Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Merely Meredith" Excerpt: "Ellie's Date"

 
George Spencer Herbert Elliot IV

“Oh Gooshie!” Penelope tittered, cradling Dad’s arm in both her hands, like a creeping vine growing around a statue.
I’d heard enough. I grabbed Ellie’s arm and pulled her into the kitchen.
“Did I seriously just hear that woman call our dad Gooshie?” I seethed when we were alone.
Ellie grimaced and jerked away. “What’s your deal, Meredith?”
“That’s our father she’s talking to! Not her pet Chihuahua!”
My sister smirked. “I think it’s cute!”
“Cute?” A paralyzing chill crept over my body. I covered my eyes, as if that would make the whole scenario disappear. “Elaine Savannah Melissa Elliot, do not tell me that Penelope and Dad are—“ I couldn’t bring myself to say it.
She giggled. Just like Penelope, I thought. “Not till recently,” she confirmed. “Isn’t it adorable?”
“Ellie, she’s not much older than you are!”
“I know! It’ll be just like having another sister!”
I would have slapped her silly if I thought it would help. “Since when did you care about having another sister? Why not just start calling me Mom and leave Penelope out of the family?”
“Penelope would never be our mom!” Ellie protested, sneering at me. “Don’t be such a prude. She’s already my friend, and if she makes Dad happy, where’s the harm?”

She exited the back of the kitchen and sauntered up the stairs to her bathroom, where she primped like some middle-aged cougar wasn’t trying to seduce our father. As she examined her reflection, I caught a glint in her eye; I knew that look.
“Going somewhere tonight?” I asked casually.
A revving motor in the driveway answered my question. Ellie was in the doorway at a bound. “He’s here! Oh crap!” She ran into her room. I followed just in time to see her throw open the door of her closet and start digging through dresses.
“Who’s out there?” I asked.
“Oh, nobody!” She sang in that joking voice that never fooled anybody. “Just George!” She emphasized the name like she expected me to be jealous or something.
I didn’t have to pretend ignorance. “Who’s George?” I asked.
Ellie came out of the closet and posed in front of the mirror. She had paired a floral Coldwater Creek top with neat Ann Taylor slacks and Jimmy Chu gladiator sandals. She smirked and winked at her reflection and turned to me. “Oh, you remember George!” She sat at her vanity and began applying makeup unconcernedly.
I folded my arms. “Nope.”
Ellie finished her eyeliner and mascara and shot me a derisive glance. “Georgie? From Upton? The Heir?” She stretched the word to two syllables.
Then I remembered—and I knew why I didn’t recognize him. “I never actually met him, Elle. He never showed up that summer, remember? Besides, didn’t he marry some diplomat’s daughter or something?”
Ellie gave her lips one last swipe and smacked them. She sniffed. “Wall Street executive, Mer. And they were engaged, but not married—and it’s over now.” She bounced to the door of her room and winked at me. “He’s single and breathing, he has two legs, and he’s interested in me!”

I huffed at her. She ran down the stairs and disappeared into the living room.
The doorbell rang. “Could you get that?” she hollered.
I moaned and sauntered down the stairs. “I just think you need to rearrange your priorities if you’re going to ignore a potential threat to our family’s happiness over some punk named—“ I stopped as I opened the door and beheld a tall, tanned figure with blue eyes and bleached hair.
“—George,” I squeaked, as the man from Port O’Connor grinned at me.
“Hello, stranger,” crooned George Spencer Herbert Elliot IV.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Serial Saturday: "The Telmar Trilogy, Vol. 3: "The Legacy of Telmar" Part FINAL

Susan laughed again, "Oh! That's the fun of it! Benton is going
on a holiday for a whole week in France, and he invited me to go with him!"

The Pevensies and Melanie sat at their last breakfast in the Ketterley House. No one spoke, but each ate silently. The telephone broke the silence with its grating ring. Peter answered it.
"Hello?"

"Hello, Pete; this is Susan."

Peter picked up his head, "Susan? Where are you?"

Susan laughed carelessly, "Oh, don't fret, I'm fine. Say, I want to apologize for not coming over and speaking at graduation. I would have, but everyone was leaving to a party that I'd completely forgotten about, and so of course I had to go with them. I do appreciate your being there, though."

"Susan," Peter interjected, slightly irritated, "Where are you?"

"Peter," Susan giggled maddeningly, "are you concerned for me? Don't worry, dear! I'm perfectly safe. I'm with Benton."

"Susan, you shouldn't be with him!"

"And why not?" Susan's voice dropped its light, affected tone. "He's perfectly responsible. Actually, he's part of the reason for my call, because I am saying goodbye!"

"Goodbye? Where are you going?"

Susan laughed again, "Oh! That's the fun of it! Benton is going on a holiday for a whole week in France, and he invited me to go with him! And so, dear brother, I'm saying au revoir to you all! I promise to send postcards, darling! And I'll be sure to keep my eyes out for some little gift at a real French shop. Oh! Speaking of shops, tell Lucy I was in Blume's the other day, and they had the most gorgeous little skirt that I think would look divine on her! She does so need new styles, poor little chick! Give her my love . . . oh, and that deaf girl, if she's still around. Funny how I found her all those years ago, and she's nearly part of the family now!" Susan broke off with a giggle.

"Susan, why are you leaving now?" Peter asked quietly when Susan finally ceased her prattle. "Lucy misses you; can't you come say goodbye in person?"

Susan was silent for a long time. "Oh!" she sighed at last, "I would, but there's the ship now! I'm off! I will write, cherie! Farewell!"

Peter heard a click, and silence on the line. He hung the telephone back on its cradle. Susan was gone.

"Peter, was that Susan?" Edmund asked.
He nodded.

"What did she say?" Lucy wanted to know.
Peter did not turn around, and there was an uncharacteristic slump in his shoulders.
"She said goodbye," he said, and left the room.

Everyone pitched in, and all the Pevensies' belongings were packed and ready to be loaded into a cab. The telephone rang again, and Peter picked it up, hoping it would be Susan.

"Hello, Peter." It was old Professor Kirke.

"Hello, Professor," Peter sighed.

"You sound rather disappointed. What happened?"

Peter told him that Susan had left them.

"Oh, that's too bad; say, why don't you all come out to the cottage, and we can have a Narnia dinner this evening? It would cheer you up, I think. Bring your cousin and his friend, too."

"Why, sir?"

"Well . . . because I think it's high time we all got together for a good talk."

Peter sensed something else in the Professor's tone. "And?" he prompted.

Professor Kirke sighed, "I seem to have this feeling that you are . . . somehow wanted. Will you come?"

"I think we might be able to; say, four o'clock?"

"Four o'clock it is, then. Polly and I will meet you at the station."

"All right; goodbye."

"Goodbye, Peter."

Accordingly, the Pevensies, Eustace, and Jill all met at the train station and traveled out to the country, where the Professor and Aunt Polly met them immediately upon arrival. The boys loaded the luggage into the back of the Professor's rickety auto, and they set off down the long lane to the Professor's cottage, where he had lived ever since his larger house—where the Pevensies had such adventures in the magical wardrobe—had burned to the ground.

The girls and Aunt Polly set about making supper, and soon all was ready, and they made a fine meal of it. As you would expect, the conversation soon turned to Narnia, and Peter was pleasantly surprised to find that remembering old times and grand adventures diverted his mind from his frustration against Susan's foolishness. If she had been at dinner that night, I'm sure everyone was in such a mind to forgive and welcome her on the spot. However, a guest of quite a different sort was to appear that night.

Everyone had finished supper for the most part, and were still chatting when the three younger kids jumped to their feet, Jill with a little scream of fright.

"What is—" Edmund began, but the question died on his lips when he followed their gaze to what they saw.

Polly gave a little gasp when she saw it, and the Professor jumped and knocked his glass off the table. There was a ghost sitting right across from them!

Peter clenched his hand as he had gotten in the habit of doing at school, to steady his voice. He commanded the ghost, "Speak, if you're not a phantom or a dream. You have a Narnian look about you, and we are seven friends of Narnia."

Melanie, putting away dishes in the kitchen, nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard someone yell.

"I am King Tirian of Narnia!"

She ran into the dining room. A few of her friends were on their feet, and everyone was staring at one side of the table. There was a ghost! It's back was toward Melanie, but she could hear it speak.
"Narnia is in grave danger! Please help us!"

Peter jumped to his feet. Melanie saw his lips move, but she realized that, though she could hear the king, she was still deaf in England. Perhaps they could not hear him! She ought to say something, but what—
Before anyone could react further, the ghost of King Tirian faded and disappeared.

Melanie finally recovered her senses. She ran to the table. Everyone was talking with wide eyes. Melanie tapped Edmund on the shoulder. Why do you sit here talking? She signed, Narnia is in danger!
She did not understand the look of total shock he gave her. How do you know? He signed.
She furrowed her brow, Because the King said so!
Edmund's mouth dropped open, You heard it speak?

Melanie nodded, and Edmund whirled around and announced this to everyone else. She could see him explaining that though she was deaf, in the Narnian world she could hear.
Peter turned to her, What sort of danger?
Melanie shrugged, I do not know; I could not ask.

How she wished she would have! But there was no help for that now. There remained only one thing to do: find a way to save Narnia!
 >>>>>>>

How will they save Narnia? What will become of Melanie? Click -->HERE<-- to find out! 

*Note from the author: This may be the last post from The Telmar Trilogy on The Upstream Writer--but it certainly isn't the end of the story. Listed below, you will find the links to two possible endings I wrote, having nearly the same events, just different characters involved. If you would be so kind as to read both and comment with which ending you liked best, I would be very grateful! Hope you've enjoyed this series as much as I have, and I certainly hope you'll stick around for the next one! -Leslie


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Throwback Series: "The Day of Reckoning" Prologue Part 4


Very soon, the trio sat in the grand parlor of the late Sister Miligred. Laurel sat across from the man, eyeing him warily while absently massaging her scar. He wondered what sort of battle could warrant such a wound.
“Tell us your name, stranger,” she demanded brusquely.

“My name—“ the man hesitated, and finished, “I am called Carsius.”

Laurel stared at Carsius with those strange, multicolored eyes; he had never seen such eyes before: shades of lavender, dark blue, and green all reflected on top of each other, and overshadowed with flecks of brown. She stared at him so hard and long he wondered if she was one of those who could read minds and see into the souls of men.
“Well, Carsius,” Laurel finally responded dubiously, “I am called Laurel, and this is my friend Renata. What is your business here? Who are these Elitinati of which you speak? Are they the ones oppressing the people with these maddening, evil, pervasive, devious—starekidoreshu?” She spat a long, foreign epithet with particular venom.

Carsius glanced around at the blind, innocuous puffballs milling about the room, noticing as well the numerous pools of gore from dead wyrts (cleaned, of course, insofar as could be managed, after the fashion of female housekeepers who only happened to be warriors). He turned back to the Elf. “You speak of the wyrts as if you know of them,” he observed. “Part of my business here is to discover as much as I can about them so that my people can destroy them and free the people from their influence. We know only very little, only—“

“Only what?” Laurel cut in quickly, sitting down and fidgeting with the handle of the dagger hanging from her belt. She leaned forward with intensity, “How much do you know?”

Carsius sighed and recounted what the Black Hand had discovered about the althraxine. “My superiors surmise that the wyrts themselves might be able to be exploited, say by ‘hacking’ into their neural frequency via—“

WHAM

It took all the training Carsius had received to keep from flinching as Laurel flung her dagger at a wyrt crawling between his legs. She scowled darkly.
“Pick it up,” she said, “Look; all that’s there is blood and neurons. They absorb energy through their foot-pads and excrete blood-waste there, too; that’s why they don’t have any other organs. The blood is there to feed the neural network. Besides, hacking won’t work. Once a wyrt is exploited, it dies and disconnects from the neural network. The minute you interrupt the flow of information from the wyrt to the mother, the connection is severed and the wyrt is a useless piece of brain tissue.” She sighed and her face cleared. “You say they use this althraxine drug to open the way for the wyrt to take over?”
Carsius nodded, extremely curious now. “Why do you ask? How did it work on your planet?”

Laurel’s eyes glazed over, and her face grew sad. “They just… took,” she murmured. “Maybe it was because Noelle—I mean, because a certain Elf on my planet found the mother and actually used dark magic (in my tongue we call it the Kidor-Nadjeroth) to somehow impart the knowledge and power of the wyrt-mother to herself and her daughter—“ Laurel’s voice caught and she pressed her lips mournfully. “I felt it—the power of the wyrts, I mean. They connect to the nervous system of their hosts and then the hosts become part of the neural network. The ones controlling the mother can see what the host sees, hear what he hears—there is nothing hidden!”

“And are your people still enslaved, that is why you are here to defeat these?” Carsius mused.

Laurel’s face expressed agony of the heart. “No,” she replied hollowly, “all the wyrts on my planet are dead. I wish to save these people from a similar fate.”
“It is possible to defeat them all, then?” Carsius leaned forward with a gleam in his eye. “How did it happen?”
Laurel closed her eyes, wishing fervently she did not have to relive the worst nightmare of her life, but seeing no other choice.
“Very well, Carsius, I will tell you,” she began.

“The Elf I spoke of—the one who became the mother-mind—was a jealous, dark-hearted mistress who desired power and riches however she could get it. My father, though the nephew of my people’s king, was made heir by the Elvenking at the request of his sister, my grandmother. He did not know—in fact, no one but the midwife who birthed him knew—that my father had a twin brother who was weaker than he, and was not expected to live long. Under the care of the midwife, the twin grew into a mature Elf, though always a weak, shriveled Elf, knowing nothing of his heritage until the midwife told him, as she breathed her last. 
He married the mistress, who soon learned of his true identity and desired the king’s riches for herself. She went to the wyrt-mother and took her place, causing the wyrt-mother to die and all the knowledge to pass to the mistress, who found it too much for her. Her daughter, however, had been preparing herself for just such a moment, and when her mother was about to die from the neural overload, the daughter took the knowledge for herself and became the wyrt-mother over her own mother’s dead body.” Laurel paused in the chilling tale and smiled grimly, “Both Elves thought that the symbol of great authority would be a crown of some sort, but they never realized that the inheritance of the Elvenking to his heir would be a sword—this sword.” Laurel turned to the rack of tools standing next to the fireplace and picked up an old, beaten scabbard, from which the magnificent hilt of a sword protruded. 
Carsius watched carefully as she undid the straps and unbound the leather cover, and he could not restrain a gasp as the material fell away to reveal a scabbard of such brilliance it fairly dazzled him to look upon it. Swirls and scrolls of gold and silver, speckled with sapphires and emeralds, coursed over a flaming-red background. Laurel drew the sword, and showed it to him. The mirror-bright steel bore an inscription in some strange language, perhaps Laurel’s native tongue. She saw him studying it and smiled,
“The inscription reads Oy Raenna-Anoy-Rethanandaru, which means ‘the heart of the Elvenking’ in my tongue,” she explained. “What the daughter—Gwynna, was her name—realized at last was that the key to getting what they thought would bring them the crown was my name, which the Elvenking had given as the password for the last haven of my people in Glastoskan.”
Carsius nearly asked her about this, but he sensed within that another story in and of itself, much longer than this one, so he remained silent. Besides, Laurel now grew angry again.
“She tried to get this name from my friends by overpowering them with the wyrts, but my friends did not know it. Then she tried to get it from me, but—“ Laurel stopped, and anger turned to confusion.

“What happened?” Carsius prompted her.

“For some reason,” Laurel continued slowly, “Instead of Gwynna taking over my mind, I suddenly found myself in hers, viewing her memories in my own head.”

Carsius blinked in surprise, “You can reverse the neural transmitting of the wyrts?” he burst out incredulously.

“Laurel,” Renata finally spoke up, after sitting silent for so long, “Is that what happened when Father went to rescue you? Andron and I found a lot of records on Noellewynn and her husband Thengoran, but nothing that talked about these things!” Renata winced at the memory, “I wondered why Father never wanted to talk about it.”

Laurel smiled and stroked her friend’s red curls, “Yes, young one, I’m afraid that’s what happened.” She turned back to Carsius, “I don’t know how I did it, but I was able to redirect the influence of the wyrts. I tried to use that influence to save her, because she was my cousin, but she was as full of hate as I was full of love, and when she killed herself to prevent the love from taking over—“ Laurel stopped and blinked as the realization occurred. She smiled and her eyes danced as she declared, “It was the conflict of fundamental ideologies that killed the wyrts!

Carsius blinked, “Is it really that simple?” he asked with a frown. “One belief asserted against another will break down the influence of the wyrts?”

Laurel jumped up, her eyes aflame with the light of battle, “Quick! You must tell me where the mother-mind is, so that we can defeat these nefarious creatures once and for all!”

 Carsius admired the enthusiasm of the Elvish maid, but he threw his hands up in the air, “I confess I only recently learned about the wyrts and the neural networking; besides, you realize that by trying to take down the wyrt-network you are going up against the Elitinati.”

Laurel frowned in frustration, “But who are the Elitinati? You speak as if they are supremely powerful beings.”

Carsius nodded, “And verily, they seem wiser than any other race in the universe, and as cunning as the Devil himself! They have been around for ages, assuming control of planets and destroying civilizations in just such a way as this! They are like this Noellewynn of whom you speak, greedy for riches and power.
"Eillumaeia was once a fertile land, one of peace and love and unity. Then a certain sect decided that they would rather have dominance over other species, and called themselves the Elitinati and set themselves over the other races here on Eillumaeia. It was their ideas, these ‘Six Pillars of Illuminus’ you’ve no doubt heard of—“

Laurel nodded, “I used it as a password to enter this city; I had no idea what it meant, only that the name of the Elitinati inspired reverential fear in the faces and actions of the people around me.”

Carsius stood and began pacing, thinking furiously. “These Six Pillars serve as the foundational principles of supreme authority for the Elitinati. If we could topple these pillars—“

Renata leaped to her feet, engaging in the conversation. “Down fall the Elitinati, and the people are free to live in community once more!” she cheered.

“So where is the mother-mind?” Laurel repeated her question. “If we are invisible to the wyrts, then we should have little trouble locating it without being discovered.”

“We are only invisible to the wyrts and their victims,” Carsius reminded her. “The Elitinati have the capacity to train their own operatives to resist and even manipulate the influence of the wyrts. We would not be so invisible to them. I would imagine that the mother-mind lay somewhere deep beneath the great Temple-University at the center of the city. To get there would be no problem—getting in, if I know anything about the Elitinati and their security systems, will be nearly impossible.”

Laurel flopped onto the chair again and immediately squirmed, reaching behind her back to retrieve a wyrt that had burrowed there. She looked at the creature in her hand, recalling the way she had been able to at least start influencing Gwynna’s thoughts—and thus the entire wyrt network—through one of these.
“I know of a way,” she told the others.

At that moment, a distant bell began ringing incessantly. The Elf and the young woman looked around in bewilderment, but Carsius identified the noise immediately. He ran out into the hall.

“Laurel,” he called over his shoulder, “bring your sword: an intruder has triggered the silent alarm!”

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Time Has Come!

Yes, dear readers and wonderful followers of "The Upstream Writer", it is THAT TIME again.
The time when you get a say in what goes on in this blog.
The time when I never know what's going to happen from one week to the next.
The time when you and I get to have a bit of fun together.

It's....

SUGGESTION BOX TIME!!

This series has been wildly successful every time I've tried it. And for those of you with whom I have traded follows, it's a chance for me to give back a little by linking your blog to your name.

You'll notice I've done it a little differently each year.

The first time, in 2013, I simply treated each list as its own separate scene.
In 2014, I chose to string each list together into one continuous story.

So to continue that trend, I am going to tweak it even more!

SUGGESTION BOX 2015: "A THOUSAND WORDS"

What is worth a thousand words? Well, a picture, for one thing. So that's what I am adding to The Suggestion Box: Submitters may now contribute a link to the image that will accompany their posts, and the option of a title to go with it.

WHAT ISN'T CHANGING:
-The primary list criteria: the list must still have a Name, a Place, a Time, and an Object

THE CHANGES:
-one of three Items (place, time, or object) may now be substituted with an image: whether it's the setting (like an image from a certain time or place) or the object you would like included (or even a certain way of interacting with that object; say if it is "purse" you may pick an image of a woman running with her purse, and I would have to include that in the scene
-you may also include a title with your submission, whether it's a title for the image (in which case the image does not replace one of the Four Items, and you can come up with all four of them) or just a title for your section—in which case one of the Three Items is replaced by the image
-also new this year is the fact that having Titles will allow the submitters to decide if they want their Lists separate or continuing from a previous List; to connect it with a previous list, just use the same title and add "Part Next"; if your list comes with a different Title, I will just treat it like a separate thing.

So... To recap:

-WHO MAY SEND A SUGGESTION LIST? Blogger Followers Only. (So if any of my GooglePlus followers want to get in on the action, just click the blue "Join this site" button and follow with your gmail!) I have at least 37 of you, so I expect a decent response! Every follower has at least a GooglePlus profile or a Facebook one, so I will go through my list of followers and be contacting you directly via one of those... So if you're a Blogger Follower, please consider responding at your earliest convenience!

-WHAT EXACTLY ARE THEY SENDING?

The Official Contents List is as follows:
- A Title*
-A Name
-A Place*
-A Time*
-An object*

Items marked with an asterisk can be accompanied OR replaced by an image.

GUIDELINES:

Qualifying criteria for the Main Four (Name, Time, Place, Object) are still very much open: any time, any place, any object.

With the added dimension of an image chosen by the Submitters, I would ask that you keep your images as "clean" and inspirational as possible! If choosing an image with a person, please no nudity; if choosing an image with a quote, please no profanity. In the interest of maintaining the quality of my blog, I may ask you to just submit another image if I feel that I do not want to publish the image you have chosen. (Knowing the sort of people who are my Blogger Followers, I very likely will not have to worry about this happening, but I just figured I would mention, just in case!) 

AND JUST IN CASE YOU THOUGHT I WAS JUST CHANGING THINGS AROUND FOR THE SUBMITTERS...

I have a new rule, too. The "One Thousand Words" series means that each installment I post MUST have 1,000 words. So, just like last NaNoWriMo, when I was doing my "1K-A-Day" posts, I will need to ensure that each list receives one thousand words in response. I have not previously had a limit; some installments have been longer and shorter than this limit, but not this time around.

You guys, I am really excited about this! (If you have any questions, please ask!)
Hope to hear from y'all soon! ;-*

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Serial Saturday: "The Telmar Trilogy, Vol. 3: The Legacy of Telmar" Part 11


[Excerpt from Chapter 24

Lord Samson entered as the Lord and Lady stood and bowed in respect to him. He nodded and hurried forward.
"To what do we owe this unexpected honor of your presence, Milord?" Martan inquired.
Lord Samson's eyes darted from corner to corner of the room. "Lady Melanie, have you received a letter from His Majesty the King?"
Melanie held up the paper. "It only just arrived. Why does Your Lordship have cause to be ill at ease?"
"May I read it?"
Still puzzled at the Lord Protector's agitation, Melanie allowed him. He glanced over it with wide eyes. Once he finished, he produced from a pouch at his side another letter like unto Melanie's.
"Read that, Milady, and you will see what sort of man is the King."
Melanie took it and read:

To Lord Samson, Protector of the throne in Telmar:

Word has reached me concerning your recent display of untoward sympathy for the proponents of pagan, fantastical fairytales of mystical beings and talking animals. I hope this sympathy is not a reflection of Your Eminence's personal inclinations.
It is in Your Eminence's best interest to immediately disregard any further displays of this nature, and furthermore to see that all mutterings about such things are suppressed, that this land you profess to protect may indeed be protected from such insidious fabrications.
If you do not intend to heed this suggestion, I have requested the presence of the Lady of Nast before me in two days; accompany her on her journey to Narnia, that we may discuss the matter further.

In the Mighty Name of His Royal Highness,

King Caspian VIII

Melanie pondered this second letter deeply. It was certainly a different tone than her letter!
She looked up at Lord Samson. "One letter is kind and caring, but another is stern and menacing. Which is the real King?"

Lord Samson sighed. "The latter, I am afraid. Both letters taken together testify to the cunning nature of the King. He can speak to you in words of sweetness and understanding, and draw you in, then condemn you to death, using your own words against your harshly in the next breath. He does not hesitate to remove anyone who believes or speaks contrarily to him. I have known such freedom in the knowledge of Aslan which you introduced to me, but I fear," he gulped, "I fear the cost of such freedom, and so I confess I intend to write a letter of apology to the King. Perhaps then I can convince him that you and I are not a threat, and we can continue as we have been, without his knowledge."

Melanie shook her head. "Obviously such subversiveness does not work, for someone has been informing the King already without our knowing it. I personally believe Aslan is even now at work. I am inclined to comply with the King's summons. Come with me! Perhaps we will have unexpected opportunities even en route to Narnia to witness for Aslan. One person is powerful indeed, but just imagine the power of two testimonies!"

"Melanie," Samson cried, "If I have guessed His Majesty's intention aright, his invitation is merely a means to lure us out, to kill us, and replace us with ones more loyal, and haters of Aslan. I have seen the failure of the rulings of such men, and it pains me to think of what they would do to Nast and to all of Telmar. Please do not be so foolish as to leave Nast in the hands of men like those!"

The mention of death scared Melanie. She had never considered it. Could she actually die here in a different world? Would the Pevensies know what happened to her?

The slight hiss of the lamps lighting alerted Melanie to the approach of evening.
"I must return by nightfall," Lord Samson said, "but please, Lady Melanie, Nast needs you!"
"I will consult Aslan in the night, and what he decides, I will do."
"Aslan be with you, Milady," Lord Samson said.
"And you also, Milord," Melanie replied.
>>>>>>>>

[Excerpt from Chapter 25]

"I have decided . . ." she said slowly, "to go to Narnia."
Martan's heart jumped from his bowels to his throat.
"No!" he choked, "Melanie, please don't go!"
She continued, "I hereby bequeath upon you full Lordship of Nast, and officially end the line of Lord Steward."
"Melanie," Martan cried, "please listen to me. Ever since I first met you, I have loved you."
Melanie stopped and stared at him, not quite sure what she was hearing. "What?" she gasped.
"I see in your purity what made my grandfather so willing to wait for you. You are kind, gracious, noble, honorable, and such qualities only enhance your physical beauty!"
"Milord!"
"Nay, call me Martan! Melanie, I have watched you all this year, and have seen how, though you could have turned me out of the palace immediately upon your return, you chose instead to welcome me as a partner in rule. Melanie," Martan dropped to one knee before the blushing lady on the throne, "I would be honored beyond words and fulfilled to the uttermost if you would consent to stay here, and become my wife."
Melanie felt her whole world tilt wildly! "Martan," she cried, flustered, "I could have been your grandmother!"
He shook his head, "Yet some miracle has kept your appearance from fading, and you do not look much older than I am! Please Melanie! Do not throw away your life like this, I beg you!" He clasped his hands and raised them pleadingly.
Melanie felt the rush and flush of her spirits rising and falling at the same time.
"Martan," she said resolutely, though her chin quivered a bit, "I confess I have admired you as well. You have shown promising fortitude and great judgement in this last year, and I have greatly valued your friendship toward me."
Martan looked up, his eyes hopeful. "Then you accept my proposal?"
There was no mistaking the pain in Melanie's eyes as she said gently, "No, Martan. It is Aslan's will for me to go."
"No! It can't be!"
"I am afraid it is. Aslan appeared to me in a dream last night, and said that I should go," her voice caught and dropped to a near-whisper, "and that I shall never see Telmar again once I leave."
[…]

Melanie left Nast. The carriage rocked back and forth. Her thoughts turned to Aslan. He said she would never see Telmar again. Perhaps he did not mean she would die. What if, on the contrary, she returned to England from Narnia? Melanie sighed; optimistic, but impossible. She might as well prepare for her death. She remembered what Lord Samson had said about the diabolical King Caspian VIII. It would not surprise her if he intended men to murder her en route! Why else would he order her to come in a closed carriage? It created a scenario with the perfect alibi. Perhaps her only option—if she indeed intended to play the heroine and witness to someone on this journey—was to share her testimony with her murderers, if they even let her speak or listened to her.
The carriage slowed to a stop, and Melanie's heart jumped into her throat. She felt suddenly ill. Had her time come? It was certainly too soon to have reached Narnia; Melanie was positive they could not have even reached the borders of Telami!
She heard a footman jump down and open the door of the carriage. Melanie was surprised to see pitch-blackness outside when it ought to have been the middle of the afternoon. Perhaps more time had passed than she realized.
An unseen hand gently supported hers as she disembarked the carriage onto—
A wood floor?
Instant silence pervaded. Melanie could hardly see; it seemed a likely place for a murder to happen. She felt something weighing from her wrist, and a square, flat wooden block under her arm. A bright flash of light caused her to whirl around. There was a small, round window behind her. Where had it come from?
She crept toward it making absolutely no noise at all. Something struck her arm when she raised her hand to the window. What was it? A burlap bag, suspended from her wrist by a drawstring. Where had she gotten that? There were small objects inside it. Melanie pulled one out and held it up to what little light came through the window to see it.
Lightning flashed again outside, and in its brief light, Melanie discerned the shape of the object: the miniature wooden bust of a horse.....

What happened to Melanie? 
What will become of Martan and the rest of Telmar?
Click on the links above to find out!


Want more access?

The Telmar Trilogy, Vol. 1: "The Legend of Telmar" (Part 1)
The Telmar Trilogy, Vol. 2: "Her Ladyship of Telmar" (Part 1)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Throwback Series: "The Day of Reckoning", Prologue Part 3

 
[*Note: This section was written by the writer who contributed these characters; thanks, Josh!]
It was a smoke-filled room, in a dusty tavern. Two cloaked figures sat hunched over their table, speaking not with words but with the motions of lips so the things of secret would not be heard.

"These balls... these wyrts. They exercise complete control once attached apparently," spoke the figure on the left. "They connect the populace entirely, the people become one body, one cause. Individuality is lost."

"Are you sure of this, brother?" queried the man opposite.

"Quite. Look at the people. They interact, they mingle, but they do not speak. They approach, and immediately two men know the deal they must strike. They walk down the roads of this land, pass a house, then suddenly stop to go back to it, and the door is opened at the exact time they reach the doorstep," pressed the man. "And their eyes. They have a glazed look over them, they are as dead men walking..."

"If this is true, then there must be a central system," mused the man on the right. The bartender walked over and handed each of them a mug, then held out his hand. Without saying a word, he began to look irritated. The figure on the right spoke:

"Speak man, what's the price?"

In a nasal, absent voice, the keeper replied, "I have told you five times at least by now, three marks apiece!"

The figure on the left handed him six marks, and the keeper stalked off.

"See? He expected us to be linked, that we would know the timing. They have all individuality wiped so this populace does their bidding like a clock runs its course."

The man to the right reclined. He took a sip from his mug, then paused. He set the mug down, waited a bit, then picked it back up only to secretly spit out what he had almost swallowed.

"Althraxine," he spoke, his eyes showing disgust.

"The neural sedative?"

"Yes. If what you say is true, they probably have the whole rations supply of this land spiked with it."

"Althraxine sedates by sending the neural networks into a temporary overload, correct?"

"Yes... why?"

"The wyrts, they have not attached onto us. We thought it inconsequential, but perhaps they only attach when the neural activity of a victim reaches a certain point..."

"This is possible. Find a way to study these wyrts, run some tests. I shall deliver your findings to the Syndicate."

The two rose, and moved towards the door. As they did, the wyrts absent-mindedly scurried across the floor around them, attaching to the other occupants of the tavern. They reached the tavern door, exited, and then departed in opposite directions. Slowly, the cloaked men faded into the dusk...
>>>>>>>>>>>

[Note: This part is written by me]
Within the mansion of the late Sister Miligred, two female agents amused themselves in silence. One, a human girl in her mid-twenties with bright red hair and sparkling blue eyes, alternately rearranged the overstuffed, ornate furniture in the room, and performed target practice with her small throwing knives--using as her targets the unsettlingly pervasive furry wyrts.
The creatures didn't seem to notice them, but there had to be hundreds scattered throughout the house, which at first unnerved them both, but gradually, their presence (lessened by the target practice) digressed to mere annoyance than any sort of threat.
The redhead tossed a knife at a wyrt in the process of climbing the drapes. The wyrt's body exploded, leaving the pelt pinned to the wall by the knife blade, and staining a wide area of curtain with its blood. She poised to cast another knife at one scuttling across the floor--
"RENATA!" the Elf whipped around and snapped, a longer, sharper dagger than hers sliced through the air along with the voice and skewered the wyrt.
Renata stepped back, sheathing her knife and glancing at her friend.
"Laurel?" she questioned, "what's wrong?"
Laurel stood before the window, letting the cold artificial light of the lamppost outside spill over her fair skin. She wore a short-sleeved jerkin, revealing a rough, purple scar on her right arm, a souvenir from some past battle. She scowled, directing her anger at the wyrt traversing the windowsill next to her. Reflexively, she slipped another knife out of her belt and stabbed the creature without looking, not even caring that the blood flowed to the edge of the desk and dripped onto the carpet.
"I hate them," she seethed, "I hate them all."
Renata captured a wyrt and watched it wave its footpads as if trying to right itself. She enjoyed the feel of the soft fur on her hands. The wyrt ignored her, and most likely could not ascertain why it was not moving. "They're stupid, really," she tried to reassure her friend, "just little things that grow here."
"That everyone has for a pet, and wears like a fashion accessory?" Laurel snapped back. The presence of these creatures awakened bad memories, caused her to relive painful nightmares from her past. "Renata, I brought you here because I thought you were smarter than that. Did your father ever tell you--"
Renata looked up as Laurel's voice abruptly ceased. Her Elvish friend was staring intently out the window at something.
"What is it?" Renata asked.
Laurel stared out the window, her sharp eyes cutting through the thick smog, "Someone's coming," she noticed.
"Who?" Renata stood, fear gripping her for a moment, "Will they pass by, you think?"
Laurel watched the movements of the cloaked figure weaving between the milling bodies of townsfolk. His very deliberate actions would carry him right to the gate of the mansion. Why the flame was he coming here?
"Renata," Laurel turned to her friend, "When you went into town to get provisions, did anybody see you?"
Renata blinked, "You said the wyrts made it so that no one would remember us! You told me I didn't have to worry about that!" She planted her hands on her hips accusingly, just like her mother would.
Laurel shook her head, "There is someone who noticed you," she turned back to the window, "and now he's here."
Renata clapped her hands over her mouth, "What do we do?" she whispered.
"Go get my bow," Laurel instructed firmly.

Down on the street, the hooded man examined the air-locked, seamless door in front of him. Where had that little redheaded sylph gone? He had seen her in the marketplace—he would have dismissed her for another one of the townspeople in a dazed state if he had not realized that she bore no wyrt on her person! The vacant look in her eyes was just an act! Intrigued, he had followed her out of the square and had hid in the shadows as he watched her enter a grand building with a hover-carriage parked out front. He waited in the spot, watching the doorway for any sign of anyone else coming or going, but by sundown (or since it had been several decades since the sun could be visible from Eillumaeia, the time was known as “lights-up”, since the precision-timed electric lights still flickered on in the evening hours) there had been no other sign of life, not even a second sighting of the girl.
Crouching low, he snaked his way across the road. Once he was close enough to the gate, he found the door—but there was no apparent way inside! The man fished around for an alternate route.

hisssssss

The sound of a hydraulic piston! The man turned quickly back to the door. He could see a diminutive form and red curls protruding. He ran back to where the girl stood with the door open only a small crack.
“Who are you?” she asked quickly, quietly.
“One who knows your secret, maid,” he warned her.
The girl backed into the corridor sharply. “Go away!” she snapped.
“Not until you tell me what you know!”
“I don’t know anything! Go away!”
“You have found the secret of the wyrts, have you not?” the man pressed further, working his boot into the crack of the door and forcing it wider, “You know the mystery of these foul creat—“
“That will do, stranger,” a calm voice echoed from the back of the tunnel, where the man had by now worked his shoulder and almost his head through the door. The redhead backed against the wall of the tunnel.
The man did not move his body, only his eyes, to see the tip of an arrow pointed straight at him. Holding the arrow was a tall, lithe Elvish maid who had the hard light of a seasoned fighter in her eye. She held her position and continued grimly, “If you are an operative sent by the enemy agents enslaving these people I will kill you right now. If you are not, you have three seconds before—“
“I am not!” the man declared quickly, “and if indeed, as you infer, you too are against the Elitinati, you may count me as one of your allies!”
The Elf-maid lowered her bow. The grim hardness left her features and her mother-of-pearl eyes widened in fear as she whispered, “Who are the Elitinati?”
******

Are you enjoying this? Let me know in the comments, and stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Musings: Why The Gospel Must Be Secondary In Genre Fiction

*I was just going to use this image for my own post... then I discovered that it was attached to this very good blog post that also addresses the same issue from a professional standpoint; credit goes to him!
Controversial title, I know... But I never realized the issue of it till just recently I read a novel where the "preaching" was so overt it took me right out of the story, and I resented it very much!

"But Leslie, the Gospel is good in whatever form it takes!"
Yes, but there is also this tiny matter of good writing that will play into whether or not your "Gospel message" is actually having the desired effect.

"There is never a wrong time or place to share the Gospel."
In real life, yes, that is true; one doesn't need to loiter around for the cliched "moment of truth" to happen upon them...
But this is fiction, dear writer. It's a completely different universe, and it follows different rules... The First Rule being: nothing is actually real. You can use "realistic" props from the era, names, dates, events... But when all is said and done, you still went and made it all up. Even the fact that your "unsaved" character actually accepted the words being thrown at him. In that sense, yes I can think of a dozen situations that would be completely hypothetical in real life, but fit perfectly into the "real time" of the novel—and each of them would be the absolute worst time for one character to turn to another and say, "Hey Fred, I know the natives are about to sacrifice us to this live volcano, but can I make these five seconds stretch into an hour and talk to you about your soul?"

Please don't. And here are a few reasons why.

1. In genre fiction, the main focus should support the genre, not the Gospel. 

Now, hold on—before somebody brands me as a heretic and starts questioning the validity of my faith, let me say this:
I believe one does not have to directly reference God in their work in order to "correctly" reverence and glorify Him in it. Using my God-given skill to craft a good, solid story with an uplifting message for a secular audience will still bring Him glory, more so than a poorly-written novel with porcelain characters and a sermon in every chapter!

That is not to say that a full-faced Gospel has nothing to do with literature. The "crisis/journey of faith" novel is the Christian version of the "coming of age" novel. This type of novel focuses on the life and choices of one particular character in a real-world setting, intended to expound, expose, demonstrate and delineate the choices a real person might face, and the consequences of whichever choice, for good or ill. In this instance, the "altar call" is definitely warranted, because it supports the goal of the plot and it fits into the principal conflict (man vs. self or man vs. God).
 
This is why I specified "genre fiction": mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, adventure, thriller—anything that can be categorized beyond just "fiction" is "genre fiction", and does not have the same goal and focus as a "journey/crisis of faith" novel. Therefore it does not need the same kind of emphasis on sermonizing... pretty much at all... (With the exception of the supernatural genre, for obvious reasons, but I am talking in the most generic cases) *Note: at this point I realize that maybe by "genre fiction" I actually mean "speculative fiction"... but I am just unfamiliar with that distinction so, sorry!

2. In genre fiction, the characters are entirely fabricated, so the "converts" don't actually exist—so what's the point?

This is what I would ask a writer who feels perfectly justified in even fashioning a "tribute" to old classics, while systematically deconstructing the original character to make room for the "altar call" in an otherwise "genre" novel:

WHY?

Did you set out to write a Gospel-focused book? Then why involve the adventure? Did you want to "redeem" the characters originally conceived by a nearly-godless writer from another century? If you're not going to use them as originally written, why use them at all? And—here is where the irony bites—will we actually see these characters in Heaven?

Then why do you feel the need to insert an "altar call" for characters who are little more than words on a page?

Call me heartless, jaded, and cruel; tell me I'm a heathen and I should not be so opposed to the Gospel—

But when all the copies of your book go up in smoke, and the files on your electronic devices get erased, your carefully-devised and painstakingly-enacted machinations "for the sake of the Gospel" will cease to exist... And in all that, nobody actually got converted, did they? All that effort, and outside that fictitious little world you so cunningly devised, nothing actually happened. The authors themselves are already dead, so they will not benefit from your attempt; so why "ruin" a perfectly good story with a worthless "altar call"?

These characters are just words on a page. Please stop trying to "save souls" where there aren't any, and just worry about trying to hone your craft within the genre you are using.

3. It's perfectly reasonable to include a "Gospel/redemption message" while maintaining the genre; a "shoe-horned revival" is both unnecessary and it disrupts the flow of the story

Take a series I recently read, for example: in the first book, the characters themselves were all predominantly Christian, except the primary narrator, Florizel, who was on the run, and later the assassin sent to kill them. Now, those conversions I had no problem with, because first of all, they made sense within the story (such as the fact that the assassin, unsaved, would have likely betrayed them all), and it was tastefully and naturally done, without a lot of leading questions on the part of the "evangelist" while the "convert-to-be" really ought to be doing something more important to the result of the plot than listen to a sermon! 
The second time around, it felt like (at least where the primary narrator, Oliver, was concerned) he would no sooner make an acquaintance than immediately impress upon them the duty to their soul (which fictional characters.... Do not have....) even to the point of engaging another character in a long and drawn-out conversation that was basically, "Oliver tells a sermon, then the lady responds with an equally long tale that is almost her entire backstory, laced with info-dumps that could have just as easily been parceled out if the author had so chosen."
 
You see, without letting the Gospel play into the genre you have chosen (rather than plopping a generic sermon right in the middle of your story with no regards to plot, merely for the sake of "getting them saved") the Gospel message is reduced into "just another info dump"–and the true power that the author would have the reader understand and be convicted by is hopelessly missed.


The Trouble With "Christian Fiction" As A Genre
 
Is this perhaps why "Christian" suddenly became its own genre, with its own market, wholly separate from the rest of literature in general? Because we Christians get so caught up in "preaching" in a way that pleases other Christians—meanwhile the poor unbelieving reader picks up the book, can't make head nor tails of it, and promptly moves on in search of a book that more closely resonates with them.

Maybe that could make a fourth point:

4. Our duty as Christian authors is to bring the Gospel to the "Gentiles", not pat the egos of the disciples.

I don't quite know exactly when "Christian" emerged as its own genre and market—but, for all my whinging over "come to Jesus" moments in genre fiction, I think it's sad that there are Christians with skill in writing who opt to pander and cater to the very ones who do not "need" the Gospel message because they already believe it, all because the actual plot, the style, and the focus of the novel is not strong enough to catch the eye of the people who would most benefit from it. Publishers have created a little "niche" for Christian writers, and the morality of mainstream literature has systematically declined, meanwhile the quality of the literature produced by Christian writers has more or less remained the same—maybe even improved somewhat—but in such isolation that there is little benefit from it. The Christian writers see the decline of modern society, and so the "preaching" increases...
But the market remains relegated to its own little nook, and all of that effort goes, in essence, to "the choir." And because those who are already Christians buy the books that tell them things they already know, the quality of the writing remains more or less "good enough" for those readers who think that "anything with THE BIBLE in it cannot ever be terrible!"

Not true, unfortunately.

Am I the only one who has noticed this trend? The "Christian genre" has become cliched, because cliche plots can be matched with cliche verses. Meanwhile, the mainstream trend is to reinvent and renew—so the cliches in Christian fiction are more deterring than ever before... And yet the market is so secluded that the potential opportunity for quality literature is lost as the vulgar, and the immoral and the distasteful occupy the other 90% of bookstores around the world...

"Christian" bookstores that do not sell mainstream fiction are going out of business much faster than mainstream ones. Is this not an indication that writing in the "niche" is really not having the impact we would like to see? 
What if Christians started working on producing the better books? Taking what is popular and making it better—not with more "churchy" scenes or sermons or "altar calls"—but just higher-quality writing, because of the hope of the calling that we have? 

Bonus Section

Stories I have read that involve a "Gospel message" that fits the genre:

Pauline has consistently done a fabulous job working the Gospel message into all of her novels! She creates a story with plenty of healthy adveture, and yet conflict that cannot be resolved without a working knowledge of Gospel truth--but at the same time she does not lose sight of the unique story she is telling, and the message fits the medium so much that the reader can receive it with much grace and thoughtful introspection!

I picked up this book on a whim, and I am forever glad that I did! Marissa gives a fantasy adventure with a premise that is near and dear to a childhood dream I once had, and the more I read, the more I recognized those small hints and subtle overtones of the Gospel allegory worked into a highly-entertaining adventure: the King and His Muses comprising the "spiritual" element of the world of Story... the fact that the King's descendant was "written in" to the story for the purpose of stopping the villain--a former Muse--who wants to "Rewrite Story" for his own purposes... It's absolutely lovely!

I knew the author was a Christian going into it, and I mostly wanted to read it because I loved the premise hinted in the "jacket blurb"--but Curran takes what has been used in mainstream speculative fiction as a treatise on evolutionary development and the fruitless pursuit of an end to the existential crisis... and he completely turns it around using the Gospel for what it is: a message of hope in the face of this very crisis of "why are we here?" and "What is man?" that plagues the philosophers to this day. The Gospel is not just a vehicle for the end goal of saving souls or ensuring entrance into Heaven; it is truly an answer and a message of hope above all else.
 
Crime novel: Bound by Guilt by C. J. Darlington
I included this one as an example for the "journey of faith" novel I mentioned earlier. It also involves kind of a mystery and a crime--but unlike the "traditional Christian mystery novels" by ones like Terri Blackstock and Dee Henderson (which are fine in their own right... but still formulaic)--Darlington's mystery is resolved by the character accepting the truth of the Gospel--making the inclusion of the Gospel an absolute necessity. 

Children's novel: The Wormling series by Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry
These are just straight-up allegories--but it is also a wonderful story told around it! Using paraphrased sections of the Bible as quotes from "the Wormling Book" in the context of a world where the Gospel (as we know it) and the Bible don't actually exist, Jenkins and Fabry treat their readers to an adventure that could be an inherently Christian novel--or it could be just a fun story with a redemptive message to it, and lots of analogies to Christianity!

If you have any more suggestions, feel free to share them!
 
*Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are neither exhaustive nor authoritative... nor particularly-well researched; feel free to share your own thoughts with me in the comments! Do you agree or disagree? I would love to hear some other opinions on this!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Serial Saturday: "The Telmar Trilogy, Vol. 3: The Legacy of Telmar" Part 10

"It did not occur to her until later that evening what she had done...."

[Excerpt from Chapter 20]

From that day forward, Mrs. Lefay developed an intense, mysterious fixation with "going back." She couldn't remember, no matter how hard she tried (not even with magic), where she came from, but she desperately wanted to go there.
After a week of hard thinking, she recalled the word "tree," but it could not be said if she lived upon a tree, under a tree, around a tree, beside a tree, or even within a tree.
She began leaving her house more often, to search for a "way back." The police brought her back to the Ketterleys' once, saying they found her in the park, feeling the trees, sometimes shaking the smaller ones. She spoke of that incident sadly, and as if she thought the trees should have had voices.
[…]

Mrs. Lefay tried to walk down the street, but her feet kept getting in the way. What is more, the whole road just wouldn't hold still, but rolled up and down like a stormy sea. Perhaps she needed more of the tarven's brew? She took another drink. It was like liquid fire in her throat! Mrs. Lefay moaned in pain.

Something crossed her path; what was it? Her eyesight was blurry. It was only a common, stray cat, but in the old woman's intoxicated brain it grew to the size of a lion. Instead of a mangy stray, Mrs. Lefay saw the Great Lion!

"You!" Mrs. Lefay rasped as the world tilted beneath her. "You've done this to me! It's all your fault!" Angrily, she threw the first thing she could find at the Lion: the bottle in her hand.

The crash almost jolted Mrs. Lefay from her stupor. She blinked and the Lion disappeared. In its place, she saw what she had done: The bottle had crashed through the window of a jewelry shop. Its contents, the brown "medicine," cascaded over the displays, drawing her attention to the object in the center: a ring.

Yes! That was what she needed! A ring brought her there, a ring would certainly send her back! The jeweler was in the back room, and thus it appeared that the store was empty, but even that did not deter the inebriated Mrs. Lefay as she grabbed the ring and headed down the street to the Ketterley house.

Andrew had just stepped onto the porch when she neared the house. She waved to him and shouted, "Yoo-hoo!"

The young boy glanced up just in time to see a crowd of policemen closing in on the woman. He ran down the steps toward her, hoping to reach her before they did.
Too late! They surrounded her just as he approached. "Mrs. Lefay!" he cried.

"Andrew!" the old woman gasped, "Andrew!" She pressed something into his hand. "Save this for me; it's my way back," she said, and they dragged her away.

Andrew looked at the object in his hand. A ring sparkled up at him.
>>>>>

[Excerpt from Chapter 21

"Mrs. Lefay: Guilty on charges of vandalism, disturbing the peace, violence, and mental instability. Sentence, seven years!"

The judge dropped his gavel, and it was final. With a last pitiful glance at Andrew, Mrs. Lefay allowed the bailiff to lead her away.

Andrew sulked all that day, and would have remained thus for all seven years, but his parents sent him away to boarding school. He would have forgotten the crazy old woman, but it happened that he was home for a holiday when they released her. Andrew, now grown to a young man of nineteen years, departed to see his old friend straight away.

He knew the moment he entered her old room at the Burgundy Place: she was dying. How weak and haggard she looked against the pillow! She made neither movement nor sound as Andrew meekly approached her bedside and laid the ring before her on the coverlet.

The instant she saw it, her eyes gleamed. "Can this then be the hour of my release?" she breathed. Mrs. Lefay seized the ring triumphantly. "You wonderful boy!" she cried, "Now you will witness the truth about me!"

"What do you mean?" Andrew asked.

Mrs. Lefay smiled on him. "Look at me, Andrew. Do I seem as one of your fairies?"

Andrew shook his head, but then he caught her meaning. He stared at her in awe. "Truly, Mrs. Lefay?" he breathed.

The woman nodded. "Yes; this old mortal soul has fairy blood in her veins. Let that be a lesson to you, young man! The most ordinary humans may have fairy blood in them, anyone from a charwoman to a duchess! I myself am among the last of that exquisite breed." And she sighed over the fate of her race.

"But Mrs. Lefay," Andrew gasped, "why do you tell me this now?"

Mrs. Lefay grew very sad again. "I am ill, Andrew; I expected to die soon. But now that I have the ring . . ." she paused to gaze at it glittering in her palm.

"What will the ring do?"

The old fairy-woman frowned upon him as if she thought him a dull schoolboy asking silly questions. "It was by a ring I came here, and it is by a ring I shall go back." The frown disappeared and she smiled at him again, "and because of your faithfulness to me, you, Andrew Richard Ketterley, shall have the honor of witnessing this great event!"

Andrew's eyes glowed at this prospect. Imperiously, Mrs. Lefay held up her hand in front of her face. "Behold my departure!" she cried, and slipped the ring on her finger.

Nothing happened, though boy and woman waited with bated breath.
Disappointed, Mrs. Lefay handed the ring back to Andrew. "Oh dear, it's only a common ring, nothing magic about it at all! That won't do. Please be so kind as to return it for me, Andrew."

Andrew was puzzled. "You mean, the ring does not belong to you? Where did you get it?" When she told him the name of the jewelry store, he cried in alarm, "Why, you did not steal it, did you, Mrs. Lefay?"

"Of course not! I had every intention of putting it to good use! If I wasn't so ill, I'd return it myself."

Because of their relationship, Andrew was loath to think badly of Mrs. Lefay, so he did not notice her deliberate dodge of his question. He accepted the ring from her hand. "But how am I to return the ring without being seen?"

Mrs. Lefay got a queer glint in her eye. "For a long time, we have talked about magic, haven't we, Andrew?"

The young man nodded.

"And you remember all I have told you about making sure that you remain in control over it, and use it to your advantage, but not for evil purposes, don't you?"

He nodded again.

"Well, since you do, I think you are ready to know some real magic."

He looked up and grinned craftily. "Really, Mrs. Lefay?"

She nodded. "When you reach the store, say these words, and no one in there will even notice you at all."

She gave him certain words to speak (but I shall not print them), and he departed.

It did not occur to her until late that evening what she had done. She recalled Aslan's prophecy as clearly as if he were in the room, repeating it to her: "Your offspring will learn of your magic, and bythat knowledge a great Evil will come to Narnia."

Every memory she had of her Narnian life came rushing back in one awful knell.
"No!" Mrs. Lefay screeched, "Curse you, Aslan! Curse your prophecies!"
>>>>>

What will become of Mrs. Lefay, and young Andrew--and the box? Follow the links to find out! Meanwhile, back in Telmar....

[Excerpt from Chapter 22] Melanie stared at the paper in her hand as she sat on her throne in the palace of Nast. It was a letter from the King himself in Narnia!
 
To the Lady Melanie, Regent of Nast,
Greetings from His Highness, Caspian the Eighth, King in Narnia;
 
I have heard of your faithful work, how you have served my country with miraculous success, even though it is not your native land.
 
This letter is meant to congratulate you for your diligence and commitment to excellence.
I have also lately learned of your beliefs, which are unfortunately rampant here in Narnia.
 
I, King Caspian, therefore invite you most cordially here to my castle in Narnia, that I might show you the birthplace of that which you believe. I would also be most interested to converse with you more about this singular form of spiritism.

In the Mighty Name of His Most Regal Majesty,
King Caspian VIII
 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Reader's Review: "Sky Knight" by Sandra Harvey


Synopsis from Amazon

Taliah Storme is a sky knight, a protector of the Skylands. Armed with an airship and a full crew, her newest task should be a simple one: bring in the sky pirate captain, Erikson Roarke. Yet the mission proves to be more challenging than anticipated when Taliah finds herself stranded in the perilous Lowerlands with the criminal she was supposed to arrest. While dealing with the dangers of the surface world, Taliah also has to find a way to work with Erikson in order to return to the skies. Her conviction towards capturing the pirate begins to fade, however, when she uncovers strange incidents related to the Skylands. Now doubting her very purpose, Taliah plunges towards the truth, disregarding all warnings to stop searching for answers.
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My Review:


"The most beautiful part of the Skylands was its sunrise..."

The first sentence of a novel is always most important—and Harvey nails it. Another important factor that is really difficult for a lot of writers is point of view—and she nailed it again.

The point of view is so strong that the reader becomes Taliah, the tenacious Sky Knight who always gets her target and is not afraid of a scuffle, who thinks living in the Skylands—powered by and dependent on the mysterious mineral fulminite—is infinitely preferable to crawling around the surface of the Lowlands—a place she'll only go in pursuit of her quarry.
Taliah receives a commission to chase down an elusive pirate who has become more myth than man—and her life will never be the same.

The descriptions in this book are fabulous. I felt my own breath catching in my throat during one scene in which the character is free-falling when an airship gets knocked down. I felt the grit in my teeth and smelled the stink of coal when Taliah descended to the Lowlands. I could hardly contain the emptiness I felt when one of her good friends dies.

The characters, too, are lively and dynamic, from Rourke, who prides himself on never being caught and threatens to kill Taliah upon their first meeting, to Taliah herself, "the coarsest woman on the planet"—indeed, out of all the swearing that happens in this book, I think most of it is from Taliah. But the characters are intriguing and energetic--I got to the end and not only do I very much want to read more, but Harvey has indeed left more to discover, such as (but not limited to): Gizmo's backstory, more about the fantastically rich world she has established--I was reminded a lot of the atium mines and the social/political landscape of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn, and I see that same potential to be a novel like that one, even on a greatly simplified (and thus higher-energy!) scale.

I had so much fun reading this! "Sky Knight" gets an "Upstream Writer Certified" FIVE STAR rating, and if you're the sort that likes a dieselpunk sort of vibe, with airships and sky pirates and plenty of battles to be had (and don't mind a generous sprinkling of "f-bombs" along the way) then this book is for you!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Throwback Series: "The Day of Reckoning" (Prologue Part 2)


The Elitinati Mentor swept past the muttering knots of novices receiving wyrt-therapy. He stroked his own wyrt--a small, bulbous, fuzzy creature with many foot-pad-like appendages and no eyes--comfortingly.

Therein lay the secret of the Elitinati "enlightenment." This was the reason the Temple was built where it was, and the city established as the Capitol: they built it over a deep cavern housing the wyrt-mother, and she made it possible to spy on every person, at every time, and for those who actually allowed the wyrt to "settle" on them, the Elitinati could use the mother to control and direct their thoughts, feelings, and actions. The more wyrts present, the more complete the control. Only the Council had command over their own minds enough to be able to influence the mother herself, and because of the hive-mind nature of the wyrts, whatever they told her, she communicated this to the rest of her "children," and the entire nation felt it.

Strange, though; only in Eillumaeia had the Elitinati been able to convince the people that the wyrts were a necessary fashion item, or at least a harmless pet that you let ride on your shoulder; those who "discovered" the "enlightening" qualities of the wyrts were immediately admitted into the Temple-University to receive Elitinati training and become wholly committed to the cause. They became Elitinati Mentors when they realized the control of the wyrt enough to then begin asserting control over it, thereby "freeing" themselves all the more, while remaining inextricably dependent on the knowledge the wyrt hive-mind provided for them.

Those in the Outlands, though, viewed the fuzzy, brightly-colored creatures as wild pests, not something you welcomed in your home or on your person. Out there, the Elitinati could only look on and keep track of the movements of the populace, sending out soldiers or operatives whenever they saw questionable activity. It didn't matter, anyway; there were more than enough people in Eillumaeia itself to keep the Elitinati "tradition" going for a long while.

The Mentor reached the door to the Inner Sanctum, and saluted the guards. He bent down and released his wyrt into the room first, closing his eyes and focusing on assuming the senses of the creature, which (even without eyes) had the ability to sense danger. The Mentor found none, only a silent admittance. He entered as another wyrt climbed onto his boot.
Immediately, an Elitinati Lord's voice sounded in his head.
"What is it?"

"I have seen the stranger spoken of by Captain Lyam, milord," the Mentor murmured.
"And has he yet taken a wyrt?"

"No, milord; I tried sending them toward him many times, but--" the man hesitated.

It didn't matter; the price of being a Mentor was that the Lords of the Council could read your mind. "What do you mean, 'he was invisible to them'?" The voice demanded angrily.

The Mentor shrugged, "In faith, I do not know, myself. You know how wyrts are, they can latch on without the person noticing--but these creatures would not even latch! He walked all the way through the very center of town, and I was snatching wyrts off of people and directing them toward him, but every time, they seemed to scuttle right past him without stopping."

"Are you saying that you have lost your ability to control the wyrts?" The Lord demanded, and the Mentor was keenly aware of the teeming mass of wyrts that had been scattered through the room were all now converging toward him. He closed his eyes and imagined the consciousness of each creature, and commanded them to stop and move away from him. He opened his eyes, and saw that they obeyed him. He sighed with relief and smiled.

"No, your excellence, I still control them. I do not know why they have failed so far."

"Hmmm... Perhaps the stranger has some sort of mental spell that must be overcome before he can be susceptible. At any rate, soon we won't have to worry about people shunning or losing those unsightly puffballs any longer."

The Mentor grinned, "It is true, then, about the Innoculations?"

He sensed something akin to pleasure and pride in the Lord's voice as he replied, "It is true, young Mentor; we are in the process of discovering the neuro-genetics that allow the wyrts to network, and soon, we will be able to use that network ourselves, and it will be every bit as inconspicuous as the wyrts are here in Eillumaeia, and furthermore it will be completely invisible, so that the people under our control will not be noticed, even in the Outworld."
The Mentor rubbed his hands, "The Outworlders will think they're receiving their normal vaccinations, when in fact they will be receiving wyrt-neurons to replace their own! Magnificent, my Lord!"

The tone of the Lord's voice returned to derision, "Of course you think it's magnificent; that is why I am a Lord and you are only a Mentor. Your mind is still puny; go and study some more."
The Mentor bobbed his head, "Yes, milord." He crossed over to a knot of Mentors poring over thick books, and purposed to get through at least an entire shelf by the evening meal.

Meanwhile, in the streets of Eillumaeia, a Stranger walked, shrouded in a cloak, ignored by the brain-washed populace, taking everything in with keen, piercing eyes that seemed to see into the soul. The Stranger exhaled in the smoggy evening air, and continued walking, never ceasing, toward the desired destination: a certain building, wherein sat a certain person who would begin the chain of events that would forever change the face of this world.
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The squadron at Gate E16 watched everyone coming and going carefully. Ever since the mysterious stranger (who seemed to have disappeared by now) entered and made that declaration about the "Day of Reckoning," the guards had been fully on alert to every stranger coming in.
The commanding officer at the gate, Captain Tankar, heard the distinct whine of a hover-coach and called his men to attention.

A large black craft sailed into view at the gate. The Captain recognized it easily; the Elitinati Watchtower (their common symbol) was emblazoned in gold on the side. It was the hover-coach of Sister Miligred, who had gone to visit some friends off-planet.

Captain Tankar immediately gave the signal to open the gates, and Sister Miligred entered unhindered. As the gates closed behind her, the Captain looked down at the checklist of itineraries, which all those leaving Eillumaeia were required to submit prior to departure. Sister Miligred--but her itinerary stated that she would not return for five more days! But that was undeniably her coach! What was the meaning of this? Captain Tankar reached into his collar and brushed the fur of his wyrt. Such stimulation was considered an alarm by the Mentor watching over him. Immediately, the Mentor sent a detachment of soldiers toward the hover-coach, which was now making its way through the streets to the dwelling of Sister Miligred.

Using magnetic cable-guns, they brought the craft to a halt and, as was protocol, the lieutenant in charge called, "Hail the Elitinati! Sister Miligred, we request an audience with you."
"What?" Her cold, hard voice issued from the darkness within the craft, "Here in the streets? You fool! You really think I will show my face because some soldier orders me to? What is the meaning of this?"

The lieutenant blushed and stammered, "Well, ah--" of course the Sister would not know! She had departed before the stranger arrived! "There was a stranger in here recently, who made some threatening statements--"

"And now you suspect me of treason?" Sister Miligred's voice rose in anger, and her long, jewel-ringed, pale hand appeared at the sill of the window. "Fie! Why would I be in league with such rabble who speak subversively against my brethren?"

"Madam," the lieutenant moved on to a more pertinent issue, "It seems you cut your intended visit short; may we know the reason?"

There came no reply for several minutes. The Lieutenant worried that the powerful, irate woman was now so incensed that she was too overcome to speak. He waited for his fate to be sealed--
"...They were dead."

The lieutenant started, "Dead, madam?"

"Yes! You may as well announce it to the whole town, calling me out like this! I spent half that time traveling out to my friends on another planet, but when I got there, they were all dead! The planet was a wasteland, and not a word of warning!"

The lieutenant could now hear soft sobs issuing from the depths of the hover-coach.

"Please," Sister Miligred begged in a voice much gentler than any she had used before, "may I proceed to my home, that I may grieve respectfully for them?"

The lieutenant bowed his head and released the cable. His men did the same. "Yes, Madam; my condolences. You may go."

Hastily, the detachment returned to elsewhere in the city. Had they remained but a few minutes longer, they might have seen a certain figure approach the black carriage: a cloaked figure, invisible to the wyrts. Quickly, a hand reached out to help the passenger--but it was not the same hand the lieutenant had seen. This one was younger, and stronger. The black hover-coach sailed onward to the mansion, where the passengers were able to pass via an exit-tube straight into the building without being seen.
No one thought it odd, though, or thought about it at all; the Elitinati were famous for not wanting to be seen.

Captain Tankar marked "Sister Miligred" off his list--but on the world she was visiting, there stood a grave with another name, bearing the corpse of the woman known by that name. The inhabitants were truly all dead, victims of a brutal attack. That much was true. The one who returned to Eillumaeia would grieve her friends--and she would grieve for her family as well, though not in the manner of the Elitinati. She would grieve--and she would plan.

The Day of Reckoning was coming.
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