Have A Happy Halloween!

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Have a creepy time tonight, Boils and Ghouls!

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Dark Fantasy: The Best Parts of Two Great Genres

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Dark Fantasy is my creative playground. I love reading it almost as much as I love writing it. This special genre takes the magic of Fantasy and mixes it with the terrifying themes of Horror. Still not clear on the difference between the three? Here is my oversimplified cheat list:

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Fantasy – Epic adventure involving magic and some sort of quest

Horror – Story themes designed to tap into your darkest fears and scare the hell out of you

Dark Fantasy – An Epic adventure with magic and a quest that unearths your darkest fears

Urban Fantasy – An adventure involving magic and some sort of quest, but takes place on the mean streets of a modern-day city

Curious about Dark Fantasy? Goodreads.com offers a list of awesome books in the genre. Perfect for the season!

ONLY 3 Days Left!

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Why Horror Is a Necessary Part of Our Literary Culture

Halloween is the time of year most folks want to be scared. We flock to haunted houses. Dress up in scary costumes or slightly less impressive facsimiles of super heroes. Some adults choose to put on their fuzzy nonthreatening stuffed animal heads. No judgement. You be you.

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No matter which costume you go with, we all seek out the scary on Halloween. Why?  I have a theory:

Fear shakes us out of the mundane antiseptic world. October lets us step away from our boring 9 to 5 jobs. We aren’t stuck in our career roles. We aren’t just “Mom” or “Dad.” During Halloween, we can be anything. The scarier the better.

Experiencing this shake up just once a year isn’t enough. Ghost stories and other scary tales offer us an individual experience where the only limit is our imagination. Horror forces us to recognize our fears and hopefully it encourages us to face them.

Boo Alert – Don’t Forget to enter my Spooky Season Sweepstakes! Enter by Midnight, October 27th for a chance to win 1 or 3 EBook copies of The Lords of Valdeon (Book One: Heart of The Warrior).

 

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What Would You Sacrifice?

What Would You Sacrifice? Your Wealth? Your Life?

What About Your Soul?

Protect the Innocent. Punish the Guilty. 

It’s Almost Here! The Obsidian Gates (Book Two: Heart of The Warrior) comes out in print on November 17th!  Stay tuned to DTJ or sign up for my newsletter for updates on the book tour, giveaways and author interviews.

Back Cover:

A new series from award winning Author, C.R. Richards: The epic tale continues. A new covenant has been forged in the chaos of war. Its price is nothing less than the Bearer of the Lion Ring’s soul.

The rivalry for dominance over the continent of Andara has taken a dark turn. Eternal enemies – the Jalora and the Sarcion – pit their forces against one another in bloody battle. Good weakens, betrayed by the very humans it has sworn to protect. Valdeon, its stronghold on Andara, falls to sword and flame. The fires of its destruction are set alight by barbaric invaders from across the sea. Their brutal hand conquers the land in a night, exiling the Lords of Valdeon – Sacred Guard of the Covenant. Cut off from the center of their power, the Jalora’s greatest heroes are helpless to defend their homeland.

Hope still lingers. Seth D’Antoiné, Bearer of the Lion Ring, journeys to the great Obsidian Citadel seeking a magical relic, the Book of Ancients. Its power could hold the key to Andara’s defense. He alone can open its pages, sparking the magic into life and restoring the Jalora’s waning power. Finding the book won’t be easy. Elusive Obsidian Gates – appearing and then vanishing again by their own will – keep the secret of the book’s location well hidden.

In the depths of the mountain fortress, he finds treachery and intrigue hiding within its walls. Can Seth open the Book of Ancients before the Sarcion’s men find him? Or will the power of Good leave the land forever? Andara’s future awaits behind the Obsidian Gates…

Boo Alert – Don’t Forget to enter my Spooky Season Sweepstakes! Enter by Midnight, October 27th for a chance to win 1 or 3 EBook copies of The Lords of Valdeon (Book One: Heart of The Warrior).

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The Obsidian Gates – Chapter One Excerpt

Silver ribbons from a lonely moon fell in tatters through the fog about the docks. Their thin fabric touched the surface of dark water as it slapped against rotting wood. Nature’s other voices had been silenced this night, as if Erthe was holding its breath. Julian D’Antoiné wrapped his cloak tighter about his body against the chill of an islander autumn night. He too felt the horrible anticipation as he waited for the heavy axe of war to fall.

A lone pillar stood broken amongst the cold waves. It was a testament of simpler times before airships and industry had come to these little islands. He gritted his teeth as another bit of metal from the abandoned dock struck the wood with a hollow thump. Storming toward his personal albatross, he gripped the man’s arm as he was about to throw another noisy projectile.

“We’re trying to avoid detection, Marcellus, not announce our presence to these Grey Cliff Islander bumpkins.”

“We wait in the darkness for a filthy thief with no honor.” Marcellus De Costa turned incredulous eyes upon him. “Why trust this mercenary scum, my lord prince? You have loyal men who could see the job done.”

He raised a hand again to toss the bit of metal, noticed Julian’s glare and then placed it carefully atop a pillar. The deep, ill-formed indentation in his cheek paled to a sickening gray under the moonlight. Marcellus was a rabid dog. His own father had tried to put him down. Julian, at the Sarcion’s wish, had saved him from public stoning. It was Marcellus’ thirst for power, rather than gratitude, which kept him by Julian’s side.

“Our friend can’t resist the smell of money.”

“And what of Valdeon? The people need their prince to lead them when the storms of war come.”

Julian slammed a fist against the rotting wood of the railing. “The Lion Ring is the key to Valdeon’s salvation.”

His Akutarian allies had come to Andara’s shores promising Julian aid in taking the throne. Their lust for the continent’s resources and wealth hadn’t become clear until their Emperor had sent his general to oversee Valdeon’s conquest. Lord Gorman was impatient to spill Andarian blood. If Julian didn’t find the whelp who bore their father’s ring soon, it would be Gorman upon the throne.

Hatred tightened around his heart in a painful embrace as he thought of the half-breed boy. A child of two ancient enemies, he was an abomination. No one would embrace his reign. Rather, he’d be given a painful death by an angry mob. It would be a kindness on Julian’s part to kill the boy quickly, instead.

“You have left your ship against Lord Gorman’s orders, Andarian.”

Two Jackal warriors stepped from the ruins of an abandoned boathouse. Julian took an involuntary step away from their gruesome visages. Blood encrusted braids fell across battle worn armor. The odor of their unwashed bodies drowned the stench of discarded fish entrails and stale brine. Teeth, yellow with age and neglect, escaped the confines of cracked lips as they grinned.

One of the Jackal warriors, a man with an empty left eye socket, stepped forward. He extended his hand palm up and began tapping the tips of his fingers together. Julian understood their culture well enough to know that they reserved the gesture for calling wayward harlots in their brothels.

“Why do you linger here? Guilt? No. I think not.”

“My vessel is in need of minor repairs. I have no interest in hovering over the crew as they perform menial tasks.”

“No doubt they were happy to be rid of you.” He turned toward his comrade. “Go. Inform Lord Gorman our wayward dog likes to roam when he’s off leash. I will stay with the Andarian’s ship until he reaches San Leonora.”

Obeying with surprising discipline for a barbarian, he left them as soundlessly as he’d arrived. Wrapped in armor and weapons, the Jackal warriors were infamous for their stealth and lust for blood. They were brutal killers who took joy in violence. Working in packs like their namesake, the Jackal were expert predators. Though he refused to tolerate their disgusting taunts, Julian took great care not to push them too far.

“Lord Gorman knew you’d try to go back on your word, prince of nothing. He told me to watch you like I would a cornered beast hiding in the darkness. Murdering your own kin for a trinket. I would say you were more of a vulture who should have its neck snapped.”

Then the man’s remaining eye went wide. Blood dribbled from his open mouth. He dropped to filthy knees and onto the gray boards of the dock. Marcellus stood over the body, knife steaming with the man’s blood.

“You should have listened to your lord.” He spat atop the body.

The mad fool had just signed his own death warrant. Lord Gorman had a disturbing way of knowing the desires in a man’s heart. One glare into Marcellus’ crazed eyes and the Jackal General would see what he’d done. Watching the euphoria upon his murderous companion’s face, Julian wondered if exposing the deed would be of benefit. Lord Gorman would most certainly kill him, leaving Julian with one less burden.

“What foul stench plagues us? It turns the stomach.”

Light burst from a lantern, removing their blanket of secrecy. Its owner leaned against the remains of a boathouse with arms folded and an amused look upon his face. The devil only knew how long he’d been watching them. Short blond hair bristled atop a sunburned scalp. Bronze pierced his ears in long rows of loops. A dull brown cloak hung over his loose-fitting trousers. Its filthy hem brushed at the rim of worn leather boots.

Known for stealth almost as much as for greed, mercenaries were the nomads of Andara. They held no allegiance to anything except wealth. His impertinence was no surprise.

“You’re late, Cutter.” Julian stepped around the filthy body to join him at the edge of the light. “I should think you’d be on time for the large sum I’m paying you.”

Cutter shrugged and rubbed at the dirty blond stubble on his scarred chin. “You said you were interested in the boy. If you’d rather I come to hold hands with you in the dark, so be it.”

“You know where he is?”

“He escaped Marianna on a cargo airship. They’ll land here on Larkspur soon. I have men waiting on the docks.” Cutter let the greedy smile cross his face. “So many men to feed and arm. It may take a few extra coins to see the job done.”

“Do you think I care about the cost?” Julian shoved a dagger under his chin. “Listen well. Find the boy. He has a ring I want. Cut it off his hand if necessary once you’ve killed him. Bring the ring to me in Valdeon within three days’ time or I’ll send my new friends to fetch you.”

Julian waved his hand toward the shadows. A shroud broke away from the darkness and floated toward them. The Dirge hovered beside the corpse. Lowering its head like a hungry animal, it sniffed and grunted toward the abandoned flesh. Gray-skinned fingers wagged anxiously toward its bloodied prize.

“My Dirge is going to accompany you to find the boy. It will keep you true to your word.” Julian grinned as Cutter paled and took a step away from the creature. “If I may offer a word of advice? Don’t come between it and a meal.”

Julian nodded at the Dirge and turned away when it pounced upon the body. Chewing flesh and bone, the creature began to devour its feast. Raw, frenzied hunger drove the Dirge to near madness as it ate. They were difficult to control at the best of times. Bloodshed turned them feral.

“You’d better hurry, Cutter. This body should sate its hunger for a few days, but I can’t promise the creature won’t turn feral if you’re delayed.”

“You’ve made your point,” Cutter said, disgust upon his face. “I think I’ve been properly motivated to kill this boy of yours.”

Julian pushed past Cutter, leaving him to stare unabashedly at the feasting Dirge. Money was an excellent motivator for most, but no one could stand against the fear of certain death. He took a happier pace across the rotting docks. The Lion Ring would soon be upon his finger. Lord Gorman hadn’t secured the throne of Valdeon quite yet.

Boo Alert – Don’t Forget to enter my Spooky Season Sweepstakes! Enter by Midnight, October 27th for a chance to win 1 or 3 EBook copies of The Lords of Valdeon (Book One: Heart of The Warrior).

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Are You in The Mood for The Spooky Season? My List of Horror Must Reads

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Crisp Autumn air. Falling burnt orange leaves. Pumpkin spice everything. October is here. Halloween is right around the corner. It’s time to forget the abundance of Summer and embrace the macabre. The Spooky Season is more than a month on the calendar. It’s a state of mind. Here is a list of Horror Must Reads to get you in the spirit:

My List of Classics Before 1970

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  • The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
  • Dracula – Bram Stoker
  • Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
  • The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  • The Tell-Tale Heart – Edgar Allan Poe
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury
  • The Turn of The Screw – Henry James

My List of Modern Must Reads:

  • Still Life with Crows – Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs
  • Cabinet of Curiosities – Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs
  • Hell House – Richard Matheson
  • The Shining – Stephen King
  • The Woman in Black – Susan Hill
  • The Supernaturals: A Ghost Story – David Lynn Goleman

Boo Alert – Don’t Forget to enter my Spooky Season Sweepstakes! Enter by Midnight, October 27th for a chance to win 1 or 3 EBook copies of The Lords of Valdeon (Book One: Heart of The Warrior).

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The Spooky Season Is Upon Us!

I love all things Halloween. October 2017 on DTJ is going to be a ghoulishly good time!

Scary posts to get you in the spooky mood

Big Announcement – The Obsidian Gates (Book Two – Heart of The Warrior series) release dates and excerpts

Spooky Season Sweepstakes – Enter to win 1 of 3 E-Book copies of The Lords of Valdeon (Book One – Heart of The Warrior series)

Hold onto your Trick or Treat masks and join me for a hauntingly good time.

A Halloween Story – The Dirt Room

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[Halloween-art.com]

Folks have asked me where my inspiration for fantasy comes from and I tell them about my grandma. Visiting her house was like visiting the gates of Otherworld. She’d tell us stories about the gnomes and other magical creatures. Often we’d wake up in the morning to find candy in our shoes. Grandma would assure us the pixies had filled them with sweet treats during the night.

The next question I’m usually asked?

You seem like such a nice lady. Where did the horror stuff come from?

I usually shrug and tell them how I’ve always loved ghost stories. Writing dark fantasy is a great way for me to share wonderful spine tingling tales. It also allows me to explore the darker side of human nature. Then I started gathering ideas for this blog post and a repressed memory bubbled to the surface.

My grandmother’s house (built in the late 1920’s and made out of copper) rests at the mouth of Bingham Canyon in the little town of Copperton, UT. Once consisting of several little mining towns – including Galena Gulch and Highland Boy Mines – Bingham Canyon was eventually gobbled up by the Kennecott Copper Mine. The land was once home to several miners. If you ask me, they never left.

I still remember the narrow stairs descending from her kitchen to the backyard. Go left instead of right and you’d find yourself headed down into every kid’s nightmare. Some of you may be old enough to remember your own grandmother’s house. Do you recall the grumbling roar of those furnaces or the hiss of steam heat coming from the radiator pipes in each room?

Her basement was best avoided, but sometimes we’d have no choice. Grandma would send us down to her wash room for one errand or another. Braving the hollow sounds of my shoes striking the stairs, I’d descend toward the roar of the furnace. I remember the washroom and my uncle’s empty bedroom were painted a sickly mint green. Following the high gloss (and I’m sure lead-based) paint around the wash room, I’d head to my grandpa’s work bench.

Standing between me and my objective was a 3’ x 3’ door suspended in the very center of the wall. Reaching it required a ladder. Open the door and an unsettling darkness greeted you. Grandma called it the ‘dirt room’. I thought of it as the gates of hell. Every lost soul who’d ever passed through the mouth of the canyon could have stepped upon the dark earth in that room. I could feel them every time I went near that door.

Grandma passed away several years ago. Her children and grandchildren had the sad job of gathering her things. Somehow I got stuck with the basement and its Dirt Room. My flash light was a comfort as I climbed inside. The confident belief in “childhood fantasies have gone now that I’m grown up” vanished as soon as my feet hit the dirt. Utter darkness surrounded me, suffocating my courage. I clung to the only source of hope – the flash light.

Running the beam along the floor, I found old metal toys from the 40s and glass bottles from gawd only knows. Gathering as many as I could, I continued the search. Then my light hit them. Discarded doll heads. Not just any doll heads, but porcelain ones with the open and close eyes. You know. The ones that are usually possessed by a malevolent spirit.

Then the furnace roared. Something moved in the faint fringe of the flash light. I don’t know what it was. I don’t care what it was. Backing toward the door, I kept the beam in a protective circle about my legs. I crawled back out and shut the door. The house has new owners now. If they had any sense, they’d sheet rock over that door and forget it’s there.

Meanwhile upstairs in the light, the rest of the clan had been busy. Imagine my giddy excitement when my mother showed us the two intact porcelain dolls she’d found in the hidey hole above my grandma’s closet! A Shirley Temple doll and a Roxie doll (named for my grandma’s other daughter who’d passed away as a child). Both of them had those blinky demon possessed eyes. Shiver. My mother had them refurbished and still displays them by her bedside. I believe her plan is to leave them to one of her granddaughters. Maybe they can terrify a new generation?

So what childhood terror do you still carry around? Besides clowns I mean. Everybody hates clowns. Snakes maybe? Bugs? A deceased relative’s painted face in a casket? Leave your answer in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you!

Happy Halloween!