Strife by Kevin J. J Carpenter- Creative Collections Review

Strife is a short story written by Kevin J.J Carpenter. It is dark, at times gory but very gripping. The 25,000 word short story shows just what can be achieved when you set your mind to something.

Last week, Creative Collections featured an article on Kevin, where he spoke about being having to deal with certain obstacles on his path to publishing his novella. You can read that article here: . What he has produced is a series of short stories about life, taking part in a fantasy world. These stories are entertaining from start to finish.

The Plot of Strife

Strife follows the story of Giles Deschain. Giles is a young sentinal of the militia in the fictional town of Othilia. His fiancee is Clementine and he is the father of Aurora. One day, he discovers evidence of a malicous and dangerous spice known as strife. This forces Giles to seek truth and justice.

Along the way, as the search becomes longer, Giles becomes unpredicatble and volatile. The closer he gets to exposing the rats that live in the walls, the stronger his compulsion to blame somebody becomes. Soon he endangers everyone he desired to protect.

The thrilling story takes the reader on a journey- a journey of desire, anger, at times uneasiness and growth. But above all, this tale shows how 'fantasy' can in fact mimic real life and real environments. This idea of 'real life' is something that fascinates Kevin when it comes to storytelling.

Fantasy vs Real life

He likens this idea of fantasy to Lord of the Rings author J.R.R Tolkien. "I always liked the way he saw storytelling. You take elements in our world and you get to put them in a secondary world to see how they react," Kevin says. This is evident throughout Strife. There is the idea of a malicous spice int his fantasy land where in our world there are illicit drugs. Corruption and deceit is another real-life idea in the story. Then there is the idea of murder to prove a point or to blackmail. Strife sees all the real-life elements in a fantasy world in a superb way.

One question that is poignant that Kevin brings up during the interview is- what does it mean to be human? "In writing, II'm trying to understand that question, who I am as a person, who we are as a species. Finding out those questions that we don't have answers for in the real world helps me get ideas," Kevin says. Strife is all about trying to figure out what being 'human' is. It shows how powerful we can be, how brutal we can be, how fragile we can be and challenged so many other human emotions.

Kevin's writing style is quite unique- a mix of J.R.R Tolkien and Stephen King with his own twist and personality. The words on the page are lyrical and paint a clear picture of the type of world that Othilia is. Short stories can be hard to portray who the characters really are and don't often have a lot of detail. But Kevin has managed to give the reader a lot of information and detail in very few words which is something that should be commended.

Adding maps and encouraging reader interaction

Another aspect of Strife that shows Kevin's dedication are the maps and images within the book, all created by Kevin himself. The maps are hand-drawn and are similar to those in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. "The cover design, the interior design and art work are all mine. I bought royalty-free images and vectors and adapted them to the purposes of the book. The maps took 15 hours each to do and there are 4 of them between the 3 Mirage stories". Of course, he could have used computer generated maps like a lot of other fantasy fiction does but he wanted the authenticity. He featured pictures of these maps in his booth at Supanova. The level of dedication really impressed conventions goers.

I think that having a map at the start of the story helps the reader to really feel involved in the story. The maps provide where places are in relation to each other. This helps create a visual image in the reader's head and enhances the story.

Kevin has also further created reader engagement through his website. The website contains appendices that go hand-in-hand with the story. They are in the form of letters, journals, newsletters etc. "They take you into a deeper world. That kind of engagement is missing from modern books," Kevin says. He believes that it is something that should be used by authors to enagage fans further, beyond Facebook and Twitter.

The appendices on the website add extra depth the the story and provide further insight into the 'fantasy' world the Othilia is and the 'fantasy' characters within it. It definitely enhanced my reader experience to the fullest potential.

Final thoughts

Overall Strife is a well-presented, well-written and entertaining novella. It is the right amount of words for the story and what the author wanted to achieve. It left me wanting more but also left me satisfied with the ending. The future of Mirage Stories looks bright and Kevin's ability as an author deserves more recognition. I can't wait to read the other 2 stories in the series.

If you would like to read the first chapter from Strife, continue reading below.


Strife by Kevin J.J Carpenter


The day Giles discovered evidence of strife in Othilia, he
started digging, clawing in a blind fury, desperate for
answers. When he finally peered into the deep and realised
he was disturbing a grave, the only thing he
proved was that the demon spice always claims its victims.
One way or another.

It was midsummer. A gentle breeze combed the lanky
grass, keeping the humidity at bay. The ranchers were
out in their fields; all proprietors were open for business;
and the baron’s copper mine was astir. It was business as
usual in Othilia, and the gem between the rocks continued
to glimmer.

Giles had spent the better part of an hour out by the
Enki River, treading water in a basin that was spared the
sulphuric taint flowing down from the copper mine upstream.

He’d been whittling away his brief respite from
the office after a morning buried in requisite forms due
to Lee’s abrupt absence. He was already twenty minutes
late getting back to his post by the time he got out of the
water and opted to stroll the embankment. He could
probably loiter for another hour without repercussion.                                                                                              He was 2IC after all, and could chalk up any number of
personal expeditions onto the payroll, so long as his                                                                                                  Chief Commander didn’t find out. Or Baron

He beamed as he walked the sodden bank, his understanding
of distance and time gone astray. His navy-blue
uniform—complete with sharp grey trimmings and a fine
collar-medallion anyone in town could recognise, as well
as a freshly-picked lily pinned to his jacket pocket—was
damp under his arms and all down his legs. He didn’t
mind. In the afternoon breeze it felt cool against his skin.

When he stumbled upon the old camp, he wasn’t sure
how far he’d wandered. He could still hear the mechanical
hubbub of the copper mine, which drifted down the
river like flotsam, so he knew he couldn’t have been
more than forty or fifty minutes from Cujo’s Crossing.

There wasn’t much to it. In fact, the camp was quite
unremarkable, nothing more than a shallow den scooped
out of the loose sediment with a vague covering of dead
foliage. There was a blackened pit in the centre with
charred leaves and twigs, as well as some dark shards. A
quick search of the den also revealed a generous stash of
empty bottles with torn labels half-buried in the muck.

Giles grinned. He knew well-enough what this place
was, both he and Miles had shared a similar secret some
fifteen years ago. So long as no one was getting hurt, and
providing the young rascals kept their inebriated entourage
as far from Othilia as possible, he felt perfectly
content to turn a blind eye …                                                                                                                                      Until a discarded pouch snagged his eye and reeled him

The fabric was thick, impermeable. The pouch was
stained with mud and the drawstring was missing. The
original contents, however, had been preserved, totalling
a smidgen of dusty brown powder, enough to fill a teaspoon.
In terms of sugar or salt, it wasn’t more than a
pinch you could use to sweeten your tea or add flavour
to a batch of boiled vegetables. Yet once Giles caught
scent of the dark powder and realised what he’d found,
his readiness to forget this place quickly deteriorated:
There was enough residue of the demon spice here to                                                                                                send half-a-dozen grown men into an illicit delirium of
heinous memories and jagged dreams.

Giles frowned, uttered a curse. He hoped the demon
spice had scarred them; he hoped it had summoned irrevocable
horrors that stopped them from sleeping at
night, because the curious little bastards deserved nothing
less. They needed to suffer, yet no matter what happened,
he feared nothing could prevent the inevitable
addiction. Strife was like a gored fishing hook, the desire
never went away, not without doing a lot of damage,
ripping the body to shreds. Withdrawal was not an easy
process, and it could often destroy the victim quicker
than the addiction itself. The youths were undoubtedly
suffering, but not in the way Giles wanted.

Worse still, a lightning flash of fear had torn out of the
clouds and started a fire inside of him. Giles now worried
that there was a much larger source of strife somewhere
in Othilia, somewhere in his town. If that was
true, he had to find it and he had to eradicate it. He
could not let the demon spice wrap its ugly fingers
around Othilia and strangle the life he had cultivated
and preserved. He would treat it like a malignant cancer,
and if that meant cutting off an infected limb to save the
rest of the body, he would be more than willing to release
the guillotine.

He pocketed the remnants of strife and rushed back to

Copyright: Kevin J.J Carpenter 2018