Sunday, December 13, 2020

New editions to the family

 You'll notice, if you look to your right, you'll see two new selections added to the library. One is Death of a Cuckold Knight and the other is Roland of the High Kanris. Two novels in two different genres.

Death of a Cuckold Knight is about an art thief. An art thief who painted exact copies of the originals and replaced originals with his copies. So good in his talent, as the story goes, that several of his copies still reside today in modern day museums and private collections. The name of the art thief is Jake Reynolds. And the key concept about Jake is that he's both lucky and unlucky at the same time. Lucky in that he is incredibly talented in his artistic efforts. Talented in his athletic gifts. And very talented in his ability to get in and out of dangerous situations.

But unlucky in that he has a quirk in his personality. The quirk being that on many occasions, he inadvertently stumbles onto a corpse of some hapless victim recently murdered . . . and he can't stand the thought of someone getting away with cold blooded murder. He has to find the killer or killers and bring them to justice. How he solves a murder, steal famous masterpieces, and fight a war (did I say his first few adventures happen while World War I is going on?) without getting caught himself is the key ingredient in making the novel/series work.

And there's another interesting concept about the book. I found a site where they will take your ebook and spread it out across several different ebook venues like Scribd, Kobo, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and others. As we speak, the ebook is offered on seven different sites (which actually spans the globe) and ultimately, will be on twelve different sites. This spreading out the good word hopefully will generate a bigger audience. And ultimately, actually make me a little money (Shoot, wouldn't that be nice!)

The other offering is an older book
of mine re-imagined and expanded considerably. Roland of the High Crags is a classic fantasy novel/series.  On a planet where two sentient creatures co-exist, Dragon and Man, and where both species are constantly at war with each other, and old Dragon baron asks a Human warrior monk-wizard to take his last remaining heir and save her from certain death.

But there are problems (aren't they, always?). The child is a weapon. A weapon designed by the Dragon dark gods to fulfill Dragon prophecy. The prophecy being a child will come along who will, when she attains full maturation, become the weapon who will destroy all of Mankind.


Roland is found only on Amazon only. For now.  If you're interested in having either or both, just go to the right and click on the cover. But just remember . . . 

More 'stuff' is coming.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Audio books work only if the voice selected as narrator is on target

After a long wait, the audio book version of A Taste of Old Revenge  ( click here, and then go over to the Amazon page for this book, and click on the preview button to hear the opening few pages of chapter one ) is out. It took a while to get it done. But the finished product is, to say the least, is a humdinger. And I've got to say, the main reason for it being such a great reader is directly related to the gentleman I selected to be the book's narrator.

His name is Chuck Buell. An experience, well trained ex-radio jock who has several accomplishments under his belt. But its the voice . . . his voice . . . which brings life into the book's narration. Its deep. Its expressive. It fits the character's image a reader, or listener, would think the main character would sound like.

And that's the key, my fellow travelers. Fitting the voice to the mental image of the main character. Mess this key ingredient up, and your audio book is going to fall flat on its face.

Chuck and I are working on another Turner Hahn/Frank Morales novel. The next audio version will be called There Are No Innocents. Its the next novel which follows after Old Revenge. And so far, we're talking another humdinger of a read. We hope to have that done maybe by the end of November . . . and that's a BIG maybe. Doing an audio book is hard work, brother.  As I have recently learned, doing an hour's worth of finished script takes at least three hours to complete. Usually, a full-sized novel of around 80,000 words takes 10 hours of finished script. Which means 30 hours have been put into to acquire that 10 hours of finished product.

Book four of the series, entitled Two To Worry About, (the written manuscript) should be done by the end of December or the middle of January. After that, I'm hoping Chuck and I can get into producing the audio version maybe in February or March.

Now, the next problem is simple. Find an audience in the audio world who will take a chance and try the series out. That, me buckaroos, is an entirely different problem to discuss at a later date.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Trials of Audio-booking

Turner Hahn
(Sigh) Yep, I'm going to do it. I'm going to put on my big-boy pants and step out into that scary world of converting the printed word of my novels into audio books. Convert them, and then toss them into that big ocean of  a babbling cacophony of voices and hope they swim to success and not drown in the depths of a million other books like mine.

But how do you do it? How do you convert your book into an audio book? Ah; that is the question, grasshopper! How do you do it?

I did a little research. There are as many audio book companies out there as there are indie publishers. And their numbers are growing. Most of them accept submissions IF you are willing to absorb some of the coin of the realm costs of having your book recorded by a narrator. And there are a TON of narrators out there, old and young, experienced and newbies, to choose from. Generally speaking, paying the narrator to come up with a polished reading of your novel costs between $100 to $400 dollars an hour. AN HOUR. And depending on how big your book is, page-wise, it'll take about 10-plus hours to get the book completed and ready to read.

You could fork out between $1000 to $4000 of your own hard-earned cash for a finished product. On the other hand, doing it this way usually gives you a 40% return on whatever profits might come along. (If you're like me; me being a piss-poor writer with NO money . . . I suggest you run right out there and find a second, third and fourth part-time job to earn enough to pay the bills)

Or, you can take the alternate path.

There are audio companies out there who will allow you to speculate. You can offer your darling creation up for bidding. You pay nothing up front. You put your script out on the audio book's web site and offer it up to the first narrator to come along who is willing to take a chance with you and your work. Most audio book companies have a stable of narrators.  Hundreds of them in most cases. You select 2-3 page clips out of your tome for these narrators to read. They, in turn, choose one of the pieces offered and record their voices as they read. They offer these recordings to you for you to listen. You decide which voice you like. You make an offer. If they accept--good; if not--try again.

Frank Morales
What it means to accept an offer is they (the narrator) is willing to split the profits with you on some kind of percentage basis. Usually a 50/50 agreement.  Now please note; you ARE NOT splitting the 40% you'd receive if you did the traditional path of paying for the finished copy up front. Nope. Nope. The audio company is taking a higher risk with you and your partner in this endeavor. So THEY are going to keep a higher percentage of the profits. If there are profits.

Amazon (of course!)  has an audio company called ACX. That's the one I'm working with. I've
offered up A TASTE OF OLD REVENGE, book two of the Turner Hahn/Frank Morales detective novels to convert into an audio book. I've found a narrator. A narrator who has a voice which, in my mind, sounds like the voice Turner Hahn might have (and that's critical. Finding the voice to fit your mental image of the character).

We're in the process of recording the book now. Chapter by chapter. And it is a process involving both narrator and writer. We're about five chapters into the book with a long way to go yet.

When its done, we'll
throw it out into that big pond and see if it sinks are swims. My fingers are crossed.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Re-writing, or more like Reinventing, an old novel

Back in 1981, DAW Science-Fiction was gracious enough to publish a novel of mine called Banners of the Sa'yen. I was ecstatic. Thrilled! I was a published writer! I was on my way to becoming a paperback Sci-Fi/Fantasy publishing machine!

Well, as you know, youthful visions of grandeur rarely come to fruition. 

Mine certainly didn't.

Going back to the original version and looking at it again, I have to admit, it wasn't one of my greatest examples of literary brilliance. What I knew then about how to write, versus what I know now, is an entirely different universe.  I wrote extremely long and complex-compound sentences. I had a tendency to ramble along, fitting too many images into one paragraph and inadvertently disguising what I actually wanted to say from the reader. And on, and on, and on.

In short, Banners of the Sa'yen had its problems.

I bring this up because we writers have no idea how our written words affect others. A kid picks up a paperback novel and reads it. And something magical happens. The story, the characters, the worlds created in that novel, all come together and are somehow burned into their memories. It becomes a living thing in their minds. A living thing which they carry around with them for the rest of their lives. And desperately wished for that writer to hurry and produce more books which carries them to distant stars and imaginary wonderlands never before seen.

I write this because, to my everlasting delight, over the years fans  have  tracked me down on the internet and wrote to me. Wrote to me explaining their delight and love for the novel and how important it was to them. One fan once wrote telling me how he bought the novel back when he was barely a teenager. He kept the book all the way through adulthood. Got married. Had kids. And one day his daughter is with him while they are cleaning the attic and the girl finds Banners of the Sa'yen lying in a box gathering dust. She asks her dad if she can read the book. He says yes . . . and the girl is swept away just like her dad was years ago.

And everyone one of them have asked me if I am going to finish the series. Of all the books, short stories, novellas I have written in the last forty years, this is the one title where people have said they loved the beginning of the series and wanted to live with it all the way to the end.

The answer is "Yes." Yes, I am going to finish the series.

But there will be changes. Some might think, perhaps, drastic changes. But the writing will be tighter. More concise. The imagery will be more visual. There will be surprises. The story itself will be hundred times more interesting.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

First chapter of A Quiet Place to Rest

The world turns. The foolish remain comfortably obscure in their foolish ways. The old waddle along as best as they can. And writers dream of new stories and wish they had the talent to create images into vivid word-photos so others can see what they see.

Ah well . . . enough of this melancholy.

I've got a first chapter to share with you. The first chapter of the second book in the Lenny series. The series is about an Army veteran who returns home. Home being a Texas Panhandle county tucked away in the vast wide-open plains of northwest Texas. A county where there are more cattle living there than there are people. And I do mean empty. About 11 per square mile. The problem with this is that, what few people are around, many of the few who live there have a tendency to be related to you.


The first book, entitled Lenny, had the vet returning home and, through no fault of his own, finds himself becoming a deputy sheriff. Working for a larger-than-life old sheriff who practically raised him as his own son prior to his leaving for the Army.

Amazing how so few people can create so much trouble in this out of the way Texas county.

Book two is going to be called, 'A Quiet Place to Rest.' And I think it starts off with a bang. But you be the judge of that.


A Quiet Place to Rest


Viejo Gruñón, Old Grumpy in Spanish, stood solidly on the slope of the hill and watched with complete indifference the human approaching him. The lanky figure, dressed in the uniform of a Ballard County sheriff’s deputy, ascended the long but gentle slope of the hill, preserving his strength and endurance underneath the scorching sun. The big Texas Longhorn bull, all 2000 pounds of him, didn’t mind the blistering Texas sun. Or the cloud of flies circling mindlessly in a holding pattern between his seven-foot spread of horns. Or the faint smell of something rotting in the sun not too far away. This was his domain. His kingdom. All three thousand acres of Texas scrub. He reined over this harsh land in solitary magnificence knowing there was nothing out there who dared to challenge his authority.
The human, coming to a halt halfway up the slope, pulled his sweat-stained DI hat off and lifted it high over his head, shading his eyes from the ball of fire hanging above him in the cloudless blue sky. In the heat and glaring sun, the deputy sheriff eyed the panoramic view of the county’s amazing emptiness. Not a manmade structure to be seen. Not a car, or a truck, or a plane above could be seen. Not even a breath of wind stirring the air. Nothing. Just miles piled upon miles of dirt, sky, and a blazing sun. There was no living creature to be seen, other than the massive Longhorn bull and one seemingly out-of-place sheriff’s deputy. The nearest human being was a Hispanic family who worked for a local ranch owner. Their small house was some ten miles away. A young family with two kids under the age of eight and a third on the way. That was it for finding the closest human contact.
But there were cattle. About eight hundred head of cattle splayed out across the ranch’s three thousand acres. Big longhorns. Tough, garrulous creatures who, more times than not, did not take well having humans bunch up too close to them. As he stood shading his eyes from the sun and feeling his body heat simmering close to the boiling point, Lenny’s caution forced him to keep his eyes on the giant bull. You never knew when one of these critters would suddenly decide they took umbrage to your presence. Big as they were, city folk were always surprised on just how fast these bovine giants could run when they decided to move. Grinning, he half turned and soaked in the vast loneliness of the open country.
The emptiness of this land seemed to soak into one’s bones. Like the old saying went, if you looked hard enough, you probably could see Hell from here. Or at least El Paso. The terrain was pocked marked with small hills and flat lands filled with mesquite bush and grassland long since burned dry and turned to a faded mustard yellow color. But standing on this small hill, he could see twenty miles or more easily in any direction.  Out here, anyone would see a pickup truck coming down one of the two dirt roads cutting across the land and rudely slicing each other’s path when they met a little over a mile away. See them coming for a long time before it ever arrived. Or a cattle hauler for that matter. In dry country like this, the dust trail left behind a moving vehicle would tower into the air and hang for an incredible amount of time before eventually disappearing into nothingness.
Which was odd if you thought about it. Anyone would see someone moving down a road long before the unknown vehicle arrived at its destination. More than time enough to call the sheriff’s office and inform the dispatcher that someone was coming out to steal their cattle. If, that is, someone had been around to see the rustlers coming.  The emptiness of the county was  a cattle rustler’s biggest ally. Ballard county, in the upper end of the Texas Panhandle, was ninety percent empty country. Almost six thousand people lived in a county approximately one thousand square miles in size. That meant the population density in the county came out to about six people per square mile.
That was a lot of empty space.
But what made it even more unique was the simple fact there were about twice as many cattle in the county than there were people.  Hell, maybe more. Lenny, shaking his head in wonder, really didn’t know. All he knew was Stuart Wilson, the owner of these three thousand acres of land, was losing cattle at an alarming rate. The seventy-five-year old rancher was convinced rustlers were coming in and steeling his cows. And if the Ballard County Sheriff’s Department would not find the bastards who were stealing his cattle,  well then by god, he would!
Which was the reason why Lenny was standing under the hot Texas sun warily watching the bored Texas Longhorn who was eyeing him with a mask of complete disinterest toward him.  Last week someone drove onto the ranch and loaded up eighteen heifers and one rather expensive Longhorn bull and drove away with them.  The Old Man, Sheriff Horace Greene, told Lenny he’d better get out there and figure this out pronto, or there was, as Horace could say so eloquently in his Texas southern drawl, “gonna be hell to pay.”
So here he was. Eyeing the big bull, feeling the sun beating down on him like some avenging angel. Noting the stickiness of his uniform shirt clinging to his back and shoulders with the tenacity of a wet washcloth. And . . .for the first time . . . picking up the faint odor of something that’s been dead for a long time. But not long enough to have no smell left to it. Frowning, Lenny felt a little uneasy. The aroma was all too familiar to him. He had sniffed it before, in the high hills of Afghanistan and Iraq. The aroma and carnage left behind on a battlefield weeks after the final bullet had been hurled at an enemy. The only things still clinging to the tainted ground were the dead and the ghosts. And the smell.
It is quite true. There is a difference. The smell left behind by a dead animal compared to the smell left behind by a dead human being. Unforgettable. An aroma permanently locked away in one’s memory and never to be forgotten.
Dropping the hat back on his head, Lenny took a step closer toward the huge animal. Old Grumpy didn’t react one way or the other. He took another step toward the bull. This time there was a reaction. The Longhorn snorted once irritably, lowered his head menacingly, and eyed Lenny for a moment before deciding it was too damn hot to put up a ruckus. Instead, the one ton of flesh and muscle and horn turned to one side and strolled leisurely off down the side of the hill before stopping and turning to eye the stranger again.
“Gracias amigo,” Lenny said, touching the brim of his hat with a couple of fingers in a gesture of quiet gratitude before continuing up the hill.
It did not take long to discover the body. Or what was left of the body. Five minutes later was all it took to realize he had just opened up a Pandora’s Box of trouble for a quarter of the population in Ballard County. That quarter being the majority of his immediate and extended family.
Looking down at the corpse, a genuine look of sadness on his otherwise somewhat handsome face, he remembered something Horace told him a long time ago. Back when he was still a teenager.
Son, get used to the idea of dyin’. Dying is the other half of livin’. You can’t have one without the other. Most of the time, the dyin’ comes naturally. Old age finally catches up with you. Sometimes an accident snuffs your life out without you realizin’ it. Sometimes Death comes knocking on your door and you have no idea why.
Jes’ remember one thing. Before you die, don’t forget to learn how to live. There’s a great big world out there, son. Filled with all kinds of happiness and all kinds of terror. Take’em both in. Don’t hold back. Don’t let your natural fears keep you from livin’. Or learnin’ how to be happy. That part’s on you. The learnin’ how to be happy part. The world will naturally hand you your share of terror. Never worry about that.
And so there it was. As plain as day.  He had a little more livin’ to do. He had another homicide to investigate. But this time, the case involved the discovery of a long lost cousin whom everyone in the family thought left Ballard County weeks ago for greener pastures in California or Florida.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Star Trek: Picard

Greetings, fellow trekkies. Thought I'd weigh in today on the newest franchise of the Star Trek family, the one called Picard.

I've waited this long so the fanfare, and fanfare's distant cousin, rioting, settled down into just a dull buzz. But gosharoonies, fellow trekkies, did Picard really stir up dustbin of a disturbance in the Force with its arrival. A disturbance which, frankly, caught me off guard. For months I had been eagerly anticipating Picard's arrival. Jean-Luc Picard, the starship captain we fell in love with from StarTrek; Next Generation a few years past, is not exactly the same Jean-Luc Picard in the newest rendition we witnesed recently.

But that's a good thing, me hearties. It really is.

The Picard in the newest show is older, and more bitter, than the Picard of old. Forced into retirement by Star Fleet, disillusioned by the sudden, and in his way of thinking, unforgivable abandonment of the Romulan diaspora forced upon the Romulan home world by their soon-to-explode home star, Picard sits in his French ancestral home stewing in his own bitterness and just waiting to die. But along comes a chance to go back into space. To possibly save the children of Data no less . . . and remember, Data is an android . . . and the old man finds a reason to live again.

I'm not going to get into the inner workings of the series. Nor am I going to talk about all the new characters introduced in the series . . . although I will say this; everyone of them are just pretty damn interesting. (the captain of La Sirena, Chris Rios, played by the actor, Santiago Cabrera, is the one I like the most). But they are all good. And each character has a potential for a fascinating story or two about their backgrounds.

What I will say is this. An aged Picard is exactly what we need today. To continue with the Picard of Old is to continue to live in the Past. We are all human. We all age. We all must face our eventual demise. But Picard is an example telling us all that, just because we age and eventually we die, it does not mean we are yet not meaningful. Nor we have become discarded flotsam that no longer has any usefulness in the real world. There are still challenges, still dreams, still accomplishments waiting for us if we but only step forward and try.

I say Picard is nothing more than a Celebration of Life. And throw in a hell of a lot of adventure in he process. Nope . . . the old Picard is not going to get into fights and come out the winner this time. But his intelligence and his wit are still intact. And his desire to do the right thing is still there.

And frankly, me buckeroos, what else is needed in order to live a full life?

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Challenge Postponed

Eh . . . . crap.

 In my last entry I said I was challenging myself to do a multiple set of tasks for the year. With one of them getting something ready for perusal by an agent whom I would sit down with in June at a writer's conference. Well, that's not happening.

Thank you, Covid19.

One tiny, microscopic, teeny-weeny little virus has, for all practical purposes, shut down the entire world. Truly astonishing. The cities business districts are ghost towns. The streets of many cities across the world are literately empty concrete ribbons populated only by past memories. Shopping malls look like drunken derelicts sleeping it off in someone's back alley.

Well, buddy. I'm here to tell you. I never want to hear anyone tell me the little guy hasn't a stripped-ass chance in this world. If a fricken' virus can shut down the world . . . !

On the other hand.

For me, this shut-down may have been a thankful reprieve by keeping me from making a fool of myself (not that it's not a common occurrence, anyway).  On of my many goals was to have the sci-fi/adventure novel written for that lit agent. Turns out, that not only was I not going to finish it in time. But I was growing more and more disenchanted with what I was writing.  My initial effort was to take an 80-page novella previously written and expand it out to a 200-250 page novel.  The goal was to cut and splice, adding in a little of filler between finished pages, to write the novel. I had about 2-1/2 months to get it down. I'd have to write my little fingers down to the nubs to get it down. But feasible. If I liked what I was writing. And I wasn't . . . am not . . . liking what was coming out of my head.

The problem is, well, the basic premise is interesting.  I've got currently 102 pages done. I'm not happy with it. But on the other hand, I don't want to throw it away yet. So what the hell do I do with it? I dunno.

Stay tuned . . .

Oh. By the way. The other goal I sat for myself about the piece of fantasy writing which might remind you of Homer's 'The Illiad?'  Christ, what a bitch that one is! Actually, the style of writing is more akin to Shakespeare than to Homer. But trying to write Shakespearean is a slow, slow, SLOW process. Twisting sentence constructions around with odd word-play is a tedious experiment. When accomplished, and going back to read it, it sounds lyrical. Almost like a ballad. But writing the damn thing is like  pulling gall stones out of your ass with a pair of tweezers.

Yeah, I know . . . I know. I'm just up on my bitchin' box stand hollering into the abyss.

I'll feel better tomorrow.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Challenge accepted (maybe)

A writer's mind is filled with the voices of his characters. For some writers, only a voice or two wants to speak. For others . . . hundreds of voices and not enough time (nor intellect) to endure all. So I confess, I was not surprised in the least when one voice between my ears elbowed his way to the front of the queue and offered up a challenge.

The voice (character); A Greek warrior by the name of Heraclitus of Sparta.

The challenge:  Finish a novel started years earlier called Cold the Stars. And have the novel completed by the 1st of June. (why the 1st of June you say, cousin. A goal to have it done and hand it to a lit agent who will be attending a certain conference in the second week of June in Missouri. An agent who likes this kind of story telling)

The novel's plot: An alternate-universe creation of the conflict between Carthage and Rome. The Carthaginian Wars. But this one with witches and warlocks and dark magic and power-made rulers and noble families, on both sides of the conflict, who vie for the honor of becoming the Supreme Ruler of all.

And each facing an upstart Greek mercenary who threatens to undue all their cherished plans.

But more, pilgrim! More!

The tome is not just another fantasy novel found everyday in the paperback racks of your favorite bookstore. No, no . . . not so pedestrian in nature this time, bubba. This one has the cadence and flow of words and sentence structures which suggests the style and flow of Homer's The Iliad or The Odyssey. Poetic prose, in other words. (and I'm here to tell you its a bitch to write, sister). But, when it works, it's hypnotic when you read it.

Let me give you a taste so you can decide for yourself if I've hit the mark or not. This is chapter one of the novel.


            Cold the stars rule sitting on their thrones high.  Cold the night when skies clear and winds, like poisonous wraiths sneaking from mountain peaks distant, come down to haunt souls damned.  And colder still, my brother, when in darkness sit and wait for the bloody victors of battle lost to find you shivering in bushes thorned.
            While bright orb in sky shone the battle raged.  Horses neighed.  Men screamed in agony and in triumph.  Trumpets blared and the hooves of steel-clad steeds thundered back and for across the plains wide and bloody.  The clash of shields bronze between opposing factions was like a sea of glistening metal.  Sunlight shot its bright arrows down upon the masses, each arrow reflecting heavenward with outrageous horror.  The din of battle rings yet in ears of those who survived.  The horrors of war fill the eyes of the silently huddling few who survived the slaughter.
            A survivor of war terrible he was.  Squatting in the darkness, back against cold stone of mountain wall, shield leaning over shoulder bloody and scarred, he sat in the frigid cold shivering and grim.  Hunger gnawed at his stomach with the fangs of famished wolves.  From a dozen places on his arms and thighs minor wounds bloody and terrible had dried and caked in dirt stirred from the field of doom.  At his heels lay the bronze helm with its bright red horsehair plume dented and bloody—a trophy of a day filled with death and valor.
            War, for the fool who loses, is a terrible dream to endure.  For those who survived the day the night comes with its own unspeakable horrors.  Below him in the distant pass he heard the screams of dying men and the laughter of victorious horsemen rendering such deadly deeds.  Ride they did, these horsemen Roman from far across the seas, through the night with their spears sharp and bloody hunting for the woeful few who had fled for their lives.  Roman arms had won the day.  Roman death the prize for those who could not find a way to disappear into the night.  A Roman with the stentorian name of Gracchus came to these desert sands to impose Roman will and Roman power on once ancestors of mighty Greek heroes.  This day was theirs.  This battle won.  Their steel bloody and victorious.

            But he---Heraclitus of Sparta—sat in the night and shivered in cold far from the ones who fled the field defeated and lost.  Neither lost nor defeated this peasant sat.  In dark eyes burned fires of rage.  In his stout heart was a thirst for revenge.  With shield covering his front and the wall of a mountain his back this bearded veteran of a hundred campaigns—this hammerer of metal and hot forge—this phalanx spear men of Alexander’s kin—sat in the darkness and dreamed of revenge sweet.  Dreamed of returning to terrible plains below and giving back the bloody favor the Romans so recently given him.
            Yet this night he must endure; must survive in order to victory plan on the morn.  But in the night the stirring of sandals against stones.  The rattle of armor against cold rock.  The groans of men wounded and defeated stumbling in the night.  Rise this bearded warrior did.  Rise to stand with shield in hand and sword at the ready.  Donning helm red plumed he stood in the middle of narrow path and waited for those who might intrude on his loneliness.
            They came.  Twenty ragged, discarded minions of battle lost.  Greek one and all. From distant Syracuse—from Athens high—from the rugged peaks of the Ionian shores. Dragging shields.  Dragging spears.  Dragging wounds bloody and grim.  A huddled mass of wounded men defeated and shamed.  Exhausted and condemned to death knowing. Yet desperate to live the sweet moments of an hour more.
            But one in the lead of ragged flotsam lifts his eyes and sees the dark form of warrior standing before them.  Shield at the ready—sword resting in hand against thigh powerful.  A specter black of martial splendor!
            “By the gods!  Look, comrades.  Look.  Ares himself has come to rescue us.”
            “Or Hades come to claim his own,” someone in mass deep yelping.
            Like water cold smashing against mountain firm—like ocean surf smashing against rocky beach—this harem of defeated souls recoiled from the blackened figure in front of them.  Some—those with wounds of lesser pain—gathered their arms and shields and stepped forward to shield their comrades.  Shield to shield they stood and faced the specter in the night.  And for their reward heard the deep rumble of amused laughter.
            “Call me no fool of a god, Greek.  I—like you—bleed and breathe as a mortal.  I am Spartan.  Son of a Spartan.  Once of the Fifth Regiment of Hericles Prime.  Comrades mine—like yours—lie strewn across battle field below like the shafts of broken spears.”
            “Spartan, we must hurry," cried one of the wounded men before him. "Behind us comes Roman horse bent upon our destruction.  We tarry here in this confining space and die we all soon shall be.”
            Again, in the night the rumble of deep voiced laughter.  But black specter lowers his shield and as closer he approaches wounded warriors grim.  Behind them the voices of horses approaching—of Roman voices yelling gleefully in the hunt.  Soon they would come thundering into this narrow path.  Spears flashing.  Swords dripping in blood.  Horses lathered from a hard day’s battle.
            “Tell me true, brethren.  Wish you to survive this night or to die like slaves chained?  Quick!  Decide sure in the next moment for time we do not have to waiver!”
            “To live!” three of the men with shields at the ready answered quickly and firmly.
            “Aye.  Live you shall if you do as I say.  Those of you still live with a flame for revenge burning in your souls will stand with me.  The rest of you pass.  Leave . . .follow narrow path up into the high country and may the gods go with you.”
            The voice firm.  The voice a rolling rumble of confidence supreme.  Of knowing.  An ointment of medicine sorely needed by those who stood in mass staring at creature dark and menacing.  To this lone creature’s surprise none detached themselves and left their comrades behind.  Instead they gathered themselves—gathered arms—gathered shields—straighten their lines.  Again, becoming fighting men waiting for commands.  Waiting for victory.
            “Good,” specter black grunted nodding plumed helm.  “I and three others will stand here at the ready.  We will face approaching horsemen.  We will lure them into the trap the rest of you will spring upon Roman arrogance. Hide in the darkness on either side of this trail.  Wait for all the horsemen to pack themselves tightly. When the last horsemen rides in—attack!  Fall upon their flanks with spear and sword and cut them down.  Let no one escape.  Hear my words, warriors.  Do as I say and yet we may live to see tomorrow’s promise.  Now, who will stand with me?”
            Three of the shields at the ready in front of the group stepped forward. Helms donned.  Shields at their sides.  Spears held in hands firm.  Marched they did toward black specter and took up positions on either side of creature dark.  The rest disappeared into the night.  Like ghosts murderous the warriors became a part of the darkness and began the wait of a trap certain spring.
            A grim smile of pleasure stretched narrowly on lips dark of Heraclitus of Sparta.  Let Romans come.  Let them in their arrogance grand ride to their deaths.  War—horrible and bloody—was soon to ravage those who so recently ravaged him.