The Broken Door :: Josh Smith

Jerak rested against the oak door. His legs shook from the long sprint. His captain stood nearby, pressing a hand to a fresh wound at his side. Deep red dripped down his polished armor. Alarm bells tolled overhead, muffled by how deep into the castle they’d run.

“Sir,” Jerak breathed. “We’ve run past our defenses in the courtyard. Surely our brothers could use the aid of Beneger the Brave. Why did we abandon them to guard this simple door?”

Beneger grimaced and pulled a broken spear-head from his wound. “By the time we got there, boy, our brothers would be dead.” His voice rattled as he spoke. “There was a prophecy when the prince was born. An ancient evil would consume the child before his first birthday. The king placed the boy under my care.” Beneger tossed the broken blade aside. “The King is dead. We’re here to protect the baby with our lives.”

Beneger pointed at the oak door. His voice took on a sharp tone. “No matter what happens, boy, nothing enters that room.”

Movement at the end of the hall drew their attention toward a band of short, scaly creatures. Drakkin. They screeched a battle cry and charged, brandishing sharp fangs and black spears.

Beneger grabbed a sword from a nearby armor stand and hurled it down the corridor. The blade skewered two of them, and they collapsed.

“See? They drop like wild pigs. Now raise your sword, boy. Time to protect your new King.”

Beneger withdrew near the oak door and unsheathed his blade.

Jerak drew his own sword, and stepped forward. The King is dead. His blade wobbled as he understood his responsibility. Yardmaster Kormund would’ve flipped a table had he seen Jerak’s sloppy stance.

The first creature clambered within striking distance. Jerak stepped forward and jerked his blade down. The quick sweep cleaved the Drakkin’s head from its body. Black liquid sprayed from its neck. The head mouthed a silent cry as it thumped against the stone floor.

Jerak leveled his blade at the approaching Drakkin, the blade point motionless. He squared his stance. Nothing enters this room.

The mass of creatures pressed forward. Jerak banished his fears and worked through the stances that Yardmaster Kormund had driven him to memorize.

Jerak’s arms felt heavy as the last Drakkin fell to the ground. He looked at his black-stained blade. “An hour ago, I thought Drakkin were children’s tales.” He kicked one of the bodies and bent down for a closer look. “But in the stories, weren’t they always accompanied by a Night Shrieker?”

Beneger replied with a gurgling sound. Jerak turned, and something slammed into his chest. He collapsed to the stone floor, clutching at a dagger between his ribs. A cloaked figure lifted Beneger off the ground and bit into his neck. Dark blood flowed down his armor.

A Night Shrieker.

Sharp pain coursed through Jerak’s body. He faltered as he tried to stand. The blade dug deep into his gut.

The Night Shrieker’s hooded face turned toward him and screeched a laugh.

“The child will die tonight, worm. You cannot stop the prophecy. The old gods awaken. Pathetic soldiers and simple doors won’t stand in my way.” The Night Shrieker turned toward the prince’s room, and hurled Beneger’s drained form, shattering the oak door.

Beneger’s final command roared in Jerak’s mind. Nothing enters this room.

Enraged, Jerak pushed through his pain and grabbed a piece of the broken door. He leapt onto the Night Shrieker, driving the splintered wood through its spine. It screeched in fury, flailing its long, sinewy arms. They tumbled to the stone floor in a bloody heap. Its final shriek echoed down the corridor.

Jerak teetered to his feet. Blood flowed from the knife wound. Beneger had charged him with protecting the infant king. He couldn’t let the darkness claim the baby.

Staggering into the room, Jerak stumbled over pieces of the broken door. He reached the crib and found it empty. A shriek pierced the quiet nursery. Jerak spun around to see Beneger standing in the doorway. Deep red holes marred his pale neck.

Beneger held the infant king in his arms, and smiled, revealing long pointed teeth.

Beneger held the infant king in his arms, and smiled, revealing long pointed teeth.

Jerak picked up a shard of the broken door and faced his captain. Nothing enters this room.



Meet the Author

20150501_140833-02Josh R. Smith lives in rural Northeast Missouri with his wife and two children. He works as an IT technician by day, and is active in his local church. Josh wrote his first fantasy story in grade school, and has been creating speculative worlds ever since. Josh has recently been published several times in Splickety magazine. He even took first place in their Lost at Sea contest. Josh is currently exploring the world of publication and is working on his first full length novel. You can find more information on Josh and the stories he writes at

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The Rhythm of Pacing :: Writer Wednesday with DiAnn Mills

Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts. This suggests cutting to speed the pace, and that’s what most of us end up having to do (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings).

—Stephen King

WW720Pacing reminds me of a dancer who builds momentum before leaping into the air with beauty, grace, and purpose. Her rhythm is flawless. Her delivery exquisite. She tells a story that one cannot resist because she varies each movement. The dancer understands repetition lulls the audience to sleep.

In the well-crafted novel, rhythmic pacing keeps the story alive and moving through scenes and sequels that leave the reader eagerly turning pages.

Scene (action) and sequel (narrative) have distinct purposes. Action is faster, heart-throbbing, and heart-wrenching. The writer uses tension and conflict—with the element of surprise—to engage character emotion. Narrative is a deliberate literary technique to slow the story so the reader can identify with what’s happening to the viewpoint character. Continuous action doesn’t allow a reader to get inside the POV character’s head. Overload can quickly set in. But too much narrative causes the reader to skim so she can get back to the action.

Sounds simple, right? Then in the middle of our novel, a critique partner points out our story has screeched to a halt.

How can writers pace their story to keep it appealing? Readers will forgive a lagging story for only so long before they close the book.

Genre and Pacing

Genre is an area where pacing affects the characters, story line, setting, dialogue, and theme.

Romance novels are built on the premise of two unlikely people finding a lasting love that nudges them to make a lifelong commitment. The romance portion plays on the wants, needs, and fears of a possible relationship. Each offers what the other has, but the idea of making a commitment is frightening. Is each character willing to fight for love? Are they willing to sacrifice for the other? What threatens to keep them apart? Strong emotions are present, along with conflict and tension. The success or failure of the novel depends on how well a writer paces this growing relationship.

Historical fiction is often set in a time when life was slower. Pacing must be realistic, but don’t let the story creep across the page. Readers of this genre want to know about the culture—dress, home life, social graces, and language. Weave these tidbits expertly throughout the story without reverting to exposition or lengthy narrative.

Weave these tidbits expertly throughout the story without reverting to exposition or lengthy narrative.

Suspense novels use the ticking clock technique to keep the pace moving with intense action that builds on each scene—until the climax bursts onto the page, claiming heroes and exposing villains. Get a metronome, a device used by musicians that clicks a steady tempo. As you type, increase the beats per minute. This works—if it doesn’t drive you crazy.

Science fiction and fantasy novels, as well as other forms of speculative fiction, are often quests that prove the hero or heroine’s mettle. While you want the reader to understand the setting, culture, language, and character motivation, slower segments must still move the story to an action-filled scene.

Conflict and tension are allies of good pacing. Add emotive conflict, and the character is motivated for future scenes.

How do you view pacing for your story?


Meet the Author


DiAnn Mills headshotDiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association; International Thriller Writers, and the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of Romance Writers of America. She is co-director of The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.Deadly Encounter

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at




From superheroes to villains, the pacing is all there in

Havok’s latest release on sale now!

Havok July 2016 Cover

Posted in Featured Authors, Quick Tips, Uncategorized, Writer Wisdom Tagged with: , , ,

Havok Launch :: Heroes vs. Villains

Havok Magazine’s July issue “Heroes vs. Villians” is out now and in honor of that we’ve got a themed post this week. Give us your best takes on “Heroes vs. Villians” in a hundred words or less based on the picture below. Post your stories in the comment section below. Keep reading for the featured story of the week and for more Bolt Flash Fiction, follow the link at the bottom to get your copy of Havok’s newest issue today!




This week’s featured story is by Katie Lohr. Read it below!


The Professor bellowed. “You kids stay out!”

Dusty snapped goggles over his eyeballs and ignited the Professor’s unseen invention—the Rocket Car. Cylinders roaring. Speedometer swinging. Dusty flew through the dark mansion hollering. So long, creepy laboratory and creaky stairwell! Touch the Rocket Car for ten bucks? He’d zoom the secret contraption right past his friends!

Dusty burst from the front doors. Then his flailing elbow joggled a blue knob. Roaring, the Rocket Car lifted off ground. Dusty gasped and stared at Heaven’s nearing embrace.

The dashboard chimed. “Good evening, Professor. Autopilot is set for your weekly trip to Polaris.”



Havok’s latest issue “Heroes vs. Villians” is out now. Don’t miss out on these great stories! To subscribe to get all of Splickety’s magazines follow this link. To get Havok’s “Heroes vs. Villians” on Amazon go here.

Posted in #BoltFlashFic, Flash Fiction, Uncategorized Tagged with: , ,

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