Coven of the Worm

Book One: Estranged Earth

Linda Caldwell attends Putty Hill Senior High with her friends Jane and Candy, where she meets and falls in love with an intriguing young man named David Yeng-Chi.

David seems perfect for her, but he has a dark secret. His father Hamaki had trained him to use a deadly mix of martial arts and magic in the service of his god—Chai'Huon Ju, the Defiler. David is a descendent of the Worm Clan of a long forgotten prehistoric nation called Hunjan. There were other gods and different beliefs among these people, but the Worm Clan had believed in Chai'Huon Ju's legacy of evil.

As the relationship between David and Linda grows, Linda begins to have prophetic dreams warning her to stay away from him. The visions are so insistent and frightening that she surrenders to them and breaks up with David. Enraged, David resolves to have revenge by conjuring his god to Earth.

Linda has a secret too, however—one that might help to save her soul from the Defiler. Prophecy was merely the first of her abilities to develop and—she soon discovers—there were more powers to come.

Book Two: Mystic Moon (in progress)

Eric is the son of David Yeng-Chi, who had unleashed Pure Intensity and wreaked havoc on a Maryland town in 1995—all in the name of revenge. When Eric discovers his true identity, he sets out to fulfill his destiny, which is to assemble a Coven and use it to release his evil god on Earth.

Daniel is an Avatar of the gods, and only he knows how to find the others like him. It is his destiny to gather the Avatars and lead them to battle against the Defiler before he can wage war on Heaven. Together with Dawn Lu, Linda Levinston, and FBI agent Carl Timmers, Daniel searches for Eric and his coven—hoping to find them before they can succeed with their diabolical plans.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Book Trailer

[More videos from msouth847]

Okay, since I had so much fun making the last movie, and since I saw the trailers at the Covey Awards site, I thought I'd try another. I deleted the other one for two reasons: it seems no one really cared for it, and it disappeared anyway (although it still works fine on MySpace). I don't know why the videos are disappearing, and I certainly hope this one doesn't. Except I've already noticed that the credits are jumping, which they don't when I play it from my hard drive (sigh).

I'm not going to enter it for the Covey Awards because this book isn't published yet. However, I had thought about doing it for the old, unpolished version - Pure Intensity - which (miraculously) is still available at, but I'm not sure that's a good idea since I'm hoping to publish Estranged Earth as a separate work. Not to mention the fact that I never renewed my contract with AuthorHouse (sigh). But, if I'm really lucky, perhaps this trailer will give people incentive to buy Pure Intensity.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Meme #2: Create a Fantasy Monster

Here I am again, running out of ideas for blog posts, so I've come up with another meme. The rules are to describe your own fantasy monster in a well-written paragraph, just as it would appear in a story. It can be from a story you've already written, one in the works, or an idea you have for a future project. And don't forget to link back to this post, of course!

I'll start with a paragraph from my story "Hex Moon," which is part of the Avatar world.

In the center of the clearing, kneeling beside a glowing
stone, was a massive man-shaped creature with crimson,
sinewy flesh. Its hair was long, braided and slick with
grease, and razor-sharp spurs lined its muscular
arms—which were broader than Q'La's head. A mass of
smooth, reddish-brown tentacles writhed on its back, like a
nest of vipers. When it turned its head sideways—in the
direction of the children—as if it searched for something,
Q'La noticed two long fangs jutting from its lower jaw.

Although she had never seen one before, she knew what it was
from accounts in the old stories: a Maug.

This time I'm going to go ahead and tag people, but anyone can take up an open tag if they wish.

I hereby tag:

Jim Melvin at The Death Wizard Chronicles
David McAfee at I Have a Blog?
Howard von Darkmoor at Von Darkmoor's Thoughts

Have fun!

Oh, and thank you very much to Thomma Lyn at Tennessee Text Wrestling for participating in the Review You Own Book meme!

Picture above courtesy of Feebleminds.

Monday, October 15, 2007

My Muse Has Returned

After so long a time without writing, I finally was able to get 1500 words out tonight. And for a first draft, the work wasn't bad. I feel pretty good about that. Now I just need to make sure I keep writing every day, and perhaps I can actually finish a novel in a timely fashion.

The fact that I worked on Coven of the Tiger instead of Coven of the Worm doesn't faze me ... much. I mean, at least I wrote something, and it does take place in the same world after all.

Lately I've wanted to write another short, since I've only written three (not counting Sanctuary of the Mind) and would like to have more for the market--hoping to improve my chances of getting at least one published. But I've been struggling to come up with ideas for a new one and my brain just doesn't seem to want to do it right now. This makes the work I did tonight that much more rewarding.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

106 Most Unread Books Meme

I got this book meme at Allie's Musings and thought I'd take it up. Honestly, I don't know where it started. I checked Books, Memes, and Musings, but there it was picked up from One More Chapter.

Below is the list of 106 books considered the "most unread" by LibraryThing's users. You're supposed to mark those you've read in bold and those you've started but couldn't finish in italics. You also need to strike through those you hated and underline the ones you plan to read sometime. Unfortunately, I can't see how to do those last two options here. Hopefully one of my loyal readers can set me straight, in which case I'll edit the post. Until then I'll have to improvise. I'll put those I hated in [brackets] and follow the ones I'd like to read with (TBR). And, finally, you need to add an asterisk to any that you've read more than once.

Jonathan Strange & M. Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One hundred years of solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion(TBR)
Life of Pi
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveller’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius
Atlas shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury tales
The Historian
A portrait of the artist as a young man
Love in the time of cholera
Brave new world (TBR)
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A clockwork orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time
Dune (TBR)
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes
The God of Small Things
A people’s history of the United States : 1492-present
Neverwhere (TBR)
A confederacy of dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The unbearable lightness of being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down (TBR)
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit*
In Cold Blood
White teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Wow, I've only read ten of them all the way through, and some of those I never would have picked up if I hadn't gone to college. Why isn't Robinson Crusoe in this list? I really, really hated that book!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Daddy's Girl

Okay, I've seen other bloggers do this, so today I thought I'd post an excerpt from my book. This chapter, "Daddy's Girl," comes from the revision, which now has the working title Estranged Earth.

I actually changed a phrase or two for this excerpt, since there's a possiblity some things might be taken out of context. Hopefully, since no one has read this yet, you won't notice the difference anyway.

Daddy's Girl


About 7:45, Carmine dragged himself into the kitchen to find Elaine and Suzanne cooking breakfast. The aroma of scrambled eggs, sausage, and potatoes did little to soften his mood.

Elaine had tossed about in the bed all night, keeping him awake as well. When she looked at him now, as he took his place at the table, she seemed distant and unreachable.

Carmine pretended not to notice.

He hated to ignore her that way, but she didn't understand why he was angry. Neither did he, really.

Carmine worried Linda was not adjusting well after the recent tragedy. She had told that detective about psychic "visions," and then she had a tantrum in her room last night. He wasn't convinced her visions were real, although he wouldn't be surprised if a heathen like David Yeng-Chi was the killer.

It was more likely Linda had or was on the verge of a mental breakdown, fueled by David's reaction to the break up and the murder of a close friend. If so, Carmine hoped he could find the help she needed before it was too late.

He should do something about it now, in fact.

As his eldest daughter began to set the table, he said, "Suzanne, is Linda up yet?"

"I don't think so, Dad," said Suzanne. "Do you want me to check on her?"

"Yes, I do. And make sure she's cleaned up that mess she made last night."

Suzanne shuffled off without commenting.

Elaine spoke up right away, however. Without sitting down, she stared at Carmine anxiously.

"Carmine," she said, "what are you doing?"

"I'm taking care of my family."

"Well, you sure have a great way of going about it."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" he snapped.

"Carmine, I'm just concerned. Something happened last night in Linda's room that has me a little scared."

"Exactly. She went nuts and trashed her bedroom. Who was she talking to in there, anyway? There was no one else in the room, but I know I heard her talking."

Elaine glared. "What are you trying to say?"

"I'm saying that I'm afraid our daughter is going crazy, and I'm worried about her—that's all. It's not unusual, considering what happened yesterday, and considering she let that ... that heathen ... confuse her like he did. I think I want her to see a doctor."

"What?" Elaine spat. "Didn't you hear that strange voice last night? It was loud and too deep for Linda. Do you think we all imagined it?"

Carmine shook his head sadly. Am I the only sane person in this house? he wondered.

"I heard Linda's voice," he said aloud, "and nothing else."

"Why are you doing this, Carmine? What is wrong with you?"

Carmine pushed his chair back and shot to his feet. "What's wrong with me?" he shouted. "What are you saying? Shouldn't you be worried about our daughter? She's obviously sick."

"D*** you, Carmine—"

"That's it. I've had it with this." He walked into the living room and shouted up the stairs. "Suzanne, what's taking you so long?"

Suzanne appeared on the landing and said, "It's all right, Dad. She's just finishing up."

"Finishing what?" Carmine demanded and charged up the stairs.

"Carmine!" Elaine yelled, and ran after him.

"Leave it alone, Elaine," he called back. "I'll take care of this."

Again, Suzanne told her father everything was okay but he did not relent. He rushed past her into the room, only to find Linda picking up the last of the mess and tossing it into the bathroom wastebasket.

"Dad, please," said Suzanne.

Ignoring her, Carmine confronted his youngest daughter. "Linda, why did you do this?"

Linda stopped working and seemed confused. "I didn't do it, Daddy."

"Then who did, Linda?"

"I don't know," she whispered.

Carmine turned around, walked out, and headed downstairs for the telephone on his end table.

"Carmine, what are you doing?" Elaine said.

"I'm getting my daughter some help," he replied, as he cradled the receiver between his head and shoulder.

"Put the phone down, Carmine."

Linda emerged from her bedroom and walked halfway down the stairs, while Suzanne remained on the landing.

"Daddy, please don't do this," Linda begged. "Please."

"Sweetheart," said Carmine, looking up at his daughter, "I just want you to be okay."

Elaine put her hand on his shoulder and said, "This isn't the way, Carmine."

He hesitated, wondering if his wife were right. Then he remembered the lamp that had nearly missed his head when it struck the door.

I'll give her one more chance to tell the truth, Carmine thought, and that's all.

"Linda, who were you talking to last night?"

His daughter just stared at him, as if he were speaking in a foreign tongue.

"To whom were you talking?" he demanded again. When she remained silent, he lost his cool. "Linda, answer me!"

"Daddy, please—"

She was crying now, but this did not deter him.

"No, d**mit. It's not just what happened ... it's ... ever since you started dating David—"

"That's enough, Carmine!" Elaine screamed.

Chaos erupted then in the living room. Books started to fly off the bookshelf and it toppled over behind them.

"Go!" Linda yelled. "Send it away!"

In seconds, it was over, but Linda looked drained and frightened. She turned around and ran back up the stairs to her bedroom, then slammed the door shut behind her.

"Are you going to say we imagined that, too?" Elaine said after a minute. "You saw the bookshelf—"

"A coincidence," said Carmine, stubbornly. "Nothing more."

Elaine wept and slowly made her way upstairs—presumably to get dressed.

Her hands gripping the banister, Suzanne stared at her father for several, long minutes. Finally, she too turned her back on him and headed for her room.

Carmine bit his lip in frustration.

I guess I'd better clean this place up.


Carmine sat quietly in his recliner watching football as Elaine and Su finished getting ready. Linda remained in her room and refused to come out, and he was just as happy to leave her there. His family looked at him as the bad guy, and he didn't want to cause more dissension before they left.

The telephone rang and Carmine picked it up.

It was Jane, asking for Linda. He told her that Linda wasn't feeling well and probably would not come to the telephone right now. She sounded worried and was reluctant to hang up immediately.

"She wasn't in school yesterday," said Jane, "and with what happened to Kim—"

Then she started to cry.

Carmine felt like a heel. "Look, Jane, I'm sorry. I know you girls lost a good friend, and it scares me, too. I'm worried about Linda myself, and I think she needs some rest." That was an odd thing for Carmine to say after the way he had behaved earlier. He sighed, thinking that maybe it really was better to let Linda rest—at least for now. "Can you call back tomorrow?"

"Yes, Mister Caldwell," she answered between sobs. "Tell her I said 'Happy Thanksgiving,' will you? Please?"

"No problem. You take care of yourself, too, okay?"

"Yes, sir. Thank you, Mister Caldwell."

"You're welcome."

They said their good-byes and Carmine replaced the telephone in its cradle. He picked up the television remote and turned off the set, then called for Elaine.

"Are you ready, Hon?" he said.

Elaine walked down the stairs and looked at him thoughtfully. "Yes," she said. "Suzanne will be down in a second. Linda's not coming."

Carmine grunted but otherwise said nothing.

Turning around, Elaine called upstairs for Suzanne to hurry. "We have to be at my sister's in an hour, okay?"

"Yes, Mom," said Suzanne, as she appeared at the top of the stairs. "I'm ready."

"Good," said her father. "Let's go."

(I'm sorry, but the length of the post was really bothering me, so I decided to break it up. You can read the second half of this chapter here, on the Tower of Light Forums).

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Great Way to Start the Day

Imagine my surprise when I checked my blog comments today and found a message from Cheryl Ann Gardner. And what a wonderful message it was! She says that my book (actually only about 11,000 words) Sanctuary of the Mind has been selected for the week of horror reviews at the POD People blogspot beginning October 29. This was definitely an unexpected development, and I am grateful to Cheryl for this, and to all those who have already read it!

This comes on top of the first review I received, and of course Jim Melvin's encouraging comments. It seems the little experiment might just turn into something more.

I'm very excited. I can't wait to see it!

Friday, October 5, 2007

My First Meme - Review Your Own Book!

Since I've been having so much trouble coming up with ideas for blog posts, I thought I'd try starting a meme. I'm going to adopt Howard von Darkmoor's (from Von Darkmoor's Thoughts) method of throwing out an "open tag" to anyone who would like participate. If you're interested, please do give it a go and remember to link back to this post.

The rules of this meme is to write a review of one of your own works as if weren't yours. You must be as honest as possible and write at least one good paragraph. We might just find out how true the old saying "we are our own worst critics" really is! It does not have to be a published work as long as it's a complete manuscript. Of course, I suppose I'll take any oppurtunity to promote my own work (haha), although I guess that is why I created this blog in the first place!

I'll start by reviewing both the published and unpublished versions of my book. For anyone else who chooses to accept the tag, one review will be enough, of course.

September 2004, Michael Southard
ISBN 1-4184-2932-5

Pure Intensity is a dark urban fantasy that attempts to incorporate some conventions of anime fantasy. The story is about a girl named Linda who discovers that her boyfriend David is a devil worshiper. There are some interesting ideas floating around in the plot, including a subplot concerning a secret society. The best is its description of the different magical disciplines, which seem to vary in different cultures. This book only introduces the disciplines of Witches, War Witches, and Mages, but there are certainly hints of more to learn about the magical system in this story.

The problem is the undisciplined composition of the book. It seems as if it were originally written in omniscient perspective, but there are numerous divisions of passages where the author might have attempted to separate the characters' points of view. The story constantly jumps from one character's POV to another and the result is confusing at best. Worse, there are quite a few passages where the language is too flowery and difficult to follow, and it seems as if there was little, if any, proper editing.

However, despite these problems, Pure Intensity is a good story with a lot of potential, and some readers might enjoy it anyway. I just wish the author had put more work into it before publishing.

Michael Southard

Estranged Earth, Book One of Coven of the Worm, is the revised version of Pure Instensity, and it does show much improvement over the original. The author completely reworked the point of view, so that most chapters have no more than two character POVs, and they are much more clearly marked. The story is essentially the same, although there is more detail in some passages, improved character work, and better editing. It is an inspiring thriller, with plenty of magic and mayhem for fantasy fans, and a fairly good read.

Okay, there's my reviews. I hope there are plenty of takers for the tag. Good luck!