and creator. Of course, my characters are all products of me, of my imagination, but they are also very real, very independent—even rebellious sometimes! However, I’m not one of those writers who complain about their characters not cooperating. It’s their story more than mine, so if they want to take it in a direction that I hadn’t intended, then I just let them fly! That’s what good characters do; they just take over.

Jacob: What’s the coolest bit of information you discovered in your research?

K.M.: The tourneys and the Crusades were, of course, what initially interested me. But I also found myself endlessly fascinated (and sometimes shocked) by the social mores. In many ways, the Middle Ages might just as well have been a different planet. For instance, the legal marriageable ages were ridiculously young, and even that legality was sometimes broken by ambitious noble families, who married their children off at ages as young as seven! The general corruption and ignorance of the church was also a bottomless well of interesting facts. I’d highly recommend the book The Age of Pilgrimage by Jonathan Sumption for hours of absorbing reading on the subject.

Jacob: Tell us about the novels you're cooking up for us next!

K.M.: My fantasy novel Dreamers Come (about a man who discovers that his dreams are really memories of another world) is taking a breather at the moment, waiting for me to revisit it for some more editing. In the meantime, I’m outlining another historical project, The Deepest Breath, this one set in London, Kenya, and France during World War I. And I’m also having fun with a co-writing venture that asks the question, “What if Robin Hood met Sleeping Beauty?”

Jacob: Very cool. Thanks for a great interview. Everyone, you can find out more about K.M. Weiland at her website, kmweiland.com. She also blogs at Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors, and AuthorCulture. Both Behold the Dawn and A Man Called Outlaw, her first book, are available on Amazon.

And now, the giveaway! Simply leave a comment in the comment section to be entered in the drawing for a signed copy of Behold the Dawn. Entries will stop being accepted at 12:00 Midnight PST on Sunday, October 25th. Lord willing, I will announce the winner here on Monday, October 26th.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Signed the Publishing Contract!

Note: If you're looking for the totally awesome 3 book giveaway, either CLICK HERE, or scroll down to the next post.

I'm very pleased to announce that today I signed the publishing contract for Kestrel's Midnight Song and shipped it to the publisher, Flaming Pen Press.

Needless to say, I'm excited! Now comes professional editing, cover design, marketing, etc. Thanks to everyone who has followed my novel publication journey this far, and stay tuned because things are just heating up.

Again, if you're looking for the giveaway, 3 copies of Curse of the Spider King, scroll down or CLICK HERE!

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Heads up! I'm giving away a brand-spanking-new, hardcover copy of Curse of the Spider King to three winners! What's that? It's a new young adult fantasy book coming out very soon by best-selling author Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper. In the vein of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Eragon, Inkheart, etc.

What's it about?

The Seven succeeding Elven Lords of Allyra were dead, lost in the Siege of Berinfell as babes. At least that's what everyone thought until tremors from a distant world known as Earth, revealed strange signs that Elven blood lived among its peoples. With a glimmer of hope in their hearts, sentinels are sent to see if the signs are true. But theirs is not a lone errand. The ruling warlord of Allyra, the Spider King, has sent his own scouts to hunt down the Seven and finish the job they failed to complete many ages ago.

Now 13-year-olds on the brink of the Age of Reckoning when their Elven gifts will be manifest, discover the unthinkable truth that their adoptive families are not their only kin. With mysterious Sentinels revealing breathtaking secrets of the past, and dark strangers haunting their every move, will the young Elf Lords find the way back to the home of their birth? Worlds and races collide as the forces of good and evil battle. Will anyone escape the Curse of the Spider King?

Pretty cool, huh? But how do you enter the giveaway? Simple. Just join my email newsletter by entering your email in the box below. (I respect your privacy; I won't share, rent, or sell your email address.) You can earn a second entry for posting about this giveaway on your blog (Be sure to include a link on that post that sends readers here)

Your Email:
Number of Entries

Note: Prizes can only be shipped to anywhere
within the contiguous United States.

Review: Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart


Sir Dalton, a knight in training, seems to have everything going for him. Young, well-liked, and a natural leader, he has earned the respect and admiration of his fellow knights, and especially the beautiful Lady Brynn.

But something is amiss at the training camp. Their new trainer is popular but lacks the passion to inspire them to true service to the King and the Prince. Besides this, the knights are too busy enjoying a season of good times to be concerned with a disturbing report that many of their fellow Knights have mysteriously vanished.

When Sir Dalton is sent on a mission, he encounters strange attacks, especially when he is alone. As his commitment wanes, the attacks grow in intensity until he is captured by Lord Drox, a massive Shadow Warrior. Bruised and beaten, Dalton refuses to submit to evil and initiates a daring escape with only one of two outcomes—life or death. But what will become of the hundreds of knights he’ll leave behind? In a kingdom of peril, Dalton thinks he is on his own, but two faithful friends have not abandoned him, and neither has a strange old hermit who seems to know much about the Prince. But can Dalton face the evil Shadow Warrior again and survive?

Young adults will be inspired to strengthen their faith along with Sir Dalton, as they follow his exciting and action-packed journey to overcome his doubts and renew his commitment to the King and the Prince in this third installment of Chuck Black’s popular Knights of Arrethtrae series.

Author bio.:

Chuck Black traveled with the Air Force as a communications engineer and F-16 fighter pilot and began a career as a product design engineer. Chuck and his wife, Andrea, homeschool their six children and have a family music ministry that travels throughout the region. He is the author of nine novels, has been published in The Old Schoolhouse e-zine, and has received praise from parents across the country for his unique approach to telling biblical truths. Chuck and his family live in Williston, North Dakota.

My Thoughts:

The book's strongest suit was the allegory. I enjoyed seeing the allegorical elements portrayed throughout the book. The writing, in my opinion, was pretty basic. It was mostly a narrative. "By midmorning of the third day, Dalton arrived home." However, perhaps this simpler style works better for the younger readers the book targets. If I had kids, it's certainly a book I'd like to read aloud to them and then discuss the spiritual truths portrayed.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Heads up! I'm giving away three brand-spanking-new, hardcover copies of Curse of the Spider King! What's that? It's a new young adult fantasy book coming out very soon by best-selling author Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper. In the vein of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Eragon, Inkheart, etc.

What's it about?

The Seven succeeding Elven Lords of Allyra were dead, lost in the Siege of Berinfell as babes. At least that's what everyone thought until tremors from a distant world known as Earth, revealed strange signs that Elven blood lived among its peoples. With a glimmer of hope in their hearts, sentinels are sent to see if the signs are true. But theirs is not a lone errand. The ruling warlord of Allyra, the Spider King, has sent his own scouts to hunt down the Seven and finish the job they failed to complete many ages ago.

Now 13-year-olds on the brink of the Age of Reckoning when their Elven gifts will be manifest, discover the unthinkable truth that their adoptive families are not their only kin. With mysterious Sentinels revealing breathtaking secrets of the past, and dark strangers haunting their every move, will the young Elf Lords find the way back to the home of their birth? Worlds and races collide as the forces of good and evil battle. Will anyone escape the Curse of the Spider King?

Pretty cool, huh? But how do you enter the giveaway? Simple. Just join my email newsletter by entering your email in the box below. (I respect your privacy; I won't share, rent, or sell your email address.) You can earn a second entry for posting about this giveaway on your blog (Be sure to include a link on that post that sends readers here). Also, when you enter I'll send you an email detailing how you can get another entry or few, and win other cool prizes along the way, if you want to.

Your Email:
Number of Entries

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cool Contest at The Quest for Truth

Hey everyone. I just wanted to quick point you in the direction of thequestfortruthbooks.blogspot.com. Author B.D. Eastman is having a cool contest with awesome prizes and he needs entrants.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review: North! Or Be Eaten

This is a review as part of the blog tour of Andrew Peterson's new book: North! Or Be Eaten, book 2 in the Wingfeather Saga.

First off, I tried to start reading this book without having read the first, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. That didn't work. The first page of North! Or Be Eaten is filled with most of the main characters names, seven to be precise, and they were all running around. So I found myself completely lost before even turning the page. To solve this I downloaded the first book and then found myself much better prepared for book 2. The moral of the story: read book one first.

And read them you should. The Wingfeather Saga and, even though I usually prefer audio books, I thought North! Or Be Eaten was an improvement on the first. Andrew Peterson has a humorous style that reminds me somewhat of Lemony Snicket's, "A Series of Unfortunate
Events." But it's definitely original, and the presence of humor doesn't mean the story is lacking in the adventure, imaginative setting, or memorable characters that any good young adult fantasy should have.

As a side note, both books are written in an omniscient viewpoint of sorts. I didn't find it overly distracting, but some people might.

Overall, I recommend North! Or Be Eaten to any readers of the fantasy genre.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Title Announcement!

Greetings. It has been awhile since I've been busy with edits among other things, and I'm not entirely certain what the plans are on the blogging front. But sooner or later I plan to be regularly blogging again (later being a couple months).

Right now I'm in contract negotiations with Flaming Pen Press, and short of something drastic happening I will post the conclusion to that.

Mainly, I just wanted to pop in to post the semi-official title of my book, and then request your thoughts on it. So, without any further ado...

Kestrel's Midnight Song

There it is! Now, tell me your thoughts and be honest!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Second Bryan Davis Interview

Christian Miles has sent me the second Bryan Davis interview as promised. Here it is...

Q1. Izori asks: How do you come up with your book ideas?
Bryan Davis: The idea for Dragons in our Midst came from a dream I had about a boy who could breathe fire. I told my eldest son about it, and we brainstormed until we came up with the concept for the story. My second-born son came up with the basic idea for Echoes from the Edge, and one of my daughters helped me with the idea for Dragons of Starlight, a new series that will come out next year.

Q2. How do you come up with your titles? Do they change when you find a publisher?
Bryan Davis: I base titles on a theme or story element in the book, something that will sound cool rolling off the tongue. Sometimes I labor over them for weeks, and sometimes they pop into my head without a second thought. One publisher accepts whatever title I choose, and another publisher is more strict and works with me until we come up with a title we both like.

Q3. What is the best advice you could give a teen writer?
Bryan Davis: The best advice for a teen writer is to learn the craft. It's not enough to be passionate about a story. You have to know the tools and how to use them. Read books on writing. Got to writing conferences. Get your stories critiqued by experienced writers. Allow the critiques to massage your writing without being offended.

Q4. How many words do you normally write in a day?
Bryan Davis: When I am writing all day, my minimum goal is 3000 words. If I don't get that many done, I consider it a bad day. I feel good if I get 4000, and 5000 is a great day.

Q5. What is your favorite book and why?
Bryan Davis: Probably To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. She did a masterful job building powerful themes into her story without appearing to be preachy. They came across naturally [and] is some of the most skillful prose I have ever seen.

I hope everyone enjoyed that interview as much as I did!
Again, you can learn more about Bryan Davis and his books at DavisCrossing.com, and be sure to check out Christian Miles' cool writing e-zine at TeenInklings.blogspot.com

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Discussion: What Makes a Great Title?

First off, thanks for the tags everyone. I'll fill those out and probably post them on Monday, and I'll try to make it entertaining, as always. 

Second, I have received two free books in the mail so far from Waterbrook/Multnomah: North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson, and Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart, by Chuck Black. In exchange for these free books, I must post a review for each of them--on September 14-18 for North! Or Be Eaten, and September 28-30 for Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart.

Now, on to the main topic. Right now, with my novel, I'm working on
editing and Flaming Pen Press is working on a contract offer.
 Meanwhile, such things are being discussed as what the cover illustrations would be and what the title would be. 

Titles, it seems, are trickier than I once thought. We are making headway, but I want to hear your opinions on what makes a good title. What are some of the best titles you've heard? Keep in mind that great books don't necessarily have great titles. I think once we've read a book, (or heard about it enough times) the title fades into a mere name. For instance, it doesn't matter, at this point, whether or not Lord of the Rings is a great title. At the mention of it, our minds skip the step of acknowledging the title and jump to thoughts of adventures of elves, dwarves, ents, etc.

So I think titles serve mainly to attract new readers. But how can a title be made to better attract readers and catch on? What makes a great title?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Guest Post: An Interview with author Bryan Davis

Special thanks to fellow teen writer, Christian Miles! He has kindly offered to allow me to post an interview he conducted with Bryan Davis, bestselling author of many books, including the Dragons in our Midst series, Oracles of Fire Series, and Echoes from the Edge series. Furthermore, he'll be conducting another interview with Bryan Davis in the future, and he'd like some question ideas. So think up a great question and post it in the comments section! Without any more delay, here's the interview (conducted May 27,2009):

Christian Miles: What is your favorite book that you've written? And what is your favorite scene out of any of your books?

Bryan Davis: I don't answer favorites questions well, because I have multiple choices and any one "favorite" might change from moment to moment. The three books that usually rise to the top are Circles of Seven, Eye of the Oracle, and The Bones of Makaidos. There are many scenes I like, and the two that come immediately to mind are Sapphira dancing with Elohim in Eye of the Oracle and Bonnie becoming an Oracle of Fire in The Bones of Makaidos.


Christian Miles:  Are the dragons in your new series of books different than what we've seen in the DIOM and OoF books?

Bryan Davis: The dragons in the new series will be, for the most part, evil, and they will rule the world they inhabit. They won't vary much in appearance from my other series.


Christian Miles: There has been a lot of news circulating about a Rasing Dragons movie, where are things on that?

Bryan Davis: I sold the theatrical rights to Raising Dragons, and a script has been written. We are currently in the long process of raising funds.


Christian Miles:  Who is your favorite character to write?

Bryan Davis: Another favorites question! Three come to mind--Bonnie, Walter, and Daryl. I enjoy writing about holy characters as well as funny ones.


Christian MIles:  Why do you write what you write?

Bryan Davis: My objective in writing is to create images of warriors for the Light. They possess courage as well as righteousness, and I hope that readers will be inspired to follow the same path. So far, from the emails I have received, it seems to be working.

Great interview, huh? You can find out more about Bryan Davis and his books at DavisCrossing.com. But also be sure to check out the teen writing e-zine Christian has started up at teenwrites-ezine.blogspot.com! Don't miss that!

And again, remember to post your question ideas for Bryan Davis in the comments section.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Scott Appleton: National Book Tour!

Scott Appleton, author of
Swords of the Six, is going on a national book tour starting in December! Right now he's working it out and looking for places to make appearances. If you'd like him to do book signings in your area, e-mail him at spappleton (at) gmail (dot) com. Go to his blog for more info.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Novel Update: Big News!

I've got some news to share regarding my novel, The Shepherd; Flaming Pen Press has offered to publish it. Some of you may remember the post about Scott Appleton's invitation. No details yet. I have some guesses as to advantages and disadvantages to publishing with them, and I've sent them a list of questions in order to help inform my decision to accept or not. Seeing as that decision has not been made yet, please don't celebrate. But I'll keep everyone posted, as usual. Please pray that I make the right decision!

Meanwhile, Waterbrook Press / Multnomah Books has accepted this blog to receive a free book to review! North! Or Be Eaten, by Andrew Peterson, should arrive in the mail any day now, and I'll post the review for that book sometime between September 14th and 18th. They asked if I'd be interested in invitations to receive more free books to review and I thought abou -- OF COURSE!

Okay, now back to editing. Though By Darkness Hid is calling me from my bookshelf...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Oregon Writers Conference & Back Again: A Dwarf's Video Journal

I'm back! And oh so glad I went. I've learned so much, and I'm itching to apply it. My manuscript is lacking right now, but I feel that I now have the knowledge to make it publish-worthy. I've also developed a stronger appreciation for the potential power of the written word, and how much of that I have yet to tap.

Here is the video as predicted. I got so caught up in the conference I didn't get a lot of footage of live events, but I did give some recaps and such. Talking to a camera is harder than I thought it would be. I was aiming for an amateurish look, but I think I leapfrogged that step and accomplished my goal in the previous post in making a fool of myself.

It was great to be in fellowship with so many like-minded Christians. Here is a sample of the exceptionally awesome people I got the chance to meet.

Miriam Cheney: Miriam was the manuscript coordinator for the conference; she received the conferee's mini-proposals, distributed them to editors and agents, then handed them back out to the conferees. When I walked up to the counter she said something like, "You're Jacob Parker?" (I was wearing a name tag) "You're awfully young to be writing such tight stuff." She went on to say that she didn't read all the proposals, but she likes fantasy/sci-fi and got sucked into mine. I got to talk quite a bit with her throughout the conference, and I enjoyed it. Look for a novel to be coming out with her name on it in the future.

Jeff Gerke: Among many other things, Jeff is the founder of wherethemapends.com, the home of Christian speculative fiction, as well as Marcher Lord Press, a publishing company dedicated to Christian speculative fiction. I sent him a mini-proposal for his feedback and I elected to sign up for his morning coaching sessions, and I'm extremely glad I did both. What I've learned from his coaching class and  his feedback on my mini-proposal is going to make my novel a lot better. Plus he's just a cool guy.

Randy Ingermanson: Randy is the award-winning author of several novels. He read my mini-proposal and gave me great feedback as well. And I attended one of his "Writing the Perfect Scene" classes. Great stuff. One single piece of his insight has really stuck with me; he told me that the fantasy genre is probably the worst violator of the "show don't tell rule." Even great fantasy novels violate that rule, but it's a weakness, not a strength. In the past it has always thrown me when I see "show don't tell" in the writing books and then pick up some of my favorite fantasy novels and see what looks like violations of that rule. Now I understand that it was their mistake, and not one I should copy. Overall, Randy's entertaining and enlightening to listen to. One of the highlights of the conference for me was eating the last dinner at a table with all the teenagers (all four of us), Randy, and Jill Williamson. Which brings us to another ultra cool conference person...

Jill Williamson: Author of By Darkness Hid, a fantasy novel published by Marcher Lord Press. Jill is the person who convinced me to attend a writer's conference. I e-mailed her my prologue and first chapter. She told me I write well and that I should attend a writer's conference. The nearest conference happened to be one she served on the staff for. It was great getting to know her over the course of the conference. I bought a copy of her book (you should too) and she signed it for me--my first ever signed book.

Sue (don't remember her last name) offered me a ride to the transit center, which saved me a mile walk and afforded me the chance to get something to eat before the bus left. Right as we pulled into a parking spot her phone rang; it was her son, announcing the birth of her grandbaby! Imagine that :)

Overall, an unforgettable experience. Now I have to save up my money for next year, so I can see all these people and more again.

Friday, July 24, 2009

And I'm Off to Chase the Rainbow

In two days (this Sunday) I board the train for what could potentially be the biggest week of my life; I'm going to Canby, Oregon for the Oregon Christian Writer's Conference where I'll learn about writing, meet editors, agents, and both published and fellow aspiring authors. As part of the conference I got to send out three mini-proposals to agents and editors. At some point at the conference I'll get those back and if the recipient likes the proposal they will schedule a 1-on-1 meeting with me.

The cool thing is I'm taking a video camera! I'll record my whole experience, from leaving my house to arriving home again, and then I'll make it into a video to share with you, Yodeling Dwarf readers.

Anyway, my goals for the conference are to
1) Get a full manuscript request from at least one person.
2) Be brave enough to approach and talk to people out of the blue.
3) Grow spiritually in the fellowship of other Christians
4) Make a fool of myself a few times.

Number 4 might sound strange, but I think it will help with number 2; if I'm able to make a fool of myself then reputation-preservation will be of less concern and I'll be able to approach people with more confidence. Plus I heard that the coach I selected, Jeff Gerke, likes to conduct skits in his sessions, so that represents the perfect opportunity, heheh.

The main reason I tell you all this is to request your prayers. As I said, this is a big time for me, and I would be daunted by facing my boldest adventure to date alone. I really desire for it to be a journey presided over and lead by God, with prayer warriors backing me up. My prayer is for this to be a huge step toward publication, a time for Him to train me to lean on and grow in Him, but most of all for everything to happen in God's way, with his timing, and according to his will. I would greatly appreciate it if you'd join me in that prayer.

I'll see everyone on Friday the 31st, or shortly thereafter, with the video, God willing.

picture by: David Masters

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Interview: Teenage Author, Nathan Petrie

On behalf of The Yodeling Dwarf, I’d like to offer a warm welcome to Nathan Petrie, 14 years old and published! Nathan has agreed to endure an interview about his debut book, Whispers Out of the Darkness, a collection of short stories which I regrettably haven’t read yet.

Nathan: Thanks for having me Jacob! I’ll see if I can endure ;)

Jacob: First off, tell us a little bit about Whispers Out of the Darkness.

Nathan: Well Whispers Out of the Darkness is a collection of fourteen short stories, mainly fantasy and mainly Christian themed tales. The stories have no collaboration with each other aside from the fact that they contain a common theme.

This theme is deliverance therefore giving WOOTD its subtitle, Fourteen Tales of Deliverance.

A little interesting tid-bit about the book is that all save two or three were written for school. They’re all homework assignments. And I find that a little bit funny.

Jacob: Now that’s how you make lemonade! We’re dying to know; how did your collection of short stories get into print?

Nathan: Haha, yeah. I think it’s some pretty delicious lemonade if you ask me ;)

To answer your question, I never sought out publication, per say. Let me try to explain, getting this book published was really a major God thing.

There’s a bunch of groups on Facebook for writing, and for Christian Fantasy in specific. I posted the beginning of a series of novels for tweens that I’ve been wanting to write and suggested that others post their stories as well. I received many an encouraging comment as well as one from the editor of a small publishing company, Jeremiah Press (JP).

The note was not directed to me personally, rather to the whole group. He had some kind things to say about my writing, yes, but he basically gave the contact information for JP. He said that if anyone had something that they’d like to see published to send it in to them for consideration. I hopped on board.

Long story short, I sent in every single short story that I had typed up. I receive an email in a few days asking me for more of my writing and telling me that they wanted to publish a collection of my stories.

So that’s that. From there JP worked extensively with me on editing the stories and made them much better than I ever could have on my own.

Jacob: Let this be a lesson to all of us: Work hard on your homework!

Nathan: Hmmm let’s not go that far yet lol

Jacob: What are some of the biggest influences on your writing?

Nathan: Well, I get asked this a lot, and I’m never sure how to answer.

My dad got me into writing; we’d spend hours discussing the processes of outlining and dissecting tales such as the Lord of the Rings. I remember these times very well.

The LOTR was probably the biggest literary influence on my writing, it’s what got be started. I sort of copied off of it to begin. The LOTR still remains my favorite series and Tolkien’s mind in general has always fascinated me. But if you want living influences I’d have to say that Bryan Davis, Wayne Batson, and many others of that genre have influence me very much.

Jacob: What project is next on your horizon?

Nathan: What’s funny is that the “next” project has been my main one all along. I am currently working on what I hope to be a four or more book series entitled "Redemption’s Journey". I started seriously writing it in the fourth grade. My dad was telling me about a novel he’d always wanted to write and so I figured I’d try my hand at it.

I sat down, and started writing. I based my story off the LOTR and started creating characters and scenes just like those of the trilogy. Over the next four years those stories have been shaped, molded, and transformed into a much more original idea.

The first one, The Sword of Fire, has been in the works since and I’ve been rewriting all this time.

Hopefully we’ll see it soon ;)

I hope to see it finished early fall and published late spring or early summer. High hopes, but stranger things have happened, right?

Jacob: What advice do you have for other teenagers and young people aspiring to publish a book?

Nathan: Interesting question.

The best I can do is pass on the information that has been given to me. What’s the number one thing?


The more you read the better your writing will get. Read something difficult, like the Siliamarillion which will make you better. Or read something similar to what you’d like to write. Dissect it. Discover what makes it so good.

For example, I think my current writing style is a cross between Bryan Davis and JRR Tolkien (major differences there right? But that’s who I see myself as). So I am constantly rereading their works.

And just don’t give up. Work furiously on one project at a time. If you’d like to work on many, like I’ve always done lol, at least set one as your main focus.

If it’s what God wants for your life, He’ll make it happen.

Jacob: Very wise. I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for your time, Nathan, and may God use your books to reach the wide world of fantasy for His glory.

Nathan: That’s the plan Jacob, that’s the plan. Take care! And God-bless!

Jacob: You can learn more about Nathan and his work at NathanPetrie.com.

To get your own copy of Whispers Out of the Darkness from Amazon, click here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Latest Sample of My Book

The site my prologue has been hosted on up to this point is going to expire in the near future, so I'm posting it here, and then I'll link the button on the sidebar to this post. It's the prologue and first chapter of my book, and it's undergone quite a few changes since I first posted it on the blog, let alone first wrote it. I'd appreciate any feedback! (The cover is only a temporary one, by the way. Click on it for the full view, and click here to read about how I made it)


Only a sliver of the moon peeked through the cloudy darkness of the night sky, as if the orb couldn’t bear to watch below. Deep shadows shrouded the mountain cliffs and valleys. No owls hooted, no crickets chirped, and no monsters stirred—only an eerie silence, as though nature itself was in a somber mood. Mystery hung in the air like a subtle, foreboding mist. Something terrible had happened, and the moon knew it.

The craggy mountain pass held only stillness save for one figure; Isaac Ganthorn hastily climbed and scurried his way up the slope. He held a package against his body, hidden by the flap of his cloak.

He wheezed and gasped as he fled up the slope, cursing the thin mountain air. In the dim light he stumbled over tree roots, rocks and bushes. His staccato breaths and hurried steps intruded on the night’s stillness like an impudent funeral guest, making him feel like the only living being on Earth. But he knew he wasn’t alone.

With an anxious backward glance he ran harder. The extra speed, however, only caused him to stumble more. He knew that his black cloak, the standard Marauder garb, would not hide him even in the night. Not from the thing that hunted him.

A splash sounded up to him as his legs plunged into deepening water. He stopped. Cold water seeped into his boots and bit at his legs. A flash of lightning cracked up the night sky behind him. For a single second he found himself staring down at his rippling reflection in the lake. It shocked him to see fear—the emotion that always masked his victim’s faces — now on his own pale face, framed by his long nose and the two narrow streaks of silvery hair.

So this was what fear felt like.

The terrifying realization poured a burst of fuel on his fear. He turned and ran from the image, but a tree root snared his foot and sent him rolling. With a final thud he lay sprawled on the dew-covered ground. The parcel bounced out of his grasp. It let out a short, distressed cry with each bump. 

“Hush!” Isaac pleaded, crawling frantically forward with another glance at the unrevealing blackness behind him. He looked down at the blanket wrapped infant before him, and felt the urge to leave it as it lay, to be rid of the burden it had proven to be. But even as the thought crossed his mind, he knew he couldn’t. The consequences would be too terrible.

A second strike of lightning flushed out the darkness. And Isaac saw it. The flood of light revealed its curved, murderous beak and outstretched wings as it prepared to swoop down on him.

“NO!” he screamed. He curled up, his heart beating what he knew were its final beats. But only another rumble of thunder came. He lifted his head and looked cautiously into the darkness. A third flash, the final of the night, illuminated nothing but a twisted branch at the top of the tree. 

Pull yourself together, Ganthorn!

 Breathing heavily, he picked up the infant and rose again into a run.Deliver it, and this will all be over. 

At the top of the next hill, he caught a whiff of sulfur and felt the warm mists of a nearby hot spring waft over him. He stopped and breathed in deep bouts of it. His muscles slackened, as though the smell had a calming effect. Safety. He wanted to remain in that cloud of steam forever, occupying himself only with soaking up its warmth. 

But he saw his destination ahead, and though his instincts screamed otherwise, he knew the protection extended there as well.

He snuck into the village, nestled in an obscure crevice between two mountains, just as described. Slowing down as much as he could, he crept between the houses and huts. None of the windows were illuminated by the glow of a light; it was much too late for honest folk to be awake. 

Feeling his way along the buildings, he arrived at a particularly rich, if unkempt house at the far end of the village. Unlike the other houses, this one did have a faint glow of light revealing the window frames, waiting for him like a lighthouse beacon after a long voyage. A black curtain hanging in one of the windows confirmed this house as the one he sought. 

Stepping as silently as possible, he placed the baby on the doorstep. For a brief moment his eyes met those of the child; they stared up at him with curiosity. The sincerity in the child’s eyes was chilling, and in that instant the image was etched into Isaac’s mind forever. Turning his head away abruptly, he stole away into the darkness. The night swallowed him as seamlessly as a serene lake absorbing a raindrop.

* * *

Not an instant passed before the door of the house opened a crack, and a glaring eye peered at the bundle on the steps. The door creaked fully open, releasing a flood of light and revealing the wide figure of Grixxler. The shadowy light highlighted his hairy upper lip, his balding dome, and his sneering countenance. Grixxler looked at the patch of blackness through which Isaac had disappeared, scanned the surroundings suspiciously, and then snatched the baby up and closed the door. 

Inside, the house was lavishly furnished, the works of true craftsmen on display. Exotic rugs lined the wooden floors, books filled the numerous shelves, and slate inlayed the table. The light glowing from Grixxler’s lantern saturated the room with a warm, golden touch. 

He held the loaf-sized child an awkward distance away, studying it. “Why did I ever get involved with those confounded Marauders?” He snatched a small piece of crumpled paper stashed inside the baby’s blanket. After setting him down on the table, Grixxler unfolded the message.

“Ganthorn,” he breathed, his eyes scanning.

Grixxler looked up again at the baby boy. “Well, Micah,” he said with a crooked grin, putting a pointed emphasis on the name, “it looks like I have myself a new shepherd boy.” He stuffed the parchment into his lantern and turned as the cackling flame consumed it. A brief flood of bright light filled the room. When the light mellowed, the flame left behind a shrunken, charcoaled fragment that shortly disintegrated. And with that scrap of paper died any chance Micah had at a normal life.




An unblemished sky smiled down on the day of the inn’s obliteration. In fact, nearly every aspect of that fateful day mirrored normalcy, which made the explosion that marked its end all the more sudden.

The Inn—as it was called—stood on the corner of Heather Bay, looking out upon the vast Kepled Sea like a lonely maiden waiting for her sailor to sail home. Being so far from any port, or civilization for that matter, one wouldn’t think The Inn would attract enough visitors to stay in business. But travelers seemed to find it at such a time that they were weary from their voyage and ready for a warm bed that didn’t rock and a warm meal or two among new company.

 In the late spring and summer, when the surrounding trees were filled out in vibrant greens, and various songbirds danced and whistled about, the place had a quaint, busy mood. Then visitors would leisurely stroll the stepping stone walkways through the gardens and along the nearby Otter Creek, where the soothing sound of the rippling stream could be heard over the subtle roar of the distant Spring River. But now, in early spring, the dull browns from winter hadn’t yet given way. And the budding life evident in traces of green sprouting from the ground and the tree limbs wasn’t enough to offset the stagnant feel and look of the place.

An abandoned boat yard neighbored The Inn, where various tools and scraps of lumber lay scattered about, rusting and rotting away. Amidst it, like a set of wale ribs, lay the half-finished wooden skeleton of a ship’s hull. Winter had rotted its once fresh color to a shade of brown similar to the one that dominated the surroundings. 

On the water immediately past the beach sat a maze of wooden docking. The left side was reserved for 12 identical virgin ships that had been constructed in the nearby boat yard. With cabins designed to house four, these ships were built primarily for agility and maneuverability, according to the haggled old sailors that frequented The Inn.

The right side of the dock was allotted for the ships of The Inn’s visitors. On this chilly morning it was full, which was unusual for early spring.

* * *

Inside The Inn, Robbyn, the young innkeeper, lay next to the humming woodstove upon the warm cobblestone kitchen floor. As she lay, a few pioneering strands of light peered through the pot-sized kitchen window. Wrapped in a wool blanket, she watched the emerging sun for a few precious moments.

“Another beautiful morning,” she said aloud, as she had every fair-weathered morning for the past seven years. Rising to her knees, she rubbed the fatigue from her eyes. A lock of her long, wavy copper hair swung into view before falling behind her shoulders as she gathered her hair with a band. She completed the next step of her morning routine with a prayer. And then began another long day nearly identical to all the ones before it. 

Or so she thought.

She grabbed the cream-colored apron from a nearby peg and tied it deftly around her waist. Working with the efficiency and precision that only years of repetition could produce, Robbyn stoked the fire up to a hearty rumble, retrieved an assortment of cast iron pots and pans hanging from the ceiling. The reflection of one of her river pool green eyes flashed back at her off one of the shinier pans. She set to work cooking breakfast. The food supplies were running low, she noted. But the supply ship would arrive tomorrow.

Taking a spare moment while she waited for the eggs to cook, Robbyn peeked through the kitchen doorway and into the main room. A few of the guests had already wakened and were groggily seated amongst the wooden tables.

“Good morning!” Robbyn said, an oil soaked spatula in hand. The room seemed to brighten at her entrance. The guests sat up and each gave her a warm greeting. 

She turned back to the kitchen and, beginning to hum, put the leftover coffee on the stove to warm. She grabbed the straw broom and worked her way around the kitchen, pulling the dust out of the crevices. The coffee heated shortly and Robbyn bustled out into the main room, now much fuller, with the coffee and platter of mugs in hand. 

“Nobody wants any coffee, do they?” She asked the room with a playful grin. This was met with roars of mock disapproval by the seamen.

“I thought not.” Robbyn laughed. She made her way around the table, leaving a steaming mug of coffee at each hand. She had to make two rounds, as each cup was greedily downed behind her. 

“Captain Will must be starving you men!” She said as she poured the last cup.

“You have no idea, Robbyn,” one sailor said before disappearing behind his cup.

Have you ever been to sea?” another asked as his hands hovered over the steam curling from his mug.

“Only once,” Robbyn said before moving on to the other guests. “I definitely prefer dry land.” This launched the sailors into a discussion about the life of a sailor, and its many advantages and disadvantages. A steady chatter arose in her wake, and she left the room a livelier place than when she’d entered it. That’s more like it, she thought.

The day wore on as usual. Robbyn served breakfast, cleaned the rooms, and prepared the midday meal. Some of the guests filtered out through the day. But at noon most of them remained, including Captain Will’s sailors. After Robbyn served the meal, she seized the first opportunity of the day to rest. She plopped gratefully into one of few empty chairs in the room, adjacent to Will’s table. The room buzzed with chatter. Talk hovered, as it had for the months, around the infamous Marauder, James Kestrel, and his upcoming execution. Robbyn tuned into a nearby conversation.

“My cousin’s going to his hanging,” bragged a younger man.

“Him and all of Gable,” Will laughed.

“What’s this I hear,” Robbyn inquired, “about the Marauders coming out of hiding?” 

This caught the attention of the people at Robbyn’s table.

“It’s true,” agreed a plump, finely dressed woman. “We’ve always known they wouldn’t remain dormant forever, and now I think it’s only a matter of days.”

“I don’t think so,” argued an older man with a sparse beard. “After being gone for fourteen years—”

“—Seven,” Will said. “They came out of hiding for one raid, seven years ago.”

The old man frowned. “Are you sure about that?”
Robbyn cut in. “Yes, there was definitely a raid. I distinctly remember it.”

 “Fine then.” The old man waved his hands irritably. “After being gone forseven years I think it’s safe to say they’ve left for good. Most likely they’re lounging in paradise on some faraway tropical island.”

“Paradise?” Will snorted. “I’ve gotten into scrapes with the Marauders myself, and so have many of the men here,” he waved his arm toward his nodding crew, “and let me just say this: the Marauders aren’t the pesky, disorganized looters they used to be. They’re not after riches anymore. They’re after power. You know as well as I do they had the Caelum Flute just before they disappeared. If it was treasure they were after, they could have traded it for all the gold they could ever want. But they kept it, tapped its secrets. I think they planned to use it for something terrible.”

“Which is . . .” the older man said, his arms folded and his eyebrows arched skeptically.

“Say what you will,” Will said, “but I think they planned to take over Gable . . . still do.”

Now it was the old man’s turn to snort. “You seem to know a lot about them for an innocent civilian.” Before Will could respond, the old man continued. “Tell me this: Why now? Why would the Marauders attack now and not five years ago, or in the next decade for that matter?

“Because,” the plump woman answered for Will, “James Kestrel’s hanging is next month.”

“You people and your conspiracies,” the old man said. “So now the Marauders are going to break into the castle dungeon as well?” 

“Why not?” said a sailor on the other side of Will. “He was their Head Captain and master plotter. Freeing him seems like a good move to me.”

“Not when he’s held in the most secure dungeon in the world,” said the old man. “No visitors, guards round the clock, cells in the tallest tower right in the heart of the greatest castle in the world. There’s a reason no one’s ever escaped from it.”

This was met with a defeated silence. Robbyn was about to point out that this was a very good thing when Will spoke again, in a low voice. “It helps when you have seven years to plot.”

“They’ve plotted seven years to free one man? I don’t care if he’s their Head Captain or not, that’s ridiculous,” a younger man said.

“Not for one man,” Will said, his eyes wide, “for the power to rule the world. James Kestrel had the flute last. Only he knows where he buried it before he was captured.”

“Nothing but a legend,” the old man grumbled under his breath. 

Several sailors opened their mouths to object when darkness covered the room. The chatter died as people looked around in confusion. Robbyn looked toward the door, which had been propped open to let light in. A humongous, bear-like mass eclipsed the doorway. With a booted step through the threshold, it ducked and entered The Inn. 

The light rippled back, revealing a giant man. He stretched up to his full height, his head inches from the wooden beams of the ceiling. He had wild, dark brown hair that grew down into a tangled beard and was tied into a bushy bundle down his back. His rolled up sleeves revealed what looked like matted fur along his arm. But even through the fur the sinewy muscles in his arms strained against his sleeves. His clothing looked like various scraps of dark cloth sewn together. The crooked, untidy stitch suggested that he’d fashioned it himself. About his shoulders hung an enormous, dark gray cloak that could have been cut from a sail . . . with a dull knife. His wild, stark blue eyes, nearly lost beneath his overgrown-hedge-like eyebrows, squinted about the silent room as if searching for a threat, before calmly coming back to the table before him.

“Hello, Drift,” Robbyn said, springing from her chair. She willed the people behind her to quit staring and get back to their conversations. But the room remained quiet. “How can I help you?” She asked, offering an inviting smile.

“Could you spare me a room for one night, Robbyn?” he said in a deep rumble of a voice.

“Always.” She swung her open hand to lead inside. “Have a seat. Can I get you anything to eat?” 

He shook his head. “No, but thanks.” He found a seat in the corner, nodding his bushy head courteously as he sat down.

“Hey, could yeh top me off over here?” called the old man from Robbyn’s table. He raised his mug. As if on cue, the rest of the room trickled back into chatter.

“One moment,” Robbyn said. She flitted into the kitchen, retrieved the pitcher and refilled his mug beside him. 

As she poured, his eyes wandered to the white stripping wrapped around her left forearm. “Say, Robbyn,” he said, “have you ever mentioned what’s underneath that bandage you always wear? It can’t be an injury, can it? You’ve worn it for too long.”

Robbyn felt her smile waver, like a candlelight suddenly struck by a breath of air. She stopped pouring and her right hand instinctively closed around her left forearm, around the bandage that hid her darkest secret. All at once, her throat felt dry. With a quick look around at the attentive, curious eyes, she regained her smile.

“A map,” She said. All those watching leaned in collectively in anticipation.

“A map?” The old man raised one eyebrow. “Of what?”

Robbyn waited for effect before responding, still smiling. “That’s between me and James Kestrel,” she said with a wink. 

The immediate area, especially the sailors’ table, exploded in hearty roars of laughter. Robbyn turned and left the room still buzzing. But once she entered the kitchen her smile faded. Feeling dizzy, she staggered against the wall, sank to the stone floor, and burst into tears. For several minutes she sat, with her hands covering her face, and let the tears shudder out. When she finished, she wiped her eyes and slowly unraveled the bandage with shaking fingers. 

The strip of cloth fell away and revealed a black ink design etched into her skin; an “S” bearing a horizontal rod with a bucket at each end. Countless hours of scrubbing hadn’t done anything to this cursed emblem that would forever mark her as a slave, remind her of her past and cloud her future. Keeping The Inn was supposed to keep her mind off of the terrible situation she was in. But lately it only made matters worse. And more and more frequently Robbyn was taken back to the haunting days of her childhood.

At seven years of age she had been a happy, simple youngster with two parents, living on the coast far to the south of The Inn. But that all changed one windy fall evening when black clad, dagger wielding Marauders ransacked their village, killed her parents, and captured her and other villagers. They were sold into slavery; each of their left forearms inked with the cursed mark. Ryefield Carpenter, the wealthy owner of The Inn who had made his fortune building ships, bought Robbyn. The first thing he did was wrap her wrist with cloth, tell her never to take it off in public, and tell no one that she was a slave. Then he put her to work under Martha, his aging wife. 

The years wore by, Martha died of old age, and Robbyn was put in charge of The Inn. Meanwhile Ryefield grew less and less able bodied. Robbyn, over time, grew accustomed to her role and came to think of Ryefield, a kind old man once you got to know him, as more of a father than a master. Ryefield, likewise, came to think of Robbyn as a daughter. 

At the arrival of winter, Ryefield dismissed the boat builders, as he did every winter, until spring. Going into The Inn, he refused dinner, only saying, “I’m very tired,” and went upstairs to bed. He passed away in the night, left no will, and had no family that Robbyn knew of. Thus, under the law of Gable, all of Ryefield’s possessions, including The Inn and Robbyn herself, would fall into the possession of the next person to claim them.

Frightened by this prospect, Robbyn told no one of Ryefield’s death. So, as a young girl still mourning, Robbyn was left completely alone with no idea what to do. 

But the guests kept coming, and Robbyn kept doing what she knew and loved to do; she ran an inn. Busy days were her happiest. She almost completely forgot about her plight on those days. But when The Inn was quiet she was left with no veil between her and the question she had no answer to: How long could her secret remain undiscovered? Worse still were the times when a new guest would ask for the owner. Armed only with an unconvincing, “I’m her,” Robbyn hated the responses that inevitably followed: “You?! But you’re not even a full grown woman! Why, you’re just a girl!”

Ryefield took a yearly trip north during the winter, so nobody had suspected anything yet. But with the temperatures warming fast, people would undoubtedly start asking about him. In late spring the boat builders would be back, searching for work. 

Robbyn sighed. She kept trying to convince herself that she was free to go. But she just couldn’t bring herself to leave The Inn. It was her home. What would she do when she left? 

 Robbyn sighed again, sniffed and rose to her feet. “Have faith.” She said aloud before a silent prayer. She blinked herself back into composure and took a deep breath. Just as she was about to head back out into the main room a commotion erupted from it. 


“Grab him!”

A scuffle ensued, followed by three inn-shaking crashes. Robbyn burst through the door to find quite a scene. Drift was holding the old man by the collar high up in the air. The old man’s aghast, white face could be seen between the rafters. His legs swung freely beneath him. The sailors surrounded the two, posed as if ready for a fight. A trail of toppled tables and chairs marked where the chase had occurred.

“Pay the good innkeeper!” Drift growled through bared teeth, glaring up at the man. He shook him slightly, causing his head to bump against one of the rafters. 

The old man dove a shaking hand into his pocket and pulled it back out with a collection of coins that jingled to the floor.

Drift lowered him slowly to the ground and he scampered out the door like a freed rabbit as soon as Drift unclenched his massive hand.

“Ungrateful whelp!” one of the sailors called after him.

“He tried to run away without paying,” Will explained upon noticing Robbyn at the kitchen entrance.

Drift bent over and, with difficulty due to his thick fingers, pulled the coins from the floor. “At least he left you a tip,” Drift grunted as he offered his calloused fist. Robbyn held out her cupped hands and received the money.

“Well,” she said, hoping her eyes weren’t red and puffy from her tears, “it’s a good thing I have such good men around. Thank you.” 

In truth, The Inn was frequented by such “regulars” who stayed at least once a year, friends of Robbyn’s from previous visits. Robbyn never had to worry about a fight breaking out, or someone taking advantage of her with these people around.

“We’ll take care of this mess,” Will said. The sailors quickly propped up the chairs and tables and mopped up the spilt food.

“And now,” Will said when everything had been set back up, “we must be off.” The sailors formed a line and each gave Robbyn a hug on their way out. She couldn’t suppress a smile at the sheepishness of these haggard, sea tempered men as they stepped forward and wrapped her in their wiry arms. Will was last. “Our stay has been, as always, nothing short of the best.” He said as they embraced. He proffered a sack of coins.

Robbyn accepted the payment. “You guys have a safe voyage.” She said as they filed out the door.

“I’ll be in my ship,” Drift said, his deep, rumbling voice stopping several nearby conversations mid-sentence. He cast an accusing eye around the room before cracking his knotted knuckles. “Let me know if another one breaks for it.”

Robbyn glanced at the other guests, many of them looking at Drift out of the corner of his or her eye. “I really don’t think it’s going to be a problem, Drift.”

Drift grunted, turned and passed back through the door. In his wake, a blanket of shadow was cast over the room and then torn away as he passed through the doorway. He walked up the dock to his ship, The Wooden Swan, a tiny vessel with a sail that wouldn’t have provided enough fabric for his cloak. Oversized oars hung out either side of the boat. Drift planted one booted foot in the boat, sending it veering slightly. As it steadied he placed the other foot in and carefully, steadily balanced his way down into the cramped cabin made smaller by the large amount of space Drift’s body consumed. He eased into his chair, preparing for a long day of studying his charts.

Into the afternoon, the guests gradually filtered out and set sail. The day wore into evening, and Robbyn witnessed the golden orb of the sun dip toward the sea, and rest on the downy bedding of a pink-saturated cloud cluster. As she set to work washing the dishes, she hummed with enthusiasm, feeling much better as a direct result, she was sure, of the hugs from the sailors. She tapped into a rhythm and before long was drying the last dish.

Suddenly, she jolted in surprise. Her song cut off mid-note. The dish in her hand slipped, plunged, and shattered. She leaned against the washbasin and peered through the window, almost afraid to look. Something flashed into view and then disappeared—something black. Like a deer alarmed at a snapped twig, she froze, her eyes trained on the window. She pleaded inwardly for a crow or a blackbird to hop into view. But after several agonizing seconds nothing appeared. 

It’s happening all over again, she thought helplessly, her heart now thumping in panic. Fear clogged her mind, blurring her thoughts. Looking down, she saw that her arms were frozen in time, still holding an imaginary plate. She loosened them and grabbed the cast iron rod used to stoke the fire, using both quivering hands to hold it upright. Then she leaned against the wall beside the doorway, monitoring her breathing and listening to her heart race. She took a deep, shaky breath, and with faltering steps made her cautious way into the main hall. Long forgotten memories poured vividly through her mind, burning like reopened scar tissue.

Another swish of black—the trailing edge of a cloak disappeared up the flight of stairs. For a brief moment, perhaps the most terrifying one, Robbyn wondered if she was imagining things. Was she losing her mind? But as she turned the corner all uncertainties were instantly quelled. For bearing over her, with a couple dozen men behind him, stood a smug, black cloaked man. The shine of his golden tooth detracted her attention only momentarily from the shadowy, black eyes that sent a tingling chill down her spine. The cold indifference was striking; it was like looking into the eyes of a mountain lion. Atop his dark head sat a crooked crown, copiously jeweled with brightly colored gems. Robbyn stood inches away, she knew, from the Marauder King. It was nothing short of a nightmare spilled into the real world.

“Robbyn,” he said playfully. Robbyn’s heart fluttered. She felt herself plunged into a new level of terror at hearing her name uttered so casually by those evil lips. Something triggered, and the full force of her pent up, anxious energy snapped forth in the form of an upward swinging fire rod. With a resounding clang, the iron made contact. Robbyn gasped, taken aback at what she’d done. 

But the swing missed high, and sent the King’s crown sailing across the room. It bounced off the far wall, and rolled slowly before the legion of waiting Marauders, depositing a single red ruby on the wooden floor before their transfixed eyes.

“I—” Robbyn started apologetically, as though she’d just spilled a cup of wine over a guest.

Shaking with outrage, The King’s ring and bracelet covered hands flew to his tangled mess of thin, black hair.

“YOU—INSOLENT—YOU . . .” His words fumbled over one another in their attempt to attack her. His glittering fingers shot forward, hovering inches from Robbyn’s face. But he stopped short, as though repelled by some invisible force. A twisted grimace contorted his face; an involuntary symptom of the turmoil brewing behind it. 

After a few tense moments, the storm broke. The angry waves of his visage smoothed. With a meek jangling of jewelry, his hand fell away, unblocking Robbyn’s view of the Marauder King.

Robbyn let out a breath, but too soon. 

The hand shot to Robbyn’s left wrist, closing around the bandage. Robbyn yanked back in reflex, but the hand only ratcheted tighter until she dropped to her knees in pain. With a flick of the wrist, her arm was laid bare. The mark of the slave, now hazed with a red, hand-shaped imprint, was open for others to see for the first time in years. The King looked disappointedly down at Robbyn, as though he’d just uncovered a stash of goods she’d stolen.

“Tie her to that chair!” he ordered, whirling around with a sweeping murderous glance at his crew. The assortment of grizzled assassins and thieves widened their eyes in fear—an almost comical spectacle. They flew to his bidding.

“NOW!” he screamed, spittle flying from his mouth, even though the task was nearly complete when he said it. Falling into a rhythm, the King bellowed a string of orders. The mass of black erupted forth in a wave, nimbly obeying his commands—raiding the supplies, filling the ships, and spreading straw. They gave the crown a wide berth, but kept glancing at it out of the corners of their eyes.

The King then spoke quietly. “We’re going to burn this place to the ground.” He whirled around, pointing a quivering finger at Robbyn as a team of Marauders bound to a chair with thick, seaman’s rope, “and you’re going to burn with it.” 

Robbyn took the death sentence wordlessly as mounds of straw were spread around her. She felt distant, as though she were only a spectator to the terrible event happening to her, only the witness of some legend that her guests might argue about in the future. Nothing she did, it seemed, would affect the outcome of what was happening.

She watched the King as he, satisfied that every man was busy, walked casually over to his crown. He snatched it up, and then the loose ruby. A feeling of renewal seemed to pass over the King with the familiar headpiece in place.

As the mountains of straw grew, Robbyn was cut off from the collection of smug-faced, torch-wielding Marauders that surrounded her. The tightly wrapped rope cut into her skin, leaving no room to even wiggle. Reality was beginning to set in. She took a deep breath and exhaled in an attempt to still her pumping heart and stared up at the rough-hewn wooden beams of the ceiling. The last piece of the world left for her to observe, she realized with a pang. She tried to think about the good memories that these beams had witnessed over the years, the friends she’d made and the good news that had been delivered. Despite the panic and fear that her second encounter with the Marauders had evoked, she rummaged through her mind for some way to escape, an endeavor for which the twisting grains of the ceiling, however map-like, offered no enlightenment.

But she continued to study those lines leading to nowhere even as they were obscured by an ever-thickening layer of smoke. A cackling rose to a deafening pitch as the fire greedily dug into the straw. But Robbyn refused to give up hope, despite how frustratingly helpless she felt. She had the feeling that it wasn’t her time. She clung desperately to that fragment of optimism even as the cloud of smoke stung her eyes and throat, harvesting tears and inducing retches.

Everything around her, even the growing, voracious flames, faded through a veil of gray. Robbyn felt hopelessly trapped. The heat was unbearable, pressing in from all sides. She painfully looked down and saw fire climbing its way up her apron. Her breath became labored as she inhaled a fresh batch of bitter, staccato smoke. Even as she shut her eyes tight, she could still see fire. Finally, surrendering herself to her fate, Robbyn prayed to God, and passed out. Her chin fell limp.

Outside The Inn, still poring over logs and charts, Drift heard a commotion and was summoned from the numbness of technical thought. Curious, he lifted the lantern from his desk and turned to investigate, but stopped cold. Someone was sneaking onto his ship. The harsh stench of an assailant filled his nostrils. Clenching his fists, but keeping his back turned, he waited as the intruder crept noiselessly over the deck. Each silent step, however expertly placed, shifted the balance of the ship an almost undetectable amount. Drift felt each subtle vibration like a spider feels a wriggling fly caught in its web. The intruder stopped. The boat steadied. Several seconds passed in complete stillness. 

Then, without notice, the cabin door flew open, revealing a dagger-armed Marauder barely visible against the dark night behind him. But Drift was way ahead of him. Before the cabin door even hit the wall, the giant sprang into action. He lifted himself by the short cabin rafters, and crashed down hard, ramming his shoulder into the wall. The Wooden Swan pitched violently, knocking the Marauder off his feet and causing his dagger to sink into the door post. Without a moment’s hesitation, Drift dashed the short distance to his prone foe, navigating the wildly rocking boat with an agility and precision that only years spent at sea could create.

With a massive hand he grabbed the struggling Marauder by the cloak, stepped out into the cool night air and flung him like a spear. The Marauder sailed over an adjacent ship, flailing like a panicked fish, before shattering the water’s surface. 

Quickly, Drift surveyed his surroundings. The Inn was on fire, with flames licking out the windows and clouds of smoke spilling into the sky. His survey, at that point, stopped. He didn’t notice the area was crawling with black cloaks as they loaded Ryefield’s ships with supplies from The Inn and patrolled the neighboring woods. Nor did he notice that at the far end of the dock sat The Marauder’s infamous vessel, Lady Midnight, the enormous, black-hulled, black-sailed ship that transported the Marauders to their crimes. He didn’t see that at that moment a cluster of Marauders were loading some sort of contraption from Lady Midnight onto one of Ryefield’s ships. 

As soon as he spotted the flames, he breathed one word: “Robbyn.” Then all the other aspects of his surroundings came into focus.

Fighting against his every instinct to charge the enemy with swinging fists, Drift racked his brain for some sort of plan. Some incoherent pieces of a strategy came into focus, and he resolved to fill in the foggy areas later.

Jumping to action, Drift tore the dagger from his door post, flooded into his cabin, and grabbed his fire-starting box from the desk. He fumbled with them as he rushed back out into the pale moonlight, resenting his slow fingers. Finally, Drift had the flint, steel, and dried cedar bark in hand. With a downward strike that grinded half the flint away, a shower of sparks ignited the cedar bark. The thin strands of the bark crumbled and smoked, glowing faintly at Drift’s encouraging breaths. Eyeing the growing flame of The Inn anxiously, he ripped a patch from his dark cloak, wrapped the smoking cedar and hurled the package into a nearby ship, the farthest of Reyfield’s from The Inn. 

“What’s that?!” a Marauder, the first among several investigating the splash to notice Drift, called from the bank.

“Is that a bear?” a second said, straining to see in the meager light.

“No, it’s a . . . it’s a human!” 

“You three, after it!” 

The three appointed Marauders drew their daggers and melted into the shadows, their eyes locked on their large target.

Drift didn’t wait for them. With a roar that sounded far from human, he charged The Inn. Careening around the corner of the docks, Drift shoved each of his three pursuers into the water with a meaty forearm, not even slowing down. His rage built with his momentum. Any black cloak that stood in his way as he powered up the beach was flattened. One brave Marauder sped straight toward the stampeding giant, and bounced off him like a skipping stone.

“Seize him! Seize him!” the King cried. But it was too late. 

Drift barreled through the smoking inn door at the crest of his momentum. Not bothering to narrow himself, his huge build took a substantial chunk of the surrounding door frame with him. As the broken door fell away, flame rushed at him from around its edges. Surrounded, Drift covered his head and didn’t break stride.

The giant’s legs crunched into what felt like a dining table, and he toppled forward, landing on the floor with an earth-rumbling crash. But he found himself in a world separate from the scrambling Marauders, a world surrounded by fire. He stood in an area clear of flame, however scorching it felt. The clouds of smoke gnawed at Drift’s eyes as he looked urgently around for Robbyn. But through his watery eyes he could only see flame everywhere.

“Robbyn!” he roared, choking on the insidious smoke.

And there she was: a small, wilted form, with flame closing around her. Her hair looked like a much duller version of the flames that surrounded her and her skin was charred and sodden. With a rush of fury at the evil that could so mercilessly do such a thing to this girl, Drift yanked the Marauder’s dagger from his belt, rushed forward, and sliced through her bonds. He lifted her from the hungry mouth of fire. A few small flames feeding on Robbyn’s clothing were extinguished with the pressing of a massive hand. Robbyn coughed through her unconsciousness.

“She’s alive,” Drift breathed with relief. 

With the flame dead, Drift pressed Robbyn’s body to himself and whirled about for his escape. But, surrounded by identical walls of flame, there was no way to discern which way the door was.

With a rumble, a large chunk from the burning rafters dislodged itself and crash-landed at Drift’s feet. The building leaned several inches from this loss of support.

Sensing his shortness of time, Drift was forced to guess. He steeled himself and thundered in the direction he happened to be pointing at. He closed his eyes, gritted his teeth, and cradled Robbyn in his colossal arms as they breeched the wall of pure inferno. Ignoring the searing pain, his powerful legs pumped, oblivious to whatever they found traction on. A series of dining tables splintered into kindling beneath him. Breaking free, he put on a burst of speed. He saw the inn wall in front of him appear milliseconds before he crashed through it in a cascade of burning, fragmented wood. They appeared only feet away from the door Drift had originally entered through. The giant gratefully gulped in the fresh, cool air. Never before had anything tasted so sweet, though it was slightly tainted by the bitter taste of residual smoke. 

The Marauders were still scrambling, crowding the doorways a safe distance from the flame to The King’s screamed orders.

“Get in there! Kill him!”

Drift didn’t slow down; he simply lowered his shoulder and kept his legs churning. He shot past the Marauders before they could react to his bursting through the wall. His booted feet thundered back up the dock and Drift leapt into his ship. A shockwave spread from the bobbing boat as Drift cut The Wooden Swan from the dock and unfurled the sail with a slice of the Marauder’s dagger. He set Robbyn gently on the deck. Seeing her frail, sooty face summoned a new gush of energy.

 He leapt into his rowing seat, stashed the knife in his belt, and grabbed the two familiar handles. The sinew in his arms bulged as he heaved on the paddles, separating The Wooden Swan from the dock. In the darkness he could just make out his pursuers pouring into one of Ryefield’s ships.He heaved again on the oars, spurting the ship seaward, feeding on the momentum of the first heave.

“Bring them back dead!” the King wailed. “Your heads are on the line! All of you!”

The Marauders had the ship in motion, and were navigating the maze of docks. Drift cast a backward glance. Nothing stood between him and the Ocean. The Wooden Swan slowly distanced itself from the imminent Marauder ships as Drift’s gigantic arms fell into a rhythm, carving away at the water.

A cool breeze wafted over the perspiration already collecting on his skin and filled the sail, lending The Wooden Swan extra power, but lending the larger sail of his pursuers more. He dug harder, grunting with each pull. 

The Inn was shrinking fast, the Marauder ship more slowly. 

Hot and sweat-soaked, Drift somehow reached into himself and found the power to pull harder. The guttural noises grew louder with the effort. The Inn was steadily growing brighter, outlining the pursuing ship sharply.

As soon as those ships were a satisfactory distance behind, Drift dropped the oars. He sprang to his feet and lashed the wheel in place. With a final glance at their hunters, he gathered Robbyn in his arms and crossed to the opposite side of his ship where they were hidden from view by his cabin. As noiselessly as his frame would allow, he slipped over the edge and plunged into the sea. 

Totally submerged, the cool water felt soothing around his hot, sweaty body for an instant. Then the water turned frigid. Ignoring this sensation, Drift squeezed Robbyn to himself and kicked hard for The Inn, hovering a safe distance below the surface to avoid detection. He waited for the ships to pass, itching to take Robbyn to the surface. He could almost feel the water pouring into her lungs. The wait seemed to go on forever, and Drift nearly decided to bring her up regardless of whether the Marauders would see them or not. 

Then the hull of a ship glided over him, its ridge missing him by inches. As it rode over them, they were pulled backward by its wake.  

Scrambling furiously to break free, Drift powered for the surface. Upon breaching the sky he held Robbyn’s head above the surface for several moments as the water came spluttering out. Then he remembered to take a breath himself. Once her coughing stopped and his cavernous lungs had been filled, he flipped over onto his back, holding Robbyn to his chest, and doggedly backstroked for shore. He watched as the ships continued their pursuit of the unmanned vessel, completely fooled. 

Within minutes he was dragging himself and Robbyn up the sandy beach in a shower of salt water and sand. They were adjacent to The Inn, which now had angry flames pouring from every window, releasing thick billows of smoke into the night sky. The bold, shimmering light that shot from the mass of flame cast long, animated shadows past every, rock, plant, and toiling Marauder. The King was standing only feet from the flame, arms spread wide and eyes closed peacefully, a satisfied grin on his face, as if he were enjoying a refreshing spring breeze.

From the shadows, Drift shot a glance at the ship he’d set fire to on the far side of The Inn. Smoke was snaking up unnoticed from the cabin windows, but there was no visible flame.

“Come on!” Drift breathed. 

 He crept through the undergrowth noiselessly. At the edge of his cover he crouched and waited, his muscles ready to spring, with Robbyn cradled in his arms.

BANG! An earsplitting explosion rocked the beach. A menacing rumble followed, like a roll of thunder. Everyone whipped around to see the ship farthest from The Inn fully ablaze; a miniature version of The Inn itself. The fire was eating at the sails of two neighboring ships as well.

“Put it out!” screamed the King. “You pelicans! Put it out!” The Marauders scrambled for a means of dousing the flame. 

Drift sprinted behind a series of turned backs unnoticed. 

But time was short now. The burning ship could only hold their attention for so long. 

Not slowing, he tip-toed up the dock with long, bounding strides, as if he were clearing several hurdles with each step. He risked a brief glance that revealed the Marauders were still distracted by the burning ship. A ring of them were scooping buckets of water on as the King cursed and harassed everyone in sight. Just as Drift and Robbyn disappeared behind the black hull of Lady Midnight, The Inn collapsed into a broken, smoldering pile, sending up a shower of red ash and embers. This drew the attention of a few of the Marauders, including the King, but they quickly returned their focus to the burning ship.

Drift crept around the giant hull of the black ship. Somehow the shadow it cast seemed darker than it should have been. And as Drift passed into this darkness, an unsettling feeling washed over him. Robbyn, though still unconscious, shivered.

But within this shadow sat their escape: one of Ryefield’s ships. Drift boarded the deck of the vessel, opened the cabin door and placed Robbyn gently in the hammock. He then slashed the rope binding the ship to the dock and unfurled the sail. As the ship lurched forward, Drift steered the wheel away from open sea. Using Lady Midnight to hide their getaway from the Marauders, he hugged the shoreline until they faded to safety, The Inn nothing but a shrinking bright streak on the dark horizon.