Orctober: The Demons Within Sample

So I figured maybe I could share a bit more of The Demons Within than the first chapter for y’all. This is in chapter 3 and I’m still pretty proud of the whole interaction. Still makes me smile reading it. You can get your copy here. Enjoy!

Cigar smoke met him immediately but faded enough to mingle with the smell of whiskey. No one seemed to pay him any mind as he looked about. Everyone was busy drinking or gambling or singing around the little piano. Grimluk cut toward the bar in the back, passing by several poker tables, each covered in soft green or red or blue felt. Wooden chips clicked and clacked against each other while the players took their chances with bluffs aplenty. The smell of the place shifted near the bar, filling his nostrils with the scents of beer and, strangely, just a hint of flowery perfume.
The bar was long and well polished, covered in bronze accents and a fine stone top. Maybe marble? Grimluk didn’t really know much about rocks. If it’d been steel, he’d have had a better chance, but he liked the stone, whatever it was. It was dark and speckled with gold and silver.
Grimluk stepped up and waited his turn as several others gave their orders to the barmen on duty. He looked up at the mirror hanging behind the bar and noticed an orc talking with a human to his left.
When it was his turn, Grimluk ordered two tankards of the house brew and a shot of their best whiskey. The man talking to the orc bumped into Grimluk but didn’t seem to notice or care. The orc wore a dress of reds and golds, a similar color scheme as the barmen and a few others Grimluk had noticed, showing what some might describe as a generous amount of cleavage. She was frowning heavily, with hands on hips. The look and her stance made Grimluk pay attention.
“I said no, Roscoe,” she said.
“Think yer shit dun stink?” the man asked angrily. “Think yer better ‘n me?”
For a moment, it sounded like his words were slurred with drink but Grimluk realized the man’s accent was helping out as well.
The woman didn’t answer, which seemed to make the man madder. The human hauled back like he would slap the orc but Grimluk caught his wrist as the barman set his drinks down.
“Pardon, friend, but I reckon this might be a foolish course of action,” Grimluk said. The barman watched with a cautious glare.
The man ripped his hand free and spun on Grimluk. “The fuck you say, gerblin?”
Grimluk’s throat rumbled and he ran his tongue along one of his tusks. “Reckon I said your behavior might not be the best. Reckon that’s double now.”
“Ain’t your woman, goblin.” He made a clear effort to enunciate the word this time. “Ain’t no point in protectin’ her none, neither!”
Grimluk downed the shot of whiskey and turned to face the man proper. “Not protectin’ her, friend. Tryin’ to protect you. I reckon you could say I know a thing or two about orcs. Here’s what I know, friend. You hit her and she’s gonna break your hand. And you say that ugly word around either of us again, and I reckon she’ll break something else, too. Now, if I were you, I’d take a walk outside and let the wind cool me down a bit before somethin’ bad happened.”
The man opened his mouth to protest more but Grimluk cut him off with a growl. “Before something bad happened. Friend.”
A conflict of emotions warred on the man’s ruddy face as he weighed the situation. “Fah! Troll fuckers!” he shouted before wandering away to some dark corner, no doubt to tend to his wounded ego.
Grimluk nodded to the woman and turned back to his brew.
The barman set another shot of whiskey down. “On the house.”
Grimluk held the glass up in a small salute and downed it.
“Didn’t have to do that, stranger,” the woman said, moving closer to him. “Barrier spell in here prohibits violence. He’d have been turned away ‘fore he hit me.”
Grimluk shrugged and set his hat down. “He might be an ass, but there wasn’t a need even for that. He’ll either rethink his strategy next time or else the spell will do whatever it does and he’ll learn the hard way.”
She gave him a momentary laugh and a smile. He thought both were beautiful. Her tusks were clean and strong, if a little on the thin side, and framed by lips that were painted bright red. He couldn’t help but think of the now-dead demon, but he’d learned long ago to let thoughts like that slip away. He smiled back.
“Ain’t you a real sweetie,” she said, giving a wink. Her eyes were a dark red, made all the more striking with the help of her makeup. A pale green hand brushed Grimluk’s sleeve.
This close, he could see her eyes better. Among orcs, there were certain physical characteristics considered particularly beautiful. Grimluk saw such a feature in her eyes. Orc pupils were usually diamond-shaped, but sometimes, the points of those diamonds stretched out a little, resembling a shining star.
“Well,” he started, “I see enough violence.” He shrugged. “I figure a saloon should be a haven. Doesn’t always happen that way, but that’s my view all the same. Especially given my proclivity for travel.”
“Aaah, I bet you’re a cardsharp, ain’t ya? Clean house and then move on, am I right?”
He grinned again. “Sometimes. Speaking of travel, though, does this place have any free rooms? Given your presence, maybe even something comfortable for an orc? Deputy Amos told me to find someone named Emerald, too.”
She nodded and gave another smile. “Matter of fact, I’m Emerald, hun. And we do have a nice room for a fine gentleman like yourself. If you’d like, I could show it to ya. What’s your name?”
“Thank you kindly,” he said, gathering his hat and remaining drink. “Name’s Grimluk. Lead the way, Miss.”
Emerald led him through the throng to a stairwell he’d missed when he entered. She made her way down a long hall that connected both sides of the building, her hips moving rather exaggeratedly. Grimluk wondered if maybe she’d hurt herself at some point, but the thought drifted away. Wasn’t any of his business either way and he appreciated her kindness.
She stopped and opened a door before disappearing inside. “Illumo,” she said as he followed. The lamps around the room flared up, along with a small wood stove in one of the corners. It was easily the biggest hotel room Grimluk had ever seen in his travels, aside from one trip to Varnerton. He knew it was a modestly sized room, though. The type easily found in towns of this size. Still, it had a couple of high-backed chairs, a table, a dresser and chest, and, as he’d hoped, a bed that would fit him well. Soft wallpaper lined the walls and thick red curtains hung across the windows. Everything looked quite comfortable. Plush even.
“What do ya think? Nice enough?” Emerald asked after he finished taking in the room.
“It’s very nice. Only one nicer was in Varnerton.”
“You’ve been to the capital? Goodness, hun, you really do like to travel.”
He nodded once. “That’s the life.”
“Maybe you can tell me about it later. Now, it’s a bilt for two hours, three for the evening, and ten for the night.”
His throat rumbled as he frowned. “A mite on the expensive side, ain’t it? Ah, well. It’s warm and your drinks are damn good.”
“Expensive?” Emerald said, the sweetness draining from her voice. “Excuse me?”
“Reckon so,” Grimluk replied, unbuttoning his coat. “Usually get a night for a bilt, maybe two.” He slipped out of the coat and hung it up on a nearby rack along with his hat.
“Expensive? What a pile of troll shit. I’ll have you know I’ve gotten extra pay for a night!”
Grimluk’s brow furrowed. “Extra for the night?”
“Damn right.”
“Why?”
Emerald’s eyes narrowed and she marched over to Grimluk, every inch of her suddenly fierce and aggressive. “Cause I’m gods-damned worth it! And I don’t care how big your gun is, if you don’t agree, then get the fuck outta here, mister! Gun or no gun, I’ll whoop ya good!”
Realization struck Grimluk. “You’re a Companion?”
“The fuck else would I be? You asked for a room!”
Grimluk had to steady himself as the laughter rolled through him, heavy and sincere. Emerald looked at him like she would knock his head clean off. He held up his free hand in a sign of surrender. She looked at him warily but stepped back. Her own face lit up for a moment.
“Oh. Maybe you don’t like girls, then?”
“No, no, it’s not that. I like girls just fine. Don’t really have a preference one way or another. I really was just lookin’ for a room, though. I didn’t realize you were a Companion.” Another chuckle rolled out of him. “I’ve no doubt you’re well worth your prices, though.”
“Didn’t realize…” Now it was Emerald’s turn to laugh. “I’m so sorry! I just thought…”
“I know, I know. Reckon a little miscommunication goes a long way.” He sipped some of his brew. “Been a while since I seen another orc. How ‘bout I pay you for your time and we can just sit and talk? Still need a room, too, if these are actually for rent.”

News & Demon Haunted Teaser

Figured it was time to share a bit more of Demon Haunted with everyone. But first, some news!

Most of everything I’ve been working on with Demon Haunted is basically done. At this point, I have a few little things to finish with some image stuff and that’s it. Demon Haunted is being proofread, the first print proof arrives tomorrow, and everything’s shaping up and looks like it’ll be ready with some wiggle room before October. Whoo!

Secondly, I’ve started Grimluk 3 and I’m already nearly 2500 words in. That’s pretty exciting. Hopefully, I can get the first draft for this one done pretty quick and then start on book 4 as well. But hopefully, when folks start reading Demon Haunted, they enjoy themselves. Otherwise there won’t be a huge point in trying to put out more Grimluk, eh?

Anyways, on with the snippet! Again, no spoilers for the main plot, just a nice scene I’m fond of. Fair warning as this one is more on the disturbing side than the last one. If you’re not fond of snakes or some body horror…

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Demon Haunted Teaser

Firstly, apologies for not following up my Ghostbusters post for the second movie. I’ll be doing a review of the remake though, once I see it. But for now, I thought a nice piece of Demon Haunted might be in order, at least beyond the first chapter. I will, of course, post snippets with no spoilers to the main plot. Mostly, these will be interesting bits and bobs from the first half of the book. This first teaser introduces the Hanging Judge himself. Enjoy!

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Snippet #5 – Spacial Terrors

We come now to the end of March and snippets from A Demon in the Desert.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the little excerpts and background info.  April should see me busting my ass at a new level with the help of Camp Nano.  I’m almost done with rewrites and then the serious editing can start.  I’m hoping to have the thing as close to done by May as I can.  I’ll probably post Camp Nano status reports, maybe weekly.

Anywho, I was trying to think of a last snippet to post and I think I’ll go with another nightmare.  This one in particular is very near and dear to me as it will be one of the nightmares/hallucinations that I suffered from.  They lasted a long time too.  I didn’t really stop having them til I was 25.  I call them “spacial terrors.”  In this scene, Grimluk is talking to a local Halfling named Thomas and asks him to give him an idea on what things have been like in Greenreach Bluffs through Thomas’s story.  As always, this is not the final edit.

“I guess the best place to start is to say that I never had any sleep problems before all this. Occasionally, you eat somethin’ that don’t sit well and you have a weird dream but that’s normal. Natural even, right? I didn’t even notice the dreams at first. Figured it was just somethin’ I ate. Shrugged ’em off. Now…” He downed half his pint and belched. “It’s like the world goes wrong. Sometimes I see things while it’s happening but mostly, it feels like reality’s been pulled inside-out and gone tipsy. Everything, and I mean everything, goes far away but not. You ken it? The whole world skinny, stretches leagues away. It’s all still close enough to touch though. And touching, gods.”

A small moan escaped Thomas’s throat.

“The size of things goes wrong. If you were near when I had one of these, you’d be my size but you’d be so much bigger too. Like you’d shrunk but grown to the heavens all at once. All wrong. And everything feels that way. A splinter feels as big as a the biggest tree. A pebble would sit in my hand and feel like I was holding a mountain. The only thing that seemed to fight it off is light. So I’d light my lamp back up. Or try to. Some nights, it’s all too much and…and…I just lay there. I use to scream at it. The madness of it.

“It’s all worse now though. I avoid the bed but that’s just making it worse. I said I see things sometimes and I do and the things is worse. I think I see glowing eyes sometimes. Or some sort of light. It’s so hard to tell but sometimes it feels like something’s watching me. Sometimes, when everything stretches out to eternity, I can see…gods damn it, things. I don’t know what to call them but things. I can see them in the dark edges of everything.”

Thomas sighed heavily. “Fuck,” he croaked. “It’s so much worse than I thought. Sayin’ it all like that, out loud.”

He swallowed hard and for a moment, it looked like he would start crying. Grimluk remained silent. He wanted to let Thomas catch his breath. Everything had tumbled out of him like the rush from a broken dam. The Halfling laid his head down against the table and sucked in a deep breath.

The Sliver stood silent save for the sound of the wind that slipped through the windows every so often and the sound of light snoring coming from behind the bar. Grimluk and Thomas sat in the quiet and drank their ale.

“Thank you,” Grimluk said when he felt Thomas had recovered.

Snippet #4 – Souffles and Jackasses

This little section introduces two of the main characters.  What you see here is a little silly but after, things start getting serious again.  The original scene was just Grimluk showing up at the door.  I hadn’t created Trilgor yet.  Hadn’t even named the Mayor yet.  I knew I wanted a little Halfling woman though and then I got the idea of her yelling at Grimluk and it made me laugh so out it came.  Enjoy.

As the pair reached the gate of the mayor’s house, a big gust of wind blew through the town, sweeping down from the bluff behind the house. It kicked up several dust devils and with several more gusts, they spun harmlessly through the center of the town. Trilgor unlatched and pushed through the gate as another gust threatened to take Grimluk’s hat off. The hunter lifted a hand and kept it in place.

The courtyard was pitiful. Dry, overgrown grass jutted out of planters with the occasional, sickly-looking group of flowers. The purple petals of one flower in particular could be pretty in the right season but in their current state, looked more like leaves made of dried blood.

The house was built in similar fashion to the Silver Sliver. It started in stone and peaked in wood. The foundation was much bigger, appearing to have been built up from a basement or cellar. It was three stories in all and, like the Sliver, had an ironwood door as well, though much more ornately carved.

A small set of stone steps lead up to a wooden porch. The Orcs stepped up to the door and Trilgor gave two, strong knocks. After a minute or two, the door ripped open. There stood a Halfling woman, red-haired, hazel-eyed, glaring up at him.

“You ruined my souffle, you jackass!”

It caught Trilgor off guard.

“I’m sorry, Sadie. How was I supposed to know?”

“The hell do you want, comin’ up and bangin’ on doors like you’re comin’ through?”

Grimluk stood there a moment, surprised at the ferocity of the tiny woman and her anger at a deflated souffle.

“I need to speak with Selbie,” the young captain said with a sigh. “I found a new hunter.”

He motioned towards Grimluk. The hunter touched the brim of his hat.

“Hullo, miss.”

Sadie looked the hunter up and down, like she was sizing him up.

Then, without warning, she slammed the door in their faces. They stood there, unsure of what just happened, and waited.

“Is she always like this,” Grimluk asked Trilgor.

“Actually, yes. Whatever issues Sadie’s suffered, she’s one of a few who hides it well.”

The door ripped open again as he finished speaking. This time, a older man with graying hair and round spectacles stood next to the irate baker.

“Here are the dummies,” she almost hissed before she disappeared back into the house.

Grimluk grinned to himself. He couldn’t recall anyone ever calling him a dummy, much less someone small enough he could pick up with one arm.

Snippet #3 – Monster threatens to eat backer’s kid

Two snippets down, three to go.  This week’s snippet involves one of my kickstarter backers.  Mr. Somma, with his very generous backing there at the end, requested I name a character after his son, who wanted to be an Elf.  Somehow, I got it in my head that I needed to model the character after his son as well.  It actually worked out, as Ajay is Indian and I had originally written in a family of Elves with dark skin.

I actually combined two ideas for the section.  The first was a series of nightmares my mother told me she’d had as a kid, about a man in a red coat chasing her.  The second, was The Grundel, from Extreme Ghostbusters.  If you read the Grundel page, you’ll see some controversy about the dialogue sounding like a pedophile.  Given the subject, it’s a little hard to avoid even in my version.  I just wanted to put that out first.  I’m going to be editing the scene further once I finish the current draft though, so that potential angle will be cut down quite a bit.  Enjoy!

The pair’s second stop was a father and his son, Rhim and Ajay. Elves, brown-skinned with shaggy mops of black hair falling over their pointed ears. Rhim’s honey-brown eyes were bloodshot. Ajay refused to look anyone in the eye. They were quiet and polite but short with Grimluk. Rhim was visibly hesitant to speak with the hunter. His body language told Grimluk he was wound up enough he wanted to bolt. Sadie saw she needed to step in, as the hunter had known all too well, and persuade Rhim to talk.

She was surprised when her simple confirmation that Grimluk was there to help allowed Rhim to relax some. The man clearly needed some sleep but he relaxed enough to talk.

Most of what they’d been through had happened fairly recently. They had paid no mind to the cycle of nightmares at first but at some point, the nightmares refused to stay in their dreams and invaded their waking lives.

Rhim had jolted awake from a particularly disturbing dream involving a man in a red coat luring Ajay away. When father had went to check on son, his heart had frozen. Ajay was gone. The window was open. Rhim took off for the Watch. Despite the night Watch’s best efforts, he had demanded that Trilgor inspect the scene personally. Trilgor followed him, armed, ready, and very much wanting to know where a teenage boy could disappear to in such a small town.

There was no disappearance though. Rhim and Trilgor scared Ajay half out of his skin. The window was closed and the boy had clearly been sound asleep.

A few days later, it all started back up though. This time, Ajay woke in the middle of the night to the man in the red coat tapping at his window. Ajay had told his father that it looked something like a man-sized ogre. The face was long and gaunt with a huge and grotesque jaw. Rotten teeth filled a huge mouth. Orange eyes locked onto the boy’s. A sonorous voice beckoned Ajay to come with him.

Ajay screamed. The whole building bolted awake.

Ever since, the thing in the coat had been torturing them both. If it wasn’t tapping at Ajay’s window, it was appearing at the foot of Rhim’s bed to tell him of how he would feast on the boy. Flesh and soul consumed in a banquet of eternal pain.

Grimluk let himself out as Rhim broke down into tears. A few minutes later, Sadie joined him, her own eyes looking watery, like she was going to cry as well. She sighed deeply.

“Is this what you always have to deal with?” she murmured.

“Yes.”

“How?”

“By finding the thing causing it all and stopping it. When you’re ready, we can continue.”

Sadie looked up at the hunter. Concern shown back. Her chin quivered but she held the tears back.

“You’re a good man, Grimluk.”

A small smile crept to his lips. “I try.”

Snippet #2

This whole scene is from the first draft.  I really love it and wanted to edit it and keep it.  This is the current version of it, which starts off chapter 2.  A friend who’s serving as a beta reader demanded (with much love) that I expand on the first sentence and I fully plan on it.  In any case, I hope you enjoy the current iteration and that it gets you excited to see the finished book this summer!

Grimluk emerged from the sandstorm like a phantom. Several yards ahead of him lay the town’s entrance, guarded immediately by two Human men. The hunter walked slowly towards them, covered from head to toe with a thick coating of pale dirt, which he endeavored to beat loose from himself. He stopped within talking distance, and allowed the Watchmen to observe him. The dust fell from him in great showers. After clearing himself as best he could, he held up his hands in peace, letting them know he was real and awaited their response.

“Charlie, you see this too,” the watchman on the right asked the watchman on the left.

“Big fuckin’ Orc-man,” Charlie remarked.

“Aye. We both see him them. Reckon we should ask what he wants.”

He stepped forward, holding a rifle, and shouted at Grimluk.

“We both see ya, so you’re real. What you want, Orc?”

Grimluk lowered his arms and spoke.

“I was hired to fix your demon problem” he said plainly.

The Watchman looked back at his peer before turning back to the green-skinned wanderer.

“How do we know you’re really a hunter? How do we know you ain’t a harrier?”

“You’re a Wastes town. That means you have a barrier, correct?”

“So it’s said,” the Watchman replied.

Grimluk stepped forward slowly. He could feel energy ripple as he approached. The hunter reached out his left hand and touched the barrier. It rippled and shimmered like a soap bubble, humming lightly in resistance to the Orc’s hand. The Watchmen looked at each other, curiosity and confusion washing over their faces.

Grimluk pushed his hand through the barrier.

Charlie’s rifle was up against his shoulder and aimed squarely at the Orc’s head in an instant.

“Hold back, Orc,” Charlie shouted.

Grimluk held his right hand back up and pulled his left hand back from the barrier.

“Yeah, okay…you’re true,” the other Watchman said.

The trio stood silently.