Thursday, August 17, 2017

NAMES


In celebration of my novel Terra Soul winning Debut Novel of 2016 don't forget to stop by my Contest Page for a chance at winning some cool prizes all August.
 

At first there was nothing. Nothing at all.

Then the light appeared and with it a flurry of language. Light. Dark. Pain. Eyes. Body. Cavern. The words spiraled into being down through my mind like a chain of Christmas lights flaring to life one after another.

Christmas? What was that?

The ground seemed to move beneath me and I emerged from the cave blinking in the thin sunlight of an unknown world. And yet, as I looked across the new place I found that while the sights were new, the words and things he recognized. Sand. Lake. Trees. Desert. Oasis. People. Thousands of other words, an entire language seemingly, came crashing into my brain with enough force to make me sit down on the sandy ground at the mouth of the cave.

I looked down at my hands and found them both familiar and strange. Something was missing.

“Hello.”

“Hello.” The word came out before I knew what it meant. I looked up at the speaker and found myself looking into a face without worry. The old face was smooth and the eyes clearer than they should have been. The old man helped me to my feet.

“I am Oldest. Welcome to the Oasis.”

“Oldest?”

“I have been at the Oasis longest of all those here,” the man said as he lead the way to the oasis. Our sandaled feet padded in the powdery sand that was the same dull white as the long, high collared smocks we wore. It took only a few moments for us to pass beneath the shade of the trees and reach the lake’s edge. It rippled and flashed under the brittle sunlight. I could see others gathered beneath awnings of bright yellow, young, old, men, women.

“You are called Oldest, but what’s your name?” I stopped. “What is my name?”

The old man looked at me with his vacant, worry-free eyes.

“None of us have names here.”

A corkscrew (corkscrew?) of emotion twisted in my guts, searing hot one moment, icy cold the next. Rage. Terror. Horror. That was what was missing. My name and with it my power. Someone had taken it from me. I did not know how I knew it but I did. Someone had taken my name, stolen it, taken away the essence of who I am and left behind… what? 

What am I without a name?
 
I turned away from the oasis and looked out through the thin screen of trees and bushes at the endless tracks of the dunes. I glanced in the opposite direction. On every horizon there was nothing but dunes. Oldest spoke but I did not hear. I chose a direction at random and strode out into the desert. I would tear the world apart to find my name and when I got it back… I did not have the words to say what I would do.

“Where are you going?” Oldest called. “What are you doing?”

“I am going to find my name!” I shouted scrambling up the shifting slope of the nearest dune.

“But… no one…”

“I am going to find my name.”

“How will you know it even if you find it?”

I paused at the crest of the dune and looked back down at the blissful old man. “I will know my name when it is called again!”

~SJA

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

It's Official

Well, it's official. As of July 30, Terra Soul officially became Realm Makers' Best Debut Novel (2016). I really wanted to attend the conference and awards dinner in Reno, but with the prior three weeks consumed by travel I just couldn't force myself to go one more place. Still, I'm blown away that literary professionals read my story and not only thought it was good but thought it was the best! I'm humbled, thrilled and looking forward to doing some more self-promotion. Weeee.


Speaking of self promotion, check out my contests page to participate in my latest giveaways in honor of this achievement.

Also, please note, I've reduced the price on all versions of Terra Soul, save those on Ingram Spark (which takes a month for price changes to go into effect). I'll be putting the electronic version on sale soon, as well, so watch for that if you're a Kindle user.

Now you'll pardon me but I have to go update my covers with a really awesome award seal and try to do a little writing on my next story.

~SJA



Monday, May 29, 2017

THE DREAM THIEF

It glided down the dark street, forked staff thrust out before itself like the prow of a ship. Shadows clothed it. They billowed and fluttered round long spindly limbs, knobby knees and bony elbows. The creature was tiny, small as a baby. Its skin shimmered pale gold, his hair white. Inhumanly large black eyes made it all the more alien. Its bare feet swung limply behind its floating form, talon-like toenails scrapped dully along the sidewalk.

The bright lights of a passing car swept across the creature but the light did not illuminate it. Instead it merely threw a strange shadow across the walk no mortal would have thought twice about. And tonight was no exception. The car continued on its late-night errand, the ruby tail-lights wandering off in the distance. The creature's breath hissed between pointed teeth as it tested the air. It breathed in again, longer, more carefully. Mingled with the lingering stench of the car, it could taste a faint flavor. The flavor of what he sought.

“Sweet. So… sweet,” it sighed. The creature scanned the neighborhood, eyes narrowed critically, and soon located its target on the corner beside the little park.

It faded, and like a dandelion seed drifting on the wind, floated easily through the wood and drywall of the house, passed the wiring, the book shelves, and taped up water color scrawls meant to look like ponies and rainbow-clad skies. It entered the child’s room. Slowly the fae drifted to the head of the bed where the little girl’s black curls lay fanned upon pink flannel. The scent permeated the air here, thick and heady. Its mouth watered. Its fingers twitched.

Dreams. Intoxicating dreams.

Lowering the forked staff, the thief reached down and slid it insubstantially through the girl’s head. Her dark, round face pinched slightly in her sleep. She gave a little moan, and he froze. It had been too eager. Wake the dreamer and the dream was spoiled, useless. Catch the dream at just the right moment and…

"Ah! There we are."

The staff came gently from the girl’s head, the fork tangled in the gossamer glow of a perfect dream.
It could hardly contain its glee. Most dreams were mundane, day to day events, work, school, chores. Some were disturbing, confused or angry, others were true nightmares. All were useless. But the sweet dreams, the perfect dreams, they were worth a fortune to the right faeries. A perfect dream could pay off the likes of Turnbow before the gnome got any ideas about slicing off fingers or ears.

"And what a lovely dream you have here, child. Truly perfect," the thief whispered. "You won't miss it will you? Piffel! You'd probably give it to me if you were able to, a sweet little thing like you. No. You'll never miss it. Not at all. You can go back to your ordinary dreams and never know the difference."

It drizzled the glowing threads of the dream into an amethyst phial and then ghosted from the house, leaving the dreamer to her less valuable dreams. The dream thief alighted on the sidewalk again and renewed its slow search, slitted nostrils flaring as it took in the night air. The sweet scent came again.

"Another? What luck!" It quickened its pace, but then paused. The scent was getting stronger, impossibly so, coming from every direction at once. The dream thief froze.

“I told you what would happen if I caught you stealing dreams again,” growled a voice deep as the dark.

The thief swallowed and slowly turned. A towering figure of shadow loomed over it. A pale sword, clear as crystal, thin as paper gleamed as it slipped from its shadowed scabbard. The thief shrunk back, black eyes searching desperately for a rout of escape.

“S-s-sandman, you’re mistaken. I swear—”

“My dreams,” Sandman rumbled, “are not meant for the fae. My dreams are not meant for you.”

The thief tried to run. The sword flicked forward. Black blood splashed on the sidewalk and hissing, evaporated, leaving not even a stain behind. The vial of violet crystal tinkled against the hard ground and shattered into a thousand glittering shards. The dream faded away.

Down the street, beside the little park, sheltered in the wood and plaster, wire and paint of her house, the dreamer sighed, and the stillness of night returned.

~SJA

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dream Crate

For those who haven't noticed, I'm super into geek culture. Part of that culture is the very cool mystery package service known as Loot Crate. They deliver geeky stuff right to your door every month for a marginal fee. Or they'll deliver it to someone else for you. Pretty much every prize I've ever given away has included something from Loot Crate. I was flattered when they approached me to write something as part of their Dream Crate promotion:


Justin tossed his combat harness into the coat closet, followed a moment later by his boots. As he headed for the kitchen he shrugged off his uniform shirt--Tunic, he corrected himself.  He sniffed his shoulder and grimaced. Sweat and burning Soul Drinker. Woof. I need a shower.


"How'd it go?" Dad called from the other room.

He's up late. 

Justin could have told him about the mop-up operation in Woodland Park, how he leaned out of a helicopter to shoot the liquid-ethereal Soul Drinkers milling around the streets, or how his not-quite girlfriend had hacked them with her magic sword. He could have made it a whole thing, but instead he just shrugged and opened the fridge. No sense worrying him any more than he already is.

"Fine, I guess. We got them all."

"Good. Good. Package came for you right after you left," Dad said coming into the kitchen, eyes fixed to his phone's screen. When he looked up he sighed. "How many times do I have to tell you kids? Don't stand there with the door open. Decide what you want and then get it out."

"Sorry," Justin muttered, cracking open his soda. Help save a town-full of people and get chewed out for wasting like three cents of electricity. My bad.

"I'm going to bed."

"Sure. Sure. Glad you're home safe. I'm mighty proud of you, kiddo."

A twinge of sorrow​ and guilt tugged at Justin's heart. "Thanks, dad."

He wanted to say more but didn't know what, and instead Justin headed for the door. He paused beside the kitchen island. A black package with the words "Loot Crate" in the corner sat waiting on the mottled gray counter-top. He'd heard about this. Some sort of mail-order mystery package company that sent geeky stuff every month. But he hadn't ordered it. Wonder where it came from? A small thrill of excitement shivered through him. Hm. Cool.

Click! He opened his knife and swiped the steel across the sticker holding the cardboard closed.  The lid scraped dryly and the as he lifted the lid. A small magazine, or maybe a catalog sat atop the other contents. In huge metallic letters was the word "Guardians" decorated the cover above a collage of various heroic characters. He tossed it aside. Below was a treasure trove of geek-worthy gear.  A black and green hoodie emblazoned with hunter insignia from the game Destiny. Would have been better if it was Titan themed, but still not bad. A four inch Marvel action figure of Gamorrah, the Most Dangerous Woman in the Galaxy. A small, slick card printed like a battered cassette tape with  a code for the sound track of Guardians of the Galaxy v2. A little plush Griffin from some game called The Last Guardian and....

He stared, half-confused, half-amazed.

A book waited at the bottom of the box. A book entitled Terra Soul. On the cover-- black sword in hand, facing down a horde of soul stealing monsters, her back to a vortex of color--stood a slim girl with an unruly mane of pale blonde hair. She wore a black coat, the tails of which were made from looped cords. The face wasn't quite right, though it had been rendered in a toony comic-book style, but there was no denying it was Ayla. Ayla his almost-but-not-quite girlfriend. Ayla saving the world.

Justin grinned. He ran his hand over the satiny cover expecting her image to change. It remained. He couldn't help but laughing.

"What is it?" Dad asked, emerging from behind his screen.

"It's her story. Ayla's story. And my story too, I guess. Ayla's going to flip!"

~SJA

If you'd like to find out more about Justin, Ayla, soul drinkers or their story, please, check out my novel Terra Soul or the accompanying website TerraSoulStories.com.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Terra Soul Accolades


A few months ago, my friend Tammie suggested I submit Terra Soul for the Realm Makers' Debut Novel of the Year contest. I submitted without much thought of winning and promptly forgot all about it. So it was something of a surprise when I received the following email Sunday afternoon:

You are one of the Debut category finalists in the Realm Awards.
CONGRATULATIONS! Our judges think you're remarkable!

I'm letting you know ahead of time (because I wanted to be the one to tell you!), but PLEASE don't announce this to anyone just yet. I've written the blogpost and am sending it out right now. As soon as it's live, you can spread the news.

Again, congratulations. I'm celebrating with you. It was SO much fun to watch the results roll in.

You did well. Be proud.

Bethany Kaczmarek
Realm Makers Awards Director
Writer. Editor. Sojourner.
ACFW Editor of the Year finalist 2015
Gold member of the Christian Editor Connection
Author, Strains of Silence, Harbourlight 2017
www.bethanykaczmarek.com

Needless to say, I sat flummoxed in my daughters' room where we'd been playing. Then came the realization that industry professionals had read my novel, and not only liked it, but deemed it worthy of being one of three finalists. I am deeply humbled and wildly excited at the prospect of winning novel of the year. I may have to forgo my usual Pikes Peak Writer's con this year in order to attend the Realm Maker's conference, just in case.

Please, check out Bethany's blog post, when you get a chance, and wish me luck!

~SJA

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

WHAT AM I

This piece is based on my favorite video game, Destiny, published by Bungie. Image courtesy of Bungie.



I used to know who I was. What I was. I had a whole bit about it.

Of course, I wasn't really contemplating that as the hail of enemy fire spattered off the walls and pillars of chitin we dodged around. Pale glowing moths and clinging tendrils of swirling darkness tried to take my attention from the path ahead and the beams of supercharged plasma slashing through the air around us. Typho ran, heedless of where we went so long as it was away from the pool and darkness and thing that had killed Uni. Behind us Arcellen also ran, his breathing ragged in our coms. Typho fired his jump jets to clear a chasm that yawned suddenly beneath us, and behind us I heard Arcellen swear. Then I heard him hit the edge of the pit, heard his hands scrape frantically against the ground, and then slide away.

"Guardian down!" I warned. "You're the last guardian standing."

"Did his ghost get him?" Typho roared ducking behind a pillar.

"I can't tell."

"Did it get him?" Typho shouted again. A barrage of purple plasma spattered around us scorching his shields and sending us scuttling father back behind the pillar. The thing that had killed Uni, that mass of claws and tentacles and bulbous flesh, was still closing in, herding us somewhere.

I checked my sensor readings and pushed my signals out to maximum range. "I think so. I have a weak signal but it's below us. Quite a ways."

Typho swore again. More purple blasts tore into the pillar.

"We're going after him," Typho said. "Get me the Blacksmith."

"It will take a moment to retrieve it. You good?"

"I'll keep moving. Get me that gun."

I switched my signal outward, up through the hull of the Hive dreadnought, and out into orbit where our ship waited. The system interface came up and I punched up the inventory. The thing's blasts ripped the air again, the energy pulsed from its eyeless head in a grinding staccato rhythm. Typho hurled a smoke grenade and lunged out from behind the pillar, letting the cloud of poisonous gasses he'd created cover his move for an alcove on the far side of the passage. He rolled and sprang to his feet. The scorching plasma hesitated for an instant, just long enough for him to scramble into the niche in the wall. Too soon it was splashing against the pillar, weakening his shields.

"Can't stay here," Typho grunted, and darted back into the open.

"It's on it's way," I said activating the transmat. The massive sniper rifle with it's armor piercing rounds was on it's way, but the ships inventory was being sluggish. Too much interference from the Dreadnought's chitinous hull. "It might take a few seconds to arrive."

"I'm going."

He sprinted towards the thing, rolled again, jumped, and then lunged for the pit that had snatched Arcellen away. The stream of purple plasma came roaring out of the thing's head again and gouged into Typho's shields as he hung exposed in mid air. For a moment the amazing Golden Age armor held against the onslaught, but then it shattered. Plasma tore into Typho's body, scorched flesh from bone and sent his physical form careening off the wall.

I lunged after his light, throwing my capture field to maximum. The field snapped closed and I jerked to a stop.  Within my field hung a tiny, but brilliant spark of light. Typho's light, the life given him by the Traveler. His essence. His soul. I'd saved it and with enough time I could revive him.

I took a quick assessment of our situation. I'd landed us a few feet below the lip of the pit, on a small stone outcropping. Arcellen's ghost, hopefully still holding it's guardian's light was approximately sixty meters below. Where exactly, I couldn't see, not while holding fast to Typho's light.

Energy blasts scorched around me. The thing was still out there, still trying to get an angle on us. My shield sparked with each stray hit and I pushed my them to maximum. If I could hold out long enough for Arcellen's ghost to ...

I am very hard to distract. I'm not being conceited or anything. It's true. I have one job: aid my guardian. And at that moment Typho needed my help the most, but just then something broke through my protocols and tore my attention away from my task.

Beside us on the stony ledge lay a ghost. A dead ghost. But not just dead, it was encased in crystal that had grown out of the wall. It had to have been there hundreds of years. Maybe longer.

"But ... we're the first guardians to ever set foot on the Dreadnought."

I had thought all ghosts born with the Traveler's dying breath, but this ... this meant that there were others before, long before. Was there another Traveler? Did the Traveler die before? If so why and how? And most importantly, why didn't I know anything about it?

More shots gouged into the rock around me. My shield output dropped another seven percent. I should have been worried for Typho. I should have been focused on putting his body back together. But all I could think, all my phenomenal processing power could focus on, was a single thought. "What am I?"


Liked this story? Check out my other Destiny themed fiction:

TIME STREAM
THE FIRST WARLOCK 
LAST GUARDIAN STANDING
 
~SJA

Monday, February 13, 2017

Author Interview

It's been a while since I posted something "author-y" here, but author-y things are happening. So I'm pleased to post my first ever author interview. Listen as I stammer my way through through episode #98 of the Daily Author produced by Wooden Pants Publishing. No, really, it's not that bad. However, it should be noted that I made a small mistake. I refer to the local writing organization conference as RMFW (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers) which is a great organization and con but they are located in Denver. The Colorado Springs organization is Pikes Peak Writers. Their conference goes by the same name. Please, pardon the brain-fart.