After a slight delay, I've finally managed to finish the final book in my horror-adventure series. While it's not ready quite yet (I still have to format it and wait for my proofreaders) it is close enough to announce that the book will be available in May! I can't say precisely when in May...so I guess we'll just say "by the 31st." A few people have contacted me asking for a release date. Some of them were told February, others were told April. If you were one of those people, I sincerely apologize. I simply didn't realize how much work I had left to do. (The pitfalls of independent publishing.) But you can get your first glimpse of the book right now!
The Judgment of the Sentinels tips the scales as the series heavyweight at over 90,000 words and brings to a satisfying close the epic journey of Albert and Brandy and friends that began two years ago when I first published The Box on Smashwords. I've collected a lot of reviews on Amazon, in that time (over 50!) and a sizeable majority of those reviews tell me that my readers really like my books! Hopefully, we will have a long and happy future together!
What follows is a brief excerpt from the book. In the past, I've simply posted the first chapter or two, but I've cut this one down so as not to give away too much of what happened in book 5, because the absence of my name on the New York Times Bestsellers List is a pretty decent indication that not everyone has read it yet. Of course, if you're really concerned about spoilers, you might still want to stop here and go finish the other five books.
The Temple of
the Blind was more than any of them had ever dreamed.But all of it, from the first sentinel
statues with their grotesque proportions and empty, featureless faces, to the
tower with its vast belly full of fire, was only gray stone and shadow.What awaited them at the end of this final
passage was far more.
A soft glow
greeted them as they approached, like the first light of a new day.But it was no sunrise.They emerged from the labyrinth and stood
beneath a sky that was as black and as empty as the tunnels they had left
behind them.Rising into this
pitch-black sky was a great, gray mountain.The light was coming not from the horizon, lending hope to some distant
sun, but from the mountain itself.Columns of fire blazed from hundreds of unseen vents in the stone,
illuminating its rocky face in an angry undulation of light and shadow, and
from its highest peak spewed a towering inferno of orange and yellow
More fires rose
up from cracks in the ground on either side of them, scattering the shadows at
their feet and lending a dreadful hue to the path on which they walked.It was as if they had finally descended all
the way down into the blazing pits of hell.
“Where are we?”
asked Nicole.“What is this place?”
“The Temple of
the Blind,” Albert replied, still staring up at the burning mountain.It was the most frightful place he had ever
seen, far more terrifying than any scene from any movie.“It’s inside there. All of it.This is what it looks like from outside.”
Brandy gazed up
at the mountain, confused.“But the
Temple of the Blind is underground…”
“In our world,
in a circle, her wide eyes taking everything in.“We’re in a different world?”
“We’re in the
Wood,” said Olivia, her voice edged with unmistakable anxiety.
“How can you
tell?” asked Nicole.
“It has the
All of them
lifted their faces toward the darkness above them.It could have been nothing more than an
overcast night sky, but it wasn’t.Peering up, they could somehow tell that it was utterly empty.An eternal abyss filled the heavens here, and
looking into it was deeply unsettling.
“I don’t like
it here,” Brandy decided.
“You don’t get
used to it,” Olivia assured her.She
recalled cowering beneath the fallen night trees, staring out into this
perpetually empty darkness, trying to decide if a place this black could really
exist or if she had been struck blind in her fall through the branches.
Last time she
looked into this sky, Wayne came to rescue her.It broke her heart to know that he wouldn’t be coming again.
the landscape.A pool of rippling water
stood between them and the rocky terrain at the base of the mountain.The smooth, right-angle edges of the temple’s
interior were not apparent here.This
stone was raw, rough, indistinguishable from any other natural formation except
for the fire belching from it.
also illuminated the road ahead.It
surged from fissures in the stone, hot columns of fire reaching
for the sky, lighting the way so that, for the first time since he descended
into the steam tunnels the previous evening, he did not need a flashlight to
found little comfort in the light.Inside that mountain was coiled every passage they had traveled during
the night, and countless more they never glimpsed.He thought of all that they’d already been
through, all that they’d accomplished.And still there was no end in sight.How much farther would they be forced to go?How much more would they have to endure?
“What are we
supposed to do next?” asked Olivia.”
question,” replied Albert.“Follow the
path, I guess.See where it takes us.”
Queen’s doorway?” wondered Andrea.
“It’s a fair
assumption,” reasoned Albert.“Somewhere
on this mountain, I guess.”
groaned.“I don’t want to.I’m exhausted.”
her watch and saw that it was already lunch time.“I’m starving.”
“Me too,” said
hungry, too, but she didn’t want to say so.It hadn’t slipped her attention that she was by far the chubbiest person
here.The last thing she wanted was to
be the fat girl whining for food.
She hated that
they had to be naked.Why?What was the reason?Was it just to torture them?Was everything
just to torture them?
thirsty,” said Andrea.“Do you think the
water’s safe to drink?”
“I have no
idea,” replied Albert as he took some cleaning wipes from the first aid
kit.He didn’t think he’d want to drink the water here.Who knew what might be in it?
“The water is
All five of
them turned at the sound of this new voice to find the Keeper standing with
them, half-concealed in the shadows with its back to the rocks, as if it’d been
there all along and they simply hadn’t noticed.
Olivia let out
a startled scream and leapt to her feet, covering herself as if embarrassed to
be caught naked out here.Andrea sprang
to her feet as well, ready to run, although she somehow managed not to
scream.Though they had both listened to
Albert’s description of the strange little creature back inside the labyrinth,
neither of them had actually seen the Keeper with her own eyes until now.There was simply no way to prepare for a
sight as strange as this.Even Albert,
Brandy and Nicole, who had already once weathered the shock of its creepy
appearance, were startled to their feet by the abruptness of this unexpected
Keeper wasn’t one to call first.
“How did you
get here?” Albert asked the little creature.He didn’t think it was possible to go back the way they came, and he
thought that was the only way out of the labyrinth.
Like before, its
voice was clear, but broken and hoarse.Even its vocal cords did not seem to be human.“I didn’t.”
caught Albert off guard.It didn’t make
before, its head began to rotate, its chin circling toward the black sky, the
crown of its head toward the ground.“It’s unimportant.”
“Of course it
is.”Brandy and Nicole crowded behind
him, peering over his shoulders.Nearby,
Olivia and Andrea stood side-by-side as well, ready to bolt should the unusual
creature with the oversized skin and the strange little head that tilted on the
wrong axis suddenly decide to bare vicious fangs and charge at them.All four remained silent, leaving Albert to
address the Keeper alone.
“Why are you here, then?”
“I’m here to
ensure that you finish your journey.”
his head, confused.“Oh.Okay.Well, we didn’t exactly think we had a choice in the matter at this
“I had no doubt
you would keep going,” the Keeper clarified.“What I remain unsure of is whether you can survive to reach the top.”
“So we don’t
exactly have your full confidence, then.How reassuring.”
his arm.Albert sounded angry and she
was afraid for him.They still had no
idea what this “Keeper” was or what its intentions might be.But at the same time, he deserved to be
angry.This was all so frustrating.
“The path ahead
is treacherous,” explained the Keeper.It now wore its face sideways.Its left ear was aimed at the ground.The loose flesh protruding from its jowls and forehead distorted
grotesquely as it slid across its features, heeding the pull of gravity.The shriveled mass of dark flesh dangling
from its chin jiggled with each word it spoke.“You will be tested.”
Albert.“Why are we here?What’s the purpose?”
“The purpose is
simply to reach the doorway at the top of the mountain.”
“Is that all?”
“You are the
final pieces in an ancient design,” the Keeper explained.“Long ago, long before mankind ever set foot
in your world, a race of creatures you now call ‘the sentinels’ passed judgment
on all mankind.But they, Those Without
Faces, did not share their judgment.”
“What kind of
judgment?” Albert demanded.“Who were
Keeper’s face was upside-down, the flesh of its forehead hanging toward the
ground, its black eyes staring at him.That hideous mass of wrinkled flesh lay against its left cheek.“The Faceless Ones were the last guardians of
guardians of man…’” repeated Albert.“What does that even mean?”
were the architects who made possible the survival of humanity beyond the
expiration of their original world.They
built the gateways and orchestrated the exoduses that allowed you all to be
“We really came
from another world?” asked Andrea.
made several worlds their own over
the ages.You have no idea how ancient
your species is.”
This was a lot
to take in.Albert struggled to
understand it all.Other worlds.Ancient races.Mysterious judgments.“So…We’ve outlived whole worlds?”
creature’s head began rotating again, returning to its upright position.“That’s correct.”
sentinels were the ones who moved us to new worlds each time ours died?”
“They were also
the ones who decided if mankind should be allowed
considered this.It was all starting to
fall into place.A little.“Okay.So…Those fourteen women the
Sentinel Queen told us about…They were
sent through this temple from our last world?”
the fact that the creature did not seem to want to drink their blood, Andrea
took a tentative step toward it, trying to see it better.It was the strangest thing she’d ever laid
Olivia seized her by the arm and pulled her back.
“The sentinels sent those women here,” said
“This was the
doorway to the new world during the last exodus,” confirmed the Keeper.“And also the next.”
mountain, this temple, that
facilitated the journey of the mothers into the new world, is also the key that
will ultimately open the way to the next
world.Unless the judgment of the
faceless ones deemed your race unworthy.”
silently, considering this.Salvation or
doom, all depending on the whims of a race of long dead, faceless freaks.It wasn’t entirely surprising.After all, he’d heard this argument already
tonight.“The Sentinel Queen and that
interrupted the Keeper.“The Mother and
the Ancient One.They both had their
roles to play in bringing you here.But
it’s not they who must decide.It’s
It made sense
now.The Sentinel Queen believed that
humanity’s only chance at salvation was the opening of the doorway.The old man, the one she claimed was the
devil, believed opening the doorway would only bring doom.This was what they were talking about, this judgment
of the sentinels.“So what are we
supposed to do, exactly?”
face returned to its upright position and then continued rotating, its chin
swiveling toward the sky in the opposite direction this time.“You are here to finish what the sentinels
began.They passed their judgment on you
long before you were ever born.Now you
must pass your judgment on them long after they’ve died.You must decide for yourselves to open the
door that awaits you atop this Temple of the Blind.”
“And if we
decide wrong?” Albert asked.
“Even I don’t
know that,” the Keeper replied.“Many
people have tried to walk the road that you’ve taken to get here, people from all
over the world.At first they were
following the stories handed down to them throughout history, from the mouths
of the mothers themselves.Later, when
the truth had faded into myth and was eventually forgotten altogether, only
those with the old gifts were able to feel the pull of the doorway, people like
Wendell Gilbert and Beverly Bridger.”The creature’s head was upside-down again.Its stare was dull, but piercing.“Many have come over the ages.And all of them have died.Until now.”
the bones in the round room with the battered sentinels, the scattered remains
of those who did not have the box to guide them.
“You are here…”
the Keeper lifted one skinny hand and pointed up at the burning peak of the
temple, its loose flesh dangling like the sleeves of an oversized shirt, “…to
go there.Your entire world is balancing
on the razor’s edge of the actions you’ve taken and will take on this
could end today,” said the Keeper, “or it could live on for thousands more
years.But it will end.Humanity may die
with it.Or it may live beyond it.It depends entirely upon the judgment the
sentinels passed upon you.And it
depends upon the judgment you will pass upon them.”
understand,” said Olivia.
matter.”The Keeper turned its head
ninety degrees and held it there, its ears pointing up and down.“You don’t have to understand.You only have to choose.”
to know more.He wanted the Keeper to
explain these things that it had said to them, but it vanished before their
eyes, withdrawing into the very rock behind it, as though sucked back into the
darkness from which it came.
“Where did it
go?” Andrea asked.
“I’m not the
only one who found that whole thing weird, am I?” asked Olivia.
that was weird?” quipped Nicole.“The
freaky little Muppet thing just told us we have to choose the fate of the
messed up,” said Andrea.She walked over
to where the Keeper had been standing, trying to figure out how it had come and
around at his four lovely companions and sighed.“Well, everybody, Brandy might have a broken
tailbone, Nicole’s got a hole in her hand and I’ve got a broken arm.Who’s up for some mountain climbing?”
Look for The Judgment of the Sentinels at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and Amazon in May! And check back soon for more updates and to find out what I'll be doing once The Temple of the Blind is behind me.