Posted by: Phil Anderson | July 26, 2015

Tales of Theran #2 – Part Two

Here’s the second part of another “Tales of Theran” short story. You can (and should) read part one here and you can also read Forbidden, the first story in the series.

Remember that I still haven’t settled on a title for this one, so feel free to offer suggestions in the comments section.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

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Posted by: Phil Anderson | July 19, 2015

Tales of Theran #2 – Part One

This week I’m introducing the first part of another short story set in the Kingdom of Theran. The first in my series of “Tales of Theran” was called “Forbidden” and you can read it here. I haven’t settled on a title for this one, so make suggestions or leave comments below. Enjoy!

Neither of them could remember exactly when or precisely how the feud started, and they didn’t care. It was all just an excuse to fight. Their most recent inducement was a relatively fertile field amid the rocky landscape of fruitless clay soil, though they weren’t interested in farming, only in indulging their selfish depravity.

Edew was fit and athletic with a confident, even arrogant face. His eyebrows, mustache, and short goatee were black and thick, but his scalp was bald, revealing numerous scratches and scars that came from either brawling or a dull shaving blade.

Azome was just as proud and selfish but opposite in appearance, thin and taller than he seemed because he tended to slouch. His hair and sparse beard were long and stringy.

“Field Azome belongs to me,” he growled, glaring at his rival through the greasy black hair that hung over his eyes. He brandished a tarnished dagger with a bent blade. “You and your brainless buffoons had better get off my land.”

“It’s only yours if you can hold onto it,” jeered the challenger. “By the end of the day it will be known as Field Edew.” He was unarmed except for the club-like fists he wielded.

Both men had several friends—or at least followers—backing them up and the two contingents were at a stand-off, both sides waiting for the other to make the first move. Then a rumble of thunder rolled overhead and all eyes turned upward toward the gathering gray clouds.

Azome took advantage of the distraction and lunged at his opponent with his knife. Edew saw the attack and reacted, deflecting the blade to one side and knocking Azome off balance. Then everyone joined the melee, hitting, shoving, and kicking anyone within reach.

The fight lasted long enough to generate blood and bruises. Then it ended almost as quickly as it began. A stranger had crested the hill surrounding the fertile vale and was descending toward them. He was riding a horse.

Horses were rare in this barren land. It was too hard to grow enough food for one. This mare was well-fed and well-groomed, and its harness and saddle were of fine leather. Its rider was also handsomely dressed. Edew and Azome forgot their quarrel and hurried over to meet the stranger.

“Good afternoon, Sir,” Azome called out as they approached. “You seem lost.”

“Is there some way we can help you?” Edew offered.

The stranger didn’t answer right away. He raised his chin as if aiming his pointed beard at them. He looked down his long, sharp nose. His piercing eyes seemed to notice everything. “A storm is coming,” he announced, “and I require a place to stay.”

“I would be happy to rent out some rooms at Fortress Edew,” the bald man offered.

“And be robbed in your sleep?” Azome asked incredulously, shaking his head. “Sir, you’d fare better by coming home with me to my compound. You’ll sleep soundly there.”

“You may never wake up.” Edew warned. “Don’t listen to Azome, the aspiring assassin.”

“Aspiring assassin?” Azome growled. “You arrogant mule!” He launched himself at Edew, tackling him to the dirt. The two tussled violently while their followers stood and watched.

The nobleman grimaced. “Don’t bother,” he said. “I’ll find another place to weather the storm.” The false politeness in his words failed to disguise the contempt in his voice. He wheeled his horse and trotted out of the valley, leaving Edew and Azome to each blame the other for their lost opportunity.

*****

The horse walked along a narrow footpath. There were no roads in this barren land. In fact, it was surprising that any people lived here, although in retrospect it only made sense that brigands and outcasts from the regular districts would find refuge in this abandoned corner of the kingdom with no overlord or other interference from the capital.

The gray clouds overhead rumbled again. The traveler shivered, not relishing the thought of getting caught in a downpour without so much as a tree for shelter. The rocky hills all around him didn’t offer much hope either, unless he could find a shallow cave to huddle in.

Then, as the first fat drops of rain began to spot the ground, he found himself at the edge of a serene dale. A stream trickled through the middle and near its banks stood a hodgepodge of buildings clustered together.

The mare trotted forward on her own, eager to get out of the weather. Her rider gave her free rein and, as they approached, he realized that the collection of shanties and sheds were actually all connected into one ungainly structure. There was a single door where he dismounted and began to knock.

*****

Marin the brick-maker glanced up at the sky as drops of rain began to sprinkle down. “Hurry, Kotta,” he said to his daughter. “We’re almost there.”

He was carrying two heavy buckets of orangey clay, so Kotta couldn’t really hurry without leaving him behind. But he was built like a boulder, sturdy with big, muscular arms, so they weren’t moving too slowly.

Their destination came into sight and Marin paused. There was a horse standing near the door where an unfamiliar man was knocking. The widower had learned by tragic experience to be wary of people, but the raindrops were bigger and more steady, and Kotta was scurrying toward home, so Marin followed.

By the time he caught up, Kotta had already engaged the stranger. “I’m on a long journey,” he was explaining, “and I require shelter from the rain. When the storm passes I’ll be on my way.”

The man seemed imperious and austere, but not threatening, especially dripping wet. Marin hesitated, but there was nothing else to do so he pushed the heavy door open with his broad shoulder and they went inside.

The vestibule was sheltered but empty with another large door leading further in. Marin’s hands were full, so Kotta latched the exterior door. Then she went to the inner door and pounded with her fist. “Bovin, we’re home! Let us in! Bett, are you there?”

A slit of a window opened in the door and two eyes peered out at them. “Who’s the stranger?” a voice squeaked.

“Don’t be impertinent, you little scamp,” Kotta laughed. “He’s traveler in need of shelter. Now let us in.”

To be continued.

Posted by: Phil Anderson | July 5, 2015

What to Do with Freedom

This weekend the United States celebrated Independence Day, the anniversary of the day our forefathers declared themselves independent from British rule. In the 239 years since that declaration, America has come to be known as of the “Land of the Free.” But what does that really mean?

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As the audio-animatronic version of Abraham Lincoln said in his famous speech at the 1964 World’s Fair (and later at Disneyland): “The world has never had a good definition of the word ‘liberty’ and the American people just now are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty, but in using the same word, we do not all mean the same thing.”

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Posted by: Phil Anderson | June 29, 2015

An Existential Fairy Tale

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Once upon a time there were some storybook characters. They were created by an author who had plotted out a beautiful story for them. This story had scenes both happy and sad, with epic conflict and dramatic resolution. The author had planned for each character to fulfill a specific purpose and have a meaningful character arc, and in the end they were all supposed to live happily ever after.

However, the characters did not want to follow the story that had been plotted out for them. Read More…

Posted by: Phil Anderson | June 21, 2015

Family Breakfast

In honor of Fathers Day I’m sharing a sample from my work-in-progress, Conquest of Theran – Overthrow. This is the beginning of chapter two, introducing Sirah (one of the main characters) and her family. Let me know what you think with your comments below. Enjoy!

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Posted by: Phil Anderson | June 8, 2015

Getting Around to Procrastination

The school year is ending for most students, and I’m finally getting around to putting down some thoughts I’ve had about procrastination. They come from a couple of different discussions recently with some young friends, one in high school and one in college. Both tried to extol the virtues of procrastination, but I’m not quite buying into their logic.

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Posted by: Phil Anderson | May 31, 2015

Draft Dodging

I recently finished the third draft of my current work-in-process. I know that I am now supposed to set it aside for a while so that when I pick it up again I can see it with fresh eyes. But it’s very tempting to dive back in and start the next draft right away.

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Posted by: Phil Anderson | May 24, 2015

Men Who Died

This week America celebrates Memorial Day, a holiday established to remember and celebrate those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and the freedom it stands for. People who believe something strongly enough to give their life for it are inspiring and fascinating. Two years ago I posted some fictional character studies of men who died, and this year I’m offering a few more from twentieth century wars.

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Posted by: Phil Anderson | May 10, 2015

That’s What Mom Does

It’s Mothers Day and I’m going to reiterate some thoughts, ideas, and opinions about relationships between parents and children, both real and fictional.

Our parents are the people who raise us, whether they gave birth to us or not. They leave an indelible impact on our lives. They teach us values and priorities, sometimes with their words but more often by their actions, demonstrating what’s important and what’s not. They influence our formative years and even when we’ve reached adulthood and broken out of the mold we were formed in, its contours are still visible in who we are and who we’ve become.

Since parents are so pivotal to who a person is and how they behave, why are they missing from the lives of so many fictional characters? Disney movies are often singled out for this criticism, but it’s not exclusive to them.

A protagonist has to be (or has to become) a strong character. They need to stand up to adversity, persevere in conflict, and demonstrate on their own the qualities of a hero. Having a parent to lean on for assistance or for wise instruction seems to diminish a hero’s accomplishments.

Also, a parent (or any character) who is like-minded and supportive tends to be, from a narrative point-of-view, redundant. When the hero decides on a course of action, taking time to affirm that decision is generally a waste of page space and can really bog down the momentum of a story.

Some storytellers address these by putting the parents in conflict with the protagonist. Perhaps a parent refuses to see that his little girl has grown up. Maybe he’s concerned that the situation is too dangerous and forbids her from getting involved for her own protection. In effect, this makes parents just another obstacle for the hero to overcome.

In real life however, we all need support and encouragement to attain great things. We doubt our own abilities and we’re tempted to give up in the face of hardship. We need someone who can see potential where others can’t, who can find a needle of accomplishment in a haystack of failure.

What role do parents play in your favorite stories, or in the lives of your favorite characters? Do you have a parental figure who supports and encourages you? Leave your comments, and Happy Mothers Day!

Posted by: Phil Anderson | April 26, 2015

Pirate Mystery

I’m doing revisions on my fantasy novel, and I’ve been working on it for a few years. When I start to feel bogged down or I get stuck, I like to go back and read some of my earlier work, to encourage and remind myself that I really can write.

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This week I’m going to share an excerpt from my first novel, Pirate Journey, available on Amazon. Dave Adams is a teenager who finds an old pirate journal that transports him to the past.

If you like it leave a comment below, or better yet write a review on Amazon.

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