The Kindle Countdown Deal for “Quest” Begins!


I’m counting down the days until the release of The Wizard’s Gambit, and what better way to do so with a Kindle Countdown Deal! From today until the 17th of October my debut novel, The Quest for the Holy Something or Other, will be on sale for $.99! That’s less than the cost of a cheeseburger at McDonald’s or a small coffee at Starbucks.


Skip the drive-thru! Get a book instead!

The Quest for the Holy Something or Other is a Pythonesque romp through the Realm of Camelot that is sure to have your sides splitting. The story centers around a young gong farmer named Pig who dreams of the glories of Camelot. Her dreams become reality–or so she thinks–when she becomes Sir Kay’s page. What starts off as a joke soon becomes the adventure of Pig’s life when Merlin sends the knights on a quest for the Holy Gift Box–er–Bread Basket–whatever it is! On their quest, they face many knight-worthy, and some not-so-knight-worthy, foes: an insane pond dweller, several greedy salespeople, and an overzealous cache seeker, all the while fighting against time, mostly each other, and the most infamous villain of all—change. The Quest for the Holy Something or Other is a fresh and funny take on a well-known legend, with engaging characters, some rather good jokes, and something that starts with S, but it isn’t important.

So far, the novel’s received only 4 and 5 star ratings and some rather flattering reviews:

“There is a gentle humour running throughout the book . . .The author hasn’t gone solely for cheap laughs; If you like your comedic fantasy funny, subversive and free of get-out-of-jail-free magic, this is the book to start 2015 with!”

“Kylie Betzner should be congratulated on finding her own voice where she could quite easily have copied another’s. As a debut, this bodes well for the future.”

“Fresh, funny, inventive, irreverent. Well worth a read! It’s an original and comic take on the Arthurian legend, subverting every trope found along the way.”

“This debut by Kylie Betzner is a great first book and should keep you chuckling all the way through.”

Now is your chance to join the quest today! Just follow the link here to the Amazon sales page to get your copy today!

And stay tuned for more updates on the release of my newest title, The Wizard’s Gambit, coming this month!


You Should Know This is the Strangest Thing I’ve Ever Done! A Recap on Friday’s … Unusual Author Event


As a new author, I’ve only attended several actual book signings, including a local author book fair and a book signing at Cook McDoogals. For the most part, these events were pretty standard. Friday’s venue  was probably the most … unusual.


It’s jolly good!

Every first Friday of the month, downtown Kokomo sponsors a community event geared towards promoting local businesses, artists, etc. The goal is to build a stronger sense of community and promote the growing downtown area. Last Friday, I hosted a booth outside of Pepperwhistle Bakery and Cafe. Meanwhile a historical group reenacted medieval swordplay in the restaurant’s parking lot–ironic, considering my book centers around knights, sword fights, and quests. LOL. More ironic was that this was not planned; it just sort of happened that we scheduled on the same day.

So was the event successful? I’d say so. I only sold like five books, and one of them was to someone I already knew, but fifty bucks is fifty bucks, and I got my face out there, which is important. I also handed out a good number of business cards and bookmarks containing my information so there’s always the possibility of making a future sale. **Crosses fingers** as I log onto the Kindle Direct Publishing page.



More importantly, the event was a lot of fun. Being next to a medieval acting group made the event worthwhile. I got to learn some new information about weapons and armor and witness some fabulous swordplay. The pictures turned out great! And they invited me to their upcoming Renaissance fair right here in Kokomo Indiana! I know my nephew will want to go … he was trying to get free sword lessons during their demonstration. Might have to enroll him in their school one day … but for now, I think we’ll just stick with dance class;)


Book signings are a great way to gain exposure and meet potential readers!

For those of you who have not hosted a book signing, I strongly encourage you to, despite the meager sales. Nothing beats the feeling of being an author or the thrill of meeting potential new readers. It definitely was a satisfying experience.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m off to Judith Barrow‘s blog to share my experience along with some hilarious pictures!

Happy Monday!

Upcoming Author Event – First Friday in Kokomo


On the 7th of August, which is this Friday, I’ll be hosting a booth at Pepperwhistle Bakery and Cafe in beautiful downtown Kokomo during the First Friday event.

First Friday is a monthly event filled with food, family fun, shopping, arts, music, and more in beautiful downtown Kokomo! It’s an event designed to promote local artists as well as a positive sense of community.


It’s jolly good!

From 5 pm to 9 pm, I’ll be hosting a booth whereat I will be available to discuss my writing, meet and greet potential readers, and sell copies of my published works. There will also be a reenactment group dressed as knights jousting in the parking lot. (Ironic, considering my current title features knights and such). It’s going to be a fun event!

The event is open to anyone and everyone who’d like to join. Please visit this link to learn more about the restaurant. Hope to see you there!

For those of you who can’t attend the event due to proximity, don’t worry, you won’t be excluded. I’ll be sharing photos and thoughts on the event in Monday’s blog!

7 Essential e-Publishing Tips: A Guest Post by Author M.J. Moores


What day is it? C’mon! Say it! Say it! It’s Hump Day! Whoo-hoo! And I have a treat to get you through the mid-week hump, a guest post by author, editor M.J. Moores, OCT. Today, she’s going to share with you 7 essential e-publishing tips. Take it from here, M.J.!

It’s hard to imagine being an author today and not having an e-version of your book available for sale. In fact, with ½ of all books sold (on a yearly basis since 2012) being eBooks, that’s a market you don’t want to be left out of. However, I still come across many self-published authors who haven’t taken that next step. And whether you’re just starting into the e-publishing game or you’ve been making your way alone through the quagmire here are 7 essential tips to consider.

ONE – Get to know the players.

Kindle generally claims ½ of all eBook sales and the other half go to a variety of mid-sized and small niche markets: Apple’s iBook, Barnes & Noble’s nook, Google Books, Kobo and many more. Depending on your prowess and comfort with being a small business owner and managing your books, there are 3 standard options to consider: Just going with 1 platform (e.g. Kindle Unlimited); going with 2 or 3 distribution platforms (Kindle Direct & Smashwords or Draft2Digital); or going direct with as many companies as you can (Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Google Books, etc.) and then finding 1 or 2 multi-platform distributors to get your book into the smaller niche markets. No one option is the right one and none of them are wrong.

TWO – Do your market research.

Check out what demographic buys where, to hit your optimal sales figures. If you’re writing for the teen or YA market (we all know that adults love YA just as much as teens!) then putting in the time and effort to have a solid presence on WattPad could be a substantial benefit to your e-industry. You need to realize that getting into this business on a wing-and-a-prayer may work some of the time, but more often than not first-timers get discouraged and frustrated when their expectations do not become a reality.

THREE – Make sure your eBook is as nicely formatted as your print book (if you have one).

The ease with which anyone can publish online today often leads to hasty uploads to the marketplace. Either do your research and study the style guide for your chosen distributor(s) or hire a professional to simplify the process. There are a number of authors who offer services like editing and formatting at discounted prices to supplement their income. Chat in writing forums online or ask around at a local writers meeting to see who might “know someone” to help you out. You want your readers to have the best possible experience with your text so that it disappears from the screen and simply becomes alive in the mind.

FOUR – Get yourself a nice cover image.

If you happen to be a graphic artist and you’d like to build a book cover using a design program you’re comfortable with, go for it. You can easily find the dimensions for the cover that your preferred distributor uses and then get creative. If you happen to dabble with graphic design or you’re using a cover page template provided by your distributor (or a 3rd party) then you’ll need to do your research. There are proven complimentary visual elements of style that are necessary for you to understand about the art of cover art and how that differs from print to digital imaging the size of an icon or postage stamp. You also need to know what your target market likes. If your cover looks amateur and doesn’t accurately represent your niche genre then you’re trying to hit a home-run with a Nerf baseball bat at Fenway.

FIVE – Make sure the price is right.

Yes, you have your print book listed at $16.99 but that doesn’t mean you automatically list your eBook for that price. For print you have to consider the cost of physically creating and then shipping your book to your reader. On a 350 page book you’re looking at costs between $8-$12 on average. Immediately take that away from your $16.99 price tag – eBooks are published with the click of a button and sold with one too. Suddenly your book is sitting around $4.99-$6.99 – much more comfortable numbers… but are they your numbers? The facts are that most eBooks gain their highest sales (depending on your genre of course) around the $2.99-$3.99 price bracket. If you’re a relative unknown in your publishing market then the better bet is to start on the lower end. If you’re well-known then go with the mid-range pricing since you already have a solid readership. And if you happen to be Stephen King, go for broke and sit at the high end as you continue to rake in the cash for your literary offerings 😉

SIX – Work the system.

Whatever e-publishing platform (or distributor) you happen to go with, they will have a means by which you can place your book on sale, do a limited time discount, participate in %-off days or other promotional opportunities. Bottom line – if someone thinks they’re getting a good deal, they’re more likely to buy. This goes across the board with print publishing too, but take advantage of sites where you can list your book for free (because it’s discounted or naturally sits at a certain price range) as there are always bibliophiles on the hunt for a great buy.

SEVEN – Give it away for FREE.

Yes, this is a controversial topic in-and-of itself but hear me out. There are three ways to do this and I’ll guarantee you’ll like at least one of them 😉 The first and most widely practiced is having a “free day” or days for your full-length book. Why go free? The general rule of thumb is that for every 30 books sold you’ll gain 3 reviews. If your book is downloaded 300 times on its free day, then you’re looking at a potential 30 reviews to help hype up and sell more books for a profit. However, there are other ways to get reviews (reaching out to book bloggers one-by-one or paying review services like NetGalley or ChooseyBookworm to make your book available to their network of reader-reviews – this is not the same as paying for reviews, which you should never do) which leads me to option two; free teasers. By making prequel chapters available for free or writing ‘extra’ material that can act as a reference or introductory text of some kind you are providing a hook for potential readers to get to know you, your style and content. Options three is making use of giveaways during your pre-launch and launch days to help spread the word about your new book. Who doesn’t like winning something for free? Goodreads is a great platform to help with this or you could go solo and work with Rafflecopter and run your own giveaway.

Getting into the eBook game might strike you as anything from exciting to nauseating depending on how self-assured you are when branching out and trying something new. Just remember, the writing and publishing community (both on and off line) is here to help you. Yes, we’re all in competition for that almighty buck but ultimately we know that if we can help you succeed there’s a chance for us out there too.

picM.J. Moores began her career as an English teacher in Ontario, Canada. Her love of storytelling and passion for writing has stayed with her since the age of nine. M. J. relishes tales of adventure and journeys of self-realization. She enjoys writing in a variety of genres but speculative fiction remains her all time favourite. M.J. is a regular contributor to Authors Publish Magazine and she runs an Emerging Writers website called Infinite Pathways where she offers editing services and platform building opportunities. Her debut novel Time’s Tempest is currently available in print and e-format.The 2nd book in the series will be coming out early in September!

Connect with MJ on her website, her blog, or on Facebook.

Happy Hump Day, everyone!

Industry Sins: A Guest Post by K.D. Rose


It’s been less than two days since I made my request for guest bloggers, and already I’ve had an overwhelming number of responses! I want to start off by thanking everyone who answered the call. I will do my best to respond to you all in a timely manner and plan your post dates.


Meet K.D. Rose

My first guest blogger is a real hoot. Meet K.D. Rose, poet and author of currently published works, Heavy Bags of Soul, Inside Sorrow, I AM, Erasing: Shadows, Anger’s Children, A Taste for Mystery, and her newest release, The Brevity of Twit.

Her poetry has been published in Candlelit Journal, the Voices Project, and showcased in the Tophat Raven Art and Literary Magazine. K.D.’s book, Inside Sorrow won the Readers Favorite 2013 international Silver Medal for Poetry. With fellow authors around the globe, KD was also a founding member of the e-magazine, INNOVATE. Check it out!

K.D. has an eclectic mind and loves language, physics, philosophy, photography, design, art, writing, symbolism, semiotics, spirituality, and Dr. Who. KD Rose is an avid supporter of music, the arts, cutting edge science, technology, and creativity in all forms. K.D also has a chronic illness but doesn’t let it get her down. K.D. considers herself a “Spoonie” on the lam.

Today, she’ll be discussing innovative e-readers. Take it from here, K.D. Rose!

I am a small-time author. By that I mean no best seller lists, small sales, etc. On the other hand I am also an immensely curious, well-studied, and eternally optimistic human being. Through-out my journey, both as an indie author and with publishers, I’ve noticed something. Indie and small-press authors should relate. What I noticed is how difficult it can be to publish e-books that consist of anything other than generic words in a generic font and .. and well, that’s it.

Generic words with a generic font are all we can seem to generate. By we, I refer to book distributors, meaning the big players of Amazon, and Barnes & Noble as well as the small presses. Then there’s Apple. The lone wolf of the technology world has some multi-touch books that have enhancements if you have an iPad. But Apple is rather useless to authors and publishing houses that do not have the time or money to put out complicated formats. These enhancements are not an innate part of the publishing process. Take it from an e-author. Even fonts are not up for discussion.

To make a living, authors and publishers need to be distributed by Amazon and other retailers who cannot yet accommodate these enhancements. Once an author has gone through the excruciating process of learning that his or her e-book must be formatted technically in multiple ways for multiple distributors, there’s relatively little money or energy left to fight for more.

However, I like to stay on the edge. And by edge I mean bleeding edge. You’ve heard of the cutting edge? Well the bleeding edge is where you’re so far ahead so people just look at you like you’re crazy. The concepts haven’t entered their mind yet. And it is so very important for concepts to enter minds—because how else do we create? We have to envision before we can create.

Yes, I want Dean Kamen’s clean water for the world!

Yes, I want Bill Gates’ next generation toilets in every third world country!

The point is, there are always pioneers, and as an author, I say that those pioneers need to get busy with books and more important; the industry should welcome these things with open arms. We know that e-books are “in” now and print books are still viable, but industry-wide enhancement of e-books is a murky, disturbed thought because it would require a way to bring together so many different types of formatting issues.

Here’s a few of the things I can’t do for large distribution:

  • I can’t use a smart pen to write on pages that my readers will see;
  • I can’t embed pictures easily into my e-book (or have them remain properly placed);
  • I can’t easily put links in my e-book for the readers to go other places related to the book;
  • I can’t place a video onto the page of my e-book for my reader to see.

Now, I can do all these things individually:

  • I can use my smart pen on my computer documents;
  • I can make a soundtrack to my book and share it using social media;
  • I can put a link in my book to go to a website where more links are available;
  • I can go to a vanity press and make a beautiful book full of pictures.

None of this helps an author. As an author my needs are simple. I need to be published and I need people to buy my books. However, as an author and someone who loves advances in every discipline, I want more. I conceive of more. I also know that in a few years, others will want more. Those babies playing with baby smart phones today are your e-book customers of tomorrow. They will expect more. The kids using smart-phones right now expect more. Now.

Here’s what I envision as de facto parts of an e-book:

  • An e-book that I can open and see pictures on any page. Pictures of characters, pictures of scenes, whatever, seamlessly integrated into my story;
  • An e-book where I can open a page and there is a video where all I have to do is click to see the video, because the video was important to the scene;
  • an e-book where I open up the page and see drawings by hand that the author wanted to show me, in between the print;
  • Multiple fonts used when needed for part of the story that I, as a reader, can enjoy; I envision buttons where all I have to do is click, as a reader, to hear the music the author is talking about to set any scene;
  • Multiple colors on text, not even used sparingly, as part of telling a story that I, as the reader need to see to ‘get it’;
  • A button on the e-book that will let me hear the book as an audio book if I so choose, rather than reading it;
  • A button on the e-book that will convert the format immediately to whatever mobile phone I happen to have so I can read it on there instead (because now I am out the door somewhere and don’t want to lug anything else). Or the other way around, because now I’m home and I want to read on something larger; I envision all these things available as an innate part of the publishing process.

Here are a few that distributors’ should care about:

  • Links that take me, as a reader, directly to the distributor site to buy the next book in the series, or any other book by that author;
  • Links that take me to an excerpt of that authors next book or any of that author’s books, which I can then click and buy if I choose.
  • Links that allow me to share a message of how good the book was on multiple social media accounts.

I’m sure there’s more. In fact, I am positive there is more because I am not a baby with a smartphone or a kid getting bored with e-books or reading in general because there is so much more at my fingertips on other devices. What do you envision? What can we make happen? Most important: when can we make it happen as a general industry practice?

I leave you with questions.

In the infamous words of Porky Pig, “That’s all folks!” Be sure to check out K.D.’s blog, website, and or connect with her on Twitter, Tumbler, Google +, InstagramLinkedin, Goodreads, and Facebook. And be sure to stay tuned for more awesome guest blogs!

Reflections on Thursday’s Live Facebook Chat and Weekend Reading Recommendation: “The Eyes That Moved” By Rachelle M. N. Shaw


Friday is here at last! But before we head into the weekend, I want to take a step back to reflect on last night’s Live Facebook Chat – All About Self-Publishing hosted by Author Rachelle M. N. Shaw.

This was my first online author event (not including my online book release party) so I was surprised how much I actually enjoyed the format. Sure, it was a little confusing at first the way the posts got out of order when people would comment to them, but after a few minutes I got the hang of it.

Technical details aside, the event was worthwhile for me. Even though there weren’t a lot of participants–maybe 6 or 7 tops–the ones who did attend were actively engaged in the conversation. One even suggested she’d be purchasing a copy of my book soon, which made my evening. Mostly, it was just rewarding sharing my experience with other authors. That’s what being an indie published author is all about!

If you missed the event but would like to check out the questions/answers at your own time, click here. I’m not sure how long the event will be accessible so I wouldn’t put it off too long.


Author Rachelle M. N. Shaw

One more thing to mention before you solidify your weekend plans! Author Rachelle M. N. Shaw, host of the event, is offering her short story, “The Eyes That Moved” for FREE on Amazon right now! Sale ends today actually, so if you’re in the mood for some spine-tingling weekend reading, definitely get your copy today. After today, the book goes back up to its original price, which is only 99 cents.


For fans of horror/paranormal

Blurb: Kendra is a young girl who has a knack for spotting unusual trinkets and abandoned houses that hold treasures of their own. When she meets Adam, a fellow sleuth and collector, they decide to embark on their biggest adventure yet: the Whitson house. The house is a marvel, and its secrets are even juicier than Kendra had imagined. The third and final floor of the house holds something Kendra has been waiting a lifetime for. But she may have signed on for more than she bargained. There’s a darkness in the house that wasn’t there before, a pair of eyes in every corner, watching, waiting for her time to come. And Adam isn’t at all who he claimed to be.

Connect with Rachelle M. N. Shaw via her social media sites:


Have a great weekend, everyone!

Here Goes Nothing! Entering the Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Contest


8300I’ve never had much luck with writing contest. The most I’ve ever accomplished was third place in my high school writing contest, winning myself a whole whopping five bucks. But today I took it as a sign from the celestial bodies up above when I saw a post regarding an international writing competition geared towards humorous writers. When I discovered it raises funds for the Mark Twain House and Museum in Connecticut I was sold.

After some consideration, I decided to submit the prologue from my Arthurian parody, The Quest for the Holy Something or Other. This section introduces the main theme of my work which deals with change and several pivotal characters who either drive or oppose change. The prologue can easily be enjoyed on its own but entices readers to read on with its originality and whit. Hopefully, the judges enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Here’s my entry for those of you who are curious:

From his throne atop the raised dais, King Arthur observed the Great Hall with all the smug satisfaction of a cat on a high perch. Below him, servants bustled about, clearing the Round Table and cleaning up after the knights, who had feasted with Arthur earlier that night. Dinners in the Great Hall were raucous affairs, and it was never an easy task putting the room back in order. Arthur grimaced as the last of the dishes were removed from the table, revealing a new stain. A servant took a rag to it, but it was no use. The stain had already set in. She was about to give it a spit shine when Arthur told them all to leave.

Alone, Arthur considered the table. But rather than face it head-on, he angled his body away and scrutinized it from the corner of his eye. The Round Table had seen better days. The oak surface, once polished and smooth, was now dull and covered in scratches and stains. He dared assume if the seats were ever moved, the knights would still be able to find their prior places by the rings left from their drinking glasses. But worse were the gouges in the wood as though the knights had used the table for weapon practice or for a demonstration of proper wood chopping techniques, practices not fitting the famed table of legend. A giant chunk of wood was missing from one side of the table. His brother Sr. Kay liked to whittle—perhaps he was the culprit.

Arthur closed his eyes against the sight of the table, but its creaking served as a constant reminder that it was, in its own way, suffering. He almost believed the table could feel pain the way it carried on some nights.

He reopened his eyes and dared another glimpse at the table. There was no denying it was in desperate need of repair. Minor rigging kept the table standing, and coasters had been wedged under several of the legs to stop it from wobbling. Still, the chairs squeaked, parts came loose, and bugs continued to eat away at it. Soon there would be nothing left of the once glorious symbol of Camelot’s pride. The very thought made him as cold as a corpse’s kiss.

He had addressed the issue with his wizard, Merlin, on several occasions, because it was the duty of the wizard to advise the king; however, Merlin kept insisting he replace the table with a newer and, dare he say, “better” one. Once he had even recommended removing the table all together. When asked where the knights would sit, Merlin had suggested there be no knights to dine with the king. Disband the knights? Ridiculous, Arthur scoffed. Sometimes he believed his wizard truly was insane.

On cue, Merlin entered the Great Hall and made his way to Arthur’s throne. Even from the other end of the room, Arthur recognized his wizard; there was no mistaking him for anyone else. Merlin was the only one foolish enough to cavort himself in wizard garments, complete with conical hat and fake beard. In one arm, he carried his crooked staff, in the other—Arthur narrowed his eyes—a carryout bag that left a trail of dripped grease in its wake. The stench of fried meat reached Arthur before Merlin did. It was all he could do to keep his supper down when Merlin came before him and bowed.

“Welcome back, Wizard Merlin,” he said between clenched teeth. “Did you just now return? Tell me, how was your trip? I pray you found everything you set out for.” He stifled his laughter behind his velvet sleeve, already knowing the answer. Two weeks ago, he had approved Merlin’s travel request to Cornwall to see the supposed wall made of corn, for which Merlin had assumed the city had been named.* Arthur knew the wizard would only be met with disappointment but had sent him anyway.

“The title of the city was somewhat misleading. Not worth the blisters on my tired feet,” Merlin replied. “I did find time to stop at the Deep Fat Friar before my return. I was told it was the local favorite.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Arthur remarked with a smirk as his eyes followed the meandering trail of dark stains across his newly swept floor. “Hopefully you were able to come away from the experience with more than just a carryout bag.”

“I did actually,” said Merlin eagerly. “At the restaurant, whilst eating my meal, I overheard the man at the table next to me inquire on directions to Camelot. Of course, none of the other patrons knew the way or could point him in the right direction. Then inspiration struck me like an iron skillet to the back of the head—I would solve the conundrum myself!” He made a grand gesture, splattering grease every which way. “So, using the only materials available to me, I created this!” Merlin set aside his staff and carryout bag to produce a rolled up parchment from his satchel. He presented it to Arthur, who took it with much hesitation.

Slowly, he unrolled it. At once his eyes were affronted by hand-drawn illustrations of snakes, cows, and what appeared to be an eight-armed sea monster named Steve. All of these things were difficult to make out around the soiled spots, but it appeared as though Merlin had incorporated them into the drawing with the appropriate labels. A large coffee ring in the upper right corner of the page became a sunspot, and a streak of meat sauce was transformed into a murky rainbow. One spot of grease near the bottom of the page caught Arthur’s attention. The shape reminded him of a squirrel. He leaned down to inspect the stain more closely, and sure enough, Merlin had scribbled on the eyes, nose, whiskers, and tail.

Where did you get this parchment?” Arthur finally asked, a little uneasy.

“The waitresses laid them out at each table setting.”

“I see,” said Arthur absentmindedly. “But what is it?”

Merlin chuckled. “It’s a map, or ‘placemap’ according to the waitresses.”

Arthur looked more closely at it. All he could decipher were a few animals, the location of the first Deep Fat Friar, and the words “my favorite spot in the world” scribbled beside a large red dot. “A map to what?”

“A map to Camelot.”

Arthur shook his head.

“Allow me,” said Merlin as he stepped up onto the dais directly left of where Arthur sat. Leaning over the arm of the throne, he planted one gnarled finger near the center of the map and led Arthur’s eyes to a large circle. To the side of the circle, he had made a note. Arthur read it aloud, “Camelot: somewhere and nowhere in particular.”

“The trouble with trying to map a legendary kingdom is that it is so elusive,” Merlin explained. “Not to mention, the task of creating a map in a busy diner proved to be more challenging than I had anticipated. First, there were the frequent interruptions of the waitresses asking me if I wanted more to drink or condiments, or what have you. It also didn’t help that dishes were constantly being placed upon and removed from the map. But worse! Worse was when the contents of the dishes sloshed over onto the map, muddling my work.”

“I see.” Arthur stared blankly at the map as he searched for the right words to say, finding it increasingly difficult. At last he rolled up the map and handed it back to Merlin, saying, “Well done.”

“Thank you, my king.” Merlin bowed and backed off the dais, tripping as he did so. Arthur tried again to hide his amusement behind his sleeve. There was no need for a court jester as long as he had this lunatic in his charge. Yet, he hired them anyway. After all, Merlin was not there to amuse him; he was there to provide council, and council he did—even when it was unwelcome.

Creak. Crack. Snap.

Both men turned just as one of the Round Table’s chairs collapsed into a pile of splinters on the cold stone floor.

Arthur narrowed his eyes. It was easy to dismiss a chair breaking beneath the weight of a full-grown man, but there was no excuse for one to collapse without provocation. This would only fuel Merlin’s argument to replace the table.

Sure enough, Merlin turned to face him, one eyebrow raised knowingly.

Arthur swallowed. “It seems there are ghosts among us, wouldn’t you say, Wizard Merlin?”

“I would say the table is on its last leg so to speak,” said Merlin, chuckling. Then he became deadly serious. “Your majesty, have pity on it. It begs to be made into firewood. That is how tables pass on, you see.”

And here it began. Arthur sighed and said, “How many times do I have to tell you, wizard? The table will not be replaced.”

“It is past its prime. Its glory days are over,” Merlin pressed. “It is time for a new table. It is time for change.”

Change. Arthur recoiled. He hated that word. Glowering at Merlin, he said, “I cannot simply change the table when it serves as the very symbol of chivalric code.”

“If that’s the problem, then maybe we need to get rid of the code.” Merlin met Arthur’s challenging gaze. For several minutes they stared at one another, neither man moving a muscle. Merlin, of course, could not remain still for long, and to Arthur’s annoyance, began pulling faces, all the while, never breaking eye contact. At last Merlin’s eyes began to stray, wandering in opposite directions until Arthur could no longer hold.

“The code stays, and the table stays,” said Arthur firmly.

“Yes, milord, of course.” Merlin lowered his head. When he lifted his gaze to meet Arthur’s, his eyes were bright with mischief. “Perhaps I might be able to make some repairs to the table so that it might last longer.”

“That sounds reasonable enough.” Arthur stroked his bearded chin then nodded his consent. “Very well, you have my permission.”

“Thank you, your majesty.” Merlin retrieved his staff and carryout bag. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some business to attend to in my laboratory.”

“Of course,” Arthur sighed with relief. “You are dismissed.”

“Your majesty.” Merlin bowed and turned away.

Was that a smile? He could not be sure. It was hard to tell with Merlin, which was why Arthur could never fully trust him.

When at last the wizard was out of sight, Arthur slumped in his throne and resumed his quiet contemplation of the table.


Merlin was indeed smiling as he made his way out of the Great Hall, down the long, dark winding staircase to his private laboratory. Once inside, he took off the conical hat* and exchanged his traditional wizard garb for more sensible attire. Feeling more like a regular man, he took a seat at the large wooden desk in the center of the room, cleared some space, and opened his “spell book” to a blank page. There, by the dim and odorous light of burning rutabagas, he jotted down notes on Cornwall’s military, their armory, and their battle tactics, periodically pausing to take a bite of cold leftovers from his carryout bag.

 “Wall made of corn,” he scoffed. He still could not believe Arthur had fallen for that pitiful excuse. “What kind of a lunatic travels hundreds of miles to see a wall made of corn?”

Surrounding him, illuminated eerily in the feeble glow, were one hundred or more inventions on display: wings made from old broom handles and paper sacks, wizard hat sharpeners, and plague-away spray, to name a few. Discolored parchment covered in scrawls of inventions littered the floor, adding to the ambience. Of course, he had no intentions of ever building that ridiculous flying contraption, nor did he really believe the goat translator would work; these projects were only meant to create the illusion of insanity. Sometimes he wondered if the inventions were too ludicrous.

A devious smile spread across Merlin’s face as he glanced at the closet door in the back of the room. Behind that door was no mere closet, but a storage area where Merlin kept his actual inventions: weapons to be tried on the training yard. He thought of his newest invention, an arrow-launching device he had yet to name. Surely, a certain knight wouldn’t mind testing it for him.

Finishing his notes, he set the pen back into the inkwell and left the book open to dry. He wasn’t worried about anyone seeing it. The notes were all written in code. To the untrained eye, it appeared to be the ingredients for a magical spell, but to Merlin, it was the recipe for change.

“Change,” he spoke the word aloud now that Arthur was not present, a small act of defiance that left a pleasant aftertaste on his tongue. “Such a tiny word to invoke so much fear in a king.” He would never say this to Arthur, of course, but inwardly he knew the king was holding onto that worn table for fear of change. That same fear kept alive every outdated tradition, including the chivalric order. Merlin snorted. That table was no more capable of supporting a feast than the knights were of defending the kingdom if ever it fell under attack.*

As Arthur’s advisor,* he had tried to convince the young king to adopt the technologies and advancements being made in other kingdoms, but his ideas were always rejected. Fed up, he tossed aside his council robes in exchange for ones with little moons and stars on them, taking on the guise of Wizard Merlin. Only then was he able to get things done. Whereas Steve couldn’t even convince Arthur to change the tapestries in the Great Hall, Merlin had completed all of the preparations necessary to amass an army worthy of Camelot, his largest project to date.

Leaning back in his chair, Merlin folded his hands behind his neck and went through his mental checklist. Uniforms, check; weapons, check; potential recruits, check. The only item not taken care of was, well, the knights.

Merlin frowned. He couldn’t build a new army with the old one still standing, now could he? Certainly, the knights would oppose it. Merlin couldn’t imagine them just standing idly by while he threatened their job security. He would have to get rid of them. But how?

He could always go the traditional route—let loose a white stag in the Great Hall and insist they pursue it. But usually, only a handful of the knights chased after the wild game. Sir Bedivere, for one, did not eat meat, and Sir Kay was always complaining about having a bad back. No, he needed all of them to leave at the same time. A beautiful maiden in distress was certainly more enticing, and hiring a girl to belt out a sob story wouldn’t cost much.* But maybe only one or two knights would answer her call. He needed a bigger, grander reason to get them beyond that wall and miles away. Amassing an army could take weeks, even months. It was going to have to be important.

In the bottom drawer of the desk was a bottle of mead. Merlin took it out and poured himself a cup. Sometimes, when he had trouble getting in touch with his inner lunatic, he would turn to the bottle, and sure enough, he’d know what to do.

Halfway through the bottle, it came to him. Send them on a quest, the mead told him—after an important object, perhaps something holy. Merlin searched his mental catalog for holy items in need of searching: spears, swords, chalices—they all passed through his mind. But they were too easy to replicate. A sword could be purchased from anywhere, taken to a smithy, and made holy; the same with a spear. What he needed was an item more elusive, more difficult to come across.

He stared at the goblet in his hand. The cut was rough and misshapen. If only he knew a good grail maker. He smiled. The Holy Grail.

“A quest for the Holy Grail,” Merlin gasped. That was just the sort of thing to get all of the knights out of Camelot. Then he thought of the knight who tested his weapons. It didn’t seem right sending him on the same quest as the others; after all, he was the only one brave enough to test his inventions, some of which could be rather dangerous.* But he would still need to be tested . . . he would need his own quest. Surely, with a little more mead, he could think up another holy item, one worthy of a quest. He drained the goblet while brainstorming everything from holy kettles to sacred coat racks. At last the mead provided the answer.

He refilled his goblet and raised it to a portrait of Arthur that hung opposite his desk. The portrait was covered in holes; so many, in fact, one could barely recognize the king’s face. When questioned on the condition of the portrait, he just shrugged, blaming it on the moths.

“To progress.” He offered a toast to the dart-laden king before draining his cup. He licked his lips. “And to a never-ending supply of mead.”


* Everyone knew the dominant crop was wheat.

* The beard was attached.

* Even from herring-wielding fishwives.

* At the time, he went by Steve.

* Six pence, tops. Seven for tears.

* The self-propelled rotating duel blade had nearly taken off the knight’s head.

The_Quest_eBook_coverHope you enjoyed it. If you’re interesting in reading the rest of the story, it can can purchased on Amazon in both paperback and e-formats.

For those of you who would like to know more about the contest, please follow the link to Bridget Whelan’s blog. You can enter the contest by clicking “Submit” at the bottom of page.

Happy Hump Day, everyone!