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Rumors of War – Book One


by Cynus

Synopsis:
There's a war coming between Heaven and Hell, but first it starts on Earth. For Damien, it was a new High School at the start of the year. A fresh start. Maybe he could finally make some friends. The first friend Damien makes, turns out to be a demon. What could go wrong with that?

Book link (Read it here): https://castleroland.net/story-synop/?id=2988

Reader comments:
Wow, loved it so far! Well written, good flow, empathetic characters, what's not to like?

Full of intrigue and suspense.

I Love this story such a unique prospective on a classic concept.

A great take on the Heaven/Hell genre. I simply loved it!


Extract:

Nodding again, I reached for the necklace only to have my arm suddenly grabbed from the side and wrenched painfully behind my back. I tried to turn to see who was grabbing me when a large hand gripped the back of my head and forced it down to the table. I could hear Veronica shouting something that sounded like her pleading for them not to hurt me, but I was in such a state of shock I couldn’t even process it through the pain.

A moment later I gained control of my senses, and I realized that I could barely hear Veronica, and her voice was getting further and further away. I could just see out of the corner of my eye that there was a large man standing next to the table, and he was drawing what looked like a very long knife from within his suit coat. My instinct kicked in suddenly and I realized they were about to kill me, and I began to struggle against the one who held me still, but it was no use. I watched the knife raise in the man’s hands and come slicing through the air toward my neck. I closed my eyes and prepared for death as best as I could.

 


Reviewed by Adam

Demons and dragons and angels, Satan and Lucifer, Hell and Heaven, and a great Druid named ........Keith.          Well, not quite everything need be exotic!

In Rumours of War, Cynus has created a fabulously addictive teen romance featuring bisexual high-school freshman and psychic Damien (of course) and mysterious, body-perfect, gay Marc (with a 'c'). However, will hyper sexual Veronica prove to create a menace or a menage?

The pace of this story about a war between angels and demons, where in a way humans seem almost to be bystanders in the most part, is well balanced between action scenes and typical - for pubescent teen boys that is - bedroom ones. I suppose I should re-phrase that. The pace is well balanced between different types of action scene!

Cynus has not produced a deeply philosophical treatise on the struggles of gay, bisexual and straight lifestyles in the context of demonic wars in an existential environment. Nor do I assume he intended to do so. Few young people face such challenges.

But Damien did.

And what Cynus has done so marvellously in Book 1 of Rumours of War is to salivate the taste buds, get them flowing for later volumes. 

I know that I want  to know how Damien will balance his humanity, his ancestry, and his new-found powers. Will  he be successful in holding on to Marc through the frenzy of a probable war? Who shall die?  - for in most good war stories somebody important always dies!

This is not a run-of-the-mill kids as Super Heroes tale. It at least has begun with the potential of being far more.

Cynus, my man, Great Beginning. Five ***** from me as a Teenagers' Gay/Bisexual Adventure Romance. I cannot say better than that!!

 

Reviewed by Mark.

In the interest of disclosure, I admit to having edited a lot of Cynus’ stories. The stories to review for the Critic’s Corner are assigned to us randomly and just the luck of the draw gave me this one. He is a dream to edit as there are very few corrections to make or suggestions to relay and if I were being paid by correction instead of volunteering, I would starve. And no, he did not pay me $5 to write a good review. 

Rumors of War starts off with a high school student on his first day at a new school and quickly turns into an exciting story as he gets caught up in prophecies, a battle between Angels, Demons and love. Hell, Demons and Angels in the story are not the traditional entities we think of and Cynus mixes it all up to add an interesting dimension to the story. Damien and his protector Marc (not spelled with a k, as he insists…) are caught up in the age old battle being fought and Damien learns he is the first male descendent of a famous personage from the past. There are turncoat enemies (or are they?) bad guys and a jealous friend among the cast of characters. Just as you think you have a handle on the story, a development at the end of the first chapter teaches you Cynus can misdirect with the finest. 

The story is not too long and is the first story in the trilogy. Some readers may well wish for more chapters, while others will think it is just right. I think a few more would have been ok, but he wisely does not make it too many.  I have looked at some stories and seen what seemed like an endless number of chapters and it made me wonder if I wanted to start reading the story. Cynus is a master wordsmith and his writing flows well and pulls the reader along effortlessly. Dialogue sparkles, the characters are real and engaging and before you know it, the chapter is over and you can’t wait to read the next one. You come to care about the characters, the sign of an excellent author, as he weaves his word magic over the reader. 

Cynus writes varied stories and if you read more of him, you will see how wide ranging his stories can be… from Asian gangsters to humorous Halloween stories to laugh out loud moments from a failed grand coming out gesture. One thing you can be sure of, his stories are well written and are a delight to read.


Reviewed by William King.

This is a curious book, aptly titled, and not without its twists and turns. I have to admit that I was wondering about the story, where was it going? How would things ever be resolved? After all it is a short book, seven chapters, but then it’s book one of a series.

The ending took me by surprise (although of course the story continues), and left me with a wonderful feeling of having just read a little gem of a tale. The hand of a skilled and gifted author is at work here, as he weaves and circles through the story, taking the reader on a journey with Damien and Marc. The supporting characters are great, from the “punkish” Veronica with her multiple piercings and a streak of red hair, to the acerbic Keith, from whom Marc calls in several favours.

There are some great lines, “We had a lot of our deeper conversations over killing each other in video games.” 

The author masterfully evokes a gateway into another realm: “That was when all my notions of what was normal in the world completely erupted. I felt something deep within me start to stir, as if it were some memory I had placed in a dark secluded section of my mind, to only touch under certain circumstances. It was apparent that I had met those circumstances now, and as I tapped into this unknown piece of myself, I felt a power like nothing I had ever experienced overwhelm me.”

Now the world has changed, as do some of those in it, and we are confronted with mystical creatures. “The form was monstrous yet somehow familiar, as if something out of a dream. It was black and scaled. It sported large leathery wings on its back, and a tail whipping back and forth between its legs.”

Do I have any criticisms? Perhaps the playing down of the life threatening situation our protagonist finds himself in, as if everyday one gets attacked by a gang of murderers over dinner and saved by a guy who transforms into a devilish creature. But then again, when viewed after finishing the book it only makes me smile, and I think that is intentional.

I have to admit to being a fan of the author and having read some of his other books. This story is a coming out story with a difference. I recommend it to you, it’s an easy read, and it has a whole lot more in it than you might imagine at first glance.

 

INTERVIEW

 

At first glance, when you start reading, this book seems a little light. It’s short in chapters and initially feels lacking in depth. However, once you start getting into it, and it is an easy read, you can read it all in one sitting, then you get to, what I found to be a great ending (although the series continues), and you look back and think, there was a lot more to it. My question: is this lightness intentional? Did you plan it to, as it were, have hidden depths? There is after all a lot in there, from telepathy and telekinesis, through to an interpretation of religion.

This is a tricky question for me to answer, because at the time I wrote "Rumors of War" I didn't know enough about writing novels to really set a tone intentionally. As some readers may know, this is the first novel I ever completed. I ended up relying on tropes probably more than a professional writer would, and didn't spend as much time going through afterwards and polishing it up/fleshing it out, either, which I would be more concerned with doing now. I definitely planned for it to have hidden depths and wanted it to be complex. I don't know how it is for other writers, though I assume there are as many who agree with me as those who do not, but I appreciate a story which can accomplish several purposes at once, as long as there aren't too many and they all serve to be complementary. I can't say I always achieve that, but it is always the goal. For some people, the religious theme will be the most important part, for others it'll be the psychic abilities, and for others it'll be the struggle of an LGBT teenager trying to survive. I strive to give enough variety that there's hopefully an interest for everyone. 

 

The theme of demons and angels, broadly speaking, recurs in another later book you wrote, Rivers of the Dead. Is the magic, dark versus light, good and evil, something which fascinates you as a writer?

In a way, definitely, but in another way, no. I'm less concerned with the battle between opposing forces as I am with the balance of them. To me, good and evil are often matters of perspective. Often, we are quick to label someone as evil when from their perspective they are good. I look at my books as a conversation about perspective and try to humanize my villains as often as I demonize them. I want the motivations of my villains to feel natural and believable. I want my readers to understand that someone would choose to act in that way.

The same logic applies to when I play with Darkness and Light. For me, darkness does not mean evil, and Light does not mean good. In my work I've explored thieves and gangsters who become heroes. I've made villains of heroes of legend, and I once turned a beautiful and peaceful woman into the worst killer in the world. Light and Dark are merely facets of the soul, they exist in all of us, and do not define us any more than any other part of us. 

 

This book and others of your novels often deal with the struggle of being gay in a rather difficult often hostile, unaccepting environment. Almost the theme of a journey to salvation, although in this particular book the protagonist, Damien, seems to get a much easier ride as a bisexual, rather than outright gay person. Why is it that you return time and again to the same theme, the struggle with being gay?

I wasn't ready to face the demons of my own past when I wrote "Rumors of War", which is why Damien escaped the same treatment which some of my characters receive in other works. I suppose the answer to this question is twofold: 
Firstly, because of my own struggles, a lot of the writing I connected with online were in a similar vein. I connected with characters who were struggling with their identity, and so when I took up writing I ended up writing similar themes into my own stories.

Secondly, I have long struggled with my own identity. My sexuality is complex, as I think everyone's is. I've never found a label which truly fit me, which has always left me with a bit of uncertainty in my life. I've since come to terms with that fact, that I don't need the label for myself, but I still explore themes of identity in my stories because I'm trying to understand myself and accept myself through the struggles of my characters. They act as a canvas for me to explore my inner truth. 

 

And I could add an addendum to that last question. Why do you often pick up the struggle between being gay and religion?

I grew up in an extremely conservative, religious environment. I was raised in the Mormon Church, and was constantly preached to about the evils of homosexuality. I don't know if things would've been different with my parents if I'd come out earlier. They might've accepted me over time and stopped preaching. I like to think that they would've chosen love over their religion, but a part of me knows it could've easily gone the other way. The Mormon Church has had a long history with deconversion therapy. There are histories of trials at BYU involving shock therapy and other horrific tortures designed to try and change a person's sexuality. There are also boys' ranches where they would send wayward teenagers to be brought into line with the church's teachings. My parents were both firmly in the Mormon Church, and with how they spoke sometimes, I know I might've ended up at one of those ranches. 

I say all that for context. Religion and I had a complicated history. I grew up thinking myself unworthy of love, unworthy of human connection, really. I believed I was an abomination for the way I felt about my male friends. I believed I would lose everything I loved and cared about if I gave into those feelings. That psychological torment still weighs heavily on me, and I developed some unhealthy coping mechanisms to get me through. The battle between myself and my faith left me with depression, eating disorders, insecurity, self-loathing, and an overall sense of unworthiness for anything good in life. I'm healing, but I am still scarred. If, by exploring the subject, I can help a single teen reader realize he's not alone and that it can get better, then I'll have considered my writing worth something.


You are a talented and prolific writer, when did you first start writing and decide to publish your work online?

2013 is when I published my first short story at AwesomeDude.com. It's "The Drawbacks of Being a Monster", if anyone is interested. "Oak Shadows" was written a week later, and I was hooked from then on. I started "Rumors of War" in November of 2013, and it took me until March of the following year to finish it. During that time, I wrote at least one other short story, "Is Love a Miracle?", around Valentine's Day. Completing my first novel was exactly what I needed. I wrote "The Navigator" from start to finish in April, then started "Shadow Honor" immediately thereafter.

I first started writing when I was a kid. I probably wrote my first short story in the second or third grade, a bit of Star Wars fanfiction, if I recall correctly. I've always enjoyed it, though I could never manage to finish a project until NaNoWriMo 2012. While I didn't finish that novel, I did finish the goal of writing 50,000 words in one month, and it made me want to do it again the next year. I did, and that gave me "Rumors of War".

 

I personally like the approach you have adopted for a number of books, like Rumors of War, to divide them into short books and make a mini series. Did you plan this approach whilst writing the book, or was it something you thought of after, and why did you decide to do it like that?

I wish I could say it was part of some grand design, but really I just do whatever feels right at the moment. In the case of "Rumors of War", I had three climactic events and simply felt that by separating them more cohesively would give my readers a better chance to sit back and absorb those climactic moments.


How much does your real life effect your writing? What I mean by that, is your personal experiences, your upbringing, is there a lot of you in your books?

There is a lot of me in each book. There's always at least one character I really put myself into. In the case of "Rumors of War" there are two. I always wonder if people can guess who they are. One is Keith, but I'll keep the other a secret and let you all guess.

In writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, I wouldn't say I use too many real-life experiences, though even in those genres I try to focus on the emotions. The emotions are always real, the characters are always based on aspects of myself, though that's not all that they are. I'm connected to every single one of them, however.

 

Leading on from that last question. Why write? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do? Is it therapy? Or because you simply enjoy it?

Writing is a means of exploring my greatest passion. I love to connect with people, I love to understand people, and I love to explore the different ways we think. If it were up to me, I'd be doing it through Anthropology, Linguistics, and travel, but unfortunately my life didn't work out that way (Or at least, it hasn't so far). Writing, however, offers me a medium to translate my emotional draw to those subjects into art. It's a little bit therapy, it's a little bit because I enjoy it, and it's a little bit because it allows me to connect with people.


 Finally, not an easy question, but in your opinion, what is it that makes a good author?

 I don't know that I'm qualified to answer this question. In all seriousness, the secret to being an author at all is to put one word after another until you've made a story. The secret to being a good one is practice and repetition, and learning to correct your mistakes and learn from them so you'll make fewer. Eventually, when you've done it enough times and made enough of those mistakes to teach you what you need to know, you'll be good. Do it some more, you'll be great. Do it some more, you'll be an expert. You never reach perfection though. Perfection in art is impossible, because that would deny the purpose of art. The purpose of art, in my opinion, is to attempt to make sense of an ever-changing world. Perfection implies a static state, and no such state is achievable in art of any form.

What makes a good author? Change.
 
 

 

Extra

If you enjoyed "Rumors of War", consider "Rivers of the Dead" your next read.
 
TITLE: Rivers of the Dead

SYNOPSIS: Caleb is about to embark on a journey of new beginnings when he leaves the small-town life behind for college. There's just one problem: Ethan. After a disastrous spell creates a lethal misunderstanding, Caleb puts his life on hold to find some way to save Ethan's soul, even if he must challenge Death itself to do it.

EXCERPT: In this scene from Part 1, Caleb seeks a way to bring back Ethan's soul with the help of his witch friend, Liz. Together, they seek out one who has traveled the path of death before, but is everything as it seems?

Liz opened her mouth and began to speak, her voice steady and powerful, like a prayer. “Brother Orpheus, Lord of Music, he who has descended to the depths of Hades, I beseech you. I beseech you in your wisdom and your experience, grant us this boon. By this offering,” Liz paused, and Caleb realized it was time to add the ingredient pouch, so he tossed it into the flames. It combusted almost instantly, as if it had been eager to burn. Liz continued, her voice taking on even greater force. “Show us the path, the path by which we may find our lost love. Show us the path to Death. Show us the doorway.”

Caleb let his gaze be drawn into the flames, doing as Liz had said he should. He started with the image of Ethan’s shoulders, and how he longed to hold them, to wrap his arms around his best friend and tell him he loved him. This thought connected him back to the journal resting in his backpack, and the warmth which seemed to radiate from it, embracing him back. He held onto that image, the desire to comfort and be comforted, as Liz continued.

“Open the door to us, Brother Orpheus,” Liz yelled to the abyss of the cave beside them. The words echoed in the dark, bouncing off the unseen walls of the cavern, giving them a sense of life as they bellowed their response.

Caleb’s desire to comfort his best friend morphed into the sight of Ethan’s eyes as they stood on the side of the road. Those eyes, filled with so much pain, so much longing for peace. Caleb wanted to give Ethan peace, to make those eyes smile and laugh again as they had when they were younger. To go back and prevent Ethan from ever thinking he wasn’t loved.

“Open the door!” Liz screamed at the dark. The light breeze from before picked up in intensity, sweeping into the cave as if in answer. The flames flickered and danced as they nearly died from the force of the wind, but then the wind disappeared and the flames surged back to life, crackling with energy.

Caleb gripped the knife tighter, thinking of Ethan’s eyes. And then he saw them in a different light, the echoing chasm of pain they’d reflected when Ethan saw them kissing. How Caleb longed to return to that moment, to pull back from the precipice of that instant of perceived betrayal before it took all three of them over the edge. How he longed to take it all back, to make it right, to give Ethan the kisses he deserved and not the one that sent him away.

“Grant us passage to the beyond! Grant us the way to Ethan Pallet’s soul!” Liz roared, and the fire responded, exploding with energy as the flames shot even higher, the smoke billowing up into a cloud of pure darkness which seemed to gather like a thunderhead above them. Caleb swore he could hear a distant crackle of thunder, as if a storm were also on the horizon.

That storm was a frantic, primal surge of energy, rippling in and tearing everything apart. The imagery drew Caleb in deeper, to the image of rain pouring all around him, the dark storm within his soul. Everything around him darkened like the light in Ethan’s eyes the day he died, the way he’d looked at Caleb as they kissed, blood flowing from his wrists like the floodwaters of the evil storm threatening to destroy Caleb’s heart.

The knife had done the deed, had killed Caleb’s love and hope as surely as it had killed Ethan. He rolled the knife in his hand, and the thunder answered, rumbling in response. It wasn’t the knife that killed Ethan, but a knife was a knife. A knife for a knife, Caleb thought.

“Let this man’s love be the key, let his love open the way!” Liz cried, and Caleb felt a surge within him as Liz began drawing on his energy. It was like the orgasmic energy he’d felt before, except instead of activating his pleasure, it accentuated his pain, drawing it out fully.

Caleb saw Ethan clearly now, leaning against the tree, his blood flowing freely as his eyes locked onto Caleb’s. Now his eyes were filled with lucidity, and his mouth was contorted in an infernal scowl. ‘Why did you do it, Caleb?’ Ethan asked in Caleb’s mind. ‘Why did you kill me? This is all your fault. I’m dead because of you.

The guilt was overwhelming, overtaking everything else in Caleb’s psyche. He wanted to run, to hide, to escape the image before him, but it existed in his mind, trapping him in the moment where Caleb could do nothing but watch Ethan die. ‘A knife for a knife. A life for a life. If I could give myself up to let you live, I would. I would sacrifice myself for you, I would.

Ethan’s mouth head tilted to the side, and with a quirky grin he said . . .
 
You can find out what happens here: https://castleroland.net/story-synop/?id=3717


Cynus has his book Rivers of the Dead published on Amazon as a Kindle ebook and also as a paperback. There are links to all his books on the published authors page:
https://castleroland.net/hall-of-published-authors/


He has his own sponsorship site, the link is below if you would like to take a look and maybe help a struggling full time author.

Latest stories and advanced chapter readings! https://www.patreon.com/Cynus?ty=h

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I was ecstatic to participate in this, and I'm grateful to the Castle Roland crew for reaching out. I just wanted all of you to  know that i love this community and I'm happy to be a part of it. If you have any questions about this story or any of my work, please, don't hesitate to reach out here or through my email at Samuel.D.Roe@gmail.com!

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