The Door of Tireless Pursuit

The fifth Labyrinth of Souls stand-alone novel is out! The Door of Tireless Pursuit by Stephen T. Vessels launched at the World Fantasy convention two weeks ago. It is available now on Amazon and other online retailers in print and ebook formats.

Stephen T. Vessels is a Thriller Award nominated author of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and cross-genre fiction. He wrote his first story when he was six years old, and forty years later wrote one that sold. Among his earliest inspirations were the horror films of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price, SF films like Ib Melchior’s “Journey to the Seventh Planet,” and the legendary Modern Library anthology, “Tales of Terror and the Supernatural,” which he read in the back seat while his parents drove through Texas. In 2012 he received the Best Fiction award from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. His first story collection, The Mountain & The Vortex and Other Tales was released in 2016 by Muse Harbor Publishing.

The Door of Tireless Pursuit is another wonderful book by Stephen T. Vessels! After reading The Mountain & The Vortex, I was super excited that he decided to contribute to the Labyrinth of Souls project and really looking forward to this book. It exceeded all expectations! Love is one of the greatest themes in literature, and The Door of Tireless Pursuit shows just how far reaching, how profound, and how powerful it can be when placed at the center of a weird and dark fantasy. At once a character-driven romance and an adventure of mind-bending scope and consequence, this story delivers on every level imaginable. It contains one of the strangest, and most badassed other-worldly beings I have ever encountered in a book. There is wild action, with spectacular and cinematic grandeur. There are wide vistas of other realms, and a large cast of lovable and villainous characters. And at the heart of it all is a mystery and a conflict that seems at once contemporary, relevant, and universal.

Here is the copy from the back cover:

Sandy’s comfortable, workaday life is rocked when he meets Lark, a mysterious woman who can manipulate time and teleport across great distances at will. What begins as a romance turns deadly when she is abducted by a sorcerer who seeks to control the metaphysical portals she defends. Determined to rescue her, Sandy is drawn farther and farther from the life he knows, into the wondrous and perilous Labyrinth of Souls. There he meets fantastic allies and adversaries, and learns that the very fabric of reality is threatened by his quest.

ShadowSpinners Press and the Labyrinth of Souls team had a great showing at the World Fantasy convention, where we displayed our wares, sold and signed books, did a reading, and talked to a lot of people about what’s inside the labyrinth. I met a lot of awesome writers and many new friends who I look forward to seeing again at future events. Many thanks to Christina Lay of ShadowSpinners Press for taking the initiative in setting this up, shipping books, and putting together an awesome table for the convention. And many thanks to Stephen for making it clear I had to be there. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

with Stephen T. Vessels and Elizabeth Engstrom at the World Fantasy convention

In other news, I have been hard at work on the next Dungeon Solitaire game, Devil’s Playground, which is now planned to launch with a Kickstarter campaign in February. It’ll be another great game with more mind-blowing artwork by Josephe Vandel. Work on turning The Labyrinth of Souls into a mobile app and computer game continues. Although there is no official timeline for this project yet, it is progressing. We now have a workable Basic game and the focus has started to shift toward fine tuning the aesthetics, the writing, and the game interface.Stay tuned for many exciting developments in 2018, including more Labyrinth of Souls novels!

Littlest Death Released

ld-cover-mdThe fourth Labyrinth of Souls novel, “Littlest Death” by Eric Witchey, is available now on Amazon and other online retailers in print and eBook forms. Eric Witchey has sold over 100 short stories and several novels. He has received recognition from New Century Writers, Writers of the Future, Writer’s Digest, The Eric Hoffer Prose Award program, Short Story America, The Irish Aeon Awards, and other organizations. His How-To articles have appeared in The Writer Magazine, Writer’s Digest Magazine, and other print and online magazines.

This is an amazing book! As I got interested in the character of Littlest and the fantastical underworld she inhabits, at some point I realized something was going on that was larger and more significant than I had even imagined. From that point on I could not stop reading. I had to know if the story was going to go as far as it might. And it did not disappoint. It went even further! I wept. I cried. I rejoiced. What a wonderful payoff! The end of the book was like an emotional and intellectual bomb going off. Beautifully set up and so well done!

Here’s the description from the back cover:

One human soul and a little respect isn’t too much to ask for, but both are hard to get if you’ve only been a death for a thousand years. Shunned by other grim reapers, Littlest Death yearns for the respect given to deaths who bring human souls from Overworld into Underworld. She has only been a grim reaper for a thousand years, but she works hard at the jobs she’s given. Really hard! No other death gathers in MILLIONS of souls at a time like she does. Okay, they are just the souls of fungi, bacteria, and single-celled critters like amoebas, but—MILLIONS! If she could bring in just one human soul, the other deaths would stop looking down on her. She sets out to spy on the most accomplished death in the history of dying, Oldest Death. She figures she can learn a few things from him. And, of course, she does. She just doesn’t learn what she thought she would learn, and the learning comes hard. Desperate to become a real death, frustrated by humans and their attachments to one another, hounded by a Hell Puppy, ridiculed by other deaths, and undermined by her own ambition, she journeys the Earth and the Underworld in search of a trick that will let her gain the respect she believes she deserves. Unfortunately, her actions hurt the living, undermine the natural order, and threaten the eternal flow of souls between life and death. By the time she understands the damage she’s done, it may be too late to save herself and the souls she has hurt. An Afterlife Fantasy by award winning author Eric Witchey.

In other news, I’ll be at the World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio next weekend with ShadowSpinners Press and a number of the Labyrinth of Souls authors, to promote the game and the fiction series. Work continues on the third Dungeon Solitaire game and Labyrinth of Souls expansion called Dungeon Solitaire: Devils Playground. However, with the end of the year looming, we have pushed the Kickstarter back until after the new year. Progress also continues on the the Labyrinth of Souls mobile app, which is also in development. Stay tuned for more news on all these projects.

In the meantime, enjoy Littlest Death, and check out the other Labyrinth of Souls novels, Benediction Denied by Elizabeth Engstrom, Symphony of Ruin by Christina Lay, and The End of All Things by Matthew Lowes. The next book to come out will be The Door of Tireless Pursuit by Stephen T. Vessels. And more will be more coming out in the coming months. Leave a review if you get a chance, and visit ShadowSpinners Press at the World Fantasy Convention next weekend in San Antonio where all things Labyrinth of Souls will be on display.

The End of All Things is Now Available

I’m very excited to announce that the third Labyrinth of Souls novel, The End of All Things by Matthew Lowes (me), has been released and is available now on Amazon and other online book retailers. When I designed Dungeon Solitaire I had no idea it would lead to a series of stand-alone novels, and I am super excited to be in the lineup with so many other writers I admire. The End of All Things is a delve into the mythic underworld of a post-apocalyptic future. There’s plenty of action, adventure, and incredible discoveries to find within the dark depths of the labyrinth.

Here’s the blurb from the back cover …

Rithik is a hunter of artifacts among the ancient cities of a long-gone, advanced civilization. Infected with ghost flesh, a fatal disease caught in the ruins, he is banished from his village and must find his way in the wastelands. With the help of a mutant dog, he ventures into the post-apocalyptic underworld in search of the answers to life and death. In the dark forgotten depths, they discover extraordinary secrets and terrible dangers hidden by the catastrophic downfall of ages past. And in the farthest reaches of the labyrinth, Rithik must face the greatest enigma of all—himself.

In other news, work continues on the third Dungeon Solitaire game and Labyrinth of Souls expansion called Dungeon Solitaire: Devils Playground. I had been hoping to launch a Kickstarter this month. However, I’ve been really focused on getting this novel ready for publication, and I am not quite ready for a Kickstarter launch. Stayed tuned for more details on when Devil’s Playground will launch, and for updates on the Labyrinth of Souls computer game and mobile app, which is also in development.

In the meantime, enjoy The End of All Things, and check out the other Labyrinth of Souls novels, Benediction Denied by Elizabeth Engstrom and Symphony of Ruin by Christina Lay. There will be more coming out in the coming months. Leave a review if you get a chance, and visit ShadowSpinners Press at the World Fantasy Convention this November in San Antonio where all things Labyrinth of Souls will be on display.

*I’ve also consolidated all things Labyrinth of Souls onto a single page where you can learn about the various games, all the novels, and new developments. Here can check it out here.

Symphony of Ruin Released

It’s been a busy summer for Dungeon Solitaire! The second Labyrinth of Souls novel is out and available now through Amazon and other online book retailers in print and ebook editions. Check out Symphony of Ruin by Christina Lay.

This is a wonderful story, full of adventure, humor, magic, mystery, and heart. Remy, the former street urchin and rat-catcher come alchemist’s apprentice, is an absolutely lovable character. His haphazard, not-quite fully educated approach to magic is delightfully funny, and both his high ambitions and his incredible knack for getting in over his head are charming throughout. The City in which he lives is a fantastically realized setting, from its high castle to its teetering slums, from its winding streets to its labyrinthine catacombs.

It’s incredibly awesome to have so many great authors working on this series of stand-alone novels inspired by the Labyrinth of Souls. I hope you’ll have a chance to check them out. The third novel will be out next month: The End of All Things by Matthew Lowes (me). And the fourth book, Little Death by Eric Witchy is schedule to come out in September.

Finally, here’s an update on other Dungeon Solitaire developments:

The new Dungeon Solitaire game will be called Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground, and will be both a stand-alone game and a Labyrinth of Souls expansion. Game development and artwork by Josephe Vandel is already underway. The cards will feature full-color art this time around and having seen a few pieces already, I can tell you they’re pretty mind-blowing. The date for the Kickstarter is not set, but sometime in the fall is a good bet.

Last but not least, although still in the development stages, we have a Dungeon Solitaire phone and computer app in the works. This is still a teaser since I have no estimates on when it will be released yet, but I’m super excited for this to happen!

Benediction Denied is Available Now

 

The Labyrinth of Souls fiction series just dropped big time with this book, Benediction Denied, by the amazing Elizabeth Engstrom, released by ShadowSpinners Press. This is the first in a series of stand alone novels that will be coming out in the coming months.

How awesome is it that Dungeon Solitaire has its own line of novels? The awesomeness cannot be overstated! Could DS be the only independently designed, Kickstarter funded game with its own fiction series? It very well might be.

Not only that, but the quality of the authors who are contributing to this project is mind blowing. Elizabeth Engstrom is the author of fourteen books and has over 250 short stories, articles, and essays in print. She is a sought-after teacher and keynote speaker at writing conferences, conventions, and seminars around the world.

And these are not generic dungeon stories either. These are original creations of dark fantasy, for the Labyrinth of Souls is more than an ancient ruin filled with monsters, trapped treasure, and the lost tombs of bygone kings. It is a manifestation of a mythic underworld, existing at a crossroads between people and cultures, between time and space, between the physical world and the deepest reaches of the psyche. It is a dark mirror held up to human experience, in which you may find your dreams … or your doom.

Adam Swan is a hydrologist engaged in humanitarian efforts in the Congo when he is kidnapped by rebels and thrown into a makeshift prison. He is left to die — or worse — if his ransom is not paid. In a surprising series of events, Adam escapes the prison into an underground labyrinth where reality and sanity no longer rule. Tested by the gods of the underworld, Adam navigates the consequences of his past actions, which take him to the brink of death — and beyond.

Dare to enter the Labyrinth of Souls …

The book is available now on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format, and can be found on a variety of other ebook formats through Books2Read.

Labyrinth of Souls Fiction Project

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I am very excited to announce that ShadowSpinners Press will be releasing a series of short stand-alone novels inspired by Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls! A number of outstanding writers have already committed to the project and are at various stages in writing their Labyrinth of Souls books. Authors so far include Elizabeth Engstrom, Eric Witchey, Christina Lay, John Reed, Stephen T. Vessels, Cheryl Owen-Wilson, Cynthia Ray, Pamela Jean Herber, and me.

That’s an incredible list to be a part of, and I am super excited to be working on a project that includes this many amazing writers. And I am overjoyed that they have all showed such an interest in fictionalizing underworld adventures inspired by the Labyrinth of Souls.

The Labyrinth of Souls is more than an ancient ruin filled with monsters, trapped treasure, and the lost tombs of bygone kings. It is a manifestation of a mythic underworld, existing at a crossroads between people and cultures, between time and space, between the physical world and the deepest reaches of the psyche. It is a dark mirror held up to human experience, in which you may find your dreams… or your doom. Entrances to this realm can appear in any time period, in any location. There are innumerable reasons why a person may enter, but it is a place antagonistic to those who do, a place where monsters dwell, with obstacles and illusions to waylay adventurers, and whose very walls can be a force of corruption. It is a haunted place, ever at the edge of sanity.

Each Labyrinth of Souls novel will feature a journey into a unique manifestation of the underworld. Get ready to delve into the Labyrinth in a totally new way, and stay tuned for more author announcements and release dates for the first Labyrinth of Souls novels.

ShadowSpinners Anthology

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Here’s the cover of the upcoming ShadowSpinners anthology to be released near the end of the month. The exact date for the print and ebook release has not been set yet, but I’ve heard print books have arrived at ShadowSpinners press and the Launch party date is set, so it’s definitely coming.

My story “A Darkquick Sky” is inside, along with an eclectic collection of dark tales from many of the amazing authors who have written for ShadowSpinners, including Cheryl Owen-Wilson, Elizabeth Engstrom, Christina Lay, Eric M. Witchey, Stephen T. Vessels, Cynthia Ray, Pamela Jean Herber, Sarina Dorie, Alexis Duran, Lisa Alber, and Alan M. Clark. I’m very excited to be in such good company, to be a part of this project, and to get my hands on this awesome book!

“The Menace of Dupere” ebook coming soon …

 

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My short story “The Menace Dupere,” first published by The Fringe, will be released as a .99 cent Kindle ebook. Djibril al-Ayad, editor of The Future Fire, called it “a gripping, well-written, and intriguingly academic horror story in the best Lovecraftian tradition.”

This is a core story in the mythology surrounding the strange town of Auxerre, Wisconsin, where many of my horror stories are set. A mad professor will stop at nothing to understand an ancient occult secret. The cost is steep, and the creature he summons may destroy the world unless one student can stop him.

Two other stories with connections to Auxerre, “The Music of Timothy Shean” and “Old Growth” are available now.

Writing Fights Scenes 2: Dramatic Elements

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My last post dealt with the importance of understanding the tone of a fight scene, but there is something even more important. Real fighting, be it on a small or large scale is not inherently entertaining. Nevertheless, we are drawn to the story of a good fight because of the dramatic engagement of the characters. Without drama, the action can be a tedious, boring, or otherwise off putting.

Whether you’re writing something like the battle for Helm’s Deep or the duel between Hamlet and Leartes, the buildup to the fight is arguably more important than the fight itself. It is during the buildup that we come to understand why the fight matters. Ask yourself what’s at stake for your characters and in the larger context of your story. “The readiness is all,” Hamlet says at last, and because the entire story has built up to this moment, we are prepared for a fight of truly dramatic proportions.

Think of your fight scene as a kind of story within the story. It should be a necessary part of the overall narrative. It should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It should have a setting, a plot, and characters. It goes without saying it should have external conflict, but it should also have internal conflict. These elements should be established in the buildup, so when the action starts they all come crashing together. The fight should be a climactic focal point for dramatic elements in the narrative.

In terms of plotting the action, things should never go as planned. There should always be surprises, turns in the action driven by the elements in play. Perhaps reinforcements arrive, treachery unfolds, or fear strikes. A good fight will have at least one or two good turns, when the advantage shifts from one side to the other before the final victory or defeat.

*First published on ShadowSpinners.

Writing Fight Scenes: Graphing Fictional Violence

Physical violence and fighting can be a wonderful source of conflict in fiction … when it’s done well. A fight should tell a story that’s integral to the overall narrative, and the tone of the action should not feel out of place.

Most violence and martial arts portrayed in fiction is filled with various levels of fantasy, even in otherwise realistic stories. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, but frequently I think writers are attempting one thing and doing another.

When writing a fight scene it’s important to understand the kind of fight you want to write. You can imagine your fight existing somewhere on a graph with realism vs. fantasy on the x-axis and serving the story vs. the inconvenient truth on the y-axis. Great scenes can be written anywhere on the graph, but it helps to know where you are and what you’re up against.

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In this context, realism is an adherence to the laws of physics and the demonstrated behavior and abilities of real people.Fantasy may break these rules, but should have a set of internal rules the characters and actions adhere to.

Serving the story is the necessity of certain actions or outcomes for the sake of the overall narrative. The inconvenient truth is everywhere the rules of realism or the internal rules of fantasy are in conflict with those actions and outcomes. Sometimes it’s okay to break the rules, but go too far and readers will be put off.

Martial arts and fighting are rich fields touching upon physics, culture, technology, anatomy, phychology, history, and human ability. It pays to do some research! As with most things, the more knowledge and experience you have, and the clearer your objectives, the more confident and convincing your fiction will be.

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The author receiving some experience in Russian martial arts

*First published on ShadowSpinners.