Monday, October 31, 2011

A Realm of Ashenclaw Halloween Story

“We go when I say so,” said the half-elf, Marick, with a bluff of confidence to his two fellow captives—a man and a woman, both human. His mop of dark hair was hanging in front of his green eyes and there was a cunning there that belied his outward appearance and speech.
The three had slain the two watchmen who’d ridden along in the back of the wagon with them. The woman distracted one while the large man choked the life out of the other. Marick slit the distracted man’s throat with a sharp edge of a dagger he’d filched from one of their two belts. It all happened very quickly and very quietly.
The prisoners were rather pleased with the recent events, thinking themselves quite clever. They had since managed to free themselves of the chains using the dead men’s keys, but were still locked in the rear of the wagon with two more guards at the front. It would not be long before they were discovered.
All of them had broken laws in Oakhaven and were on their way to Archinon to receive the justice of King Ozarth, who would most certainly have them fighting in the ‘Pit’ within the coming weeks. This frightened Marick, who was cowardly at best and would most certainly die quickly in the arena. He was a footpad in Oakhaven, who had been making a comfortable living there until he was caught by some passersby who happened to call out to the Watch. Members of the Shadowhands no doubt, he’d figured, who were making him an example of a thief who shunned the Thieves’ Guild.
“Who put you in charge?” asked the heavily bearded and heavily muscled man named Mandius. His head was shaved clean and his eyes were a cold, hard shade of grey. He was a cold-blooded killer and was found guilty of other heinous acts recently in the Commons of Oakhaven, including assaulting a young girl, leaving her to die in an alley, her coin purse and her maidenhood both stolen from her.
“Take it easy,” called the gruff female voice of Zelina, a prostitute found guilty of stealing a coin purse from a few men she’d laid with recently. This kind of thing happened on more than several occasions and her Madam finally relieved her of her duties at the brothel.  Mandius returned a disrespectful stare toward her and she narrowed her brown eyes right back at him, not backing down for an instant. She ran a hand through her golden locks and smiled a threatening smile to him as if baiting him into an attack. He did not as he felt that the woman had seen her fair share of death and could probably handle herself, despite her outwardly ladylike nature.
“Gimme’ the keys,” Marick stated boldly, catching them as Mandius tossed them. He quickly and nimbly moved to the rear of the cart and began working the huge padlock, despite the bouncing of the caravan along the rough road. Within seconds, he swung the door open and leaped from the wagon, hitting the soft ground on the side of the rocky road. Zelina quickly followed suit, leaving Mandius, manacle still attached to one hand, staring at them as the distance grew between them.
Finally, he leaped from the wagon also, landing hard and wincing in pain as his shoulder collided solidly with the unforgiving road. Dazed and in pain, the huge man observed through blurred vision as the half elf and the woman approached him. Fearing the worst, he held his arms out and he was surprised and relieved as they helped him to his feet. He shook the dizziness from his vision in time to hear the familiar sound of a whistle blowing as the caravan slowed and then came to a halt. Into the undergrowth they ran, clearly hearing the swords of the watchmen come to bear as they called back and forth to one another. Further into the brush the three convicts proceeded, putting more distance between themselves and the two remaining watchmen, who finally realized the full extent of what had happened.
After a few hours of dodging and hiding in the brush, the refugees heard nothing as they had finally put enough distance between themselves and their captors. All three of them were weary and a rumbling was distinct within their bellies as they hadn’t eaten in over a day now. Eventually, they slumped to the dewy ground in a clearing within a thicket of trees and foliage and it was beginning to get dark…and cold.
“Where are we?” asked Marick, truly unaware of their surroundings.
“How in Pandemonium should I know,” spat Mandius, rubbing at the area on his wrists that until recently, held the heavy manacles of his captivity.
“I know the area,” Zelina stated suddenly. “We’re riding upon the road that runs alongside the Serpent’s Spine River on the way to Archinon,” she said confidently. “I have done this ride in reverse once.”
“And?” asked Mandius, his brow conveying an angry look as he rubbed his sore shoulder.
And, we should be close to Fairport!” she added, referring to the free city along the coast of the Western Sea that harbored fugitives, ex-pirates and sellswords of all nature.
“Let’s get some shuteye and we’ll pick it up in the morning,” Marick suggested, starting to gather kindling. “And no funny business—we’ll sleep in shifts,” Marick said, pointing to each of them. “If we’re gonna’ make it there, we’ll need to stay alert and even though I don’t trust either of ya’, we need to work together ‘til we see ‘er shiny gates!”
Mandius and Zelina exchanged glances and nodded. They realized that their chances were greater working together to get to Fairport.
Then, suddenly, Mandius removed a dagger from his boot and loosed it hard in Marick’s direction. The half-elf’s brown eyes widened in horror, thinking the dagger’s point meant for him until he saw it fly by his face while he sat on the ground and heard it bury into flesh behind him. It was a familiar sound to him.
Mandius smiled as he had marked a wolf approaching them and managed to hit it square in the eye, killing it instantly, before it had the chance to leap upon Marick.
“Where did you—?” Zelina asked, referring to the weapon.
“From the guard,” he answered. “I got another one, too,” he said, pulling aside his shirt and revealing a dagger in his belt.
Marick’s swallowed hard and his heart was beating furiously within his chest. “That good enough for trusting?” Mandius asked. Marick merely nodded and gulped. “I got one, too,” Marick admitted, showing them the other dagger he’d used to slit the throat of one of the two guards.
“Wonderful,” Zelina said. “And I got nothin’”
“Clean that one off and it’s yours,” Mandius said, nodding at the dagger that protruded from the dead wolf. She smiled at him and did exactly that. The rest of the night proceeded uneventfully as they ate of wolf meat and slept in shifts, keeping a low burning fire going the rest of the night.

“West further,” mentioned Zelina as the three moved through the forest and closer to what they hoped would be Fairport. They had been traveling the entire morning and stayed off the main roads. The ground was becoming rocky and choked with dense wood.
“These are silver birches,” mentioned Marick absentmindedly as they passed beneath the canopy of trees overhead.
 “Are ya’ sure: west?” Marick asked as he wiped sweat from his brow and stopped to rest a moment.
“I ain’t sure of nothin’,” Zelina admitted. “I’m goin’ by a few maps I’d seen when I was bedding a cartographer. He showed me many of his maps before,” she admitted with a smile, thinking herself clever at that. “Maps and…other things.”
The sun was high in the sky overhead, indicating it to be around Sun’s Peak as it was called in the cities.  Marick licked his dry lips and shook the sweat from his unshaven face.
“We may die of thirst if we don’t come across a river soon,” Mandius added, sharing the same unspoken opinion as the half elf. He rubbed the stubble that grew upon his skull, the sweat glistening from atop his hairless head.
“Climb the hill and maybe we can have a look see and get our bearings,” Marick suggested. The others merely nodded and climbed the hill after him. As they reached the top, they saw that there was a brook at the base of the hill on the western side. Marick smiled at the other two and rushed down the hill. He ran the entire way, aided by the descent of the sloping ground and his desire to taste the water upon his dry tongue.
Within the hour, the three refugees were bathing in the water and noted the surroundings were thicker with trees, but the ground was much more even. They bathed and dressed and drank their fill of the clean water. The river’s surface was quite transparent and there was an abundance of fish swimming along the surface.
An hour later had them eating at the raw fish parts as the sun sank lower into the clouds.
“How far?” Mandius asked the woman again, wiping fish parts from his chin. After a moment of thinking, she said, “west and then north.”
“Are ya’ sure?” Marick asked.
“Well,” she started to say, refitting her corset and donning a blouse over it, “if we hit the Western Sea, we went too far west and should head north until we see the damned docks!”
Mandius laughed loudly at that for a few moments, as did Marick. Then after a moment, Marick’s grin twisted into something of fright. His face was white and he pointed past the burly man.
Worg,” he whispered, pointing in the distance at a huge wolf-like creature. It was as big as a horse and was at the top of the hill where they had just come from.
Zelina was cutting the bottom of her dress so as not to drag it along the ground and Mandius’ face steeled with determination. Before they knew it, Marick was running at a dead sprint toward the western trees. The others followed and they heard the howl in the distance that sent a chill through them.
On they ran, as fast as they could, Mandius taking up the rear as the other two, made of less weight, led the way. They dodged loose rocks and broken branches and heard the howls in the distance growing closer. Marick felt his heart was about to burst when he saw a fence of stakes surrounding a settlement of some kind in the distance. As he went, he recognized that the howls were just that—howls!
There are more of them coming! he thought as he ran as swiftly as he’d ever run before, never even looking back.
As he approached the gated community, he saw a few men, standing at the gate as if they expected something like this. They held spears in their hands and were waving to the three of them, urging them along. As Marick got within earshot, he heard a voice over his own heavy breathing, yelling for him to “hurry.” He did, running through the gate and collapsing into the arms of one of the men. He turned to see Zelina enter and that Mandius was behind her still, stumbling.
Then he saw the worgs behind Mandius, closing on the man!
He swallowed hard and looked to the stranger, who wore a grim expression on his dark face, his eyes as black as pitch, seemingly cold and emotionless.
By the gods, this man was larger than Mandius! Marick thought absently, feeling the sheer size of the man’s hands and the strength with which he held Marick.
Mandius stumbled through the opening just then and the gate slammed shut behind him, a heavy wooden bar thrown into place across the wooden stakes that made up the palisade. Then the howling seemed to simply cease altogether. Marick thought it strange and it reflected on his face, for the man explained something to him.
“The worgs have tried to enter our walls before and have been met with only death,” the man rationalized. “They go in search of easier prey now.”
The thought was comforting, though the tone was not. With that he walked away, saying no more and leaving Marick with Mandius and Zelina.

 Within the hour, the three convicts sat around a table, eating bread and drinking water comfortably. The few villagers they had met—for there did not seem to be many at all, thought Marick—were kind enough to them, although extremely quiet.
“Where are you from?” asked the familiar man, who sat at the head of the table, watching them eat, but not partaking. It was the same man who explained the simple reasoning of why the worgs had turned away from the village. He was odd-looking, Marick thought, with huge hands and very aquiline features. He was tall and muscular and very spry with a spring in his gait that Marick noted. The man’s face was framed with coarse, dark sideburns that ended in a scruffy tuft of hair at his chin.
Marick looked to Mandius who gave him a stern glance of a warning as if not to volunteer any real information.
“We’re simply traveling to Fairport, trying to find our way,” Zelina interjected, sensing that she could handle lying to these strangers easily enough. After all, she had done it all the time with her ‘customers’, pretending to be whoever they wanted her to be on a nightly basis.
“I see,” said the man, standing and moving toward the door. He stopped as he got there and looked back at them. “Don’t gorge yourselves now; we are having a feast tonight in your honor.”
“A feast?” Marick echoed, a strange look creeping across his face.
“Yes,” the man responded, raising his eyebrows. “You will join us, I assume? It would be…rude—and disappointing…if you were to leave.”
“Wait…,” Marick asked suddenly. The man poked his head back into the room; his eyes seemed to flash an amber color for just a second in the lantern light of the hut, but Marick attributed it to the lantern and his recently harrowing experience. He was not feeling altogether right. “What is your name?” Marick finally managed to ask.
“My name is…not important,” he quipped tersely and then headed out of the door and disappeared.
Zelina looked to Mandius and Marick, and then shrugged at that answer he’d given. Once a few more moments passed, she shrugged at the two of them. “What are we gonna’ do? Besides, if it gets a little too odd…’” she let the words hang and tapped the dagger tied to her leg, smiling as she did. Mandius nodded in agreement with a wicked grin, but Marick did not.
Whenever the unnamed man was around, the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. His eyes were reflecting a worry about the whole scene unfolding and he could not hide how it made him feel. He did not like it—not one bit.
An hour or so later, they heard what could only be described as chanting and drums thumping from not far away. It was evenfall and the darkness of the night began to settle in all around them. The villagers could be seen around a roaring fire that raged as they danced around its base. They were chanting and the song being offered was very guttural sounding to Marick. The three escaped prisoners looked to one another, exchanging befuddled glances and moved forward toward the ceremony.
“Glad you decided to stay,” said the dark haired man as he approached them, beckoning them closer. There were maybe ten villagers that Marick could count, in the ceremony, dancing around the fire.
Where are the rest of the villagers? he thought, thinking there had to be more of them somewhere. Stranger and stranger it seemed to Marick as he felt for the reassuring steel beneath his shirt, tucked tightly into his belt. Yet, somehow, it did not comfort him in the slightest. Again the hairs on the back of his neck stood and his heart began to race.
“Why is that?” asked Zelina. “And where exactly is the feast you promised?”
You are the feast,” said the man, turning to face them, his eyes glowing in an amber color that appeared…wolfish? Zelina removed her dagger as did Mandius, but Marick simply stood frozen in terror. He watched as the snout of the man elongated and the teeth sharpened beneath his lips. Pure and absolute terror flowed through Marick as he soiled himself, watching unflinching as the man turned into a wolf-like thing right before his eyes.
Hair sprouted from all over its arms and legs, its back and torso, and it grew in size.
Werewolf!” exclaimed Zelina in horror, nervously holding the dagger in her hands that she knew would not aid her against these supernatural creatures.
“Not wolf,” called a voice to the side, another man, whose eyes also reflected an amber-yellow in the fire and threatening a transformation into the beast, too. “Were-worg!”
Marick understood now with horror in his wide eyes. The worgs that chased them down from the hill were these villagers, transformed.
They herded the three of them right into the village and he began to understand the calculated malevolence involved as the gate wasn’t meant to keep the worgs out—it was meant to keep them in!
And the sheer size of the humanoid wolf that stood before Marick just then was much larger than any werewolf he had heard of from legend as the beast stood nearly seven feet tall.
No, this wereworg was something even more terrifying—larger and more deadly than any wolf. He now realized the size and strength of these strangers was merely a byproduct of their supernatural worg-like ancestry.
Perhaps they deserved it, he thought. Perhaps this was their punishment after all.
That was the last thought he registered as he watched his friends get torn to pieces, claws and teeth ripping at their flesh.
Then he felt the warm oozing of his own blood upon him as the blackness claimed him.

Hope you enjoyed it! 
See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!

Please visit MY HOME PAGE 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, October 30, 2011

Realm of Ashenclaw Bestiary: Tyrantians!

In September, we gave you a taste of our first unique race in the Realm of Ashenclaw setting--The Slagfell Dwarves

As of late, I have been working with my creative partner, Nicholas Titano of Infernal Titans, and we have finalized a second creature for the Realm of Ashenclaw bestiary!

The face of Wothlondia is sometimes infested with creatures of magical origin, undead or demons from the depths of Pandemonium or simply monsters native to Krotto that have wandered the lands for centuries.

A mysterious race of creatures exists here that are of unknown origin and are fierce and deadly, tearing through towns and villages with emotionless hunger. Allow Ashenclaw Studios, LLC. to introduce to you...the Tyrantians!

(And just in time for Halloween, too!)


These creatures of unknown origin have chitinous hides and appear in various parts of the realm, usually seen emerging from underground caverns. They appear to be as giant insects of some kind. Speculation continues as to whether or not they are supernatural, magical or simply giant insects that have somehow mutated. They can appear very differently in color, texture, appearance and have varying types of attacks which have not all been documented thoroughly. Wothlondian scholars and researchers understand without question that they have many weapons at their disposal. One thing in common is that they all seem able to spew a venomous toxin that often ends with deadly results.

Tyrantian Skimmer  as depicted by William J. Kenney
There have been at least four types of known Tyrantians spotted. First are the most common of the creatures, often seen moving across the face of Wothlondia, sometimes in droves. These are called Tyrantian Crawlers, with two sets of arms. One set are spear-like appendages that end in vicious points while the second pair of arms have finger-like digits—three and a thumb—which they use to grab their prey. They have jaws with sharp teeth which can tear flesh quite easily. They also reportedly can leap to begin their assault, attempting to impale or ground their opponents beneath them at the onset of their attack. The crawlers have been known to release a poison with their bite if the victim remains held for more than a few seconds.

Secondly are the Tyrantian Worms, which appear to tunnel up from below the ground, using their huge gaping maws and mandibles that surround the jaw to attack their prey. They are able to inject venom from their tail stingers. Tyrantian Worms do not possess any discernible eyes.

Tyrantian Crawler by William J Kenney
The third variant of the creatures is called the Tyrantian Skimmer. This fierce insect can be seen flying low to the ground and moving at incredible speeds, despite their size. These creatures fly past their victims, using a spear-like stinger to inject the victim with a poison that will spread through the body and eventually melt the victim, if the stinger doesn't kill the victim outright.

Finally, the last known creature is called Tyrantian Larvae. These creatures are about the size of a small dog and hop along the floor at a fast pace. The few reports from victims that have seem them and survived claim that upon killing a larva, the creature explodes and an acidic poison is said to burst from the corpse. It explodes in a small radius and melts flesh and bone in mere seconds.

Tyrantians can be found in varying sizes with the largest ones rumored to be bigger than ogres. One eyewitness claims to have seen one of the Tyrantian Worms emerge from beneath his small farm to swallow a pair of cows whole before disappearing, leaving nothing but a gaping hole in its wake.

No one knows where these creatures come from and speculation is that unknown types of Tyrantian have yet to be discovered.

All of the Tyrantians can be found in varying sizes with the largest ones rumored to be bigger than ogres. One eyewitness claims to have seen one of the Tyrantian Worms emerge from beneath his small farm to swallow a pair of cows whole before disappearing, leaving nothing but a gaping hole in its wake.

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.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Future of Publishing?

Which Indie Publisher would you suggest?

I am asking all authors and writers who you might be using to publish your blood, sweat and tears that go into your writing and what you get for your hard earned money from that publisher. I know of several that I have been researching: Authorhouse (who published my debut novel), Outskirts Press, Smashwords, Create Space and The Domino Project to name a few that I have looked at recently.

As I move forward with my plan for world domination *pauses for giggles*, I am seriously considering doing only an eBook. I feel that the profit margin is somewhat under my control as well as the distinct pricing (no print cost) and this despite really enjoying the feel of an actual book in my hands. I am learning that going to print with a self-published title seems suicidal. It may not be that way forever or even for some of you established authors—I’d like to hear from you to discuss this! Is this where the market is trending?

On a personal note, I was told by my publisher that there would be a nook and an iBookstore version available in the package I purchased and to this point, they are still not available. I went live end of July, 2011.

The recent moves of Amazon and eBook distributors, who appear to be cutting out the middle man (the big publishing houses), are making the product directly available to the consumer as a download. A friend and fellow author, Theodore Cohen, forwarded me this article about AMAZON.

What do you think, authors?

Is it only a matter of years before all brick and mortar stores disappear and become a thing of the past?

Will our grandchildren and great grandchildren only read books on their smartphones, tablets, PC’s, laptops and such? 

See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!

Please visit my home page 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!

(Photos from Kozzi and me!)

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

Friday, October 14, 2011

Founding of Oakhaven and the ‘Five’~

It came as a major surprise to the leaders of Krotto when the queen of the scorching drakes, Ashenclaw, led her kin to attack, turning the surface world into a burning cinder and reducing three quarters of the landscape to ash before disappearing altogether. Much speculation exists regarding their disappearance, with the two most realistic being hibernation and extinction theories.

It has been 66 years (At the start of Covenant of the Faceless Knights novel) since the assault of the dragon-kin and the people of Krotto have rebuilt some of the major cities and are in the process of restoring more. Trade has reopened as several people are building and harvesting once more and able to share their gifts or services with the other races. Elves, dwarves, halflings, humans, gnomes and until recently, even the orcs and their kin were trading with one another, reestablishing Oakhaven as a major trading city.

The city of Oakhaven became the lone center for safe trade between the many races immediately after the drakes disappeared. Humans gathered both within the walls and the areas that surrounded the city working diligently to protect the trade routes. High walls worked to keep the citizens safe from the chaos which had torn other towns apart. Following this model, four other cities were restructured or otherwise rebuilt with this architectural model in mind, one in each area of the continent: Norgeld to the northeast, Archinon to the southwest, Veldennia to the northwest and Safehold to the southeast, with Oakhaven at the epicenter. The elves worked in conjunction with the cities and spread their forces throughout the forests of the land to keep the evil forces from gaining additional strongholds.

Crime and Punishment~ 

Oakhaven was the most prominent trade capitol and was kept going with a small military enforcing the peace and honor of open trade, referred to simply as The Watch. Each of the ‘five’ has their own watch and military, differentiating them only by prefacing the city for which they are employed (ie. The Oakhaven Watch), otherwise they are regarded as one major force, with the governing body of each town having the final say when tactical decisions are necessary.

Rarely do any fights or riots break out and if they do, they are stopped with the culprits being escorted to Archinon for punishment. The cities hold criminals for weeks before sending them via guarded caravan to Archinon; this generally occurs once a month, unless the numbers grow too quickly for the city cells to contain them.

Archinon is one of the ‘five’ major cities that follow the architecture and general structure of Oakhaven. It is ruled by King Tallaruk, a fair and just man, whose family and ancestry are untarnished. The rulership of Archinon deviates slightly from the pacifistic ways of Oakhaven however. Where Oakhaven and the other cities allow for gambling and the like, Archinon goes one step further. The citizens therein have a more aggressive community that often enjoys viewing violent and often deadly fights in the arena.

The gladiatorial arena, called ‘The Pit’, is where many trained warriors and many hardened criminals can find either glory or death. All criminals from any of the major cities are sold to the owners of the houses as potential gladiators in exchange for staving off an execution or permanent exile.

The contract within the city set by the King is that any and all criminals may fight for a determined amount of time (determined by both the controlling house and the severity of the crime) and may gain their freedom if they survive. They may also choose to buy freedom or continue to earn a living fighting in the arena. Minor crimes such as minor assault, aiding a criminal or minor theft/damage to property would result in a 3-6 month sentence and major crimes such as murder, conspiracy, treason or kidnapping would net anywhere from 5 or more years of service all the way up to life sentences, depending upon the details or circumstances involved.

See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!

Please visit MY HOME PAGE 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!

Photos from Stock.xchng

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

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Orngoth excerpt! Part of Chapter 14

I have been getting quite a few of the people clamoring for Orngoth, once more on twitter's #SampleSunday, I give you a portion of Chapter 14 of Covenant of the Faceless Knights! Enjoy you soon-to-be-favorite Half-ogre Barbarian!

Orngoth Artwork by the incomparable William J. Kenney!

There were four undead mockeries of once-humanoid creatures with rotting, discolored flesh hanging from their semi-exposed skeletons. It was the foulest sight Forgulnak had ever witnessed. The creatures fed on the now lifeless husk of their fellow goblinoid.
“Ghouls!” Forgulnak uttered loudly. The red of their eyes reflected in the torchlight as they were drawn toward the scent of fresh blood, turning to regard them. He could see their gray rotting flesh as well as their clawed hands now tearing goblin flesh from the bone and devouring it.
The goblinoids collectively stood appalled by the scene, nauseated and frozen, trying to move. They could not. It was too late. The four undead creatures advanced with speed unparalleled on their newest prey that had foolishly entered their lair. The ghouls leapt at them, knocking them to the blood-stained, slick ground. The goblinoids remained paralyzed in shock, helpless and nauseated by the sight and smell of the devastation.
Forgulnak finally realized the true horror of their situation. He tried to make his legs move, but was unable. Whether it was fear or something else that paralyzed him, he could not tell, as he felt the flesh being torn from his bones.
The undead overran them and began to feast, completely consumed by their hunger…until one of them was suddenly crushed by the bulk of a gargantuan club.

Orngoth heard the shuffling and smelled a foul odor emitting from the alcove. He heard a goblin scream harshly as some terrible fate must have befallen it, but he could not see as it was beyond his line of sight. The other goblinoids made their way into the opening and disappeared around the corner, too.
Several more screams followed. Something bad was happening, but he did not know what. He did know one thing, and that was that he had to get free of his manacles.
He strained once more against the chains that bound his arms and hands. Again a few of the metal links weakened and began to buckle further. Another tug from his mighty arms bent the links once more. His muscles continued expanding and contracting in succession against the metal, his veins becoming more pronounced beneath the flesh of his arms. The metal groaned with protest under his might as the links twisted and reshaped themselves to conform to the half-ogre’s will, eventually giving in to his remarkable strength with several loud pops. He was suddenly free of his bonds and retrieved his massive club.
It took Orngoth quite some time to squeeze his large frame through the alcove, but he managed, leaving the top layers of his flesh behind on the stone. The screams had died down, but the sickening odor remained. He saw them as he entered in the flickering torchlight.
The undead creatures were so focused on their newest feast that Orngoth’s entrance had gone completely unnoticed.
He fought back the disgusting aroma and did not succumb to its accompanying nausea as he smashed the first undead creature into mush with a mighty downward swing of his club. The three remaining anathemas moved quickly toward him. Orngoth’s fierce blue eyes had already run red with rage, revolted and angered by the sight of this purest of evils. Orngoth allowed the bloodlust to overtake him, not even trying to resist.
His huge club came up over his head and he timed the next blow perfectly, almost knocking the ram-horned helm from atop his own head as he swung his club with ferocity borne of rage unbound and connected. The blow was so powerful that he simply crushed the ghoul beneath the impact, spraying bone and gore everywhere.
As he started to pull his club from the remains, he was struck simultaneously by the two remaining ghouls. Biting and clawing at his already scarred and fairly tough hide, the ghouls pressed their assault. Orngoth howled in pain as the anger surged within him.
Small pieces of his flesh were torn open by the fiends, but Orngoth didn’t even take notice now as his bloodlust peaked, driving him to acts of heroic proportions.
He reached out and pulled the first of the two off by its neck and propelled it through the air to land hard against the stone wall. It hit with a dreadful thud. He watched as it attempted to slowly right itself, swaying considerably as it did.
Orngoth grabbed the second one by its arm, nearly tearing it from its socket in the process, and threw it in the same direction as the first, with similar results. He roared fiercely, consumed by his fury, ignoring sense and sensibilities, wanting only to destroy his foe!
The two undead charged him once more. He slid on the slick surface as he took a step, but regained his footing and dropped into a lower, wider stance. 
They closed the distance as Orngoth gripped the base of his weapon with both hands and swung hard. The timing of his spectacular swing connected with one ghoul solidly, crushing its ribs and liquefying them straight away. Then there was a loud crash that immediately followed the first.  His swing had continued its momentum, crushing the second creature’s skull, hitting it with so much force, that it partially removed the head from the body.
Nothing else moved as Orngoth stood victorious over the immobile creatures, blood-stained and angry. He roared in victory before remaining still for a time, allowing the bloodlust to fade.
Eventually, exhaustion set in. He fell to one knee before squeezing out of the tiny opening once more and slumping to his rear on the hard stone. Breathing more slowly now, he contemplated what to do next, until sleep claimed him.

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.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The City of Oakhaven

Currently, Oakhaven is a booming city—some say even greater than it was prior to the attacks of Ashenclaw. Its population is estimated to be over 19,000 people from varying races and cultural backgrounds and can surpass the 20,000 mark when a festival or event is occurring.

Oakhaven has a most-respected military force known as The Watch that reinforces and protects the city and its laws; set forth by its officials. The city is guided along by a group of ten members called the High Council. Each of these men and women are pillars of the community and represent one of the many guilds or factions that make the town what it is today. They are a fair and just governing force that benefit the entire realm and include such important personnel as the Lord Mayor and Assistant Mayor, as well as the Inspector of Taxes, who keeps the financial responsibilities of the people and the city’s officials in line. Their political structure is mirrored in several other communities and towns and has been widely regarded as a highly democratic system that favors the people and their many needs.

The High Council of Oakhaven~ 

Tiyarnon: High priest of the sun-god—The Shimmering One

Aldranon: Lord Mayor of Oakhaven

Nimaira Silvershade: Guild mistress of Wizardry

Rolin Hardbeard: Master of the Watch and the military

Ganthorpe Randolph
: Asst. Mayor and liaison

Aeldur: Captain of the Watch and the military force in Oakhaven

Merobo Underbough: Merchant and Traders Guild leader

Alstin Reese: Guild master of Lawyers and Scribes

Bemli Gemfist: Guild master of Jewelers and gem cutters

Carrick Ellis: Inspector of Taxes

Guilds of Oakhaven~ 

Here is a list of most guilds one might find in Oakhaven. This is an idea of the prominent guilds that might come into play.

· Guild of Lawyers and Scribes

· Timekeepers’ and Lamplighters’ Guild

· Guild of Wizardry

· Jewelers’ and Gem-Cutters’ Guild

· Merchant and Traders’ Guild

· Masonry and Architects’ Guild

· Bakers’ and Butcher’s Guild

· Cartographers’ and Surveyors’ Guild

· Laborers’ Guild (includes warehouseman and longshoreman)

· Tanners’ and Leatherworkers’ Guild

· Smithy and Metalworkers’ Guild

· Moneychangers’ and Money-lenders’ Guild

· Brewer and Ale-makers’ Guild

· Artisans’ and Engravers’ Guild

· Thespians’ and Playwrights’ Guild

· Teachers’ and Scholars’ Guild

· Street-sweepers’ Guild

· Herbalists’ and Apothecaries’ Guild

· Thieves’ Guild ~ Shadowhands *(Spoiler)

· Assassins’ Guild ~ The Scarlet Web **(Spoiler)

*The Shadowhands is a huge underground organization of thieves and cutpurses in Oakhaven with hundreds under its employ. It is secretly run by the Assistant Mayor of Oakhaven—Ganthorpe Randolph. It stretches from several above ground homes in many districts including both the Nobles Districts and Commons Districts all the way through and under the city in its sewers. Business is conducted in many different places, with a main HQ located in the Warehousing District. Ganthorpe runs the guild with an iron fist and many who have crossed him usually wind up being washed into the River Divide and out into the North Gulf or worse.

**The Scarlet Web is a more mysterious and lightly populated guild with its main HQ unknown. The only thing known is its point of contact—Lady Saphirra—who enjoys conducting business in privacy. Many know of her, but none dare speak her name in public-lest they find themselves an unwitting victim of poisoned food or drink, among other things. Though she employs few assassins overall, the ones she does utilize are rumored to be the best in the realm.

Oakhaven’s Districts~

The city has built up several districts within that satisfy certain criteria and add to the allure and structure of the city. This includes a Trade District, where many merchants from Oakhaven as well as many traveling merchants may trade using both permanent and temporary areas with which to do so. As with many of the other cities, Oakhaven’s Trade District is teeming with merchants and buyers, often spilling out into the main courtyard of the city and sometimes even into the boundaries of other districts. There is an Entertainment District, where travelers and citizens may find gambling of all kinds, as well as a dozen or more taverns and inns selling ale, wine and mead and several different types of food.

The Remedial District is where infirmaries with physicians, temples with healing priests and apothecaries and herbalists can all be found employing their crafts to the unfortunate or ill people of Oakhaven. Curative methods can be procured in the way of elixirs, salves and divine healing gifted to the priests of the many temples within.

The Enlightenment District is where one can find all manners academia, including the well-known and well-respected University of Wizardry, run by Nimaira Silvershade herself. The scholars and historians employed by Oakhaven’s city are the finest in the land, next to the high elves themselves, who have lived for countless centuries accumulating their vast knowledge. Oakhaven is also known for catering to all manner of income, providing accommodations for the laborer as well as the merchant in the Commons and Nobles District respectively, where the domiciles of Oakhaven’s citizens can be found.

A Harvest District can be found separating the Commons and Nobles Districts. This area was built on rich soil and produces many trees, flowers, plants and edible fruits and vegetables that help feed the people of Oakhaven as well as providing some food for trade with other cities.

The Business and Craft District is located just beyond the Hall of the High Council and is quite large. This area houses all of the businesses and guild houses where daily business is done (other than trading). All offices and storefronts can be located within, such as the Jeweler, Butcher, Smithy and Baker to name a few. All of these businesses also provide an area in the trade district as well, but a larger selection of items can be found within the walls of their stores.

The Warehousing District is essentially along the docks, placed along the edge of the River Divide, where boats come in from areas that supply Oakhaven in bulk, especially Highport. Most rivers connect at some point to the River Divide, including the Prismatic River that runs from the North Peaks all the way through and empties into the swamps at the base of the Chaos Crests. Warehouses line the backdrop of the docks where bulk items are loaded and unloaded with merchandise coming through Oakhaven to be shipped or received.

More Later!

See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!

Please visit MY HOME PAGE 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!

(Photos from Kozzi)

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

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What Price is the Right Price for a Book?

I am seeing a bit of disparity in the price
of books, especially eBooks. I see prices that range from $30.00+ for a hardcover down to .99 cents for an eBook.

I am wondering what is the best price point for a novel and at what point will you not 'break the bank' for a book? I don't think that $10.00 is asking too much for a book that I want to read, regardless of whether or not it in print or an eBook, but what the heck do I know!?

With books so easy to obtain via downloads to the Nook, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Android phones, etc., does that change your mind, too? I know Amazon and the eBook changed the publishing and writing game forever.

I looked recently on the top kindle book and every single one was $2.99 and under. Some of them were even free! I am not sure how they count ‘free’ as sales, but I am sure it is possible. I know many bloggers and authors have discussed this, but I wanted to see what my audience thinks. Reason being is that I have many more books in the works!

I feel that my publishing company may have mislead me indirectly or perhaps I wasn’t clear enough with my expectations—maybe it was simply my own delusions of grandeur that pushed my own ego into thinking that I could make a good push with sales all by myself…meh. While I think that I am doing a fairly good job of marketing using the social media sites, I feel like sometimes I am beating a dead horse…especially on Facebook. I am having some success with twitter, my website and with the blog in driving visitors to each using the other. At some point or another, I feel that I am going to need either to spend some of my own money for a media blitz or try to find an agent to net me a publisher.

Who was happy? This guy!
Circling back to the first published book, I went with the ‘let’s try to see how far I can push this while competing against known authors’ route in my price point. While I don’t say that it is wrong, I think that I may have put the cart before the horse.

I am currently working on a prequel: an anthology that includes the story of what happened to my retired heroes prior to the prologue in Covenant of the Faceless Knights. I am also working on short stories of Elec, Saeunn, Rose and Garius. I am also planning on doing another full length novel for the second in the ‘Beginnings’ series (sequel). I am still debating whether or not to include a story about Orngoth in the anthology (prequel)…I will see if anyone clamors for one here!

Also, I am planning on releasing the anthology sometime next year with the price point of .99 cents up to $2.99. Any advice from the pro’s out there? I am not quite sure what to do yet for the full length novel and am debating whether or not to bother with the interior art again. I liked it, but am not sure if it is worth the added expense.

I know that some people only charge the $2.99 price, but are they mostly novellas, short stories or what? My novel was 304 pages and I spent a lot of hard work in editing, presenting and writing it. I am not saying that anyone else hasn't, merely presenting the facts from my side for anyone who hasn't written a book yet! Does that mean anything or not when compared to the rest of the field?

My questions to you are:

1. What do you charge or what would you pay for a full length novel?

2. What do you expect content-wise and editorial-wise for the .99 cent to $2.99 price point?

3. Do you want to see a sixth short story in the anthology that centers on the half-ogre barbarian Orngoth?

See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!

Please visit my home page 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!

(Photos from Kozzi and me!)

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