Sunday, February 25, 2018

A Sneak Peek At The Empress!

  The desert sun was already high and hot as Alibesh was led out of the keep in chains, lowering her face and squinting to shield her eyes from the sudden bright light, as well as the stares of the reptile citizens of Stigia. There was no throwing of fruit or vegetables at her, no screams of her being a defilement to what the Empire stood for. The female gecko was not surprised by this. Here in Stigia, the citizens would not part with any food, even if it was half rotten, lest they might starve the following day. And although they were obedient to rule, they did not shout out in support of it. She had ignored the Emperor's requests for two days, infuriating him to the point that he had decided to keep to his word about forcing her to fight. The Stigian arena was on the east end of the walled city, next to the barracks and the armouries. Amilkar was practically being dragged along behind Alibesh, also shackled. She paid no attention to him or the guards who led them onward, instead taking in every detail of the city as she walked. Horned lizards scurried in every direction, anxious to keep out of the soldier's way as they performed their tasks.
  Alibesh knew what was ahead. There would be no wooden swords in this arena. Stigia's reputation for brutal exhibitions with real weapons and real blood was legendary, a tradition supported by each emperor who had assumed the throne of the Empire. To be victorious in battle in the arena meant that a soldier would be considered among the elite of Stigia's armies, and many had died trying to achieve such recognition. Only the most highly skilled and experienced fighters would dare enter, as the arena was ruthless as much as it was bloody.
Her thoughts were interrupted as one of the guards yanked on the rope tied to her shackled wrists, dragging her suddenly forward. She did not change her expression to give the guard the satisfaction that he had affected her in any way.
  They continued through the city streets, and the two captives remained the center of attention to passing citizens. Alibesh watched without attracting attention as they passed the stables. Inside she could see large Iguanas and tortoises ready to be saddled. But her eyes came to rest briefly on wasps, ready to take wing once untethered and brought out into the open air. She had but a moment to see them, the guard yanking on her restraints again. She lowered her gaze so as not to allow her captors to realize what she was looking at.
As the entourage drew closer to the arena, Alibesh could hear the shouts and cheers, punctuated by the clash of steel. As they met with the back of the crowd gathered around the battle, Alibesh could feel eyes upon her. She turned, looking back behind her, seeing only Amilkar and the remainder of the guards escorting them, the citizens in the streets nothing more than an unfocused blur. Her eyes went upward, to the dark spires of the keep. There stood a dark figure high above, staring down at them. It was the Emperor. Alibesh stopped in her tracks for a moment, returning his stare defiantly, until the guards yanked her by her bonds, pulling her forward once again.
  The crowd parted for them, still jostling and shouting at the fighting already engaged in front of them.  The lizards near them stared at Alibesh in disbelief as she was led through them toward the outer stonework of the arena. They halted at the edge, looking down into a pit with a sand bottom, surrounded by elaborate stone walls separated every ten feet by columns. The crowd peered down at two reptile combatants, fully armoured and armed with swords. One of them was a horned lizard, clad in the copper metal of the soldiers of the Stigian army. He had a copper shield along with a short sword, dodging the swings of his opponent. His adversary was taller and slender, a monitor from the badlands to the north. His armour was a dull, unpolished steel, and the long sword he clasped was curved cruelly. They danced around and toward one another in successive clashes, the crowd cheering them onward.
  Alibesh watched with interest, even as she felt the stares of some of the spectators upon her. Her vertically slit irises observed the two reptiles fight, her brain registering each move, each strike and defense in a very analytical way. It was second nature to her. And she was very aware of who would be tasked with fighting against the victor in the battle before her. SHE would be the next to enter the arena. She could still sense the Emperor watching her, waiting to see if she would give in and submit to his wishes. She dismissed his gaze, pushing the thought from her mind. Alibesh knew that it would only aggravate him further to be ignored. It brought the slightest beginnings of a grin to her scaled face as she watched the fight continue. Her hands ached restlessly for her sword. She could feel her pulse quicken slightly, could hear her own heartbeat in her ears as she watched the two fighters attack each other again and again. Sand flew as they lunged back and forth in the arena, each strike and parry of steel bringing a noisy reaction from the crowd surrounding them.
  The heat beat down mercilessly. The clash of metal, the grunts of effort played out in slow motion in front of her. It was a ballet in her mind, and her eyes watched each move, each muscle of the two fighters. Her analysis suddenly shifted gears, and she began to see the openings that they left in their defense. Momentary holes that Alibesh knew she would have capitalized on in combat. Instantly.
  Her grin grew a bit wider as she continued to watch the exhibition. What more could it be? They were amateurs at best. The horned lizard of Stigia lunged forward in short-sighted attacks, while the monitor defended, trying to use his height as an advantage over his shorter rival.

   “This is where we will die.” whispered Amilkar from behind her.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Gecko's Gate : The Empress!

The Gecko's Gate series is now a trilogy...

  Coming in Spring 2018, The Gecko's Gate : The Empress will bring forth a new adventure in the world of Evaria! Follow Chase, Kiko, and Jonas as they embark on yet another Quest to keep the realm safe from the tyranny of the Stigian  Empire.
  The new Emperor, Cyrus Malthor, has returned to seek an ancient artifact that will ensure his conquest over the entire world of Evaria, and will stop at nothing to retrieve the Sword of Xanth.
  But a young female gecko, raised outside of the protection of the rainforest and an expert with a sword, joins forces with The Three, bringing new action and adventure to this epic saga...

The Empress... To be released worldwide in April 2018!!

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Blood Post


  The Blood Post is a project I have been working on that is really beginning to take shape! This will be my first Thriller/Horror title, and I am very excited to see it evolve as I work on it... In the meantime, I will share the newly designed cover for the book, created by Leona Oates of Vertigo Productions.

  Dennis Stein

False Pharaoh

  False Pharaoh is a new project I have in the works, a story of conspiracy and mystery set  in ancient Egypt. I won't say too much about it at this point, as the story is in its infancy still, but I hope that it will become an amazing tale. I have several different ideas for the plot in this story, as the reader follows the life of the young Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

  What really ended Tut's rule? You will have to read it to get my take on it!

  Dennis Stein

A Sneak Peek At The Sequel to The Gecko's Gate

Here is a little unedited piece of the upcoming sequel to The Gecko's Gate...

The sail billowed and the wooden deck planks creaked as the boat surged forward on the calm of the eastern sea. The companions could taste the salt in the breezes as the sun reflected off the clear waters. The wind was steady but light, a beautiful day for sailing.
  Kiko watched over the side as vast coral reefs went past below, the water so crystal clear that she could see every detail, and her eyes shone in wonder. Fish, both large and small, in every colour of the rainbow swam alongside the boat curiously. It suddenly became obvious to Kiko why the fishing city of Patima was painted with such bright colours.
  Chase and Jonas stood at the bow, watching the horizon, and the crew was at ease. The toad fisherman checked the sail rigging, and stowed away nets while the boat captain manned the large wheel near the stern. He occasionally hollered orders to members of his crew, which would send one or perhaps two of the toads to quickly check on something, or adjust the sail.
  As Kiko watched, one of the crew stepped up beside her and cast a long line with a baited hook off the side of the boat, wheeling it out by hand until she could no longer see it behind them. He sat on a barrel next to her, holding the line wrapped around a thick, short stick. He simply sat and waited. Kiko smiled, wondering if he would catch anything.
  Just then, amid the calm peaceful motion of the boat, the Captain broke into song in a thick hearty voice...

On we go across the sea,
To fish and bring our catch to thee.

We fish for fish, we fish for whales,
So we come home with many tales.

The other crew instantly joined in, until a dozen toad voices rang out in a joyful chorus…

Oh, we fish and sail, we fish and sail,
Till we come home through the gale.

We fish and sail, we fish and sail,
Till we come home with many a tale...

  The three friends laughed just as heartily as the crew as they finished their song, and Chase felt his spirits lift slightly, that for the first time, maybe they could accomplish this mission after all. His thoughts were interrupted by some sort of commotion along the side of the ship.
  The toad sitting next to Kiko let out a holler as he jumped up off the barrel he was sitting on, straining to keep hold of his fishing line. Kiko's eyes brightened in surprise.
  "You've got one?" she asked excitedly.
  "Aye lass!" he exclaimed. "Give us a hand!"
  She jumped forward, helping grab the line and pull it in with the fisherman.  It was heavy, and each time they pulled another arm length of line in, Kiko could feel it quivering with the fight of a fish. It took several minutes to get whatever had taken the bait up alongside the boat. The toad suddenly grabbed a long pole with a hook on it from beside him on the deck and leaned over the side while Kiko continued to pull the line. He reached down, fiddling with the pole in the water. Kiko was back away from the side, and suddenly heard splashing as she held on tightly. Moments later, the fisherman heaved on the pole, bringing a large red flopping fish up onto the deck with a wet 'thud'. It was enormous, at least to Kiko.
"Aha!" yelled the Captain. "Thar be dinner tonight!"
  Kiko smiled wide as she looked up at Chase and Jonas and the others. They all clapped, laughing and cheering. She turned back to look in wonder at the large red fish, still flopping around feebly, spattering water all over the deck. The fisherman quickly grabbed it by the gill, and hauled it back to a hatch in the deck. Throwing it open, Kiko could see that it was a compartment filled with ice. The toad then hefted the huge fish in and shut the hatch.
  Things settled for a while, the crew going about their duties, and Kiko joined Chase and Jonas at the bow of the ship.
  “So, good with a bow AND a fishing line! We’ll never go hungry again!” said Jonas with a smirk, elbowing Chase.
  “And I guess with YOU around, we’ll never be short of laughs!” Kiko shot back, grinning.
  Their conversation was ended with another yell from the Captain.
  The three friends turned forward, seeing a massive mist-shrouded island coming slowly into view. Just looking at it gave them all a slight chill, despite the warm sun on them. It looked simply evil. Twisted mountain peaks rose on either end of the landmass, and high rocky cliffs could be seen. Chase hoped that it wouldn’t take them forever to find what they were looking for, and he felt his spirit sink slightly at the sight of this grotesque looking piece of rocky land jutting up out of the sea.
  “I don’t like the look of that!” said Jonas quietly, adjusting his sword belt.
  “It looks ugly.” agreed Kiko.
  It grew larger in front of them as the boat sped along the sea, looming like a giant shadow in spite of the clear day.
  “Well,” began Chase, “It can’t be worse than Stigia.”
  The three were suddenly startled by the Captain’s voice behind them.
  “Nay laddie,” he said, looking with dark bulbous eyes at the island they approached. “That’s one place even the horned ones won’t go…”

Thursday, February 11, 2016


  One last minute of the moonlight bathing me, before I have no more unconsciousness left to comfort me…
  The morning came, uninvited. I opened my eyes slowly. The warmth of the covers were shed, as I rose from my bed, tossing the covers in a haphazard heap. The bathroom and the solace of a hot shower beckoned as I stumbled my way forward, in the same manner as I had done innumerable mornings before. The haze of the dreams, already half-forgotten haunted my peace as I stepped into the warm rain of the shower. What had I dreamt?
  The thoughts of those disjointed dreams where I went somewhere that for fleeting moments I was happy were gone, engulfed by the remembrance that I had to go off to work. Work… As I let the water flow over my hair, leaning back to embrace the warmth of the water, my brain registered the many things that my day would entail. I was nothing but a drone, someone who worked to put numbers on a spreadsheet for my superiors, someone who was just a number. The idea of going back to the grind after a couple of days to relaxing were paralyzing.
  Dressed now, I made my way out the door, after ensuring the dog had been out to desecrate the lawn, and the cats had been given their breakfast. My wife gave me a wave from the doorway, a last farewell before she got ready for her own trials at work for the day. She had an equally difficult day ahead, perhaps even harder, dealing with the public.

  After our day is done, we only wish for the monotony of dinner to be over, not having the energy to engage the youngest boy still living in the house. All we want is to return to the comfort and seclusion of our ‘nest’, to lose ourselves in a movie before drifting off into the infinity again, warm and at peace… 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Because It's Christmas...

  I am reminded at this time of year, as many of us gather with friends and family, of those to whom Christmas is not necessarily sacred. It is not a holiday, or a time when they can simply relax and enjoy the season while most of us get together with our families.
  The Canadian Government deems these people 'essential services'. They are the people who keep things running while we enjoy Christmas dinners, opening presents. They are the people who are still standing by as we roast chestnuts on an open fire, while we fulfill our children's visions of Santa and his reindeer landing to bring Christmas fun.
  Firemen, Paramedics, and Policemen. Nurses, Doctors. Rail and Air Traffic Controllers. Postal workers who make sure your presents arrive to those you love. The people who are on standby to make sure you have a safe and happy holiday. These people sometimes forego their Christmas dinner, don't get to see their children open their presents. For them there is no holiday...
  Remember these people as you celebrate your holiday, remember that if you or one of your family members are unfortunate enough to need their help, that they will be there for you, and they are not closed because it is Christmas...

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Fortunate Crow

 By : Dennis Stein

  The crow was still incredibly difficult to capture, even with a broken wing. It ran among the kaleidoscope of fallen leaves, reds and yellows punctuated by the black of its feathers. The two young girls chased him around the park until he was too tired to evade them any longer. A jacket served to wrap him in a cocoon of warmth against the cool fall air. They were sisters, one nine and the other seven, as different from one another as chocolate and vanilla. The oldest was slender, with dark brown hair, the younger shorter with blonde ringlets. They raced up onto the porch to their Grandmother's house, the bird nestled in the jacket barely moving, content to be held in its warm wrapping.
  "We have to help him!" exclaimed the girls as their Grandmother assessed the injured crow.
  It was obvious to the old woman what needed to happen, and she looked at her granddaughters, watching their faces.
  "Well,... he needs to go to the animal hospital, and it looks like you two will have to take him." she said.
  Tawnia and Pamela looked at each other in wonder.
  Their Grandmother shuffled off to a pantry at the back of the kitchen, returning moments later with a cardboard box just large enough to house the bird. She carefully tucked the crow, complete with his jacket wrapping, into the box, folding the flaps on top shut. She turned back to the girls.
  "Go back down to the bus stop, and you two can take him up to the Veterinary Clinic uptown in the plaza. Tell the bus driver where you are going, he will help you..." she said, ignoring the look of awe on their faces and handing Tawnia a few dollars.
  The two girls excitedly gathered up the box, and headed quickly out the door. They sat patiently on the wooden bench underneath the aging steel sign marking the bus stop, Pamela cradling the box on her lap. Tawnia scanned up and down the street for the white city bus. Many cars passed by on the street, but finally the bus arrived. The girls wasted no time, climbing through the open side door. The heavy-set bus driver looked at them over his thick glasses, pondering their package as he watched Tawnia stuff a bill in the plastic box for their fare. The girls made their way to a vacant seat. Pamela looked out the window as they pulled away from the familiar trees of the park.
  "We forgot to tell the bus driver where we wanted to go." she whispered to her sister.
  "It's OK, this is the blue route, we need to change buses to get to the plaza, I think." replied Tawnia, watching the streets pass by.
  The bus driver was observing the two girls in the mirror at the front of the bus.
  The soft sound of the diesel engine on the bus purred as they rode through the streets of the city. The two girls were quiet, taking the whole adventure in as they watched the city pass by. The quiet was suddenly broken however, by their third party. A rustling began to happen inside the cardboard box that Pamela held on her lap. Several people turned in their seats to see, and the two girls froze in their seat. Pamela sank down in the seat, not liking the sudden attention they were drawing. The bus driver's eyes were on them again. There was a small 'cawing' from the box. A lady on the seat across from them asked what they had in the box, with a curious look.
  "Um, Toys..." replied Tawnia quickly.
  The bus driver was still watching, dividing his attention between the road and the two girls. The crow cawed again. More people began to turn around, looking at the two young girls curiously. The scuffling in the box continued. Finally, the bus driver pulled over to the side of the road. Tawnia and Pamela knew that this was not a good thing. The driver stood up in the front of the bus, adjusting his glasses, and hiking up his belt as he turned toward the passengers.
  "Ok, what is happening here?" he said, looking directly at the girls.
  Pamela and Tawnia sank down in their seat. They wished it would all just go away, that this sudden attention would somehow just disappear.
  "What have you two got in that box?" asked the driver sternly.
  Not knowing what else to do, Pamela opened the flaps of the cardboard box. The crow popped his head out. Several people let out a gasp. Pamela immediately tucked the bird's head back into the box.
  "We need to help him, he has a broken wing." she said simply.
  The two girls sat with their cardboard box, silently. The bus driver seemed placated by the response, and the people on the bus were interested in the girls and their rescue suddenly. The driver sat back down, continuing on the way. The bus pulled into the mall parking lot, and stopped. The girls got up to get off.
  "Ok, you girls need to get on the red bus, which should be here in a few minutes." the driver said.
  Tawnia and Pamela got off the bus, box in tow. The driver stood by, watching the children. The red route bus pulled up.
  "This bus will take you to the plaza, where the animal hospital is. Don't worry, your little friend will make it there." he explained.
  The two girls nodded, and stepped up onto the bus, finding a seat. The driver closed the doors, and the engine revved as they pulled away. Tawnia and Pamela watched the scenes flash by outside the windows. Finally they arrived at the plaza, and the girls could see the sign marking the Veterinary Clinic. Tawnia pulled on Pamela's sweater, pointing.
  "Last stop." said the driver happily, opening the doors.
  Tawnia and Pamela lept to their feet, happy that they had made it to their destination. Tawnia held open the thick glass door for her sister, as Pamela carried the box inside. The clinic was warm inside, the small waiting area decorated with plants, a few chairs,and a counter.  A young woman in hospital scrubs emerged from the back, looking over the counter.
  "Well, hello ladies!" she said cheerfully. "What can we do for you?"
  Pamela and Tawnia said nothing, Pamela bashfully lifting the box onto the counter.
  "Oh, what have we here?" she said, peering into the flaps of the box.
  "He is hurt, and we need to help him!" said Pamela finally.
  "Well, I think we can help him, let me go and get the doctor." she said.
  She disappeared, returning a minute later with a tall man with dark hair, dressed in the same hospital clothing. They both peered into the box.
  The doctor looked at the two girls, smiling.
  "I'm sure we can help him, girls." he said. "Leave him with us, we will make sure he gets excellent care."
  The girls smiled, feeling much better hearing his words.
  "Are you two here by yourselves?" asked the doctor.
  "Yes, our Grandmother told us how to get here." said Tawnia.
  The doctor and his assistant looked at each other in disbelief.
  "Will you be able to get home?" the doctor asked.
  "Yes, we will get on the next bus." said Tawnia simply.
  "We will make sure he is ok..." the doctor said.
  The two girls nodded. The next bus had pulled up out front, and they hurried out the door to meet it. The ride home was long, but they arrived at their Grandmother's house in time to be picked up by their mother.
  It was quiet that evening, the two young girls watching a cartoon on TV, their mother in the kitchen.
  The telephone rang, its shrill metallic voice demanding attention. The girls paid no attention to the phone, after all, the telephone was never for them. The call ended, their mother coming out to the living room, where the girls were watching television.
  "Tawnia, Pamela, I need to speak to you..." she said.
  The girls looked at one another suddenly, knowing from their mother's voice that they were in trouble. They came to sit at the dining room table, where their mother was already waiting, her hands folded on the table in front of her.
  "You two went to the Animal Hospital today?" she inquired, with a serious look on her face.
  Pamela lowered her head, her blonde ringlets falling in front of her face.
  Their mother let out a deep sigh, but her expression softened slightly.
  "Well, the Veterinarian asked me to pass a message to you two. He had trouble finding our telephone number, until he found your Grandmother's address on the box..." she said.
  A smile crept onto her face as the two girls looked at her, waiting patiently.

  "It seems your little friend will be just fine..."