Sunday, August 28, 2011

Most of Chapter 18 for Sample Sunday

Here is most of Chapter 18 of Covenant of the Faceless Knights for those of you on the fence about purchasing it or wanting a larger chunk of my writing (9 pages of the book) to see if it suits your taste. I wanted to leave it on a cliffhanger for you though....

Chapter 18

Elec and Saeunn raced toward the base of the southern hill, where the slope wasn’t quite as steep as the opposite side. Elec observed that there were at least six ogres. They stood one and a half times the height of a human, with heavily muscled arms, and bloated bellies. Their skin was an unhealthy yellow, with patches of hair in random places and blemishes all along their skin.
Elec had never seen an ogre before, though he had encountered a creature born of giant-blood. Even so, seeing several of the creatures face to face made him reach a new level of fear. They moved with a speed that belied their disfigured, swollen bodies. He imagined the force with which their mighty blows would strike and it made him wince involuntarily.
Elec uneasily quaffed a potion. He felt he would need every advantage that he could muster if he was to survive this encounter. He knew that if he took the wrong combination, the effects would not overlap properly, but the particular combination he used now he had perfected over many years.
Saeunn charged the nearest ogre bravely and almost slipped on a snow patch, but caught herself and kept going, not even breaking stride. She and an ogre collided and there was a loud thud as her solid form hit its somewhat bulbous frame. The ogre’s head snapped back as Saeunn used the hilt of her sword to slam into it, cracking its skull, while deftly avoiding the ogre’s heavy fist. The creature landed in a heap—it was dead before it even hit the ground.
Saeunn turned on another. Elec watched her fight with a grace and willingness that made him feel more inadequate than usual. She was his complete opposite with regards to self-confidence, he realized, and he could not help but be impressed by the remarkable barbarian woman from Chansuk.
A large rock just missed crushing Elec’s head and he quickly returned his attention to his own role in the battle. He decided to go in the same direction that Saeunn was heading. He wanted to stay close to the barbarian woman for several reasons.
What is that!? Elec wondered as he caught a glimpse of something across the valley on the northern hill that looked like a murky rift in the planes. He shook his head, dismissing the sight as possibly a side effect of one of his elixirs or a trick of the sunlight. Perhaps even the slow-falling snow was deceiving him….
Whatever it was, he had more pressing issues to deal with. He ran quickly, trying to keep pace with Saeunn. She was forcing the ogres at the top of the hill to refrain from lobbing rocks at the elf momentarily, and at least forcing them to reset their positions. That would buy him some time.
Saeunn had cornered two more ogres now and was forcing them into defensive positions with her well-placed and aggressive swings. There was no subtlety to the barbarian woman it seemed. She simply relied on brute force and innate skill.
The ogres began to maneuver her in between the two of them and Saeunn either didn’t realize it or didn’t care. Just as they were about to complete their move, Elec arrived and forced them to change their strategy. The ogres both sneered and gurgled something unintelligible at him.
The other ogre swung a club at Saeunn that she parried with her greatsword, burying it deep into the wooden weapon in the process and stopping the blow entirely. She immediately kicked out with her left leg into the kneecap of the ogre, knocking its leg back on the slick surface and causing it to fall forward, giving her an opening. Saeunn reared back with her newly-freed greatsword, and struck a killing blow to the back of the ogre’s head, knocking it to the ground and its final resting place. 

Elec had taken the attention of the second ogre and he was now madly dashing to and fro, dodging its blows, and trying to avoid the creature’s club as it made divots in the snow around him. He saw a tree behind him and formulated a plan as the ogre swung wildly and with such force, that to connect with a single blow would surely spell death.
He dodged behind the tree as quickly as he could, forcing the ogre around its wide base slowly enough that it did not see Elec climb the low hanging branch on the opposite side.  The ogre peered around the base of the massive tree trunk and realized too late where Elec had disappeared to.
The ogre cried out in anguish as it felt the sharp end of a blade plunge through its back. Elec drove the blade in hard and thrust with all the momentum and might that he could muster. The sword sank deeper into the ogre, through its lungs, and out the front.
Elec rode the beast for several seconds as it fought to remove him, until finally, it collapsed to the ground with a solid thud. Elec dove from its back toward Saeunn who had just disposed of her foe.
And it was a good thing too, as three more ogres had come into view, somehow finding a less treacherous way down the hill than Elec had initially considered.
Three more! Elec thought in a slight panic as he removed yet another potion from its housing on the bandolier and drained its contents. 

Garius could not see where Rose had arrived atop the hill, and so he returned his attention to the stunned orc on the ground, now only a few paces from him. He made a few movements with the hand that still clutched The Repentant, rubbed his braided beard and uttered an incantation, asking The Watcher, the god of the skies, for a blessing of aid.
As if the clouds themselves opened up, a massive bolt of lightning exploded out of the sky and landed directly on top of the prone orc, incinerating it and leaving a scorched patch of soil in the snow-soaked ground around the orc’s charred remains. Garius slung his holy warhammer upon his back and searched quickly for a path up the hill in order to aid Rose in dispatching the archers above.

 Rose emerged from a shadow directly behind the first archer, using the element of surprise. She precisely slit the green-skinned orc’s throat, dropping it to the ground softly. The second and third orcs noticed her just then, dropping their bows in unison and struggling to draw their swords.
Rose used that opening to kick out at the closest orc, hitting him squarely in the abdomen causing him to double over. Then she hammered down with Zaedra in a reverse-grip and skewered the back of the creature’s head, knocking it firmly to the ground.
The third orc had gotten his sword out and she sensed that her end was near if she didn’t move. They were still positioned directly under a tree, so she stepped into its voluminous shade and moved through the shadow realm to end up behind her target.
The orc, however, did not sense her as it looked closely into the shadows trying to discern her whereabouts. She stealthily drove the tips of both daggers into his back in unison, penetrating the lungs and leaving the orc lifeless as he gurgled something in his native tongue.
She removed the daggers and then suddenly felt a sting in her left shoulder that radiated pain down her entire arm. She looked to see what it was and noticed an arrow protruding from her shoulder that passed right through and below her left clavicle. She whipped round to see another orc approximately fifty paces from her that she had not noticed earlier.
She tried to step into the shadows once more, to use the shadow realm to hide her from her enemy, but could not concentrate as another arrow penetrated the flesh on her left thigh. She fell to one knee under the ensuing pain and then there was blackness. Her last thoughts were of failure.

 Elec and Saeunn exchanged grim looks as the three ogres bore down on them.
“Any ideas?” Elec asked as he quaffed another potion, drawing a quizzical look from Saeunn, who did not quite understand the elf’s ways.
“Survive,” Saeunn remarked bluntly as she once again charged headlong into the onrushing ogres, wild-eyed and ready. Her shock of long blonde braided hair bounced from side to side behind her as she charged.
Elec nodded in agreement, more to himself than her, as Saeunn had already taken off.
Saeunn jumped feet first into the center of an ogre’s belly, knocking the wind out of it. As her momentum continued, she knocked the ogre to the ground, landing atop it, using her muscular legs and an incredible sense of balance to remain upright upon her fallen opponent, falling to her seat atop its chest.
She got her feet under her again and slashed her greatsword in such an arc as to dismember the second ogre on her right flank in the process. Its head rolled away and its massive body fell to the snowy ground, blood heavily staining the white snow where it landed. She stood atop the other and stabbed at its head, but the ogre managed to wiggle out of the way of her blade. It retrieved its club, striking her in the side, knocking her to the ground this time, and losing the grip on its own club as it followed her trajectory.
The ogre stood, rushed her, and was upon her by the time she regained her footing. The creature smashed its fist into her left temple, knocking her senseless as she stumbled back a few steps.
She was blinded with her bloodlust and could hardly feel the pain.
She shook off the blow, ignoring the wound that had opened up, and refocused as the ogre was bearing down on her once more. Its club, which resembled a tree-trunk, was gripped tightly in both its massive hands.
It swung the club wide and Saeunn parried the strike with one of her own. The two foes matched blow for blow and parry for strike for a few rounds of swings, neither tiring nor slowing for a second. It was a fierce and hard fought exchange.
Saeunn was able to position herself better and eventually managed to kick the ogre in the groin, stunning it and giving her an opening. She swung on a high-to-low swing that spanned the creature’s right-facing shoulder, across its body, and ending up coming out at the left-facing hip. Her blade cleaved through flesh and bone, never stopping once along its deadly path.
The ogre stood with a look of disbelief in its black eyes, trying to hold in its entrails, as its life blood gushed out onto the snowy ground.
Saeunn cried to the god of war in victory, allowing the bloodlust to fuel her, and looked around for another foe to vanquish in The Champion’s name.

 He tightened his grip on the hilts of his weapons and followed after her, hoping that his elixirs would last the remainder of the fight. They were performing well so far, he noted, but the durations were lessening.
An ogre headed directly toward Elec and he could no longer give consideration to his needed improvements. He considered an idea. He tossed Daegnar Giruth into the air and spoke a magical word in the ancient elven dialect. The blade seemed to freeze in midair and held fast. As the ogre neared him, Elec sprung toward him, and used the ogres arm to launch himself into the air. He grasped the hilt of the blade and pulled himself up as the creature lunged, passing directly beneath him instead. Elec spun around in a complete circle, continuing with his momentum to launch himself onto the ogre’s exposed back.
He landed with a thud, forcing the ogre to stumble forward. It fell with its arms outstretched, sliding forward on the slick ground. Elec grabbed the ogre’s head and attempted to hang on, but could not. He slid forward now unexpectedly and came to a stop just as the ogre unsteadily got to its feet.  Obviously dazed, it looked around for its club, but could not locate it.
The ogre snarled at Elec, showing its rotting yellow teeth behind its curled lips. It charged him, covering the ten paces very quickly. Elec tried to spring away in a dive, but lost his footing and slipped. The ogre slammed into him knocking the air from his lungs, but Elec managed to remain standing, unable to fall backward under the slippery ground. The ogre swung a series of mighty blows. Elec dodged the first one, was grazed slightly by the second and was hit hard in the face and head by the next two, which sent him sprawling to the ground. Another blow followed but he tumbled backward away from it, and fell to the hard, wet ground. Keeping his eyes on the charging ogre, he crawled backward as quickly as he could until he finally backed himself into the trunk of a tree.
This is it! Elec thought, trying to cover himself as best he could. Nowhere left to go….
Just then he saw past the tangles of the ogre’s greasy, matted hair to glimpse a figure airborne heading toward them, a huge blade angled down, poised for a death blow.

 Saeunn drove her greatsword straight through the back of the ogre, skewering it and killing it instantly as the sword tip angled through its huge belly and into the tree trunk. The ogre fell limp, held up only by the angled blade, its tip buried in the base of the tree.
Saeunn stood there, allowing her adrenaline to dissipate.
Then she suddenly and wildly looked about for the elf, a look of dread upon her face, thinking that she might have just killed him too in her rage!
“Elec!” Saeunn cried desperately, not wanting to peek around the bulbous ogre’s weight to see if the elf, too, was pinned to the tree.
“Up here,” came a voice from above her. On a bough of the tree lay the battered form of Elec, blood dripping from his eye and lip where he had been pummeled soundly by the ogre. “I really need to work on homing my combat skills…,” he laughed, coughing up some blood in the process.
Saeunn gasped and then smiled wider than he had ever seen her smile before. Then she actually laughed.
“How…how did you…?” Saeunn let the question hang, obviously relieved that he was alive.
Elec swallowed hard, wiped some blood from his brow and pointed at a unique ring.
“I can use this to teleport on occasion, assuming that the charge has been restored,” he smiled. “Luckily, it had,” he added with a laugh. “I haven’t really timed it. I just know it takes some,” he paused and spat some blood, “time to recharge.”
He grabbed another elixir and quaffed it sloppily, spilling some on himself and cursing a bit. His hands were shaking.
“How are you feeling?” Elec asked Saeunn, assuming that she had taken a few hard blows. “I have some potions that might help you.”
“I have been better,” she flatly stated, now weary from fatigue.
“Here,” Elec said as re-corked the top of the elixir and tossed it to her. “Drink the rest of that and you’ll feel better. It speeds up the healing process. I couldn’t open this a minute ago,” he pointed to his left eye, which Saeunn markedly watched heal before her eyes.
 As he slowly climbed out of the tree and got to the ground, he noticed the left side of the barbarian’s head was bleeding badly through her sash. He removed another vial with some kind of ointment from his bandolier.
“Remove your sash,” Elec instructed her and she did so, revealing a large laceration in the side of her head. Elec considered how she was still standing.
He poured some of the liquid out onto her sash and dabbed at it, rubbing it around on her forehead until it started to coagulate.
“I don’t have a lot of this left, but I know where to pick more of the root that I craft it from,” Elec said as he gestured at the very tree that he had been sitting in. He absently plucked some of the leaves and stashed them in his belt pouch as he spoke. “Tie this back on again and let it be. It should be fine by the morn.”
“Thank you, Elec,” Saeunn responded, truly amazed at the resources of this white-eyed, exotic elf.
“We should check the others!” Saeunn exclaimed, and with that she was off and running, at full speed from her first step.
It was all Elec could muster to keep ten paces back.

 Garius got to the top of the hill just in time to see an orc deliver the second arrow that bit deeply into Rose’s hamstring. As that registered, the visage beneath his helm shifted to resemble that of seething rage.
He approached slowly, clutching the handle of The Repentant firmly once more and with purpose. He held the hammer high in one hand beckoning The Shimmering One and asking for protection while he crossed the snowy ground to the orc responsible for the ruination of his friend and companion.
In response to his prayer, a shimmering aura surrounded his body, forming a protective barrier that made the arrow slow and fall harmlessly away. As he walked toward the archer, he chanted the verse over and over with vigor, growing louder with each step as The Repentant glowed with holy energy.
Garius continued to cross the ground as the stunned orc realized he could not penetrate the defenses with his missiles, and so, retrieved his sword from his scabbard.
Garius now stood in front of the creature and dismissed his personal fortification spell. Propelled by an anger that he could not quite comprehend, he invoked an incantation initiating a spell to once more call forth the necromantic powers of the degenerative plane. Uttering an offering of prayer to The Reaper, he extended his hand with an open palm toward the orc’s frame. But unlike so many times before, this time he felt a satisfaction in tapping that dark power.
The orc attempted to stab at him, but the Inquisitor infused such vast amounts of physical pain upon the orc, that he dropped the sword mid-swing, and his body wracked and convulsed in agony. The orc fell to his knees. Garius continued the incantation, inflicting such suffering on the orc that he finally fell to his knees, before dropping face first into the snow. His life force was completely drained from his body, as it was absorbed now into the Inquisitor. Garius Forge’s frame shone with energy as he felt the necromantic power dissipate, storing it temporarily within his own body.
He turned from the ruined orc and ran as fast as he could beneath the weight of his armor toward his fallen friend. Garius reached Rose and threw his helmet off, revealing a grim expression. He cared for this woman clearly much more than he’d even known, he realized at that very instant.  He clutched her arm and called upon a surge of regenerative energy, redirecting what he had stored within himself and using it to channel healing directly into her wounded body.
“You shall not be taken from me that easily,” Garius muttered aloud as he continued his prayer.

Please join me and the other amazingly talented authors over @ Skulldust Circle where we have formed a Writer's Circle that must be seen--a collection of brilliant, up & coming independently published speculative fiction authors with much to give both now and in the future!

All Artwork and covers by William J. Kenney

See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!

Also, please visit MY HOME PAGE to enjoy an extended reading experience and to see what else Ashenclaw Studios, LLC has in store in the future!

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios 2012 unless otherwise noted.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Interview with an Avid D&D Gamer

 A very good friend of mine is a HUGE Dungeons and Dragons gamer. He has played since 1987 to present. He has played alongside your truly as well, but most of the time without. That being said, I wanted to do a brief interview for all of you gamers and D&D players who have played over the years and thought it would be cool to ask him a few questions. He was kind enough to take the time to answer my questions.

The interview is with Nicholas Titano of Infernal Titans, a company that he established this year in an attempt to provide gaming maps (at first) to the gaming community as he felt there were very few to choose from. Check his website out here...go now! And then come back here to see what Nick had to say!

We here at INFERNAL TITANS have been avid gamers for over two decades and as such, have had our finger on the pulse of the gaming community the entire time. Being mindful of your income, our goal is to not only provide the gaming community with quality products at an affordable price, but to satisfy what our own players have been clamoring for in the past few years: new gaming products! We strive to produce the highest quality role playing supplements that we can and look forward to producing many more in the future. These products are the first in a line of what we hope will be MANY products that make your game (and ours) a more enjoyable experience.

What drew you to Dungeons & Dragons?
I was always a fan of swashbuckling sword and sorcery stories. My favorite toys as a child were the castle themed Lego sets, and anything Star Wars. So Dungeons & Dragons was a natural progression.

What is the most important element of the game in your opinion?
The social element. Dungeons & Dragons is inherently a group activity, if you don't like the people you play with, you are not going to enjoy yourself.

Did anyone ever ask you if you won or lost a game of Dungeons & Dragons?
Yes, on several occasions. It's usually a waste of time to try to explain the game to them, so I usually just say "Yes, yes I did."

How would you attract new gamers in the video game age?
Make a video game. If the game accurately simulates the tabletop experience, that would generate interest in the tabletop game. Then couple the video game experience with an in depth online community that caters to the video gamers, and the tabletop gamers. Thereby creating an interconnected community of gamers.

Making the game more dynamic, accessible, and user friendly is also a good idea.

What do you like best as a player in Dungeons & Dragons?
Being a part of a team. I generally lean towards characters that fill more of a supporting role when I play.

What do you like best in the role of Dungeon Master in Dungeons & Dragons?
Creating memorable experiences for my friends.

Why do you still play after 20+ years of playing?
Because I still enjoy it. As I grow and change, so does the game. That's the beauty of a tabletop RPG, it can be anything you want it to be. There are no constraints.

What is your favorite edition of Dungeons & Dragons?
4th edition is my favorite. Its elegant mechanics are far easier to work with than any previous edition. At the same time it brings back the feelings I had as a 12 year old back in 1987 paging through the old Red Box Basic Edition- "Anything is possible in this world".

What is your most memorable event in Dungeons & Dragons as either a player or a Dungeon Master?
Surprisingly my most memorable events occur away from the table, as opposed to at it. The fact that my wife named her cat after an NPC from one of my campaigns is awesome. Obviously that campaign, and that NPC in particular, had a profound impact on her. That's just one of many. My players remembered minute details about a minor NPC whose purpose was purely comic relief. The party was close to Epic levels, so I figured one of the "famous" heroes should have a stalker. They remembered that his "spirit companion" (The PC he is stalking is a 4E shaman) was a plush badger attached to a string. Things like that stand out to me more than anything specific that happens at the table.

What do you think of the internet wars of Pathfinder vs. Dungeons & Dragons?
I don't, and neither should anyone else. Internet "Wars" are a waste of time.

Nick can be reached here:

Oh, before I forget, go like Nick's facebook page found here. It is so easy! Follow the link here, click the 'Like' button! It is super simple!Thanks in advance for you assumed compliance and cooperation in this matter. :-)


Also, I would encourage any of you who are interested to take one of the questions, copy it and paste your answer in the comments!

See you in Wothlondia! (And maybe at the gaming table!) Cheers!

Please visit: to enjoy an extended reading experience, see direct links to purchase Covenant of the Faceless Knights and to see what else Ashenclaw Studios, LLC has in store in the future!

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios, LLC 2011 unless otherwise noted. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Guest Blog - GritCity Emotobooks with Ron Gavalik

Grit City Emotobooks Revolutionize Fictional Storytelling

Ron Gavalik

As a writer it’s always been a goal of mine to bridge the gap between the cerebral gratifications of well-plotted writing and the visual stimulation of illustrative art or film. Like a mad scientist with crazy hair and a battered lab coat, I experimented with various styles, structures, and word painting exercises. Nothing seemed to achieve my goal.

Then it came to me. I had a mini-epiphany. Insert abstract, emotionally representative illustrations during peak moments of tension. By delivering a visual of what the character feels and experiences, the reader becomes more intensely immersed in the story.

The term emotobook is simply a portmanteau word I conjured, as a fun and memorable label for this new medium of fiction.

Unlike comic books that use direct illustrations as the primary storytelling device, Grit City emotobooks are written mystery noirs, with an urban fantasy twist. The four of five illustrations in each thirty-page installment merely lend a visual experience to the internal emotional processes of the characters.

It’s lots of fun.

Grit City is continuing story, published each month to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other eBook retailers. In each installment the reader is exposed to a dark and calamitous world, where the nefarious rule.

Our main character is Dillon Galway, an idealistic freelance journalist in his mid-twenties, who barely scrapes out a living reporting on corruption for the metro newspaper and his own blog.

Dillon embodies a double meaning of the term grit. He is a gritty individual, who drinks and lives meagerly. But he also possesses grit. Courage and strength of character are his dominant personality traits.

I’ve constructed a world where Dillon shares a symbiotic relationship with the city. Its failures have lowered him, yet he remains hopeful for the restoration of peace and opportunity. Occasionally, he relies on the sexy and sultry Alyssa Stephano (gun for hire) to help when situations require her nickel-plated Colt .45 revolvers.

Grit City was an ideal place to live at one time. We all know of towns that have fallen over the years. The murder of Dillon’s Father and the rise of the Syndicate started Dillon’s downward spiral. All meaningful power in business, politics, and law enforcement were funneled into the hands of this wealthy organization.

But in the shadows of the back alleys, whispers stir in the underground of an unnamed force. Something or someone that’s determined to upset the status quo. When Dillon is tipped about horrifying activities he’s propelled into a perilous investigation that may lead to dire consequences.

As the series progresses he’s faced with unfathomed challenges, but also gains abilities most consider impossible.

The creation of Grit City is a collaborative process. Leah Keilman is our illustrator and master of visual expressionism in fiction. It’s her talent and passion that breathes life into the emotobook illustrations. Nikki Hopeman is our proofing editor. Her eye for detail ensures the story installments I write are held to the highest possible level of storytelling. Kunta is our web and electronic media guru, who likes to eat…a lot. We just feed him pizza and let him work his magic. Without this team my vision of emotobooks never would have existed.

With that said, we’ve all dedicated our lives to this pursuit. We’re thankful such a broad audience is heralding the story. It seems our tagline on the website is true.

Read one installment and you’ll be hooked until the gritty end.

Author Bio

Ron Gavalik has dedicated his life to the written word. He’s practiced a long and successful career in fiction writing, journalism, and technical documentation. His short fiction has appeared in several magazines and online venues. His news articles have informed thousands of readers throughout the United States.

He conceived the new medium of emotobooks in 2010 while earning his M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Grit City is the maiden serialized story, and is receiving accolades among a large and diverse base of readers throughout the US, UK, and Germany.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Ron spends much of his free time in the outdoors of Southwestern Pennsylvania. He enjoys fishing, hiking, and riding his trail bike.

Ron can be reached through his website at:


I met Ron on Twitter and he has a ground-breaking and very original thing going on here that inspires creativity and demands some respect! Check him out along with the whole GritCity team on his website. Cheers!

Gary F. Vanucci