So, here it is. My mystery project. Here’s how it works. I write the book (in progress) and need to reach a certain amount of preorders (not charged until the book is actually published) in order for the publisher to green light the project. The faster we get to that number, which is 1000 by the way, the sooner the book gets published. Considering I’m only at 20k words, I have a little bit of time, but not too much. Take a look and if it pique’s your interest just right why not preorder? At the very least please share. Thanks all, and I look forward to your feedback. https://www.inkshares.com/projects/the-lazarus-men
Above: A Battery, 1st Battalion 377 Field Artillery Regiment (Air Assault) in Camp Doha, Kuwait a day before redeploying to the US, Jan. 2004.
Can’t say as that I care much about David Letterman retiring, or hearing other people’s problems. I darned sure don’t like to share my own. I am proud of all that I have accomplished in my brief time on this Earth and feel fortunate to have survived some situations where I probably shouldn’t have. Memorial Day, my friends, is to honor the fallen, not the man or woman still alive. Memorial day is for my friends: Steele, Kennedy, Hayry, Hodges, and a hundred others who never came home. This book is dedicated to every service member, past or present, American or not, who has fallen in the line of duty. As my friend in the New Zealand SF quotes: Who Dares Wins.( I couldn’t make it free since I don’t control the price.) http://www.amazon.com/Long-Home-Christian-Warren-Freed-ebook/dp/B00NF6ABP0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr&qid
Without giving away what happens next, I was contacted by a gentleman representing a publishing company on the west coast. The prospect is a very lucrative deal, one I could hardly refuse. So, I ended my hiatus of writing (yeah- cause it was that long right?) and went back to the drawing board for an all new project. Read away and please, tell me what you think.
THE LAZARUS MEN
It is the 23rd century. Humankind has reached the stars, building a tentative empire across a score of worlds. Earth’s central government rules weakly as several worlds continue their efforts toward independence. Shadow organizations hide in the midst of the political infighting. Their manifestations of power and influence are beholden only to the highest bidder. The most powerful/insidious/secret of these, The Lazarus Men, has existed for decades, always working outside of morality’s constraints. Led by the enigmatic Mr. Shine, their agents are hand selected from the worst humanity has to offer and available for the right price.
Gerald LaPlant lives an ordinary life on Old Earth. That life is thrown into turmoil on the night he stumbles upon the murder of what appears to be a street thief. Fleeing into the night, Gerald finds himself hunted by agents of Roland McMasters, an extremely powerful man dissatisfied with the current regime and with designs on ruling his own empire. In order to do so, McMasters needs the fabled Eye of Karakzaheim, a map leading to immeasurable wealth. Unknown to either man, Mr. Shine has deployed agents in search of the same artifact and will stop at nothing to obtain it.
Running for his life, Gerald quickly becomes embroiled in a conspiracy reaching deep into levels of government that he never imagined existed. His every move is hounded by McMasters’ agents and the Lazarus Men. His adventures take him away from the relative safety of Old Earth across the stars and into the heart of McMasters’ fledgling empire. The future of the Earth Alliance at stake. If Gerald has any hope of surviving and helping saving the alliance he must rely on his wits and awakened instincts while foregoing the one thing that could get him killed more quickly than the rest: trust.
Ok, so the title might be slightly misleading. I don’t, in the spirit of full disclosure, have a thousand books published, but I am getting pretty close at around 20. Fourteen are complete, published and being enjoyed by hundreds of readers around the world. Hundreds sounds pretty depressing but the numbers continue to grow as my legend spreads. Delusional? Possibly but it’s my ride.
Here’s a snippet of the Purifying Flame. A tale of dark powers, mystical orders, and the need of an entire world to prevent the great enemy from destroying the world. Sounds typical, of course it does, but the concept stood out enough to be noticed and recognized by the esteemed judges of the L Ron Hubbard Writer’s of the Future Contest. (I truly mean esteemed. The judges are some of the best in the business- past and present, from Anne McCaffrey to David Farland.) They thought it was good enough for 4th place and I can’t complain about that. Enjoy friends.
The Purifying Flame
Master Sergeant Cron spat a wad of phlegm and eyed the new recruits. One hundred knights, men and women, stood in formation ten ranks deep. Cron was unimpressed. He absently scratched the scar tissue around his empty right eye socket. Too many had passed through the gates during his tenure as senior sergeant. many he didn’t bother learning their names or getting to know them anymore. Cron lowered his fur-lined hood, revealing a head of silver hair closely cropped to his skull. The pale blue and silver of his cloak complimented winter’s kiss. Sensing his brother’s impatience, Cron took a step forward.
“Forget everything you have heard about Castle Andrak,” he growled. His bear-like voice echoed around the courtyard. “There is no romance, no happy ending. For thousands of years the war priests have held this castle against the crushing tide of the Omegri. We are all that stands between the light and eternal darkness.”
Murmurs and sudden restlessness rippled through the knights. Cron forced a savage grin and began to pace the length of the formation.
“Every one hundred days one hundred knights come to defend these walls. You sell your lives dearly so that countless millions might live. We salute you! Tonight begins your hundred days. The Omegri are ruthless and will not allow you time to prepare. Each day will confront you with a new challenge. Andrak stands on the border between reality and the immaterial. The Omegri do not exist in this world but that won’t stop them from killing you. Brother’s Quinlan and Fos will see to your billeting. All squires will report to Quartermaster Therig for weapon and armor issue. Ladies and gentlemen, your war begins tonight. Stand your watch and fear no darkness!”
“Fear no darkness!”
The battle cry rang from the walls as every war priest echoed Cron. Donal felt pride and youthful vigor fill his heart. His skin tingled in dread anticipation. No soldier, his job was to stand the wall behind Forlei and resupply weapons and, if needs be, take his place if he fell. Donal swallowed his fears and joined the line of squires and errand boys as the knights were led off.
Those of you who know me know I generally tend to stick with epic fantasy. There is something about the quest that gives meaning and purpose. While I try to shy away from elves and dwarves and the other done to death races (face it, sometimes we just can’t get away from it) and I absolutely love to incorporate mythological creatures in my tales, I decided to take a whim at writing modern, urban fantasy. I took all of the traditional races and threw them into here and now. Disguised of course, and unbeknownst to us all. Readers seem to like the idea thus far and, well…let’s see what you think. Enjoy the opening scene of a little tale I like to call Where Have All the Elves Gone?
The thirteenth floor was dedicated to the Wastrel Literary Agency. Thankfully, it was emptied out. Halloween weekend had arrived, and no one with sense wanted to stay trapped in their offices and cubicles any longer than necessary. There were too many scantily clad women dressed in inappropriate costumes and men dressed as gladiators, or worse as far as he was concerned, about to roam the streets and bars in search of a good party and possible company later.
A single light from the back of the floor beckoned him. Ariel’s office. He straightened his shirt beneath the jacket and barreled towards the light. Daniel wasn’t sure, but he thought he heard muffled voices followed ominously by a wet smack and a stifled groan. His mind had to be playing tricks on him. First the brutes attacking him in his own driveway, and now this. It was time to get into his comfort clothes and pour a nice stiff glass of Woodford Reserve. A little bourbon would do him some good right about now.
A cut-off scream was followed closely by glass breaking. Old, repressed instincts suddenly took over as his mind decided it was real. Daniel ducked and searched for an attacker. A slender shadow spilled across the beam of yellow light angling down the corridor between cubicles. He briefly considered chasing but knew he was in no condition to. He lacked intel and, more importantly, anything that could be used as a weapon.
Daniel decided his best course of action was to wait until he was sure the way was open and then investigate. He only prayed he would be in time to rescue whoever had screamed. Anxiety got the better of him much sooner than he wanted, and he started to creep forward, using the faded blue cubicle walls for cover. Every sound was amplified — his heartbeat, his footsteps across the spackled tiles. He winced with each new sound, certain the assailant was lurking just around the next corner to silence any witnesses.
Old courage suddenly emerged, from where he could only guess. He circled around in order to get a better angle on the office door. There might be another attacker still inside waiting to spring a trap. Taking chances was pointless, and he wasn’t willing to needlessly risk his life. He wasn’t a hero, despite the latent desire to live out his novels, but that was just fantasy. Anything foolish now might only serve to get him killed. Truth be told, a quiet life stuck in the midst of anonymity held the most draw. That had been reduced to a fragile dream.
Daniel finally got into a position where he could see directly into Ariel’s office. What he saw confirmed his worst fears. The outstretched body lying in a spreading pool of cooling blood could only be Ariel’s. His anger died, replaced by immeasurable sadness and confusion. Why? A pointless question but one he couldn’t help ask. Daniel scanned her body for injuries. The rise and fall of her chest was shallow, but it was still there. She was still alive!
“Ariel?” he whispered.
Agony crippling her, she slowly turned her head his way. The pain in her eyes was so intense it made his stomach roil. Dark blood leaked from her nose and mouth. She struggled to speak, but the words came out a strangled hiss. He was no medic, but all of the signs suggested she didn’t have long to live. Cursing himself, Daniel dashed the final few meters across the open area and entered her office. Using his right foot to shut the door, he positioned his body to block any intruders.
What he remembered from the various combat lifesaver courses during his career gave him a rudimentary understanding of what to do. He took a deep breath and recited the fundamentals over and over. ABC. Airway, breathing, circulation. She was breathing. A good sign but not one guaranteed to keep her alive long enough for EMS to arrive. He absently reached for his cell phone before remembering the brutes had turned it into tiny specks of trash drifting across his yard. Shit!
“Daniel….you must leave!” she finally managed to gasp after he placed her on her back and elevated her head above a stack of books.
The truth being too dark, he decided to lie. “Shhh, save your strength, Ariel. It’s going to be all right.”
Her right hand weakly grasped for him. “Listen to me…not much time….is coming back. You must flee!”
His eyes narrowed with concern. She must be delirious. “Ariel, stop. Whoever did this is gone. You’re going to be fine, but I need to call 911.”
“No time,” she protested. Her eyes glazed over before returning to normal. “Go to the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet. There is a small black case. Take it. Keep it safe. You will be contacted with instructions on what to do. Please, Daniel. Do this for me.”
“Who did this to you? What’s going on here?” he asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.
“The princess must be kept safe!”
He froze. Princess? What the hell was she talking about? There was no royalty in central North Carolina, at least none he was familiar with. She must have read too many fantasy novels and was now imagining things. He glanced down. The blood had stopped spreading, mostly.
“Ariel, what princess? Stop talking! You’re wasting your strength and I need you to be strong for me,” he tried to console.
She offered a haunting smile. “I’m so sorry, Daniel. Your books…wonderful. And…true.”
This was the first book I wrote after leaving home. It has been a very long time in the making and has undergone numerous changes- so many in fact I find it difficult to recall the original story. That being said, I find it ironic that the first book I wrote is officially the last to get published before I begin working on new material. Tomorrow’s Demise is a fantasy/ science fiction hybrid that takes place on the planet Helscape. The human population is under assault from genetically created monsters called Berserkers. Take a quest to destroy the Berserkers, a corrupt interplanetary engine seeking to keep the Berserkers for themselves, and there is one heck of ride in between. Hope you all enjoy.
TOMORROW’S DEMISE: THE EXTINCTION CAMPAIGN
Christian Warren Freed
It had become death. The night sky, once so innocent and pure, cowered behind walls of black smoke. Fires pock-marked the landscape, raging to a tempered song both unholy and enchanting. The ground bubbled and blistered from the searing heat, and the land lay broken. Great tears in the mantle of the world widened with the fury, ripping across the desert into a series of lesions boiling fire and dust. The world had gone mad.
Aradias Kane sat atop his horse watching a scene he’d witnessed far too many times. His black hair danced on the wind. His fists, encased in worn leather gloves, clenched the reins furiously. Pain and hatred collided in his silver eyes. Another village. Another mindless raid by the inhuman Berserkers. Kane was convinced his enemy would not stop until every last human in the Wastelands was dead. His horse bucked impatiently as the ground continued to tremble. Kane pat it gently on the neck as if to say, “Soon.”
He gazed down at the flames and wondered how sand managed to burn so easily. An aged ion rifle slung over his shoulder, overused and faded silver, felt every bit its nine pounds. It was an older weapon, but he could easily fire off a few hundred shots with a full charge. The scene was always the same. People were dying. But no matter how many times this game unfolded, it always brought a tear to his eye. Kane felt helpless. A drop trickled down his weathered cheek as the flames continued to devour.
The clay brick homes of the village helped intensify the heat, baking those who were still alive. Kane smelled the burnt flesh on the winds and struggled to fight back the urge to vomit. He knew this town and many of the inhabitants. Indeed, there were few out here in the Wastes that the Slayers didn’t get to know. Most of the settlements west of the Angril River had either been destroyed or abandoned, leaving the sparse handful that remained easy targets for the Berserkers.
Kane hid in the shadows off the sparse rock clusters and dying cactus. If he made his presence known now, the Berserkers would tear him to pieces. The carnage was recent enough that he knew his hated foe still lurked. Kane’s silver eyes managed to catch fleeting glimpses of the monsters as they moved in and about the fires. His hands were sweating in his gloves, and he got that old feeling he got in the pit of his stomach right before he went into battle. He tied his long, dark hair in a tail behind him to keep it from getting in the way. His body was lean and lightly muscled, his skin a dark copper from years of exposure to Helscape’s twin suns.
Constant exposure to the harsh desert elements had made him appear much older than his years, and his constant battle against the Berserker horde took him beyond the limits of obsession. The Slayer checked his weapons as he prepared for the impending confrontation. His double barrel spear gun was loaded and resting comfortably across the saddle. Knives and daggers filled his saddlebags. He was a tool of war, created to defend and destroy. Setting his binoculars to thermal imaging, Kane took a final look into the dying village.
He counted seven of the monsters — a typical raiding party. Berserkers liked to travel in small packs and strike out of nowhere. The attack here today was the same as they always were. The village, which had stood nearly two hundred years, had been enjoying a quiet dawn with no cause for alarm when the tremors began. They had been taken by complete surprise. The Berserker war party had torn through their defenses with reckless fury. Determined to build a life of hope and prosperity, the people of the village had long ago given up their warring ways, trading their weapons for farm tools in the hopes that the Berserkers would recognize them for what they were and leave them be. The quiet wealth brought by peace was a temporary situation at best; it had done nothing to stop the monsters stalking the sands.
The Berserkers struck in an incredible whirlwind, demonstrating centuries of finely tuned experience and efficiency as well as a terrible thirst for death. A feeble resistance had been raised, though it did no good. Every man, woman, and child had been slaughtered in a bloody mess. Disemboweled. Dismembered. Unseen by the dead, their murderers remained to celebrate their dark victory. It was an unholy thing, the devouring of half–roasted flesh and washing it down with challises filled with blood, but that was the way of the Berserkers. Demons, some called them. Monsters and terrors. Masters of the deep desert, there was no other terror quite like them.
They ran through the flames with wild abandon, howling insanity. Each wore tattered remains of clothing, for they were built much like their human prey. No two were the same. Some had horns and tails while others were made in a broken image of man. They were the perfect killing machines bred for one purpose: destroying human kind. Dark blood stained their bodies and ran from their frothing mouths. Bipedal, the Berserkers were the result of decades of genetic manipulations. No one remembered where they had come from, but the devastation they wrought had changed life in the Wastes forever.
Resting atop a slowly burning home, Mnemlath, the Berserker leader, sat watching his warriors celebrate. They had been the undisputed rulers of the Wastelands for three hundred years, genetically created with the very worst attributes, yet still he could not find it in him to let his guard down. He knew, as did most of the others, that the Slayers were never far off. Be it one or more, they seemed to sense when an attack was made.
Mnemlath was heavily muscled, lean from constant struggle. His face was an amalgam of human and beast. Heavy brows protruded over his smallish eyes. Fangs, some broken, some twisted, crept from the edges of his lips. Finger bones hung from a necklace, trophies from past kills. His chin sat heavily on a gnarled fist, long hair billowing in the wind. Coal black eyes scanned the open dunes, searching for signs of his foe.
A feather drifted down in front of him, landing at his feet. Leisurely reaching down and snatching it away from the flames, the Berserker snarled and looked up. Dozens of carrion eaters had already flocked to the scene in search of a satisfying meal. Argots, huge dragon–like birds that were the scavengers of the desert, roared as they waited for the Berserkers to leave. He scoffed at their boldness and growled a warning. This bloodbath was still his.
One of the larger males dropped from the sky to land just far enough away from the brooding monster. Arching its back, the argot hissed a call with forked tongue, challenging the creature to either fight or flee. The Berserker laughed at its audacity and asked, “Have you ever wondered when you’re about to die?”
The argot burst back into flight before the Berserker could draw his blood-smeared cudgel. Something else had spooked it. The Berserker lifted his nose to the winds, hoping to pick up a scent. He smiled in anticipation. A Slayer was coming. He stood abruptly and shifted his gaze to the lookout placed atop the blackened church spire. A winged Berserker with a long snout and the muscles of a great wolf sniffed the air but found nothing. His wings spread in anxiety. Frustrated, the beast reared back and bellowed a challenge to the empty sands.
Aradias Kane watched the howling demon as its cry bleated out. Challenge had been issued. It was time. This desecration had gone on long enough. Kane turned from the slaughter and calmly made his way down the back slope of the dune. With all the smoke and fire, he still had the element of surprise. Even from here, he could see the fingers of flames going up into the heavens. Kane loosened the front of his sand-colored duster and crept to the edge of the village.
The Slayer slid to the ground and laid his spear gun over the horse’s back. His breathing slowed. Reflex took over. Kane carefully took aim and fired. None of the Berserkers heard the shot or saw the silver flash of steel as it sped through the air. A dull thump followed, and a scream ripped into the morning. The scout fell from his perch, a welded spear of fine silver running him through. A rope of dark blood hung in the air as he fell. Mixed cries of alarm and revenge erupted throughout the shadow spawn. Battle had been renewed.
Mnemlath twirled his cudgel overhead and jumped to the ground. Acting as one, the Berserkers burst through the burning village towards the safety of their tunnels. It was a safe and highly efficient way to travel, especially when they were hunted at every chance. A Berserker attack was always foreshadowed by a quake; the bigger the quake, the larger the attacking body. Now they served as the monsters’ only means of escape. Kane knew this and made his assault.
The first grenade exploded just as Mnemlath recognized the threat. He squared his shoulders and barreled into his closest brother. Both monsters hit the ground and rolled out of the way as the shrapnel screamed overhead. The second grenade struck the side of a ruin, spitting rock and debris for meters around them. The concussion of the blast tore at their ears. Mnemlath groaned his way to a knee and looked for their hunter.
Sharp winds tossing his hair about, the Berserker leader stood against a background of red and black. He found the Slayer rather quickly, considering the amount of smoke and dust flying around. He could think of no better place than this apocalyptic village to do battle. Flexing his muscles, he bellowed in challenge. Mnemlath growled, and the others went into action once the Slayer worked his way into a corner. They struck with alarming fury.
Electricity dancing between his horns, a massive shell-covered Berserker rose from the dust and pitched both arms towards the Kane. Dark blood trickled down his flesh. The Berserker ignored the sting of the grenades as a hail of steel flechettes spit from his hands. Kane heard their shrill cry and ducked. The missiles struck the wall behind him a fraction of second later, forcing him to roll left. He came up firing. Kane’s ion rifle shot over five hundred rounds of sizzling, pure energy a second, so fast it looked like a golden stream ripping into their ranks. A huge Berserker twirled a battle hammer overhead, moving faster until it whistled, and then loosed it. The side of the hut Kane was using for cover exploded under the impact, sending both clay and man to the ground. He cried out and rolled, trying to extinguish the flames catching on his duster. Another Berserker drew his blood-stained scimitar and charged.
Rising as fast as he could, Kane knew he had little time for aiming. The Slayer squeezed his trigger. Ion rounds ripped the air. The first burst missed wide right. The second tore into the monster’s stomach after a quick adjustment. Organs and gore splattered outward. The Berserker howled and dropped in a tattered mess. An eerie silence gripped the battleground. The maddened Berserker leader stood a few hundred paces from the weary Slayer. Both stared hard at each other and were surprised to see they were looking into familiar eyes. Almost human eyes. Kane paused as unforeseen doubts emerged. Surviving Berserkers used the distraction to begin dropping into the tunnels.
Mnemlath charged, desperately trying to give his war party time to escape. Kane let his rifle drop and drew a long dagger. Man and monster met in a sickening clash of bone and meat. The Berserker was excessively strong, and Kane was hard pressed to keep his snapping jaws away. Hot saliva dripped onto Kane’s cheek, burning him. The Slayer winced and managed to push a forearm up into Mnemlath’s neck. The Berserker gagged violently and drew his head back. Kane ripped his dagger across the exposed stomach. The wound was superficial, no more than a bloody scratch.
Mnemlath roared and drove his forehead into Kane’s face. Stumbling backwards, he tripped over a dead Berserker. Kane twisted and struggled to get to his feet. Mnemlath was on top of him in an instant, kicking the Slayer in the ribs. The dagger spun uselessly away. Kane spit blood. His vision swam. His body ached. Jets of pain shot through his nervous system. He looked through blurred eyes at the Berserker circling him. Victory shone in his enemy’s eyes. Kane slowly reached into his belt and drew a smaller blade. Mnemlath attacked.
Kane jerked right and drove his blade deep into the Berserker’s chest. Mnemlath screamed in agony and twisted back. His claws raked Kane across the back, ripping clothes and skin. Fate smiled at him, for Kane looked down to see his ion rifle. The Slayer rolled right and felt his fingers clutch the trigger guard. He forced himself up, ignoring the rising agony.
Dazed, the Berserker yanked the blade from his muscles. Dark blood ran freely down his hand and sweat-covered chest. Fortunately, the weapon did not penetrate his lungs. He looked down at the Slayer and froze. The shiny barrel of the ion rifle was pointed at his chest. Kane squeezed the trigger. An empty click replied. He was out of charge.
The Berserker took portent in this and decided to leave. He had had enough. This Slayer was stronger than most, and he was unsure if he could survive single combat. Mnemlath folded his arm across his chest and made an elegant bow, disgustingly similar to human behavior. “Another time, Slayer.”
And then he, too, was gone. Aradias Kane stood over the body of his newest trophy, panting and covered in grime and sweat. He stared down at the tunnel holes. A sense of failure crept into his head despite having killed two of the monsters.
“Count on it,” he whispered.
Emotionally and physically drained, Kane collected his weapons and went to make sure the two Berserkers were dead. The winged one still had some life left in him — not much, but enough to taunt Kane. “War is coming, Slayer. All humans will die,” he said, choking on his own blood right before he passed his last breath.
Aradias pondered the words. He’d heard much the same from every other Berserker he’d killed in his sixty years of action, lending him no cause for concern now. But a nagging feeling lodged in his brain. Something wasn’t right. Unable to do much about it at the moment, he removed his duster and began the hardest task a Slayer had. It would take him almost two full days to dig enough graves for the two hundred plus residents of the village, and when he was done, he’d do the same thing he always did.
Kane pulled deeply from his canteen. His back ached from the exertion. He planted the last makeshift cross on the freshly filled grave and slumped to the ground. The sand was oddly comforting to his tired and sore body. Dawn was breaking across the endless desert sea. Most of the fires in the village had died out. The acrid smell of smoke clung to him, though, refusing to let go as if it were the ghosts of the villagers. A lesser man might have been spooked, but Kane had been a Slayer for a long time. His emotions were all but burned out now.
Satisfied that there was nothing left to do, Aradias Kane stowed his shovel back into his saddle bags and stretched. It was a long ride back to Black Tide.
This is going to be a great year. I can feel it in my bones. So far I’ve been interviewed for two separate magazines (local but hey- it’s a start), and have something good brewing for a third magazine.Who would have thought I would have my worked featured in a monthly column? Not me, that’s for sure. But opportunity knocked and how much more humbled can I get? Well, I’ll tell you.
In just two short years I’ve gone from self-published with almost negative success to having almost 20 titles published by a small publisher. 20. Not to mention the numerous anthologies I’ve participated in. I can count 7 off the top of my head. My revenues are finally starting to add up, my reach is getting farther and bigger the more I go on. Heck, I’ve even got a review from the number#55 reviewer on Amazon for one of my books.
Where will the future go? Hopefully into New York. I am trying to push into phase three of my three phase plan. One was self-publish. Two was flood the small publishing market. Three is break into New York and get picked up by a big house. While there’s no telling how long this will take I can feel it. Deep down inside I know there is a greater destiny awaiting me. So sit down, strap in, and enjoy the ride. It’s going to be a good one.