Tag Archives: Books

The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a Writers of the Future Honorable Mention—Blade of the Vagabond Part 1

 

Today I’d like to discuss how my story, Blade of the Vagabond, was created and how it was ultimately awarded an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. 

The idea to write Blade of the Vagabond came when I noticed an open call from a major science fiction and fantasy publisher. They were looking for fantasy novellas inspired by non-European cultures. An idea hit me so powerfully that I stopped work on my novel in progress to focus on this new project. 

At the time I had no hope of making the deadline, but the idea wouldn’t leave me alone. I put everything aside and pushed on. 

The first inkling of a concept for this story began to sprout while taking an Arthurian Literature class at UMASS Lowell. The professor, Dr. Archer, assigned a paper where we were to write about any topic on the Middle Ages we wanted to explore. I knew exactly what I wanted to research and became excited by the prospect. 

Having been a martial artist all my life, and having years of training in a system centered on Japanese Feudal combat, I decided to research Medieval fighting systems. My focus was on sword schools as there was ample woodcut evidence through surviving woodcuts that depicted the techniques. 

I used books like Sigmund Ringeck’s Knightly Arts of Combat: Sword and Buckler Fighting, Wrestling, and Fighting in Armor by David Lidholm. 

Knight

As I crafted the paper, I thought about how interesting it would be to include realistic combat dynamics into fantasy fiction. The concept stayed in the back of my mind but remained just a potential idea jotted down in my notebook. 

When I learned about the open call for non-European inspired fantasy fiction, I thought it would be fun to create a world based on ancient Japan. Although, I also drew from ancient Korea and China. 

Conan

Wanting to create a swashbuckling sword and sorcery epic fantasy drama, I drew upon many inspirations including Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian and Kull the Conquer series of stories. Inspiration also came from the Seven Samurai (1954) and the Jidaigeki (period dramas) and chanbara (sword fighting Amurai cinema). 

Samurai

However, I didn’t want to include the samurai or the ninja as this had been done to death. Instead, I used an obscure book as my inspiration for a fighting wizard character: Leung Ting’s Skills of the Vagabonds. The book had capitalized on the 1980s ninja boom comparing the  Chinese Vagabond assassins to Japan’s ninja assassins. Marketing at its finest! The glowing eyes on the cover of the book had stayed with me over the years and I thought it would be great fodder for fantasy fiction. 

Skills

Delving deeply into Japanese mythology, I began to craft the story into a 20,000-word novella, the low end of the word count required for submission. 

For the title, I decided on a mixture of Skills of the Vagabond and a variant of the “Swords” titles prevalent in the fantasy genre like Swords against Wizardry (Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser sequence) by Fritz Leiber and Sword of Destiny (Witcher Saga) by Andrzej Sapkowski.  Blade of the Vagabond sounded like a fantasy story to my ear. 

Witcher

Despite the open call ending before I finished, I soldiered on completing the first draft and then shelving the project until, six months later, they opened for submissions once again. 

Next time, I’ll delve into the submission process that led to receiving an  Honorable Mention. I’ll also reveal the original title and how and why it changed. I hope you’ll follow my blog to find out what happened. 

Year in Review 2019

Each year I create a list of goals for every area of my life. Throughout the year I work on my goals, track my progress, and then commit to posting my top accomplishments. I hope in doing so it will inspire you to do the same. 

Writing

Novels

Finished the third-draft of The Tower of Abandon, a horror-thriller novel that is hovering around 75,000 words. 

Entered the St. Martin’s Minotaur/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition. 

Participated in the National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). 

Began writing Black Magic Bullets (Urban Fantasy) during NaNoWriMo and published 16 (first-draft) chapters on my blog.

I FREAKING LOVE THIS. It fills a void that Harry Dresden has left. –Review from a Twitter follower. 

Began utilizing ProWritingAid to tighten my prose. 

Black Magic Bullets

Short Stories

 

award-honorable-mention-wotf

 

Awarded an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest putting my story in the top 2% of all entries.

My story Shattered (3,200 words) was shortlisted for inclusion in an anthology. 

Submitted to 11 fiction markets including 2 submissions to WOTF. 

 

Reviews 

Wrote and posted a review of glass slipper dreams, shattered by Doungjai Gam.

Wrote and posted a review of Ararat by Christopher Golden. 

Read through a manuscript and gave input to a pro/Indy writer.

 

Notable Books Read

The Chinaman (The Foreigner) by Stephen Leather 

Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton 

Ararat by Christopher Golden 

The Big Bopper Rises by Reb MacRath 

Dr. Sleep by Stephen King

Without Remorse by Tom Clancy 

Storm Front by Jim Butcher 

Writers of the Future Vol. 35

 

Marketing/Platform

Wrote 21 plus Scribes of Arcanum Anatomy of a Sale blog posts.

Reposted 2 of my out of print stories on my blog. 

Posted 16 (1st draft) chapters of Black Magic Bullets on blog. 

Family & Friends

Introducing our adoptive cat, Diesel! 

Desielgift

We adopted a five-year-old tuxedo cat from the Woonsocket Cat Sanctuary. He had gone semi-feral and they thought he might never be adoptable.  Surprisingly, to all the staff, Diesel took to us very quickly. Although, once we got him home, he hid for almost a month. Now he can’t get enough of us and has made it his mission to become a lap cat. The main challenge we had with him is that at some point, as far as the vet can tell, he bit the inside of his cheek and he had to take meds to heal his wound. We brought him to the vet 4 times this year for checkups and it seems he has finally healed. Diesel has made himself at home and has become a part of our family. 

I drove my dad (and my mom) to an eye doctor appointment the day after his cataract surgery and then we went to lunch. 

I met my parents for breakfast at Foxwoods. 

Met briefly with friends at the New England Whiskey Fest. 

Saw Rambo: Last Blood with my dad. 

Went to New Orleans for our Anniversary. 

Had Thanksgiving dinner with the In-Laws. 

Kept in touch with my friend and former English professor through email. 

Martial Arts and Other Training. 

Kuhapdo

I was Patty’s plus one at Planet Fitness. Most of my time there was for leg days. I spent 30 minutes on either the treadmill or incumbent bike and then performed weighted leg lifts and squats among other exercises. 

Celebrated 32 years of formal martial arts training. 

Had the opportunity to take a couple Hapkido and open classes this year. 

Attended the Chung Suk Kuhapdo (Korean sword) seminar taught by Master May of the Blue Stone Dojang. 

After the seminar, I was invited to have lunch at Arisu Korean Restaurant in Leominster, MA. Had Sujeonggwa Cinnamon with Ginger Punch, Bulgogi beef with white rice and some appetizers, miso soup, and either Seafood Paijeon or Kimchi-jeon.

KoreanRes

Home training included shadow boxing using JKD attack by combination (ABC) and Bas Rutten Boxing and Tai boxing HITT training, Kali double and single stick, stick and dagger, Bunkai and forms training, and Kunhapdo sword draws and 100 cuts. 

Health

Had my annual physical and am the picture of health. Although, I could use to drop a couple pounds. Haha! 

My doctor wanted a spot on my forehead checked by a dermatologist. I went to the appointment but it was a false alarm. No issues. Whew! 

Began calcium and magnesium supplements. 

Saw my ophthalmologist twice and my pressure has been down. 

Had two dental cleanings. Dental exam showed a cracked tooth and I had to have a root canal that took three appointments to complete.  

Cars

Had to replace tires on my car. They were nearing the end of their tread cycle and had dry rot. 

I went through the process of replacing my driver’s license with a Real ID. 

Patty’s struts failed and were replaced under warranty. 

A small piece of composite worked it’s way inside one of Patty’s tires and was fixed for free. 

Patty’s vehicle needed brakes and rotors. 

Updated Patty’s out of date Mazda infotainment system firmware. 

Cord Cutting

To save money we hooked up a Clearstream antenna to receive free Over The Air TV. 

At the same time we switched to Philo for live TV streaming. 

During the year we utilized free and discounted premium streaming services including Showtime and Starz. Starz is still ongoing. 

Utilized free 30 day free trial for Netflix that is still ongoing. 

Shopping

Utilized various discount stores and got loyalty cards for Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and Ocean State Job Lots. 

Utilized a discounted BJ’s membership that is still ongoing. 

Finances

Refinanced our mortgage 

Leveraged taxes again to a tax preparer. 

House

I put everything aside for about a month to do some much-needed house repairs.

We brought in an electrician to replace wired smoke and CO2 alarms along with adding a heat detector in the garage. 

The electrician also updated lighting in the dining area, kitchen, and upstairs hall. We also had them replace the broken exhaust fan in the bathroom. 

As part of the bathroom refresh to prep for the electrician and plumber, we painted the ceiling and installed a stick-on backsplash.  

We had Victory Plumbing come in and rebuild shower fixtures in both the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms. The downstairs had seized and needed replacement and the upstairs was going. Also, I had to refresh the downstairs bathroom faucet and the kitchen faucet which was leaking. 

I replaced the downstairs toilet innards to stop it from running. (I was tired of chasing after it! Haha). 

I replaced the doorbell with a wireless doorbell. 

I also changed out the garbage disposal. 

We replaced our old stove since two of the burners no longer worked, and our old fridge since it was dying. 

We had the electricians add an outlet in the garage ceiling to be up to code and then replaced our broken garage door and automatic door opener. 

Travel & Fun

New Orleans

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We hadn’t been to New Orleans since the year 2000 and it was nice to return to the Crescent City. It was very hot and muggy and we decided not to venture too far from our hotel, but still had a great time. 

Stayed at the Wyndham French Quater – it was fine but would not recommend. The Concierge tried to pressure us into a timeshare presentation. We had trouble getting the maid service to clean our room but they were right there on the day we left looking for a tip. I have a tip for them—do your job! 

Deuce Mcallister’s Ole Saint Kitchen & Tap was right next door, and very convenient when the weather became too oppressive for walking. 

Started many a morning (or afternoon) with Chicory coffee and beignets at Cafe Beignet. 

A bartender at B.B. King’s turned us onto Hochstadter’s Low & Slow Rock & Rye and Old Fashioned cocktail in a bottle. 

We marched in a popup parade. 

NOLAParade

We ate at Oceana Red Fish, had Muffulettas at Central Grocery & Deli, and a farewell meal at Acme Oyster House.

Hung out at Jackson Square, toured St. Louis Cathedral and the Old Ursuline Convent, and walked around Frenchmen Street. 

Watched Steamboat Willie at the Cafe Beignet at Musical Legends Park. 

I performed Karaoke at The Cat’s Meow. Hey, someone has to entertain the people visiting the Big Easy! Watch my performance here! 

Whitesnake Concert  – Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI 

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Patty took me to see Whitesnake at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI for my birthday. 

We had a blast. Birthday dinner at Texas Roadhouse and washed it down with Slow & Easy whiskey sours at the concert. 

P&DWS

New England Whiskey Fest – Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI 

Here’s a list of what we tried at the New England Whiskey Fest, along with initial impressions. If it wasn’t so busy, I’d have taken more pictures.

Glenfiddich Bourbon Barrel Reserve 14 – We both prefer the 12 or 15 Solara cask. Sweet arrival with a dry spicy finish.

Eagle Rare – Very sweet. Would make a good mixing whiskey.

Sazerac Rye – one of Patty’s favorites. Very spicy. Probably better in a Sazerac, but no problem drinking neat.

Whistle Pig Straight Rye 15 – Okay, would try again.

Highland Park 12 – Lightly peated. Nicely balanced. One of Patty’s favorites. I liked this a lot.

Auchentoshan 12 – I tried this. Very nice. Floral and sweet. Enjoyable.

Laphroaig 10 – Patty didn’t’ try. Either my tastes are changing or this whiskey has mellowed. Still has a strong taste of cough sweets, but I swear I was hunting for peat. Maybe tasting so many spirts changed the nature of this whiskey on my pallet.

Jameson Black Barrel – Patty tried. She wasn’t impressed.

A mixed drink with Bully Boy white whiskey. Patty tried and enjoyed it.

West Cork Port Cask finish – Patty tried and did not like.

Food

Bourbon infused cupcakes. Awesome!

Fred and Steve’s Steak House Steak Sandwich (I ate two!).

Shipyard Pub Truffle Fries.

Wicked Good Chicken Cheese Waffle or something. I had this but didn’t like it.

Wrapped Scallop w/ Bacon. Patty had one. She thought it was awesome.

Fiji supplied the water.

Popa Chubby provided the music.

A good time was had by all!

 

2019 Movies Watched in 2019 at Home

Triple Threat BluRay

 

The Foreigner **** Starz – This is from 2017 but watched after reading Stephen Leather’s novel.

Captain Marvel ** Movies Anywhere. 

The Curse of Llorona *** Amazon $.99 rental

Avengers: Endgame **** Movies Anywhere

Avengement **** DVD

Triple Threat ** /Blu-Ray 

Annabelle Comes Home ** Prime rental 

Kill Chain *** Prime

John Wick 3: Parabellum **** Blu-Ray

6 Underground *** Netflix 

Men in Black: International * Starz 

Spiderman: Far From Home **** Blu Ray 

Brightburn ** Starz

2019 Movies watched in the Theater

Rambo: Last Blood **** Cinema World Fitchburg.

Ad Astra **** Providence Place IMAX 

 

That’s it for 2019. I’ll see you in 2020!

Happy New Year!!! 

Black Magic Bullets: Chapter 16

Moving right along… Here’s the first draft of Chapter 16. NaNoWriMo might be over, but the show (novel) must go on.

 

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

Chapter Sixteen

I bent my knees. Absorbed the impact, and still felt electric pain in my soles as I landed. 

An intense light blinded me. Defensively, my hands rose to my face. Kenzi turned, pointing the flashlight away from my direction.  

I blinked away orange stars, yellow moons, and green clovers. My retinas were none too happy with being attacked by a flashlight as bright as the sun. 

“Let’s move,” Kenzi said not waiting for me to recover. The thin beam led the way, parting the darkness in front of us, dust particles creating the appearance of walking through a snowstorm. 

From what I could see, and I couldn’t see much, the area looked like a concrete storage room that had long ago fallen into disuse. 

“I smell something,” I said quietly. That was an understatement. Somewhere in the blackness, just out of view, a putrid pile of refuse, or perhaps a dead body, (I didn’t know what a carcass smelled like at the time) had been left to ripen. 

Had we found Dedra’s body? Dread overcame me and I hoped it was just a pile of trash. 

Kenzi hushed me. She already had her weapon drawn and was scanning the shadows with lumens to the power of 1,000. 

Then the shadows moved toward us—surrounding us—closing in. 

“What the hell?” I asked. My brain couldn’t make sense of what my eyes were seeing.

“Ogres!” was all Kenzi said before pandemonium broke out. 

Here’s the problem with non-human anthropomorphic races: most are not magical in origin and as such, are not as easily manipulated or inured through the Collective. Not at least immediately. More on this later. 

Ogres stand just about as tall as humans, are ugly as sin, and sport a musculature that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger jealous. As aforementioned, they also stink. Masters of stealth, sometimes their tell-tale odor is the only sign that you have come across an ogre raiding party. 

Kenzi didn’t tell me to cover my ears before she squeezed the trigger in rapid succession. The report of the firearm deafening as decibels echoed off concrete. The muzzle flash all but blinded me and created a strobing effect strong enough to give all but the strongest a seizure.

Jaring impact and my head snapped back. I stubbled in the same direction. Yet, I regained my footing. Tunnel vision made me lose sight of Kenzi. My lips swelled and my jaw ached. Luckily my head and body hadn’t betrayed me. Moving with the blow had allowed me to keep my teeth.

Momentum facilitated an ill attempt at retaliation. Letting my body turn, I sprung into the air and completed a jumping turning sidekick. Contact made, I pushed the ogre back but a kick that would have broken an ordinary mortal’s ribs didn’t even faze this overgrown oaf. 

Meaty hands grabbed me as he reached forward, and then I was sailing through the air wishing I had learned better how to receive the ground in my training. 

Landing on my back, I sucked wind. Pain arrived along with the feeling of suffocation. Panic followed. I had to get up. At least I got a reprieve from smelling the walking trash canister. 

My eyes continued to function even though my lungs had fled the scene. I watched as Kenzi fired two blasts and then turned and moved, effectively throwing an ogre who had penetrated her defenses. I envied the smoothness of her movements. 

The ogre who had come for me wasn’t done yet. 

I still couldn’t breathe and could do nothing but writhe in agony. 

Bending over me, the Ogre reached out one final time. This was it. My time had come. I resigned myself to peering deep into the darkness of whatever abyss awaited. 

Another report and the ogre hit the deck, mortally wounded, just as I took my first greedy breath. 

I coughed and then breathed again which brought on more coughing. Once started, I couldn’t stop and it took Kenzi dragging my ass off the floor to get moving again. 

I can’t express to you how much this changed my training. Failure will do that to you. Unfortunately, I went about everything the wrong way and in the end, my training would make me weaker, not stronger. You’ll see how that happened soon enough. 

“Let’s get a move on,” Kenzi said. “There will be more coming.”

Finally, the bronchial spasms subsided and normal respiration returned.

“I need to know where the body is,” Kenzi said and then for emphasis and to get my ass in gear screamed: “Now! 

A staircase led upstairs and I found myself scrambling up it, using my connection to the Collective to lead the way to the deceased. 

In a closet on the 2nd floor, we found the body. 

Kenzi examined it while I looked away, pretending to be guarding our six. I hoped I developed the stomach for this type of work. But then again… Maybe I didn’t hope for any such thing. 

“The body is male,” Kenzi said. 

“Are you sure?” I asked. 

”Do you want to see for yourself?” Kenzi asked. I didn’t. 

“No, I believe you,” I said. Forcing myself to give a cursory look, I recognized the remnants of the psychic cord that had given me a false positive and told her as much. “What do we do with the body?”

“We don’t do anything,” Kenzi said. Dreadstone doesn’t have the facilities to store the body and we certainly don’t want his DNA on us. You want to have an overzealous DA charge you with murder? I didn’t think so.  

“And we can’t give the information to the police. They wouldn’t last long if they came into contact with the ogres. I can assure you, they’ll run into them if we send for them to search the premises. 

“What do we do then?”

“Get in the car and check the next location. Hopefully, find something before we run out of time. 

To be continued… 

Seattle Red by Reb MacRath – Review

 

Seattle Red

Seattle Red

A modern two-fisted pulp, loaded with action, mystery, style, intelligence, and humor.
In this fourth book in the series, Boss heads to Seattle to take on Organized Retail Crime (ORC). Heavily researched, and highly detailed, we’re treated to firsthand descriptions of the seedier side of the Emerald City, and delve deeply into the world of ORC. Also heavily researched are the “Armless Arms” —weapons disguised as ordinary everyday objects. “Toyless is Joyless.”

Grounded firmly in the heavily researched word MacRath has created, we can gleefully enjoy a pulp romp with Boss and his colorful team as they go from one wild situation to the next. Boss tends to play the jester, but he never plays the fool. Rounding out the MacRathian trinity of tricksters is a an old geisha—or is she?—and the spirit of Mae West appearing in the most unexpected of locations.

As an aside, I have to comment on the Glenfiddich 21 Boss quaffs. I thought the author had inverted the numbers—but no! Boss drinks some really high-end stuff. And why shouldn’t he? Not only because he’s rich, but because we get to live vicariously through his good taste, and in so doing, we’re not even set back the price of a bottle!

MacRath never writes down to his audience, bringing in both pop culture and literary allusions. Authentic Seattle-speak also included! It is rare to find an action thriller/mystery this smart and also this fun.

If you like the snappy dialog of Elmore Leonard, and enjoy Quentin Tarantino’s brand of film making, you are going to go gaga over Boss MacTavin. Highly recommended.

Review of Hank Schwaeble’s Angel of the Abyss

angel-of-the-abyss

Hank Schwaeble’s Jake Hatcher is back in his third novel, The Angel of the Abyss. As always, and just like his short fiction, Schwaeble crafts a rollicking good tale that will keep you turning the pages.

The beginning of this tale has Hatcher facing a demon, although it’s more complicated than that, giving Hatcher time to exercise his sarcastic wit. Fans of Supernatural and Ash vs. the Evil Dead will definitely appreciate the humor.

The mood becomes more serious and dire in the second act. The middle of the book, unlike many writers who get bogged down at this point, is where Schwaeble really shines. He does a great job writing from the perspective of Amy, Jake’s true love, who is also a former cop. I actually enjoyed Amy’s scenes even more than Hatcher’s. The two of them fight like the proverbial married couple, of which, I’m sure, many readers will be able to relate.

Schweable also does a fine job of taking on the perspective of a young boy. We meet the boy while he’s in a precarious situation, and we know from the beginning that the boy will converge with Hatcher and Amy at some point in the story. I won’t spoil it for you, but I think you’ll be racing to the end to find out what happens.

Hatcher’s past is constantly catching up with him, complicating things, and fans of the series will get some closure on events that were set up in the previous volumes. New readers can start here; Hank does a great job of bringing you into Hatcher’s world. You won’t feel left out or confused.

The last third of the book builds up to a hellish crescendo leaving this reader wanting more. There are questions left unanswered, promising a fourth book in this popular series. The Angel of the Abyss has it all: likable characters, demons, black magic, possession, secret military installations, cults, and lots of action. If you want a story to get you in the mood for Halloween and beyond, pick up The Angel of the Abyss. You won’t be disappointed. Highly recommended.

Meeting Larry Correia and Getting Ideas!

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I had the pleasure of attending Larry Correia’s signing at Annie’s Book Stop in Worcester, Massachusetts. Best known for his Monster Hunter International (MHI) series, Larry was promoting Son of the Black Sword, the first in a series of new fantasy novels. Larry is very passionate at what he does, and loves his fans. He’s become a very controversial figure in certain circles, but if you get the chance to meet him, even if you don’t agree with his politics, you’ll find that he’s a very nice guy, and very down to earth.

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In meeting him I got to thinking about the MHI series, and Weston Ochse’s Seal Team 666 series (soon to be a major motion picture staring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). There are similarities between these two properties, and with my character Captain Amanda Rann, and her paranormal Special Forces team featured in my novel Wolves of Vengeance. I think anyone who enjoys MHI or Seal Team 666 would also love to read about Amanda and her team as she hunts horrid wolf like creatures that devour the cursed.

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If you haven’t tried these successful series, follow the links and check them out.

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Amanda’s team isn’t a knockoff of either of these two groups. I conceived of Amanda and her paranormal SF team back in 2006 while writing the first draft of Wolves of Vengeance. In 2011, while having the novel professionally critiqued, Grandmaster of Horror, Ray Garton, told me that he thought Amanda would make a great series character. I’ve had the idea on the backburner for a while now. I published Wolves of Vengeance in 2013 and then went back to working on other novels and short stories.

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Is this blog post just a way for me to “borrow” the fans of these two very successful series? Absolutely! If you’re a fan of Correia or Ochse, I would love for you to try out my novel. In it I mix SF&F with military fiction. If there were enough interest, I would be more than happy to bring back Amanda Rann and her team (I’ll come up with a cool name—I promise!) with my own unique brand of dark, fast-paced thrillers.

If you give Wolves of Vengeance a shot, and like the idea of more adventures featuring Captain Amanda Rann, let me know in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you.