Saturday, January 28, 2012

Flash Fiction - Lost Knowledge - a fantasy of horror and sorcery

Lost Knowledge - A Fantasy Flash of Horror & Sorcery
By Tracy Falbe

Consciousness sliced open the blank slumber of the frigid abyss. Rakna knew herself again. If she had been gone for one second or a trillion years, it would have felt the same, but at last some diligent wizard had managed to summon her. The juicy flesh monkeys on the Plane of Bitterness must have forgotten her true nature. Responding to the call, she slipped free of her cosmic chains and approached the scene of sorcery.

The obsidian knife plunged into the perfect victim. Gorbenet had sacrificed many over the years, but none had been sufficiently loathsome of heart to provoke the return of Rakna. The wizard had spent decades grooming the corrupted life whose chest he had just ripped open. Born in the most squalid quarter of Orbahensh, this man had been thrown out as a newborn by his drunken whore mother. Gorbenet had deposited the baby into the indifferent care of an orphanage. Quietly steered by Gorbenet’s magic toward wickedness, the sacrifice had developed into a despicable man.

This thrust of the knife represented Gorbenet’s one act of goodness as he rid the world of this slave trader who had supplied children to clients craving special depravities. The drug-hazed eyes of the man rolled back, and Gorbenet slit open the man’s hairy belly.

Quickly the wizard grabbed a bowl made from a child’s skull and caught the blood gouting from the dying man. Gorbenet poured the blood into a basin on the sacrificial altar and began chanting. Only through long years of insistent meditations had he coaxed the Plane of Madness into whispering to him the proper words to recall the demon Rakna.

Ten thousand years ago the Guardian Wizards had so wastefully banished that magnificent demon. The few tablets surviving from that ancient time told of her power, and Gorbenet meant to rescue that ancient champion and make of her a most fearsome servant.

Chanting furiously, he picked up the tiny glass jar that held the precious lock of hair from his nemesis Derhen. Years of scheming had finally born fruit when Gorbenet tricked Derhen’s apprentice into bringing him the hair.

In the basin the blood was boiling but not congealing, and Gorbenet dropped the hair into the roiling beet red stew. Red fire burst up. He waved his fingers through the licking flames. The stink of burning hair hit his nostrils and he cried out the name of the demon.

“Rakna! Rakna! Rakna!”

He chanted the name forward and backward until the tower shook. Roaring winds swept through the high windows and sucked out the brazier fires. Only the crimson glow from the blood fire highlighted Gorbenet’s hooked nose.

In the shivering blackness of the chamber, a dark figure outlined in flame took shape. The muscular curves of a female with the head of a lioness were carved in fire across the dark void of the demon’s heart. Rakna shook her golden head. The sleek short fur on her face gave way to a hairless gleaming black body. Her timber-thick arms reached to the floor alongside her feet. Claws that could gouge stone curved from her paws.

Gorbenet gaped in utter rapture at what he had achieved. Using Derhen’s hair as the catalyst to bring the demon had made her impervious to Derhen’s power.

“Rakna, obey me!” Gorbenet thundered, knowing that he must cow this demon to his will without delay.

Her wide sensitive nostrils flared. She stomped up to the altar and began to eat the sacrifice in great gulping chunks, sliced off by her strong jaws and yellow teeth.

Gorbenet watched as she consumed the whole body. Crunching bones and bloody smacking lips made a horrendous noise as the stench of the disemboweled body filled the room.

When Rakna was finished and licking her paws, Gorbenet tapped his sticky knife on the altar. She swung bored eyes at him.

“The meat of this world is yours to enjoy, but you are bound to obey me for bringing you here,” Gorbenet said.

Rakna blinked dispassionately and curled her tongue around a bloody claw.

Gorbenet walked to a window and pointed to the highest tower in Orbahensh. He would not have to live in the shadow of Derhen’s glory much longer.

“Go kill Derhen. He cannot harm you!” Gorbenet said.

Rakna considered a moment, and Gorbenet wondered if he would have to goad her with his magic, but finally she threw back her head and roared. Pebbles danced in the streets below and tiles cracked on the roof. Rakna loped to the window with her ape-like gait and smashed the window out with one powerful front paw. She widened the space until she could exit. The demon leaped on to the roof of the nearest building and continued toward Derhen’s tower jumping from roof to roof.

Gorbenet rushed to the gaping hole. Wind whipped his black robes against his rail-thin body. The penetrating cold howling out of the inner wastelands enhanced his elation. He watched the demon’s progress in the full moon light. Breathlessly he saw her climb the tower of Derhen. She battered a hole in the tower and disappeared inside.

Blue and red lights flashed from the tower windows. Gorbenet shook with ecstasy as he imagined Derhen’s terror and agony. Tonight their competition ended with Gorbenet proven the better wizard. Now all Orbahensh would grovel for his favor.

When Rakna emerged from the smoking tower, dawn broke across the muddy glittering delta that watered the city. As the demon returned, Gorbenet considered how best to reward her. She would surely need a steady supply of squealing prisoners.

“You have done well, great Rakna!” Gorbenet called down the tower as the demon climbed back up to him.

The demon swung a heavy arm through the window hole and pulled herself back into the tower where she had been rebirthed into the living world. With baleful eyes she regarded Gorbenet.

Pure instinct punched the wizard with fear. “You must obey he who summoned you,” he reminded.

Rakna screamed and grabbed the wizard so quickly he never had a chance to react. She thrust him through the window with terrific force. Gorbenet slapped into the stone wall of the nearest building and slid down on a wide streak of blood. His smashed body flopped backwards into the street, and Orbahensh had no wizard now.

Rakna sat in the window hole. She purred contentedly as the morning sun warmed her dark body. The foolishness of the wizard was amusing. She had always known that the knowledge of the Guardian Wizards would degenerate into ignorance. Millennia ago everyone had known that obedience was beyond Rakna and she would suffer no wizard to live.

It was good to be back.


Follow me and vote for Lost Knowledge on Wattpad.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Update - New Religion entering final proofread

I am definitely on track for a February publication of my next novel New Religion: Rys Rising Book III. The final manuscript is printing as I write this update. I need to take a few days off from looking at the novel. For the last two months I've been reading it frontwards and backwards and editing, editing, editing.

Although I've been cutting words like big companies slash jobs, this manuscript still just weighed in at 196,794 words. I don't know if I should be ashamed or proud. I'm sure I'll get a few thousand more words cut out of it before final publication. This actually isn't the longest novel I've ever written. Judgment Rising: The Rys Chronicles Book III crossed the 200,000 word line. Something about Book Threes must make them grow like melons after a hard rain.

In a few days I will begin the final proofread. Then I'll go into formatting and production to get this novel ready for market. I'll be revealing the cover art here soon. I just got it yesterday. This will be the first place to see it.

Thank you to everyone who has been reading my novels and is awaiting the publication of New Religion.

If you don't know what I'm talking about then you need to start reading the Rys Rising series. Book I is a free download, so get it and read it. You'll need to face conversion soon, so you better know what's going on.

Lawrence of Arabia continues to impress 40 years later

I've expressed my admiration for some 60s movies at this blog, but a recent visit to the blog of Jak Phoenix author Matt D. Williams reminded me of one of the best: Lawrence of Arabia. Williams explained the many things so awesome about this unconvential masterpiece that presents the life of one of history's strangest and most compelling figures. If you love epic filmmaking you'll appreciate his thoughts about this stunning movie.

To read about Spartacus and Easy Rider see my 60s movies tag.

Union of Renegades audiobook appears on Etsy book lovers gift collection

Jess Buike author of Twin Rivers has a cool feature at her blog called Booksy. This is an ongoing project for 2012 in which she finds unique gifts for book lovers on Etsy. I found out about Booksy because she selected the Union of Renegades audiobook on CD at Etsy for a recent gift collection. Thank you!

Go see her gift choices for fantasy lovers. Yes you do need a pocket dragon and Dracula perfume.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rys Rising bargain pick of the day at Flurries of Words

Thank you to Flurries of Words for choosing Rys Rising: Book I as the bargain pick of the day for Kindle.

At an irresistable 99 cents, or its foreign currency equivalent, Kindle users can immediately sample or purchase this passionate fantasy epic told from many angles.

See Rys Rising at Flurries of Words.

While you're there also note that prolific and popular author M.R. Mathias is the Interview of the Week. There's even a Part 2 of the interview coming up.

For those Kindle users interested in Rys Rising, you can get it for free right here if you don't mind adding content from independent sources to your Kindle with your USB cord. When you download the free version, select the .prc file type. This is an unencrypted mobipocket format that will work on Kindle.

Monday, January 23, 2012

My current selection of hardcover vintage books at Etsy

Although it is the off season in my region for estate and garage sales, I still managed to score some good finds at a moving sale a couple weeks ago. I've been going through a box of goodies and was pleasantly surprised by the eclectic mix of quality vintage books I found. They are interesting and in great condition.

1. A 1944 hardcover copy of The Odyssey by Homer. This is a prose translation by Samuel Butler. There are black and white illustrations at the start of each chapter. This book is in wonderful condition.

2. The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam, vintage hardcover with illustrations. This delightful book is a translation of a 12th century Persian Poet. It has 74 black and white illustrations to go with each quatrain of poetry. It's a marvelous book. The illustrations are by Edward J. Sullivan. This example from the vintage book should be familiar to Grateful Dead enthusiasts.

3. 1974 unused vintage diary with blank pages with weekly quotes from Kahlil Gibran. This is a lovely diary full of meaningful quotes to help inspire one's inner reflections. 

It's just amazing what sits around on shelves and in forgotten boxes until it's time to move.

Please visit my Etsy shop Perfect Pages to peruse vintage supplies and of course you can find all my fantasy fiction there too.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thank you for the great interview

Here's the link to my interview at the book blog

5 Minutes, 5 Questions with Tracy Falbe

My novel Rys Rising: Book I will be featured for the rest of the month of January at his blog. If you want to get it from Amazon, use the link in the lefthand column next to my interview.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Authors of all types getting attention at

Rys Rising: Book I featured during January at
I have an interview coming up at the book blog run by Joey Pinkney. He contacted me for an interview after one of his readers bought my fantasy novel Rys Rising: Book I. In his system this triggers a feature of my novel in the sidebar at his book blog.

His author interviews are styled as quick 5 minute get-to-know-you posts with 5 questions.

There are numerous author interviews already at this site. Joey Pinkney interviews all types of authors, which makes his site a good place to browse no matter your taste. With so many choices out there for readers, book blogs like this offer a comfortable place to discover new works. also offers authors affordable advertising options.

I am looking forward to having my interview appear here, and thank you to whoever bought Rys Rising and got me some unexpected attention.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pomegranates and Silphium: Fertility Control in the Ancient World

Persephone depicted with pomegranate, the fruit of the underworld
Pomegranates and Silphium: Fertility Control in the Ancient World

By Elisabeth Storrs, author of The Wedding Shroud

Childbirth is dangerous. The Western world often forgets this. The advances made in medicine and mothercraft to improve the mortality rates of both mother and babies have been remarkable but are now taken for granted. So too the use of effective forms of contraception. Many forget that the development of the ‘Pill’ only occurred in the 1960s. And it can be argued that the introduction of oral contraceptives gave impetus to the feminist movement as women were at last given the opportunity to plan their pregnancies as well as their careers.

Women of the ancient world did not have access to such sophisticated medicine, instead they relied on more humble forms of contraception. I was absorbed when researching the methods that were used in classical Greece, Rome and Etruria when writing my novel, The Wedding Shroud.

My protagonist is a young, innocent Roman girl who is married to an Etruscan man to seal a truce between two warring cities. Caecilia discovers her husband’s society offers independence, education and sexual freedom to women. Such freedoms, however, do not excuse her from the duty of bearing children. In her quest to delay this destiny she learns that there are two plants that can offer her a chance to avoid falling with child: pomegranate and silphium.

Pomegranates were associated with the myth of Persephone and the vegetation cycle. Persephone was the child of Zeus and Demeter, the goddess of the harvest. When Hades, God of the Underworld, abducted her daughter, Demeter was so grief stricken she left the earth barren. Zeus intervened and demanded Hades release Persephone. Hades grudgingly agreed but before the maiden left his realm she ate part of a pomegranate, the fruit of the underworld. As a result Persephone was bound to return to her husband for one third of the year. And so, during those months of winter, Demeter refused anything to grow.

Ancient physicians such as Hippocrates, Soranus and Dioscorides prescribed the seeds and rind of the pomegranate to prevent conception but details of the preparation or the quantities used are unknown. There is mention of the fruit being eaten while some sources state that the seed pulp was used on pessaries. It is uncertain, though, whether this was for contraceptive or abortive purposes. Strangely enough, in the Etruscan wedding ceremony the bride holds a pomegranate as a symbol of fecundity. It is ironic that the same image could also signify the potential for a woman to prevent pregnancy.

Although the efficacy of pomegranates is inconclusive (there is mention of studies showing reduced fertility in rats and guinea pigs after ingesting the fruit) there is another plant that may have been more effective - silphium.

Silphium was a member of the giant fennel family. The plant was rare, growing in the dry climate of northern Africa (modern Libya). The pungent resin from silphium's stems and roots was known as laserpicium and was used as an additive which gave food a rich distinctive taste. It was also used to treat coughs, sore throats and fevers. More importantly it was used as a contraceptive.

The crop became the main commodity of Cyrene, a city colonized by the Greeks in C7th BCE. The wealth brought from exporting silphium to the rest of the ancient world led Cyrene to recognize its importance by stamping its coins with an image of the plant. One coin even depicted a woman touching the plant and pointing to her womb.

Silphium must have been relatively effective because it became extinct presumably because demand outstripped supply. Another member of the fennel family, asafoetida, was then cultivated although it was less effective. ( It was also cheaper.) This plant has survived and gives Worcestershire sauce its characteristic flavour.

Soranus recommended women use about a chick pea’s size of silphium juice dissolved in water once a month. It is clear that he also considered it had abortive effects, as did Dioscorides.

Modern testing of asafoetida and other plants from its genus has established they have notable anti-fertility effects.

There was a veritable pharmacopia of other plants used by women of the ancient world too: wild carrot, rue and penny royal to name a few. Cedar resin plugs were another method.

The effectiveness of all these natural remedies were far from effective as can be evidenced by the fact that the average life expectancy of women of the iron age was approximately 27-30 years of age. The mortality rate was high due to both maternal and infant deaths in childbirth. And we cannot forget, either, the barbarous act of killing girl children.

The image is that of Persephone holding a pomegranate as painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (12 May 1828 – 9 April 1882) who founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais.

For more information on fertility control in the ancient world, I recommend reading John M Riddle’s Eve's Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West.

About The Wedding Shroud by Elisabeth Storrs

In 406 BC, to seal a tenuous truce, the young Roman Caecilia is wedded to Vel Mastarna, an Etruscan nobleman from the city of Veii. The fledgling Republic lies only twelve miles across the Tiber from its neighbour, but the cities are from opposing worlds so different are their customs and beliefs.

Leaving behind a righteous society, Caecilia is determined to remain true to Roman virtues while living among the sinful Etruscans. Instead she finds herself tempted by a mystical, hedonistic culture which offers pleasure and independence to women as well as a chance to persuade the Gods to delay her destiny. Yet Mastarna and his people also hold dark secrets and, as war looms, Caecilia discovers that Fate is not so easy to control and that she must finally choose where her allegiance lies.

Pick your preferred book seller to purchase The Wedding Shroud. (print or ebook)

Read numerous glowing reviews of The Wedding Shroud.

Elisabeth Storrs graduated from the University of Sydney in Arts Law having studied Classics and has long held an interest in the history, myths and legends of the ancient world. Her first novel, The Wedding Shroud, is set in early Rome and Etruria and was released by Pier 9 /Murdoch Books. She is currently writing a sequel to be released in 2012/13.The Wedding Shroud can be purchased online or downloaded as an ebook via Elisabeth’s website

Thank you Elisabeth Storrs for sharing your illuminating research!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Upcoming guest post by historical fiction writer Elisabeth Storrs

This Sunday I will publish a guest article written by Elisabeth Storrs, an Australian writer whose splendid novel The Wedding Shroud I had the pleasure of reviewing a little over a year ago.

Her novel is set in ancient Rome during the period when Rome is just rising as a city state and the Etruscan civilization still holds sway on the Italian peninsula but is in decline. The story follows the young Roman woman Caecilia who is married off to the Etruscan Mastarna to seal a peace treaty. She finds herself in a very foreign culture. Everything is different. The food is different. The religion is different. The clothing is different. The outlook of the Etruscans is much more libertine than the sober Romans. Etruscan women have more freedoms. The sexual mores are quite different, and Caecilia struggles to cope with the radical changes in her lifestyle.

A pervasive element in the novel is the ancient pharmacopoeia, including recreational drugs, ceremonial drugs, and contraceptive drugs. I found this aspect of the historical novel quite fascinating. Storrs even had an afterword that explained her research on the contraceptive based on an ancient plant that was driven to extinction presumably because of massive demand by the women of the ancient Mediterranean world.

Storrs guest post on Sunday will explain this ancient medicinal herb called Silphium that is now lost to the Earth.

Until then, please read the review I wrote of The Wedding Shroud for Historical Novel Review. I highly recommend this thoughtful and rather unique historical novel. Since reading it I've often found myself reflecting on the ancient civilization that Storrs brought to life. Happily Storrs is writing a sequel.

Please come back on Sunday to read Storrs' guest post. I'm rather flattered to have it at my blog.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

25% off coupon for Rys Rising & Savage Storm hardcovers or paperbacks

For readers wishing to obtain either hardcovers or paperbacks of Rys Rising: Book I and Savage Storm: Rys Rising Book II, you can use this coupon code for 25 percent off at Lulu.


This code will work through January 31, 2012.

The print versions of my newest two novels are provided by the print-on-demand service Lulu.

Follow this link, make your selections, and enter the coupon code at checkout.

Shop for my hardcovers or paperbacks

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Update on New Religion: Rys Rising Book III

I have just finished the second major edit of my next fantasy novel, New Religion: Rys Rising Book III. This was my second edit done on a paper. I edit my novels both on paper and on screen two or three times as I develop the story, improve the prose, and fix errors.

I estimate that I am still on track to finish editing New Religion in the month of January. There are still some details in the story I am tinkering with, but overall I am happy with the story.

The cover art is expected by February, so I remain on schedule for a February release. I'm very excited about it of course and once it's published I can get back to writing the next book. Love Lost: Rys Rising Book IV is about half written. I like what I have so far but pulling all the characters and story lines of an epic together is hard work. Writing the other novels in a series is always easier than writing the conclusion.

As I work to finish the Rys Rising series, please be sure to download your free copy of Rys Rising: Book I and know that Savage Storm: Rys Rising Book II is available for sale right now.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Not for sale: Vintage art print of The Duel After the Masquerade

Vintage art print of The Duel After the Masquerade by 19th century French painter Jean Leon Gerome
Although I enjoy selling my vintage finds, I have decided not to list this one for sale. I plan to frame it and hang it my house. The Duel After the Masquerade excites my imagination and I think it will add a stimulating influence to my home decor.

While going through the 12 volume 1958 Metropolitan Seminars in Art I found this extraordinary print. I had never seen this work of art before and I was immediately dazzled by it. Beyond the obvious technical skill of the painter, I was captivated by the story. The Duel After the Masquerade tells so much. The frivolous costumes of the men tell of the party in the night where the fun apparently took a bad turn and the honor of men was offended. The frosty forest still bleary in the first light of dawn tells of tempers that stayed up all night impatient for satisfaction. The spray of tracks in the snow tell of the quick flurry of steps as the angry men met over swords. The concern of the friends huddled around the dying man, clothed in white to match his pale dying flesh, tell of grief that will linger. Even the victor of the duel has turned away, his sword discarded in the snow. His posture speaks of regret.

The silly costumes of the participates also comment on the stupidity of tempers and the violent tradition of dueling. The reason for the argument was surely trivial and now blood is spilled.

Art such as this inspires me as a writer. It also teaches me about conveying details with one mere snapshot. This is a picture worth a thousand words and many more. I could write a whole story from this scene. Creatives of all disciplines inspire each other. Artists inspire writers. Writers inspire artists. Musicians inspire everybody although they too can take their inspirations from other artists.

I love surrounding myself with inspiring objects. They are food for my fiction writer's brain to feed upon.

I can't bring myself to sell The Duel After the Masquerade, but I do sell many of my vintage findings that you can find at my Perfect Pages Etsy Store.