Saturday, January 31, 2015

Serial Saturday: "The Telmar Trilogy, Vol. 1: The Legend of Telmar" Part 5

Telmar, designed by yours truly...

Dawn had barely cracked the edges of the night sky when Melanie finally awoke. She smiled when she saw the blanket, more so when she noticed the food. She gratefully partook of the simple meal on a little knoll further into the forest from which she could watch the sunrise.

The rustle of bushes behind her announced the arrival of Taurin. He sat next to her without speaking. Melanie hesitantly handed him the cup. "T-an-k . . . you," she said.
Taurin nodded and said, "Keep the cup. You have difficulty speaking, don't you?"
Melanie nodded, the hot blush of shame rushing into her cheeks.
"I can help you," Taurin said eagerly, "and we can start with the word you said just now." He snapped a twig off a nearby bush and led Melanie closer to the brook, where the soil was soft. "Can you read?" he asked.
Melanie nodded.

Taurin used the twig to write out: T-H-A-N-K. "Thank," he said distinctly.
"Thann," Melanie tried to imitate Taurin, but she voiced the first sound, and couldn't quite manage the last sound at all. Taurin tried to explain how to make the sound.
"Put your tongue against the bottom of your teeth like this," he demonstrated, "and bring your lip up against your tongue. Then you blow: thhh."
Melanie carefully followed Taurin's instructions and tried the sound herself. "Thhh." She did it!
"Very good!" Taurin praised, and gave the next sound. "Thhh-aay."
"Thaay."
"Tha-nk, with your tongue on the back of your mouth."
"Thaay-ng."
"Very close; what you want to do is make the sound, ng, and let go with a k sound; nn-k."
"Thaay . . . nnn-k." Melanie smiled; she had it right! "Thaay-nk. Than-k. Thank!"
Seeing her excitement thrilled Taurin to no end. He was teaching! He glanced up to the sun. He needed to return to the farm. "I must go, but I will be back with more food," he told Melanie. He stood and turned to leave.

"Toh-rinn."

Taurin paused and looked back at Melanie.

"Th-thhaan-k you," she said deliberately. Taurin grinned and waved as he left.

So began Melanie's lessons in speaking. Taurin, in addition to dictation, taught her about the plants and small woodland animals that had become as familiar as friends to him. Melanie learned quickly, and soon became Taurin's confidant. One day he expressed to her how he would much rather teach than work around the farm.

"Why don't you want to be a farmer?"

The fire of passion burned in Taurin's eyes as he spoke. "It is because I am a farmer's son that I want to teach. There are merchants here, Melanie. There had been a famine, and that is when most of the Telmarines left with King Caspian to find better land. Some of us stayed behind, and began our lives over again. Then came the merchants, willing to trade and sell things. They were attracted especially here to Nast, because our province had a harder time recovering from the famine.
"These unscrupulous merchants make it harder, by raising prices and using false weights and faulty merchandise. We became more and more dependent on them, and they took advantage of us. At first, we artisans and farmers made sure they were fair and equitable, and refused to do business with them when they weren't," Taurin sighed, "but then they began writing out their transactions." He scowled. "When that happened, the illiterate ones suffered the worst, because the merchant could fabricate whatever he chose, and force his victim to take him at his word, or risk being brought before the court."

"Is the King no longer involved in the affairs of his country?"

Taurin shrugged. "Very little. Two generations ago, King Caspian III set up a Lord Protector to serve as the supervisor over all the provinces of Telmar and send reports to Narnia, where his grandson, King Caspian V now rules. In turn, there is a Lord over each of the six provinces of Telmar: Telami, Venna, Puriva, Eveston, Sordell, and Nast. These Lords report to the Lord Protector."
"Couldn't you bring your complaint to the Lord Protector, then?"
Taurin pulled his long legs together in a crossed position, and assumed the role of teacher as he explained the Telmarine government system.

"Nast is the smallest province of Telmar. Lord Protector Landon is a simple man; noble, just, but easily beguiled. What is more, there is a saying in Telmar: 'It is no good if it's Nastie!' Because of its weak nature, Nast is credited for all the vagrants, thieves, and criminals. Any complaint from this province would only be waved aside. What with the national sentiments, Nast cannot export any goods, nor are the other provinces willing to import. The Nastians have grown to believe that we must depend on the merchants or perish." Taurin shook his head. "No, Melanie; they must learn to read if we want to break free of the tyranny of the merchants," he set his jaw, "and I mean to teach them."
Melanie smiled. "Who knows but you might be the next Lord of Nast."
Taurin looked at her as if she had suggested he would fly to the moon that night. "I could never be a lord. My father is a farmer. Here in Telmar, the fathers pass their occupation to their sons: farmers' sons become farmers, scholars' sons become teachers and scholars, and so on. The only ones with any hope of being lords are soldiers or noblemen, and Nast has neither."
"Well then, who is Lord of Nast now?"
"A man by the name of Fausberg. Before King Caspian the Conqueror left Telmar, he appointed that the Lordship of Nast could be inherited. Lord Fausberg's ancestors have ruled until now." Taurin's brow furrowed, and Melanie asked, "What's wrong?"
"Lord Fausberg does not have an heir, but that's not the worst of it: if that beast Gatling has his way, he'll be the next Lord, and Nast will never be out from under his thumb."
"Is Gatling a nobleman?"
Chagrin twisted Taurin's features. "No! He's nothing but an arrogant, base blacksmith who happened to be in the capital city of Gildon when Lord Protector Landon was riding his horse.
"The story goes that the Lord Protector had ridden outside the gates of Gildon when his horse stumbled on a loose shoe. The way Gatling told it, he was working at his forge when he heard a racket, and left to investigate. The horse was incapacitated, so Gatling immediately replaced the shoe and raised the horse to its feet. He helped the Lord Protector back into the saddle, when suddenly a band of robbers sprang from behind the trees. Gatling sent the horse back into the city and stayed behind, ostensibly to fend off the robbers. Lord Protector Landon knew little of what occurred, so he believed the story that circulated Gildon of the near-fatal attempt on his life that had been foiled by the noble blacksmith Gatling. Being benevolent as he is, Lord Protector Landon expressed his desire to reward this heroic blacksmith. Gatling saw his chance, and immediately asked to be named next in line for the Lordship of the province he had the most ties with: Nast." Taurin's face was glum as he finished his narrative and reflected on the fate of his province.
"What will happen?" Melanie asked.
"I don't know," Taurin replied, "but I can tell you certainly that it will not be good."

To read the full chapter, click -->HERE<--

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The ReBible Series: "King of the Roses" Excerpt--Lost Dog



Sulley scuffed the pavement and swore under his breath.
"Razor!" he yelled. A gust of wind played through his thick, dark hair and blew down his neck. Sulley adjusted his collar and continued scanning in the fading light. He whistled into the darkness.
"Razor! Here, boy!" Stupid dog! Why would he run like that? It had been a quick trip to the store. Sulley's huge Rottweiler could always be trusted to stay at the house, but this one time, Sulley had come home to find the gate to Razor's run wide open. The front fence, with the blue recycling bin behind it, would have presented very little obstacle for the dog. With twenty minutes' head start, just how far could the dog go? Which direction? Sulley had asked a few neighbors to search southward and into town, while he followed Macadam Avenue northward. Two hours had gone, and Sulley had not even seen the dog. His cell phone beeped. Sulley dug it out of his pocket and checked.
"Searched all over town. No sign of Razor."
Great, just great! Sulley continued trudging up the hill. The incline transformed into a decline, and Sulley knew he was headed into Portland. What on earth would make a dog run three hours into the next city? As he crossed under the freeway, Sulley glanced at the bleary-eyed hobos and decided the best course of action would be to keep his head down and find his dog as quickly as possible.
>>>>>

Samuel knelt in prayer. Teresa Cortez had just discovered the redemption of Christ, had entered nervously and departed rejoicing. Now Sam prayed over this new soul, praising God and praying that He would bless Teresa and her "Real Sister" Molly, the woman who committed to mentoring other girls who came to Christ, in the first stages of their new spiritual life.

Kneeling on the floor, Sam felt his mind wander, and he began thinking about dogs. Not little dogs, big ones; and not the mean, ferocious dogs, but the big dogs that some people owned as pets; furthermore, not necessarily a breed good around children, but a man's dog, a bachelor's dog—like a Rottweiler.

Someone cleared his throat on the other side of Sam's desk. Sam picked up his head.
There was a face he had never seen before, but Sam could not deny the inkling that there was something in this young mam that commanded respect. His stature, for one; Sam had seen tall guys, young guys, burly guys, and guys both young and tall, but this stranger was tall and burly and young; the desk was not as high as his waist! He was remarkably good-looking, with thick dark hair and piercing blue eyes. He dressed warmly and well, so Sam knew he wasn't living on the streets. He stood erect and confident before the desk, so he wasn't just a curious passerby. Sam felt the leading of God on his heart, "This is the man I have chosen."

Sulley opened his mouth to speak, but before he uttered a sound, Sam stood and extended a hand.
"Reverend Sam Oldman, but most just call me Old Sam, how are you today?"
Sulley immediately took his hand. Sam felt the power of a workingman's grip.
"Sullivan MacDonald, sir."
A healthy respect for his elders, good!
"I seem—"
Sam felt the pieces falling into place, and he raised a finger to interrupt Sullivan.
"Your Rottweiler, I presume?"
Sulley started, "You've seen him, then?"
Sam felt so overwhelmed at the working of God that he hardly knew what he was doing as he said, "Follow me to my house. Dinner has just been served, and I would be honored if you would join me for a meal while we talk."
Sulley sighed as he automatically followed the strange reverend. "Well, that sound wonderful, but I really should just pick up my dog and get back home—"
Sam led him up the steps of a large green house with white trim. He stopped at the front door.
"Razor is safe at home, your neighbors who so kindly searched all over town for him are now watching him, and I am not going to let the man God has chosen to be a community leader for this ministry take the risk of walking home alone in the dark; understood?" Samuel did not wait for a reply but stepped immediately into the house. He waited at the open door, letting the smells of Dorothy's chicken pot pie lure the young man toward the door.

Sulley was almost too thunderstruck to move. He shied away from the old reverend as Samuel crossed the threshold.
"H-how did you know my dog's name?" he demanded shakily. Sulley offered no resistance in his shock when Sam escorted him to the table and gave him the seat at its head.

Dorothy laid heaping plates of fresh chicken pie before them. She and her son and two daughters left the men to their meal as they brought more of the same over to the warehouse to serve the rest.
Sam very calmly blessed the food and dug in. He glanced up and saw Sulley still staring at him as a little child does a magician who has just pulled a quarter out of his ear. Sam gestured to the steaming plate in front of his guest.
"It's good; eat it before it gets cold."
Sulley grabbed Sam's hand, restraining him from eating another bite. "I want to know just what's going on here, old man," try as he might he could not keep his voice from shaking, but he was beyond caring. "What do you mean, God has chosen me to lead a community?"
Sam smiled and plucked his fork out of the pinned hand. "Not just a community, Sullivan," he ate the bite of pie from the fork and gestured with it outside. "I'm going to introduce you to this community, and you're going to lead it."
"Lead it?" Sulley cried, "I'm only twenty-three for Chr...for crying out loud! How in the--How can I lead a bunch of people older than I am, who have more experience than I do? I'm just a messed-up guy from Lake Oswego, not a seminary student! I'm no friend of God, what do I matter?"
The mention of a seminary student struck a nerve in Sam and made him wince, but he maintained his composure. "Age and lifestyle has nothing to do with it, my son," Sam informed him, "As the saying goes, God does not choose the equipped, He equips the chosen." He emphasized his words with a flourish of his fork. Dabbing the corners of his mouth with a napkin, he chuckled. "As for not being a friend of God, well, I think we can remedy that situation!"

Three days later, Sullivan McDonald returned home. Razor bounded out the door and nearly bowled him over in his excitement at being reunited with his master.
Triana and Brent Marshall came out to greet him as well.
"Sull, man," Brent said, "I tried to call you when we found Razor. Where did you go?"
"We've been worried about you," Triana agreed, trying in vain to coax the big Rottweiler off Sulley, who seemed to enjoy the devotion. "Brent and I were ready to organize a search party for you!" Finally, Razor calmed down ad Brent lent a hand to help Sulley to his feet. As he did so, Brent saw a new light in his friend's eyes, a spark that had been smoldering behind bitterness and low self-esteem for so long. Brent got the feeling that this was Sullivan McDonald, reborn.
He swore under his breath in amazement. "Sulley, what happened to you?"
Sulley grinned at his friends. "Thank you so much for taking care of Razor; Brent, I'm going to need you to call Mike Turner and see if we can't get this house on the market and sold. I'm going down to get a U-Haul trailer, and I'd love it if you wouldn't mind helping me pack up everything we can fit into a trailer."
"What's going on?" Triana was very worried about her friend now.
Sulley was already pulling out every suitcase and duffel bag he owned and throwing clothes into them. "I'm moving into Portland, to It's Real."
"Okay," Brent tried to catch Sulley's shoulders, and brought him to a halt in front of him. Sulley still grinned like an idiot—but there was a sort of calmness of purpose behind the madness. "Stop," Brent said. "You're going where now, for who?"
Sulley shrugged Brent's hands off. "It's an ex-con, ex-gang community called It's Real, and I'm going to be their leader."
"It's Real?" Triana walked in to join them, "What kind of gang name is that?"
Sulley closed the last suitcase and moved to the den to start packing up his library and movie collection.
"It's a Christian organization that teaches these people about God, and how to live the truth of the Gospel like it's real." He stopped in the midst of loading his collection of horror films and risqué comedies into the box. Sulley shook his head and took them out. "Starting now," he muttered to himself with a chuckle.
"Sulley." Triana knelt in front of him. Sulley looked down at her from his squatting position. She had always been beautiful in his eyes; he'd even had a crush on Triana Faber that he never realized before she started going steady with Sulley's best friend Brent Marshall. She looked at him now, green eyes locked on his blue ones, silently pleading. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
Sulley had never been so sure of anything in his life. "I am, Trie; people are saying God chose me for this purpose."
"What people?" Triana got to her feet, "I thought you said once that if there was a God He was obviously too busy to pay any attention to you. Now you're not only convinced that God exists, but that He's given you a job and you have to turn your life upside down to follow it?" She frowned.
Sulley laughed and lifted the box—only half-filled with all the books and movies he wanted to keep, while the rest lay scattered over the floor and untouched on the shelves—as he replied, "That's the beauty of it, though! Maybe God wasn't too busy for me, maybe I decided to be too busy for God, but that doesn't mean He completely ignored me. Now, He's changed my life, but I don't feel flipped upside-down."
"How do you feel?" Triana asked, following him out to the car.
Sulley shoved the box in among the suitcases and slammed the lid. "I feel like I've had no direction or all the wrong directions all my life, and finally here's my chance to do something that was meant for me, something good, something needed." He climbed into the driver's seat and started the engine. Brent came out to join Triana.
Sulley waved, "I'll drop this stuff off at my friend's house and pick up a U-Haul truck on my way back up. See you in a few hours!"
Brent and Triana watched him pull away.
"Yep," Brent mused, "Sulley's gone clean off his rocker."
Triana wasn't so sure; something she had seen in the young man's eyes told her otherwise, but she said nothing.
>>>>>> 

For more excerpts from "King of The Roses" and other installments of the ReBible series, Check out the "ReBible Series" Page!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Works-in-Progress Wednesday: "Inkweaver" Excerpt--Moon Valley

The next day, we came to the very edge of the Fforgan Mountains—the edge of the country. We had traveled the entire breadth of Gramble in at least a month. Of course, it wasn't really the border just yet. The mountain range itself was still a few miles off—but we had reached a small "branch" of hills off of the main range. A fog had rolled in, so when we crossed the line of hills and did not find any sort of town, Belak recommended we stop for the night.
He still watched me very closely as I pulled the tent and blankets from the satchel, but I didn't mind so much anymore. It was scary to see him go off into the whiteness in search of wood, but he found some, and it was dry, too, in spite of all the moisture in the air.
"It's so quiet," said Greyna, shivering and pulling her blanket closer around her. 
"Let's see what we have for food," I said, reaching into the satchel. 
My hand groped only seams and fabric. There was the coin purse, but what good were coins when there was nowhere to spend them? One couldn't eat coins! 
The others stared at me as I withdrew my empty hand and dropped the satchel on the ground.
"What?" Greyna gasped.
"No food?" Squealed Larryn.
The very idea made my stomach wrench painfully, even though before now I wasn't all that hungry.
Belak scowled. "Now, hang on, I thought it was a magic satchel that always had everything we needed!"
I was every bit as disappointed as he was. "I thought so, too!" I snapped back. "But apparently someone has decided that we don't need food!"
"Someone? Like the Inkweaver?"
"I don't know!"

"People!" Larryn cut in, grabbing my arm. "Let's not fight, okay?" She looked between Belak and I. "Fighting won't change our situation; in fact it might even make us even more focused on our hunger. What we need is some kind of diversion."
I sighed, "Like what?"
Greyna perked up, "Like how about Shereya tells us a story!"
I blinked. "A story! I don't know any stories!"
Belak snorted, "Oh that's right, they banned storytelling in Mirrorvale, didn't they?"
I nodded. "Storytelling is all conjecture, making up something that isn't there. The Council worried that if children were allowed to fantasize, we would lose sight of what was really going on around us. After the Inkweaver left, no one even had any dreams."
"But you told a story to Tark and the bandits," Larryn pointed out.
"That?" I only vaguely remembered talking nonstop. "I wasn't really paying attention to what I was saying. I was just talking, saying the first things that came to mind."
"Well," Greyna pressed, "what comes to mind now?"
I hesitated, staring off into the indistinct mass of cloud. If I didn't know any better, I could very well be staring at the blank muslin before a tapestry is woven, the starched white canvas before the painting. Framed by the high cliffs, one could not tell where sky ended and the horizon began. It was as if everything beyond the small circle of our camp did not exist. But I knew that it did.
"Beyond the fog," I said, fighting against myself to envision what the valley looked like, even though I had never seen it before, and could not see it now, "is more grass like this." I pointed to the green at our feet. "A little path leads the way straight to a small town huddled in the cliffs. In that town, the people are kind and peaceable. We would have a house to stay in, with beds for everyone, and a well-stocked larder." I paused to let the idea sink in; the more I thought about it, the more everything felt right about what I was saying. "The houses and shops look just like they did in Mirrorvale, with the little chimney pots and the signs hanging over the doors saying things like 'Baker' and 'Butcher' and 'Seamstress' and 'School.' But," I was just talking now, prattling the words as they filled my head, just like I had done with Tark, "the difference is in the color of the town. Where Mirrorvale was drab and plain, this town is bright and colorful. The people wear smiles and sing songs that echo off the valley walls, and sometimes you might catch a few people dancing as they go about their work."
Belak snorted, jerking me back to reality and the darkness around us and our little fire. Larryn laughed and clapped her hands at the thought of a place where she could run and whoop and holler to her heart's content, and Greyna just watched me with shining eyes. 
"And that's the story of the little town in the foggy valley," I finished.
"Wonderful!" Larryn gushed. "Tell me more about the people!"
I sighed as the hunger pains returned with all the grace of a sandbag. "That's another story for another time, Larryn," I excused myself.
"I liked your story very much, Shereya," murmured Greyna.
Belak just wagged his head. "Well, I have to say, it was a nice diversion, but just talking about food and a soft bed doesn't make any of those things real." He stood and stretched his long frame.
After the excitement of the story wore off, I felt only tiredness. I shrugged and laid down on my sleeping mat. Greyna lay with her head close to mine, Belak at my feet, and Larryn curled up on the other side of our campfire. I closed my eyes.

"Shereya?"
I wasn't asleep yet, so I whispered back, "Yes, Greyna?"
She glanced up at me, her hands firmly holding the blanket under her chin. "What was the name of the town in your story?"
The poor girl assumed I had put any amount of thought in it at all. "I really didn't think of one, Greyna," I told her.
She persisted. "Can you think of one now?"
I sighed. "Call it Moon Valley, if you like," I said.
Greyna rolled over. "Moon Valley," she mused. "I like it."
Being awake so late and with an empty stomach made me rather snappish. "Can I get to sleep now?" I grumbled at her.
"Yes, I'm sorry; goodnight, Shereya."
I closed my eyes—but for some reason I couldn't get Moon Valley out of my head. I fell asleep as visions of its layout took shape in my dreams.

"Shereya... Shereya... Wake up, sleepyhead!"

I awoke to someone calling my name. I opened my eyes and studied the rough-hewn rafters over my head. The pillow was so soft... Couldn't I sleep for five more minutes—
I jerked upright and stared about me. What was I doing in a bed? In fact, as I looked at my friends, all bustling about and getting ready for the day, I saw that we all had beds. What were we doing in a house? 
Belak caught my puzzled frown. "What's the matter?" He cajoled me, "Did you forget where you were last night?"
My eyes moved slowly around the room as my mind refused to comprehend what I was seeing: four beds lined up against one wall, and at the other side of the one-room cabin, a narrow door. The house held no other furniture or fixtures.
"No," I stammered, stumbling out of the bed. "No, no-no-no; this is all wrong! This can't be—" I turned as Larryn flounced into the room. "What are you wearing?" I asked.
The drab-yellow sack was long gone. In its place, my friend wore a pretty, full-skirted green dress with a square neckline that framed her face and set off her sparkling eyes and brown hair.
"It's called clothing." The change of circumstance had not affected her personality. "You should try it, Shereya. Here, put this on!" She handed me a bundle of purple fabric. It was the first time I had worn anything but brown. Automatically, I slid it on over my nightdress as I resumed talking to Belak.
"What happened last night?" I asked.
He shrugged, turning his head to give me a modicum of privacy as I changed. "Nothing really; we came into town and went right to bed."
That wasn't at all how I remembered it. "But what about our camp?" I came around to his front to let him know that I was finished.
"What camp?" He asked.
Half of me wanted to dismiss the previous night as a dream, but I was absolutely certain that it wasn't; my friends had all gone crazy. "We made camp last night because of the fog, remember? We slept in the open last night, at the edge of a valley."
"Right," Belak snorted. "Why on earth would we make camp so near to a perfectly good house?"
"Okay, first of all, I distinctly remember the fog being so thick that we couldn't even see anything; second, whose house is this really?"
Belak was still staring at me as if I had woken up speaking some foreign language. "It's ours, Shereya."
I stamped my foot in frustration. "But it can't be, don't you see? What would we be doing with a house this far across the country if half of us had never left Mirrorvale before?"
"Hungry?" Greyna interrupted. She held out a small plate with a blueberry scone and a juicy red apple on it. She saw me glance at the others. "We've already eaten," she confessed, "but don't worry about saving up; there's plenty of food in the larder!"
To be honest, I was starving. Unlike them, I could not pretend that last night did not happen, in all of its hunger and discomfort. I fairly wolfed down the scone.
"So where are we?" I asked.
Belak chuckled. "You really don't remember coming into Moon Valley and going straight to bed? We were practically dead on our feet, from walking all day since we left Tark's camp. You must have slept really hard, to forget everything, Shereya."
I set down the apple, still trying to adjust to what amounted to a new reality of some sort.
"I did sleep deeply," I said, "but I have not forgotten what happened because—wait," his words suddenly registered with me. I stared at him with wide eyes. "What did you call this place?" I gasped.

Also from "Inkweaver":

-The Legend of The Wordspinners
-The Last Inkweaver  
-What Are You Afraid Of?  
-In The Inkweaver's Cottage 
-The Unfinished Tapestry 
-Tales of the Inkweaver: "The Three Daughters"
-In The House Of The Talesmith 
-"The Invisible Gift" and "Forward Unto Danger" 
-Escape From Blackrope 
-The Rise and Fall of Morgianna Plontus-Byrmingham 
-The Morning After 
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "The Four Travellers
-In the Court of Count Bergen 
-"The Four Travellers" Part 2 
-Do You See What I See?
-Welcome to Criansa
-Meeting Delia
-A Nice Cup of (Honest) Tea
-Saving Margo
-Interpreting The Stone
-Confessions
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "Four Animals in Partnership"
-Tark Trades People
-"Plotting" and "Meet Tark's Crew"
-Storytime for Tark
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "The Stone in The Road"
-Moon Valley
-Writer's Eyes

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Serial Saturday: "The Telmar Trilogy, Vol. 1: The Legend of Telmar" Part 4


Falling . . . falling . . . slowly sinking . . . deeper . . . falling faster . . . very fast into greenness below . . . the greenness forming into the tops of very tall trees she was falling through . . . falling through the branches . . .

Melanie landed at the base of a tree with a soft bump on a bed of ferns. She was in another forest! This one was different, because it had more dirt and less grass, a creek instead of pools, and the air was considerably colder. Melanie sat for a while enjoying the birdsong and the happy trickle of the brook. Presently, she heard a new sound—a rustling sound—coming from behind her. She turned to look and jumped in fear: behind her stood a huge Lion!

It stared at her without moving. She gazed back, trembling.

"Come."

That call! Melanie discerned that it was the Lion speaking. But how had he spoken to her in the Wood? The signing hands appeared in her mind's eye, superimposed over his face. Melanie slowly stood and walked beside the Lion, who seemed to lead her deeper into the forest. Melanie wondered where they were going, and who the Lion was, but she did not know how to ask. Goodness! It could not have been five or ten minutes since she first learned how to speak at all!

Finally, the Lion stopped and turned to her.

"You have many questions, child, but you are unable to ask them."

Melanie nodded in amazement.

"Breathe deeply," the Lion instructed, and as Melanie obeyed, he breathed on her.

The Lion's breath was sweet, warm, and comforting on Melanie's tongue and in her nostrils as she inhaled.

"Now, child, speak," the Lion said.

Melanie was confused; speak? Was it really as simple as that? Her tongue did feel a bit smaller, and more manageable. She tried to speak, somehow coming up with the sounds that belonged to the letters she pictured, to communicate the signs she knew.

"Waah yoo naam?" As Melanie listened to her voice for the first time, her heart sank. It was slow, ungainly, dull, and dreadfully clumsy-sounding. Not at all like the rich, rolling rumble of the Lion's voice.

In the short pause that followed her question, Melanie fretted. Had she said it correctly? Would he understand?

"My name is Aslan."

He understood! What a relief. Melanie tried the word herself, "Azz-lann."

When Aslan did not reply, Melanie thought perhaps now was the proper time to introduce herself. She pictured in her mind what she wanted to say and the signs to communicate them, but she had no idea how she could actually go about speaking them. "Maah naam . . . Mah-lan-eee."

It took more effort than she had assumed it would. Aslan still held her gaze. "Melanie," he repeated, but the sign the white hands made was not one she was used to associating with her name. No matter; Melanie's foremost concern was the pronunciation of her name. She sounded it out quietly to herself.

Aslan continued, "Do you know why you are here, Melanie?"

Melanie shook her head.

"Do you know where you are?"

Again, she indicated that she did not.

"From your world I called you, and led you here to a land whose name you will recognize: Telmar."

[…]

Taurin was the son of a Telmarine farmer. As such, he was expected to be a farmer himself when the time came. That was the way of Telmar. Often Taurin caught himself wishing fervently things were not so. He had a dream, one everyone would think was scandalous, one he didn't have much of a prayer of realizing unless something drastic happened.

More than even his desire to be materially successful, Taurin wanted to teach. Imparting knowledge was far more appealing to him than merely sowing seed, and harvesting, and caring for livestock. The wealthier farmers could choose to send their children away for a basic education of letters and numbers, but most farmers and artisans could see no use for their children to know anything outside the farm. Did one need to know letters to read the skies for the weather? Did one need to know numbers when the right amount of seed could be weighed in the hand? No, most children remained on the farm and were content because they did not know of life outside the farm.

Taurin had seen such life, and even the thought of obtaining such knowledge increased his thirst for it. He increased his literacy in secret, through the sheer tenacity of his self-effort.

Taurin smiled up at the tall, aged trees as he approached the forest between his family's farm and the next. This wood was the one place Taurin felt true sanctuary. Times like this, when Taurin had finished his after-breakfast chores well before the noon meal, he—with permission—would steal away to his beloved forest to explore the many different plants and animals there. He could already hear the creek trickling just ahead. Taurin ran to the bank and almost tripped over the body lying near it.

Taurin stopped and stared at this newcomer, a girl. She had long, beautiful, fair hair, and Taurin noted that her slender white hands bore a few marks around the palms and fingertips, good evidence that she was not averse to useful work. The dress she wore was a good deal shorter than Taurin was accustomed to seeing on a girl, but he deemed it still modest.

The young farmer's son sat next to the sleeping girl. He very much wanted to discover who she was and where she came from, but she slept so peacefully and looked so beautiful, Taurin was content to watch until she awoke of her own accord.

Presently, a robin swooped down with a song for Taurin. He tried to shoo it away, but it only flew to the girl's shoulder and sang again. She awoke and sat up, which startled the bird. It flew away over the creek. The girl watched it with a smile, but her expression changed to one of fear and she shrank away with a shriek when she saw Taurin.

"Don't be afraid, I won't hurt you," he reassured her. "My name is Taurin. What is yours?"

The girl hesitated for so long, Taurin wondered if she knew how to speak. But then—

"Melanie."

To read the full chapter, Click -->HERE<--

Friday, January 23, 2015

Reader's Review: "Division" by Lee S. Hawke


Synopsis from Amazon: (slightly reformatted for this blog)

BEAUTY. GRIEF. MINDS. EVERYTHING IS DIVISIBLE

[...]
Featuring 7 original, fairytale-inspired science fiction short stories, this collection explores the division between mind, body, technology, and humanity in Hawke’s trademark haunting style.
Inside:
A chronically ill civilian discovers that his immune system may be the key to human survival; A schoolgirl tries to escape her demons through levels of virtual reality; A data analyst falls in love with a software coder during a forced government assignment; A young boy is confronted with a horrifying truth about his constructed world; A jaded medical technician rediscovers the meaning of beauty; A girl scrambles to escape a horrifying alien invasion in a futuristic dystopia, and A spaceship engineer struggles with the death of her only daughter. 

Metaphysical and visionary, this collection of fantastic fiction combines humor, wonder, horror and humanity to create an enduring anthology of fairy tales for adults.
>>>>>>>>>
My Review:
*Disclaimer: The fact that the author was kind enough to provide a free copy of the book in exchange for the review in no way affects the candor of the opinions contained herein! 
Okay, here it is:

I love science fiction.
One of my favorite sci-fi authors is Isaac Asimov, "The Father of Modern Science Fiction."

I adore fairytales.
I have been devouring every kind of retelling/adaptation I could get my hands on over the last year.

So when a budding author publishes a book of "sci-fi fairy tales," I eagerly request a free copy in exchange for the chance to review it. All the while, visions of the countless re-tellings I had been reading—with a futuristic twist—danced through my head.

I had been so caught up in a certain set of folk tales that had been adapted and retold so many times that I forgot that the true meaning of "fairy tale" was much broader than Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and the gang.

Forget re-telling the same old stories. Lee Hawke has reinvented the notion of fairy-tales.

In my desperate attempt to read all of Asimov's fiction, I came across one anthology called "The Complete Robot," which was basically a bunch of short stories, some related, some not. I read it, loved it—but did not find much else outside of the widespread "Foundation Novels." 

Hawke's "Division" rekindled that same thrall that Asimov left on my imagination. Seven short, simple tales, ravishing in their use of poetic and palpable word choices (a pet fixation of mine!), and ponderous in the implications they leave upon the mind of the reader. The sage literary pioneer (Asimov) looks out across the universe and murmurs softly, "Atta girl."

In fact, the one negligible detail that keeps me from a full-throated recommendation (but not a full five stars!) is the presence of transgender characters in one story and a homosexual couple in another. From a moral and religious standpoint I believe these lifestyles to be fundamentally antithetical to the way humanity was designed...

But, as I said, it in no way affects my rating. Hawke is so gracious and tactful in her portrayals and use of those alternative lifestyles that it is both natural and nondescript (so much so that I almost missed the transgender when it happened and had to read it twice more to realize the significance). She writes them so well that, while I disagree with and do not support that lifestyle, I was not offended in the least. I read those two stories with the same eyes that explored (for a college course) the richness of an African author describing life in her village and the voodoo practices she embraced. To "agree to disagree" for the sake of enjoying such decadent storytelling was easy and I entered willingly. And like I mentioned, it was only two stories out of the seven... And neither had the lifestyle itself as the main focus and central issue. It was just a character decision, and the story happened beyond it.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed "Division." The thought-provoking tales captivated me from the very first page... And if the final and titular story "Division" doesn't leave you wiping a tear from your eye or at the very least (as I was) breathless... Then you're probably a robot.

"Division" receives FIVE STARS from me, and my warmest congratulations to Lee S. Hawke. Keep writing!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How To Book, Vol. 2

(For the first post of this nature, click -->HERE<-- )

If you read enough books, you start noticing when the writer isn't paying attention to the words he is using....



All right... Apparently it had to be said...

In the summer of 2013, I wrote a post that was mostly me venting about observations in areas that I had begun to notice in general: my three main points were aimed primarily at those authors who wrote novels with no discernible message ("Think first, then write"), no momentum between the "exciting bits" that don't all actually fit together, but they ended up in the same book "by hook or by crook" (to which I begged, "Don't neglect your lines!"), and those tales that were side-tracked and often derailed by the pursuit of the vague metaphysical side of their characters and the story they might have been attempting to get across. ("Reading should feed the mind and enrich the life, not isolate and confuse.")

Over the last year, I have made a decided foray into the world of independently-published books, where I have connected with the author personally before receiving a copy of their book to feature on my blog. While those independent books ranked among some of the best books I had read in 2014... others I was not so pleased with, and after beta-reading a few more, recently, I thought it was time for a follow-up "How To Book" post. (As I did before, I will not disclose the title or the author, whether the example is positive or negative; if you have read and recognize the book or the author, so be it; you are free to agree or disagree with my position)

Whereas the three points in the first "How To Book" post dealt with my reaction to certain professionally-published books in terms of weakness in their content, the main issues prompting this post--and the predominate feature I will typically judge an independently-published book on--is the style of the work. Not the "voice", as that will naturally vary from person to person--nor the format, insofar as it extends to whether the author chooses an epistolary or narrative style, or things like first-person or third-person. I am talking about the way the author writes within the style he or she has chosen. It is a good follow-up for the first "How To Book" because, naturally, after you have been through the guidelines of what you are planning to write, the next step to understanding and producing great-quality literature is taking care of how you are going to write it.

Therefore, I present to you....

The Three Roles of A Writer

A writer plays many roles in the process of writing their fiction novel. (I read predominantly fiction, and so that is the main category I will be focused on; these guidelines may or may not apply to nonfiction writing) The most devoted writer (and I say this from personal experience as well as observation) will mentally portray just about every character they have in the novel, and give a play-by-play of every scene. Sometimes they'll even step back and place themselves in the position of spectator within their own imagination, watching the action unfold as an uninvolved third-party.

The issue I have noticed is when I can detect a profound discrepancy between what is no doubt running through the writer's head, and what exactly ends up on the paper.
Mankind has not really achieved telepathy yet--the ability to impose one's consciousness upon another--but I have said often that perhaps writing is the closest thing that we have to that... or, at least, writing in its best, most polished form.  

In trying to figure out the best way to get my point across, I decided that there are really three main roles that a conscientious writer must employ--in addition to being every character in the novel--in order to ensure that the resulting novel is clear enough and easy for the reader to grasp and enjoy.

Role #1: Representative

Here's the thing every writer needs to understand: you are not just any one character in your novel. You are the representative for this alternate, fictional world you have envisioned. You are the one liaison between the characters you have invented and the readers who will learn of their existence and come to believe in them as "real"--or at least real enough to enjoy reading about them.

It has recently begun to peeve me when a writer claims to have "let the characters tell the story"--and yet the novel itself displays such a lack of true understanding of the art of story-telling that it makes me wonder if the writer hasn't just sat back and let the "head-voices" do all the work.
My friends and fellow-writers, we are not the puppets on the strings, being danced across the stage at the hands of characters who--in all honesty--did not exist till we invented them. Storytelling from the time of its first invention was for the purpose of representing external or past (or nonexistent) events to those who had not witnessed it. Would you, as the representative and the only demonstration we have of this amazing world that has sprung into existence in your head, not want to give as full an effect of the enjoyment you have experienced as you possibly can? Why on earth would you content yourself with holding these vivid images in your own head and yet giving us the bare minimum of all the wealth of your imagination? If you are not thorough in your representation, why, then, should we care as much as you do about these characters we still don't know, and indeed cannot know, because they are not in our heads? Must we seek you out for an in-depth interview to understand the motivation behind your publishing of this story? Or can you not provide such a just representation of your own characters in the book, the first time around?

I was severely disappointed on a couple different counts, since at least twice, the writer had an incredible idea and a promising premise that drew me to read the first page--yet the more I read, the more confused I became, and at no point did the characters spring to life in my head. From the first to the last, it was only words on a page. The story was there; I fully engaged my imagination and resorted to creating my own story based on the few "representative details" given, instead of receiving the account that the original author had worked so hard to produce--merely because the writer might have been likely so taken with the story happening in his or her head, that they forgot their duty to be a good representative to their readers. Thus the story lay buried under layers of poor communication and sheer "bad writing"--when reading should have "transported" the reader right out of the "real" world and into the fictional one.

Writers, please represent your world! The real world needs to know about it, and so it is up to you to give the fullest picture of your setting and its function and purpose!

Role #2: Reporter

The second role a writer plays in presenting his or her story is that of a "reporter." Imagine this: you opened your newspaper and the headline decried some great catastrophe--yet the article itself merely said, "Something happened and it was terrible and people died and we were all sad."

Murder! Mayhem! Desolation! Wait... Really?

You can bet that reporter just might be out of a job if that's all they did--and yet, in some of the novels that I read, this was essentially all the "detail" the author provided. I was told that something was sad, or that these two characters were "in love", or that there was a tense near-death moment where one character was almost dismembered alive--

Told.
Informed after the fact.
Receiving the message from a dispassionate robot with not even an opportunity of empathy with the characters.

"But everything turned out okay."

Now I feel jaded. That's not even fair.

My literary friends--what is the reason you are telling the story if not to get us to feel something? And how can we feel something when you don't use words strong enough to do that? There are so many words available to us in the English language--so many, in fact, that you'll find there are probably about as many "extinct" words as there are words that we use every day--so why on earth would you not at least try and use the ones that would make the reader feel the same emotions that your character is feeling--especially if you're not going to give us enough information about the events to let us know what those emotions are?

The key is to center on what the world feels like, sounds like, smells like--not just what it all looks like.

"The wound made a red stripe across his chest. The soldier did not cry out, because he was very brave."

Okay... Red stripe... nice start... but not quite strong enough to match the force of a word like "wound."

"Troy felt his stomach heave as he witnessed the thick red trench in Doran's chest. The warrior's face showed no pain--except that the skin had gone deathly-white, and the muscles in his neck stretched taut with suppressed agony."

There! Words like "heave" and "trench", "stretched taut" and "suppressed agony" are all nice, strong words--and can't you feel the way your stomach suddenly agrees with that of Troy--

Even though till now you had no idea who Troy is? Who is Doran? Even I don't know... but didn't you feel that? And all I did was change a few words.

Writers, please make an effort to give clear and thorough reports on the doings of your world, as told through the events of your novel. Without this effort on your part (and with practice--only with practice--it comes easier!) the reader has little to no idea what is actually going on in your world, and so they miss out on the wonderful, heart-wrenching story you have for them!

Role #3: Ringmaster

To all you writers who claim to have a "hands-off" approach to your writing, and claim that your strategy is to set up the environment and "let your characters go"...
Guess what? Not only is that irresponsible writing, but it's also very much not true! If you really did let your characters tell the story, it wouldn't ever make it to print--because who is going to submit YOUR story? Your character? The very fact that your book exists in print is not through any of their effort--so don't blame the obvious lack of effort on them!

The writer, in addition to being the reporter and the representative is also the ringmaster. The story might pop into your head without an invitation--but then it is your responsibility to make sure that the story is actually written well, and things like grammar, spelling and punctuation (for the love of sanity!) are properly attended to. Even if you're the type of writer who likes to write on the fly, who doesn't want to plan out the novel but leave it to the characters' responses to decide where the story is going to go--at the very least you should exercise proper use of the English language!

I saved this one for last because it seemed like the biggest issue I had a problem with--for those (albeit very few!) novels that I actually had a problem with. There were characters aplenty, and (three times out of five) there was actually a relatively solid setting within which the characters could function. But--two times out of five--the characters, when "left to their own devices" did little else but wander around the setting, talking, arguing, saying the same things over again, making verbal observations about things that the narrator (wait, so the writer is involved in the story!) already explained...

And the author had us convinced that there was going to be a story in there somewhere...

I chose the term "ringmaster" very deliberately. A ringmaster doesn't know how each show is going to turn out; he is not the one to do any of the stunts himself.

But it is the ringmaster's job to make sure all of the performers are going through their acts in a way that will bring the most entertainment to the audience.

The ringmaster is calling the shots. The ringmaster can direct any one performer to slow their movements down to a pace where he can see all of the actions, and decide which ones to include in his show before the audience ever sees it. The ringmaster knows all the magician's secret pockets; the tricks may move too fast for the unsuspecting audience, but the ringmaster knows every inch of it.

Fellow writers, We are all ringmasters, and each novel is our very own "circus." The characters may come to us like performers auditioning for their shot at fame--but in the end we decide whether to include them, and we make sure that their inclusion fits seamlessly into our show. That is our job. You cannot leave something like a story in the hands of a fictional character--any more than you would want a total stranger to start writing your biography. They're going to do a shoddy job of it... and I have seen some "characters" do a "shoddy job" of certain novels I've read!
I believe in Intelligent Design. I believe that anything made--a painting, a building, a song--has some kind of intentional creativity behind it. The pen did not move itself, the keys did not type themselves--and we know that your fictional characters don't exist outside of the page! So please stop shrugging it off and getting careless when errors "appear" in your novel. That was your doing; at every single point just before striking the keys, the words you wrote spun through your head first, and then out of your fingers. At any point you could have selected a different word if you were actually paying attention to your writing. The fact that you didn't is not the fault of "the story" or "the characters."

A million monkeys banging on a million typewriters for a million years MIGHT reproduce the works of Shakespeare.... but it will NEVER be crafted with that same deliberation as Shakespeare himself used in the original productions! When was the last time you have been so fixated on a certain feeling or notion that you decided there were not enough words to describe it, so you made your own rather than use a half-baked term?

Our job is to make sure that we are giving a full and clear representation of the world we are creating. Our job is to make sure we are being thorough and precise as a reporter of the events in our novels. Our job is to be the ringmaster of our stories, to have the final say in all of it, to affirm that we are in control of every syllable, every letter, and take full responsibility for everything that happens, to make it the very best we can create.
Let me finish by repeating the final paragraph from the first "How To Book" post. It's cheesy, I know, not coming up with something new to say... but it bears repeating, because it still applies:

In short, it boils down to this: write consciously. The questions "Who? What? When? Where? How? Why?" shouldn't just apply to the plot itself; a writer should consider, when they sit down to write, "What am I writing? Where am I going with it? What is it's purpose and message? How am I communicating that message? Why is it important?" If you don't have a satisfactory answer for each of these questions, think about it a bit more before you start slamming words onto a page.



May you all go forth and produce lasting literature!