Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I need your help. Really.

Vote for it Here
I need your help.  No . . . . really . . . I do.   Here's the deal;  Amazon has a new program out called Kindle Scout.  An author submits a new ebook to be considered by Amazon to be included in the new program.  If selected, the author and Kindle Scout sign a five-year renewable contract . . . and get this  . . . said author actually gets PAID for his work!  Real, no-shit-it's-actual-money-MONEY!! 

WOW! What a concept!  It's . . . it's . . . Fantastic.  It's STOOPENDUS!!  It's . . . .

Well, you get the picture.

The reader gets the ebook for free.  A free read and all you have to do is vote for it.  And did I say it was a Turner Hahn/Frank Morales detective novel you'll be reading?  No?  Well, it is.  A complex two-case homicide romp through the back alleys of Hell trying to figure out who the hell did it.

I hope I'm selected.  Turner and Frank are old buddies of mine who need to find an audience.  A big audience.  I think they're two unique characters rarely seen in this genre.  But then, I've said this before.  Often.  So why go over it again.

But vote.  Give them the opportunity to find that audience I mentioned.  Make them come alive in the minds of those out there who love this genre and wants to see it flourish.

To vote for it, click on the Vote for it Here tab.  And thanks, buddy.  I can't tell you how much your help is appreciated.



Monday, July 20, 2015

New artwork and a question over design

The clean, Spartan look
Just received the final artwork for the ebook cover of a new collection of Turner Hahn/Frank Morales short stories.  The collection will be coming out soon.  I'm finishing up on a couple of stories as we speak.  But I love the artwork.  The mental image of what I had in mind translated perfectly by the artist who interpreted them.  Give credit where credit is due; Javier Carmona, of Madrid, Spain, is one very talented artist.  Both of them are, actually.  For years the three of us, Javier and Jesus Carmona and myself have worked to bring word pictures to life in the visual realm.  And we've been really successful.  Or, at least, I think so.

Love the artwork.  But a question did come to mind.  About the title and all the attending verbiage which goes into a book cover.  Essentially, the question is this.  Do we go for a simple clean, Spartan look . . . or do we use a splash of color or two and try to add a little more pizzazz to the whole presentation?

My gut feeling tells me color in the title and in the name of the author is absolutely essential.  Presentation of the title . . . its placement and typeset are essential in making a good cover.

The same can be said about placing, typeset, and color of the typeset for the author's name.  The human eye is a quirky creature.  It roams across a cover in a kind of random . . . yet predictable . . . way.  A potential buyer of the book looks at the artwork, looks at the title, and then at the author's name.   But in what order?  And which of these three views are the most important?  Yes, there have been tons of research probably done on this very issue, and to be frank, I must confess I've been a bit neglectful in finding said research and reviewing the findings.

So I'm going on my gut feelings . . . on what I look for when I go shopping for something to read.  And what I look for is something that is both visually, and viscerally, eye-grabbing the moment I lay my eyes on it.  For me, the eye feeds the soul of my imagination.  Let me feast upon something that inflames my imagination . . . and the chances are it's a sure-fire sale.  I'm buying it and rushing home to dive into it as fast as I can.

The pizzazz look.
But add color;  make the presentation both more palatable and more appealing, and the desire to both buy it and read it increases dramatically.  I can't tell the number of times I've purchased a book for its artwork and presentation, only to get home and dive deep into the book and realize the writing is horrific.  Absolute trash.  Yet, because of the artwork and presentation, I would give the author within a far longer opportunity to convince me his writing would eventually come and around and impress me as well.  Eventually. Hopefully.  But usually . . . sadly . . . no.

So.  What to do?  Go Spartan in design?  Or go with a little more pizzazz?

What do you think?


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

While waiting for artwork . .

Yes, my friends, I have way . . . way . . . way too many writing projects going on at the same.  So many that they are driving me nuts.  Or, perhaps more accurately, more 'nuttier.'  But while waiting for some ebook artwork to get done on a couple of projects, I thought I would share this.

For a long time now I've been thinking about redoing a fantasy novel of mine I published back in '06. It was Roland of the High Crags, Evil Arises.  For those of you who have read it (all two of you), you know all about the story.  For those of you who haven't read it the short synopsis goes like this.

A primitive world has two sentient species.  One human. One dragon.  Both equal in technology and capabilities.  They have been at war with each other for a thousand years.  Genocide is a very real possibility.  But one day a dying dragon baron asks a human warrior-monk-wizard to whisk his only surviving family member away from danger.  Not only save her, but raise her as well.  Raise her and train her in the Bretan way of controlling the vast magical powers she already possesses.  

The problem is the little dragon princess is a weapon.  A weapon designed to destroy the entire human population.  Yet, even though he knows this, the human agrees to the task.

I've added a number of pages to this story.  And I've changed the ending, PLUS added a different introduction.  I want to revive the story and bring out the new version of Book One AND add in Book Two (which was never in print) at the same time.

But for now, thought I would share with you the new intro to Book One.  Tell me what you think.


In my Own Hand I write the History of the Great Struggle



            The moonlight streaming through the narrow slit for a window is strong today.  Its eerie silvery light filled with mysteries yet to be discovered and the ghostly whispers of voices yet to be heard.  And peace.  A breath of quiet, still, peace I have not felt for quite some time. I have been in this cell for oh, so long. Years.  Decades.  Perhaps centuries . . .I cannot say.
            But it's time, brother.
            Time for me to leave the confining space of this narrow dungeon cell.  Time to elude my captors and again take up the sword and shield. The fight will continue.  What was . . .  will be again.  The promise of futures lost perhaps ready to be born again.  There is no escaping the cycle.  Years of solitude, of captivity, have only made me stronger. Aye, brother . . . my body is old and frail.  White is the color of my hair now.  The wrinkles of age on my face too numerous to count. My bones creak and groan every time I stir from my bed. But the soul, brother . . . the soul within this ancient casket of flesh and bone remains strong! And as long as my soul lives . . .
            How long have I been in this dungeon cell I cannot say.  I gave up counting the days and years long ago. Suffice to say it has been at least one life time.  Perhaps two.  This narrow slit deep in the bowels of some ancient fortress long forgotten, its walls made of stone streaked with a rare metal which limits my wizardry powers, has counted with me many summers and winters passing.  Patiently I have waited for this day.  I endured. I survived.  I fought back the pain of my captor's torments. I fought the long hours of unbelievable silence which pushed me close to the edge of the abyss called insanity.  For years I heard not the sound of a human voice. I endured in this cell of infinite solitude.
            I gather strength standing in the light of a full moon.  Now, in my old age, it is the white light
of a full moon that soothes the troubled waters of my soul and quietly infuses me with a sublime, almost sensual, feeling of strength hard to describe.  Years ago, while still a young man, I would never have admitted such a truth.  My training, my religious order, would have frown upon these words and would have forced me to recant.  But not now, faithful servant.  Not after all these years of abandonment and solitude.
            Know you, pilgrim, I am, or at least at one time long, long ago, a Bretan monk. A Bretan warrior-monk.  I wear still the yellow robes of that ancient order with deep humiliation and love.  Even though . . . even though in the eyes of my kind, both brothers and sisters of the order, I am an Apostate. A feared and loathed disbeliever who has taken up the sword against his faith.  Against the teachings of the Bretan.
            They will tell you, my Bretan brothers and sisters, that it was I who brought this Great Evil among us.  It was I who, when given the chance to destroy this Great Evil long before she became what she is today, I failed in my faith and allowed her live. To not only live, Pilgrim, but to thrive!  To grow in her strength and powers of the Netherworld through the training and technique of a Bretan wizard.
            For she is indeed a formidable power, brother.  Her command of the Netherworld magic is beyond comparison.  She lives in both worlds.  Both here in the Middle Kingdom where all our souls still wrapped in these caskets of flesh and blood reside in, and in the World of the Dead as well.  The Netherworld. Lives in both at the same time. Aware of both; interacts in both dimensions, all at the same time. No mortal wizard or witch before her has ever accomplished such a feat.
            How many have I died because of Her?  How many empires have fallen?  How many loving families ripped asunder?  Millions.  Hundreds of millions. And she still reins over the many.  Because of her a great imbalance permeates throughout the Great Cycle which both the Neatherworld and the Middle Kingdom revolve around. An imbalance that must be corrected. Has to be corrected if this Universe as we know it is to remain intact and operate like the great mechanism it is.
            But she is, Pilgrim, not the She whom I raised. She is a different soul.  A She from some far distant Past who, when the opportunity was offered to her, stole the one whom I raised from childhood and imprisoned her as well.
            Aye brother . . . aye.  It is something beyond knowing, beyond belief, that which I scribble hurriedly on this parchment  A She from a different Past, you say?  How could this be?  What Dark Magic is being laid bare here? How could someone from the Past, someone long since dead, return to the Now and replace the living?  But it is so, Pilgrim.  It is so. And it falls upon my shoulders to rectify this Great Schism and bring back the Laws of Order and Tranquility from the Rules of Chaos and Darkness.
            It begins tonight, my brother.  Tonight . . .when the full moon hurls its first bright beams of pure light through the bars of this narrow dungeon cell. When the shaft of  soft silvery white light touches the stone floor I will step into its sweet embrace I will . . . I will . . .
            But before this happens.  Before the struggle begins anew, I will hurriedly scribble a few lines of what took place before.  I will write a short History of the Struggle with the forces of Chaos and those entities whom reside in the Netherworld.
            I am Bretan, brother.  Once known as an honorable warrior-monk and wizard.  I am Roland.  Known as Roland of the High Crags.

            And this is my story.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Being a writer and waiting for Lady Luck

So okay; the Smitty novella, A Killing Kiss (click on the cover in the right hand column to order) has been out for a little while now. Number Thirteen Press, the new English publisher who is offering it, is doing a marvelous job of coming out with really great crime-fest creations.  They are trying to come out with a novella on the 13th of every month.  One hell of a chore if you ask me.  But, for the most part, they've been cranking'em out on time.  

I feel honored, by the way, on being the sixth one of their new batch of offerings.  But I have to be careful here.  I've been writing for 55 years.  I could overload this new establishment with my 'stuff' in a blinking of the eye . . . so you know . . . slow down!

Now the real chore begins.  How in hell do you get the word out that Smitty is here in a damn good story, one which everyone who has read it has offered a 5-star review, and not go stark raving mad doing it.  How do you pump up its recognition factor on a limited budget?  (I'm the guy with the limited budget . . . as if you didn't know already)

It's true.  The number of writers who make a full time living off nothing but writing their own material can probably be counted on ten fingers.  Well . . . maybe add another couple of hands worth of fingers to it . . . but you get the picture.  The vast majority of writers have to keep their day jobs in order to remain solvent.

Add to the fact that, at last estimate, there were about a BAZILLION writers out there who think they are just as good as any of the Top Sellers in their subjective genres, and you add to the picture of abject poverty  It's kind interesting, really, to think about it;  there is a boat load of TALENT in this world.  There really is.  But LUCK?  A writer has to be more LUCKY than talented in order to succeed in his chosen profession.

But LUCK my friends, is a finicky bitch.  You never know who she is going to smile upon with approval and tap on their shoulder her ephemeral gifts.

So, as a writer, you've got to become creative in your recognition efforts.  Every writer I know is networking on the social sites to get the word out.  Networking everywhere.  Hoping that somewhere . . . somehow . . . things will click  and their LUCK will change for the better.

And/or they're at one bookstore or another physically huckstering their wares.  I've done that.  Don't mind doing it.  But where I live, fella, the bookstores I need to sell my wares are 90 or 120 miles away . . . one way . . . to get there. (yeah, when I tell you I live out out in the boondocks in a state that's just pretty well empty of people, I mean it)  So that costs money to get there and back.

So what the hell.  I think I'll just write for another 55 years and wait for LUCK to eventually meander down the trail and stumble across my dead carcass.  It's gotta happen sooner or later.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A new collection of Turner Hahn/Frank Morales stories coming soon

Turner Hahn
Came up with this brilliant, crazy, stupendous idea!  A collection of Turner Hahn/Frank Morales short stories, maybe about five or six of'em, rolled up and packaged with a set of black-and-white illustrations thrown in for an additional thrill.

If you've followed this blog . . . you've ran into Turner and Frank.  Homicide detectives the two of them.  Turner is one who looks like Clark Gable . . . but bigger, stronger, and a bit meaner.  And rich; don't forget rich.  Earned his money the American way---he inherited it from a grandfather he didn't know was still alive.

A long story.  You need to read the second novel of the series to get the background on this one.

Frank is Turner's long time partner.  Red headed, built like a Tiger tank (with no discernible neck connecting head to shoulders) and with an IQ of a couple of Einsteins combined, Frank is, shall we say, a physical presence worth noting by friend and foe alike.

Two unique, interesting, characters.  First created and explored in a series of on going novels I'm trying to find a publisher for . . . and alive in a number of short stories I've written over the years.  And am still writing.  So far there's about 25 or 30 short stories.  Kinda amazing, if you think about it.  Thirty some-odd different homicide cases solved and none of'em quite like the other.

So I've got five new short stories ready to go.  Well . . . almost ready to go.  Maybe six if I get the last one just started finished up in time.  Waiting right not for the cover art for the ebook collection to be done . . . plus finishing up a couple of stories.  But close: real close in getting the collection out there.


Frank Morales
The stories range from out-and-out spooky to the traditional 'whodunits.'What I like the most about the stories, and the books, is the chemistry the two have with each other.  Yes, they are mystery/detectives stories.  But they are also 'buddy' tales as well.  Two friends who know each other and like being around each other.  I like that---I find it rare to find in most genre fiction.

Some famous pundit once said (more or less); "If you can't find the story out there you want to read, then you must write it."

I agree.

I like a good crime story.  I like the plots laid out in such a way that they are both logical, AND, that they can be solved in a realistic fashion.  I like stories with a twist.  Not something so outrageous and unexpected it borders on the bizarre,  But something unexpected.

What's kinda fun is that, over the years, Turner and Frank has picked up a small following of sorts.  Fans who, like me, enjoy reading about their exploits.  Not a big fan base, mind you; nothing large enough to tickle the interest of a major publisher to pick'em and give'em a fair chance to build on.  But small.  And maybe, slowly growing.

The artwork, by the way, being done for the series is from the talented hands of a Spaniard by the name of Javier Carmona.  He, and his brother Jesus, have done most of the artwork for my books and stories.  Javier is doing both the cover and the black-and-whites for this collection as well.  Over the years we've developed an easy relationship that, I hope, has been beneficial for all of us.   It certainly has for me.

So expect the collection out soon.  And I leave you with one final image.  One of the black-and-white's.  

Enjoy!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Smitty's next novella

Smitty again. 

Following up on the success of 'A Killing Kiss' published by the new ebook/paperback publisher, Number Thirteen Press, I decided to upgrade a Smitty story I started sometime back and turn it into a novella.  The idea is to submit it to the above publisher again in the hopes they might be amenable to the idea of building up a fan following for my dark eyed killer.

I'm aiming for a goal of 120-125 pages this time.  And again, like all my stories, the twists and turns in the story I'm hoping will trip up the reader just enough to make them want to dig deeper into the puzzle.  I've never liked a story that simply began at A and followed along a straight and narrow road which ran straight and true all the way to B and beyond predictably.  I like my stories twisty and convoluted.  Not so much as the mundane standard straight alphabet run. Rather, a tipsey turvey roller coaster ride on a curving back county road in the hill country of Colorado or Arkansas.

All I'm saying further about the story is this;  It is amazing how absolute fear and absolute disgust seem to be so closely related to each other.

Enjoy the next two pages of 'Sometimes Nightmares Come True.'


One

            His hands were shaking.
            Shaking violently.
            He grinned . . . hysterically . . . lifting a hand up and watching it rattle and quake visibly in front of him.  Looking at it he realized he was also having a hard time breathing. Short, explosive bursts were coming out of his lungs.  Like someone who'd just seen a . . .  a . . . a . . . ghost.  Wiping sweat from his brow with the back of the shaking hand he turned and reached for the Zippo lighter and a pack of cigarettes lying on the green felt table top.  It took a moment of sustained concentration to make the yellowish blue flame of the lighter finally touch the tip of the cigarette.  Pulling in a deep drag he held it for a moment, turned, and exhaled slowly as he tossed the lighter back onto the table.
            Would he come?  Would he really come and hear what he had to say?
            Why would he come?  He was a nobody.  A schmuck.  A common grunt with little cash and no friends.  So why would a guy like this come and hear what he had to say?  Unless . . . unless . . .
            Panic gripped him.  He staggered back against the wall of the condemned building his dad used to own and work as a local saloon, a hand over his mouth and eyes as wide as sauce pans.  Glancing to his right and left with spasmodic jerks of the head, staring into the depths of the dark shadows filling the long, narrow, musky smelling old building, his imagination was seeing him . . . seeing him with a gun in his hand . . . coming out of the darkness.  Materializing out of nothing with gun in hand and the muzzle aimed straight for his head.
            My god!  My god!  My god . . . . !
            He leapt toward the old wooden chair slid back from the card table.  Leapt toward the webbing and holster and the gun riding in the cheap leather.  Reached for the handle of the Colt .357 Python . . . and froze in mid motion, hand outstretched, eyes bulging at the image on the floor directly opposite of the table.
            Shoes.
            Black loafers.  Brightly polished to a mirror image. With just the cuffs of a pair of dark slacks above them in the dim light of a street corner lamp cutting a shaft of light through the gloom of the old building.
            Someone was standing in the darkness just a few feet away!  Just standing there silently.  Making no noise.  Watching.  Silently observing.  As noiseless as a ghost.  He stared into the darkness in front of him and saw nothing.  Saw nothing!  Heard nothing! But he knew.  He was there.  Knew the guy was . . . was . . . was . . .
            Sweat rolling down his brow. His lips squirming and rolling around as if he was either about to scream or beg for mercy.  Bulging eyes, filled with madness, kept glancing down and at the wooden gripes of the .357 only inches away from his outstretched hand.  Frozen in this position unable to move.  He knew he was dead if he lunged for the gun.  Knew he probably was dead anyway.  Why would a guy like him help him out of a jam?  A big time killer like that?  Someone who usually worked only for guys like Paulie.  For big time money.  Why would a guy this good even consider taking on the job he had in mind for mere pennies?
            Unless, of course, Paulie had already hired this guy to find him and silence him.
            With a groan of resignation, eyes filling with tears, he dropped the outstretched hand to his side and stood up slowly.  Bowing his head, closing his eyes, he knew there was nothing he could do.  He wasn't as fast as him.  He couldn't run.  He sure as hell wasn't going to fight this guy. So he accepted it.  Accepted his death and waited for the bullet to drive through his head.
            Outside in the streets some guy was riding his horn angrily as some jerk who wouldn't move on the green of a traffic light fast enough.  In the distance was the sound of a siren, probably an ambulance, hurrying to some unknown tragedy.  There was also the momentarily loud engine whine, and then the metallic 'thunk' of an empty garbage can being slapped onto the sidewalk pavement.
            But there was no Boom! of a gun going off.  No bullet was ripping through his cranium, splattered the wall directly behind him with his blood and brain matter.  Inside the old building there was only semi-silence; with only his heart beat breaking the absolute silence of this mausoleum.  Stunned.  Amazed.  Hesitant . . . he opened one eyelid hesitantly, lifting his head up to stare into the dark shadows in front of him.  At the ghost known as Smitty.
            He was sitting at the table.  In the other old wooden chair.  An average sized man with dark, short cropped hair and a razor thin nose.  Nattily dressed in a pair of tailored dark brown slacks, with a black shirt and metallic silver tie underneath a dark chocolate brown sport coat.  One leg was thrown over the other.  Hands were folded together and lying neatly on his lap.  There was a thin half smile . . . a smirk . . . stretching across his lips.  Dark eyes, dark as midnight, stared up at him unblinking.
            The image of Death sitting quietly in a chair and waiting.  Patiently waiting for the inevitable to happen.
            "You . . . you got my message."
            The dark eyed man nodded silently and made no other motion.  Just sat in the chair, legs crossed, hands on his lap, and continued to stare at the standing man curiously.
            "Look . . . I . . . I don't know what to do.  I'm in big trouble.  Deep shit I can't shovel my way out and I need help.  Help only you know how to do."
            "I heard," the smartly dressed man answered with a voice slightly stronger than a whisper and infinitely, infinitely, nerve wracking.  "I came because you asked, Joey.  You've helped me in the past several times.  Helped me out of a couple of jams.  Just paying back a debt I owe.  That's all.  So sit down and tell me everything.  From the beginning."

            Joey stood up, ran a shaking hand across parched lips as he stared at the dark man with the dark eyes and wondered how the hell did he get in here and not make a sound.  But, dropping the hand to his waist, he giggled insanely.  Why ask a stupid question!  Smitty was here.  Everyone knew Smitty just showed up unannounced.  And left when he no one was looking.  This was Smittty fer chrissakes.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rebirth

You're a writer.  Your preference in writing is genre fiction.  That's almost a guarantee you're going to create a series.  A series featuring a specific character.  It's natural.  Like mayonnaise on a ham sandwich.  Not kosher if you have one and not the other.

So I created a character by the name of Roland.  Roland of the High Crags.  A warrior-monk-wizard, who has, upon occasion, anger management problems. The genre is Heroic Fantasy (Fantasy for sure; the Heroic Fantasy is a moniker I'm not sure has been invented yet).  

The idea was to create a heroic character who was . . . flawed.  Maybe more human than hero.  A hero who has doubts.  Has fears.  And definitely has a temper.  Mix in some wizardry magic, some swordplay, some impossible escapes . . . and give him a quest that he will find impossible not to accept . . . and as I thought, you would have the perfect novel.  One that anyone would want to read.

Well brother, I was wrong.

Every publisher I sent it to, sent it back with a form letter that said, in so many words, "Thanks for this idiotic story . . . and NO, we don't want the damn thing!"  

The only option left was to self publish.  I did.  About nine people have read.  And liked it immensely, if you believe their comments.  But that's it.  About nine people.  Okay.  But Roland doesn't want to go away.  He is, at least to me, a damn interesting character.  One that has story possibilities that are almost inexhaustible.  I want to keep writing the stories.  But more than anything, I want people to discover and READ them.

The idea hit me a couple of days ago.  Combine Books One and Two together . . . bridge the gap with some new writing . . . and write an Intro that'll captivate the potential buyer almost instantly.  And artwork . . . maybe re visualize the cover with something different but striking in nature.

Last night I wrote something which might turn out to be the Intro just mentioned.  I thought I would share it.  Maybe get some feedback.  Maybe not.  What do you think?


In my Own Hand, I write the History of the Great Struggle



            The sunlight streaming through the narrow slit for a window is strong today.  Its warmth fills my old soul with a deep sense of satisfaction.  And peace.  A breath of quiet, still, peace I have not felt for quite some time. I have been in this cell for oh, so long. Years.  Decades.  Perhaps centuries . . .I cannot say.
            But it's time, brother.
            Time for me to leave the confining space of this narrow dungeon cell.  Time to elude my captors and again take up the sword and shield. The fight will continue.  What was will be again.  There is no escaping the cycle.  Years of solitude ,of captivity, have only made me stronger. Aye, brother . . . my body is old and frail.  White is the color of my hair now.  The wrinkles of age on my face too numerous to count. My bones creak and groan every time I stir from my bed. But the soul. brother . . . the soul within this ancient casket of flesh and bone remains strong! And as long as my soul lives . . .
            How long have I been in this dungeon cell I cannot say.  I gave up counting the days and years long ago. Suffice to say it has been at least one life time.  Perhaps two.  This narrow slit deep in the bowels of some ancient fortress long forgotten, its walls made of stone streaked with a rare metal which limits my wizardry powers, has counted with me many summers and winters passing.  Patiently I have waited for this day.  I endured. I survived.  I fought back the pain of my captor's torments. I fought the long hours of unbelievable silence which pushed me close to the edge of the abyss called insanity.  For years I heard not the sound of a human voice. I endured in this cell of infinite solitude.
            Know you, pilgrim, I am a Bretan monk. A Bretan warrior-monk.  I wear still the yellow robes of that ancient order with deep humiliation and love.  Even though . . . even though in the eyes of my kind, both brothers and sisters of the order, I am an Apostate. A feared and loathed disbeliever who has taken up the sword against his faith.  Against the teachings of the Bretan.
            They will tell you, my Bretan brothers and sisters, that it was I who brought this Great Evil among us.  It was I who, when given the chance to destroy this Great Evil long before she became what she is today, I failed in my faith and allowed her live. To not only live, Pilgrim, but to thrive!  To grow in her strength and powers of the Netherworld through the training and technique of a Bretan wizard.
            For she is indeed a formidable power, brother.  Her command of the Netherworld magic is beyond comparison.  She lives in both worlds.  Both here in the Middle Kingdom all souls still wrapped in these caskets of flesh and blood reside in, and in the World of the Dead as well.  The Netherworld. Lives in both at the same time. Aware of both; interacts in both dimensions, all at the same time. No mortal wizard or witch before her has ever accomplished such a feat.
            How many have died because of Her?  How many empires have fallen?  How many loving families ripped asunder.  Millions.  Hundreds of millions. And she still reins over the many.  Because of her a great imbalance permeates throughout the Great Cycle which both the Neatherworld and the Middle Kingdom revolve around. An imbalance that must be corrected. Has to be corrected if this Universe as we know it is to remain intact and operating like the great mechanism it is.
            But she is, Pilgrim, not the She whom I raised. She is a different soul.  A She from some far distant Past who, when the opportunity was offered to her, stole the one whom I raised from childhood and imprisoned her as well.
            Aye brother . . . aye.  It is something beyond knowing, beyond belief, that which I scribble hurriedly on this parchment  A She from a different Past, you say?  How could this be?  What Dark Magic is being laid bare here? How could someone from the Past, someone long since dead, return to the Now and replace the living?  But it is so, Pilgrim.  It is so and it falls upon my shoulders to rectify this Great Schism and bring back the Laws of Order and Tranquility from the Rules of Chaos and Darkness.
            And it begins tonight, my brother.  Tonight . . .when the full moon hurls its first bright beams of pure light through the bars of this narrow dungeon cell. When the shaft of  soft golden/white light touches the stone floor I will step into its sweet embrace I will . . . I will . . .
            But before this happens.  Before the struggle begins anew, I will hurriedly scribble a few lines of what took place before.  I will write a short History of the Struggle with the forces of Chaos and those entities whom reside in the Netherworld.
            I am Bretan, brother.  Once known as an honorable warrior-monk and wizard.  I am Roland.  Known as Roland of the High Crags.