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Listen Up! A Few Changes!

Shattered Echoes book cover

(Listen with AI audio)

Listen Up! A Few Changes!

Dear Reader,

I posted a few things about Haunted Echoes already, but as you can see, the cover changed. No, you aren't seeing a title change. I must come clean to you all about what happened. You won't believe it, but as I was nearing the end of this story, I realized I was writing it in the Mystic Dark miniseries.

Hold On. I know what you're going to say. You knew that already because I posted about it. So, you're probably wondering how I can claim to only just now realize it when I swore to tell the truth about my writing life in this blog. Still telling the truth here. I admit to knowing about the setting for the story, but what I realized late Thanksgiving Eve were the implications.

Go ahead. Scratch your head in puzzlement. But all the tales in Mystic Dark are novelettes or novellas. What? You still don't get it. Allow me to break it down further.

This means each tale doesn't exceed 40k words but also isn't less than 10k words. Well, for those of you who now want all the details. According to Jericho Writers, we have the following definitions.

"Word Counts For Short Stories, Novellas, And Novelettes

  • Short story: over 1,000 words, usually less than 10,000. 
  • Novelette: 7,500 to 19,000 words. 
  • Novella: 10,000 to 40,000 words. 

As you can see, there’s an overlap between a short story and a novelette. Also, between a novelette and a novella."

Flash fiction is less than 1k words and novels exceed 40k words.

Ruined Hearts Book Cover

Haunted Echoes rolled over 60K. I didn't want the stories in the Mystic Dark miniseries to be that long. Maybe I could have left it alone, but it felt lopsided.

When I studied the situation, I realized what I had was three distinct storylines in a novella trilogy. I needed to split it apart, correct the issues, add in missing material (sensory details to the skeletal outlines), finish three incomplete chapters, and rethink cover art from a trilogy perspective.

Shattered Souls came to me first. I knew it was the last tale simply because of the opening scene in Haunted Echoes.

Ruined Hearts was far more difficult. Discovering the beginning and end wasn't easy until I realized it was missing a scene, and I needed to rewrite a chapter.

I worked all that out, and I think I finally have it. I'm still on track to publish chapters every day to Mystic Dark before Grim Dark gets out of Kindle Vella's purgatory starting next week.

So what's the problem? I got excited because the story neared completion. And I... made videos and posted them! I can't just unpost them. That's way too much work, and it will take too long. I'm going to edit the post descriptions to say prototype story idea.

I hope you're laughing as hard as I am. This happens to me all the time. I never learn. Intellectually, I know better than to publish stuff before the entire thing is complete because the muse is a fickle witch who loves to change things. But emotionally, keeping it all a secret until the end is akin to stifling the creative energy of the project. So here I am, sharing brand new book covers for this trilogy, which was once only a single story.

Haunted Echoes Book Cover

Sneak Peek at Haunted Echoes Chapter Two

Okay, first, the legalese.


This is a work in progress and

is subject to change at any time.

Read at Your Own Risk!

Copyright 2023

All Rights Reserved.

And Now: Welcome to the dream...

His Destiny

Rorik Skog Vættr / 1697 / Among the trees of an old growth forest

Was there meaning to his existence? Rorik wasn’t sure. He was better than he’d been when he arrived. Wearing the fur of animals he trapped, he stood beneath the snow-laden pines and breathed the crisp air into his lungs. 

It had taken centuries to balance his mind enough to clothe his spirit in the flesh. It felt good to breathe air, walk among the trees, and live as a man. The Ironwood Forest wasn’t his, but it was a home.

The forest eased his conscience. The cold air stung his face, so he knew he still lived. He headed toward the shelter he’d constructed at the mouth of a cave which had a clean stream flowing out of it whenever the thaw came.

It had taken him a long time to learn to function again. Compartmentalizing the trauma and accepting his fate were things he still struggled with. He ate more meat than he cared to consume, but the cold forest offered less vegetation from which he could glean sustenance.

Still, the forest didn’t belong to him, so he took only what was necessary and left the rest for the Ironwoods, choosing to hunt small prey animals rather than the elk or deer. 

He had learned that breathing helped him control his anxiety. It kept the past where it belonged. Reminding himself to be always present in the moment centered things. When had it become a repeated mantra? He couldn’t say.

The haunted echoes of the past must remain in the past. Remembering to relive gives them a life they shouldn’t possess. 

Stand in the present. Breathe deeply. Note where you are and who is with you.

Leave the pain, the fear, and the loss behind. Do not embrace it. Let it go.

As he trudged through the heavy snow with the snowshoes he’d made, Rorik focused once again on the life he still lived. He was immortal, with the blessing of time to learn to breathe. The weight of his curse would never lift, but he could learn to bear it.

The past need not control every aspect of his life. Perhaps if he gained enough control, a meaningful future could exist. If a glimmer of hope was all that remained, Rorik grasped it and fought the ghosts of the past to become a man he could face in the mirror once more. 

He walked among the trees, used his magic to maintain the health of the forest which sustained him, and breathed.

Rorik Skog Vættr / 1936 / 

Far North Realm of Zanzar Ironwood

Slugs were slimy nasty things, spitting acid everywhere, and destroying the trees among whom he’d taken refuge for centuries. Why they emerged from the Netherworld into the Spirit Realm was a question for later. 

Anger welled inside. Emerging from the dream in response to that anger were things from his past he thought never to use again. Leather armor, a heavy shield, and a blade sharper than steel had a right to be. Rorik Skog Vættr stood tall as the warrior he’d once been. The slugs wouldn’t ruin his sanctuary.

Rorik might be a draugr, but he was still skog vættr. The forest held importance, even if it wasn’t his forest. It was the only thing which mattered to one who lived only as the walking dead. He may not have worth, but the trees did.

He laid waste to as many of the advancing army of vile creatures as he could. His long unused skills returned as muscle memory always did. Paired with his anger, Rorik’s sword was a formidable champion of the beleaguered, defenseless trees.

It wasn’t long before he realized he didn’t fight alone. A man wielding two axes, and others using spears and short swords, leaped into the fray beside him, helping him cut down the slimy slugs. If weapons failed, fang and claw continued the effort.

After an hour of hard hand-to-hand combat, the snow-covered field lay strewn with the hacked apart bodies of the dead. As the sun faded to dark, the snow, churned to a gory slush, had lost its pristine white beauty, but new flakes drifted out of the leaden sky as if on a mission to rectify the damage by the combatants.

The slugs who survived had slithered away as soon as a portal opened to allow them an escape. Rorik let them flee without giving chase, choosing to heal the worst of the damage done to the closest trees. Wherever the slugs went, he couldn’t follow. He was bound to the cold north forest of the Spirit Realm and was lucky to be a man again.

The man who wielded two heavy battle axes and a man with a silver spear and knife walked toward him. Their leather armor held stains and acid pits. Their weapons bore the remnants of the gore common to war, the same as his own. Each man wore his hair in braids with beads and feathers ornamenting them. 

The man with the axes had skin striated as the grain of wood when cut. Tattoos marked his face. Rorik took a knee before the Forest Lord. The man may not be a god, but he had enough soul dark warriors to vanquish his enemies and maintain his lands. Rorik technically trespassed.

“Draugr, I’m Salvatore LeClerq, commander of the Ironwood Soul Dark Warriors. My liege is Zanzar Ironwood, the Velosian who cares for this forest. You have done a great service for my lord. Thank you.”

“Rise, draugr. I would clasp arms with a noble warrior.” 

The woodsman’s voice carried that hollow sound the old gods’ voices all held, but Zanzar Ironwood was one of the godless dark. His men-at-arms were all vampires. The man held no lands in the Leaindeail and no humans worshiped him. None of those things made him weak.

Rorik rose and looked the man in the eye. He extended his arm. The woodsman clasped it and grinned at him. The gesture was heartfelt. 

Zanzar Ironwood saw Rorik as an equal, a worthy warrior, and honored him with a gesture as old as time. Should the fight come upon them, he would fight next to Rorik. Rorik smiled, the first smile he'd offered anyone in centuries.

Salvatore then offered him the same gesture. The other men gathered around them, talking about their triumph, thumping his back, telling him how well he handled himself. It had been centuries since Rorik felt respected as a man worthy of the comradery inherent in groups of warriors who served together.  

He walked with them into a grand hall, where the men relaxed before a fire, and traded their weapons for musical instruments. They wished to sing their victory. Rorik became the hero of a drunken ballad.

He accepted a stein of ale. Zanzar clapped him on the shoulder and clinked his own stein with Rorik’s. He drained the cup in one long draught and claimed another.

“Thank you for raising the alarm. If you hadn’t engaged those damn slugs, there’s no telling how much damage they would have done.”

Rorik spent the evening carousing, telling his tale to a Velosian and the soul dark vampires who served him. In return, he learned how a young Velosian came to command nearly three score soul dark warriors. 

That was the night he first learned there was an imbalance of magic in the dream. The magic of prophecy made little sense to him. If Zanzar saw the way, why shouldn’t the Velosian affect the outcome?

That same night Rorik swore fealty to a young Velosian and agreed to carve out a sanctuary in a new forest preserve in the Leaindeail, so a Forest Lord could meet with a white witch who would scry her pool for him. He could play his part and help Zanzar’s quest to correct the imbalance. 


In exchange, Zanzar Ironwood returned Rorik’s ability to walk the Leaindeail as a man. Zanzar marked him as a vassal and claimed territory in the Leaindeail for Rorik to inhabit. 

Rorik had earned his status by once again defending the trees. He could go home. Sort of.

It wasn’t the home he lost and the Vættir Council would never see him as anything other than an exile, but he could rebuild his life, live as a draugr in a forest he protected, and serve as a sanctuary for the Velosian when he needed to venture into the Leaindeail. 

The haunted echoes remained, but Rorik Skog Vættr once again believed he controlled his destiny.

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For those who celebrate, I hope your Thanksgiving was glorious. For all who participate, I hope your Black Friday shopping and your Cyber Monday deals are exceptional. Please don't forget to add Small-business Saturday to your holiday shopping plans.

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Be Careful!

Happy Reading,

Ophelia Kee

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