Book Six: The Ring of Five Stones

Leslie Ann Drover is not like Jeanette. She is younger, she is completely independent, and she has been supporting herself since leaving home at seventeen. She is conscientious about her job, accepts responsibilities, and is a natural leader, by example rather than by direction. She is respected by both her superiors and her subordinates. 

She has been given the black ring. Despite the terrifying experience, and her doubts about her sanity, she understands fairly well what it means, and what she has been asked to do. The woman in the snow sacrificed herself to give it to her, and she cannot let her down.

She has no companions, no guidance that she knows of. Still, she is able to deal with those Arkenomes and wannabes to whom she is sent. She learns, and grows, and becomes strong. But she is alone. She needs help, and she can go no further without it. 

Jeanette’s surviving companions, each in their own world, are aware of Leslie Ann as the new hero, and can feel her need. They come to her as they are able, bringing with them the boots, the dagger, the belt, and the sword. Now she is able to go on.

And there is the ring of five stones, which Jeanette had cut from the hand of an Ecliptor. The hero’s black ring is only a link to those higher beings who need human aid in suppressing the depredations of the enemy. The ring of five stones was created by Kada Barros to give an Ecliptor certain powers, to enable him to go to places outside reality, and to give direction and power to the Arkenomes. 

It is this ring that gives Leslie Ann the ability to get past the obstacles put in her way. Though, at the last, she must again go on alone, it is this ring which enables her to confront Kada Barros himself. He is childishly envious of the way his younger brother has made certain worlds better. It is his feeling of inferiority which made him destroy those cultures which his brother had touched. 

She cannot kill Kada Barros, or destroy him, and would not if she could. But she can help him to discover that he is able to do something that his younger brother can not. It is something of which he can be proud, and that makes him an enemy no longer. 

There is no more need for another hero. Her tokens no longer have special powers. Now she can go home. And finds that she can not progress in the way that she had hoped. 

A companion comes to her then, and offers her something far more satisfying. They can go off together, and make a new life.

Book Five: Hero Transcendent

Everybody is changed by their experiences, and hopefully they grow. Sometimes it is a small change, or subtle, and sometimes it is a larger change, and profound. Sometimes these changes don’t become fully understood until much later.

Jeanette never wanted to be a hero, and she has suffered many changes — physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is her sense of duty, but more than that, it is her compassion for the enemy’s victims which keeps her going. She is even willing to give up her life. But she is getting tired.

She has met and talked with beings who exist within the reality which contains her physical world, and that changed her; with others in the greater reality which contains hers, and has been changed even more; and with those who dwell beyond the greater reality, and she has come away changed yet again. And though she is no longer truly human, dealing with the depredations of the enemy remains a challenge.

She has met and overcome Arkenomes, though she has not always had to kill them. She has met and neutralized Ecliptors, one way or another. She has met the enemy, called Kada Barros, and has escaped at great cost. She has met some beings of an even higher order, whom Kada Barros cannot understand, and sometimes fears. All this has changed her too.

She is taken to a special place of heroes, where those who have reached their own limits can wait, if they choose, until the threat of the enemy is at last ended. There she learns that she has reached her limit, and will not be allowed to finish. There is still another choice to be made, or she can just stop. 

She chooses, and will do what she must, but this is possible only by transcending her mortality. It is the highest price she can pay.

Black Ring Four: The Ecliptor

Arkenomes are mortals, with a need for fame, power, vengeance, wealth, adulation, erotic pleasures, and they are determined to get what they want at whatever the cost to others. It is their persuasiveness, their plausible lies, their seemingly friendly influence, their charm, their believability in the face of contrary truth, that enables them to do what they do. However they accomplish it, it is the destruction of a promising culture, even if seemingly minor, that is their objective. If someone had destroyed the classic Greek culture before it became great, we would not be who we are today. 

It is the enemy who wants these cultures destroyed, for no reason Jeanette can understand. The enemy is a non-physical being of a high order, one among many who dwell outside any reality, even outside the greater reality. He and those like him are aware of the layers of reality but, like our awareness of a sunset, which we cannot touch, the enemy cannot do anything to a reality like ours. He hates many of these realities, their existence makes him angry and gives him pain, but he can do nothing about them.

What he can do is to call on a mortal to act as an intermediary, and by offering what that mortal most desires in exchange for his or her absolute service, he can give them the ability to find, train, direct, and reward other mortals to act as his agents, that is, to become the Arkenomes.

Jeanette wants to stop the depredations of the enemy, but to do that she must confront him, and to do that she must first force the this intermediary to show her how to get to him. That intermediary is the Ecliptor.

Black Ring Three: Another Way

Jeanette, unlike most adventure story heroes, feels guilt when she has to hurt or kill her enemies. She can’t help but imagine the loss felt by their friends and families. She almost always has little choice, when someone must be killed to save innocent people from being hurt or killed, or made to suffer the destruction of their culture. How much guilt would she feel if, reluctant to take someone’s life, she doesn’t make the effort to save the lives of others? It’s always a moral choice, and it is never an easy one. There is always a price to pay.

There is a classic ethics conundrum. You are standing by a railroad switch. A car with six people in it has stalled on one track. A car with only one person in it has stalled on the other track. And a train is coming. The way the switch is set now, if you do nothing, the train will hit the car with six people in it. If you choose to throw the switch, the train will take the other track and, because of your action, it will kill the one person in that car. What will you do?

The choice is not always that clear. Jeanette has to struggle each time. It is especially difficult when a decision cannot be delayed for even a moment or two. She just hopes that whatever she chooses to do is the right thing. Even when it is obvious that she is right, each death she causes adds to the stain in the back of her mind. But she keeps on, knowing that whole cultures will suffer if she doesn’t accept that guilt. And always hoping that, the next time, maybe she will find a different solution.

Black Ring Two: Troll Sword

The Tash Griaf is a powerful and strangely shaped sword, and is one of the hero’s five tokens. It had been taken by the enemy a long time ago, and had been perverted, which had increased its power and, in effect, had cursed it. But the enemy had quickly lost it. 

One of Jeanette’s predecessors had since then found it, and in using it, had recognized both its power and its evil. When she knew that her time as the hero was running out, she had hidden it to keep it from the enemy, who would not lose it a second time. When Jeanette came to the place where it was being kept, it frightened her, and all those with her, but she knew that she was meant to have it. 

It is irresistible as a weapon, and gives whoever wields it the power to command others, whatever their interests or numbers. But its curse tempts Jeanette to use it, even against her will, and all whom she kills with it leave a stain of guilt. 

Though its name is the Tash Griaf, it is called the troll sword, and now that Jeanette has it, her abilities as the hero, natural and acquired, are enhanced by it. And every time she uses it, she is hurt by it, and changed.

Black Ring One: Zhanai’degau

Jeanette Delgado assumes the form of the people of the alternate worlds, as if she had been born there. She speaks and understands their languages, and does not know how that works. Her name is pronounced differently in every world. She tries to correct it, but she cannot say it the way she does at home. She says it the way the people do. 

She has come to understand her role as a hero by the end of Book One. She has made good friends here, but she must leave them. When they say goodbye to her, addressing her as, “my Lady,” she tells them, “My name is Zhanai’degau.”

A Numbered Series

I really would like to sell The Black Ring, more for the readers rather than for the money. After all, I sometimes give my other books away. And The Black Ring is a marketing challenge, because it’s not a series like those by Stuart Jaffe or Jim Butcher or Mickey Spillane or L. Frank Baum, which can be read in pretty much any order. 

It’s more like the three books of The Lord of the Rings, which has to be read as if it were one big book — which it is — though The Black Ring is not similar to it in any other way. The Harry Potter books are a numbered series, to be read as they are numbered, though they are actually separate stories. They, too, are completely different from The Black Ring

The three volumes of the original publication of Pride and Prejudice were, in effect a numbered series, to be read from first to last, and that was understood by those who bought it. It didn’t have, as is true today, a separate designation as a numbered series at Bowker (ISBNs) or the U.S. Copyright office. Since it was paid for by her father it was, in a way, self-published.

The Disk World series, by Terry Pratchett, is not a numbered series, though I prefer to read the books in the order in which they were published. Like the Mike Hammer books by Spillane, there is a development in the author’s writing ability and story telling, and in his understanding of the setting and the growth of his character. The Lord Peter Wimsey books by Dorothy L. Sayers are similar.

The Black Ring became unavailable when Double Dragon folded, and people have asked if it would be published again. I read it through and, discovering how much work it still needed, I decided on doing a complete second edition. I’ve updated my  book page, and I have made the reading samples longer, and the books less expensive to encourage purchase. Check it out. If you like the first sample, maybe you’ll like the others too. Links to all six books of The Black Ring are on my website. Just remember, while you can get away with reading just book One, you can’t read Book Three by itself and have any idea of what’s going on.


The Black Ring is all the better for what I learned from editing and publishing my own books. It has taken more than ten years, but I feel that it was worth it. After all, The Black Ring, which has taken more than sixty years from first inspiration to final second edition, is why I started self-publishing in the first place. I know other writers who are far more successful at self-publishing than I am. 

I tried to learn promotion. I did some research, bought some books, got some help from a friend who knew how, but I did not understand it. It was like knowing the rules of chess but not actually understanding the game. I know the rules. I spent three years learning guitar chords, but I never figured out how to just sit down and play guitar. (Besides, I had something better to do…) It is said that one way to promote your books is to get a blog, and here it is. But I don’t understand  how to promote my blog, at least not without taking time away from my writing, and that takes me back around to now knowing how to promote in the first place.

I feel my time is better spent by telling my stories (which are all novels by now) than by struggling and failing at what I really can’t learn how to do. Getting someone else to do the promotion is expensive, and not always effective. I would like to have my books traditionally published, but that, too, sometimes doesn’t work out. And besides, I like having my books under my control. 

I like to sell them through dealers I know at conventions — which I hope will start up again. I like to sell them directly to people, sometimes at a discount. I can even give them away without too much cost to myself. And people buy them after looking at the covers, blurbs, essays, and first twenty pages in Allen Wold’s Books I guess my telling you about that is a form of promotion

Fixing False Starts

I had written Slaves of War some years before, but it didn’t work for me as science fiction. I didn’t know how to fix it. I mentioned it on Facebook, and somebody told me that it sounded like space opera. I had never done space opera, at least not deliberately, but it seemed like that might have been my problem. I revised the story with “space opera” in mind, and this time it felt right. Darcy did a cover, and I published it.

A Thing Forgotten was another idea that had been brewing in the back of my head for years, inspired by dark music, a newspaper clipping a friend had sent me, a poster of a tragic heroic girl, and other things. The more I thought about it, the less I was able to do anything with it. It finally came together when I heard “The Hanging Tree” from Hunger Games. Inspiration comes from the strangest places, if you let it. It never comes if you search for it. I used a world that I had created for a different purpose, ideas about the fey which I had thought about for a long time in another context, and when the opening sentence came to me, it practically wrote itself. I found the image for the cover, did some work on it, and Darcy finished it perfectly.

I had written the first three chapters of what became The Gift and The Price, and another sixty thousand words which just stopped cold. It was like beating my head against a wall, and all I got was bruises, not progress. I finally realized, after six years, that I had been forcing my hero to go against his nature. I threw away everything except those first three chapters, and let my protagonist do what he really would have done, instead of what I was trying to force him to do. I had, as it were, stepped back from the metaphorical wall, instead of trying to force a way through, and saw a doorway to one side. Chapters and scenes came easily, to a very satisfactory conclusion. I did the cover myself, but with a lot of advice from Darcy.

Three More Books

I published Freefoot, a collection of all six of my Elf Quest stories, including the one which would have appeared in Blood of Ten Chiefs 6, if the series hadn’t been cancelled. The books were selling, so we had no idea why that happened. I revised each of the stories just a little, and corrected a few problems. I rewrote one of them completely, and put them in chronological instead of published order. I’ve sold Freefoot to Elf Quest fans who wanted me to autograph their copies of the original books in the series. 

Then I wrote Sturgis, something I had been wanting to do for a long time. It’s about a serial killer who turns out to be a vampire. I was inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, not by the movies, which made vampires unable to bear sunlight, or repelled by crosses of any kind. Dracula did his own banking in London, and many windows have divisions in the shape of a cross, none of which affected him. I had only three plot points to begin with, and wrote the whole story without any other outline. It’s a very different story for me, but I really liked my protagonist and, were I forty years younger, I might have liked to have his job.

I published Dead Hand. I had developed it from extensive scene sketches which I had written years before. I had created a list of objectives for each scene, as I had done with The Planet Masters, and then developed each scene to reach its ending. I took it with me when we went to England for three years, and though my obligations there meant that I couldn’t make (not just take) the time to write, I decided to cut out all those scenes which didn’t actually advance the plot. Anything that doesn’t move the plot forward should be cut, according to received wisdom. 

But when we came back I rethought that. I still had those scenes and decided to put them back in. They did not advance the central plot, but they developed the characters and background, gave a larger context, and revealed more of what the story was about, which was not just a haunted house, but how the neighborhood was affected by the haunting that was leaking from it. On finishing that draft I knew that it had been the right thing to do. Had I not done so, the story would not have been so deep, nor would it have had so satisfactory an ending. I read through it again, made a few revisions, copy-edited it and published it.