Flawed Characters – Nobody Likes a Goody Two Shoes

Today we are graced with the august presence of the incomparable Rob J. Hayes, author of TheTies That Bind series and the It Takes a Thief series.


Flawed Characters – Nobody Likes a Goody Two Shoes

Nobody likes a goody two shoes. OK so that statement isn’t entirely true as people do occasionally like to hear about heroes and heroines of uncompromising virtue. If they didn’t Superman wouldn’t be nearly as popular as he is given his ridiculously dull set of powers. However, there is a reason Batman is the more likeable hero of the two: he’s flawed.

In literature, film, and media the general populace always seem to gravitate more towards anti-heroes. We, as a people, love stories of heroism and valour but we also want to be able to connect to our heroes, to be able to see them as people and not Gods and it’s part of our makeup that we connect to and empathise with flaws much more readily than strengths.

For a simplified example:

If I see a character with a mighty beard I don’t automatically think “What a glorious beard. I, too, sport a beard so I will cheer for you.” However, if I see a character struggling to quit smoking because they enjoy it even though it’s bad for them, I immediately empathise with that character because I’ve been there and done that and know their pain.

It’s simplified and those are external examples rather than internal ones but I believe it makes the point. Strengths might attract us to characters, but it’s often their flaws that allow us to relate.

This is the golden rule I used when creating characters for my worlds. Each of them has to have a multitude of flaws to go along with their strengths.

In my It Takes a Thief… series I have two main protagonists. Jacques Revou is a genius thief able to learn at an incredible rate and a master of planning the perfect heist. He’s also extremely arrogant and easily distracted.

Isabel de Rosier is a gifted actress able to completely become a role, and a master thief. She also a little manipulative and has occasional temper flairs that often get her into trouble.

And these are just the protagonists and a few of their traits. My It Takes a Thief… series feature a large supporting cast each with their own peculiar set of flaws and strengths.

Here in the real world we all have flaws, not one of us is perfect (not even me), and we’re all a little bit crazy and we like our heroes and heroines of fiction to be the same way. Once we’re connected to those characters on an emotional level we can laugh along with them, cry along with them, feel fear along with them and, eventually even mourn their passing (I don’t necessarily mean their deaths but those special times when you finish a book and suddenly something feels like it’s missing almost as if you just said goodbye to an old friend).

It’s human nature that we connect to, empathise with, and fall in love with flaws. BUT we fall in line behind strengths.

Bio: Hailing from all over England; north, south, and everything in between, Rob J. Hayes is the author of the dark fantasy series The Ties that Bind and also the steampunk caper series It Takes a Thief… He’s also an avid card gamer, reader of books, watcher of things, and player of video games.


The second book in the It Takes a Thief… series, It Takes a Thief to Start a Fire, is available October 25th from Amazon. You can find out more at www.robjhayes.co.uk.


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Way back in November of 2015 I was a guest in Philip Overby’s dark and blood-spattered corner of the internet. We played a lightning word-association game where he fired random(ish) words at me and I fired back ill-thought answers. Well the tables have turned! The tide is on the other foot! Brace thineselves for a bloody Lightning Round with Philip Overby!

1. Spatter Elf

Part Dungeons and Dragons, part over-the-top action movie with loads of monsters, cursing, blood, and wackiness. It was born out of the idea that fantasy could be fun, dark, and weird all at once.

2. Mysticism

Intriguing yet confusing. Like my life.

3. Undead Unicorns

Combines two great flavors. I appreciate the idea of mixing together the horrific and the majestic. See also pixie graveyards and koala gore sorcerers.

4. Grim Tidings

My gateway to the world! Seriously, I’ve met so many cool authors through this show. Especially Canadians. Rob sucks, by the way.

5. AD&D

My teen years in a nutshell. I literally did nothing on weekends other than play D&D. Sure, I tried playing soccer and doing some physical stuff, but nothing ever beat the fun of DMing a game and watching my friends slowly descend into madness with me.

6. Saki!

I don’t drink sake that much, but if I did, I would probably like fruit-flavored ones. I enjoy umeshu, which is like plum-flavored wine. I’m more of a wine guy. I wish I had a vinyard so I could show it to people and brag about the vintages I have in my cellar.

7. Rob Matheny’s Goat

He probably is a goatman considering how much he loves climbing mountains. Go climb another mountain, you satyr-looking shithead!

8. Favorite Mythological Beast

Tough one, but I have to go with chimera, simply because it’s a chimera.

9. Peanut butter versus Nutella

I only ate Nutella once and it kicked ass. I feel like it’s too fancy for me. And I’m sure it’ll contribute to me dying in some way.

10. Paladins

Great in concept, horrible in execution. It would seriously be hard as shit to go around fighting everything you think is evil. There’s some connection to a real-life scenario here, but I avoid real-life as much as possible.

11. Metal

Loved all types when I was younger, but now I only listen to incredibly brutal stuff like Behemoth or Meshuggah. Although I’m sure someone will read this and make fun of me because these aren’t brutal enough. Fine. Deathklok. Beat that.

12. Time Machine

Rick and Morty. Seriously. Watch it. It embodies everything I’d love Splatter Elf to become.

13. Grimdark

The genre that still nobody can pin down. I’ve had numerous conversations with people about what grimdark is. I think it’s still in a cocoon stage, to be honest. Everyone’s analyzed the cocoon and determined what they think it is. But once that big ass demonic butterfly pops out, all will become clear. Shit, I don’t know. Being nebulous is part of its appeal. It’s one of the few words in fantasy that has both a good meaning, a bad meaning, and I don’t know what the blue hell this is meaning.

14. Big Trouble in Little China

In my top 5 movies of all time. I would say Splatter Elf was heavily influenced by movies like this. They had comedy, action, crazy characters, and a heavy influence on magic and swordplay. Plus they had a dude blow up, an orange yeti, and a beholder. And David Lo Pan is the most epic villain of all time.

15. Archers

If you play RPGs and you don’t have an archer, you’re going to die a lot. Seriously. Archers are the shit. Even the games where you only play as one character, I almost always do my first run-through with an archer. Sniping giants is oh so satisfying.

16. Anthropomorphic Aardvark Assassin’s Crossbow Bolt.

You must have really done some research to know something from my old email address. Maybe you’re the hacker that stole it from me. If so, give it back! If you’re just lucky to know this, kudos to you. I think we need more Aardvark Assassins in the world, aardvarking it up.

And thus concludes the Lightning Round with Philip Overby. I hope you’ve all learned something valuable. Now go check out his deranged books!


About Philip Overby: Philip Overby is a weird fantasy writer and the creator of the Splatter Elf universe which includes stories, a Youtube channel, and an in-development card game. He is also the co-host of The Grim Tidings Podcast with Rob Matheny and has talked with some of the heavy hitters in all of speculative fiction, including Joe Abercrombie, Steven Erikson, R.A. Salvatore, Richard A. Knaak, R. Scott Bakker, Anthony Ryan, Kameron Hurley, Michael R. Fletcher, and many more. He spends his other free time as the drummer of the garage rock band The Candy Ditches which play in several clubs throughout Tokyo. He lives in Yokohama, Japan with his wife and collection of weird rocks. His website is PhilipOverby.com.

About Splatter Elf: Splatter Elf is fantasy for those that love dark humor, crazy action, and loads of monsters. It was birthed out of a desire for weirder fantasy stories that embraced blood, cursing, and the grotesque while still being somehow light-hearted. Philip’s first three stories are “The Unicorn-Eater,” “River of Blades,” and “The Bog Wyvern” which readers have called “goofy and gory and gut-punchingly great” as well as “[being] hooked by the steady string of humorous dialogue and imaginative names for gods, swords, spells and monsters.?” The first Splatter Elf novella One Goblin Army is now available for Kindle on Amazon.

The Splatter Elf Youtube channel features readings from stories, reviews, video game play-throughs, and a weird ass goblin named Grim Gozzoth.

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The Mirror’s Truth: Cover Reveal and Excerpt

Self-publishing is madness I tell you, madness!

Some very fine people have been hard at work on this novel and I think it’s now time to share the results.

The Cover Art: John Anthony Di Giovanni (http://www.jadillustrated.com/) did an awesome job at capturing the insanity that is The Mirror’s Truth. If you’re looking for a scary talented artist, this is your dude.

The Typography: As soon as I saw Shawn T. King’s typography on John’s cover art I knew I’d gone to the right guy. And he’s fantastic to work with, very understanding and patient.

The Editing: Kristopher Neidecker edited this beast. He found holes I’d missed and pointed out scenes that didn’t move the plot. His dedication and belief in this project kept me going when I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide.

The Copy-Editing: Tim Marquitz was the scalpel man. He made fun of my punctuation and murdered about 98% of my semicolons. I left a couple in for Kristy Mika cuz she knows how sexy they are.

And now…

The Mirror's Truth - Cover Proof

And the full thingy, front cover, back cover, and spine!




The mirror ever lies.

—Auflauernder Spiegel, Mirrorist


A monstrous old man, hewn and scarred from a long life of battles won—and lost—stepped through the floor to ceiling mirror.

A huge double-bladed axe hung in one fist, the tattered remains of mismatched chain and leather armour draped loose in places and stretched tight in others. The left hand, missing the last two fingers, opened and closed with the wet pop of ageing knuckles.

Three men looked up from the table at which they diced. They didn’t look surprised, which was bad. The old man swept his gaze across the room, taking in the clean but minimal furnishings, glancing at the single door. The men, all dressed in white, were in between him and the way out.

“Boys,” said Bedeckt. “Are you three alive or dead?”

As they stared, a young woman in her early twenties stepped from the mirror behind him. “Wütend. Geborene,” Zukunft said, glancing back at the mirror. “I can see it now.”

“That would have been handy to know earlier,” said Bedeckt.

The Mirrorist shrugged slim shoulders, apparently unconcerned.

Hopefully that means I don’t die in the next few moments, thought Bedeckt.

Zukunft saw something in the mirror and said, “Oh. Don’t break the—”

Screaming insensate rage, the three men rose from the table, working themselves into a blood-lust frenzy, drowning out her last words. Bedeckt—himself never far from a killing rage—stepped close, hacking his axe through the nearest man’s shoulder and deep into his chest. Eyes, one moment lit by flames of fury, opened wide in stunned disbelief.

No one ever thinks their time will come.

Bedeckt kicked the corpse free of his axe. Wütend, shite. He hated these psychotic berserkers; they felt no pain, always fought to the death. If he killed them before they reached full-blown blood lust, he’d have a chance of walking out of this room in one piece and not missing more fingers or teeth.

The second man, already frothing at the mouth, scrambled to climb the table. He’d dropped his weapon, lost to the madness. Hurling himself at Bedeckt, he wrapped himself about the big warrior, biting and tearing at his armoured throat with gnashing teeth.

Bedeckt staggered under the weight. If he went down, he was done. They’d tear him apart—and this close, his axe was useless against the man grappling him. Dropping the axe, he hooked an elbow under his opponent’s throat, struggling to create room. The third man, he saw, had caught sight of Zukunft and chased after her. She fled, racing to keep the table between them.

Zukunft spun as she danced away from her pursuer, her skirts flaring to show a long expanse of thigh Bedeckt didn’t have the time to be noticing. She laughed, taunting.

She’s keeping him busy. If she remained calm while being chased by a blood-lusted Wütend, she was more dangerous than he’d thought. Or crazier. Neither was good.

Clawing fingers pulled at his armour, fighting to open a gap for sharp teeth. Damned woman was a distraction. She’d get him killed. Bedeckt drew a knife with his half-hand and drove it into his assailant’s soft belly, stabbing over and over until the clutching finger and snapping teeth lost their urgency and became weak pawing. Bedeckt dropped the man, pristine white robes now splashed crimson, to the floor. Seeing Zukunft still alive, still laughing and dancing, Bedeckt stomped his opponent’s head.

Back popping like a damp twig on a fire, he bent to retrieve his axe. He stood, arthritic knees creaking and grinding, broad chest heaving as he sucked breath. Movement caught his attention and he saw a twisted shape cavorting and applauding in the mirror, its attention fixed on Zukunft.

Her Reflection? It looked nothing like her. Shorter, its hair was darker. The shape was all wrong; it had none of her woman’s curves.

Glancing at the Mirrorist, he saw she’d ceased her dance and stood transfixed, staring at the mirror. The remaining Wütend, flailing his sword like a club, rushed after Zukunft.

Bedeckt had an instant to react and Zukunft stood between himself and the Wütend. If she died, his plan died.

He hurled his axe through the mirror.

Glass shattered and Zukunft blinked, only seeing the Wütend as he landed on her, crushing her slight frame to the floor under his greater weight.

Cursing, Bedeckt dove over the table, toppling it, and landing atop the two. The air rushed from Zukunft’s lungs as his added weight crashed down upon her. She made a noise like that frog he’d stomped as a child, her mouth wide and gaping, incapable of drawing breath. The Wütend, ignoring Bedeckt like only someone manically fixated on murdering another can, head-butted her, his forehead crashing into her cheek and bouncing her skull off the floor. Rearing back, the man bared his teeth in a mad snarl. Bedeckt wrapped an arm around the Wütend’s neck and fought to keep him from leaning close enough to bite out the stunned girl’s throat. Snapping teeth cracked so loud Bedeckt thought they might shatter under the impact.

The mad man, driven by psychosis-fuelled strength, leaned ever closer to the soft, exposed skin; Bedeckt couldn’t hold him back. Changing tactics, he threw his weight behind the Wütend, driving the man’s head down and redirecting it just enough to smash it into the floor beside Zukunft’s throat. Head met stone with a wet crunch. Lifting the man’s head, he heard the mad snapping of teeth. Damned Wütend never gave up. Fighting the man’s downward motion for a moment, he then once again added his weight to it. Half a dozen times Bedeckt smashed the man’s skull against the stone floor before the Wütend finally went limp. Dragging the corpse from Zukunft, he dropped it at her side. She stared at Bedeckt, numb with shock, face spattered in blood and bits of the Wütend’s shattered teeth.

With the killing done, Bedeckt knelt over Zukunft, uncomfortably aware of her proximity. He sucked wheezing breaths, waiting for his heart to slow. Gone was the day he’d kill four times as many without being winded. He turned his grizzled head, a mass of scars, the left ear a misshapen lump, listening. He heard nothing but the drip of blood, and his own shuddering breathing. Squinting, he dipped a blunt finger into the blood pooling on the floor. Raising the finger to his face he stared at the bright stain and grinned.

It was red. Real gutted pig red. Not some faded grey red of the Afterdeath, but the deep red of sundered life.

“Hells yes,” he whispered, eyes bright with fierce joy. “We did it,” he said to Zukunft.

She blinked up at him, eyes finally focussing. “By we you mean me,” she said. “I lead you to Rückkehr, the one Mirrorist whose mirror joined the world of the living to the Afterdeath.”

“I convinced him to send us back.”

“You threatened to kill him,” she said, touching fingers to the bruise already appearing on her cheek.

“That’s what I said.”

Zukunft sat, straightening her shirt where it had fallen to expose the pale flesh of her shoulder. Her skirt, bunched around shapely hips, left her long legs bare.

Bedeckt grunted and looked elsewhere. He heard her laugh, soft breaths through her perfect little nose.

“Been a while, old man?” she asked, taunting.

Stehlen, the hideous Kleptic. In an alley. Rutting like drunken teens. Well, the drunk part was accurate at least.

Bedeckt stood, nodding to the shattered mirror. “I saw a girl in there,” he said, as much to distract her as from real curiosity.

“Yes,” she said, looking away.

When she said nothing more he let it go. “Where are we?”


“Shite.” They’d been in Neidrig when they stepped into the mirror in the Afterdeath. He’d assumed they’d exit in Neidrig as well and sent Wichtig and Stehlen off to Selbsthass to give him a chance to escape. Why hadn’t Rückkehr mentioned this would happen? Had he not known? Damned Mirrorists. Another thought occurred to Bedeckt. “Why didn’t you warn me about the Wütend?”

“I didn’t know,” she said. “When we were in the Afterdeath, I could never see beyond the moment we crossed over.”

“And now?”

“She showed me a little of the future,” she said.

She? Mirrorists were an odd bunch. “And?”

“I only saw as far as the moment you threw your axe into the mirror.”

Zukunft stood in one lithe movement, unbending like a cat. Bedeckt looked everywhere but at her. No matter what her body said, she was a damned child. Though his definition of child seemed to change the older he got. Wouldn’t be long until everyone under thirty seemed like a kid.

“Were they waiting for us?” asked Bedeckt. “Does Morgen know?”

“I’m hardly the only Mirrorist who glimpses the future.” Zukunft shrugged. She didn’t look worried. “Maybe Morgen’s own Reflections told him. Maybe he can see into the future. He is a god.”

Bedeckt didn’t want to think about that. His whole plan relied on Zukunft’s admittedly limited ability to see into the future. Her delusion would keep him one step ahead of everyone else.

I can undo the damage I did killing the boy.

No, not just a boy, but a boy god.

Too late, Bedeckt had seen how broken the child was, how damaged by his experiences. Morgen, the Geborene godling, was dangerously insane.

The boy thinks he can make the world perfect and clean. And he was willing to drown the world in war and blood to make it so.

I played my part in making him what he is. He’d make it right.

Morgen had his obsession with cleanliness before meeting Bedeckt. But Bedeckt and his group of deranged criminal friends had taught the lad darker truths. They taught him lies and distrust. They showed him the effectiveness of violence. He’d witnessed their broken interaction and learned from it.

We poisoned him.

Now, Morgen’s perfect world had no place for Bedeckt, no place for his friends.

And I…I killed him.

He never should have strayed from his list of things he wouldn’t do. He remembered sliding Stehlen’s knife into Morgen’s chest. The boy had been tortured and burned and, at the time, Bedeckt had told himself it was a mercy, that he was killing the lad to free him from pain. But the truth was he’d planned on using the boy-god once in the Afterdeath. Knowing that he, too, was dying, Bedeckt had seen how the future would play out. He’d killed the boy for purely selfish reasons and damned himself to a hellish Afterdeath. Not everyone suffered the same fate—there were special Afterdeaths for people like him.

Dying and being there, existing in a flat world of grey death, had shown him the truth. His choices, all the choices of his life, had led him there.

And new choices, different choices, would take him somewhere else. The first step had been escaping his past, and Wichtig and Stehlen were a part of that. He had to leave them behind. Madness and violence followed them everywhere.

Maybe redemption lay beyond his reach, but if he undid the damage he’d done in killing Morgen, in straying from his list, perhaps the next time he died he might find himself in another Afterdeath. He was an old man. Death was never far off.

In the Afterdeath the Warrior’s Credo—those whom you slay must serve—gave Bedeckt control over the boy. He couldn’t do it. Using and harming children had been one of the few things his list and straying from that list had gotten him killed. Straying from that list had started everything. He wouldn’t do it again.

In leaving the Afterdeath and returning to life, Bedeckt had lost all control over the boy. There was nothing but Bedeckt’s mad plan to curb the lad’s obsession. If Morgen saw the future, all bets were off. If he knew Bedeckt had returned to life intent on stopping his quest to remake the world, he’d turn the might of the Geborene church against him.

You give yourself too much credit.

Even with the Mirrorist’s help, Bedeckt wasn’t sure if he could stop Morgen. Only Zukunft’s insistence that she saw a future where the godling was defeated—and her promise that her Reflection would lead him there—gave Bedeckt any hope.

Bedeckt smacked himself in the forehead. I am such an idiot. “Shite.”

“What?” Zukunft asked.

“You just told me you couldn’t see past the moment we left the Afterdeath.”


“In the Afterdeath you promised you’d show me how to stop Morgen.”


“You lied. You have no idea—”

“No.” Zukunft stared at the blood pooling on the floor, watching it spread toward her. “She told me she knows how.”

She again. “But—”

“I believe her.”

A Mirrorist should know better than to trust Reflections. Just as the manifestations of a Doppelgangist or Mehrere inevitably turned on their creator in a bid to become the original—to become real—a Mirrorist’s Reflections were equally dangerous.

It was too damned late for second guessing. This girl and her delusion was his only chance.

Bedeckt thought it over. If Morgen had a clear glimpse of the future, he would have left more than three Wütend waiting for them. Mirrorists always said the future wasn’t fixed. Perhaps Morgen put these men here to cover one possible eventuality. I suppose we could have come through any large mirror. The boy-god probably had people stationed at mirrors all over the city. Why didn’t he break all the mirrors but one, thereby controlling where we appeared? Bedeckt couldn’t answer that. Were the Geborene priests nothing more than a coincidence? Maybe they lived here. Three Wütend living together? It seemed unlikely, but stranger things had happened.

Her legs no longer exposed, Bedeckt could once again look at Zukunft. In the Afterdeath, her eyes had looked lifeless and grey. Now green shot with shards of gold and rust, they peered at him through a curtain of dark hair, watching him watching her. Heart shaped lips quirked in the slightest hint of a knowing smile.

“Yes?” she asked, lifting a dark eyebrow.

“Where should we go? How long before Morgen sends Stehlen and Wichtig after us?”

“The plan,” she said, “and perhaps you’ve forgotten because you’re a senile old bastard, was for me to use that mirror to see the next couple of days.” She nodded at the broken frame and shattered glass littering the floor.


“You broke the mirror, even after I told you not to.”

Bedeckt stomped to the shattered mirror, stooped with a groan, and collected a shard. He straightened, rubbing his lower back, and held the shard out in offering. “Use this.”

“Has to be an unbroken mirror,” she said.


“A shard…her heart…” Zukunft looked away. “Reasons.”

Damned Geisteskranken. He heard Stehlen’s voice in his head: Already your plan is going to shite, old man. Stehlen would hate Zukunft the instant she saw her.

Bedeckt stifled a laugh. The ugly Kleptic would want to kill him when she found out he’d left her behind. He pushed thoughts of Stehlen aside. She was a problem for later.

“Once we get you a new mirror you can tell me what direction we should be travelling, and what I need to do next?”

Zukunft watched him, eyes measuring. “You can still change your mind. We could go anywhere.”

We? Gods knew what was going on in the mad girl’s mind. “Does it matter how big it is?”

“The bigger the better,” she said, again raising an eyebrow.

Bedeckt ignored the innuendo. “Of course.” No way could he carry a floor-to-ceiling mirror around the city-states without breaking it. “Doesn’t effect how far you see?”

She shook her head, dark hair sweeping across her shoulders. “No. I can never see beyond three days, no matter how big the mirror.”

“What about something this big?” Bedeckt help up his hands making a circle with his fingers about the size of her face.

Zukunft shrugged, uncaring. “Good enough.”

He stared at the fragments of broken glass scattered about the floor. “How about a steel mirror, one that won’t break?”

Green eyes narrowed. “Has to be glass.”

A reflection is a reflection. “Why?”

“Because…” She closed her eyes and bit her bottom lip. “Because glass is sharp when it breaks.” She drew short breaths, her chest rising and falling quickly and Bedeckt was glad she couldn’t see him watching her. “Glass cuts.”

“Fine,” Bedeckt said, dragging his eyes away. Damned Geisteskranken. “Let’s go.”

Approaching the only door in the room, Bedeckt hesitated. He wanted to know what was out there before he opened it. The entire plan relied on Zukunft keeping him a step ahead of everyone and already he was walking blind. Leaning forward he listened, hearing the sounds of a busy street beyond. Selbsthass City. The heart of the Geborene Theocracy. The last place he wanted to be.

Just survive long enough to get her a damned mirror. Whoever these Wütend were, whoever they worked for, they had failed. He was still alive.

“You know,” said Zukunft, leaving the sentence hanging.


“Breaking a mirror is seven days bad luck.”

Bedeckt laughed, a humourless grunt. “If we live four days, I’d say we’re doing well.”

Zukunft’s jaw tightened, her fists clenched.

Was it something I said? He gestured at the corpses. “Search them for money.

She stared at him, face an unreadable mask. “How about you search them.”

“There’s already blood on your dress,” he said.

“And if I get any more blood on it I’ll be taking it off all together.”

The dress, a green no doubt selected to match her eyes—though how she’d managed that in the greyness of the Afterdeath he couldn’t imagine—hung and clung in all the right places. Bedeckt turned his attention to the dead. Rather look at them than her, would you, old man?

No, and that was the problem. “I’ll search the bodies.”

Bedeckt hunted through blood-soaked pockets and money pouches without much luck.

“You’re afraid of me, aren’t you?” said Zukunft, watching him.

He straightened from the last corpse. It was a good thing he’d brought some coin with him. And having been out of Stehlen’s Kleptic presence for a week there was some chance he still had it. “Hardly,” he said. “I could crush you.” He made a fist with his whole hand, knuckles crunching.

“You’re afraid to look at me.”

He laughed, a derisive snort, and didn’t look at her.

“I remind you of someone? A daughter?”

“Gods, no.” Bedeckt returned to the door. “Let’s go.”

“A lady friend from a really, really, really long time ago?” Zukunft asked.

This time he turned to give her a dark scowl.

“Is that it? A lover from—”

“Do I seem the type to have lovers?”

“Some women like big men. You’re scarred and a right mess, but not ugly.” She tilted her head, examining him. “Not completely ugly,” she corrected.

“Thanks.” Bedeckt returned his attention to the door. The street beyond sounded utterly normal. Hopefully that meant there wasn’t an army out there waiting for him.

“So what is it?” she asked.

“You’re a child.”

“A child? Hardly. I’m—”

“When you’re my age you’ll understand.”

“That’s not going to happen,” she said, voice cracking. “I’m Geisteskranken. I’ve died once already and I’m only twenty. I won’t see half your age.”

Was she crying? He dared not look. His time with Stehlen and Wichtig hadn’t prepared him for tears. Even Morgen, the Geborene godling, hadn’t cried. “I…” Bedeckt didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t wrong.

“And so I’ll live each and every day I have. If my time is short, at least I’ll have used it well.”

Then what the hells are you doing here with me? For that matter, how had she ended up in the Afterdeath at such a tender age? She hadn’t appeared to be bound by the Warrior’s Credo either. How had she managed that? Suicide? He hadn’t asked and he never would. He prayed she wouldn’t tell him. “Fine,” he said, still facing the door. “You’re all grown up.”

“Ah, sarcasm. The defence of cowards.”

“Cowards?” he said, pretending to listen to the street beyond. “If you had any idea what I’ve—”

“You haven’t answered my question.”

“What question?”

“When you forget, you look at me like I’m a woman. But mostly you’re afraid to look at me at all. Are you missing more than an ear and some fingers?”

He heard the teasing tone but still said, “No,” and was annoyed at how defensive he sounded. Gods, she played him better than Wichtig ever had. Was she Comorbidic, Gefahrgeist as well as Mirrorist? That could be a bad combination; a self-centred psychotic who knew the future. She’d see the outcome of her manipulations.

“Then why?” she asked, voice soft, pleading.

It’s an act. It had to be an act. “I have a list,” said Bedeckt, in spite of himself.

“A list?”

“Of things I won’t do.” He laughed. “It’s easier than listing the crimes I am willing to perpetrate.”

“Sometimes you don’t talk like the kind of man who slams another man’s head against the floor until his skull breaks.”

What did you say to something like that? Thanks?

“Looking at women is on your list?” she asked.


“Then look at me.”

Bedeckt turned to face her with a growl. “We have things to do. We need horses and supplies.”

“Why am I on your list?”

“I don’t hurt children.” He swallowed, remembering the feel of sliding Stehlen’s knife into Morgen heart. Liar. But lying wasn’t on the list.

Zukunft opened and closed her mouth, changing her mind about whatever she had first thought to say. Though he’d never before explained his list, she knew he’d killed Morgen and knew they were here to undo the damage he’d done. In truth, he’d shared next to nothing of his reasons and his past, and she’d seemed fine with that. Seemed to prefer it even.

She looked at him like she thought he was crazy. Or was that pity?

Bedeckt swung the door open and stepped into the street and a crush of pedestrian traffic, pushing and shoving on their way to wherever the hell people who had lives not involving theft and murder went.

Bedeckt stopped and stood rooted. Selbsthass City in the Afterdeath had been different from the Selbsthass City he and his murderous companions had stolen Morgen from, but this was different again. The streets had always been clean and straight, but now they were pristine, gleaming white. He blinked at the stones beneath his feet. Had they been white-washed, or replaced with white stones mined from wherever white stone came from? He remembered the people being softer and happier looking than any city-state he’d previously visited, the bankers’ quarter of Geldangelegenheiten being the one possible exception. But these people, the crowd streaming past him, glowed with health. They were clean in a way no one was ever clean, their clothes crisp. He caught the scent of harsh soap and remembered Morgen’s obsession with cleanliness. These stupid bastards had no idea what they’d created in their designed god.

“Stay close,” Bedeckt called over his shoulder.

Zukunft, right behind him, put a hand on his shoulder, gripping it tight. Glancing back, he saw fear in her eyes and said nothing. Was it the city, the press of people, or something else? Perhaps returning to life was scary for some folks. Certainly it wasn’t something anyone ever expected to do.

Bedeckt pushed his way into the crowd. Zukunft followed, gripping even harder, her nails digging into the meat of his shoulder even through his chain armour. Everywhere he looked he saw Geborene priests, immaculate white livery worn over bright chain hauberk, swords, polished bright, hanging at hips. In the distance a massive wall towering ten times the height of a man surrounded the city. Men, white little dots, patrolled the top of the wall.

“This is impossible. I wasn’t dead more than two weeks.”

“What is it?” asked Zukunft, releasing her hold on him.

“I was here—I mean in this city, the living version—not more than two weeks ago.” He waved his partial hand, trying to encompass the entire city and its population. “Morgen couldn’t have built that wall and armed and armoured his priests in two weeks.”

“He’s a god,” said Zukunft.

Bedeckt eyed the people around them. No one seemed surprised or impressed by the city they walked through. This wasn’t something new for them, they’d had time to become accustomed to the changes. Or Morgen had somehow changed them too.

If he can do this in two weeks, nothing I can do will stop him.

Zukunft increased her pace until she walked at his side, long legs carrying her in a smooth stride, swinging her hips in a confident strut. Gone was the terrified girl who’d clung to him a moment ago. Was this bravado?

“What’s your thing?” she asked.

“My thing?”

“Delusion. What kind of Geisteskranken are you?”

Bedeckt shot her another dark scowl and once again she ignored it. “I’m sane.”

“Right. Your friends, Wichtig and Stehlen—”

“They’re not my friends.”

“—were both Geisteskranken. You surround yourself with the delusional. Sane people don’t do that.”

“Horse shite. I know how to make use of them, that’s all.”

“Sane people avoid Gefahrgeist for fear of being manipulated.”

“Wichtig is a minor Gefahrgeist at best,” said Bedeckt, increasing his pace.

Zukunft stubbornly kept up. “And Stehlen? Minor Kleptic?” she asked, knowing the answer. “How did you ever keep money?”

“I didn’t.”

Realizing Zukunft had no trouble matching his pace, and that he’d tire long before she, Bedeckt slowed to a more comfortable walk.

“I don’t believe you’re sane either,” she said. Bedeckt saw her examining him from the corner of his eye. “And then there’s me.”

“You’re useful. Part of the plan.”

“And that’s it?” she asked. “Just part of the plan. No other reason to bring me along?”


She grunted doubt. “And your choices—”

“What about my choices?”

“People don’t escape the Afterdeath.”

“I have to stop Morgen. I…I killed him. My choices made him what he is.”

She ignored this, shrugging it away like it was irrelevant. “Sane people don’t plan to have their friends chase them, intent on murder.”

“Them chasing me isn’t part of the plan. Knowing Morgen might send them is. Wichtig I can handle, but Stehlen will kill me for leaving her.”

“You abandoned her.” She said it like the word meant something special, something he didn’t understand.

Is she angry I left Stehlen behind? Why would she care? “Whatever you want to call it. You’ll keep me ahead of them.” Thinking he could avoid Stehlen forever was purest madness and if Bedeckt was one thing, it was sane. “With you seeing the future, I can decide when and where we meet.” He hoped it would be enough. And maybe the boy-god wouldn’t send Wichtig and Stehlen to kill him. Maybe Morgen had no idea Bedeckt had fled the Afterdeath intent on stopping his insane plan to cleanse the world of imperfection. And maybe Wichtig will learn wisdom and Stehlen will forgive herself for whatever the hells she did.

“Still,” said Zukunft, “your choices are insane.”

“Don’t mistake stupid for insane,” said Bedeckt.

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I’ve been hacking away at writing back cover copy for The Mirror’s Truth, the sequel to Beyond Redemption, and I think I am finally happy with it.

I should have ARCs out to reviewers in early October and I’m aiming for an early December release. The book will be available in ebook and print through Amazon.

Here it is on GoodReads.

And remember, the mirror always lies.

The Mirror’s TruthGoodReads

Where belief defines reality, delusions are both strength and curse: The deeper you sink into madness the more powerful you become. But that power comes with a price. Your darkest nightmares hunt you at night. The face in the mirror hates you and wants to be free. Your fears manifest and plot your destruction.

Bedeckt defined himself by the list of crimes he was unwilling to commit. It was such a short list. How could straying from it have gone so wrong?

Now Bedeckt must undo the damage caused by wandering from his precious list. The Geborene god seeks to remake the world with his obsessive need for cleanliness and perfection, but Bedeckt is going to bring him down. Nothing can stop him. Not even death.

The two friends he abandoned in the Afterdeath chase after Bedeckt, bent on revenge. Psychotic assassins hunt him. Something cold and evil follows, lurking in the clouds above, shredding reality with its delusions. Madness and sanity war, stretching and tearing the very fabric of existence.

The dead shall rise.

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GUEST POST – Godsknife: Revolt by Timothy Ward

The ever frightening Tim Ward has taken command of my Doppels and demanded space in the mirror. What happens from here on is beyond my control.

Sometimes getting what you want is the worst possible outcome.



Michael recently posted that his next book The Mirror’s Truth is coming out in November. Like many of you, I’ll be clearing my reading schedule to make sure I’m in the early group of smart people who will call it a must read and brag to their puppies that they called it first. How many of you discovered his book, Beyond Redemption through word of mouth? Did that word of mouth proclaim it to be the best read of the year? Mine did, and yet even with going into that read with such inflated hopes, Beyond Redemption still threw all the punches I was hoping for—and more!

So what was it about Beyond Redemption that made it so cute and loveable? Was it the charming and relentless cheerfulness of his main characters? Did it fulfill our deep seated need to see what Heavy Metal Barney would look like wielding a Styrofoam sword against a Queen from Alien? Yes. You’re welcome. (Michael’s ten pot a day coffee habit just gave me a moment as he hits the head…please, someone help me. There are no doors in here. Only mirrors. I can’t remember which one he left through. He’s—)

As I was saying, this post was inspired by Michael’s majesty and creative genius. As a fellow writer and fan of fantasy, I can only ever write with his achievement lofted above me, scowling silent threats that I’ll never surpass the bar he’s established.

But here I am, invited to write a guest post to readers familiar to his greatness and no doubt sharing in his esteem to the point of questioning anyone who’d dare compare their fiction to the great Heavy Metal Barney in the Sky.

So, before the Styrofoam Excalibur slices my skull like a soft melon, here’s my case for why I think Godsknife: Revolt is something fans of Beyond Redemption might enjoy.

Too late. I died.

The late Timothy C. Ward finds himself one of ten thousand waiting for the Great Heavy Metal Barney’s entrance into the afterlife, where he can follow his purple master’s bidding, handing out black and purple sugar cookies to the masses lining the street parade and horizon of soaring, inflatable dinosaurs that never ends.

His pink flip flops won’t last nearly as long.

You can find Godsknife: Revolt on Amazon, GoodReads, or purchase signed paperbacks.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00004]


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Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists

The awesome folks at Grimdark Magazine are putting together an anthology!


The team at GRIMDARK MAGAZINE want to get fantasy authors into the shoes of their established antagonists and present you with 15+ dark fantasy stories in a beautiful print tome. We’ve engaged a range of fantasy authors with established worlds including R. Scott Bakker’s The Second Apocalypse, Courtney Schafer’s Shattered Sigil, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt, Teresa Frohock’s Los Nefilim, Jeff Salyards’ Bloodsounder’s Arc, and many more.

Wrapped in Tommy Arnold‘s beautiful cover art, designed by crowd favourite Shawn King, and with a stretch goal to fill it with Jason Deem‘s interior art, Evil is a Matter of Perspective will be an eye-catching addition to your shelf once you’re done seeing the world through evil’s eyes.

Evil is a Matter of Perspective cover art

Evil is a Matter of Perspective cover art


We’ve managed to rustle up a big range of authors from epic fantasy, dark fantasy, and grimdark fantasy to put together this anthology:

The cover art is completed and we’ve got an experienced team of editors, designers and artists to back up our list of exemplary authors and make the project shine.

Once funded, short stories will be delivered in August and September for editing, which should take us through to the end of November to have the copy complete and ready for Shawn to lay out. Once completed, the team at US-based Thomson-Shore will print three versions of it (paperback, hardcover, and special edition) to be sent to our distributor in Texas and delivered to our backers.

For More Details Go to the KICKSTARTER Page. And if you’re feeling brave and want to be brutally murdered (and pledge $175) I’ll Tuckerize you, forever immortalizing your terrible death in fiction!

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It’s a thing!

SWARM AND STEEL will be released by Talos Press (an imprint of Skyhorse/Night Shade Books) in August of 2017!

And a blurb I stole from the proposal we sent to the publisher:

Zerfall awakens in an alley, wounded and unable to remember her past. A Täuschung assassin pursues her into the endless wastes of the Basamortuan Desert. Upon catching her he hacks off her tattooed right hand and leaves her for dead. Her scabbard is empty and the need for answers and that sword will draw her back to the city-states. The more she learns, the less she likes the person she was.

When Jateko, a naïve youth, accidentally kills a member of his own tribe, he finds himself outcast and pursued across the desert for his crimes. Dehydrated and dying, he hallucinates Harea, the Basamortuan God of the Sands. The god sends him west, into the city-states.

Hunted by assassins and bound by mutual need they will face the Täuschung, an ancient and deranged religion ruled by a broken fragment of Zerfall’s personality. Swarm, the Täuschung hell, seethes with imprisoned souls. But where gods—real or imagined—meddle in the affairs of man, the cost is high.

A long prophesied evil is born, an endless hunger. The All Consuming is risen.

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Group Chess

Chess BoardI’m sure someone has done something like this before, and yet…I don’t care.

The basic game mechanics of chess remain unchanged. Pawns move as pawns move, Kings move as kings move, and the little horsey guys do what little horsey guys do.

Here is where it gets interesting.

instead of being a two person game, Group chess requires at least three players on each side. If you can manage five players a side, do that. You can work out variations with fewer players if you must.

The Three Players

The Royalty: The person playing the Royalty can move only the King and Queen pieces. As the monarchy they get to send orders downward through their General.

The General: The person playing the General can only move the pawns. They receive orders from the Royalty as to the disposition of troops. Here is where it gets interesting. They can chose to ignore those orders and pass along orders of their own to the Rooks, Bishops, and Knights.

The Elite: The person playing the Elite can move only the Bishops, Rooks, and Knights. They receive orders from the General which have (maybe) been passed down from the Royalty. Just like the General can ignore the orders of the Royalty, the Elite may ignore the orders of the General. If you have enough players, get one person to pay the Rooks, one to play the Bishops, and one to play the Knights.

Let the chaos ensue.

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Two Manifest Delusions Novels Coming Your Way!

The awesome folks at Talos Press (an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing in New York) will be publishing the next Manifest Delusions novel! We’re currently bouncing title ideas around (they won’t let me call it Fred) and discussing artistic direction for the cover (they won’t let me do a crayon sketch of the characters). I can’t wait to see what comes of all of this. Maybe someday down the road I’ll share the list of titles we’ve put together so far; we have about 30.

Tentative release date for this novel is mid-2017.

Without giving anything away, I can say that this book takes place in the same world as Beyond Redemption but introduces a completely new cast of characters. It is not a sequel.

“What,” you say, “not a sequel? But I thought—”


There will be a sequel!

beyond_redemption_map_finalI’m currently giving The Mirror’s Truth—which takes place where Beyond Redemption leaves off—one last read through and making some minor tweaks before sending it off to the lunatic who has agreed to edit this monster. You’ll see many of your old friends and most of them will likely try and kill you. I’m also researching artists, trying to find the mad genius who will work for pocket lint and grilled cheese sandwiches. I keep thinking about running a Kickstarter for art and editing expenses, but if you sent me money my Doppels would just drink it. Bastards.

Anyway, my editor at Talos has asked if I’d be interested in including an excerpt from the as-of-yet untitled novel they’re publishing in The Mirror’s Truth and I think that’s a brilliant idea!

I’m self-publishing this novel and aiming to release it by November, 2016. So if you’re jonesing for some maddark, I should have two new novels coming your way in the next 12ish months.

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