an easy lie

In the silence of the Temple, they spoke.

A murmur, a sigh, an awakening, a cry.

Mother …

Father …

King …

I moved my cheek from the stone, the pain of the whispers too great to bear.

Although night, the workers — slaves, prisoners of war, many of them mere boys — still pulled and pushed the immense blocks into place, the already overwhelming Temple forever expanding, a veritable mountain of stone at the edge of the city.

For many of them, this was all they knew, their lives after capture, after defeat, one of constant work, nonexistent sleep, and death, quick and inevitable.

Above them all, the Priests watched.

And here, under the light of an almost full moon, the pain, the rage, the powerless despair of all those trapped and troubled bones in the stone surrounded me like a fog.

In the quiet, safe in the dark, far from those who watched and those who worked, I pressed myself to the cool rock.

I would listen.

Cry …

Whimper …

Sob …

Yes, I feel you.

Wound …

Suffer …

Die …

I pulled away.

Die …

King …

Die …

“They know you.”

I turned.

A small woman stood behind me, her long hair as silver as the light bathing her, the years in her face softened by the glow of the moon.

I glanced around for my guards. But, no, I had left them hours ago, ordering them away before I climbed the hill to the Temple.

“Your guilt needed solitude,” she said. “Your shame too great to share, yes?”

She waited.

I nodded.

Yes.

“And this is why you, the Almost King, stand here now, at this hour, under the moon, listening.”

She stepped closer.

Though draped in woolen, the rough fabric scarred by clumsily mended rips and tears, her feet bare, her wiry frame alarmingly thin, she carried herself with an unapologetic sense of majesty and dignity and strength as she moved near.

“Is your power worth all that death?”

“No.” The answer came from me, quick and unthinking. “No.”

“And yet it is not something you can deny, this power. This crown. It will be yours regardless of what you want or what you do. Or what I do. Born into this, you are as trapped as those in the stone.”

The tears threatened to come. I blinked. And blinked again.

“The most powerful of men,” she said, her voice gentle and kind, “utterly powerless to change what must be changed.”

Watching me, she grew silent as if she, too, were listening.

She turned her head, her gaze on the workers in the distance, the sweat on their skin shining under the glow of torchlight.

“Your mother is one with the Dark Gods, yes?”

I hesitated.

“There’s no need to answer.” She continued to watch the nameless who toiled under the gaze of the constant moon. “It’s commonly known, understood. We barbarians, as she calls us, here in the city talk of her and the Priests and their ancient religion. Those beliefs from the Time of the Moon. Of their worshipping those who must be paid in blood, in flesh, in fear. In the tears and cries of those they slaughter.”

“This is known?”

Looking at me, she continued.

“It is also known, and spoken of, that once these souls are bled and lifeless and useless, they burn –”

“Stop. Please.”

She stopped.

It was my turn to watch the strangers pull and push, the thick, braided rope threatening to split and shred under the weight of the stone.

“The gift you must give,” she said, my mother’s words echoed in hers.

“Is something I regret.” I refused to look this stranger in the eye. “Something I wish I didn’t have to do. Something I wish I had never done.”

“But it’s done.”

I looked at her.

“She’s a very powerful woman, your mother. Not many can deny her. Not many dare. Those who do …. ”

She grew quiet, the thought unfinished.

“And the Priests?” I asked. “What of them? Do the people talk about the Priests?”

“Yes, they do. And they understand what you and your mother do not: these men, these Priests, are more powerful than you know.”

“She believes she’s a God.”

“An easy lie for them to feed her. And her mind …”

Hesitating, she looked for the words.

“Her mind is wounded and hungry. Desperate for comfort, the grief, the guilt, the horror of what she’s done still at war with the tender delusion of her immortality.”

“She struggles.”

“And eats.”

Confused, I watched her, her eyes almost silver under the light of the moon.

“The bones are in the stones, yes?” she asked.

I waited.

“And what of the flesh? The flesh you burn before they grind these bones?”

She stopped, watching me before asking again.

“What of the flesh?”

— an excerpt from The Martuk Series, A Collection of Short Fiction, Vol. 1

COMING SOON

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powerful and brutally honest

The Martuk Series: A Collection of Short Fiction, Vol. 1

“Powerful and brutally honest. Assassin’s Creed meets a darker and more ancient mythology. Winn sees the world like no other author I’ve ever read.” – Joe Mynhardt, Publisher, Crystal Lake Publishing

COMING SOON

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the flesh lit from within

Two books dropping in the next four months? Yep. The Magi (May) and then a collection of all five Martuk Series shorts (July/August). Cover reveals soon.

Can’t say I haven’t been busy. 😁

Here’s a taste from The Wounded King, Book One in the series.

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And now back to work on Eidolon Two. 👍

it is dark, it is brutal

In all honesty, I’m not big on reviews. I mean, obviously it’s nice when you get great ones – and I’ve been extremely lucky to get more than my fair share – but I’ve also gotten some not-so-nice ones. So, eh, it’s all a crapshoot, right? Best to not take it too seriously or let it define you or what you can do.

I just keep on writing.

But sometimes, only sometimes, does a review come in that makes me sit up and pay attention. That makes me break my standard “don’t read reviews” policy and actually sit down and – gulp – read the review. And sometimes, only sometimes, do I get an opinion of my work from someone who is becoming one of the preeminent voices when it comes to reviewing horror.

And that’s what happened recently. That it happened for Martuk…the Holy, the first book that started this whole writer journey for me way back in 2012 makes it just that much more special.

Intrigued? Here’s a snippet:

I love this world, I love this writer. It is dark, it is brutal … I found it all too easy to be whisked away by the sands of this world. Martuk is a must-read.

You can read the rest right over here.

And the book? Why, here you go! 

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as the gods ate our sun

In honor of the upcoming “Great American Eclipse” August 21st, I thought I’d offer an excerpt from my book The Wounded King (blurb below) where – surprise surprise –  there’s a total eclipse! And in ancient Uruk one thousand years before Christ, if the sun disappeared during the day, it was never, ever a good thing.

Certainly wasn’t for the Wounded King.

Enjoy.

***

There was no crown.

They surrounded the city, their swords raised, their shields ready.

They kneeled in the streets, young and old, their hands clasped in prayer, the words, the pleas, the begging, the cries, spilling from their lips.

High above, I sat, surrounded by Priests, an orphan.

A King.

And soon the day would grow dark as the Gods ate our sun.

I was told there were stories.

It was said my mother, the Queen, had flown down the countless steps of the Temple that day, her gown in flames.

It was said my mother, the Queen, was herself in flames, her arms, her legs, her head and lovely hair, all on fire as she ran through the streets that day surrounded by screams.

There were even those who said they heard my mother, the Queen, call to the Darkness to save her that day, the words lost in the terror of her torment.

And then it was said she, my mother, the Queen, had stopped in the marketplace, a great torch alight with massive flames, and simply fallen, crumbled to ash before the winds lifted the pile and scattered it to the sky, a delicate cloud of grey carried far from the city and deep into the mountains.

Yes, there were stories.

Those barbarians in the streets also said the Old Woman, the Ancient in the Temple, had called on those Gods older than the Dark Gods. Willed Them with secret words to do her bidding, her power so strong, so deep, that it conjured a Great Thunder which rattled the stones of the city and shook the very ground itself.

And there were those who had lived long and seen much who said she, this Ancient, had shouted prayers not heard since the Time Before the Moon, her power so fearful it made my mother burn. So ancient it called the deadly flames from deep within the poor Queen’s soul.

Then she had grown wings and flown away, this Old Woman, escaping the Elder yet again.

Yes, that’s what they said.

But then there were those who insisted that, no, she had not grown wings. The Old Woman had instead called a great daemon, a lesser Dark God perhaps, who had stood behind her, looking like a man, quite like a man, yes, but who then unfurled his wings, great feathered wings, which rose high to arch above his head, the tips meeting in the air.

It was he, this winged daemon, who had lifted her out of the Elder’s grasp. Who flew her out of the courtyard, away from the Temple, and into the sky.

That’s what was said in the streets of this great city.

None of it mattered.

I was now King.

I was now alone.

And the Gods were going to eat our sun.

They stood near, the Priests, the Elder watching me.

The Army had not supported his desire to rule. They had loved my father, the First King, a warrior like them. They had respected my brother, the Dead King, a man who had fought alongside them in many a battle. With more power than mere Guards, and less likely to do the bidding of the Priests, these true warriors, this Army, would ultimately decide who ruled.

And it was to be me.

The Elder’s victory had been short lived.

A din rose from the streets outside.

The Priests turned to the open walls, a rustle of expensive fabric as they peered below.

Incense choked the air as the prayers grew, the day growing dark. From the walls, swords beat shields and warriors screamed and shouted and cried and bellowed as the light dimmed, the sun in a celestial war with the approaching darkness.

Of course, It was here.

Were I to close my eyes, I could smell It, sense It, feel It, the moist heat now gentle as It stroked my arm.

Beneath the feet of those many men in red and gold, It waited. It moved when they moved, stopped when they stopped. Waited, Its knowledge secure, trusting Its victory was near.

They surrounded me, they did, this prison of red and gold.

I glanced at the wine in my hand.

The skin on my arm grew warm as it blushed. A small red blister appeared, wept, and then disappeared, the tender, round wound sinking into the flesh.

I am here …

It spoke.

I have always been here …

The shrieks, the cries, the prayers, screams and shouts from below swallowed us while swords clanked and warriors bellowed and day turned to night.

The Elder watched me.

I will never leave …

I thought of my father then, his eyes sunken and bleeding. Not even a great warrior like him could win this fight.

And of my brother, a greater warrior still, his tongue thick, his teeth blackened, his eyes sealed shut with dried puss as he sobbed, his hand on mine.

And I thought of my mother at one with the Darkness. Robbed of her health, her sanity, her soul. Haunted by the regret that was her life as she ran, burning.

What could I, an Almost King, a Pretend King, do?

The barbarians below erupted in a full-throated panic as the dark deepened.

I was no warrior.

Those on the wall shouted and threatened, swords raised high.

I could not fight.

The Priests calmly waited.

I put the cup to my lips.

You are mine …

And the whole world screamed as the sun went out.

***

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A sacrifice. A dying King. Bones in the stone, blood in the wine. A Queen consumed by the Darkness.

From ancient Uruk, The Almost King tells his tale. Of The Elder and his cunning Priests in their robes of red and gold. Of an Old Woman who can call the power of the Dark Gods. Of his mother, the Queen, and his dying brother, the King.

And of the Darkness, an evil from before the Time of the Moon. Inescapable, its hunger never-ending, its shadow fed by the Priests, slowly overwhelming his family.

Drowning in a sea of red and gold, the Almost King battles an unwinnable war as he navigates the wreckage towards his fate as … The Wounded King.

***

The Wounded King is the first in The Martuk Series, a collection of Short Fiction based on characters from the full-length novel Martuk … The Holy.

a small somewhat ephemeral thing

A sincere Thank You to everyone who picked up a copy of The Tall Priest or took advantage of the recent promotion and snagged a free copy of The Wounded King.

Because of your support, The Tall Priest climbed higher on the Amazon charts than any of the previous Martuk Series books. And, especially in light of the minimal marketing I’d done, that’s a small, somewhat ephemeral thing worth celebrating.

Here’s hoping enough of you will like it enough to share your thoughts with a brief review. (crosses fingers)

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beautiful brutal razor’s edge

Here’s what one review said about The Wounded King:

““The Martuk Series” of novellas… really captivated me…with an amplified sense of brutality and pain, there’s dark stuff here kids, all the way around. And I am on pins and needles for the next entry in “The Martuk Series”, “The Tall Priest”.

Not only will this push the envelope, it will guild that envelope in gold, hone it to a razors edge and use it in a beautiful & brutal ceremony. It so fucking heavy and beautiful and I loved every moment of it.”

So head on over and pick up The Wounded King, the first in the series, FREE now thru Sunday, March 12th, 2017.

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