Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Because It's Christmas...

  I am reminded at this time of year, as many of us gather with friends and family, of those to whom Christmas is not necessarily sacred. It is not a holiday, or a time when they can simply relax and enjoy the season while most of us get together with our families.
  The Canadian Government deems these people 'essential services'. They are the people who keep things running while we enjoy Christmas dinners, opening presents. They are the people who are still standing by as we roast chestnuts on an open fire, while we fulfill our children's visions of Santa and his reindeer landing to bring Christmas fun.
  Firemen, Paramedics, and Policemen. Nurses, Doctors. Rail and Air Traffic Controllers. Postal workers who make sure your presents arrive to those you love. The people who are on standby to make sure you have a safe and happy holiday. These people sometimes forego their Christmas dinner, don't get to see their children open their presents. For them there is no holiday...
  Remember these people as you celebrate your holiday, remember that if you or one of your family members are unfortunate enough to need their help, that they will be there for you, and they are not closed because it is Christmas...

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Fortunate Crow

 By : Dennis Stein

  The crow was still incredibly difficult to capture, even with a broken wing. It ran among the kaleidoscope of fallen leaves, reds and yellows punctuated by the black of its feathers. The two young girls chased him around the park until he was too tired to evade them any longer. A jacket served to wrap him in a cocoon of warmth against the cool fall air. They were sisters, one nine and the other seven, as different from one another as chocolate and vanilla. The oldest was slender, with dark brown hair, the younger shorter with blonde ringlets. They raced up onto the porch to their Grandmother's house, the bird nestled in the jacket barely moving, content to be held in its warm wrapping.
  "We have to help him!" exclaimed the girls as their Grandmother assessed the injured crow.
  It was obvious to the old woman what needed to happen, and she looked at her granddaughters, watching their faces.
  "Well,... he needs to go to the animal hospital, and it looks like you two will have to take him." she said.
  Tawnia and Pamela looked at each other in wonder.
  Their Grandmother shuffled off to a pantry at the back of the kitchen, returning moments later with a cardboard box just large enough to house the bird. She carefully tucked the crow, complete with his jacket wrapping, into the box, folding the flaps on top shut. She turned back to the girls.
  "Go back down to the bus stop, and you two can take him up to the Veterinary Clinic uptown in the plaza. Tell the bus driver where you are going, he will help you..." she said, ignoring the look of awe on their faces and handing Tawnia a few dollars.
  The two girls excitedly gathered up the box, and headed quickly out the door. They sat patiently on the wooden bench underneath the aging steel sign marking the bus stop, Pamela cradling the box on her lap. Tawnia scanned up and down the street for the white city bus. Many cars passed by on the street, but finally the bus arrived. The girls wasted no time, climbing through the open side door. The heavy-set bus driver looked at them over his thick glasses, pondering their package as he watched Tawnia stuff a bill in the plastic box for their fare. The girls made their way to a vacant seat. Pamela looked out the window as they pulled away from the familiar trees of the park.
  "We forgot to tell the bus driver where we wanted to go." she whispered to her sister.
  "It's OK, this is the blue route, we need to change buses to get to the plaza, I think." replied Tawnia, watching the streets pass by.
  The bus driver was observing the two girls in the mirror at the front of the bus.
  The soft sound of the diesel engine on the bus purred as they rode through the streets of the city. The two girls were quiet, taking the whole adventure in as they watched the city pass by. The quiet was suddenly broken however, by their third party. A rustling began to happen inside the cardboard box that Pamela held on her lap. Several people turned in their seats to see, and the two girls froze in their seat. Pamela sank down in the seat, not liking the sudden attention they were drawing. The bus driver's eyes were on them again. There was a small 'cawing' from the box. A lady on the seat across from them asked what they had in the box, with a curious look.
  "Um, Toys..." replied Tawnia quickly.
  The bus driver was still watching, dividing his attention between the road and the two girls. The crow cawed again. More people began to turn around, looking at the two young girls curiously. The scuffling in the box continued. Finally, the bus driver pulled over to the side of the road. Tawnia and Pamela knew that this was not a good thing. The driver stood up in the front of the bus, adjusting his glasses, and hiking up his belt as he turned toward the passengers.
  "Ok, what is happening here?" he said, looking directly at the girls.
  Pamela and Tawnia sank down in their seat. They wished it would all just go away, that this sudden attention would somehow just disappear.
  "What have you two got in that box?" asked the driver sternly.
  Not knowing what else to do, Pamela opened the flaps of the cardboard box. The crow popped his head out. Several people let out a gasp. Pamela immediately tucked the bird's head back into the box.
  "We need to help him, he has a broken wing." she said simply.
  The two girls sat with their cardboard box, silently. The bus driver seemed placated by the response, and the people on the bus were interested in the girls and their rescue suddenly. The driver sat back down, continuing on the way. The bus pulled into the mall parking lot, and stopped. The girls got up to get off.
  "Ok, you girls need to get on the red bus, which should be here in a few minutes." the driver said.
  Tawnia and Pamela got off the bus, box in tow. The driver stood by, watching the children. The red route bus pulled up.
  "This bus will take you to the plaza, where the animal hospital is. Don't worry, your little friend will make it there." he explained.
  The two girls nodded, and stepped up onto the bus, finding a seat. The driver closed the doors, and the engine revved as they pulled away. Tawnia and Pamela watched the scenes flash by outside the windows. Finally they arrived at the plaza, and the girls could see the sign marking the Veterinary Clinic. Tawnia pulled on Pamela's sweater, pointing.
  "Last stop." said the driver happily, opening the doors.
  Tawnia and Pamela lept to their feet, happy that they had made it to their destination. Tawnia held open the thick glass door for her sister, as Pamela carried the box inside. The clinic was warm inside, the small waiting area decorated with plants, a few chairs,and a counter.  A young woman in hospital scrubs emerged from the back, looking over the counter.
  "Well, hello ladies!" she said cheerfully. "What can we do for you?"
  Pamela and Tawnia said nothing, Pamela bashfully lifting the box onto the counter.
  "Oh, what have we here?" she said, peering into the flaps of the box.
  "He is hurt, and we need to help him!" said Pamela finally.
  "Well, I think we can help him, let me go and get the doctor." she said.
  She disappeared, returning a minute later with a tall man with dark hair, dressed in the same hospital clothing. They both peered into the box.
  The doctor looked at the two girls, smiling.
  "I'm sure we can help him, girls." he said. "Leave him with us, we will make sure he gets excellent care."
  The girls smiled, feeling much better hearing his words.
  "Are you two here by yourselves?" asked the doctor.
  "Yes, our Grandmother told us how to get here." said Tawnia.
  The doctor and his assistant looked at each other in disbelief.
  "Will you be able to get home?" the doctor asked.
  "Yes, we will get on the next bus." said Tawnia simply.
  "We will make sure he is ok..." the doctor said.
  The two girls nodded. The next bus had pulled up out front, and they hurried out the door to meet it. The ride home was long, but they arrived at their Grandmother's house in time to be picked up by their mother.
  It was quiet that evening, the two young girls watching a cartoon on TV, their mother in the kitchen.
  The telephone rang, its shrill metallic voice demanding attention. The girls paid no attention to the phone, after all, the telephone was never for them. The call ended, their mother coming out to the living room, where the girls were watching television.
  "Tawnia, Pamela, I need to speak to you..." she said.
  The girls looked at one another suddenly, knowing from their mother's voice that they were in trouble. They came to sit at the dining room table, where their mother was already waiting, her hands folded on the table in front of her.
  "You two went to the Animal Hospital today?" she inquired, with a serious look on her face.
  Pamela lowered her head, her blonde ringlets falling in front of her face.
  Their mother let out a deep sigh, but her expression softened slightly.
  "Well, the Veterinarian asked me to pass a message to you two. He had trouble finding our telephone number, until he found your Grandmother's address on the box..." she said.
  A smile crept onto her face as the two girls looked at her, waiting patiently.

  "It seems your little friend will be just fine..."

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Sneak Peek at The Last Train...


Valerie gathered her things. A notebook, a couple of pencils and a couple of plastic baggies full of cookies and chips for snacks. She had also snagged two water bottles as well. She stuffed everything into Alex's backpack as he sat at the kitchen table watching her.
“I get to haul everything again?" he asked with a frustrated sigh.
"Well, yeah. You always have your backpack anyway!" she replied, simply.
He frowned slightly, knowing her logic was not quite right. "Maybe YOU should buy one!" he retorted.
She ignored the statement and zipped his backpack shut.
"C'mon, we better move it, it’s supposed to rain later today."
"So now you're a weatherman?"
"Weatherwoman," she shot back. "No, Dad told me this morning."
The faint sound of the furnace kicking on in the basement below made her conscious of the cold. "We’d better grab a sweater, too," she added.
After quickly grabbing a couple of hooded sweatshirts -- and getting a warning from their father to be back in time for dinner -- the Valerie and Alex flew out the front door and ran down the stairs of the front porch ready to head out on a mission. Pam waved at them from the gardens, having decided to spend the day outdoors herself.

They made their way down to the entrance of the bicycle path, right at the end of their property. It was lined with flowerbeds and two park benches invited walkers to stop and take a rest. Valerie and Alex hurried down the asphalt of the path, as the creek gurgled along beside them.
It was very cool today, but at least there was no wind. The sun shone through the bare branches of the trees above as they walked along, chattering about where to start their mission. Squirrels darted across the path in front of them, busy gathering food for the coming winter, and birds chirped away, enjoying the sunshine on this cool fall day. They crossed several streets and two wooden bridges that spanned the creek. They stopped several times because Alex insisted on feeding several families of ducks that swam in the creek.  He tossed them some of the chips Valerie had brought with them. As they rambled over a third bridge, Valerie and Alex both paused to watch small fish swimming in the waters below. They were getting closer and closer to the railway tunnel.
Once a bustling cargo transfer location, and a centre that had provided both jobs and provisions for the people, the tunnel was all but abandoned now and was mostly boarded up to protect it against squatters and graffiti. But Valerie knew that the chains holding the doors shut were loose enough to let them squeeze through: they had done it before…
As they walked along, Valerie and Alex both noticed that the sound of birds and crickets had stopped. The atmosphere around them had become dead silent, other than the light sounds of their footsteps along the asphalt. The massive doors of the tunnel entrance emerged into view and the two children subconsciously slowed their pace.
As they came closer, the dark, thick wood of the doors loomed in front of them. They stepped off the path, moving even slower, and stepped towards the tunnel through a grove of bare trees. A large cloud moved swiftly across the sun's face and cast a shadow on the grove and the massive doors momentarily, as if a curtain had been drawn closed. Alex felt a cold shiver grip him as he looked up at the ancient wooden doors.
"Maybe we should come back tomorrow," he said, trying to conceal his growing fear from his sister.
"What? No way! You're not scared, are you?" asked his sister.
"No. But if someone catches us, we could get in trouble."
"No one will see us. Once we are inside, we're fine."
With that she unzipped his backpack and rummaged around to find a small flashlight that she knew would be amongst his “collection”. She retrieved it and zipped his backpack up again.
Valerie stepped forward to the darkened opening between the huge doors. Alex followed right behind her. A slight breeze stirred the tree branches around them, causing a clattering amongst the bare wood that made Alex shiver again. Valerie ignored it, squeezed herself sideways through the gap between the doors and disappeared into the darkness inside. Alex hesitantly took one last look around him and, with a deep breath, squeezed through to follow her.
There was the musty smell of something old and damp in the gloom of the tunnel.  The sound of an occasional drop of water falling from the curved stonework of the ceiling high above reverberated in the hollow emptiness. As Valerie illuminated their way with the small flashlight, the children slowly ventured forward. On the ground, they could make out the rusted and ancient-looking steel rails in the dim light. As they shuffled forward, Valerie swept the light around in an attempt to avoid tripping on anything. Alex held firmly to the straps of his backpack and walked carefully in his sister's steps.
Their eyes eventually adjusted somewhat to the gloom and they could begin to make out the rotted wood ties underneath the narrow track, some of them crumbled and covered in reddish dust from the rust everywhere. The air was moist and cold as they continued forward, their breath a fog in the still darkness of the tunnel. There was a sudden high-pitched chirp from somewhere ahead of them -- a sound that both of the children recognized. Bats! Alex cringed, waiting for the rush of the winged creatures that they had probably disturbed. But nothing happened; the bats didn't come swooping at them!
"Did you hear that?" he asked Valerie.
"Yep,” she whispered back. “Hopefully there is only a couple."
They moved slower, trying not to disturb the night creatures that they figured were probably suspended from the ceiling above and around them. A shape emerged slowly in the illuminated area of the tiny flashlight.  Eventually, whatever it was, it filled the space in front of them. They moved cautiously forward towards their discovery.  It was massive and steel -- and covered in rust. Valerie pointed the light up, then down and swept it from side to side.  A giant triangular piece of steel jutted out from the front of the hulking object, down near the rails, underneath its bullet-shaped nose. It was a locomotive!
Valerie and Alex crept closer.  In the dim glow of the flashlight, they could see the long steel cylinder, sitting atop massive steel wheels, its number plates discoloured from age on either side of where its headlamp should have been. The broken socket of the headlight resembled some kind of strange eye, empty and lifeless in the gloom.  Valerie stepped to the side and pointed the beam ahead of them.  There were several cars on the track behind the locomotive that disappeared into the darkness, equally covered in rust and barely visible with the small light.
"Whoa," said Valerie quietly.
"Yeah, that's old!" said Alex in awe.
"It's a steam locomotive!" said Valerie.
There was a sudden fluttering above as several bats sped past, awakened early from their slumber. Dust trickled through the light of the flashlight and the children ducked instinctively. A few moments later, the silence returned and Valerie tentatively placed her hand against the thick steel of the locomotive. It was rough, bubbled by rust and cold.
"This is it," she stated simply.
"This is what? It's a train!" replied Alex.
Valerie looked back at him with an expression that told him that his statement was obvious.
"It's not just a train... It's the last train!"
Her voice echoed down the tunnel, as the two children turned back to look at the locomotive again. Valerie recounted the story of this train to her brother, reminded him that this was the final train to come from the waterfront docks hauling lumber from the shipyard, halted by the terrible accident with the brakeman who had worked it. After the brakeman had been found and his body carried away to be put in his final resting place, the rest of the trainmen had tried to move the giant forward again to complete their task, but it broke down and was abandoned. The rail company who had owned the train had fallen into bankruptcy and the train had been simply left there, entombed in the tunnel.
"So, it will be here forever?" asked Alex.
"Maybe. It wouldn't be an easy thing to get out of here."
They stood silently for a few moments, looking up at the huge steel vehicle in front of them in the gloom. Valerie stepped across the rails and moved to the side of the tunnel, shining the light down the length of the ancient looking machine. Alex followed her.  The children could make out the numbers on the side of the steel: 1542. The engineer’s compartment was an empty black hole in the back end of the steel plating and was covered in cobwebs.
Suddenly, another light emerged from the darkness, further down the tunnel along the side of the train. It floated in the gloom as it moved slowly towards them. The sheer sight of it made the children shiver. Who or what could be in here with them? Alex backed up a step and held firm on the straps of his backpack. Valerie kept her eyes in the direction of the light, but also backed up close beside her brother. Their hearts started to pound and they both felt the rush of blood pounding in their ears. The light swayed hypnotically back and forth and grew brighter and brighter as it came towards them.  It wasn’t a flashlight though, they realized; it was a small flame burning inside a glass lantern!  Valerie and Alex stepped back toward the doors that they knew were behind them. Alex's eyes grew wider as he tried to see what was coming at them.  Valerie held the flashlight in her shaking hands as she retreated another step. Their minds raced to try to process what they were seeing in the darkness in front of them.
The lantern reflected its light off of the rusted steel of the train, still advancing. As it came closer, Valerie recognized that it was an old oil lantern.  It was covered thickly in cobwebs that waved gently from the heat of the light.  But, Valerie felt confused -- there was a problem with what her eyes were seeing, and Alex gasped slightly as the realization hit them both at the same time: there was no one holding this floating lamp in the darkness! It seemed to float and bob slightly, like someone was carrying it, but there was absolutely no one there!
Their breath froze as they watched in horrible fascination for just a moment more, but that was it: Alex was the first to turn and run, nearly tripping over the rails in his haste. Valerie was right behind him, nearly running him over. Their shoes crunched loudly on the gravel as they sped toward the sliver of daylight streaming in through the tunnel’s doors. After quickly squeezing through the opening, they continued to run -- they didn’t even dare to look behind them.
The sunlight hit them as they darted through the grove of trees at the entrance, but they didn’t stop running, even when they hit the asphalt of the bicycle path. Finally they slowed down, their lungs on fire, but they still walked quickly in the direction towards home.  Finally they glanced back nervously at the huge wooden doors, hoping that they would not see anything following.
"That was scary!" exclaimed Alex, trying to catch his breath.
"Yeah, I'm glad we are the heck out of there!" panted Valerie.

They made their way home, not talking much as they walked, both of them barely able to believe what they had just witnessed. Valerie was deeply lost in her thoughts as she walked. This was certainly a different kind of adventure than they had ever been on before...

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Last Train is Finished!

  The Last Train, the final installment in the series along with The Heart of The Raven, and The Lost Channel, is finally completed, and will be headed for editing soon. The three adventure stories will be combined to be marketed as ONE book...

  It has taken awhile, but the book is finally done, and this project will now be released as a whole work. For those of you who have read the previous two adventures, I don't think you will be disappointed by The Last Train.......

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Sneak Excerpt from the upcoming "The Gecko's Gate"!

  Here is a piece from The Gecko's Gate, to be released Sept. 1/15!


  The steamy undergrowth parted easily for the friends as they sped through the rainforest, running as though being chased by some unseen enemy. Chase was pleasantly surprised by the speed at which their young guide Otis moved as he darted through the veil of greenery with barely a sound or the sway of a branch to indicate his passing. For two days they had maintained this pace, stopping only for brief periods to drink and eat from their packs.
As he ran, Chase could barely make out Otis' green and gold markings as he disappeared in and out of the leaves ahead, speeding along the unseen path they followed. Jonas and Kiko struggled to keep up, breathing heavily as the forest growth whipped past. The canopy of trees rose high above them, casting moving shadows on the rainforest floor, and a slight mist shrouded the mossy ground. The humidity was almost smothering, the air so heavy with moisture that it was difficult to breathe. Shafts of warm sunlight pierced the canopy above, and like a hundred spotlights, it illuminated the shaded groves of palmetto and tangled vines through which they travelled. They stopped for another rest, each one panting in the humidity.
The friends were now growing weary, and beginning to wonder if they would ever reach the edges of the rainforest. Kiko and Jonas plopped down on the forest floor, while Chase sat on a small toadstool. Otis, however, had perched himself upon a boulder amongst the brush, ever watchful of his surroundings. While he surveyed the area, the others fell into a light sleep, wanting to regain some of their lost energy. Before long the light began to fade as the sun sank toward the horizon, still invisible in the dense growth. As the forest became darker, the four moved on again, three of them feeling refreshed from their naps. It was harder now to keep sight of each other as they ran, and this fact alone dramatically slowed their speed. More care had to be taken as they raced over the uneven ground. Suddenly, Chase sensed something wrong ahead, and slowed quickly to find Otis in front of him. Otis came to a halt so suddenly that the others nearly piled into him, startled by the young chameleon's abrupt stop.
  "Keep quiet!" said Otis nervously. His large eyes darted in different directions, and the friends tried to bring their heavy breathing under control.
  "What is it?" asked Chase, looking around from a crouched position.
Otis remained still and quiet, ignoring the gecko's question. After long moments, he crept forward, sweeping away some ferns from the path in front of him. He revealed a flat stone buried upright in the forest floor, covered in mosses. Several large hieroglyphs could be seen etched into the stone, from its top to its bottom. Jonas squinted at the ancient writing.
  "What is that?" he asked.
  "It is a warning, written in runes," replied Otis slowly, one eye still surveying the greenery beyond them. "It says to beware of the green guardians."
  "What guardians?" asked Jonas, his eyes wide.
  "I do not know, but we had best be cautious," replied the chameleon.
  The friends all looked at one another with puzzled expressions, still crouching down in the brush. Minutes passed, and all they could hear were the sounds of insects and birds around them. Chase's pulse beat in his ears, and he made a conscious effort to settle down and slow his breathing. Kiko looked at Chase nervously, waiting to see what their next move would be.
Otis turned slowly to the others, and motioned them forward. On they went, hands clasped to their weapons, trying not to make a sound. The noise of the birds had become almost deafening to them, their senses now in overdrive. Chase wondered if this was such a great idea; obviously the warning had been put there for a reason. Green guardians? What could it mean? They crept forward, watching every branch and leaf, and searching for any sign of trouble. Kiko shivered slightly, her eyes wide as she gripped her bow in both hands. She didn’t like this in the least, strange warnings written on stones or not.
As they continued, a new sound slowly emerged from the forest: falling water. It grew louder as they went on, drowning out the other noises around them. They began to feel a slight mist wash over them, raining down moisture in the already stifling humidity. The undergrowth was thicker now, dripping with water, and nearly impassable. Onward through the thick growth they crept, listening to the sound of the water, which was almost like thunder.
Soon they emerged from the greenery and out into a clearing covered completely in mosses and a few strange, massive plants, with half-moon-shaped pods at their tops. The pods looked almost like flowers, but they were not quite open, and had spines resembling teeth growing off of them and forming a strange sort of smile. Beyond this clearing there was a large stream and a high waterfall that created a mist in the clearing as it thundered water down into the stream. Chase looked around, noticing green vines running here and there over the mosses, slick from the mists. Kiko and Jonas looked up at the waterfall in awe, watching as tons of water cascaded down into a pool at the top of the stream. Jonas bent down to take a drink from the cool waters and gave them all a smile, indicating that it must be clean.
Otis had taken up a spot to one side, still cautiously eyeing his surroundings. The friends were tired now, and Chase sank against a moss-covered rock for a rest, pulling a dried beetle from his pack to munch on. Kiko shouldered her bow and came to sit beside him, while Jonas continued to examine the stream, looking for fish. He could barely see the bottom since the water was moving fairly quickly, which made it hard to see through even though the waters were clear. Suddenly, he caught movement in the corner of his eye, not in the stream, but on the mosses. He turned slowly, and squinted his vertically slit eyes. Had he seen one of the vines move? He took a step forward, looking at the tangle of green vines in front of him. Pulling his short sword from its sheath, he poked at the nearest vine. It seemed soft, and the sword tip pierced it easily, almost like... flesh.
Jonas had no time to react. As soon as his sword jabbed the vine's soft skin, it whipped up and encircled his sword arm, wrapping tightly and writhing upward from the ground. It flipped him onto the moss, and hoisted him right off the ground, kicking and screaming.
  "Whoa! What the - " exclaimed Kiko.
  "Help him!" yelled Chase.
  Kiko and Chase immediately sprang up from their resting place, rushing forward to help their friend. Otis shouted at them to stay put, but before they realized it, more vines had come to life and were snaking out to grab them. One wrapped around Kiko's waist, and she screeched in surprise. Chase was attacked by two more, one grabbing his arm, and another his leg. Otis stood back out of harm’s way, a spear in his hands now, and both eyes focused on the vines that had ensnared the others.
Chase struggled against the vines, which were tightening their grip on. He fought to draw his sword, but no sooner had he pulled it out of its scabbard than his free arm was wrapped by another vine. The friends were now all in the air except for Otis, and as they fought against the vines, they could see something else beginning to move: the plants. The pods at the tops of the plants turned toward them like large mouths, and Otis could see that these vines were actually attached to them at their bases, like arms. The pods opened and closed, the spines coming together like horrible, sharp teeth. One of the plants thrust its mouth-like pods toward Kiko, snapping at her as she struggled in the vines. Clear liquid drooled out of the pods, as if it were salivating.
Otis wasted no time and threw his spear, knowing that he was in just as much peril as the others. It hit its target dead on, and lodged deep inside the thick part of the plant. It gurgled and screeched, dropping Kiko to the ground. She jumped away and in a flash her bow was drawn. She fired at one of the plants, and her arrow sliced through one of its mouths, sealing it shut. She notched another arrow and fired again, cutting the vine around Chase's sword arm. It fell away, and he was able to chop at the others securing him. Kiko fired again, and this time lodged an arrow deep into the plant that held Jonas. It dropped him heavily, and he rushed back, away from the attack.
Chase freed himself, finally dodging the snapping pods. Instead of retreating, he lunged ahead, driving his sword through the plant's soft midsection. It reared back, and as it did, Chase wrenched his sword free and swung it again in a high arc, cutting two of the pods clean off. The large plant writhed and gurgled as it died, falling into a mass on the mosses. The friends gathered together, breathing heavily and looking around, nervously waiting to see if there were more of these horrible plants in their vicinity. The clearing was silent, however, and the companions relaxed slightly.
  “Let’s not do that again!” said Kiko.
  “Yeah. I agree. Do you suppose that was what the writing on the stone was for?” asked Chase, turning to their guide.
  “Most likely. The runes were in an ancient language, but I have no idea who would have written them there. Let’s hope there are no more of them!” replied Otis, his orbital eyes still scanning the clearing.
  "I don't feel like becoming plant food!" said Jonas. 
  “You can say that again,” Chase agreed. “Let’s keep moving.”

  Cyrus stalked out into the scorching sun that blazed down on the outer courtyard where the armies were assembling. Sand blew in all directions, swirling into every crevice in the flagstone that made up the floor of the yard, and he squinted to keep the wind-blown debris out of his eyes. Lizards moved in every direction as well, scurrying into formations to be inspected by their commanders. As he strode forward out of the gates that led from the keep, he eyed the masses of soldiers standing at the ready with a slight grin on his scaled lips. Armour clanked and swords, spears, and other weapons clattered as the troops moved, coming to full attention as they lined up.
Marius now fell in behind his leader, quickening his pace to keep up. It had been a long time since he had seen this many reptiles preparing for battle, and he knew that this war would claim many lives and sweep the entire continent into bloody chaos. The sun boiled down, causing even the sandstone walls that surrounded the courtyard to shimmer in the heat. Clouds of sand rose as the soldiers stomped along, covering their copper armour in fine layers of dust. Row upon row of troops now lined the huge yard, resembling a sea of armour and glistening spear tips almost as far as the eye could see. Cyrus and his captain continued to walk, scanning the assembled army and its equipment. Giant tortoises were chained to rolling siege towers, and catapults stood amongst the throng, ready to unleash their deadly ordinances. Cyrus now stopped and faced the vast assembly, with Marius at his side.
  "Today will mark a great day in the history of the Stigian Empire!” he shouted.  Cheers erupted, and swords clanged against shields. Cyrus raised his arms to command silence as he continued, and a hush fell over the crowd.
  "We will conquer all who stand before us and be remembered as heroes in our homeland!"
The sound of cheering now became deafening, and Cyrus' eyes burned bright and cruel. He waited a moment for a lull in the noise before he spoke again.
  "I have brought forth a great gift to Stigia, one that, combined with our vast forces, will ensure our victory!" 
  He reached beneath his billowing cape and withdrew the glistening gold octagon. Holding it high above his head, he shouted once again, and every eye gazed in awe at the gleaming gold-and-jewel-encrusted artifact held in their leader’s claws. Spears were raised as the cheers reached a thunderous level. Cyrus grinned cruelly, looking out upon his vast army. They were in a frenzy, mesmerized by the golden treasure that he held high. Their leader drank it all in deeply, feeling the familiar rush of energy that these moments always brought to him.
 Marius now saluted to the gathered throng before them, and the thunderous clump and clank of the army coming to full attention was heard like an explosion. The crowd became silent, eagerly anticipating their next order, as though the thousands assembled had melted into one attentive being. The hot, swirling desert winds were the only sound now, as Cyrus slowly lowered his prize and hid it safely back under his flowing cloak. With a quick movement of his clawed hand, he withdrew his sword from its scabbard, and the shriek of its steel emitted an evil scream. He levelled his blade at the crowd before him.
  "I know the secrets that will lead us to victory!" he shouted, to many cheers.
  Unknown to them, the throng had an additional audience watching from one of the spires of the dark keep above. The Emperor silently regarded the gathered forces and the Lord of Stigia himself from a large window in the throne room. He knew very well that Cyrus was a powerful leader, with great skill at harnessing the morale of his troops. He was definitely accomplished in battle, and a fierce opponent to any who opposed him. But as the Emperor watched, the ancient reptile could not help but wonder if his lord's ambition would eventually spell ruin for the empire that he had built over an age. For long moments he stared down into the outer courtyard, thinking of the Prophecy of the Three, and wondering if it might unravel his great kingdom. Stigia was well protected from any force in the realm, lying in the centre of the Sand Sea. The Emperor sometimes wondered if his own thirst for conquest in these last days might be better served in securing his beloved empire for an eternity of prosperity instead of in battle.
  The Emperor's thoughts turned to rumours of the Chameleon King, once believed to be dead. The people of Stigia whispered to each other that the great King from the Caverns of Andoria may still live. If it were true, then the Prophecy may still live as well, and it could bring Stigia much trouble. There was already discontent within the city, with lizards starving to death, and complaints of high taxes. It was only the fear of the armies, and of the brutal lord who led them, that kept chaos from erupting.
Cyrus’ possession of the Gate did not alleviate the Emperor's worry, either; it was an event foretold in the Prophecy, and gave further cause for the leader of Stigia to be concerned. The theft would only prompt the other races to rise up against the empire in their own defenses. The only thing preventing an assault on their homeland was the Sand Sea, and the fear of Stigia's large armies. If they left to conquer other areas of the realm, what would stop the other races from launching some kind of attack on the city while she was at her weakest? Especially if the rumours of the Chameleon King being alive and well were true. The other races of the realm would have their own powerful leader to flock to. These thoughts and scenarios continued to roll through the Emperor's mind as he watched the troops being rallied. His musings were interrupted by the approach of one of his tall royal guardsmen.
  "Orders, your Highness?"
  "Ensure that at least one battalion of the armies remains behind," he replied slowly. "We may need them here."
  The guardsman bowed slightly, stalking off to carry out his instructions. The Emperor resumed his silent vigil of the army below, and of Cyrus. It was clear that events were already set in motion, and that if the Prophecy was indeed true, there was nothing he could do to stop it from unfolding. He had placed his trust, and the future of the empire, in the reptile leading the throng in the courtyard below, and time would tell if that decision had been the right one.

Pre-Order Now!

Pre-orders are now being taken at http://www.sandspress.com/shop/the-gecko-s-gate-9780993675355-fantasy, so head on over and pre-order your copy of The Gecko's Gate today!

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Gecko's Gate is Eight Weeks From Launch!

The day is finally coming soon! The Gecko's Gate will be LIVE on Net Galley Monday morning, and will be officially available for purchase in eight short weeks! I am finally allowed to reveal the brand new cover, which is quit stunning.... For Pre-order info, please visit sandspress.com!

  As a side note, my Publisher, sandspress.com is actively seeking author submissions in a variety of genres. If you have a manuscript, completed or partial, head over to Sands Press and submit it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Pitfalls and Euphoria of Writer’s Block

By : Dennis Stein

   Every writer will experience it at some point. You are writing your next great story, and all of a sudden, wham, you hit that wall. Writer’s Block. It all seemed to be coming along perfectly, and now you cannot seem to grasp the idea of where your story will go from here. It frustrates you as days pass while you are seemingly unable to progress any further.
  But hey, don’t fret about it. Sometimes writing flows like a river, the sentences and paragraphs spring from your mind to the paper or screen faster than your hands can move. Other times, you may sit for days without coming up with anything new. Do not pressure yourself. Forcing oneself to produce usually ends up with the artist being far from pleased with the resulting work. Like any art, there are times when you are too tired, too stressed, or just have other things that need to be accomplished at the moment.

  And one day, without warning, no matter what you may be doing, an amazing thing happens. The twist in the plot, or the amazing idea for how your story progresses will appear out of nowhere in your mind, and once again your juices of creativity will flow again, causing you to rush to your story, pouring out thousands of words with renewed ambition…

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Something New!!!!

  Have you ever had a situation in your life frustrate you so much that you secretly wish evil on the people responsible? It is not really a good feeling, and the lack of control you have about it just seems to add to the problem. I must confess, it has affected myself and my family deeply.
  Although I believe in Karma, and that you should never wish harm on anyone else, it has brought me to a place where I may have always known that I might arrive. Judge for yourself as I divulge the briefest part on my psyche on this, and a brief look into something that I know will envelope into the darkest part of what I wasn't sure I could write...Horror writing.

The Post

By : Dennis Stein

  The fog in his mind began to clear slowly as he shook himself awake, trying to regain the memory of what was happening. He could not move very well, and the flat of the concrete floor was cold against his dress shirt. As the rush of information flooded his brain, he struggled against the plastic tie wraps which secured his wrists and ankles. He hurt. A thin line of blood on the concrete below his face came into his blurred view, his glasses missing. He tried to focus on the floor. He hadn’t bled too much, but his head was swimming with the pain of a brutal assault. As the haze lifted from his memory, he realized that he was in his own garage. Only a few feet away, his BMW sat silently, a quiet spectator to his pain. The fluorescent lights above gave a barely audible hum, their light reflecting off the pale grey of the concrete floor.
   The dust made him cough suddenly, the light cloud rising from the floor, as he spat out fresh stripes of dark red blood. His ribs hurt bad. It was from the kicking. Disembodied thoughts floated in his mind as he attempted to roll on his side, despite the pain. His vision continued to play tricks on him as he fought to move, knowing that he was injured badly. He squinted his eyes, trying to focus on his surroundings, wondering where she was. It was a ‘she’. He was positive about that. His cheek stung as he laid his face on the floor, another injury she had inflicted on him. As his memory came back, he thrashed about, sure that she was still in the garage somewhere. The pain stopped him, and he suddenly went limp, the dark cloud of his pain overwhelming him. He laid on his side, concentrating on his breathing. That was what the psychologist had told him again and again. Focus on something pleasant, and pay attention to some deep, cleansing breaths...He couldn't get past the coppery taste of the blood in his mouth and throat, it was more than a smell, more like an essence behind his swelled face.
  A shadow fell over him suddenly, blocking the bright white light of the fluorescent tubes above, shocking his eyes into focus on what hovered above him. It was her. He sucked in a breath as she leaned down over his inert body, looking at him with predator's eyes. Black eyes filled with something he could not understand. He felt the goose flesh rise on his arms and the muscles tense in the back of his neck as he watched her lean in toward his face, her eyes filling his blurred vision. His heart pounded blood, and his ears beat with the flow. Every fibre in his body tensed as she leaned in closer, examining him. He heard something. the sound of metal. He craned his head sideways toward the sound, looking for its source. He squinted again, bringing the edge of the blade dragging along the dusty concrete into his view. It was an axe... 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Heart of the Raven released!


The heart of the Raven is now available on Amazon!! Two releases in one week!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Gecko's Gate Advanced Release now available on Amazon!

  The Gecko's Gate Advanced Release Copy is now available on Amazon!!! If you want one of the ARC's, you better grab it quick, because this initial pre-release copy won't be available for long! 

  The talented staff at Sands Press has brought this ten-year writing project to print, along with incredible artwork from artist John Tkachuk!

Here is the Amazon page for The Gecko's Gate!

Amazon Page for The Gecko's Gate!