Tag Archives: fantasy

Marion County Fair 2017

I had a great time meeting new fans at the Marion County Fair this past weekend. Thanks for everyone’s support and enthusiasm for THE LAIRD OF DUNCAIRN!

Fey Matter Update

THE LAIRD OF DUNCAIRN received a great review today from Cecily Wolfe:

Well-developed characters and plot make this historical fantasy a true pleasure to read and become lost in. Readers looking for a strong female protagonist will find her in Effie, who is believable and likeable. A very unique and fascinating story – I definitely can’t wait for this series to continue!

I am so happy readers are enjoying the first installment of The Fey Matter series, and I hope the second will be in their hands within the year! I’m currently revising book II–as yet unnamed–and am eager to hand it over to my publisher (City Owl Press) by the end of summer!

The Augurwraith by Craig Comer – Part VIII

The assassin appeared at her side. He held the crossbar meant to wedge the doors in place, but instead, he heaved the beam at the newcomers. It clattered along the floor at their feet, causing them to slow and jump out of the way.

Lucendes reached into his shirt and plucked out the totem, handing it to her. As Saja felt the cool glass, a shiver went up her arms. The last time she’d seen Tarim, he’d run a hand through her hair as they strolled through the potters bazaar. Would he remember?

“Do it now!” Lucendes said. “As Khouri instructed!”

Saja glanced up. The thugs were almost on top of them. Raising the totem, she hurled it at their feet. She found her voice and shouted, “Tarim, son of Yusri!” The totem shattered, and a flash of white light seared Saja’s eyes, blinding her.

She stumbled backward into the doors. Dark shadows grew solid as her vision returned. All but one.

“Tarim,” she whispered. He was clothed in the fine vest and shirt of one of the Kitame’s guard, with a silk sash of blue wrapped around his waist. Hanging from a belt was a curved sword.

He wasn’t the boy from Saja’s dreams. That Tarim was more solid, somehow more real. The Tarim before her was blurred, as if the details of his face—the glint of his eyes and ridge of his cheeks—weren’t fully formed. Or perhaps they were just hidden from this world.

The augurwraith studied the foyer, taking in the minions of the Horned Man, who’d stopped in horror of their new adversary. It shifted its gaze to Lucendes, and finally, to Saja. Joy swelled in her chest, then dwindled to nothingness.

No recognition showed in its features.

The creature drew its giant blade and snarled. One of the thugs dropped his stave and ran. The augurwraith turned and sprang forward, cleaving a path through the other men. Where its sword met flesh, great rents blossomed. Its movement was a drifting mist, its already blurred features seeming to dissolve and reform with each step.

A man with a short sword hacked at the creature’s back, but the steel slid through the augurwraith like a stick through a spider web, pulling tendrils of mist in its wake. The creature slashed low, and the man clutched at sundered legs as he fell.

The remaining minions bolted for the far reaches of the room, where a pair of doors and a corridor led off to other parts of the storehouse. The augurwraith pursued them, its whirling blade a dark streak of shadow.

Saja trembled, not quite comprehending what she saw. Tarim. And the creature. Existing together, yet not the same. They couldn’t be. She took in the butchery, and something steeled within her gut. No, she thought. This couldn’t be how she remembered him. With a determined step, she strode forward.

Across the foyer, the augurwraith disappeared into the corridor. Saja quickened her stride. She’d reached halfway to the edge of the room, when Lucendes grabbed her shoulders.

“Let it be,” he said. Saja tried to shrug him off, but his grip tightened.

“I have to see him,” she said, “the real Tarim. My Tarim.” She squirmed in his embrace, straining against his wiry arms. Her hand found the knife at her belt, and she drove its butt into his gut.

He shuffled back, releasing her, and they glared at one another. Lucendes’ face was a tense mask, his skin pulled tight around his eyes and lips. Saja knew if he lunged with his dagger, she would die.

But the assassin relaxed and shook his head. “It is foolish to hope such things,” was all he said.

Saja ran. Bodies lined the corridor, leaving a trail easy to follow. She rounded a corner and hurried down a flight of stairs, as a scream echoed from below. Her feet hit dirt, and she leapt toward an open door just as a stout man with graying locks burst through from the other side.

Saja grunted as they collided, and the wind was knocked from her lungs. She was thrown back and landed hard on her rump. The man cursed, staring down at where her knife stuck from his chest. His knees buckled, and he dropped.

Saja blinked, but she had no time to dwell upon what she’d done. Scrambling to her feet, she padded around the man and peered through the door. The augurwraith stood within, stalking a man who already clutched at a flayed hand. Several tables lay overturned and broken, and in the far corner, a trapdoor rested open against the wall.

But it was the form huddled against the near wall that halted Saja’s breath. Her father lay with nothing but a soiled cloth wrapped about his waist. Purple welts covered his body, and caked blood matted in his hair.

She rushed to his side, and the movement brought the creature spinning toward her, sword raised high.

“No!” she roared. “You are Tarim, son of Yusri, not this creature!” Fury burned within her chest. At her father and the guild. At Lucendes and the thieves of Kuthahaar. And at Tarim. The apprentice had wounded her deepest of all. She’d thought to tell him of how much she loved him, but now as she stood before him, she felt only the anger of betrayal.

“You could’ve run,” she said. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and her body shivered. “We could’ve hid from my father and found a life together. But you abandoned me and ripped that life away.”

The augurwraith’s face remained hard, but it lowered its blade. “You are wrong, Saja, daughter of Sukahn,” it said.

A voice gasped in wonder. “Tarim, I dared not truly believe.” Saja’s father gawked at his former apprentice, then racking sobs overtook him. “What have I done?” he cried.

“You did what you thought best,” said Tarim. He turned his gaze to Saja. “As did I, no matter how much it hurt you.” He paused, and the silence seemed to suck the air from the room. “What is done, is done. You must find a way without me.”

“Is that all?” she asked, though she knew Tarim’s words for truth. He’d tried to save her and her father the best way he could, the only way left to an apprentice bound to a penniless drunkard of a master.

The apprentice shimmered as if its shadowy form was suddenly taken by a gust of wind. “Do not seek me again. It only brings me pain.” Tarim’s face grew sorrowful, then began to fade.

As the augurwraith dissipated, Saja felt a void open within her. A great hunk of her old life ripped away, and with it went the false hope she’d tucked deep in her heart, one she’d never admitted existed, even to herself. The hope Tarim would return to her. In that void, Saja realized she would need to forge resolve and strength. He’d given his life for her future, and she meant not to squander that gift. She’d rescued her father once but would need to do so again. She loved him still and would not abandon him the way he’d abandoned her.

Across the room, the remaining minion of the Horned Man stared at Saja in bewilderment, clutching his bloodied hand. “Run, fool! To the Under!” barked Lucendes. The man jumped at the assassin’s command and scampered to the trapdoor, disappearing down a hole in the floor.

“Saja,” said her father, shoulders jerking as he continued to sob. “I ruined us. Who will trade with me now?”

“Don’t worry, papa,” she replied. She helped him to his feet, then grinned at Lucendes. “I am your new apprentice, and I believe the Tanner’s Guild will soon be sending you more work than you can handle. And at a very favorable price.”

The assassin laughed. “Perhaps,” he said. “The Blessed One does take care of his own.”

THE END

Originally published in Pulp Empire Volume IV.

© Craig Comer

A Fey Matter II Rough Draft Complete!

Feeling excited and accomplished this past week, as I’ve finished the rough draft of my second Fey Matter novel. As yet untitled, it currently weighs in at 95K words (though I’m sure it’ll grow a bit in editing) and follows Effie as she uncovers a series of shocking events springing from the aftermath of THE LAIRD OF DUNCAIRN.

effie-snipit“That notoriety persuaded her little did not lessen the desire that gripped her to have a voice in the matter, one that would rattle the empire and shake free the parasitic hold of prejudices against the fey.”

Work on THE LAIRD OF DUNCAIRN continues as I get my marketing ducks in a row. I saw a mock up of the cover, and I’m excited to reveal it, hopefully sometime soon!

BM_Small_newLast, Garrett Calcaterra, one of the co-authors of THE ROADS TO BALDAIRN MOTTE has posted his novella from that book for FREE on Wattpad. What, free? Yep, and if you like that, you can also check out his YA fantasy novel, DREAMWIELDER, as well.

The novella is entitled, ON THE BLACK WIND TO BALDAIRN MOTTE, and you can find it by clicking here.

The Augurwraith by Craig Comer – Part VII

Despite the sun’s absence, the day’s heat continued to infest the city as if some great hearthstone burned unseen. Saja and Lucendes strode through the alleys of the Tanner’s District, guided by the light of the moon. The streets still held a host of denizens, but the peddlers had gone home and the craft shops had closed. The only hint of commerce remaining came from the jovial chatter spilling from the district’s alehouses, and on occasion, from the moans of pleasure emanating from the shadows.

It’d taken Khouri the afternoon to prepare the summoning totem—a lock of Saja’s hair tied around a garnet-encrusted glass medallion, steeped in an unction of oils—and Lucendes had used the time to set his plan in motion. He’d returned to the augur’s house wearing a loose robe of green over his shirt and trousers. It hid the half-dozen daggers he now carried. To Saja, he’d given a small knife, and its weight at her hip felt strange, like an unwanted reminder of the bond between them.

As they crossed a star-shaped plaza at the convergence of several streets, three men in similar green robes joined them. Saja regarded the men, then peered into the shadows. “Only three?” she asked.

“Our strike needs to be fast,” said Lucendes. “Too much commotion and the Seers will send the city guard. They watch the city from above, like falcons circling, but with Magi enhanced eyes. It is how the Sultan keeps his peace.” He pulled his lips tight, not quite the grin he wore earlier in the day. “But don’t worry, we have all the strength we need.” Saja thought of the totem he’d tucked beneath his shirt, and nodded.

The assassins marched on in silence, each knowing what was expected of them. Saja’s heart battered her ribs so hard, she thought they’d shatter. For her sake, she hoped these other men were as good as Lucendes. She concentrated on taking deep breaths, trying to keep her mind from the bloodletting to come.

Thankfully, she didn’t have to wait long. Two of the assassins peeled off from the group as soon they turned down a narrow street lined with sandstone buildings. They quickly disappeared into the darkness, and when Saja stared after them, Lucendes slapped her rump.

She spun on him, raising a hand to strike him back. But he caught her wrist and wrapped his other arm around her shoulder. Laughing loudly, he leaned into her as if they were an amorous couple returning from an evening out. The remaining assassin dropped back, giving them space.

Saja fumed but went along with the ruse. Lucendes led them down the street in a slow procession, chortling and babbling nonsense. He tapped at Saja’s shoulder as they went, and at first she thought he was trying to get her attention. But then she realized: he’s counting!

They approached a storehouse flanked by a pair of taller buildings. In its center, a pair of double doors stood open, but guarded by a half-dozen men.

Lucendes stopped tapping.

“The lookouts are dead,” he said. “Now it is our turn.” He strode toward the guards, leaving Saja behind. The other assassin joined him, pulling two long knives from his robe. The men at the door started and fell into a line behind a brawny thug. Some of those in back glanced warily up and down the street, but the leader glared at Lucendes.

“The Blessed One sends his greetings,” said the assassin.

The thug spat. He raised a hand, as if to make a threatening gesture. Instead, he gurgled and dropped to his knees, a dagger sprouting from his throat.

Lucendes and his companion rushed forward, blades flashing silver in the night. The minions of the Horned Man recovered from their shock and met the assassins with cudgels and staves.

Wood cracked against stone and metal whooshed through the air. Two of the guards fell before Lucendes, as he spun and stuck with his dancer’s grace. He was not a snake, Saja thought, watching him, he was some sly cat of the desert.

He flung a dagger at another of the guards, catching the man in the thigh, then turned toward Saja. “Come!” he barked.

Saja clamped her teeth together, to keep her gut from spewing out, and hurried forward. By the time she’d reached him, he’d swung shut one of the doors and was pushing hard against the other. His companion battled against the remaining guards, slashing and hacking like a madman, forcing them into the street.

“Get inside,” said Lucendes. Saja ducked into a massive foyer lit by a pair of braziers. Footsteps clapped across the tile floor from the far side, where a score of the Horned Man’s thugs raced toward them.

Lucendes slammed the door shut behind Saja. She opened her mouth to scream, but it’d long since gone dry. “Lucendes,” was all she was able to gasp.

…to be continued

Originally published in Pulp Empire Volume IV.

© Craig Comer

blog_tree

The Augurwraith by Craig Comer – Part VI

Saja took a breath to quell her panic. The thief—no assassin—was trying to negotiate with her, she realized. “Why would the Blessed One want to help my father?” she asked. “Why would you want to help me speak with Tarim?”

“Ah, now it makes sense,” said Khouri, rubbing at his jaw. “I can see a vision without need of my scrying bowl. The Blessed One moves against the Horned Man, to take control of protection for the Tanner’s Guild. It is well known to certain ears.” He turned to Saja. “Your father will be found with one or the other.”

“He is with the minions of the Horned Man,” said Lucendes. “For the debts he owes them, they will make him suffer the wrath of their god.”

Anger flared within Saja, washing away her fear. Her father had brought her trouble. Again. She stared at Lucendes, seeing a coiled snake. He’d rescued her from the tanners because he needed her. He’d wanted to use her all along, just as they had.

“You would allow me to see Tarim,” she said, “but only if you can also use him as a weapon in your fight. That is why you concern yourself with the supposed rescue of my father.”

“He needs you,” Khouri agreed. “An augurwraith is a terrible creature—a warrior of the shadows forged from the same mystical powers that birth clairvoyance and precognition, but blended with the strongest of death magic. It is not surprising the Kitame use them as personal bodyguards. Not quite human anymore, they are not quite dead.

“An augur’s wraith, yes, an omen of death. Trying to summon one not bound to you is beyond dangerous. It is something only a master augur would dare attempt. You might as well challenge the will of the Sultan!”

“Strong emotions can sway them to their old life,” said Lucendes. “It has been done before.” Khouri sighed and nodded, conceding the point, though he continued to mutter under his breath.

“And if I refuse?” asked Saja.

Lucendes turned to her, an almost apologetic look upon his face. “Then you will not see your father, nor your Tarim, again.”

Damn them all, thought Saja. Her hands knotted into fists at her waist. Spite boiled within her, and she wished for nothing more than to storm away from Lucendes and deny him his nefarious designs. But where would she storm to? The question had plagued her for days, yet she had no better answer for it.

She couldn’t meet the assassin’s eyes, so stared for a time at the intricate rugs splayed across the floor. Her mind raced, searching for better options but finding none. Finally, she nodded.

“I suppose I will not be able to refuse, either?” asked Khouri.

Lucendes picked up his dagger. “No,” he said, without bothering to veil the threat.

…to be continued

Originally published in Pulp Empire Volume IV.

© Craig Comer

blog_tree

The Augurwraith by Craig Comer – Part V

She stepped inside. Movement to her left caught her attention. The robed man edged toward her, hugging the wall. His gaze swung from the grappled pair to Saja. She swallowed, unsure what to do.

“Get the door,” Lucendes gasped, as if reading her mind.

blog_treeRight, she nodded. She spun out of the entrance and grabbed the door. But as she tried to swing it closed, the robed man darted forward and caught its edge.

“Child, I would advise you to move,” he said. His voice held a note of panic in it, despite the stern warning.

Saja pulled back, and the light from outside flooded the man’s face. He squinted and tried to step through, but as he did Saja slammed the door shut again, causing the man to yelp in surprise. She lowered her shoulder and pressed, to keep him pinned, then rolled her back flat and slid her rump to the floor, wedging them in place.

The wood pinched against her skin as the man tried to shove her out of the way, but his arm was trapped at his side, and he didn’t have enough strength or leverage. Saja gritted her teeth. Determination welled within, fueled by hope.

In the center of the room, Lucendes threw himself from side to side, forcing Raj to stagger. Like a ship lurching across rough seas, the pair threatened to tip. Lucendes brought both his knees up, and the sudden weight caused Raj to lose his balance. His arms slackened, and Lucendes slipped to the ground.

The thief tumbled away and came to his feet. He knocked into the table, spilling some of the scented oils that burned within clay pots. Snatching one of the chairs, he hurled it.

Raj batted the chair aside as he stalked forward. Lucendes waited until the last moment, then tossed one of the pots. The burning oil splattered across Raj’s bare chest, and he howled in pain.

Grabbing another chair, Lucendes smashed it into the larger man. He swung again, breaking the chair across Raj’s temple. The brute blinked, wavering, then slumped to the ground. Lucendes looked up at Saja and grinned.

“Hurry,” she barked at him. Her back felt like it was on fire, from the strain of keeping the door forced shut. He strode over and grasped the plump man, pulling him into the room as Saja shifted out of the way.

“I have need of your services, Khouri,” said Lucendes.

The plump man blustered. “The last time I helped you, I had to flee the city. And you never paid!” He shook his head. “I will do nothing for you.”

Lucendes righted one of the overturned chairs and sat the plump man down. Then he held up a finger and moved to where Raj lay sprawled across the floor. Yanking the man’s belt purse free, he shook it, the coins within clinking together. “Here,” he said, tossing the bag to Khouri. “My debt is settled.”

“I should’ve guessed you’d seek me out again,” said Khouri.

The thief shrugged. “You’re an augur. You should’ve seen me coming.”

“An augur, Lucendes, not a Seer. My visions are not that precise. Though in truth, I’ve had dark dreams of late. It seems they foretold a visit from the Blessed One’s best assassin.”

Lucendes’ eyes flickered to Saja. Her own widened in shock. “An assassin of the Blessed One?” she whispered. The hope she’d felt earlier evaporated. The prophet kept an iron thumb on perhaps half the thieves in Kuthahaar. His attention was one to avoid, not covet.

“Did he not tell you?” asked Khouri, with a chuckle.

“It changes nothing,” Lucendes snapped. “We’ve come for you to divine the location of her father.”

The augur’s gaze became intent upon the thief, and his laughter increased. “Why bother? You know it already. I can see it on your face!”

Saja started. She swung her gaze between the two men, taking a step toward the door. “Was it a lie?” She shuddered. “You promised. You fooled me into believing.”

Lucendes shook his head. “I kept things from you, but the words I spoke of the other matter were the truth. You will see your father’s apprentice again. Khouri holds the power to summon an augurwraith.”

Khouri jerked. “You told her of this? It is knowledge punishable by death.”

“I know where your father is kept,” Lucendes continued, ignoring the augur. “If he still lives, I will free him from his captors.”

…to be continued

Originally published in Pulp Empire Volume IV.

© Craig Comer

12 Days of Books Giveaway!

12-days-of-books

What’s better than free reads, right? Like the covers above? Then check this out:

E. J. Wenstrom, author of the award-winning novel, Mud, invites you to enter to win a collection of 12 speculative fiction books, just in time for the holidays!

Click the link above to find out how to enter, or visit one of the participating author’s sites:

Charles Cornell | Louann Carroll | Danielle DeVor | Connor Drexler 
Jeff Elkins | M. G. Herron | Sharon Johnston | Jade Kerrion
R. Perez de Pereda | Brian Rella | Antonio Simon, Jr. | E. J. Wenstrom

And in other news:

Since I haven’t in a while, I thought I’d share a little of what I’ve been working on lately.

  • A Fey Matter has now become the series title for Effie and her adventures, with Book I entitled, The Laird of Duncairn. The book is due out in May from City Owl Press! Yay!
  • Speaking of Laird, I finished my last round of content edits with the amazing and awesome, Heather McCorkle of City Owl, and now the book is off to the copy editor for a round of polishing.
  • Book II of the series is well underway. I just crossed the 50,000 word mark. For the long-haul of a speculative fiction novel, that means I’m about halfway home! (I hope…)
  • And last of all, I’ve finished reworking my YA novel, The Weird of Danika Ruck, to the point where I’m happy with sending it out into the great hopeful-sphere that is the novel submissions process!