Another Trial Chapter of “The Trolls”


Based on the enthusiastic feedback on Chapter 3 of The Trolls, I present Chapter 4 for your reading pleasure. If you HAVEN’T read Chapters 1-3 yet, links below. Might as well take advantage before this will cost you 99 cents at all of the finer online outlets.

As always, comments welcomed below.

Chapter 4 Two Against One


Fanell and Coramon were running through the woods, panting in great exertion.  Fanell suddenly stopped short, wheezing, “Coramon!  Slow a minute!  My sides are on fire.”

Coramon scoffed, but stopped, “If we let an ogre get that close to us again, we are likely to feel that way over our whole bodies!”

Fanell nodded, putting his hands on his thighs as he panted, catching his breath.  He looked up and started, “And there’s one entering the glade now!”

Coramon grabbed his arm, “See how he stumbles?  He looks like you did at Agarath’s wedding feast!  He must be tired from the chase.  And if I may be so bold, it looks as if the ogres may have had the victory feast BEFORE they attacked.  My grandfather said it was always the ogrish way, to celebrate the victory before it happened, since not all present would be alive to celebrate it afterwards.  Little do they know that this custom means even fewer are living at the end of the battle.”

“He hasn’t seen us!  Let’s hide behind that log and see if the ogre might take a rest!”

They lay still, watching carefully with their eyes slitted, so the whites were barely visible.  With the camouflage of mud on their faces and leaves in their hair, they could barely be seen.  They watched in awe as the giant ogre came towards them, his footsteps booming as it stumbled their way.  It finally sat down about fifty feet away, visibly exhausted, and fortunately with its back nearly towards them.  Neither Fanell or Coramon could believe its size.  It was more than twice as tall as them, and probably five times as heavy.

“By the bones of the dead, I am weary!” the ogre groused, its voice so deep it was like thunder, “These humans are like fleas, always biting but never to be found!”

The two watched it pant for a few moments, and it continued, “My head hurts, my feet are sore, I have lumps all over from their sling stones.  I am famished and have not had a bite to eat since last night.  What I would not do for a fat and succulent HUMAN to walk up to me now!”

Corazon and Fanell looked at one another and shrugged, slowly standing up and sneaking up until they were right behind it.  As they were just out of its reach, Corazon said, “We are skinny humans, but there are two of us!  Will that do?”

The ogre grunted and turned, stunned, trying to rise as the two set on him.

“Hack him behind his knees, Coramon!  Get his groin!  They say their armpit is an opening to their heart!”

The two set upon him with a flurry of axe strikes and spear-thrusts.  Without so much as being able to pick up his club, the ogre fell to the ground, bleeding from many wounds.  When it was over, Fanell and Coramon fell to their knees, panting.

As Coramon wiped his spear on a patch of ferns, he laughed, “That was a piece of work!”

Fanell agreed, “It was like stabbing an oak, until he raised his arm and exposed his armpit.  The spear went in like it was a cheese!”

“Like a cheese?  Have you killed many cheese before?”

“I’ve killed more cheese than you’ve killed jugs of wine!”

“Then you must be a mighty cheese hunter indeed, Fanell!”

The two rested a moment, Coramon sitting up, alert, and Fanell on his back, eyes closed.  Finally Fanell said, “So we have finally killed our ogre?  Barhaden and his son have each killed one before my very eyes.  That boy is but thirteen, or I’m a priest!  They say Datrahel took one after it slipped in mud at the riverbank.  Fosar and Frerar blinded one with sling-stones, and slit open its belly.  Then it gave chase, and it ran until its guts came out!”

The two laughed a bit, thinking of the kill, “That was a good piece of work, Fanell.  I think your spear gave it the fatal thrust!”

“Bah!  It was hardly moving by time I finished it off.  We gave it two-score blows, who can say which one decided the matter?”

Corazon shrugged, “When we are behind the palisades of Askalant, I will say you killed it, but you must likewise say I killed it!”

“It will be done as you say!”

They sat a bit longer, until Corazon slapped Fanell’s leg, “Have you caught your breath?”

Fanell nodded as he stood.  “Good!  Then follow again the sound of the chase!  The sun is low, and Barhaden will soon sound the retreat on his horn.  Remember, five blasts mean we slip away, and make with all haste to Askalant!  If we are lucky, we will each take another ogre before the call to retreat, and tell the tale to wide-eyed women over a roast goat and a jug of red wine!”

“I tell you, that kill has increased my confidence ten-fold.  All the stories of old were of merciless slaughter and a few brave men saving the day at the bitter end.  I’m glad to see two who love the easy life can do it as well.  But for sure, ogre-baiting is hungry work!”

“Few of the many fine cheeses of Askalant will survive the night!”

Fanell laughed, “Leave me the cheese, and I will leave you the wine!”


Sample Chapter from “The Trolls”


Kecia Sparlin of Muninn’s Memory ( ) recently gave some feedback on my draft book, “The Trolls”. Basically, “What the heck is Chapter 12 about?!?!? Gimme more ogres!” So here is Chapter 3 of the book, though you oughtta take a few minutes to read chapters 1 and 2 first:

Feedback welcome, though I’m well aware the dialogue is a bit stilted. Trying to capture the essence of a bygone era without the benefit of a classical education. But you get the picture. Once this thing goes huge, an agent will be able to hire someone with a Masters’ in Philology to clean up the language, and some kind of archeologist to make sure the clothes and weapons are authentic.

And now, Chapter 3, “An Initiation”, with more chapters to follow:

Asrael grabbed Asram’s arm, “Wait. Listen!”

Asram pulled away impatiently, “Quiet! You’ll scare all the game!”

“But Asram, the smoke has been blowing for an hour. Father said that means we have been attacked!  Who would sound the alarm if it wasn’t true?”

“Asrael, you fool!  That smoke comes from the cottage of Barhaden.  His wife’s father is an old man!  He always talks of the ogre wars and the attacks of trolls, and other ancient battles.  Why, he once told me and Asar that people came up from the WATER on great trees and pillaged as far as Askalant!  Remember how he called the alarm the time a rockslide came down the far mountain? No doubt he has seen groundhogs eating his korns and wants help chasing them away.” Asram turned and spat.

“Well, who is to say it is not true?  Grandfather used to tell of the people from across the sea.  And anyhow, we’re not talking about something from years ago, we’re talking about today.  See how the smokes continues?  And did I not tell you that I dreamed all night of a horrible beating heart in the woods?  DA-da-da-da, DA-da-da-da.  My heart is sick with it!”

“Brother, the men will never shave your head and join you to the tribe if you talk like a child. You will have to live with Mother and Sister until you are old, milking the goats and…”

Asram was interrupted by a deep booming noise, like a bass drum heard far away.  The brothers froze in place, exchanging glances. Asrael put up his hand, “Wait!………..Do you hear it?”

“Is that thunder?” They strained their ears, and heard the booming noise repeat again and again, several seconds between, sounding like heavy steps.

“That’s not thunder!  It’s something huge!”

“Coming this way!”

The brothers pushed and shoved one another, desperately barking out orders to each other,  “Hide!”  “Here!”  “No, here!”, finally hiding behind a   fallen tree.  As they looked over it, motionless, Barhaden ran into the glade.  He paused and looked behind himself.

Asram called over, “Barhaden!  Behind here!”

He started, then ran over and jumped over the log, getting low quickly and looking at the boys.

“Asrahad’s sons!  Asram and Asrael!  You have weapons?”

Asrael held up his club and sling, “We’re hunting rabbits.”

“What’s happening, Barhaden?”

“Wohaden and I are playing a game of ogres!”, a mischievous grin crossing his face.

Asram jumped up, “A game? A game of ogres?  There is work in the fields, and you send up smoke signals…..”

Barhaden pulled him down and hissed, “Down, you fool!  This is a serious game, and it has four rules.”

He looked the boys in the eyes, to make sure he had their attention, “First, you tell everyone you meet the ogres are attacking.  Second, you keep the ogres between you.  That means when they chase you, you all run, in different directions.  When they chase another fellow, you turn to the chase and hit them with sling stones so they come after you.  When the ogre chases you, the other chases him and slings stones. And so on.”

The boys nodded, “Third, if an ogre is winded and separated from the war party, you set upon him with your sling stones and spear.  And last, the game is up when the sun reaches there,” pointing to the time of the afternoon prayers, “You get far from the ogres and make your way to Askalant.  Get there before the ogres!  If you can’t make it, climb a tree to hide, and wait for your chance to get inside the palisades.”

“Then there is really war, Barhaden?  There are really ogres?”

“A whole war party. Something we haven’t seen since the time of your grandfather’s grandfather!”

The boys gaped, and Barhaden asked, “Asram, do you and your brother know the war signals?”

“Yes, sir!  I am enrolled in the tribe and Asrael will be tested after the harvest!  One blast, chase in the direction of the mountains.  Two blasts, left of the mountains.  Three blasts, right of the mountains.  Four blasts, the unmarried men circle left and those with children circle right.”

“Good!  There is now one more.  Five blasts, it is time to run to Askalant!  Now listen.  We alone can not stand against them.   One ogre is stronger than ten men, though five men can bring an ogre down.  But while a man is smarter than ten ogres, ten ogres together are not as smart as one man!  Ten ogres are even stupider than one ogre alone.  What we must do is make them chase us and slow them down.  Wohaden has been able to raise about 20 men from the valleys to help.  If you can keep these ogres chasing you for another hour, I will have time to organize a party of farmers from the plains.  We can pitch a battle, so the others can make it to the palisades of Askalant.”

“Understood, Father Barhaden!  Anything else?”

“Yes!  Asrael, come here.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Put out your arm.”

As he did, Barhaden drew his knife. Asram asked, “Father Barhaden?”

Barhaden gestured with his knife, “Come closer and put out your arm, too.  I’m sure you know the ceremony.  Today Asrael joins the men.”

Asram was indignant at the impiety, and the unfairness of an early enrollment, “But there has been no fast!  No prayers!  No sacrifice!  His hair has grown uncut since birth!”

“Asram, this is a tough business, and none of us may survive the day. It’s not right for a boy to die a man’s death. Better to make him a man and put it in the hands of the gods.”

Asram grunted agreement, and Barhaden continued, “It’s the mixing of the blood that seals the ceremony.  If we live out the day and make it to the palisades, Asrael will have his fill of fasting and prayers within the week.  And we can shave his head tonight in the temple courtyard of Askalant.  And have there not been sacrifices enough today?  The blood that has been spilled since dawn cries out for vengeance!  Give me your arms!”

The three stuck out their arms, and Barhaden drew the stone knife across the flesh of the three forearms one by one as Barhaden and Asram intoned, “My son Asrael, what have we in common?”

“Our father, Garicon,” as Barhaden cut his own arm.

Barhaden and Asram continued, “My son Asrael, what have we in common?”

“Our mother, Telesan,” came the reply, as Barhaden sliced Asram’s forearm.

“My son Asrael, what have we in common?”

“Our blood,” replied Asrael, as Barhaden cut his arm.

The three put their arms together, and held them there for several heartbeats of silence as the blood mixed.  After they pulled apart, Barhaden smeared the mixed blood from his arm with his thumb.

Barhaden continued, “Asrael, may you always see a brother in trouble,” and dabbed blood on Asrael’s eyelids.

He got more from his arm, “Asrael, may you always hear a sister in need,” and rubbed it on Asrael’s ears,” then again, “Asrael, may you always speak the truth,” now on his mouth, “Asrael, may your arms always bear up the tribe,” anointing his biceps, “And Asrael, may your feet always bring you to us and never take you away,” rubbing the blood on his feet, “And may your wife bear you many children and your house be full of plenty,” as he gathered blood on his fingertips and flicked it on Asrael, who stood with his head bowed.

Barhaden smiled at Asrael, “Brother Asrael, today you are a man.”

Asram and Barhaden pounded Asrael on the back in congratulations as he smeared the splashed drops across his face.

Barhaden could see that Asram was still a little jealous, so he explained, “Asram, it is good to enlarge the tribe, since I fear today the very flower of the men were cut down in their fields or in bed.  The bravest men, such as your father, live near the edge of the wood, while the more timid ones live in the villages and city.  We are in need of men.”

Barhaden suddenly shook his head, the passing of time coming to him, “But enough, we’ve stayed too long.  We no longer hear the tread of the ogres, or the shouting of the men.  Asram, stay with your brother.  I go to give my horn and the command to Wohaden.  Listen for the signals, and be brave.  You can not save yourselves by running at first sight of the ogres, but only by splitting up and keeping them between you.  Run after me, but not too close.  The battle will last all day, so do not exhaust yourselves unless you would like to see the inside of an ogre’s belly.  And make your family proud.”

“Yes, Father Barhaden,” they replied, Asrael the more enthusiastic, as Barhaden jumped up and left, blowing his horn.

Once he was out of sight, Asram said, “There are many sling stones at the river.  Let us pick them up on the way to the battle.”  He then cuffed Asrael on the arm, finally smiling, “I left home with a boy, and I’ll bring back a man.  Father will be proud!”

On the Pensinsula (sample book chapter)


About three weeks ago I started pimping my project again on this blog, and the votes are in.  You, my adoring public, want me to keep going on the book that was called “The Confraternity of Santo Discreto”.  Right now it has the working title of “The Voyage of the Pink Snapper”, due to the results of some market research conducted on a Tuesday night at The Winking Lizard (a bar in Cleveland).

Previous chapters posted have introduced the guys, and in particular, the protagonist, Max.  This chapter is intended to introduce you, the gentle reader, to the antagonist, Sofia.  In earlier versions, she was introduced late, and finally revealed as the puppet master behind many things.  On the sage advice of Mr. Albert Zuckerman*, author of “Writing the Blockbuster Novel”, I now introduce the antagonist early on, and then deftly…nay, masterfully, switch back and forth between protagonist and antagonist.  The reader can see the impending conflict, and the tension slowly ratchets higher and higher, so you poor fuc7ers are left reading “just one more chapter” until 3 in the morning because you can’t put it down.

So anyway, here is the intentionally short chapter that is supposed to put the hook in you, make you want to find out what this broad is up to, and how her life is going to intersect with the dissolute yet somehow likable married guys who are chasing tail across the lovely suburbs of Youngstown, Ohio.

Feel free to offer comments of any depth, any positivity or negativity, anything that would be helpful in keeping a reader engaged.



*OK, a moment of honesty here.  This sage advice was offered in the book, which I borrowed from the county library.  I did intend to imply that Al pulled me aside at Thanksgiving to give me some personalized insights.  However, we all know that did not happen.


Chapter 2 “One the Peninsula”

Former Special Agent Sofia Kaplan pulled the abaya tighter around her head as the car pulled up to the entrance to the Millennium Mall. “I’ll call the hotel when I’m done.” The driver nodded politely without making eye contact. A short Filipino man in a gaudy uniform opened the door, and she stepped out, carrying a bright red cloth shopping bag from Baptiste et Fils that drew the eye. Jesus Christ, he looks like the cover of the Sergeant Pepper album, she thought.

She leisurely pushed her way through the throng, dodging large Muslim families in traditional garb, Westerners, thousands of people out for the evening. It was Thursday night, and the weekend was in full swing.

She pretended to window shop for a while, yet the polished windows, marble fountains, intricate tile work, and gilt edges that advertised unspeakable wealth barely registered. She was only paying attention to people; specifically, making sure no one was following. She was on a mission. She ducked into a restroom at the food court, and entered the last stall. She took off her abaya as she pulled down her pants and sat on the toilet, stuffing it in the bag. Out came a tight hair cap and an expensive wig with long black hair. She caught her short blond hair in the cap, and pulled the wig into place. She quickly put in a pair of dark brown contact lenses and clipped special dental appliances to her upper teeth that made her cheeks fuller. She shucked her dark blue long-sleeve smock, added pads to her push-up bra, and put on a grey silk Armani t-shirt. Next she exchanged her jeans and sensible flats with black leggings and high heels. Using a hand-held mirror, she quickly put no-streak bronzer on her face and upper chest, then rubbed into onto her arms. She finished herself with bright red lipstick and gold hoop earrings. Satisfied, she turned the bright red bag inside out, revealing it’s everyday tan side, and dumped everything back in.

When she stopped to look at herself in the spotless mirror five minutes after entering, the demure and respectful mid-Western American girl was replaced by a self-confident and brash Lebanese woman. The smiled at her new self, and strode out into the mall, thinking Sometimes it’s great to be a woman in this place.

She palmed her phone to a young girl in line at Starbucks, recognizing her by her green “Kiss Me I’m Irish” t-shirt and orange purse. Then she strode out to the parking lot, clutching her venti mocha, and got into a black Mercedes. She drove carefully into the residential neighborhood just north of the mall.

Excerpt from “101 Portraits of My Father”, Chapter 13, “High Priest”

So I am in shock, Creepers, total shock.  My last posting from “101 Portraits of My Father” actually received comments.  So here’s more, fishing for feedback (talking to you, Illian).  Of fame.


Chapter 13, High Priest

My father said he was a fisherman.  He always followed the solunar calendar.  He’d pull out a fishing almanac.  He’d show us the articles and say, “This is the solunar calendar, this will show when the fish will bite.”  My mother, not really caring about fish too much, came to accept his comings and goings whenever he said it was time to go fishing.

Now I myself as I got older was starting to catch the fishing bug and wanted to go with him.  My father wouldn’t take me on every trip.  My mother would try to get my father to take me along.  If he didn’t want me to go, he had endless excuses.  Like, “He’s too small, he’ll make too much noise in the boat.”  “We don’t want him to fall out of the boat and drown.”

But when I got bigger and was able to follow these things myself, I’d try to get ready by reading the solunar calendar myself.  Sometimes when you’d think he’d have gotten up to go fishing he didn’t.  Other times when you’d think he wouldn’t because the fishing would be terrible, he would.  So I took to getting up and laying down by their bedroom door.  After he yelled at me and wouldn’t let me sleep there, I’d put paper out in the hall where he would scuff it as he walked.  It was the only kind of alarm a boy of my age could think of.

So one night he got up the paper made a noise in the hall.  He swore softly, and it woke me up.  My father was leaving.  I followed him out, and off he went to the shed.  He got his fishing gear and a big bag.  He walked down to the river.  He looked back over his shoulder, right at me, and I ducked behind a tree, my heart beating.  He kept walking and he went to the dock, smoking a cigarette in the dark as he waited, his pole off on the side.

I crept up and hid behind a mulberry bush.  Soon I heard an engine coming, and as the boat came near one of the men on the boat cried out, “We brought the fish!”

Dad just barked out, “You’re late,” and gestured at the moon, “The hour is nigh!”  The men reached off the boat and pulled him in, then backed up and took off.  They took him right across the river to an inlet that was out of sight, and I heard the motor cut out.  They must have been stopping at the old Wainwright farm.

I snuck over to our old skiff and quietly rowed across in the dark and tied up at a stump out of view of the dock.  Soon a few more boats pulled up, and then some beat up old cars and pickups starting arriving through the front gate.  That was down Wainwright Road, which by then was subdivided into rented hay fields and Christmas tree farms.  No one lived there anymore.  The men killed the lights and closed the car doors quietly.

They all went to the old barn, which hadn’t been painted in many a year, but I recall was holding up pretty well to the elements.  Trees and shrubs had grown up around it, but as you got closer you could see lights glowing through small chinks in the walls.  You couldn’t see anything from the street on account of the cypress trees old man Wainwright had planted up and down the driveway and in front of the farm.  They were big and thick.  Old man Wainwright having planted them before Charlie Wainwright was shot and killed in Korea and the old man quit keeping up the farm.

There was a long tractor ramp going up to the far side, with a double door to take the tractors in and out.  I took off my shoes and walked up the ramp barefoot and looked through a knothole in the door.  Inside was whitewashed, with symbols and signs all over the ceiling and walls.  These are symbols I had seen in old books that my father had up on his shelf.  The books were mostly in German and Latin, sometimes in a crazy scribble of letters that David Levinson said were Hebrew.  Someone had also made a stage on the dirt floor in the middle, raised up with a kind of altar on it.  There was a buzz of voices punctuated with the bleating of goats and the clucking of chickens.

My Dad was over in a corner, eyes closed, looking relaxed as he stood there.  He opened his eyes, and I swear he looked right at the hole in the door where I was.  But then he glanced at his watch, took a robe down off a peg on the wall, and pulled it on.  He clapped his hands together loudly over his head, and everyone quickly took their places.  Some also pulled on robes, though most did not.

I watched and listened, as my father led some kind of responsorial and several chants in a language I did not understand.  A man stripped to the waist limped up, carrying a rooster and a bag.  He kneeled in front of my father and laid a bunch of things I could not see on the altar in front of him.  My father took the rooster by the neck, and shouted what sounded like a prayer in the strange tongue, and just like that cut the rooster’s head off over the man.  I could not look away.  As the blood sprayed over the man kneeling in front of my father, the man cried out and fell to the ground as if he had been knocked out.  A few men gently dragged the fellow to the side and laid him on a pile of straw.  They gave the rooster to one of the man’s friends, who began to pluck the chicken with his eyes closed, rocking and mumbling to himself.  As another man led a bleating goat up the stage, I ran off, heart racing and head spinning.

I found the row boat and sculled back across the river as fast as I could, not bothering to even try to be quiet after I reached the halfway point.  At times I could hear some voices or chanting drifting across the water and I didn’t think they could hear me, but I also didn’t care.  I lay in bed awake for hours, heart slowing down as my mind kept racing, until I finally drifted off.  The shock was so severe I got a fever and ended up in bed for 3 days.  Whenever my Dad came in to check on me I wouldn’t talk to him much, just tell him that I needed my sleep.

When the fever passed, so did the emotion tied to my memories of that night, although even today I can still see the blood arcing from the rooster’s neck and dousing the hair and skin of the shirtless man.


Explanation/more here:

Peace out!