The Jester (The Riyria Chronicles #2.5) – Review

The Jester (The Riyria Chronicles #2.5)The Jester by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once again Michael J. Sullivan, delivers an excellent story.
This, story falls between the first two major series and features Royce and Hadrian. It is exactly what you have come to expect from the pair.
This is a great short story and wonderful diversion.

I got the audiobook copy Narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds, and he did a wonderful job.

View all my reviews

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Dimensional Abscesses Giveaway Contest

Abscess2

If you have been living under a rock, like have for the last month, you might have missed that Michell Plested and I have released a new book. Dimensional Abscesses is a collection of short stories about places you don’t want to go. The stories range from time travel, to other planets, to hell and back, and of course down on the farm.

I am very excited about this book. Not only is it really a great book, but Michell and I have worked very hard on it, and it is the first book that we are releasing in our new imprint, Evil Alter Ego Press. For these reasons and many more, I want to get it into as many people’s hands as possible. So without further delay…

I am giving away 5 Ebook copies of Dimensional Abscesses: Portals to Places You Don’t Want To Go.

What do you have to win?

Simple. Leave a comment below before June 5th, with a place (real or fictional) you would not want to go and I will pick my 5 favorites.

And of course sharing the contest with your friends will make it more fun. So please, Tweet, Post and Plus it to your heart’s desire.

Gnome with newspaper and tobacco pipe under a toadstool, with a snail above him and a tree frog in the glass. Heinrich Schlitt (1849-1923) [public Domain]

The Gnome – A Short Story

Gnome with newspaper and tobacco pipe under a toadstool, with a snail above him and a tree frog in the glass. Heinrich Schlitt (1849-1923) [public Domain]A number of months ago I was listening to the Writing Excuses podcast, which by the way if you are a writer, and want-to-be writer, or even just want to know more about the craft of writing, you really should be listening to. on top of everything else you can learn from the advice they give, at the end of each podcast they give a writing prompt. Sometimes they are real story prompts, sometimes they are more like writing exercise, but you get one at the end of every show.

Now if you know me at all, you know I love writing prompts. I have folders and folders and probably ten different notebooks full of stories that I have written based on writing prompts. Most of them are not really good enough to share, at least no in their current from but maybe someday.

Back to the point. I was listening to Writing Excuses and they gave the prompt of “Neon Sniper Gnome.” That was it. No explanation, no writing exercise, just three words Neon Sniper Gnome. I knew I had to tell this story.

So without Further delay I give you,

The Gnome

“Come on John you gotta see this.”

“I can’t George I got all this paperwork to do.”

“Trust me the paperwork can wait.  You have to see this.”

“Oh all right.”  I said letting George practically pull me down to the holding cells.

We could hear him long before we got to the cell, though the reverberation from the hall way may it impossible to understand what it was that he was saying until we were right in front of him.

When we got there we had to push past at least a dozen patrolmen and at least as many plain clothes detectives just so we could see.  There standing in the cell was, well what could I say.

“What is wrong with you people. I am a Gnome for crying out loud.  I mean look at me,” he was shouting in want was the oddest mixture of BBC English and Southwestern twang that I had ever heard.  And he appeared to be shouting at not any one of the officers in particular but everyone who joined the group.

“You people think we just stand in your gardens all day long, but those aren’t gnomes. Those are wee people.  They got nothing in common with us.” He said stroking his long bright green beard.”

“I mean look at me.”  He smiled a devilish grin “You can’t take your eyes off me now can ya.  That is the way it should be, you should be staring.  I mean for goodness sakes I am a GNOME.  You all don’t even know what you got here.  I bet half ya don’t even know why I am here. Do ya?”

It was a question but no one dared to answer.  We didn’t want the show to stop.  Here was a bright neon creature standing less than three feet tall, in the middle of one of our holding cells. shouting at us.

“Well I’l tell ya what I am in here for.  I’m a sniper.” He whispered. Then he shouted waving his arms wide as if the throw the words out at us. “I am a damn sniper.  You all don’t even understand me, even when I am telling you right to your faces.  You are doing the same thing everyone else does when they see me. At first you think, hey there is a gnome. And then you think no gnomes aren’t real.  Then you realize that I practically glow in the dark with all this color.”

“You can see me from a thousand miles away.  Well maybe not a thousand, I was never that good at geography.  But I bet you could see me as you were coming down the hall here.  And for all that is good and holy, I am a gnome.  I stand out.”  He shook is head in disgust.

“I can see by the slack jawed looks on your faces, you still don’t believe me.  You still think that maybe I am some freak, some trick of your imagination, or maybe that this is some sort of a dream. Well let me help you with that.  I am real.  I am standing right here.  You can smell me I’m sure.  I know I can smell all of you.  But let me show you something else.”  His voice had dropped a little so that he was no longer shouting, but there was something in the look on his face that told us he was not done.

“You see I told you a I was a sniper.  When I tell people that, they never believe me.  Even the folks that hire me don’t believe me. That is until I show them this.”

Impossibly from inside his coat he pulled a rifle that was nearly twice as long as he was tall.

“This is a vintage Gewehr 98 with the telescopic sites for snipers.  I picked it up right after World War II.  Bet you didn’t think I was that old.  Well I am a lot older than that I tell you. This things older than most of you.  Then that is not really saying much, lots of things here older than most of you.  Probably half of you never even seen something like this.  But not to worry, it is not loaded” He said pulling back the bolt to show us the empty chamber, and look lovingly at the weapon.

“Let me tell you this thing has a kick. It will tear your arm off if you are not careful.  Well maybe not one of your arms, but someone like me, I gotta be careful with something like this.”

“So the gnome has a gun, that doesn’t make him a sniper.  Anyone can have a gun you say.  That is true.  But this is not just any gun.  I had this one specially modified.  You see I was taking this shot back in ’63.”

“It was a long shot and really challenging.  I am most missed it  After that I decided It was not good enough to be a great shot and have a great gun to do it with.  So I found this wizard in Australia or Austria or something. I told you I was no good at geography, he said he could cast a spell on the gun so I would never miss again.  It cost me an arm and a leg.  I mean really and arm and a leg.  I had to sent the arm and leg of my latest victim with the gun to this nut case so that he would enchant it.”

“Do you know how hard it is to get an arm and a leg shipped.  Well it was not as hard as it would be today, but even back then it was not easy.” his wicked smile had returned and he was almost whispering again

“So now I got this gun, and I don’t even really have to aim it.  All I have to be able to do is see the victim and point it in the general direction.  See I had these glasses made special.” He stopped and slipped a pair of glasses out of his pocket and on to the end of his big nose.

“Like this if the target is near and like this,” he leaned his head back a little so he could look down the bridge of his nose at us. “if they are far away. it is like one of those video games you all play. And BANG!”

He had been talking so softly that we had all leaned in, the sudden shout caught us all by surprise.

Several of the patrolmen had drawn their weapons and were looking around for a target, but finding none looked around confused.

The incredible volume of it left my ears ringing and wondering if maybe his gun had gone off.  But the little gnome just stood in the middle of the cell holding his sides as he laughed.

Whatever it was, it broke his spell like hold on us. I looked around and noticed more than half the precinct was down in the area near the holding cells.  Most of them still slack jawed staring at the little creature who was now laughing hysterically.

I felt something press against the back of my legs.  A little creature, pushed past us. He was not as brightly colored looking more bent, maybe even older than the one in the cell. He walked up to the door of the cell.

“Come on Rufus.  I think you have caused enough commotion for one night.”

“Aw Max, I was just getting started.”

“I know, I know,”  The older gnome placed his hand over the lock on the door and it slid open.  “Come along now.”

Rufus, slid the rifle back inside his coat where it completely disappeared again.

“I am aneonsniper gnome you fools,” he yelled as he and Max walked down the hall. Leaving us all just standing there.

When I got back to my desk still feeling rather dazed, there was a post It on my monitor with one word in an odd looking script.  “Bang!”

If you enjoyed this story, please take a moment to check out my other stories

Assassin’s Quest (GreatHites Classic)

Originally posted on Aug 19, 2008
Assassin’s Quest read to you by Ann and Jeff Hite

This weeks prompt comes from Mur Lafferty’s News from Poughkeepsie Find out more at Murverse.com

“Shaman, you need to take this baby’s soul back; you’ve given her the soul of an assassin,” my father said to the rheumy-eyed little man. The little man shook his head and walked out of the door muttering, and calling my father a fool.
My name is Betha MacTaggart, and that was how my life started. At least that is the story my mother told me of how it started. The other villagers have told me that the following day my father tried to kill me by throwing me in the river, but my mother would not hear of it, and in the end it was my hand that held the knife my father was carrying and as he tripped it drove into his chest. Not what I would call a good beginning.
We don’t get to choose the souls we are given, that is just the way life is. You get what you are given and you live with it. My soul was that of an assassin, and I started out my life by killing my father. It was obvious from that point on that I was going to be an assassin. The problem is, that is not really a popular field to go into, and people who are assassins are not exactly coming out of the wood work to tell you about themselves for obvious reasons. So finding a teacher or a mentor is a little difficult.
Any dummy with a weapon can kill someone, but how many people do you know that can kill someone with a single finger, or a blade of grass, and never get caught, or better yet blame it on someone else. That is the true job of an assassin. And that is what has brought me to this little town, nearly a months journey from my home, and had cost me almost everything I owned.
There was a rumor that the King’s own assassin was going to be in this town, not to kill someone, but to meet with several other assassins and discuss their trade. My best chance to get the training I needed was to be here and find them. The problem being that although just about everyone knew they were going to be in this town, and that they were supposed to be here this week, no one seemed to know where they were going to be meeting, or when they would be getting here. Worse still no one knew what they looked like. Keeping your identity safe is also part of being an assassin.
The best lead I had gotten was from the local shaman, he suggested that one hundred years ago when The kings assassin had called a council here that they had met in the tavern. At least that is where they gathered at first to discuss the next place to go. So here I sit in the tavern waiting and watching for I don’t know exactly what.
“Hello, young lady may I buy you a drink?” The skinny old man said sitting down beside me and waving the barmen over.
“No, I have one thank you. Can I help you?” I said watching his eyes rove over me.
“I hear you are looking for some people.”
“What is that to you?”
“I might be able to help you find them,” He answered with a smile creeping across his face
“I find that difficult to believe,” I said. “I bet there is a price involved that has me doing things that I would rather not do.” Then two things happened that I saw. First while I was talking to him he moved my cup closer to me. When he did that the tip of his finger touched the foam of the beer. I noticed right away the slight yellow tint that spread across the surface and disappeared. Second as the barman brought my plate of food the old man reached up and passed it to me from across the table, as he did I saw a little bit of an oily sheen that was very hard to see in the light once the plate was in front of me.
“Don’t let me slow you down, please eat your dinner.” He said with a wave of his hand. I carefully pushed the plate away from me. I had never seen either of these poisons before and I didn’t know how potent they were. so I didn’t dare even getting close.
“I think I will have that drink you offered.” I said hoping that he knew I’d caught him.
“You are pretty perceptive, but you will have to work on that because there is much more that your eye cannot always see,” He said. Then the thing that I did not see happened. There was a slight pain in my leg and then everything went black.
When I woke up I was in a stable, and wearing only my underwear. I stood up, and checked the door to the stable, it was locked but I could get under it, or over it quite easily. But first, I wanted to get an better idea of what kind of a situation I was in. People don’t normally just drug you, steal your clothes and dump you in a stable, unless you have the kinds of friends that do that kind of thing, and I didn’t. Come to think of it I didn’t have many friends. Most of the people from my village knew my history and avoided me.
I lay down on the floor and looked under the door. There was nothing obstructing the way but there was something reflecting a lot of light from the door. Likely something that was meant to fall on me or jab me, if I went over, the second I stuck my head around the door. Who ever put me here had done a good job, there was nothing in the stable besides a small amount of straw and a few horse droppings. Not much I could use to test my theory. I picked up one of the balls of horse droppings and rolled it slowly under the door, and sure enough a a rather large heavy looking metal plate dropped to the floor, splattering the horse dung and effectively blocking the opening.
“That would have been my head,” I whispered to myself. “These guys don’t mess around.” I was running out of options. There very well could be a trap still to get me if I tried to go over, or that could be my way out. I tossed a second piece of dung over the door but nothing happened. That didn’t mean much, since it was going much faster than I could ever get over the door and it might not have been big enough to set off what ever it was. I was not quite ready to toss my life away that quickly. In frustration I kicked the door, and sprung the second trap. I single nasty looking pike shot from behind the door into the ceiling .
I stood there starring at it wondering what kind of people went to this much trouble. That was when I heard something new. There was someone else in here. It was very low, but I could hear them breathing. They had a bit of a cold and their breath whistled a little. I stood as still as I could and listened, willing my heart to stop pounding in my ears. It took several minutes but in the end I could tell they were in the loft above me. They were watching me. That was when it hit me. This was not to get me out of the way. They were trying to kill me. The man I met in the tavern was an assassin, that much was clear, but why would he have come after me?
I didn’t have time to ponder that at the moment, first I needed to get out of here and figure out who it was that was out to kill me. I tried the door again. it was still locked, but if I kicked a few more times I might be able to break the latch. After about three minutes all I had managed to accomplish was a bruise on my foot and my shoulder.
“That makes sense, that door is meant to hold an angry horse, a ninety pound girl does not have much of a chance at breaking through.” That meant I was back to the first two options. Under and over, under was blocked. But over was not. And there was a pike lodged in the ceiling that as I went over I could grab and use against whoever was out there. I climbed up on the side walls of the stable Then made my way toward the door. Just as I was a going over the top another pike shot up and grazed my shoulder. It left a nasty gash, but it had not killed me. I grabbed both of them and jumped down on the other side of the door.
I was still nearly naked and didn’t know where I was but I was out of the stable and was now armed. I looked around. There were a number of other stables, but mine appeared to have been the only one that was Boobie trapped. There was small room in the corner and a loft above me, where whoever had been watching me presumably still was. The room seemed like the best bet. I had no idea if there was more than the one person watching me, and pikes, although good weapons for a large man, were not much of one for me. I needed something much smaller.
The room as nearly empty, but there was a cloak and a few tethering spikes. Not the best weapon, but easier to hide that then a pike, and something I could use. I put one of the pikes in the corner and put the cloak on, it itched an smelled of horse dung, but it covered me, and that was what was important. hiding the spikes in the pockets I then pulled the hood up and grabbed the pike. Now to get out of the building. At least then I might have an idea about where I was. I found the door at the far end of the stables. It opened without a problem, I carefully pushed the pike out there door. Nothing happened. At least this door did not appear to be booby trapped. There was a huge open field for as far as I could see.
“Where do you think you are going Missy.” I spun around to find a mountain of a man standing at the door behind me. “You have my cloak and I will be taking it back.” His smile said he had plans to take more than that.
“I think I will keep it,” I said holding the pike in a defensive posture.
“You will want to put that down before someone gets hurt.” He moved forward, and I lunged at him with the pike, he easily swatted it aside and made a grab for me, but I pulled the spike from my pocket and put it against his throat.
“That will be far enough. Now tell me why you put me in there.” I had no doubt he was not the one that had put me there. He didn’t look bright enough to have rigged that trap.
“I don’t know what you are talking about. I saw you stealing my stuff and I…” His hand darted out and grabbed the spike and nearly broke my hand in the process, then in an instant he was on top of me. “Now lets talk about what you are doing here.”
“What do you mean, you and your friend back in the tavern drugged me and dumped me in the death trap back there.”
“Why are you here little girl?” He repeated. “This is vary dangerous business.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Why are you here? Why did you come here?” It sunk in then. He was one of the assassins that had come here.
“Where are they?” He looked at me quizzically. “I came here to learn from the kings assassin. Where are they meeting.” I said finally.
“And why would you be looking for the kings assassin?” I managed to get my hand loose and swung it up against the side of his face. He rolled off me and I was on my feet in an instant with the other spike in my hand.
“Because I was given the soul of an assassin. I need to be trained to use it.”
“You?” he sad laughing roughly. He moved forward again but I dodged out of his way and managed a swipe across he chest that left him bleeding. He grabbed his chest and winced in pain. “You have some skill already I think.”
“Jacob, that is enough.” The voice came from the stable door. I waited until he looked toward the new voice before I risked a look. It was not the man I met in the tavern, but a much older man. Although his voice was still very strong and commanding. “It is alright miss MacTaggart you may lower your guard. The test is complete.” Three more men came out of the stable, all rather slight in build. One came to Jacob right away and started checking his wound.
“You are lucky she didn’t find the poison this could have been fatal, you need to be more careful.” He said to the much larger and younger man.
“What do you mean test?” I asked finally.
“Miss Mactaggart, you were seeking the kings assassin to acquire training, were you not?” The Old man asked.
“Yes,” I answered slowly.
“You have found him. I am Wilimaster the king’s assassin, you have earned a chance to get training you desire.”
“You mean that was a test? I could have killed him.”
“Or been killed yourself,” he said softly. “Do you think that the risks to your life will be any less when you are given a task of killing someone else.”
“No , but if this was a test…”
“And you passed by surviving and protecting yourself in very difficult circumstances. We had our doubts about you but I believe that they were miss placed. Jacob will be your master.”
“But I?” I started to protest.
“You prefer to not get any training?” He said his face growing dark.
“No.”
“Then you will be Jacob’s apprentice.”
“You might want to get into your clothes again.” Jacob said tossing me a small bag and motioning me to the barn. “We have along ride ahead of us.”

Creative Commons License
Assassin’s Quest by Jeffrey Hite is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at greathites.blogspot.com.

Open Submissions – Portals To Places you Don’t Want To Go

Picture 35There is a Portal Under My Sink: And Other Stories Of Places you Don’t Want to Go is a new project by Michell Plested and myself. The anthology is a somewhat humorous, somewhat serious look at all those portals to places you may not want to visit.

From the editors that brought you, A Method To The Madness: A Guide To the Super Evil, comes the official book of stories for all those magic portals to places you might not really want to visit.

Everyone always talks about all the ones that take you good places like Narnia, Terabithia and even some place that serves cake I am told. But what about all those magic portals that take you places that you don’t want to go?

We are selecting the ten best places (or is it worst?), distilled from the ramblings and mutterings of madmen who have come back half-broken to tell their tales. These are their stories of adventure and magical places you might not really want to go to.

For more information about the project or to submit your story go to PortalUnderMySink.wordpress.com

A Work in Progress

You might have noticed that I tend to post things here in fits and spurts. I am not going to apologize for that. I have heard that I really should pick a day and make sure that I have a post ready for that day each week, then if I have other things I want to post during the week I can do that, but at least you get something once a week. There is merit to that idea. But man I am bad at it.

100_4956

Besides that takes planning, another thing that I am really bad at. As this picture clearly demonstrates, I am really kind of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of guy. Some times that works out pretty well, and I manage to keep things in order. Other days not so much. My wife and I have a favorite question to ask each other, “Are we having a fences up kind of day, or has Nedry already turned them off?”sheep_DSC02339

So back on topic. One of the reasons that I have not been posting a lot here lately is that I have been doing a lot of other writing. I might notice that my writing tacker has not updated in a while, and that is because I am afraid to go in there an put in that long string of zeros before I picked up my pen again. But I will hear shortly (Maybe.)

I wanted to share with you what I have been working so you know that I am not just blowing smoke, and hopefully by sharing it with you it will give me some incentive to finish them all. I mean beyond the fact that I really want to finish them.

First:

I am working another story that is the same vein as Our Brother Joe Is Dead. While the first story was rather generic and could have been talking about several different time periods this one is a little more specific, and little more into the mind of the protagonist and, hopefully once I finish it up, a little bit longer. It has been out to a couple of beta readers and so it is in the process of re-writes. But here is a little taste. It has a working Title of The Twisting Dream.

The searing pain from the piece of humvee that had ripped through his side only got worse every time he tried to move, but now Tommy was calling to him again, and he could not let another one of his men die. He pulled himself up using the frame of the vehicle and what was left of his M-16. He had to try to get his foot out from under the vehicle. With long calming breaths he tried to control the pain, tried to will it away, tried to make it all go away.

“Lt. please help me.”

“Be quiet Tommy, I am trying.” He whispered hoarsely, “If they hear you they might come back.”

Dutifully the corporal fell silent, though Arthur could hear him whimper to himself. For a surreal moment he thought about how un-marine like that noise was.

Next I am working on a full blown story to go along with the very short short story that I wrote a couple of weeks ago called The Temp Troll and I am calling it The Further Adventures of A Temp Troll I know not the most creative of titles but heck, you have to start somewhere. So a little taste of it.

The battle was over, at least as far as his elven eyes would let him see. There was no more fighting. The two armies exhausted and both nearly wiped out. Here and there among the fallen he could spot other races, here a dwarf, there a gnome, even occasionally a man, but always dead. The great majority of course were the trolls. It appeared that they had not actually hired as many of the temp trolls as he had originally thought.

As he pondered this he heard a sound behind him. He readied himself for an attack, taking better grip on the club he had been given and the broken troll spear he’d pulled from the body of a downed troll that was still a little too long for him. But he needn’t have worried. When he judged them to be within throwing distance he whirled around and only just checked his throw in time seeing the puce and green colors of his army.

Last (well I say last but what I really mean is last thing I am really actively working on.) I am working on a story for a new anthology that Scott Roche is putting together. This, while it is Sci/fi is a little bit new to me because is it also supposed to be horror. I am a little over 3000 words in and I have not really gotten to the horror part yet, so I suspect this one might need more work, but hey so far it has been a lot of fun, and I have until the end of the month to finish it up. This one I am just calling The Return, until I come up with a better title for it. Here is the opening scene.

It was not my turn to cry. I had done that the night before, but there was something about seeing it out the windows that made it almost too much to bare. So I held it in as best I could. I was a deck officer for goodness sakes. But I understood now why people had left their posts when when first saw the Earth.

I have one more idea that I am working on, but it is going to be a longer term project, so I am putting it on the back burner until I have at least one or two of these stories out. And no I am not going to tell you what it is because then I will be tempted to work on it, and I really need to get some of these other projects done first.

So that is what is going on in my writing life at the moment. So even though I have not been posting much here, don’t think that I have not been writing at all.

Thanks for hanging with me.
~Jeff

The TempTroll

Picture 35Last week, as you more than likely know, I was out of town for business. I tend to get up very early when I am traveling so my normal morning fogged mind is even worse. As I stood in the shower willing the cobwebs away and hoping that the brown water coffee would be ready when I got out, I noticed the control for the shower said temptrol. My mind immediately kicked in to high gear. The idea of someone temping as a troll was just way too much to leave alone. I am sure I’m not the first or the last to have this thought but here is my contribution to the pile.

It took a few days to actually get it written down but here it is.

The Temp Troll

“But I am an Elf!. How can I be a troll” complained Olwe Calmcacil. “I can’t, no I won’t do it.” The idea was ridiculous.

How could an elf temp as a troll. They didn’t even have the same lineage. When he had thought about the job in the first place he had figured he would get hired as a cleaning elf or even a shoemakers helper but this?

“Look Mr. Calmcacil, I understand your reluctance. But this is a temp agency and well, this is a temp job. I know it can be hard for the high born to except hard times. But you need a job and this is what we have,” The agent had said.

Olwe replayed the conversation over in his head time and again as he stood wielding a club three times too big for him standing on the front lines of a battle about to begin. He looked up and down the line seeing many other creatures filling in the ranks. Now he began to see the irony of the situation was much deeper than he had thought.

“Temp job indeed.” he murmured to himself just before the battle cry went up around him.

By the way. Olwe Calmcacil is apparently Jeff Hite in elvish according to the Elf Name Translator.

Why I “Flagship” By Flying Island Press

FlagShipVol2Ish6Resize3Over the last few years I have been working for a company called Flying Island Press. We have a stated goal of presenting positive up-lifting science fiction and fantasy, at a fair price, in a format that lets you take fiction where you want to go.

We have recently gone from a for pay model to a free / donation modle. Last night we sat down and talked about why, and here it is.