I’m very happy to welcome Mike Phillips, the author of Hazard of Shadows, The World Below, Dawn of Ages, and Reign of the Nightmare Prince. His short stories have appeared in ParAbnormal Digest, Cemetery Moon, Sinister Tales, Beyond Centauri, the World of Myth, Mystic Signals and many others. Online, his work has appeared in Lorelei Signal, Kzine, Bewildering Stories, Midnight Times, and Fringe. He is best known for his Crow Witch and Patrick Donegal series.
The enchanted creatures of legend still exist, hidden away in the secret places of the world. They take refuge from an age of camera phones and government labs, from people who won’t let them live in peace. One of these last places of safety is known as the World Below.
Ancient powers are at work. The Lords of Faerie seek to revenge the death of Baron Finkbeiner and recover the mysterious Blade of Caro. Hidden in the shadows, they await a chance to strike. The chance arises when an old enemy escapes the splinter realm in which he is imprisoned. Anxious to settle the debt, the Faerie Lords send him to finish the Lady Elizabeth and her Champion once and for all.
After leading the revolution against the despotic ruler of the World Below, Mitch Hardy has taken the throne. He never wanted to be king. The whole idea of a government by right of combat sits poorly with him. Growing evermore uneasy with his new position, he begins laying the framework for self-rule. The enchanted peoples have known nothing but kings, but are adapting quickly to this new idea of governing their own affairs. It goes well, but Mitch’s plans are interrupted by the arrival of old enemies. Soon he is fighting for his life against a hellish enemy, the likes of which he never imagined.
Over to you, Mike
Hello everyone, and thank you for reading my guest post. My name is Mike Phillips and my new book is Hazard of Shadows. I was asked to talk a little about my experiences as a writer, so I thought I’d start at the beginning. I was raised on a small farm in west Michigan. As a child, my family and I grew our own fruits and vegetables and meat. We heated our house with wood. We even made most of our own furniture. During the summer, my father turned off “The Idiot Box” and took us to the library. When not pulling weeds, repairing fences, tending livestock, or just goofing off, I spent my time reading. That’s where my love of a good story came from. When I went off to college, I chose a career in engineering. My first real job, however, bored me to tears. Before the year was out, I started writing short stories just as something to occupy myself.
I had no intention of trying to make a career out of writing. Nothing was further from my mind. Well, one story led to the next and I enjoyed the process so much that I thought I might try a novel. That’s a huge undertaking and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I loved every minute of it. I really loved the work. That first novel is still tucked safely away on my hard drive, never to be seen, but it did light a fire in my heart. Reign of the Nightmare Prince was completed the following year and was my first published novel. Now I have two published novels with a third on the way and a ton of short stories that have appeared everywhere in print and online. But the level of success I have been able to achieve in writing hasn’t been easy. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. Just when I think everything is going great, something bad happens. At different times, I had contracts with a half dozen book publishers that went out of business, and my books never got published. For a while I thought I might be a jinx. Unfortunately, I’ve had much the same kind of luck with agents. There were many times when I felt like giving up. I’m glad now that I didn’t. Life is so weird. If you have a dream, stick to it and see what happens.
In folklore and literature, goblins have always been evil creatures. To this day, goblins are hiding in our closets and under our beds. They are wicked monsters that are no happier than when they are burning fields or robbing cradles. In The World Below, Mitch Hardy unknowingly rescues a goblin from getting hurt in a storm. Living on the fringes of society as they must to avoid camera phones and governmental laboratories, goblins lead harsh lives. By a small act of kindness, Mitch makes a true friend. Later on, this kindness is returned. I don’t want to spoil the fun, so let’s just say a pan-dimensional, man-eating garbage dumpster is involved. Friends like that are hard to find! Once they have been won over, goblins are the best sort of friends. They may have terrible manners, they may say awful things, they may smell bad, but we can all be that way sometimes. In the end, my use of goblins helps us see the best in humanity.
Writing about goblins was a riot! Goblins live on the fringes of human society. They make their homes in junk yards, abandoned buildings, sewer systems, and anywhere else people try to avoid. Once they find a likely spot, the get to work. Goblins are clever with tools and machinery. They will use and repurpose anything they can get their hands on, so many of their dwellings look like they were designed by frat-boys. Not always the best of neighbors, goblins have to take security seriously. They construct elaborate pitfalls to keep themselves safe from enemies like collapsing tunnels, pongee pits, and mechanical traps.
Goblins, like their human counterparts, each have a unique personality. They live in what they call crews, a sort of family, a lot like college dorm-mates. Each goblin has a special skill. One might be a bully (a most desirable skill in the goblin world). Another might be crafty at making traps. Some use sorcery or poison. Others are good at machinery. Some just eat a lot (another desirable skill). Goblins, in general, have a loose sense of morality. If it doesn’t hurt another member of the crew, with the obvious exception of fighting, then it’s usually okay. Fighting is always acceptable behavior, though if an enemy is around, a goblin is expected to stop fighting the other crew member and start fighting the enemy. Common sense rules like that are the cornerstone of goblin society.
Excerpt from Hazard of Shadows
Something had changed. He couldn’t hear them, couldn’t see them, but Simon Beene knew they were out there. The Guardians were always out there. Since he had been imprisoned so long ago, the presence of the Guardians had been as constant and unyielding as everything else in this strange place. But things were different now. For some inexplicable reason, he knew it to be true.
Straining against the bonds that held him staked out like some heathen sacrifice upon the earth, Beene tried to get a better look at the world around him. A man of average height and slight build there was little hope that he might break free, but he flexed his muscles and pushed with all his might. The ropes stretched taut and the iron band cut painfully into his throat. Ignoring the discomfort, he tried harder, hoping he might get the bonds to loosen just a fraction of an inch. The next moment, exhausted by the effort, he gave up. It was useless. He could see nothing. Stuck like a fly in a spider’s web, he was going nowhere.
Maybe he was wrong after all. Nothing ever changed in this dull world, not that he had seen anyway. Expecting anything less was a sign of madness. With a sigh, Beene relaxed, lay back, and stared into the sky. No day or night, no sunshine or rain; nothing ever changed.
The sky above was always flat and shapeless. A heavy fog forever shrouded the forest around him. The trees reached out for an absent sun. Their trunks were charcoal gray and thick as a man. They seemed healthy and alive, but their empty fingers clasped no leaf or needle; simple bones vacant of flesh. Even the grass was gray. Never was there a single blade taller than another. Never was there so much as a weed to blemish the perfect carpet upon the ground.
“Come here, Oracle. Come, come now,” Simon Beene called out. The voice he heard, his voice, sounded like it belonged to a madman. “I want you.”
At his command, a dark shape emerged from the fog. With it came the pulsing sound of windswept sand as it moved. The one he had named Oracle answered his call. It was frightening to behold. Only within the endless corners of the World Beyond, the Lands of Faerie, could such a thing exist. It was tall as a house, shaped like a pyramid, but made entirely of glass. Great wings extended from its body; poised outward like an eagle attacking its prey. Instead of feathers, shards of glass stuck out at every angle. As it came to a stop in front of him, the Oracle towered menacingly over Beene.
“Is it her? Has she come back?” Remembering the accepted form, Beene commanded, “Show her. Yes, why don’t you show my darling girl to me?”
Silent but attentive, the Oracle acknowledged the command without making a move or uttering a sound but it revealed nothing.
“It must be forbidden even when she is here,” Simon muttered to himself.
To the Oracle, he said, “Show me the other Guardians.”
The question was met with the same reply as before, nothing. He knew this too was information the Guardian was forbidden to show him.
Then an idea struck Beene and he asked, “Show me what the Guardians are after.”
This time an image flickered in the mist above the Oracle. It was a man. Beene didn’t recognize him. Nothing about the man was extraordinary in any way. He didn’t seem a likely savior. He was probably just another poor soul who had lost his way. The Guardians would exact a harsh price for that bad luck.
Once before, someone had come. It had been one of Lord Stokelas’ squires, given the task of rescuing Simon Beene in exchanged for his silver spurs. The Guardians had ripped the poor bugger to shreds and tossed his lifeless body into the trees.
“You might as well let him go,” Beene suggested. “I don’t know the chap, never seen him before in my life. Be a good little monster and chase him away for me. That’s the best course of action. Ain’t no use spillin’ any more blood over little old me.”
The Oracle ignored the comment. For the hundredth time, Beene wondered if it was because the creature was instructed not to answer that sort of question or if it went deeper than that. Perhaps the Oracle could not hear or speak. Perhaps its kind communicated mentally or with a picture language shining in the mist.
“Run!” Beene shouted as loudly as he could. “Run away, run away. They’re coming. They’ll find you. Run, run, run away, come back in never and a day!”
He paused, listening, but heard nothing.
Half to himself, he muttered, “Oh, bother, good luck, old chap.”
“Oracle, show me Rome again, would you? The Vatican, Saint Peters, don’t you know. I have need of prayers to sooth my aching heart. Poor old sod came here in a dream most likely. Now he finds himself dead. It’s not fair, you know. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
A horn blew; a long, deep bellow. The fog muffled sound so it was like listening through a wad of cotton stuck in the ears. Hearing the sound was terrible just the same. It was the call of the Guardians, a savage cry of attack. The strange man would be dead in moments.
Not wanting to hear it and be forced to contemplate his responsibility in the matter, Beene would have covered his ears if only he could move his hands. Pinned to the ground like an insect on an examination tray, he could do nothing.
The Oracle seemed upset by the call too. That hadn’t happened before.
A clap of thunder broke the silence. The horn cry abruptly cut short.
Beene wondered if that last call could have been a cry for help. He smiled at the prospect. Maybe it wasn’t his captor sending some new inquisitor to ask questions until his head ached, or some misguided fool lost in dreams. Maybe he really was being rescued.
The Oracle turned and left, disappearing into the forest. Straining his neck, Beene could barely see the way it had gone. Whoever it was out there was creating quite a stir. The Guardians were off in all directions; crazy and desperate as he was.
Beene allowed himself hope. It had been a lifetime without hope. He wept with joy and relief, crying, “Here, come here, over here. I’m over here, old chap. Come and get me!”