This is the end... my only friend... the end.

What would you do if the world ends?

What for us started as a hypothetical question turned into a six-year odyssey we called “Meet Me at the Falls.”

One night back in 2012, we sat around the table together and each wrote a very rough version of the same short story idea in our notebooks. What we didn't know at the time was that we had each just created the members of the Murphy family on the start of their final journey. Nor did we know it was just the first part of what would become a five-section novel. What we did know was that we had something special. A unique opportunity for three authors to write one story together.

But how exactly do three authors write the same story?!

We started with each of us taking on a character—following their respective journeys to whatever end. Before we set out on each section, we would meet to discuss rough ideas, but we always wrote in secret. Never telling each other what exactly we came up with until it was ready to read. Once we had a rough draft, we would share them with each other. 

And that's how we worked.

It was thrilling to see where our stories had similar threads and where they diverged wildly. It wasn't always easy making the story cohesive and more than once we had very different ideas of who these characters were and what they should go through.

We were also each other’s first editors, often bringing fierce debate to the table over what should happen, who these characters were. In the end, the best ideas always won out, and we felt no shame in rewriting each other’s work. It was the only way to truly work together.

Even this afterword went through the same process.

Something interesting we discovered along the way was how well we functioned as a writing team. Often times it's hard for ‘creatives’ to work together on a project. Our secret for success was that we each brought a unique strength to the team.

The best part of the process was being able to get inside each other's heads. We have spent countless hours talking writing and learning from each other as much as we could. 

By the time we finished each section, no one chapter could truthfully be claimed by any of us. It had become something we shared. A harmony of three different voices. It was truly a labor of love that we feel embodies the voice our friendship.

One of our earliest ideas was to actually meet at Snoqualmie Falls to write the final part of the story. When the Murphys arrived there, so should we. 

For those of you who have made it this far and followed the journey with us, you'll be pleased to hear that part five was conceived and written at the lodge in Snoqualmie Falls.

For years we had written about a place that, truth be told, we had never actually been. To actually set foot where our story was happening, where we knew the Murphy family would finally meet, was nothing short of surreal. It was like stepping into a dream, and we couldn't shake off that feeling. We stood  along the banks of the Snoqualmie River, envisioning the end of our journey in silent reverence.

That trip ended up becoming one of the greatest experiences of our lives, teaching us a very valuable lesson: Goddamn do we love traveling together. It’s quickly become a necessary part of our process, and we have no plans of slowing down any time soon. Our travels have become our own form of a writer’s retreat. Crucial opportunities to find inspiration and discuss the kernels of our next story together.

We loved telling this story. But more importantly we loved telling it together. We can't thank you enough for reading it. It has been a way for three friends who live in three different places to all stay in touch with one another. To collaborate. To travel. To make each other better. Though this story is done, it is only the beginning of our continued adventures.

Stay tuned for more, and thank you for reading our story.

Ben, Zack & John
“The Burgundy Scoundrels”

Click here to read the final part of Meet Me at the Falls.

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"Ninety Percent Nick" Now Available

I'm happy to announce that my latest short story is now available on Amazon. It's called Ninety Percent Nick. One part horror, one part psychological thriller, the story follows a guy who begins losing time from his day. At first, it's just a few seconds here or there, but soon it grows to minutes... and then hours. He has no idea how it started, how he can make it stop and what he's doing during that missing time. Let's just say, he's up to no good.

Click here to check out Ninety Percent Nick on Amazon.

New year. New horror story.

I try to publish a horror story every year for Halloween. However, I always start it way, way too late and finish even later. This year, I thought I had it right for once. I started a story back in the summer, but due to workload at Telltale couldn't write hard until September. After I finished the 30-pager, I sent it over to a handful of beta-readers, did several rounds of revisions, and enlisted my wife to illustrate a stylish cover. By that time 2017 had become 2018... but it's finally done!

So, here we are, almost a month into the new year and the story is ready for release. If I'm being totally honest with myself, I should start writing my next horror right now if I want any chance of getting it out this calendar year. Knowing myself, I won't start it until October 1st.

The link for the short story will be up tomorrow so until then check out this awesome cover (and title reveal!) that my wife cooked up. I love it.

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After two years, we meet again at "The Falls"

I can't believe it's been over two years since we last published a part of Meet Me At The Falls (Part 3 - Submersion). But yes, sadly, it has been. John, Ben and myself have not been sitting idly all these months — we've been hard at work. Many writing sessions. Phone calls. Skype discussions. Revisions. Edits. Whiskey. All that and more were required to get this dang part down on paper. It is the longest and most complex yet. To make a very fair and balanced comparison, it is longer than The Great Gatsby.

"Why did it take so long?" you ask.

Well, John wrote a wonderful afterword for Part 4 which chronicles his writing process and challenges faced along the way so I will leave most of the answer for our intrepid readers. He, in particular, had an incredibly difficult swatch of story to tackle which wove together plot, character and conspiracy threads for Alan's story in ways we didn't initially conceive. It was a grueling revision process, but in the end John honed it down to finely chiseled marble statue. He's Michelangelo with a pen.

In Part 4, ominously titled "Immolation," the series takes a turn for the dark and dire as all the Murphy family's fears begin coming true. It has moments of beauty and desperation, life and loss, and of all the writing we've done for the series, I am the most proud of what Ben, John and I have put down for Part 4.

For those readers still with us on this long journey, or new ones who have just found the path, I hope you enjoy Meet Me At The Falls (Part 4 - Immolation), available now on Amazon.

Interview with the Marvelous Reading Room

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UeQRUZ8ftw

Last week, the dynamic reading duo Sunny and Amanda were kind enough to interview us (John Dusenberry, Ben Tuller and myself) about Part 3 of our post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, other descriptor goes here, series "Meet Me At The Falls." If you're reading this blog, you're likely already aware of the short story series...but you might not be aware that Part 3 is out now!

Self-published stories exist solely because of the readers. We are not big publishers with marketing dollars behind us. We are three individuals (collectively known as Pen, Pint & Pyre Publishing). We sincerely appreciate every single purchase of our stories, and double-appreciate readers who tweet, tumble, blog and review our stories online (Amazon or Good Reads). It is thanks to you that we can afford enough coffee to keep writing.

Speaking of which, buy us a cup of coffee right now by downloading Meet Me At The Falls (Part 3 - Submersion)!

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"The Owl's Hare" is ready for your Kindle

Just in time for the holidays, I've released my epic fantasy story  "The Owl's Hare" on Amazon for only $0.99! I'm thrilled to start publishing this story—much like my post-apocalyptic series "Meet Me At The Falls"—every few months. My fiancée, Lindsey, created the book cover and I love every hauntingly beautiful pixel of it. What's the story, you ask? Why, here's what Amazon has to say:

Endless battles have exhausted the Realm for a thousand years...and the Dark Things have taken notice. Deep in the woods, rumors swirl of an evil wizard rising to conquer the war-weakened land. The only hope for survival is to unite the dueling kingdoms in marriage and combine forces against him. The plan appears promising until Owl, a bard with a deadly secret, sets off on a quest that will ruin everything: kidnapping the princess on her wedding day.

Awesome, right? If you're a fantasy fan who loves epic battles, ancient magic, and more monsters than you can shake a wand at, then you'll enjoy:

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Click here to read "The Owl's Hare: 1st Movement - A Head Start."

Excerpt: The Son (Meet Me At The Falls 3)

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="yes" overflow="visible"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"]SnoqualmieFallsWinter Here's another excerpt from Part 3 of MEET ME AT THE FALLS concerning Wiley, the youngest member of the Murphy family. Somehow, he managed to reach Snoqualmie Falls before his family...so there he now waits. Starving. Thirsty. And alone. Until he spots the reclusive Snoqualmie Tribe who have reclaimed their lands, and heritage, beside the mighty Falls.

And please, click these links to read Part 1 and Part 2 first!

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MEET ME AT THE FALLS - PART 3 - SUBMERSION

Excerpt from "THE SON"

Clouds thinned above the Falls, allowing in the night sky. Stars. Millions of stars. Like diamonds pressed into black velvet. Wiley didn’t need to look up to see them. They burned in the glass of the Native American girl’s eyes. The one who shot the elk. And stopped her mother from putting an arrow in his heart. And left signs for him to follow. His savior. And now, his accuser.

"You…" Wiley started, but the girl jabbed a finger hard into his chest.

"No, you.” Her voice thickened angrily. "You killed Great Warrior."

“It wasn't my fault…" Run, Wiley’s mind told him. Now!

The boy backed through wet ferns into the redwoods. But the girl caught his sleeve. She tugged. The fabric mashed against his bee-stings, hitting a dozen pain buttons. Hot spots flared across his arm. His head felt bloodless, like he’d stood up too fast.

“You shouldn’t harm a living creature unless you’re going to eat it. All of it. Even the heart.” She advanced, he retreated. Tripping, stumbling. She held fast. Her unflinching gaze drilled into Wiley. “That’s what dad says. Animals have spirits. They walk the same ground we do. No one deserves to live more than another.”

Wiley sweltered with embarrassment. Sweat soaking through his clothes. His steps uneven in the rotting earth.

"But…I know it was an accident,” she said. “Not even our strongest warrior could kill a full-grown bear.”

When she let go, Wiley dropped onto his butt. Mist clung to the forest floor like inverted clouds.

“If I hadn’t shot that elk, he would’ve tried to kill you too.” She smirked. “Let me guess…Seattle?”

“What?”

“No? Bellevue?”

“What’re you talking about?”

“I bet you’re from a big city. Never slept outdoors until all this happened.”

“Detroit. Michigan.” Wiley got up, dusted off his knees. Pointless since dirt covered him head to shoes.

“Whoa…” Her brows raised, surprised. “That’s far. What’re you doing way out here in Washington?”

“Supposed to meet my family. Down there.”

Wiley pointed through the criss-cross of trees. Down to a distant gray smudge of campsite by the Falls. River fog crawled along the shore, fell with the water 270-feet to the pools below.

“Guess I got here before they did…I hope.” Hot sweat slid down his nape. His pulse felt off. Unable to keep the beat. Shaking, he turned to the young girl. She stood stubbornly as an old tree. “Can I come back home with you? I…don’t want to be alone anymore.”

A veil of rain hissed over the two children, droplets peppering the leaves and their heads. Cold wind blew. Still, Wiley burned red-hot. A furnace overheating.

"First you kill Great Warrior, now want us to give you a place to stay?"

“Just ’til my family gets here. They’ll come soon. They’re coming. I promise. Please.” Tears welled on Wiley's lids. Cuts, bruises and stings riddled his body. Leaves poked from his hair. The sight would have been comical, if Wiley didn’t look so miserable.

Pity, something the girl’s dad taught her never to show, slowed seeped into her heart.

“I’m Aiyana,” she said. “What’s your name?”

“Wiley."

A smile bloomed on Aiyana’s face. Her wooden exterior softened before his eyes.

"Like Wile E. Coyote?!”

“Who?”

Her smile vanished.

“You’re kidding, right? Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote?”

Wiley looked away, embarrassed.

“No…”

“They’re these two cartoon animals who’re always trying to kill each other. With, like, dynamite and cannons and stuff. So funny.”

“But you said it’s not good to kill a living creature.”

“Unless you’re going to eat it. And that coyote was planning to for sure. I’ll show you.”

Aiyana loped off into the forest, creating a wake of waving branches. A second later, her head parted back through, brows knitted. “Aren’t you coming?"

Without waiting for his reply, Aiyana ducked off toward home. She moved like a ghost through the redwoods. Her steps fell softer than leaves.

Wiley followed her with mounting difficulty. The world began wobbling beneath his feet. His vision split double—two fleet-footed girls lead him through the expanse of moss-dripping trees. Wiley felt his bee-stings heating up. Itching. Spreading across his flesh in swollen mounds. Each footfall sent pain bouncing through his body.

"We're almost there," Aiyana's otherworldly voice floated through the fog. Ahead, the village's bonfire glow silhouetted trees into tall, black columns that held up the night sky. Entranced by the warm glow, Wiley tripped on a row of felled tree trunks. But the girl caught Wiley, held him back.

"Wait, not yet," she whispered, an arm around Wiley’s chest. They crouched behind a twisted hand of roots digging into damp soil. "Let's wait 'til my dad's alone."

Wiley glanced down at the chopped tree trunks. They had been woven together with leather and ringed the entire village. A fence laying on its side.

"Won't he be mad I accidentally…you know…the bear?"

“Oh, he’s always mad,” Aiyana said. “Mostly with me. He'll get over it."

The children waited until the funeral procession returned and slowly trickled back to their teepees. The bonfire smoldered to ash, sizzling in the light rain.

"Okay," said Aiyana. "This way."

Quietly, Aiyana lead Wiley through her village under the wide-open, watchful eye of the moon. They passed teepees, longhouses, smoking cook-fires, tools for tanning leather, a practice archery range, a vegetable garden. Not a single piece of modern equipment or electronic in sight. Wiley felt transported back to a time before the modern world ever existed. He grew delirious, lost in thought of when or where he was, and walked straight into a solid wooden pole.

"Ow!" Only half a cry got out before Aiyana clapped a hand over his mouth.

"Shh! You're gonna wake everyone!"

Wiley stepped back and saw what he had run into. A totem pole. It stood dead-center in the village, as if everything had been built around this sacred symbol. It was colorfully painted and carved to resemble humans, animals and otherworldly spirits. Next to the totem pole, piles of curlicued shavings surrounded a freshly carved wooden trunk. Wiley stifled a gasp when he realized what the new totem was.

A bear's head.

“It’s a calendar,” Aiyana said.

“How?" Wiley quickly looked away from the bear to the other totems. "Where’re the days and months?”

“Doesn’t work like that. Our people mark important events in history from bottom to top.” Circling around, Aiyana admired the enormous totem pole. “My dad started this one after everything went bad. It's for the New World, he said.”

Wiley's gaze dropped to the bottom. There, he saw a winged bird, painted in white and blue.

“So that bird's the beginning?”

“The beginning of The End." She nodded slowly. "It's the Thunderbird. The beast of chaos. Marks the day the sky exploded.”

Aiyana pointed to the next totem up the pole. A rabbit.

“Then we were like the rabbit, timid, fleeing at the first sign of danger. Running from our cities, our homes, our Old World…”

Wiley’s eyes continued upward to a pink fish’s head.

“My dad and I used to catch those. It's a salmon, right?”

“For when we decided to return to the waters of our birth. To live off the land and Falls as our ancestors did."

Aiyana twisted toward the rumble of Snoqualmie Falls beyond the darkened woods.

"This waterfall has always been home to the Snoqualmie Tribe, the people of the moon," Aiyana began. "Legend says that we were born here and when we die mist from the Falls will carry our spirit up to the afterlife.”

“My dad always said there was nothing after death," Wiley said. "That when we die…we die.”

“He’s wrong." Aiyana returned her gaze to Wiley. He appeared woozy. Waving back and forth like a stalk of corn in the wind. "There’s an afterlife for us all. How can there be nothing after we die?”

Wiley gently rubbed his bee-stings. Something was wrong. They were on fire. So was his skin.

“Do you remember anything from before you were born?”

Aiyana thought about it. Curiosity turning to frustration when she couldn't. She folded her arms.

No.

“It’s like that." Wiley peered up, hoping to see the stars and moon again. But the clouds had closed. A low, dark blanket. "I wish I believed what you do. Then I wouldn’t be afraid of what happens when people die.”

“Or animals.”

Wiley slowly surveyed the bear totem, wider than a redwood tree, taller than him. Its hollow, wooden eyes like caves that had no end. The boy stared at the bear…and she stared straight back.

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MEET ME AT THE FALLS (PART 3) COMING SOON!

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