Category Archives: Snippet

Snippets of Rob’s fiction. Often, these are unedited previews of upcoming works.

Interview: Philip Wohlrab

Greetings all

Tonight it’s time for the Docfather, Philip Wohlrab himself. He’s a writer and a combat medic. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him at LibertyCon and several other conventions. If you’re at a con and see a guy in a heavily-adorned Imperial Andermani Navy uniform, it might just be him.

Interview: Philip Wohlrab
Philiip Wohlrab
Philiip Wohlrab

What is your quest?

Ultimately, I want to tell a good story, whether it is set in the future, the past, a past that never happened, or complete fantasy. I want to entertain people, pull them out of the land of the mundane, even if for a little bit. Right now, I have a couple of projects that I am working on, first is my novel set in an entirely new universe known as the Squidverse. Think WWII meets Star Wars, with a helping of the Mind Flayers from D&D. I am also writing a short alt history of the Battle of Jutland, where the US and Germany are allies, and lastly another short set in Black Tide Rising, though whether it gets published after certain people read it is going to be interesting.

What is your favorite color?

Cyberpunk Electric Blue? Hmmm, I do draw a bit from nature when I am creating new creatures. The Akkorro, aliens in the 4HU, are literally drawn from Cuttlefish. In fact, I like squids, and octopi quite a bit so you will see them featured in my stories in some form or another. I also try to get the little details right, what were the sounds, what were the smells. As a combat vet I can tell you that certain smells will never be forgotten, and I try to bring that out in my writing.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

Time management is my biggest issue. I should be writing more, but I find myself getting distracted by things. I also tend to idea hop, so I have to make that work for me when I am working on multiple projects. This is a bit of a learning curve.

 What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

Emotion, I think I do that well. The Beach was an emotional short to write, for me, and I know it has hit readers pretty hard based on some of the feedback I have been given. I like to give people the emotions the characters are feeling, as it allows the readers to connect with the characters. You may have never experienced combat, but you have had some experience that has terrified you, or gotten the adrenaline flowing. So, if I can tap into that, and give the reader some personal idea of what the character is feeling, I am going to try and work that in.

 Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Doozers from Fraggle Rock. I mean these guys spend all their time building stuff that the Fraggles just eat anyways. That has to take some fortitude not to poison the Fraggles.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Creamy for the WIN!
  • Favorite Sports Team? Atlanta Falcons, I am used to disappointment.
  • Cake or Pie? Why not both?
  • Lime or Lemon? Definitely Both.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Ranch
  • Wet or Dry? Wet
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Gunship, seriously if you like 1980s Cyberpunk go give these guys a listen.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey
  • Favorite Superhero? Darth Vader. What? He has comic books!
  • Steak Temperature? Damn near still mooing.
  • Best Game Ever? Hmmm I am currently very much enjoying Battletech.
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee, drank black as hell, or perhaps Irish. Never adulterated with cream or sugar.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Sci-Fi.

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

Rob how do you find time to do all the stuff you do?

Rob’s Answer: Uh, I do a bunch of stuff? I don’t feel like it, especially right now when I’ve been fighting a bit of a dry spell with writing.

I do try to do at least a little bit each day, though. One of my favorite sections from the Prince Roger series is the bit where Roger talks about eating soup with a knife. It’s not always easy, and it requires determination, but you have to keep doing a bit here and there.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

I have a couple of things up on Amazon, and a few more on the way. I have a short I independently published entitled The Medic. My short The Beach is available in The Good, the Bad, and The Merc. I have another short that will be published in the Homo Stellaris anthology, that I cowrote with Kacey Ezell, about the first pregnancy in space, and I have a short coming out in the next 4HU anthology involving a German merc company, and the Akkorro.

  • https://www.amazon.com/Philip-Wohlrab/e/B01HTBZ57A

And where can we find you?

I attend Libertycon and Dragoncon each year and can be found at other Cons in the North Carolina or Virginia area, schedule permitting.

Do you have a creator biography?

From my Amazon page: Philip Wohlrab has been a medic with the Army for over 12 years, and he has served his time in the sandbox. He currently trains the next generation of Combat Medics and runs a schoolhouse medical section. When he isn’t doing Army things he can be found at various Sci-Fi Cons, and writing.

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

You should have asked how my service has affected my writing. I have served both in the United States Coast Guard, and the Virginia Army National Guard. This has given me a unique look at very different service cultures, and I use that to ensure that when I am writing characters that they are unique to their service branches. Army speak doesn’t always translate well to Naval speak, things of that nature.

Lastly a small snippet from my upcoming Squidverse novel. Thanks for doing this Rob!

Outer Luzon System

Space itself seemed to blur as ship after ship of the Taiyo battlegroup emerged into the realm of physics that Einstein and Newton would recognize. Atago, a heavy cruiser, formed up the center of the battlegroup alongside the Taiyo, while two Nagara Class light cruisers took up station as the inside defensive ring. Six destroyers formed the outer ring of warships that would protect the heavy cruiser, and light carrier.

Admiral Lady Hitomi Izumi scanned her repeaters arrayed around her command dais, she was looking for any flaws in the deployment of her vessels. Admiral Izumi was known to be exacting in her expectations of junior commanders. Finding no faults, she sat back in her command chair and crossed her legs.

“Commander Sasaki are there any indications of enemy ships nearby?” inquired Admiral Izumi. “Also, what was it that they were calling these things now?”

“They are calling them squids My Lady,” said a moon-faced heavy-set officer sitting at the sensor station. “Also, our scopes are not showing anything out here My Lady, however the sensor drones we left back in system is still showing a sizable Squid fleet around Marigold. Most of the ships though are either transports or supply vessels.”

“Interesting, I wonder where their warships have gotten off to? If they had been present in force we would never have been able to sneak in our own transports, but you would think they would have reacted by now to our presence in the system.”

“As you say My Lady, but we have no indication as to where they are, or when they left. Perhaps these Squids are harder pressed for ships than we previously thought? Could it be that they have used their entire fleet in the attacks across the entirety of the Fan and left nothing in reserve?”

“I think that most unlikely,” chimed in another officer. This worthy was Commander Asuna Hasegawa, Izumi’s chief intelligence officer. “I suspect that we have yet to see any reserve formation for these squids as you call them Commander Sasaki, it is more likely that we are seeing just the tip of their frontline units.”

“Then where are their warships Commander Hasegawa, and why aren’t they here?” growled back Sasaki.

“That is a good question Commander Sasaki, and one I wish I had an answer for.”

Oort Cloud

Luzon System

Fleet Controller 672 was proud of the fact that she had predicted that the human battlegroup wasn’t going to jump completely out of the system. It was rare that a Squantalavi female would be elevated to a position such as hers, but she had consistently demonstrated that she was one of the most agile thinkers in her cohort of officers. Even in a society dominated by males, 672 had both excelled, and been recognized as one of the best officers of her generation. That didn’t mean that she didn’t experience her fair share of hiccups in her career though. She had not been given a position in of the first assault fleets, but instead had come in as a second-tier commander, as the males of her cohort jealously guarded the prime assignments. Still Fleet Intelligence 11 had seen her potential, and rather than relegating her to one of the Skazi battlecruisers, he had given her command of a Saltze battleship.


Thanks to Philip for taking the time to answer my questions and the fun snippet.

If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.

Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Brief Is My Flame Snippet

2018 is starting off hellishly, in terms of bad things happening. Even worse than last year.

I’ve been writing a bunch this week of characters that are based on people I know. Most of that is to help my friend Mar, who had a brain aneurysm on New Year’s Day.

This, this is not for that. It’s for someone else. Another fyrd brother who has days to live.

North Road, Svellheim

Somehow, a large drop of rain slid through the birch leaves, evaded Geirr’s hood, and landed on the tip of his nose. He woke with a start.

He stiffly rose and with only one slip to his knees in the morass that had once been dirt, he reached a birch tree and relieved himself. His cold hands fumbled with the string of his pants, but eventually he was able to get everything back together. He started back to his bedding when…

What that something rustling?

He stood motionless, ears seeking to hear something besides the next drop striking its target.

He was not reassured when he did not hear anything. He went to his sword, noticing that Thyri was already stringing her bow. He pointed at his ear without saying anything. She nodded.

“Jussi and Sveinn?” he whispered.

She shrugged.

They looked at Ansgar, who had awakened and was watching them silently, but not moving or trying to escape.

Geirr stared out into the rainy blackness. “I don’t like this.”

“Nor do I.”

“Cut him free,” he gestured at Ansgar.

Her eyebrows rose.

“This isn’t right.” He looked at Ansgar. “I’ll cut you free, but you must do as I say.”

“Aye, I’ll be doin’ that. I’s feelin’ something, too. Like one a’ them mountain wolves we’s havin’ in the Rueckenberge or worse.”

Suddenly, the darkness was split with a battle cry.

“That’s Sveinn!” cried Thyri.

“But which way?”

Then, just as suddenly, a bright light erupted down the hill.

“Ansgar, stay here!” Geirr sprang down the hill, sword in hand and shield at the ready.

Thyri followed, cursing the rain, again, but stringing her bow nonetheless.

After clearing the trees around the campsite, Geirr could see Jussi holding up a stone that was infused with some magic. The stone glittered, clearly some sort of quartz, and the light came out in rainbow beams. He held his sword in the other hand, but he was not being attacked at that precise moment.

Sveinn had charged into the two great creatures, thereby giving Jussi the time to pull out the lightstone.

Are those bears? Giant wolves? Geirr stop wondering what those creatures were to race towards the fight.

Sveinn chopped at one of the beasts with his favored sword, one that was almost as tall as he. Geirr could see water fly off both the blade and Sveinn’s beard as he twisted all of his sturdy form into the immensely powerful strike. The drops shimmered in Jussi’s light, glinting like diamonds.

The beast screamed in pain when the blow landed.

But it didn’t fall! How could anything not be slain by that? Geirr stopped wondering as he reached the nearest beast. It turned from Sveinn, swinging the back of its great paw.

The blow impacted on his shield and it shattered. Pieces of oak flew past Geirr’s head. He staggered at the power, but stabbed instinctively at the wolf-bear’s belly. His blade sank deep, and Geirr yanked it out with a twist.

But the wound simply enraged the beast. It smashed its clenched paw straight down at Geirr, who managed to escape most of the blow. It still hit his shoulder, and knocked him down.

The creature roared and stepped forward. An arrow sliced into the light to hit it in the chest. Another followed a breath later. The impact of Thyri’s arrows caused the creature to step back and give Geirr time to rise again.

Sveinn, meanwhile, had been knocked aside as well, but the tough huscarl bounced up with a lunge that went full into the beast’s chest. The wolf-bear shouted his anger and flung itself around. Sveinn had tried to hold onto his sword, but the creature’s twist sent him flying. Geirr heard a thud in the darkness as Sveinn landed.

Geirr stepped in with a quick slash at the creature’s knee. He did not follow through on the blow, as he had done earlier, but he did nick the wolf-bear and bounded out of the return swing. He stepped forward and nicked the other leg.

It seemed like the beast barely felt the wounds, but once again Geirr was able to step backward and avoid the creature’s swipe.

Three arrows in quick succession flew over his shoulder to impact in the wolf-bear that had tossed Sveinn away. Two sank next to Sveinn’s huge sword. One went deep into the creature’s roaring mouth. The creature stumbled off as it tried to catch its breath with an arrow in its throat.

Geirr jumped in again, just as he had done before, but this time instead of aiming a quick swipe at the creature’s legs, he swung at the arm descending upon him.

The impact knocked Geirr to the ground. He heard the sundering of his family’s water-patterned sword and saw the tip shine in Jussi’s light as it flew away.

The blow had hurt the creature though. Its arm dangled, barely attached at the elbow. It tried to pound Geirr with it and looked confused as it did not react properly.

Geirr pulled out his short knife, though he had no idea what he would do with it against that thing.

It stepped forward to swing its other paw. Geirr braced for the impact. An arrow whistled past his head to join the earlier pair.

The creature hesitated, but only for a second, and again Geirr braced as the paw descended upon him.

But the paw suddenly curved up as the beast bent backwards. Sveinn had staggered back and he was calmly twisting his own knife deep into the back of the creature’s knee.

He was covered in blood. A nasty knock on his head slid down his hair and his cheek, giving color once again to the beard that had long since started towards gray. The creature’s blood gushed over his arm as he twisted the knife.

The creature turned towards Sveinn, ripping the blade out of his hand and raking his claws along his hauberk. The iron ripped, and blood seeped through the mail. Sveinn fell back.

But Geirr finally saw what to do with his short blade. He jumped on the creature’s back and jammed it into its neck.

It rose in a roar, throwing Geirr off to the side.

He looked up with blurry eyes as three more arrows streaked in, but it was Geirr’s knife that did the trick, and the wolf-bear, clutching its throat, toppled over, landing on Sveinn’s legs.

Jussi rushed to Geirr.

“I’m fine.” He coughed. “Or at least I will be.”

“No you’re not,” spat Jussi.

“I’m fine enough,” repeated Geirr. “Just help me up.”

Dubiously, Jussi helped Geirr stagger to his feet.

“Now go look at Sveinn.”

“He’s not my lord.”

“No, he’s not. I am, and I tell you to go look at him,” snarled the Jarl of Skjaerdalen.

Startled, Jussi rushed off.

Geirr started towards Sveinn, but would have fallen if Thyri had not come up and caught him.

“Careful, Geirr. You’re not fine.”

Geirr stretched. “I think maybe a rib isn’t right. And my knee is wrenched.”

“You’ll have Woden’s own headache tomorrow.”

He touched his head where a lump was forming and grimaced. “Help me to Sveinn.”

Jussi had set the stone next to the huscarl and was fussing over him.

Sveinn watched with his normal relaxed expression as Geirr tottered up to them.

“How is he?”

Jussi snapped, “Let me work, boy.” He glanced at Thyri. “See if the two of you can push that creature off Sveinn’s ankle.”

It took Thyri gathering a largish stone and a fallen oak branch, plus garnering Ansgar’s help, to allow them to lever the creature off Sveinn.

His foot was twisted, the ankle obviously broken.

Sveinn glanced down. “Not seen it look like that before.”

Geirr barked a laugh at Sveinn’s dusty dry comment. “When’s the last time you let a wolf-bear thing fall on you.”

“Now that you’re sayin’, I don’t recall.”

“We need to get him, and you for that matter, back into some shelter,” said Jussi. “Thyri, you and Ansgar, carry him back to our campsite.” The older huscarl glared at Geirr. “And you, boy, you carry the lightstone. Try not to fall.”

Geirr nodded and followed quickly as he could. The others trudged, carefully, up to the campsite. Sveinn said nothing, but the pain of each step forced gasps out of his throat.

When they set Sveinn down, Jussi reached into a pouch and handed Thyri a small stone. She raised her eyebrows when she saw it. “We could have used a firestarter earlier.”

“We didn’t need a fire then,” snapped Jussi. “But we do now, so get it lit.”

She rapped the stone sharply on another rock, and then slid into the tinder and kindling that had earlier resisted all her previous attempts to light. Soon a fire blazed, hotter than normal, with steam rising off the wood.

By that point, Jussi leaned back, coughing. Thyri caught him before he fell into the fire.

“Sveinn?” asked Geirr.

He ignored him, and with fumbling hands, splinted Sveinn’s ankle.

“Sveinn?” repeated the jarl.

Jussi crawled to his bedroll. “He’ll need water. I’ll need food… when I wake.” Almost immediately, he fell asleep.

Geirr looked at Sveinn. “How do you feel?”

“Not my best, lord.” Sveinn said drowsily.

The jarl held up a waterskin, and Sveinn drank. Then, pushing it away, the huscarl nodded off.

“I’ll be back in a moment, lord.”

“Where are you going, Thyri?”

“I want to make sure the other one is actually dead.”

Geirr considered Ansgar. Then looked up at her. What was it? I’ve never seen the like.”

“Neither have I.” Thyri hesitated.

“But?”

“But I’ve heard of such creatures. They never come down to the North Road, though. They’re seen in the deep mountain valleys. Many ridges to the north and east. Not here.”

“Well, they are now. By all means, make sure it’s dead. We can’t have it attack other travelers.”

“Yes.” She slipped away.

Geirr tried to stay alert, but he too soon nodded off.

Thyri woke him with a soft hand to his shoulder. “Some guard you are, lord.”

“The worst,” agreed Geirr.

Ansgar chuckled. “That was certainly my chance.”

The jarl snorted. “You’ve had others.”

“Yes, lord. But I do what Eleonore says.”

“Or you’ll die.”

“I’d rather face whatever that was than her, iffin’ I hadn’t done as she said.”

Geirr shook his head as Thyri laid Sveinn’s sword next to him, the pommel close to his hand.

“So it was dead.”

“Yes. Though how it ever lived so long I’ll not know. It was about a mile down the road.”

“Did it attack anyone else?”

“No.” She paused. “I didn’t see anyone else.”

Geirr’s eyes widened. “No caravans? No travelers at all?”

Thyri shook her head.

“Over a mile or so of the North Road? Right now?”

“No, Jarl. Not a soul.”

“Something is terribly wrong.”

She nodded. “I’ll get more firewood.”

Where Now the Rider Annotated Snippet 2

Here’s another annotated snippet. It picks up where the first snippet, which you can find at http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=56 concludes.

As before, I’ll add occasional annotations indented and italicized.

Morning, 1 Hjerstmoanne, 1712 MG

I followed her to a long, low, rambling building running along a ridge around Achrida. It served as the primary home of the Mrnjavcevic family, the leading clan of the Dassaretae, one of the two tribes that had squabbled for control of Achrida for centuries.

The Dassaretae was an actual tribe in the Balkans. It’s not a particularly well-known one, though, and it seemed a cool name so I chose it as one of the tribes. The same goes for the Mrnjavcevic family. Even though I’m writing fantasy novels, I love researching history too much to not steal fun names and places.

The old woman who guarded the door had never liked me. The look on her face made it clear I remained unworthy to sully her honored halls, but she allowed me to enter without comment. Vukasin had probably told her to expect me. She led us through the labyrinth of rooms and hallways.

“How big is this place, anyway?”

This exchange is a bit of foreshadowing that becomes important later in the book. Readers of Where Now the Rider will see where it comes into play.

Piri gave me a sly smile, but otherwise ignored me. Eventually we reached and the polished oak door that led to Vukasin’s sitting room and office. The grim doorwarden, knocked and opened the door at his response, not quite lifting her nose up at me. Not quite.
Vukasin sat at his desk, his hands full of various papers. He was a short man, but wide and powerful. His eyes were the color of basalt, which seemed appropriate to me, as he was as strong and deliberate as the mountains. The Zupan of the Dassaretae needed such strength, I guessed.

The historical Vukasin Mrnjavcevic was a general and later the military governor of a part of modern Macedonia. Interestingly, Marko Mrnjavcevic, his son, becomes the Prince Marko of Serbian legend that I refer to often in these novels.

“Sevener. I expected you, but not so soon. Still, I’m told many things have happened.”

“Yes, Zupan. It seemed wiser to come sooner rather than later. I know I owe you a great debt, and I would not have you think I am not grateful.”

Zupan is an another historical term. An easy place to use something different besides leader or ruler. 

“I know you are not ungrateful. I would never have worked with you had I thought you were.”

“I appreciate your trust in me.”

“You’re welcome. Maja, pour us some water.” He waved at the chairs before his desk. Piri and I sat while Maja went to a sideboard and poured goblets of cold lakewater sweetened with pomegranate. I took a sip before beginning.

There’s a scene in A Lake Most Deep where Svetislav rows Edward out into the lake to discuss the Gropa Council. In that scene, Svetislav handed Edward a mug to dip lakewater out to drink. That actually happened to me in Ohrid. I took a short boat cruise into the lake and the captain handed out a couple of cheap mugs for us to drink from the lake. It was, in fact, delicious, and that’s why I make such a point of it in these novels.

“I don’t know entirely what you know, but here are the basics.”

He waved a dismissive hand. “I knew almost everything yesterday. The people who tried to intimidate Honker Harald and his family after his daughter found one of Gibroz’s thugs dead near Biljana’s Springs were led by Markov, one of Gibroz’s lieutenants.”

“I’m not surprised. You supplied all the people who got the information, after all.”

“Yes. And you used them well.”

I shrugged. “Markov was working for the Emperor.”

“I suspected that was the case.” Vukasin’s nostrils flared, but otherwise, he expressed no emotion at the news that his lord had betrayed him.

Obviously, this is my way of summing up The Eyes of a Doll. I hate exposition, and in some ways it’s not relevant to Where Now the Rider, however, it’s part of Edward’s character development, which I touch upon in the following paragraph.

In my homeland, thegns would have flocked to his banner to avenge that betrayal. My mind filled with memories of looking across the field at thegns who had done just that for Cynric when his son, Penwulf, my lord, had betrayed him. My father had fought under Cynric’s banner on that day, and I had killed him.

Vukasin cleared his throat and I returned to the moment.

“He wanted a war between Ylli of Lezh and Gibroz so that you could not have a base of power against him,” I said.

More foreshadowing, in a way. Let me just say I’m perfectly willing for you all to remember the Emperor’s paranoia. It could be a reoccurring theme. Could be.

“Or Vesela.”

“Yes, or her.”

Vukasin smiled. “This is Achrida. Things change. Yes, we Dassaretae are more prominent now, but never underestimate the Enchelei, even if it has only been a few months since you exposed Pal and his crime. Vesela may not have expected to take over as zupan so soon, but she helped lead the Enchelei all her life.”

The Gropa and Enchelei are, like the Mrnjavcevics and Dassaretae, historical.

I nodded, quiet again for a moment, then looking deep in Vukasin’s eyes. “I’m sorry for those who died.”

His black eyes turned even darker. “I know. I am too.”

We sat with our memories for a moment.

“You didn’t kill them, though,” continued Vukasin. “That was the Emperor’s people.”

“I suppose.”

“Welcome to the Empire.” Piri’s face bore that sardonic smile again.

“Thanks.”

“And today I think I know everything,” Vukasin said as he leaned back.

“What have you learned now?”

“I learned that you are prompt in paying your debts. That’s not an insignificant thing in this city.”

“I have no doubt,” I said sarcastically. “What else?”

“I wasn’t sure about Gabrijela.”

I looked at my hands. Eventually I added, “Yes, Gabrijela was helping the Emperor.”

“And her fate?”

“She’s gone. Sebastijan is taking her to the Great City.”

“We just watched them leave before coming here,” added Piri.

“So now what?” Vukasin stared at me.

“I think I’ll go back to the Faerie and get drunk.”

Vukasin chuckled. “While I agree that’s an excellent idea, I was thinking a little more into the future. You stopped in Achrida on the way to serve the Emperor. I got Piri’s message this morning that you’re not going to serve him now. Where will you go?”

“I wish I knew. I suppose I could go back to Ivan Yevgenich. He’s been dealing with Demmenkreisen for a year now. Or maybe somewhere else in the Kreisens. The Periaslavlans have noticed more than the usual raiding all along the Rueckenberge.”

“But?”

“His izba isn’t where I really want to spend the rest of my life, as good a man as he is.” I shook Raakel’s ghost out of my mind. “And in the Kreisens I’d have to serve some lordling raiding villages. I don’t know of a single one of them as worthy of my service as Penwulf, and he was an oathbreaker and a fool.”

This is an example of the synergy of writing I Am a Wondrous Thing. I actually really like these paragraphs. It lets me build a whole world around Achrida while still being focused on Edward.

It’s also an example of serendipity. When I started writing Wondrous Thing I had no intention of putting Edward into it. Then I realized I had already done so in A Lake Most Deep and he had to make a cameo. Even though I didn’t intend it, his appearance strengthens these Edward books.

Another note about Edward in Wondrous Thing. I actually struggled to write his part because I kept putting myself too much into his head, especially since I did not want him a POV character.

“The Old Empire? Or Matara? Take the trade route across the lakes and see fair Markanda and points east?”

“Perhaps.” I shrugged. “Vukasin. I just don’t know. After I get drunk I’ll talk with Piri and Zoe about it.”

Vukasin rested his dark eyes on me without saying anything. I watched dust float through a sunbeam sneaking through Vukasin’s shuttered window. Piri made no motion.

I intend for the Adventures of Edward Aethelredson to be a recurring series where readers don’t have to have read the earlier books to enjoy the story. And in general, I think I succeeded.

However, there’s no doubt that these first three are tied together for the reason that I detailed in the last snippet. Taken together, they will make Achrida Edward’s home.

Where Now the Rider Annotated Snippet 1

Greetings all

As I’m getting closer to having Where Now the Rider, I thought I’d release some of it into the wild. I also think it might be interesting to you if I annotated some of my thoughts as to why I made some  of the choices I did.

This first snippet is the start of Chapter 1. I’ll add annotations indented and in italics.

Early Morning, 1 Hjerstmoanne, 1712 MG

Many of you will remember that The Eyes of a Doll ended on 30 Heamoanne. This is the very next day. I could, obviously, have chosen a different day to start, but I think this scene is important for Edward, as you’ll see.

Unfortunately, that provided me with a challenge. Edward is wounded at the end of The Eyes of a Doll and he cannot have healed fully in a day. That meant that whatever his next adventure would be it required him to be capable of handling while not fully healthy, at least at the start. I actually have 10-15k of the next novel written because what I started with required him to be fully healthy at the beginning. Where Now the Rider became a completely different story because of this challenge.

I gripped the hilt of my saex tightly, tensing to draw it and let blood run along the water pattern in the steel.

“You’re a fool, Sevener.”

I originally chose to design Edward’s homeland after the Heptarchy, the time in Anglo-Saxon history when they had seven different kingdoms. After I switched it to plain English and called it the Seven Kingdoms, I was pleased to find the epithet “Sevener” come so easy to the tongue.

The rage that filled me blocked the words so that I barely heard the familiar voice. Rage at my lover, who had betrayed me. Rage at my friends, who had betrayed themselves. Rage at the emperor for corrupting them. And rage at myself, for—, well for reasons I could not fathom, but rage nonetheless.

The voice spoke again, “Edward?”

This time the voice penetrated enough that most of the rage slipped away, leaving pain in its place. Pain on my left where a blade had nicked my kidney but a few days ago. Pain in my shoulder when a different blade had slid past the bone and through the meat. Without magic, I would be dead, but magic could only do so much. I almost welcomed the pain, given my rage, but even then I knew how stupid it was. I slowly released the hilt and moved my good hand to rest on the parapet in front of me. Without my right arm twisted around my back, my left shoulder and side relaxed and much of the pain went away.

“You really are a fool, Edward.”

“I had to send her away. Gibroz will kill her if he can.” I looked over the wall above South Gate in Achrida. The wall’s crenellations hid the face that had been speaking to me. It mattered little, though, because I knew the sardonic smile that Hecatontarch Piriska Mrnjavcevic wore right then.

Gibroz, by the way, is one of the few names that I did not pull from a list of real names. It’s completely made up, though it is based on something in particular. One of my inside jokes, actually, that I will encourage my readers to figure out.

 “Not that, idiot. You explained all that last night while you cried into Ragnar’s rakija. No, I mean standing here right now.”

Rakija, like all of the food and drink in my novels, is real. As a foodie, one of the fun parts of writing is scouring through traditional dishes to add, for lack of a better word, flavor to my novels. I actually intend to put recipes for things like ajvar and zelniks on my wiki entry for those things one of these days.

Off in the distance, I could still see two tiny black shapes kicking up dust in the dry summer morning. Then they turned past a hill and I would never see my lover again. I had no need to watch the caravaners jockeying for position or listen to their vicious cursing at each other, so I straightened up. The wound on my side protested again. I desperately wanted to scratch it, but fortunately the sling holding my left arm prevented me from scratching it.

As I said, I think this scene is important for Edward. He has to physically watch Gabrijela leave. I may be wrong, but I also think it’s important for my readers to see her leave.

One of the reasons I think that’s true is that Gabrijela is not out of the overall story of Shijuren and the Empire of Makhaira. She’s too interesting of a character to simply let her go. What her adventures will be is yet to come, however.

“I guess…” I reached back again, this time just to caress the hilt of my saex. The one constant in my life. “I guess I just needed to be here.”

I’ve used “saex” a couple of times already in this snippet. This is a place where my editor and I disagreed. I came up with that particular spelling as a transliteration of the aesc vowel that is the proper vowel in the word. It’s how I spell every aesc when I don’t actually use the proper letter, the squished “ae” you might be familiar with. However, Kellie told me the proper spelling now is “seax.”

I liked my spelling better so I kept it, even if I’m wrong.

Gabrijela had seen me standing on the gate as she passed through, but she had done nothing. I would not have known what to say if she had. I had sent her away because I loved her, but I could never trust her again. Nor could I trust the Emperor that had ruined her life simply to serve his madness.

Now I saw the sardonic smile as Piri turned to me. “I didn’t say it was the wrong choice, only that you’re a fool.” She had earned that smile on dozens of battlefields and in years of training new warriors.

I nodded sadly. “I suppose.” I looked back over the wall. “I just didn’t know what else to do.”

Piri said nothing as she led me down from the battlement. My bencriht thegn, Maja Mrnjavcevic, waited for us, restless as always. She started to say something, but Piri quelled her with a sharp look and led us back up the Trade Road.

Maja is an interesting character to me. I really like her potential for growth and someday she might be an even bigger character in Shijuren than Edward, assuming I don’t kill her off. I don’t plan to, but I might change my mind. And accidents happen. I’ve already killed a character in I Am a Wondrous Thing that I didn’t mean or want to. However, circumstances dictated it.

I followed the hecatontarch in silent thought until she turned off from the road. Given that we had miles to walk before getting to the Square of Legends, I glanced at her.

“We should go visit my uncle now.”

My anger spiked again. “He can wait.”

“You know better. You have to see him, and it should be sooner rather than later.” She laughed. “Especially since you’re likely to just wallow in the Faerie all day, surlier than even Karah on a bad day.”

I just want to make it clear that Karah is *not* modeled on any server that I know. Certainly not the ones at Brewbaker’s that routinely take care of me even though I sit here for hours working whenever I can.

“She has good days?”

“Why don’t you ask her that.” Piri laughed again. “Let me get a beer and get comfortable first, I want to watch that discussion.”

The thought of antagonizing the perpetually grumpy Karah, daughter of Ragnar Longtongue and barmaid of his inn, broke the mood.

“You’re probably right. Vukasin is just the most powerful man in this province. Not near as dangerous as Karah’s wrath.” I smiled wryly. “After all that he has done for me, think he’d appreciate me calling him uncle too?”

She laughed. “Absolutely. He especially enjoys it when hare-brained foreigners take him for granted.”

Overall, I tried to make this opening portion contain a goodly amount of summing up from what happened in The Eyes of a Doll without being pure exposition, while also setting Edward up as somewhat adrift. Part of the challenge writing Edward is that, for my purposes, he needs to stay in Achrida so I can continue to write these novels, but all along I’ve been working to make him have a reason to stay.

In the most simplistic form, A Lake Most Deep trapped him in Achrida for a moment, The Eyes of a Doll cut off his original plans, leaving him adrift, and Where Now the Rider will give him an actual reason to stay.

The rest of Chapter 1, by the way, is the meeting with Vukasin and some hints of what’s to come in this story. I’ll leave that portion for later.