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On Writing…The Habit of Putting Words on the Page

For the past few years I’ve begun each year writing short stories for an anthology workshop. Those of us participating spend six weeks writing a story a week. We’re given a theme on Monday morning and the story must be submitted by midnight the following Sunday.

The first year, the schedule terrified me. What if I couldn’t come up with an idea and get it written within the allotted time? Aaaggghhh! But I managed to meet each deadline and even sold one of the stories! (Two more eventually sold to other venues.)

Last year I succeeded in writing all six stories again and this time sold two to the anthologies they were written for…and sold two others later to other venues. Not bad!

But the problem came after the writing. Once we finished writing our own stories, we were asked to read all the others in order to prepare for the workshop. Now, this is an awesome opportunity! To get to read all those professional level short stories? Absolute coolness! Unfortunately, in order to accomplish all the required reading AND continue to live my normal work-a-day + family life, the awesome writing habit I’d established fell by the wayside. Both years!

THIS year, I’m determined to change that outcome. I’ve completed my six stories for this year’s workshop and am now deep into the reading phase. However, this year I’m making time to continue the story-a-week habit I’ve begun.

I’m proud to say that I finished a flash fiction story yesterday…and then read another bunch of amazing stories by my fellow workshoppers!

I’m 5 stories for 5 weeks so far in 2016! Wish me luck in continuing my streak. After all, while it’s great to START the New Year well, what matters is maintaining the writing habit I’ve established.

Here’s to a successful and productive 2016!

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Juma’s Rain – new release

Yes, I know I’m late again. That happens often with authors since we all have ur head in the clouds (actually in stories to tell the truth). I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (= writing a novel of 50K words minimum in a month) again this year (for the 8th time) and have been writing like mad. I managed to get more words down already than in any NaNo I did before. So, please forgive my tardiness in all things aside from that.

Today, I present to you my next book, a YA love story set in Stone Age Africa, Juma’s Rain.

Juma's Rain cover

Yes, I do know that Juma’s buttocks are visible, but people in Africa didn’t wear all that much in the Stone Ages. I assure you though that there is no graphical sex in the book (although a little smooching occurs). The story is about a girl who wants to become the next clan leader but is apprenticed to the village witch instead because she can see the gods. Her talent is urgently needed to wake the rain-goddess and stop the fire dæmon from destroying the earth. Falling in love with the current clan leaders’ son wasn’t part of the plan…

You can pre-order the book on Amazon so that it will be delivered to your Kindle on Sunday 15th of November. Or you can buy the print book if you prefer. And if you like the story, please let me know.

The End of Summer

maple leavesLabor Day has come and gone, signaling the end of summer. Granted, the season doesn’t officially end for another couple of weeks, but functionally, summer is over. Kids are heading back to school and adults are settling into their work-a-day worlds, thoughts of vacations and get-away weekends having been wrapped in gossamer and stored for next year’s use.

Autumn is upon us, and far from feeling nostalgic for the loss of summer’s heat and sense of possibility, I’m looking forward to crisp, cool weather, tart red apples, and a kaleidoscope of fall colors as Mother Nature changes her garb. bigleaf maple

Fresh pressed apple cider. A drive in the hills to admire the red, gold, and bronze foliage. Soft blue skies with scudding white clouds and just a breathe of chill. The honking of a chevron of geese overhead.

These are the delights of autumn and I’m looking forward to experiencing each and every one!

Farewell, Summer. You’ve been awesome. Welcome, Autumn. I’ve missed you, my favorite season, and I’m looking forward to getting reacquainted!

Your Timeline

timelines ImageOne of the biggest issues I have come across in writing Fantasy is the timing within the storyline; and in the case of a novel with multiple storylines, how these different storylines relate to each other within the timeline of the overall novel. These problems are not as magnified if you are writing a single storyline from a single Point of View or a very linear storyline, but they still exist nonetheless.

In my first novel, Fire of the Covenant, I didn’t worry about this until after I completed the First Draft. Actually I didn’t think about it at all as I was writing the draft. I went with the philosophy that you just sit and write until you are finished and then go back and fix the crappy draft. The fact that I actually published Fire proves this strategy works. However, I spent a lot of effort fixing timeline problems during Revision that I could have avoided with just a little forethought and minimal effort.

When I was going through Revision on Fire I struggled when I tried to match up the storylines. Now, you have to understand I thought I had created the storylines so they would just fall in line with each other. So you can imagine my surprise, and detoursubsequent depression, when I found that I had a major disaster on my hands. The storylines didn’t line up at all and even the scene sequences within most of the storylines didn’t make sense. The biggest surprise I discovered was that the scene sequence in one storyline could impact the sequence in a different storyline. The end result was that after a lot of fiddling with chapters and timelines, I ended up throwing out ten chapters and created twelve new ones to replace them. I also had to rewrite a number of other chapters once I realigned everything so that the timelines made sense for all the storylines. This little process took me weeks to sort everything out before I could even start writing the new chapters and to revise the mis-aligned ones.

You might be saying to yourself “I only have one storyline so this isn’t a problem”. If you answer yourself then there may be more issues here than I can resolve. I would disagree with you, both the you asking questions and the one answering. Getting the timeline correct early on is just important in the single storyline manuscript as it is in a multiple storyline book. If you are like me you have read a novel where some character does something in one scene then the next thing you read is that the character rode their horse to another location, overnight, and a hundred-and-fifty miles away. Unless it is a magical horse, this would be pretty much absurd. You can pick your own unbelievable location/incident vs time availability, but it happens in all forms of fiction and in every sized book.

The other benefit of having a good understanding of your storyline/timeline relationship is that it helps you grasp where you are in the manuscript and what you still need to write. I know some people like to outline their entire novel before they start writing their first words, what are known as Plotterswriter_panster_plotter1what we call “Pantsers” – you write by the “seat of your pants”, or if you are like me, are somewhere in between. I have one pant leg on when I start writing my First Draft. When I began Fire, I knew some of the main scenes that the manuscript must contain, but many of the intervening scenes were just a wisp of random thoughts floating somewhere in the back of my mind and didn’t come out until I was far into the book.

I had started the draft for Betrayal with the intention of writing it like I had Fire. I just kept writing, going from one scene to the next. Which I admit is a little difficult with multiple storylines, but thought I could untangle any issues during Revision. This worked fine until I had written a big chunk of the draft, then I was having a little trouble figuring out some of the remaining scenes. What exactly did they need to cover and where did they go in the sequencing? I also wondered exactly how much more I needed to finish the draft.

blank flowchart or timeline on blackboardI started going through the scenes and quickly realized that not all the storylines aligned (this created a terrifying flashback to what I encountered during Revision of Fire). I also noticed that there were some holes in the storylines that I had not expected. Looking at my scene list in Scrivener, and trying to juggle the sequencing in my mind, only bewildered and frustrated me. I decided I needed a way to identify the individual scenes in each storyline and align them along the same overall time line. But how?

Writing is such a creative process, as they say “right brained”, but my problem required a “left brain” solution. Luckily I had my past experience to fall back on. Much of my career had been spent in the business world with my forte being in organizing data. So I drew upon this experience to tackle my problem.

I tried to think what could help solve this problem and let my mind drift back to my time as a project manager. I remembered how I tracked the different tasks and the sequencing of the tasks. What I did to manage the tasks was create a Pert Chart. Pert stands for Program (project) Evaluation and Review Technique. These Pert Charts are a standard tool for analyzing a projects progress and also to plan and schedule complex tasks. It relies upon CPM, Critical Path Method, which list of all activities required to complete a project, time duration for each activity and the dependencies between the activities.

Okay, enough business talk. What this all means is that thinking of my scenes as activities, something similar to a Pert Chart would allow me to figure out what scenes I had already written, how they fit within the novels overall time line, and how the scenes interacted with each other.

I used a software program, not one designed for project management, but something I could bastardize to give me what I needed. However, it would be a lot easier, for this post, if I describe what I did as a manual process.

I started by creating 3×5 cards for every chapter/scene I had 3x5 cardalready written and the ones I thought I still needed to write. Each card contained the tentative chapter name and number, the character(s) whose Point of View is used in the chapter, the storyline it belonged with, and a short description of the scenes in the chapter. Then I laid them out on the floor by storyline so I could check the sequence of each storyline. Next I aligned the 3×5 cards for the different storylines with each other (I have five storylines in this book). The other issue I had to deal with was how did these sequenced 3×5 cards align to the overall timeline for the entire manuscript?

I know some authors who put the timeline day on the top of the 3×5 card and then just put them in order by this date. This provides some degree of alignment, but for me it doesn’t provide the overall big picture of the manuscript and doesn’t provide the necessary relationship between storylines.

The easiest way to resolve the timeline and storyline relationship issue was to lay out big sheets of paper, possibly blank newspaper sheets or poster board. If you have a lot of chapters like me, you might even need to put a couple next to each other to make it big enough. Then I wrote the days for the timeline across the top, then laid out the 3×5 cards, by storyline, under the timeline written at the top. As you would expect, they didn’t quite align and the other big thing I discovered was that there were entire scenes missing. In fact, rather than needing twelve more chapters to finish my book, as I originally thought, I needed twenty-three. So after creating 3×5 cards for the “new” chapters; which I colored in blue to distinguish them from existing chapters, I drew lines between the cards for each storyline and also lines where the storylines interacted. The below image is a digital representation of what this might look like, though I changed some of the information so I don’t give away the story 🙂

timelineThis helped me to see where the relationships were and also I was able to adjust some of the chapters to better fit with the timeline.

In contrast to the weeks I spent during Revision with Fire, I did the above in a day-and-a-half. Not only did I complete the process quickly, but having this all mapped out has allowed me to write quickly and with a lot more passion. I knew where I was going and how to get there.

Not that this is a perfect process. I have found that as I continue to write the missing chapters, I am still moving the cards around a little and have added at least one more new chapter… so far.

I could never be an “Plotter”, as I really have no idea exactly how the manuscript will flow when I start it. As I mentioned, I have a few scenes in mind and know where I want the book to end up, but most of the scenes come to me as I write them. Using the above process I was able to use my “Pantser” mentality until I got to a point where I could use my bastardized version of a Pert Chart to figure out how the rest of the manuscript would turn out.

The manual approach I used above was how I figured out the timeline alignment for Fire of the Covenant during Revision. Again, it took a couple of weeks. Not because it was a manual process, but because it was after-the-fact and rather than planning how I was going to finish the First Draft, I had to tear apart work that was already written. I am a digital type of person, so for the current book, Betrayal of the Covenant, I am using a software program to perform this timeline/storyline process. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a software program that did exactly what I wanted, so I used a “freeform” program, Scapple, that I made work. Below is a major portion of the timeline I created (manipulated via Scapple).

The outgrowth of being a “Pantser/Plotter” is that I discovered the shortfalls quicker than I did in my last book, and I will be able to cut my Revision time by more than half – remember the ten chapters I wrote that I had to trash and all the rewriting to make a number of other chapters align between the storylines? I already know what chapters I need and as I write them, I will know how they align to the overall timeline.

I am always open to new ideas, so I would be interested in how you deal with timelines and their relationship to the storylines.

Summertime

realife-a-titisAs you might have noticed, over the summer things have gone a little quiet over here. That’s not due to a loss of interest but to a wave of realife-a-titis. Several of our regular members have been extremely busy or are coping with personal disasters, so much of what we usually do falls to the wayside.

Take Will for example. I hoisted my middle daughter onto him, and now he’s doomed to live with a teen in puberty who can’t even speak the language properly for a fortnight. That’s taxing (although I have to admit, she’s a rather nice teen).

And I’ve been struggling to get my eldest prepared for her first ever job, and my youngest needs to be taken places so she won’t be jealous that she couldn’t fly to America too. Others are struggling with their health or with novel-birthing pains.

However, we will be returning to our regular schedule soon.
Don’t give up on us.

Author Interview: Jamie Marchant, “The Soul Stone”

Will you look at all the dust in this dungeon! How long has it been since the last vict- er, guest author was here? Let me just clear out the worst of it over in this corner, by the sharp things. Gad, if she’s allergic to mites it will be enough just to bring her in here. And by the way, bring her in here.

We are delighted to welcome– yes, that chain around the ankles, fool, have you forgotten your job– Ms. Jamie Marchant, who fell into our clutches during her blog tour for The Soul Stone. I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure previously, but we’ll soon get everything we need from her. Just let me find my favorite bullwhip- ah there, covered in grime. Let us begin.

Q: So where do you come from, author-person? Your location in the Alleged Real World is of no consequence here; we want to know your roots as an author. When you were young and still contemplating your life of crime, whose temptations swayed you the most in reading? Was it always fantasy for you, or did you come to the genre late in life?

Jamie: As is often the case, my family first led me astray, especially my older sister who told me fairy tales and encouraged me to write ones of my own. In my teen years, I fell under the influence of Piers Anthony and Stephen R. Donaldson. As an adult, Mercedes Lackey and Jim Butcher completed my corruption until I was irredeemably a fantasy fan, but as you see, the seeds of fantasy were planted in me before I was old enough to read for myself. I really didn’t have a chance.

Q: I completely understand, blaming others is typical in these cases. Bailiff, fetch us this sister and we shall have a talk next. Tell us a bit about Korthlundia where your tales are set. Your main characters seem neck-deep in royal intrigues, on their guard every minute. Is the world also at war all the time? Do regular folks suffer from whomever it is opposing the goddess who has picked your heroes to help? I mean, what kind of a world are we dealing with here?

The Soul Stone front coverJamie: Korthlundia had enjoyed over fifty years of unbroken peace because of its geographical isolation and the wise rule of Samantha’s father, King Solar. Both the nobles and common people prospered. The troubles in Korthlundia began when Duke Argblutal murdered the king and attempted to usurp the throne. Samantha was only nineteen years old, but she and Robrek put him in his place, six feet under, at the end of my first book, The Goddess’s Choice. However, the nobles aren’t too keen about a young woman and a common young man taking the throne, and the unrest is starting to affect regular folk as well. This is especially true when, in my second book, the Soul Stone breaks loose from its ancient bonds and begins to kill indiscriminately.

Q: Excellent! Always good to hear that a villain with an unpronounceable name is dead. Removes so much worry. Coming back to your heroes, you make it clear that Crown Princess Samantha and Robrek, the common-class sorceror, are from very different walks of life. They have very separate talents too. And busy! Saving the world makes for a crowded calendar, I suppose, but if these two are destined to marry, do they happen to see anything in each other along the way? Or is this going to be a marriage of fate and not the heart? (That is, assuming they make it long enough!)

Jamie: As the crown princess, Samantha had always believed that she couldn’t marry for love. This becomes especially difficult for her when she meets and falls for a common peasant boy at a horse fair. Although she comes to learn that Robrek is a powerful sorcerer and nowhere near as common as she first believed, she thinks an unbridgeable gap divides them. Only in bard’s tales do peasants marry princesses. At the end of The Goddess’s Choice, she is overjoyed when the Goddess reveals Robrek to be her choice for her consort. Theirs is very much an affair of the heart as well as of fate. However, in The Soul Stone, it appears that Robrek won’t live long enough for them to enjoy their love.

Q: You mention getting all geared up on literature in school, but then putting the writing itself on hold for a long time before taking up the pen to write about places like Korthlundia. I accuse the Alleged Real World of criminal trespass into your free time! Bailiff, take the ARW into custody, we’ll deal with it later. But what does the victim have to say? Did you not know this was what you wanted, or were you always thinking about it.

Jamie: I knew since I was a young child that I wanted to be a writer, but this ARW you speak of seduced me with the idea of making money. It took a few years for me to realize I was the victim of a con. Yes, one has to eat, but professional success can’t compensate for the absence of the creative muse.

Q: How would you describe your success so far, and what have been the keys to further exposure in your opinion? Are you happy with sales, with new outlets, and professional connections you’ve made? Are you mainly a paper book author, or did you lean on e-book sales early on?

Jamie: I’m not sure that any author, especially one published by a small press, is ever happy with sales. Getting sufficient exposure for my work is difficult, but I’ve been making progress with connecting with other authors and bloggers via the internet. While my books are all available in paperback, it is the e-book sales that make up the greatest portion of my books sales, which seems to be typical.

Enough, we are satisfied for now and hereby order your release. You may keep the manacle as a souvenir. Just leave us your information, where we can find your confessions (I mean, writing) and the proper links to seek you out for further punishment in the future.

Author Bio: Jamie Marchant

From early childhood, Jamie has been immersed in books. Her mother, an avid reader, read to her, and her Jamie Marchantolder sister filled her head with fairy tales. Taking into consideration her love for literature and the challenges of supporting herself as a writer, she pursued a Ph.D. in American literature, which she received in 1998. She started teaching writing and literature at Auburn University. But in doing so, she put her true passion on the backburner and neglected her muse. Then one day, in the midst of writing a piece of literary criticism, she realized that what she wanted to be doing was writing fantasy novels. Her muse thus revived, she began the book that was to become The Goddess’s Choice, which was published in April 2012. The second volume in the series, The Soul Stone, was released this June.

She lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband, son, and four cats, which (or so she’s been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She still teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. Her short fiction has been published on Short-Story.Me, and my story was chosen for inclusion in their annual anthology. It has also appeared in the anthologies—Urban Fantasy (KY Story, 2013) and Of Dragon and Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds (Witty Bard Publishing, 2014)—The World of Myth, A Writer’s Haven, and Bards & Sages.

Links to Jamie’s Books

Black Rose Writing

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Contact Jamie Everywhere

Jamie’s Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter: @RobrekSamantha
Goodreads

 

 

better late than never … experiences with Ingram Spark

I worked like mad to set up the full omnibus of William L. Hahn’s “Judgement’s Tale” in time for July 4th. Unfortunately I didn’t get it done due to some unforeseen difficulties with font sizes and POD-supliers. It might take another week before the book will finally be available in stores all over the world since we’re trying a new printing service: Ingram Spark.

So what are my impressions when I compare Ingram Spark and Createspace (keeping in mind that I haven’t even finished setting up the first title yet)?

+ With IngramSpark the price for printing a book is very low which means it will be possible to keep the selling price as low as POD allows.

+ Also, in contrast to Createspace, it is possible to set up hardcover books which I will need to do for an Early Reader story I’ve planned.

+ Regular bookshops prefer buying books from Ingram for their customers since Amazon is such a big competitor.

+ With Ingram Spark, it is possible to decide how big a margin the bookshops will get which directly influences the final selling price (naturally, the higher the margin the more likely bookshops will stock the book).

+ Ingram Sparks distributes to places where Createspace doesn’t get to, although I’ve read that CS’s expanded distribution is the same as Ingram Sparks. If I find confirmation, this point gets cancelled. 😀

Setting up a title costs $49 in Ingram and if I need to make changes, it will be an additional $25 per file (cover or book block). So I need to be extra vigilant with spotting mistakes and errors. It can become costly easily if I’d have to change things often. Createspace is completely free.

From the second year on, distributing your books will cost an additional $12 per title per year. Depending on the margin I calculate for my imprint (usually $1 per title sold), I will need to sell at least 12 copies every year to make this worthwhile. With Createspace this doesn’t cost a thing.

o Both setup processes are simple and straightforward. It’s fairly easy to understand what needs to be done next.

So all in all, using Ingram is as easy as using Createspace. Whether we’ll sell more printed books that way remains to be seen. I’ll keep you posted.

Life Interruptus

I couldn’t imagine how it took George R.R. Martin SEVEN years, after the fourth book in his Song of Ice & Fire series (Game of Thrones), before he published the fifth one. It was inconceivable to me that, if you were a professional author, it would take SEVEN years to publish the next book in the series. I know he was busy with all the success of his books and the HBO series, but seriously SEVEN years.

I remember thinking this when the fifth book had come out in 2013. I had just published the first book in my series and thought myself so superior. After all, for my series I had produced the first book, Fire of the Covenant, in just over 18 months… and I was a rookie. My thoughts went something like, “Evidently Martin was no longer dedicated to his writing. He was probably spending all his time speaking at conventions, making the rounds of talk shows, partying in Hollywood, and all the other stuff that was non-writing.”

With this egotistical knowledge I charged full-speed ahead writing the next book in my series, Betrayal of the Covenant. I was so cocky that after a couple of months I started another series, the first book The Dragon Whisperer. It would only be about 80,000 words, half that of Betrayal, so no problem. I cruised along thinking I could get both books out by year end.

on-offEverything was progressing better than I expected. I was writing over 10,000 words a week. Then my high-speed race toward completing both books, by the end of 2014, ran smack into a wall called Life Interruptus. Moving twice and sorting through 19 years of stuff, family illnesses, and a few other normal daily life issues brought my writing to a halt.

I have heard from many of my author friends how they have also suffered from Life Interruptus. We all had good intentions, we diligently kept to our daily writing schedule, we attacked our novels with all the passion and dedication we could muster. Yet, all this good will means little to the monster called Life Interruptus.

I know this sounds depressing, but have faith. For most people Life Interruptus is only a temporary condition. Yes, it may be a condition that can linger for a year or two or longer, but there is hope. In the meantime, as an author, I wrote here and there, even if only for a few moments and days apart. It helped me to remember the joy that writing always brought me. And the memory of this joy can kept the fire burning long enough for Life Interruptus to fade. After more than a year, I find myself writing more each day and getting back into the beginning of a writing routine. With any luck I will get Betrayal out by year end and can also start shopping The Dragon Whisperer around to an agent or publisher.

Given what I know now, I would apologize to Mr. Martin… If I could get past his secretary, publicist, agent, and bodyguards. I would tell him that I can easily understand how it took him seven years to write, revise, edit, and then publish the fifth book.

I have weathered my experience with Life Interruptus and realize that regardless of what comes, I will continue to write my books and feel the joy that it brings. No matter what happens I will survive this condition in the future.

How do I know I will encounter this condition again? I recently found out that the doctors are going to remove one of my kidneys. How do I know I will survive this new bout of Life Interruptus? Because I did it once, and know I can do it again.

What has been your Life Interruptus?

Free Fantasy Story–A Singular Inheritance–Final Episode

This is the last episode of A Singular Inheritance.  Previous episodes are in the three preceeding posts on this site.

A Singular Inheritance

by Sue Santore

continued–part four

“It’s me,” Brina called to them, holding her hands in the air.  “Brina.”

To her dismay, the guards grabbed her roughly and hauled her onto the walkway so abruptly she stumbled.  Conall thrust his massive body between her and the nearest guard and lifted his lips in a dangerous snarl. The guard dropped her arms and backed away, holding his spear in a protective stance toward Conall.
Before he could plunge his spear into Conall, Brina said, “Would you slay Lord Kemble’s favorite hunter?”

The man hesitated and the watch leader came running out onto the walkway and barked a brief command at the guards. They sullenly backed away and gestured to Brina to proceed before them.

She took a few deep breaths to quiet her pounding heart, raised her head high, and walked regally up the log walkway into the crannog, ignoring the spears of the guards.  She would not be intimidated by these guards.  She would not be intimidated by the high druid.  She was needed here.  Why?  She still did not know.  She still could not FutureSee as well as Shylah.  Conall refused to walk onto the causeway until the guards followed Brina.  He trailed along behind them, his soft growls letting them know that he was watching them.

As Brina approached her family dwelling, Lord Kemble, came out and stood before the door, his arms folded across his chest, a stern frown on his face. As she came near, she could see her mother standing in the shadows behind her father.  Then the high druid came rushing out of his dwelling and swiftly approached them.
Before her father could open his mouth to scold her, the faint beating of drums echoed down the road from the west. Lord Kemble’s attention turned from Brina and he shouted instructions to his men.  More guards came running and men spilled out of doorways, holding spears and other weapons.  The drum beats grew louder and chanting voices floated over the water.  The armed men lined up along the protective log walls, at the ready.  As the voices grew nearer, the drums rolled once, twice, then a rhythm beat out.

As he listened to the drum message, Lord Kemble shouted, “My son.  My son returns.” With long strides, he started for the walkway.  Brina raced after him with Conall at her heels. That was Gavin’s personal drum message.  Gavin was home!  Her father’s first son, his favorite son, and her favorite brother.

In the excitement of the returning heir, Brina’s scolding and punishment were temporarily forgotten. Lord Kemble called for a celebration and feasting to begin that very night.  He drew his son into his arms and took him back to the family dwelling, while Gavin’s men scattered to visit their own families.  Conall thumped down outside the doorway of their dwelling and refused to be led off to be penned with the other dogs.

Inside their family quarters, Gavin’s eyes met Brina’s and he gave her a sweet smile.  She could see he had changed.  He had lost his restless, searching energy and had a calmness about him that soothed. Even Mother was glad to see Gavin returned to them and she gave rapid orders to the servants and slaves to prepare a special meal for their evening repast.

Forgotten for now, Brina moved to her small sleeping compartment only to meet her older sister, Bretta, coming from the compartment.

“You!” Bretta twitched her garments aside to keep them from brushing against Brina.  “Why have you returned? You will not take my place!”  She snarled the words at Brina.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Brina replied.  “You know I couldn’t take your place in our parent’s eyes.”

“I’m talking about the high druid.  You were a fool to run from him and stay away.  Now he wants me.”

“You’re going to be his apprentice?”  Brina sucked in her breath.  Even though Bretta hated her, she couldn’t wish that fate on her older sister.

“No, fool, I’m going to be his wife.”  Bretta tossed her head and smoothed down the cloth over her hips.  “I’ll be the most respected woman in the clan, higher than even Mother.”

Brina could only stare at her sister in disbelief, nausea building in her.  “No!” She burst out, “You mustn’t do that!”

“I knew you’d be jealous.  He wants me now,” Bretta said proudly.  “You lost your chance when you ran away.”

“Are you moonstruck?  I wouldn’t marry the high druid if he were the last man on this crannog.”  Brina could not believe her sister could be so blind to the aura that surrounded the druid.

“More fool, you.” Bretta lifted her chin and brushed by Brina.

Brina was filled with fear for her sister and regret that she would never listen to her reasons not to marry the high druid.  Not only did his presence make her skin crawl, but there were rumors about the high druid and women who disappeared in the night.  But surely, if the high druid was going through the bride ceremony, Bretta should be safe enough, as safe as she could be living with the evil entity that dwelled within this druid. Brina shuddered and entered the sleeping compartment

It was filled with Bretta’s personal things.  Where could she rest while staying with her family?  Would she be able to sleep with Bretta’s hateful presence next to her?  She sat on the sleeping furs and drew her knees up to her chin.  Resting her cheek on her knees, she closed her eyes and breathed slowly, calming herself. She remembered the unusual calmness emanating from Gavin.  She reached out with a thread of thought and sought Gavin’s presence.  She found him with her father.  Gavin was telling of his adventures.  She touched Gavin’s aura.  So peaceful, so contented.  Where had he found this?

She must have dozed off, with her early morning rising and long walk tiring her body to exhaustion.  She was awakened by Bretta rudely shaking her.  “Time to eat.”

Brina shook the sleep from her head and rose swiftly to her feet.  Without speaking, the sisters walked to the main room and took their places on the mats around the low table to partake in the family meal hastily prepared by their servants. Torches burned in their holders around the room to push away the coming of night. Brina shivered inside as she saw the high druid sitting opposite from her father.  Bretta sat next to him, preening and full of her own importance.  Brina felt his foul magic probing at her, trying to penetrate her mind, but her shield was firmly in place. Then she began to listen to Gavin’s conversation with their father.

It was all Colum Cille this and Colum Cille that.  Brina was delighted to hear more stories about this new druid.  Shylah’s stories were limited and all old ones.  Gavin had met the new holy man who followed the one God.  He had followed with him for many weeks and had many stories to tell.  A commoner’s only cow was dying.  Colum Cille restored it to health with one touch.  A monster beneath the waters of a lake was taking villagers until Colum Cille banished it with his words, “Think not to go further, nor touch the man. Quick! Go back!” and invoked the name of his God.  One of his followers was weeping over the death of his child when Colum Cille commanded the child to rise and he came back to life.  Gavin even reported he, with his own eyes, had seen Colum Cille walk across a lake without sinking below the water.

Brina found it really hard to believe one man could do all those magical things, but she was fascinated by Gavin’s stories.  Obviously, he believed them even as some around the table scoffed.  She ignored the unbelieving comments and enjoyed listening to her brother talk, until she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye and glanced toward the high druid.  The depth of hate in his eyes against her brother shocked Brina, but as she thought on it, she realized that this new type of druid Gavin was reporting about was a major threat to the high druid.  She had seen their druid do some powerful magic, but never had he raised one from the dead or walked on water.  When the high druid began to speak, she grew fearful for her brother.

The druid faced the end of the table.  “Lord Kemble, I see your son has been contaminated by his association with this man who worships one God.  We know our gods are many, and they have been good enough for us for all our lives and the lives of our fathers and their fathers.”  Then he turned to Gavin, “This man is false and worships a false god.  He has tricked you into believing he can do these magics.  No one can bring the dead back to life.”

“Colum Cille can and he did,” Gavin said firmly.  “I believe his God is real.”

“No!”  The druid shoved back his uneaten bowl of food.  “You are mistaken.  You must leave this man behind you and forget him.  I will perform a cleansing ceremony to purify you from these thoughts.  It will be held tomorrow.”  He turned back to Lord Kemble.  “You must delay the celebration and feasting until after your son is purified.  If he cannot be purified, he must be put to death.  Otherwise the gods will be angry with us at his blasphemy.”

A cold dread settled into Brina at the words of the druid and she looked quickly to her father.  What would his answer be?  Would he allow his beloved elder son to be put to death?  Why did she even wonder at his answer?  She knew he deferred to the druid in all religious matters.

A heavy frown creased the brow of Lord Kemble.  “Is there no other way?”

“If he is too besmirched to be purified, then the law is clear.  He must be put to death,” The Druid stated again.

His hatred seethed beneath the surface of his words and spell binding was underlaying his focus on Lord Kemble. Brina could feel the slimy tangles of his dark magic threading through the room, touching the family members around the table and branching out to the servants.  Was this how he kept control of their village and directed all their lives when he wished something to come to pass?  He had always repulsed her, but she had never been able to feel the workings of his dark magic before her month of working to hone her own power. The foul tangles slipped off of her shield and hovered before Gavin. In a split second she extended her shield to cover him and the foulness that filled the room could not touch Gavin.

Gavin gave a steady look to his father, then to the druid.  “I am not contaminated by Colum Cille.  I will not consent to your ceremony.”  He started to stand up.

“So be it.” The druid made a quick motion with his hand and Gavin fell back down on the floor, unmoving.  Brina cried out, “Gavin!”  Before she could move the druid made another motion and his guards at the door came forward.  They picked up the motionless Gavin and, under the direction of the druid, carried him out of the door. The druid followed.

Brina jumped to her feet and cried at her father. “How could you let the druid take Gavin! He has done no wrong!”

“How would you be able to judge after what you’ve done?” Bretta said. Her eyes were slitted and her mouth contorted. She snarled at Brina. “The druid always knows best. We must not anger the gods.”

“I have done nothing wrong,” Brina protested. “The druid is not always right.  He is a bad man!”

Gasps came from around the room.

“That will be enough!” Lord Kemble rose to his feet and towered over Brina. “You have much to answer for, running away and refusing to return with the high druid and his men.  Now you even question his authority. You will return to your sleeping quarters and stay there until I send for you.”

Brina stepped back.  “No, my lord, I won’t.”

More gasps.

“Ungrateful child,” muttered her mother as she placed her arm around Bretta’s shoulders. “At least I have one daughter who pleases me.”

The remark stabbed Brina’s heart, even though she knew she had never pleased her mother, no matter how hard she had tried, and she never would.

She turned, walked out of her family dwelling, and paced after the druid’s men who were carrying Gavin. Night had fallen and the torches set along the path only lit up a few feet on either side of them.  The tramping feet of her father’s guards followed her. She turned toward them and muttered a freezing charm. They stopped in their tracks, eyes wide with fear. Then Brina followed her brother’s limp body as the druid had him carried into his own dwelling.

She stopped just outside the dwelling and a chill went up her spine. The open doorway reeked of dark magic. Was she strong enough to face down the druid? What would the guards do if she did?  She had to try to save her brother. Taking a deep breath, she wrapped her shield tightly around herself and entered the druid’s dwelling.  She stopped just inside the door and searched the room for Gavin.  He was lying very still on a high altar under the collection of shrunken heads of the druid’s enemies.  The druid bent over him.

As she stood quietly in the doorway, the druid felt her presence and swiftly turned from Gavin’s body.  She felt his glee and hoped she had not stepped into a trap she could not escape from. He dismissed the guards and waited until they left the room before speaking. “Ah. My little reluctant bride. You return to me.”

“I will never be your bride.” Brina spoke in a low passionate voice. “Never!”

“Oh, too bad.  You wish to save your brother?” A smile full of malice broke over his face. “Then you must become my bride.”

“You have my sister.  Why do you need two brides?”  Brina fought hard to keep her voice from shaking.

He made a motion of dismissal.  “Britta is a warm body, but you, my sweet thing, are much more.  I have sensed your power for long while, but now I can taste the power flooding through you.”  He licked his lips and stalked closer to Brina. She trembled at his nearness. “If I lay with you, I can take that power and it will be mine.  Mine to use.”

Even as she trembled, Brina strengthened her shield and reached with her mind down, down, far under the water to touch the earth.  She drew strength and fed the glowing flames of power that warmed her magic.

“You will never have my power.”

“Then your brother must die.”

“I think not.”  Brina said as she pulled the clean earth power into herself until she could hold no more.  She was ready when the druid attacked.  He threw the same spell at her with which he had felled Gavin, with even more force. Her shield held firm and the hard-flung spell rebounded back at the druid.  He gasped and dropped to the floor.  His eyes glittered at her with anger, but he stayed motionless as Brina grabbed some woven grass rope and tied his hands and feet. She stuffed a cloth into his mouth, then she rushed to Gavin, and plunged her earth power into the spell holding him.  With a shudder, Gavin broke free of the binding and sat up. His face was white and he moved slowly.

“Quickly, Brother,” Brina urged him.  “He will recover soon.  We must get you away from here.”
She thrust her arms under Gavin’s shoulders and pulled him to his feet.  Gavin swayed, then he straightened and gave her his sweet smile.  “Thank you, my sister.”  Slowly they moved forward to the door of the dwelling.  “I need a drum.  I cannot leave my men here to the druid’s revenge.”

Brina glanced around the room and saw a small drum lying on a nearby table.  She touched the drum. Detecting no apparent evil, she snatched it up and handed it to Gavin. He began to beat out a staccato rhythm which boomed across the water.

As they moved through the doorway, the guards of the druid stepped forward, their spears raised. “Back!” Brina spoke with command in her voice.  The confused guards lowered their spears. “We are to leave now.  The druid does not wish to be bothered until he calls you.”

As the echoes of the drum beat died away, shouts and running feet were heard all around the crannog. Gavin’s men were responding to his emergency distress signal. As Brina and Gavin made their way to the causeway, they were soon surrounded by his men.  Lord Kemble still stood by the door to their family dwelling.  He lifted his hand to stay his own men, motioning for them to allow the group to leave.  As Brina and Gavin passed, she could see the pain in his face as his son walked away from him.

If only he stayed firm in his protection.  If only the druid did not recover until they were out of spear throwing distance.  If only they could reach the clearing with the sacred well before any possible pursuit overtook them.
It seemed a miracle, but they did make it safely out of the village and all the way to the Herb Woman’s clearing and the sacred well before the druid was able to free himself.  There Gavin and his men left Brina.  Gavin returned many times in the ensuing years.  Sometimes he even brought the Colum Cille with him, and the protection on the clearing was strengthened each time Colum Cille visited.

Brina remained in the clearing, tending to the pilgrims who returned to visit the sacred well, as well as those who sought her out for herbs. She continued to fight the evil influence of the druid. Her ability to See into the future grew as her power developed.  Years later, one vision came upon her as she sat beside the well, looking down into the clear water.  It seemed as though she fell and fell, as down, down many years.  She saw a young girl, dressed in strange clothes, holding the box of power that Shylah had given to herself, Brina, many years ago.  She watched as the strange girl learned to use the powers in the box. She shuddered as she learned what the young girl had to face with her new-learned powers. Then she fell back into her own self and realized that her legacy from Shylah  was only the beginning, that the fight against evil must continue. Brina pondered her vision. “I shall pass the box on to another generation, then it shall pass again and again.”

I hope you have enjoyed Brina’s story.  Thank you for reading.  To read the story of the young girl in Brina’s vision, see The Singular Gift on Amazon.

Judgement’s Tale Climax: “Clash of Wills” is Now Available

Created with Nokia RefocusEven when I knew him, I didn’t know his story.

Once I knew the story, I never dreamed I’d chronicle it.

Now I can hardly imagine doing anything else with my spare time (I know, a fantasy writer for sure if he thinks THAT exists). But now at the release of this fourth volume, the novel I originally envisioned in Judgement’s Tale will be before the readers. Rest? Heck no, that’s for the weary- I can’t wait for the engine to crank up again so I can move the world along.

Clash of Wills: It All Comes Together

It’s a little hard to discuss the book itself because so much has happened in the preceding volumes. Solemn Judgement has carefully studied a couple of problems in his newly-adopted home while staying at the Sages Guild of Conar. One involves a young knight who kneels at the foot of the Hopelord’s statue constantly, and the mortal LoHI_JT_CoW_webdanger Judgement stubbornly believes him to be in. His other puzzle involves a forbidden book, a mystic time-scrying mirror, the ancient sage it drove mad, and a threat to the entire Lands of Hope. Meanwhile, his tutor Natasha has sanctioned him from further study, her friend the actor Alendic spends his every moment teasing the youth, and the patient Elvish Sage Cedrith  can only guess the depths of Judgement’s ambition or the danger he’s courting. In this story, they band together to rescue a comrade and face an ancient foe beyond their worst imaginings.

Meanwhile the Woodsman Treaman has begun to unlock the secrets of navigating the cursed Percentalion and befriended the young dragon Hallah. But his adventuring party falls into a worse escapade than ever before, a series of calamities which leaves them by turns wounded, naked, and finally imprisoned with priceless treasure in the face of a hellstorm of Chaos.

LoH_kg_1_map northern lands

But is it Ever Really Over?

Yes, it’s all starting to heat up in the northern kingdoms of the Lands of Hope. The draft I wrote up several years ago, coming after nearly thirty years of observation and note-taking, Clash of Wills will be in front of you. And the tale is not done. I’m working hard on The Eye of Kog, in which we’ll see the final confrontation involving Judgement, Treaman, prince Gareth, the Chosen Wanderer Renan Altrindur, young Anteris the scribe and many more. Never fear, dear readers, I wouldn’t leave you hanging- for long! Look for more of this epic tale later this year.

And if you want to remain apprised of developments in my chronicling journey, sign up on my website and get a free e-book with two Tales of Hope.

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