Monday, September 27, 2010

Character spotlight with Erica Clark Parkhurst

Hello everyone, my name is Erica Clark Parkhurst. Welcome to Spirit Lake, Pennsylvania where I, along with my best friend, Paula Bascilla, now own a very haunted bed and breakfast called The Spirit Lake Inn. Thanks so much to Devine Destinies for giving me the opportunity to tell you a little about my life and the adventures I’ve encountered since I arrived here.

I happened upon Spirit Lake by accident one July day when my bus broke down just outside of DuBois. You see I was on my way to Chicago after my marriage to a New York plastic surgeon broke up. I’d also lost my job just days after the jerk walked out on me. Talk about a bad week! Anyway, I left the bus behind and rented a car, striking out on my own. I’ve heard it said that life is all about choices. Well, the choice I made on that hot summer day, when I pulled off the main road and followed the sign that read Spirit Lake-5 miles, changed
the course of my life in ways I never could have imagined.

There is a lot of Native American folklore surrounding the town of Spirit Lake and much of its heritage is evident in its present day citizens. The lake itself is steeped in mystery, and I was amazed and intrigued by the mist that rose off of it at dusk. In fact that’s the reason I took a walk on the dock one evening shortly after my arrival. It’s how I met Joe Lakota. To say the encounter was eerie and a little scary would be an understatement. In fact after it was over I began to wonder if he’d ever really been there at all. But Joe turned out to be very real and we fell in love.

Joe’s log cabin, which he built himself, is located in the woods near the inn. He shared it with his loyal companion, Mingo, who is part wolf, part dog. Mingo and I had a rocky start but are now best buddies, especially since I constantly slip him table scraps, much to Joe’s chagrin. Hey, I’m not above bribery if it helps smooth things out. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? But there’s always a wrinkle. Little did I know the hornet’s nest I’d walked into, but I soon found out that everything was not as it seemed in Spirit Lake. Joe was a man with secrets, one of which had to do with a decades-old murder.

Local legend has it that the mist represents the spirits of long dead tribal chiefs who now watch over their descendents. I was never a superstitious person, but considering what happened later when I was at the mercy of a brutal killer on that dock, I’ve had to rethink my position.

Oh, did I mention the ghosts at the inn? Lots of them, all over the place, including a weeping woman in the century-old rose garden, another one that bangs around in the attic and the one who wreaks havoc in the basement? Quite unnerving and something you never get used to, believe me. But one ghost in particular led me to a discovery that linked my family’s past to Spirit Lake, something I never would have know had I not taken that detour in July.

Since my arrival in Spirit Lake, my life has been a roller coaster ride that includes romance, murder, ghostly encounters and many other things aimed I’m sure at keeping me on my toes. I hope you’ll come join me and share my wonderful sometimes crazy life in the unique town of Spirit Lake.

The Spirit Lake series includes the original novel, Spirit Lake, the second book, Echoes of the Past, and a special Christmas adventure called Slay Bells Ring.

The fourth book in the series, House of Secrets was released May 1. You can purchase the entire series or the book of your choice at

What makes you special? What differentiates you from your kind? Do you have special abilities?
My forgiving nature. I’m ready to give people a second chance even when they disappoint me or break my heart. For instance, Joe had to be given quite a few second chances!

Tell us about your most current adventure.
In House of Secrets, I’m going to face the most difficult challenges of my life as tragedy strikes my best friend, the town is rocked by a series of brutal rapes, old bones are dug up in the rose garden, a guest is murdered, and the love of my life, Joe, goes missing.

If you could offer your author advice, what would it be?
Bring Joe back to me! What the heck are you thinking? Oh, and quit eating at the computer. I’m sick of looking out from the other side of the screen and watching you stuff your face. More writing, less gorging, please.

Are you happy with the way people perceive you?
All in all I think I am. Someone once accused me of being too wishy-washy and that hurt. I’m not like that, but I’m not always tough as nails either. I have inner strength, which comes out when it is needed. Maybe that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s how I am. Take me or leave me. So there, how’s that for assertive!

Does your author ever try to take over the story? And how do you deal with it?
She’s a control freak! Help! I mean, come on, I have a mind of my own, you know? Here’s how I handle it—I let her rant on, then when she least expects it, I zap a thought into her mind—usually while she’s having her morning shower—and bingo, she rewrites the scene. Works every time. And the best part is, she thinks the changes are her idea.

Is humor important? Why or why not?
A bit of humor is always important. At the Spirit Lake Inn, we’ve been very lucky in that during every adventure we’ve had at least one guest with a great sense of humor. There’s always something funny to offset the tragedies that seem to befall us. It keeps us balanced.

If you could time travel, where would you go?
I’d go back into the town’s past and meet the Clarks, the ancestors who link my family to Spirit Lake. I’d love to sit down with them and find out more about that lost branch of the family tree.

What other characters have influenced you?
Paula Bascilla, my best friend, has been a great influence in my life. She’s such a free spirit. I wish I could be more like her. I feel closer to her since we’ve moved to Spirit Lake than I did in all the years we were friends in New York City.

What motivates you to continue on these adventures?
Actually, the adventures come to me. I love the inn and never want to leave. Each and every set of guests has brought their own agenda and as a result the adventures just seemed to happen. Take for instance the Carters, Edgar and Mimi in Echoes of the Past. They were so delightful, and when Mimi fell down the stairs—claiming someone pushed her, but we suspected one of the ghosts—they made the best of it, staying on even as a murder investigation turned things into chaos. Edgar, a retired cop, was in his glory, I could tell. We wouldn’t have been able to pry him out of that inn with a crowbar! And let’s not forget Ed Tate in Slay Bells Ring, who came to the inn with an evil agenda and ended up paying with his life. That adventure brought me face to face with my past and closed a chapter in my life. I’m not sure if I chose the path I’m on or if it was chosen for me through a set of circumstances, but however it happened, I intend to follow the road to the end.

What is your most favorite thing to do?
In spite of the creepiness, and the bad things that happened there in July and in December, I love to sit on the dock at dusk and watch the mist form on top of the water. I especially liked to be there with Joe and Mingo. Now it’s just Mingo and me. The quiet is amazing. It’s so peaceful. Every time I sit on one of the benches I remember the night I first saw Joe, his voice, deep and resonant asking, “Do you know why they call it Spirit Lake?” I turned and there he was coming out of the mist like some specter, yet very real and oh, so sexy looking. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest and my breath hitched in my throat. Even now, thinking back on it, I feel the same way I did that first night, all fluttery and flushed. If that’s love at first sight, then I guess that’s what happened. Joe took hold of my heart on that dock and I know that no one else will ever take his place.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Is this a job interview? That’s one of the standard questions, isn’t it? LOL. Okay, I’ll answer. In five years I’d like to be married to Joe and the mother of at least two children. Too bad we don’t always get what we want, huh?

What’s the oddest thing you’ve seen or done?
The night I ran out of the inn because I heard my soon to be ex-husband’s voice in the foyer. I fled into the woods and fell, twisting my ankle in the process. Then to top it all off, a wolf approached me and I panicked. Of course if wasn’t a wolf after all, just Joe Lakota’s dog, Mingo. Joe carried me to his cabin and nursed my swollen ankle.

Tell us what it’s like to spend a day with you.
Well, let’s see, when I’m not being harassed by the police because of another murder investigation, I’m cleaning guests’ rooms and running errands. Hey, life isn’t high adventure all the time, you know.

What’s the one thing you wish you could change about yourself or someone you love?
I blush. At the drop of a hat. I hate it! The curse of being a redhead, I guess. It’s like my emotions are right out there all the time for anyone to see.

How do you deal with stress?
Hot baths or showers. Of course at the inn when you bathe you’re likely to be sharing the experience with a resident spirit. Once, I was taking a shower and almost slipped, only to have something, or someone, grab by arm and save me from a nasty fall. I was alone in the bathroom, by the way. See what I mean?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Author spotlight with Carol A. Guy

Carol thanks for agreeing to this interview.

What has been your biggest influence on becoming a writer?
Authors like Agatha Christie, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Dorothy Sayers, Paul Wellman, John Dickson Carr and others influenced me a lot. I began reading Wellman and Christie when I was a teenager. Mysteries and paranormal were the genres I loved and now it’s what I write.

How did you feel when you got your first publishing contract?
Ecstatic and relieved. I got my true crime book, A Picture Perfect Kid—Zumaya Publications—and my first cozy mystery accepted in the same week from different publishers. Talk about a happy dance! But I also realized that there would be a lot of work ahead of me because I had so many ideas for other books. An author’s work is never done.

How do you categorize yourself: pantser or plotter?
I’m definitely a plotter. I have to have an outline. It’s just a general outline, however, because I realize that once I start writing, other ideas will come to me and specifics of the scene might be altered.

What makes a book great in your eyes?
Well defined characters who are a little unpredictable.
A plot that keeps you guessing.
Good dialogue that is true to the character.
Page turning action.
A surprise ending.
I’m talking mysteries here, of course.

What is the biggest piece of your advice you can give a beginning writer?Pursue your dream and don’t let anyone discourage you. Also, don’t take rejections personally. Always remember why you began writing--because you love it and it gives your life more meaning.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?
You mean besides chocolate, which I’m not supposed to have? Well, let’s see—I’m a sucker for a cute puppy or kitten, which is probably why there are four cats and a dog in my house.

What influences your writing? And why?
What influences my writing is the need to tell the stories that fill my head. I see stories everywhere I go, which can be a blessing or a curse depending on the situation.

Name one thing readers don’t know about you.
I’m hooked on crossword puzzles. I work at least two or three a day. Can’t get enough of them. What? You were expecting some scandalous disclosure? Not until we know each other better!

What are you working on now?
House of Secrets, the fourth book in the Spirit Lake series. Fair warning: this one is not for the faint hearted.

Who is your favorite all-time author?
I have to say it is Dame Agatha Christie. I love the way she developed the characters and wove her plots.

Are love scenes easy/difficult to write?
Love scenes or sex scenes? There’s a difference in my mind. Writing sex scenes is easy, but writing a real love scene takes a lot more finesse and can be a real challenge.

Do you write in one genre or several different ones? And why?
I’ve written in several genres in the past including erotica. Now I write the paranormal mysteries and cozy mysteries. I write in those genres because they come easily to me. I toyed once with the idea of writing true science fiction, but gave it up.

If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
On a beach. It’s been a cold snowy winter here in Dayton, Ohio.

How do you deal with the dreaded writer’s block?
I’ve never really had writer’s block—knock on wood. I guess if I did, I’d just take some time off and relax. I don’t think you can force the ideas to come and fretting about it would only make it worse.

Do you have another career besides writing? What is it?
I’m retired now. I was the business manager for numerous hospices, worked in hospital and home health business offices and even did a stint as a pharmacy tech way back when. Then of course, I worked as a newspaper reporter in South Carolina for a while.

What’s your biggest reward in being a writer?
Knowing that people enjoy my work. I’m not on any best seller list by any means, but I have a loyal group of readers who read my books and are like friends to me.

To date, which is your favorite story? Which one did you have the most fun writing?
Personally I like the Canid books best—Night of the Canid, Shadows in the Night and Night Watchers—but most of my readers go for the Spirit Lake ones. The Canid books—about shape shifters—are the most fun, although I have to admit I really enjoyed writing the fourth Spirit Lake book, House of Secrets. I’m not sure how it will be received though, since there are some very shocking developments included.

How do you go about developing your characters and setting?
I do character profile sheets. I have always felt that if you want to breathe life into your characters you have to give them a life. I use a form that I developed. It includes everything about the character, right down to their favorite color and whether their parents are alive or dead. I give them a past—where they went to school, do they have siblings, pets, make, model and color of the car they drive, etc. This helps me prevent errors like saying in one scene that they drive a Honda Civic and in another referring to the Dodge Stratus they own. See what I mean?

If you had the opportunity to say one thing to your readers, what would that be?
Keep reading! Don’t ever stop. And let me know what you think of my work. I love getting feedback. I’ve been knocking around this business for a long time and I worked for newspapers, so I’m not going to curl up in a corner and cry if I get criticism! Also, don’t be afraid to read books that are outside your normally preferred genre. It can only expand your world. And support your local libraries and promote literacy.

Visit my website for updates about my books and my life, and other fun things at: .

Monday, September 13, 2010

Character spotlight with Endel Sorra

My name is Detective Endel Sorra. I am a ghost in the novel Passing Whispers by Lisa Vance. I was killed on my way home from work one night, two weeks before Christmas. I was planning to give my beloved wife an early gift, and didn’t notice that there was a robbery in progress as I walked into a convenience store. One year later, I found a way to come back to Kate. Her anger, bitterness and guilt over my death was ruining her life.

What makes you special?
Although most other spirits move on, I just had to find a way to help my wife. No one can see me, except Kate, but I do find myself possessing talents that come in handy. I took my wife on a magical trip to Paris, France on our last night together. It almost broke my heart, but I was able to enhance a romantic date she had with a co-worker. Kate wasn’t thrilled, but I wanted to her have love in her life again.

Tell us about your most current adventure.
Passing Whispers will be released this Fall by Devine Destinies. I gave my wife, Kate, a Snow Globe the first year we were married. After my death, she came across it as she was going through some old Christmas decorations. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but when I realized she was about to smash it against a wall, I appeared and was able to stop her. For the next two weeks, I guided her into discovering the truth about my death and helped her find ways to go on after suffering a devastating loss. Once she was able to put her anger and bitterness behind her, I was able to give her a little nudge to start over.

If you could offer your author advice, what would it be?
Lisa knows more about afterlife then she thinks she does. We all do. She must continue to have faith in her knowledge, and not depend on facts. Her heart will let her know what to write.

Are you happy with the way people perceive you?
Mostly. Kate finds it annoying that no one can see me except her. I think it’s a lot of fun. The things that Kate has to do to cover up my presence is very entertaining. I also hope that by getting to know me, people will realize that death is not an end, but a magical beginning. Although we lose the physical connection with our loved ones, the emotional aspect will always be there. Nothing can destroy love.

Does your author ever try to take over the story? And how do you deal with it?
Lisa has often said that this story came to her a Devine Inspiration, and it’s true. Fortunately, she has an open mind and a wild imagination. It doesn’t take much to guide her back.

Is humor important? Why or why not?
There is no situation that can’t be improved or made tolerable with a little humor. Kate and I always enjoyed humorous moments, although hers is a little more sarcastic than mine.

Is expressing love difficult for you? Why?
Kate and I have been together since kindergarten. There was never any doubt how strong our love was. I truly enjoyed making love to her in the spiritual sense, but when it came time for me to leave, I had to erase most of it from her mind. If I didn’t, she would never be able to go on and love another man. There was a small part of me that wanted her to remember, but I had to love her enough to let her go.

If you could time travel, where would you go?
If I could be totally selfish, I would go back to the night I was killed. I would drive right past that convenience store and home to Kate. But if I were to do that so many things would change. As much as it broke my heart to leave Kate, it wasn’t in the Plan for me to live.

If you had the chance to meet another character, who would it be and why?
Brian Morris is a Social Worker at the Women’s Shelter where Kate works. He’s a great guy with a heart of gold. I knew he would be good to her. I kind of pushed them together. Although I’ve spent a lot of time around him, I’ve never had the opportunity to sit down and talk to him man-to-man. He probably doesn’t need to hear it from me, but I’d like to tell him how special Kate is. Make sure he never hurts her in any way.

Have you ever lost control?
I watched Kate sleeping on our last night together. She was so beautiful. Knowing that our love was strong enough to let me stay with her, made it even harder to leave. If I remained with Kate, she never would have enjoyed a normal life. She would have missed out on having children and grandchildren someday. I knew how important that was to her. But when the time came for me to leave, I was almost consumed with sadness. For a second, I almost changed my mind. Once I saw how happy Kate would eventually be, I was able to get a hold of myself and do what had to be done.

What are your opinions on Brian Morris?
He’s not quite as handsome as I was, but he is a good man. Despite his affluent upbringing, he’s down-to-earth and generous. He will make Kate a good husband someday, and a great father to her children.

What are the pros and cons to being a ghost?
I liked being able to give Kate wonderfully romantic moments that a living man would never be able to provide. The knowledge that I possessed as a spirit helped Kate in many ways. Having the ability to help Kate find a new love in her life was comforting, but to be honest, it broke my heart. I wanted to be the man she spent the rest of her life with.

What kind of abilities do you get when you become a ghost?
As soon as you die, you are completely at peace. With the Gift of Complete and Utter Understanding, you have the answers to every question you ever wondered about. Unpleasant emotions like hate, greed and jealousy are gone. I was able to travel the world in an instant. Give life to my fantasies. Best of all, I was able to make love to Kate and satisfy her in ways that were unimaginable.

What makes being with a ghost the best sexual experience?
A living man is limited in the pleasures he can give to a woman. I had the power to know exactly what Kate wanted and desired. No longer needing to satisfy myself, my times with Kate were solely for her pleasure. Let me share one of our moments with you:

“I love you, Kate.”

His mouth was only inches from hers and she wondered if he would kiss her. Her bottom lip was quivering. “I love you, too.”

Lying beside him she realized how stiff, dry and cold she had become. Was it her heart, her soul or her body? She wasn’t sure.

He pulled her so close that she felt she was a part of him. Slowly she began to feel warmer. Her muscles relaxed and she felt almost…soft. Every inch of her body was alive and tingling.

A thousand memories of their lovemaking flooded her mind simultaneously. Her heart was pounding and she felt delirious. She had no idea that it was possible to feel so much pleasure at one time. The void that yearned for Endel every night when she lay in her bed alone, was gone. So engulfed in her passion, she was unable to move or speak. Tiny sparkles of light cascaded down on her, like a gentle rain. She was glowing warmly, as she felt her own spirit mesh with his.

Every sound and smell that she ever delighted in filled the room. She was surrounded by the scents of lavender, honeysuckle, baby powder and Endel’s cologne. She heard the sounds of rain, waterfalls, ocean waves, and children laughing. What had to be a heavenly orchestra played all her favorite music.

She felt as though she were standing naked under a waterfall of liquid cashmere. It swirled around her body like a soft caress. She saw the shadow of her soul illuminated by a sea of scented candles, glowing softly against a midnight sky.

Spent and satiated, she finally fell asleep in his arms.

See what I mean? ;-)

Do you really see a bright light when you die?
Sort of. There are no words to describe the brightness of the multi-faceted glow you see and feel at the moment of death.

Can you touch things in the traditional way?
I can. But since no one can see me, when I pick something up, it looks like it’s hovering in the air.

What’s the one thing that is difficult to get used to as a ghost?
I feel so real, that I constantly forget that other people can’t see me.

Do ghosts have a social calendar to adhere to?
No time constraints what so ever. Eternity is the only reality.

Why can only certain people see you?
For a living person to see a ghost, there has to be a special bond between them. The person must not be limited by their beliefs or expectations. They have to have an open mind, and be willing to accept that which they never thought possible. Not many people can do that.

Finally, is there something you wished we had asked, but didn’t?
I was hoping you asked if there would be a sequel to Passing Whispers someday. Lisa hasn’t planned one as yet, but maybe she’ll change her mind. Perhaps this question will give her a subliminal message!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Character spotlight with Greythorn

Who are you?
Greythorn is my name. I am a former Ruins dweller and inhabitant of the Brizarian forest. However, I am now Neckar-Master Spy and Chief Assassin to Rhyka Hawk-Wing, lord and master of Protectorate Marutchi. Who am I, you ask? My enemies would say a coldblooded killer, dedicated to protecting the interests of my Protectorate. Others might call me their saviour, but I’m guessing that is a matter of perspective, whether you’re looking down the blade I hold or up at it. You may read of my infamous rise to serve my current master throughout Book I, The Rise of Rhyka Hawk-Wing, Scavenger Lord and later, in Book II, Artefact War, The Rise of Rhyka Hawk-Wing. As best I can recollect, I’ve seen some sixty summer’s come’n go since I was born in the ruins east of the city of Brizaria. Fifty years of warfare have battered and burnt me into what I am today. I wasn’t such a pleasant fellah in Book I as I am now, but you’ll have read them both to judge for yourself. You can find me at .

What makes you special?
Well now, that would an ability to decipher the underbelly of the Brizarian Empire, especially the city itself. I know what makes it tick, just like a well-set water clock. For a Ruins dweller, I hold a special affinity for that city. I breathe its air and sift its smells in ways most Brizarians cannot understand. I can smell a plot and hear intrigue a kilometre away and I can kill an opponent just about anywhere I choose. I personally know every wharf rat, guttersnipe, thief of any repute, pickpocket, conman, sleazy tavern, stand over merchant, sly grogger, thieving money lender, corrupt priest, bent watchman, bordello madam, horse thief and killer worth his salt in the city of Brizaria. Know how I know them? I’ve used most at one time or another in the interests of my previous and traitorous master, Todor Roth of Roth-Tar.

What are you doing right now?

What I’m doing right now is torturing a Scavenger in Book III. Sneaky bastard’s a spy, you see. Thought he could sneak in here tricked up like a Dargeman and report back to Todor Roth on Marutchies secrets, he did. But he’s not as good at this game as I am. I picked him for a Scavenger warrior the second I set me eyes on him staggering around the deck of that darge. Here, have a go at this—

Without uttering a sound, Greythorn dragged a small wooden table into the circle of light. His prisoner faltered to a nervous halt, swallowing apprehensively at the juddering the spindly wooden legs made scraping across the floor. He watched the table magically appear. Then without warning, Greythorn let go of the table. As it clattered to halt, he stepped rapidly into the light, but remained behind the prisoner, well out of sight. He grabbed the spy’s head expertly in the crook of his arm and tilted it back. As his prisoner parted his lips to yell, Greythorn deftly inserted a pair of blacksmith’s pliers snatched from the table into the man’s mouth. After much wrenching, swearing and gurgled screaming on his victim’s part, Greythorn extracted a healthy eye-tooth. Holding his glistening trophy up for his groaning captive to see, Greythorn stepped smoothly away. Only the bloody tooth lingered in his prisoner’s line of sight in Greythorn’s extended hand.
Greythorn’s disembodied voice rang out, this time his tone while resolute carried appeal and resignation, “Gods above, son, save yourself some pain. No mortal can hold out against the methods I am about to apply to you. You have one thin sliver of hope. Grasp it. Do not waste time protecting the integrity of a filthy merchant like Todor,” he appealed to the Scavenger in him as he dropped the pliers holding the tooth onto the table. He hauled the table to his prisoner’s opposite shoulder. Instruments rattled with an eerie sound. Serrated tongs, razor sharp daggers, a nail-studded boxers’ mitt, a hammer, nails and numerous other devices well known to torturers held his captive’s bewildered gaze.“First, let’s start off with something simple. Like y’name?” Greythorn’s tone hardened as he settled down on the stool. His hooded frame was visible only as a dark shape hovering over the small table of instruments. Without raising his voice, Greythorn rotated his cowled head slightly toward the prisoner. “I know that you’ve the guts not to dishonour your ancestors by begging for mercy. But I promise, if you accept my offer, I will get independent word to your clansmen through the crew that you died with honour. Refuse me and I will pay them handsomely to spread a tale that you left this world bleating like a sheep in a slaughter yard. They will have stories of you begging for mercy and pissing your pants spread across your protectorate, seconds after they drop anchor. To make certain they tell the story with some authenticity, before they weigh anchor, they will know in no uncertain terms that the only reason they are allowed to depart Marutchi is to spread a tale of your cowardice.”

I expect that Book III may be ready for release around December, but nothing is certain yet.

What’s life in Brizaria like?
So, its advice on life in Brizaria you’re looking for? Well now, you’ve come to the right person for that. First off, you’d best understand that the ruling class, the Scavengers, are a people of their word. Haughty, some would call ‘em. But by the god’s they’re fiercely loyal to their clan members and are the bravest fighters I have come across. By the grace of the sacred Earth Mother, I am now proud to call myself one.

Once, while investigating a suspicious death in Book II, my greatest enemy, Rha-Knor described me as— Well now, best you judge for yourself while you read the excerpt below.

Rha-Knor’s green eyes slitted dangerously, “You filthy, venomous old spider. You’ve a bad habit of turning up to inject your poison into Todor’s head when you’re least wanted. Know this, my master trusts me completely to investigate such matters, more so since you’re raggedy old bones disappeared. I can confidently say that Todor has no reason for involving you in this affair. Now get out!”

Before I was made Neckar to Marutchi, most Brizarians shied away from me like I had the plague or something nasty was hanging off my face, which, ironically, I do now though. You see, I was born a Ruins dweller and, like all Ruins dwellers, I wear my skull scars with pride. I escaped that hell-hole when I was just twenty-one to live in the city where I worked my way up from a humble caravan guard to the position of Neckar, Master Spy & Chief Assassin of Roth-Tar. But now I am Neckar to Protectorate Marutchi and a Scavenger in my own right. Now, matters are different. All manner of people seek my advice, which I offer freely of course. Scavengers are a respectful race, it is their code of honour that binds them to traditions over four hundred years old. When I worked for Todor at Roth-Tar, he controlled every move I made. As Neckar to Protectorate Marutchi, I have a free reign and am trusted implicitly to support the interests of my master.

Below is an excerpt from Book II as Gorsug the Trog explains to Rhyka some Trog history. It offers you a sliver of insight into how my world was remade by angry gods and savage men.

“Once, Trog’s were just like you, human in our form. But that was long ago, in a time before that, which you call the Great Disaster. It was a sad time for the Earth Mother and humans alike. Powerful warlords formed tribes, called Corporations, had stripped Her of all mineral resources. They ripped the forests to shreds, killed almost every animal and sucked the rivers nearly dry. Corporations enslaved humans by controlling water. Mind you, the water was so polluted that it could not be drunk unless blessed by priests called Hydrologists. Those humans who could not pay a priest for drink, died of thirst, or sold themselves into slavery for water rights. The land the ancients walked upon bled and oozed pools of chemicals so deadly that to stand down wind of one was a death sentence. Oceans covered in floating cities, surrounded by filth, could no longer produce fish to feed a starving population. Even the land under the oceans was laid waste in the search of ore, gold, tin and copper. So poorly was the Earth Mother treated those humans were forced to settle a new world called Mars. I have read in our chronicles that this Mars was a red desert world devoid of air, water and clouds. Freezing cold at night and so hot in the day that the sun would strip the flesh from your bones. Despite this, humans settled there and constructed cities in deep canyons, which they covered with this stuff.” Gorsug rapped the floor with his knuckles.

Book III offers you a little more of Brizarian history of. Listen to the voice of Magpie Eyes, a Ruins dweller and Healer to the Staffud’s tribe as he lectures Mugly, an amnesiac captive.

“Well, at least that’s a start, listen hard now to the miracle of Ice-Eye’s. It was the last powerful artefact dying alongside its owner that finally brought a semblance of peace to this place of unstoppable violence. Artefacts were plentiful and mighty dangerous in those days. Legends say that all a fighter had to do was pick the right one up, point it and a series of blasts would chop anything in their path to shards of meat. Most Ruins Dwellers were scared to touch them, but there is always an exception. A warrior who possessed one, made life a living misery for anyone they came into contact with. Lucky for most, they fought amongst themselves with the artefacts. But when they had eliminated the competition, well now there was one particularly nasty street thug, who went by the name of The Slicer. Now this son-of-a-bitch had been terrorising the Ruins for quite some time. The Slicer was a loner. The murdering SOB would move into an area and subjugate the inhabitants with his relic and then just to prove what power he had, he would start having his fun. Now, he didn’t get the name Slicer from carving ‘roo meat, that’s for sure.

“His favourite trick was to round up twenty or so Ruins dwellers, pick several at random, stake them out in the sun and slice off their limbs, one at a time while swigging from a goony. Well, Ice-Eyes figured out how to kill him without losing a limb. Legend tells that as a nine year old, he snuck up top of a tall building and lay in wait for The Slicer who had rounded up thirty or so victims and herded them out onto an old street. He was about to settle down to an afternoon of his two favourite past-times, goony swigging and limb slicing. Stupid bastard always sat in the same spot, so Ice-Eyes lined him up and dropped a slab of broken building onto his head, killing him instantly. When everyone looked up, there was Ice-Eyes, whooping and hollering and dancing on the edge of the old structure like there was no tomorrow. He climbed down and smashed that artefact to splinters before some dumb bastard started off what The Slicer failed to finish. Even as a child, young Ice-Eyes understood the old prophet’s words better than anybody else. He could make sense of a situation where others saw only confusion. Ruins dwellers came from far and near to consult the boy on all matters. Instinctively, he knew artefacts had to be destroyed, all of them, or they would lead humanity straight back to a past of greed and misery that ruled the ancients. Don’t get me wrong, son. When I say, people settled down, it was not in digs as good as these. I mean a family or two got together to protect a water supply or guard a shelter that offered protection from the elements and enemies. Young Ice-Eyes was marked for a Spin Doctor’s life, but as soon he was old enough, he formed a core of tough street fighters about him and set about establishing unity among warring factions of Ruins dwellers.”

What is the most interesting thing that happened to you?
Well now that’d be being made Neckar of Marutchi? You see before lord Rhyka found me, I was languishing in the underground with the Trogs. My career as an assassin and a spy was over. Todor had cast me aside in favour of Rha-Knor. But in reality that was a stroke of luck. Now I am Neckar, a Scavenger and I command an army of spies the envy of the Brizarian Empire.

The Lord High Recycler unwrapped the cloth with a frown. Positioning the book in his lap, he opened it and read slowly. His eyes widened and he looked up at Lizet with a question in his eyes. When Lizet nodded, he beckoned to a nearby scribe to approach. He stood close to Jaggan’s right shoulder, listening to him talk. Together they re-read the pages in the book. Jaggan whispered again and the scribe began to copy down his words on a scroll. Meanwhile, Jaggan heated a wax stick over a candle flame. Shortly thereafter, Jaggan sealed the scroll and Lizet’s open book, which he closed, then returned once the wax was dry. As the scribe departed with the scroll under his arm, Lizet approached and kissed the Lord High Recyclers’ signet. She remained kneeling, head bowed until he had departed.
When Lizet and Virinia swept back into the room, Greythorn looked at his Ti’cher with a crooked smile, “That went well, Ti’cher.”

Lizet’s violet eyes sparkled with humour as she said, “Better than you might imagine. Come here, Greythorn.”
The old spy shuffled forward with a question in his eye. Sergeant Bufield laid the book down and opened the muslin wrapping. It was the Book of Marutchi, a record of all the clan’s business transactions, births, deaths, marriages and important events. He could smell the fresh ink, vellum and rich wax. Lizet opened it to the last written page, pointed, then stepped back a pace.

Leaning on his walking stick, Greythorn cocked his head to read. He expected to follow a record of Etol-Vos’s fealty. Instead, he read a modified version of the words normally spoken by the head of a clan to declare a newborn Scavenger child’s entitlements…

Clan Marutchi welcomes into its fold the child grown to manhood known as Greythorn, born sixty-one years ago in the ruins to an unknown mother.
I, Lizet, Ti’cher of Marutchi, grant to Greythorn his birthright and name him, his heirs and successors as Scavenger clansmen and women free to take up any of the pursuits of a Scavenger.

Henceforth, Greythorn, warrior of Marutchi and Co-Ber to Lord Rhyka & Ti’cher Lizet is clan Neckar.
Ti’cher of Marutchi
Lord High Recycler of Brizaria

As Greythorn read, he grunted loudly, as if he had been struck a blow. He almost fell onto the book, but caught himself on his walking stick with one hand and the edge of the table with the other. His breath expelled in a controlled hiss as he read the words again. When he looked around with one misty eye, Lizet, the Sergeant and Virinia were leaving him to his thoughts.

Did you do anything special after your first adventure?
Aye that I did, I saved the life of a lowly slave who held the key to controlling Etol-Vos, a neighbour and avowed enemy of my master. Actually, it was no key. Rather several scrolls containing certain nefarious deeds carried out by Etol and a certain greasy Banker who goes by the name of Luftor Dista. Etol is a notorious gambler and womanizer, who has a bad temper, mean disposition and a nasty streak that cuts clear through to his whelp of a son, Etrol-Vos.

Rha-Knor’s eyes widened. Her face turned purple with rage. So much so that Greythorn was convinced that she was going to burst a vein.

“Look upon that scroll as your ticket to greater things, Rha-Knor. Keep it hidden and use it to manipulate Todor into carrying out your wishes.” Greythorn chortled softly as he then said, “Don’t pretend that you’ve not wanted a lever to bend him to your will, you’ve never been able to with your body. Well now, you have the means. It’s like I said, he’ll never want the contents to be made public nor would Etol-Vos for that matter. Don’t let your obstinate pride be your death, Rha-Knor. Take the gold. Divide it among those men hidden in the warehouse. As a show of good faith, I offer you the heads of a woman and her husband. They died of the flux this morning as proof of your deed.” He shrugged and grinned. “We both know that one severed head looks much like another. With them, convince Etol-Vos that you have fulfilled his orders and beaten me at my own game. Collect your reward, then return to Todor in triumph.” Greythorn dangled a ceramic phial stoppered with a thick cork in front of her. “I give you my personal guarantee that the crew of this vessel will not return to Brizaria to report on this matter.” Greythorn tucked the phial away out of sight, then held out two more bulging sacks of gold. One in each hand, he dangled them before Rha-Knor, saying, “Come on, be a sport? There’s more money here than you could earn in a lifetime and more than your thugs could drink in two.”

What other characters have influenced you?
Well now, that’d be my master and his young bride, Lizet. Treated me with proper respect they have, and raised me up to a position that not in my wildest dreams did I ever believe that I could attain.

If you had the chance to meet another character, who would it be and why?
I want to meet that traitorous bitch, Rha-Knor and cut her heart out. Todor’s, too, if I can get my hands on him. The pair of them have caused this land grief far beyond the tears ten thousand mothers have wept for their lost sons. Here is an excerpt from Book II, it will give you an insight of what I think of Todor and Rha-Knor, and why.

“Pardon?” Rhyka asked, surprised at the response and tone.
“Todor Roth. Slimy, traitorous bastard, cares for nothing but gold. Heard I was dead, too, the miserable little toad. When I turned up at his warehouse looking like this, all burned like. He turned me out on m’ear. Me, who earned his father a fortune and nearly put him on the Brizarian throne. That bitch slave of his said she couldn’t stand the sight of me. Made her puke, I did. Sucked right up to the Brizarian Council of Lords, he did. Gave them some pathetic story about me running a rouge operation right under his nose.” Greythorn snorted derisively, “Rouge operation, my arse. Thank the gods the Scavengers weren’t that dumb. It was his donation of two hundred tonnes of hoarded grain and fodder to the Scavenger Council of Lords that saved his miserable life, not telling porkies about me. I should have been put back in my old digs and a Healer summoned to treat my wounds. But nah, Mr. Scavenger kiss arse had his caravan guards tossed me into a canal. Used me for target practise while he and that slave-bitch drank wine and made bets on whether the guards’d hit me or not. Piss poor shots, the lot them, too.”
Greythorn studied Rhyka with a vengeful look in his one remaining eye. “How did I come to be here, you were going to ask?” Greythorn grunted as he placed both hands on his cane. His one good eye glowered madly in the reddish light cast by the blurting lava pool. “I had no other place to turn, after Todor disowned me. Couldn’t go to the Neesiens, could I? Hate anyone not of their religion, they do. Wesslanders are cut from the same cloth, they would rather split me gizzard’n talk to a Ruins dweller. If I were to go back into the ruins, they would kill me on sight. No room for oddities like me there. And, there was no way I could go back to Brizaria after the war. Too many old enemies there wanted my head on a stick. The Trogs were my last option. I suppose you heard that I cut a deal with them?” Rhyka nodded.
Greythorn grinned humourlessly. “First human in four hundred years to parley with a Trog and live to tell the tale, I am. I learned their language, too, and that sneaky little bastard sneered at me for it.” Greythorn stared at the floor, mumbling incomprehensibly.
Rhyka noticed that he had dropped all pretence at playing the yokel from the ruins and spoke Standard lucidly and fluently. At that moment, Urgul Dark Storm entered the chamber. He glanced at Greythorn, then pointed the way out with his sceptre. Rhyka watched him settle his bulk on a stone bench as Greythorn shuffled off. For what seemed an interminable period, Urgul just watched him, then he reached into a lap pouch and produced Rhyka’s binoculars. The dual viewing lenses seemed tiny in the Trog’s huge paw.

Do you think you are a superior being?
Not particularly, but I’m adept at staying alive in this land of thieving, corrupt priests and their filthy Activist dogs and that must count for something, surely?

What do you hold the strongest opinions on?
That’s easy to answer, ridding the empire of artefacts left over by the ancients. Useless, most of them are, unless those corrupt priests, the ones who call themselves Viro’s and their blood-eyed Activist foot-soldiers figure how to get one working. Then look out, it’ll be the Disaster Wars all over again. Those two wastes of space, Scovar Borkazee and Todor Roth, nearly killed us all with artefacts when they executed their coup. Got away by the skin of the teeth, most of us did and by all the gods in paradise, they’ll pay for that blasphemy with their lives.

What are the pros and cons to being a Neckar-Master Spy and Chief Assassin?
On the positive side, I can instruct any clan member to carry out any task and they’ll do it willing. I may perpetrate an act that on the face of it will appear traitorous and not be questioned by any other then my master.

How does one become a Neckar-Master Spy and Chief Assassin?
Under normal circumstances, one is born into a Scavenger clan and after serving an appropriate time as a soldier, an examination takes place and if one has a talent for assassination and spying, one is taken into the service of the Neckar. A new, blood oath is sworn in a secret ceremony to the lord of the Protectorate at which time, the initiate is given his first assignment. Then, after many years, if one survives numerous assassinations, state murders, kidnappings, bribing twitching Councillors and the lord is confident in the Scavenger’s skills, he’ll be offered the post. It is rare, extremely rare that anyone outside a clan is raised to such a loft position.

Describe your best kill. Why was it the best?
That’d be that fat, wine-soaked, thief, Chaka-Durg. Miserable sod had the temerity to call himself a magistrate. Ha! Bought it he did from a corrupt Councillor for an apartment in the eastern quarter. Many a Brizarian from the poor northern quarter counted himself a lucky man the day I slit Chaka’s fat throat. Made it look like a half-botched amateur job, too, just to put Rha-Knor off the scent. But I left enough clues laying about so’s she’d recognise it was me. Read what she said when she found out.

“You’re mad, you burnt, blind old-goat. Pouring coin on the ground like that—what do you hope to prove by an act of stupidity?”
Still holding the now empty coin bag upside down, Greythorn shook it and said, “Rha-Knor, you didn’t come here alone to hand the slave woman over. No, this is personal. You came here to watch our throats being slit because it pleases you. And you haven’t the strength to do that. So, I’d guess that you travelled here with at least ten toughs. Probably the same one’s you used to guard Chaka Durg’s place while you searched it for the scrolls. But Chaka was more cunning than you thought.”
“You ought to know! You murdered him to make it look like an amateur had done the job. I’d know your handiwork anywhere, Greythorn. You’re a master at the art of deception, but I’m on to you.”

What kind of abilities do you get when you become a Neckar-Master Spy and Chief Assassin?
That’d be the ability to predict the future if a certain someone does or doesn’t die at a given time, or another certain dumb someone doesn’t take a bribe when they’re offered it. Knowing when to strike, who to target and how to manipulate the after effects, now that takes wisdom and skill. Not something you’d learn on a campaign trail, that’s for certain. Oh, and knowing how to tactfully dissuade lords’n ladies from blundering into certain things that ought better to be best left alone, if you know what I mean?

Lizet sat down, asking, “What do you know of this?”
“Ti’cher, all your men talk about is the wellbeing of their Protectorate and rightfully so. It would not have been long before some entered a tavern and a conversation struck up with the locals. The Marutchi tabard has not been seen in Brizaria for some time, folks are eager for gossip and ale or two loosens the tongue. Etol-Vos’s accomplices would hear of your arrival and the rest would be history. Just from going from campfire to campfire, this is what I have learnt. I know that you plan to enter the city tomorrow at dawn to remonstrate with Etol-Vos. After which, you will parade his son before the Lord High Recycler and make an accusation of dishonour, one that could easily fall to Battle Challenge. Simultaneously, you will dispatch Sergeant Bufield to seek out and expose a certain banker, one Luftor Dista, as a liar and a thief. And this is what will happen to you. By mid-morning, Sergeant Bufield would have been told that your money was squandered on risky speculative ventures at lord Rhyka’s insistence. Forged documents will be produced to substantiate that claim, making the matter one for the Law Interpreters to decide before a Council of Lords. A lengthy and expensive process designed to bleed more money from the clan treasury. Etrol-Vos would have been set free following hefty bribes and you would be ambushed when your party left Brizaria, empty handed.”
“You have a plan, Greythorn?” Lizet asked anxiously.