...Somewhere sheltered in the safe confines of thick walls and shuttered windows, a young girl awoke from her nightmares. Her sweat wetted the sheets and her body yet shivered from the memory of the dreams. It was dark, she was alone, but she was not afraid. Emboldened by the memory of her dreams, the girl stilled her will and whispered into the dark.


“You cannot touch me” she said. And she knew that it was true.


The day may come when this girl’s name would be known throughout the world. She may command armies, master the sciences, or rule nations. One day she may be a mother, protectively nursing her newborn or standing defiantly between her children and any who dared to cause harm. The day may come when all men would know of this girl, or perhaps only one man would be given the treasure to the depths of her thoughts. One day she would be a woman, and she alone would define all that that would mean.


But this was not yet that day. On this day she was still a child. Yet she was a child armed with all the strengths which one day she would so mightily wield. For on this day she retained her cunning, her courage, and her dogged determination. On this day, as on each day previous and for each day yet to come, she held fast to that which the demon so much wanted yet could not have.


She held firm to her soul.

There have been many authors that have inspired me through the years. Some have come and gone, others have stood the test of time, but they have all touched me in some way. Here’s a summary of who I believe have been the most Influential to my writing  (in no particular order):


Robert E. Howard:


I grew up on Howard’s tales. Everybody knows Conan, though Howard’s character was watered down for the comics and movies. Bran Mak Morn (“Worms of the Earth”) and Kull were also favorite characters. Top on my list, however, was Solomon Kane; a wandering Puritan swordsman with a mysterious past. Solomon is similar in some ways to Kalat’s character, and definitely an inspiration. “Wings in the Night” may be my favorite Solomon Kane story.Howard’s writing style, his use of exotic settings and mythological enemies are all inspirational to me. I like to think that my style mimics his, but I’m not really a good judge of that.


Karl Edward Wagner:


A dark and brooding author, Wagner’s tales inspired much of Kalat’s darker side. His major character, Kane (The Left Handed Swordsman from Hell), helped inspire some of Kalat’s fighting techniques. “Death Angel’s Shadow” may be my favorite dark sword and sorcery story. Wagner also collaborated with David Drake on the Roman era “Killer”.


Stephen R. Donaldson:


Donaldson’s “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” series had a profound effect on me. Here was fantasy at its best, with a protagonist that was as troubled and torn as the teenage boy who ate up every page. An amazing story filled with exotic peoples and lands. It didn’t hurt that Donaldson was from my beloved New Mexico!


Roger Zelanzy:


Zelanzy’s “Amber” books are still on my book shelves. In my memory, he was the best at painting scenes in color and light. Interestingly, Zalanzy was a friend of George R.R. Martin and helped him in his early years. Zelanzy was also from New Mexico (Albuquerque and Santa Fe). Must be something in the water.


David Drake:


I’ve not read Drake’s SciFi books, but he is a master at depicting Roman Legionary life and warfare. You won’t see much in “The Executioner”, but Drake’s Roman stories have definitely influenced my “Lost Legion” short story characters. His short story “Dragon’s Teeth” is one of my all-time favorites.


Stephen Pressfield:


Pressfield’s way of telling history through ordinary characters is amazing. I subscribe to his “War of Art” philosophy, and “Gates of Fire” is required reading for my children to make it into my will! (Seriously – and there is a test after they read it.)


Bernard Cornwell:


I don’t know if you have read much of Cornwell’s middle age “Grail Quest” and “Saxon Stories” works, but if you have you see that there are not very many “good” characters. Most of the main characters are greedy, merciless, and brutal. Even so, Cornwell’s battle scenes are unmatched and his depictions of the British Isles are amazing. To me, Cornwell is simply the best author I have ever read. His stories, however, do tend to leave a bitter taste in my mouth.


Steven King:


For me, King’s strength is his use of dialog. I’m not a huge fan of his books, but I do find his dialog sequences draw me in and I forget that I’m reading and not actually in the story listening to the characters talk. Plus, I *finally* just now finished the Dark Tower series and Roland is on my mind. King's short story “The last rung on the ladder” is easily the saddest story I have ever read.




God's Purpose:


I don't presume to know or understand your faith, but I do know mine. I believe that God has a purpose for me and my life. I believe that purpose may have changed at different points in my life, but that He has always wanted to guide and support me. I know that I have not always sought out that purpose, or followed after it even when I did know it was there, but I also understand that the times in my life that have been the best and happiest were those when I sought to know His path and followed it to my fullest abilities. I encourage you to do the same.



With each passing year, I find it becomes increasingly difficult to believe the facts of my own story. I have many times wondered at the details that I claim, and grown progressively skeptical of my ability to accurately describe the events of that Christmas so long ago. It seems that the seeds of doubt have taken root in the timeworn cracks of my feeble memory, questioning each purported fact with a new scrutiny. Yet even with the doubts, I still hold to the truth of my story and to the message that it brings even now...

...Here, let's sit for awhile. I'm sure that your feet are as tired as mine, and I could use some time for my meal to settle. I don't think I've eaten so much in months. This church has truly been blessed with the best cooks in Albuquerque. The pots of posole, stacks of tortillas, and trays of enchiladas served over the years have brought substance to many hungry stomachs. Maria had dubbed my favorite as "The Christmas Tamale" - spicy pork stewed in red chile, rolled in a fresh corn masa, and smothered with a generous serving of zesty green chile. The bright colors of these tamales echo those of the decorations strung around this room. It is a treat unlike any other, and the blend of the two chiles produces an amazingly delicate flavor. The teenagers like to argue about which chile produces the hottest tastes, but the truth is that it depends on the harvest. Some years, the green is spicier, and others it is the red. This year the green chiles have earned the fire breather award. They made today's Christmas Tamale a treat I won't soon forget...

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© 2015 by David R. Downing