Wednesday, November 28, 2018

NaNoWriMo Update: WIP Wednesday #3

A Writer's Tale #3: The Sheriff's Showdown

Right away, I noticed a difference in the way people looked at me and treated me. I wasn't an anomaly anymore. I was one of them, blending in with the average person, as I did on the frigate in my plain grey jumpsuit. No one hooted or whistled, and certainly no one stared beyond the normal amount of eye contact in passing. I relaxed into my new role as Laura, simple guest from the bluffs.

"Yoo-hoo!" Called a voice that made me cringe involuntarily. Sure enough, like fluffy pastel-colored clouds trimmed in lace, Tru and Pru sailed toward us, almost blocking our way with stately grace.

"My, my!" Sighed Tru. "Shirley Coldwell, you're a sight for sore eyes! It's been some time since we've seen you up and about, bless your sweet heart!"
"And who is this?" Pru squinted over her shoulder at me. Her eyes flew wide. "No! Not the newcomer we saw walking through town with the sheriff, is it? Why, I hardly recognized you, dear!"
"Land sakes, it is!" Tru responded. "Well, looks like the Coldwells have civilized you right up--and don't you look just stunning in that dress!" She smiled and took my hand. "Larissa, is it?"
I fought to keep my cool under so much social pressure oozing from every pore of these two stuffy ladies. "Laura, actually; just Laura."
The two sisters shared a glance. "Well, Miss Laura," Pru angled her attention back on me, "I think it would be just lovely if you would care to join us at our quilting circle happening the day after tomorrow."
Tru nodded. "Oh, do say you will! What fun we would have!"
At least they couldn't pressure me into something I had no interest in joining. "That's very kind of you ladies," I said, "but I'm afraid I've never quilted before, so I wouldn't be doing much--"
Four eyebrows lifted like a quartet of startled birds.
"Oh! Don't you worry about a thing dear!" said Pru.
"Yes, why--Miranda Constable's little girl is completely unsuited for needlework," Tru agreed, "but her mother finds little things for her to do--sorting fabric swatches and tidying thread, for example."
Pru smiled at me and took my hand again, petting it gently with her fingertips. "Do come; we'll find a place for you yet in Phantom Gulch's society!"
I pulled my hand away, steeling myself against the shudder that raced up and down my spine at their brazen condescension. "I'll think about it," I responded.
Shirley and I sidestepped the two sisters, well aware of the way they stared after us for as long as we remained in their sight. Subtly, Shirley directed me down a side-street lined with crates of fresh produce transported from other cities.

The Last Inkweaver
At this point in the story, Matthias, Callista, Terra, and Rowinna have all escaped the bounty hunter, and they tried going out to the village of one of the fellow prisoners... only to find out that the village had been razed sometime in the past, and so there is nothing left there. They are forced to move on with very little supplies and not a whole lot of direction... when we come to this scene.

Something chirped near us, and my eyes alerted me to a small brown shape darting around my periphery.
"Yikes!" I spun away from my seat with a yelp.
Terra bounded to her feet, too, but for the opposite reason. "Oh! How cute!" She broke a small piece off her apple core, holding it in the palm of her hand as she approached the quivering animal.
"Careful!" I warned her.
"Leave it be, Terra," Matthias grumbled.
"Shush!" she whispered over her shoulder.

The squirrel stood, tense and sniffing, until Terra was only inches away. In a blur of movement, it spun around and launched onto the craggy boulder behind it.
"So close," Terra murmured, and she set about clambering over the rocks as the tiny squirrel with the bushy tail scurried easily up to the top.
"Terra, don't!" I called up to her. "It's not worth it!"
She stood on a small outcropping just higher than Matthias' head. Her deft fingers hunted for holds in the uneven stone.
"I've almost got it," she said, swinging her foot around to find purchase on a higher cleft. By spreading herself flat along the surface of the rock, she could shift her weight gradually enough to haul herself up. At least, that was apparently her theory.
"Hey!" she called down to us as she worked herself up to her hands and knees. "I think I can see the town from he--eeeee!"
A single high-pitched wail, and Terra disappeared down the other side of the rock.
"Terra!" I screamed.
Rowinna and Matthias ran with me to the other side. There were more boulders piled there, and lots more tight spaces. Terra's body lay crumpled in one of them, her arms folded against her face and her feet wedged underneath her. I wanted to grab her arms and help her up, but Matthias held out his hand.
"Wait," he said. "We should check her injuries before we move her and end up making it worse."
With slow, calculated movements, he bent down and felt around back of Terra's head. I heard him hiss as he pulled his hand back. Rowinna and I saw red stains on his fingertips.
"Blood?" I gasped.
Terra groaned and shifted a little.
"Terra!" I picked up her hand. "Are you all right?"
"Oh," she moaned. "My head hurts!"
"Can you move?" asked Matthias.
Slowly, her hands twitched and her arms shifted. "A little," she mumbled. "It... feels like swimming..."
"She doesn't know what she's talking about," I spoke up. "Terra's never been swimming in her life." The coast was too far away, and there wasn't another body of water for miles around Mirrorvale.
"We need to get her laid out on the ground," Matthias said. "Help me support her arms and her head." He took one hand and I took the other, and Rowinna supported Terra's head. We lifted her up, slung between Matthias and I like a large, floppy doll. One foot had stuck pretty deeply between two rocks, and at entirely the wrong angle for a foot. When we were free of the rocks, Terra wearily lolled her head and tried to mutter, "I'm fine, I can wa--" But the moment that second foot touched the ground, she cried out in pain.
"Here." Even in the blistering cold, Rowinna took off her own blanket to spread out for us to lay Terra down. Matthias ran back to our little camp on the other side to grab her blanket to cushion her bleeding head.
"So... tired..." Terra slurred.
"Don't fall asleep!" I begged her, leaning close and clasping both her hands. "It's too cold--you're hurt! You need to stay awake! Stay awake, Terra!" I shook my head. "Oh, if only we had some medicine!"
The satchel slid off my shoulder, and I heard it give a small clank inside. Quickly digging in there, I pulled out a small cooking pot and a pestle. The minute I saw them, the staff with the Wordspinner emblem flashed across my vision. The Story-Healer! "... a Story-Healer’s Tale could grow an herb for any ailment..." Naten's strong, deep voice rang in my ears. I picked up the pot and the pestle.
Matthias wrinkled his brow at me like I was crazy. "Where did you get those?"
"They were in the satchel," I said. "I need to go find some healing plants."
"In this weather? In Greyfrost?"
I shook off his derision. "Just wait here. I'll be right back."

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Reader's Review: "Salt" and "Submerged" by Pauline Creeden


Synopsis from Amazon:

Mermaid life has never been easy for Verona. Her scars give evidence of her abuse. When her day of reckoning arrives, she is determined to endure exile. According to her father’s experience, exile is better than becoming a land-walker and risking her life among the humans. 

However, when she saves the life of a drowning human boy, she inadvertently sets off a chain of events which force her to choose a path: stay with the humans she has become attached to or return home to a life of scorn. A savage hunter draws closer, threatening even the humans. Her only hope is to keep everyone safe until the next full moon, but those around her devise their own plans.

If you love mermaid tales or paranormal romance, buy this coming-of-age story of shifters, first love, and learning what it means to be human, now!

My Review:

Very cute and sweet rendition of the typical mermaid story! Creeden jumps right in with lore that makes sense, harkens back to the traditions and legends from history--and she even incorporates her love of horses into it! I was fascinated all the way through. Verona is an outcast among her clan, preparing for a life of exile, when a young man literally drops into her life, sinking into the water right in front of her. She rescues him, shedding her tail and becoming human--and that's only the beginning.
Part of the common trope of a "Little Mermaid" story is her naïveté when it comes to anything from the human world. ("What's a fire?" "Ooh, watch me, I'm gonna use this fork as a comb...") When this happens, a lot of the transition from sea to land is spent indulging in the childlike wonder of these new and confusing things, goofy mishaps, and the writer often falls for the allure of explaining the most mundane things, and the whole tone of the story drags to a near-halt in the wake of it.
Creeden neatly sidesteps this by creating a plausible scenario where Verona, as an outcast, is not bound and restricted in her movements in regards to the humans, so she has visited the surface often and learned of human culture via television shows. Thus, a great many details that would otherwise have outed her as a non-human, Verona is able to adapt to blend in.
Two aspects in particular I found particularly unique and intriguing. The first is the connection between witches and werewolves as the principal threat to a Mer on land. It didn't show up as a conflict until later in the story, but it made a lot of sense the way it happened, and I liked the way she expressed it and doled out details, the encounters--and drawing a correlation to things like running water and the innate "danger sense" of ponies as a safeguard against them was brilliant, indeed.
The second thing I really loved was the way Creeden bothered to develop the lives of both the humans and the Mer. Logan has as much depth and development as Verona does--and the connections with the side characters and the way they interact with the main characters makes them relatable, dynamic, and inspires sympathy and a vested interest in both sides of the relationship.

Speaking of secondary characters....


Synopsis from Amazon:

Mermaids can be cruel creatures.

I couldn’t stop them from hurting her, but I couldn’t let them destroy her, no matter what they did to me. The moment I heard the bottom feeder had been chosen for the reckoning, my heart sank. Had I been discovered for what I truly was? Years of pretending I was just like everyone else could all have been for naught. But then I heard it was Verona, and my blood ran cold.

Why was I surprised?

I shouldn’t have been. I’d stood by and watched her ridiculed since we were younglings. I was never as brave or as unselfish as she was. But today, I would be.

My Review:

I decided to review both of these tales because firstly, they were both short novellas, and second, they joined together. SUBMERGED tells the story surrounding Verona's banishment and gives a glimpse into her life below the water, through the eyes of Bailey, a character who only shows up briefly in SALT and almost presents as a gruff, cold, one-note character--a great foil to contrast with Verona, but not much more at first glance... Once again, Creeden defies the conventional and delves deep into the psyche of this "minor" character, and once again succeeds in inspiring a great amount of sympathy. The choice is much the same: does Bailey continue living under the rules and practices of his upbringing, does he believe what others are telling him about "the way things are", or does he choose to think for himself, and act upon those choices to do what he feels must be right, even if everyone around him declares that it is wrong? It's exciting, enthralling, entertaining, and highly imaginative!


All things considered, it likely comes as no surprise that I would unreservedly give both these novellas a raving *****5 STAR***** rating, and given the clean, wholesome, quality content, SALT and SUBMERGED both earn an Upstream Writer Certified WHOLEHEARTEDLY RECOMMENDED endorsement. If you're into mermaid tales and you're looking for something fresh and new that will captivate and hold your interest, your search ends here!

Further Reading: (Fantasy/Mermaid/Wholesome Literature/Mythology/Great Lore)
The Alexander Legacy--Sophronia Belle Lyon 
       -A Dodge, A Twist, and A Tobacconist 
       -The Pinocchio Factor
Dawn of Steam Trilogy--Jeffrey Cook
      -First Light
      -Gods of The Sun 
      -Rising Suns 
The Fair Folk Chronicles--Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins
        -Foul is Fair 
        -Street Fair 
        -A Fair Fight 
        -All's Fair 
The Therian Way--Kimberly Rogers
       -Leopard's Heart 
       -Wolf's Path 
       -Tiger's Shadow 
The Cadeau Series--Connie Olvera
       -Who Can You Trust? 
The Painter Place Saga--Pamela Poole
       -Painter Place
The Goode-Grace Mysteries--Cyn Mackley
-American Goth

Saturday, November 24, 2018

NaNoWriMo Story Update No. 2: The Story Dwindleth... and Floweth Again!

*Sigh* Guess who got behind on her word count again this week?

Good grief, all I'm trying to do is participate in life while I also write as much as I can, when I don't have any other obligations... And what happens? I end up not having time to write until later in the evening (like usual) and I really haven't gone out and participated in any write-ins this year (which I started doing the last couple years and it worked really well... too bad!) which I think made a huge difference (and a negative one) in my ability to win...

Also? These stories are being difficult!

The Last Inkweaver
Current Word Count: 108,175

By "stories" of course, I mean this one. Hey! I made it to 100K, just like I hoped I would! The only thing is, I'm just barely past the part with Ronni and the whole coup and whatnot, and while Callista and the others are having good conversations and plenty of character development happening in a gradual manner, not at all rushed or contrived... It's also taking forever, and I feel like I have to keep deferring on getting to the end as chapter after chapter goes by and these segues don't happen like I want them to!

I think, though, that I don't really need to take back what I've written, exactly. Like I said, it's good character development; Matthias needs to learn that Callista is actually more capable than he gives her credit for, and Callista needs to learn to self-advocate and stand up for herself. The whole reason I justified leaving this little segment in there was to prove to Callista that if she just lets go and accepts the Wordspinner-related things happening to her, she will be stronger for it and it will prepare her to progress through the next phase in her journey. In the case of Matthias, I am about done with his continued obstinacy, and the fact that he thinks he can just go through life picking and choosing what he wants to believe and demanding proof before he accepts something as "real"... and the moment he starts believing that, and trusting Callista when she starts trying to take charge and move forward based on the direction she's getting, the more they can start working together as a cohesive unit.

Here's the struggle with that: I know why the things are there, and I know what it's leading to... but it's the "segue" part I'm bad at. And it's that part that is getting me bogged down right now. I just need to get through it to the other side--without glossing over important parts, because if I give in and start glossing over, it will be obvious that I'm rushing things and readers will know! So I have to knuckle down and just keep on going.

Wish me luck as I move from Ronni to Tark! Luckily, there isn't much subtlety that has to go on with his part... and Callista is about ready to come into her own, so once the pieces are set up, it shouldn't need much of a push to knock 'em all down!

A Writer's Tale #3: The Sheriff's Showdown
Current Word Count: 7,291

In the interest of finishing The Last Inkweaver, I've kind of shied away from actually writing this one of late. It's going pretty alright, with Laura settling in to life in Phantom Gulch, and both Jerry and Shirley willing to come to her defense when the snooty townspeople want to remind her of her status as an outsider. It's another "setup" transition that I'm getting to in this book, as well, though... and so the interest in writing peters off. I do have plenty to look forward to, though: I've expanded and thickened the plot with the bandits, I have a new method to connect Laura with their plans and everything, I am going to have lots of fun with the new characters... but still, all that can't happen until I FINISH The Last Inkweaver!!!

I suppose my biggest disappointment and the thing that keeps nagging at me is the same old feeling of "Not Being Able To Finish Something." I managed to finish The Amazon Triangle in just over 100K, so the fact that I've written that much on The Last Inkweaver and I'm still not done is... frustrating, to say the least. I can keep reminding myself that it will all be worth it in the end... but dear me! If a book is a "writer's baby" then that book going to be one "fat baby"! More than 100K words and I'm still within 4 or 5 chapters of the end of it... Slowly but surely, it's all coming together!

The end is near, December is coming... and this weekend is my last-ditch effort to get caught up, and from there to get ahead, because if I can pull that off, then I have a chance at winning, in spite of everything that has happened so far... wish me luck!

Catch You Further Upstream!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

NaNoWriMo Update: WIP Wednesday #2

A Writer's Tale #3: The Sheriff's Showdown

Two ladies, wearing ample hoop skirts and billowing blouses, stood at the front of a square white building, waving and greeting passersby. When they saw us, the smiles disappeared, and they dared to approach us.

"Oh, Sheriff Coldwell!" said the lady on the right. "How are you feeling today?"
"Not too bad, Prudence," Jerry responded jovially. "How about yourself?"
The women gave me pointed looks.

"Trudy," Prudence leaned over and gave a loud whisper. "I do believe the Sheriff is under some kind of terrible threat of duress. I greatly fear for his safety and his sanity."
"Aye, sister," Trudy murmured back. "Either that or the poor man must be going blind, for surely no one with his authority and stature would dare to--"
Jerry whirled around so fast that I nearly collided with him. "All right!" he barked at the nosy ladies. "Let's have it out, ladies. What seems to be the problem?"

Trudy and Prudence stared at him with wide, owlish eyes--which they subtly shifted in my direction.
Jerry snorted. "Her? This is your problem?" He placed a hand on my shoulder. I noticed his grip wasn't rough or heavy. "This is why you question my competence? Because of a girl?"

The owl eyes blinked.
"Oh!" said Prudence.
"It's a girl, is it?" said Trudy.

Jerry wagged his head. "Of course she is! What else could she be?"
He meant it as a rhetorical question, but from the deep pink flush on both faces in front of me, I guessed that I probably wouldn't like the answer they had to that question.
I was right.
"Well, to be sure," Prudence stammered, "if I would have seen this... girl... walking down the street, I might have mistaken her for a rather unkempt man, with the strange trousers she wears."
"Or an escaped convict," Trudy added quickly.

Jerry threw back his head and roared with laughter. "You worried that I'd somehow gotten friendly with a convict?"
They returned to blinking owl eyes.

Jerry finished laughing and mopped his face with the bandana. "Oh, that is wonderful," he sighed. "Tell me, ladies--if this girl is an escaped convict... How far away is the nearest prison?"

"There's the State Penitentiary just outside of Junction," Trudy volunteered.

I had a sneaking suspicion that these would be exactly the type of ladies to keep themselves and others appraised of such matters.

"Junction is well-nigh fifty miles away," Jerry stated, "and there are other towns much closer to it, in pretty much any other direction except toward Phantom Gulch--so why, if she escaped the prison at Junction, would she bother walking fifty miles into the middle of nowhere, just to be here in Phantom Gulch?"

In perfect unison, the sisters' mouths dropped open. They gaped like fish for several silent moments, then turned about-face and flounced back into town to harry some other unsuspecting individual.

The Last Inkweaver

*At this point in the story, Callista and the others have been captured by a female bounty hunter named Ronni and tossed into a deep pit with a bunch of other captives, all of which had suspected or true dealings with Wordspinners, and thus are deemed "dangerous" and thus "expendable" by the Crown. The leader is a young man named Benton, and he seems very interested in knowing more about Callista's Tapestry.

We entered the low cavern he called the Map Room, and saw another short piecemeal table, strewn with parchment fragments and weathered sheets covered with diagrams.

"With so many of us from different areas of the kingdom, I thought it best if we could have a cohesive map sharing details of the areas around us, marking those spots where Ronni raided, or where a Wordspinner had been picked up by Crown soldiers." He pointed to a large map with all the various villages added to it. "Each person provides information about where their town is located, and any surrounding cities, villages, or towns, to act as a cross reference to someone else who might know of the same locations. Places where Ronni has been are marked with an X." He pointed to a trail of several such marks, all surrounding an area of trees marked with a skull and crossbones and labeled "Lestar Forest."

Rowinna pointed to it. "That's where we are?"

Benton smiled. "You guessed it. The reasoning is, if we know places she has been, then we'll know places to either avoid, because she might come looking again, or to return to, once we know she won't find us there." He wagged his head and rubbed the back of his neck. "It's been rough going, interviewing the older folks. The memory is more spotty, and there isn't much they can say, even about their own village, at first. It comes in spurts and pieces, and so those who are skilled at drawing will meet with them at regular intervals, or they are encouraged to come here if they remember anything else. Over here," he pointed to a stack of parchments, "we have anything to do with royal proclamations or soldier activity, daily lives--things that don't necessarily have to do with a map, but it might be useful to know when a thing happened, or what sort of people we might expect in those villages." He continued on, leading us past a makeshift bookshelf piled with an assortment of leather covers and loose pages and scrolls. The low hum of activity from the front of the Map Room was more muffled back here, by the profusion of cloth and paper to absorb the sound.

"And here," said Benton, "is where we might talk about this Told thing that Ronni doesn't know about."

I took a deep breath and laid the satchel out on the table. My chest tightened and my heartbeat raced. I realized in that moment that I had not bothered to check for the Tapestry after Ronni had thrown it down. What if it really wasn't in there, and I would look like a fool in front of Benton? I reached my hand in and felt the familiar, whisper-thin fabric. I pulled it out and spread it flat over the table. The Tapestry had grown and changed, encompassing everything from departing on the royal omnicarriage from Mirrorvale, to getting left behind at Brabant, meeting Naten and helping Matthias out of the blackrope, to our ordeal in Aberon, meeting Dimea in Criansa, and finally, Ronni herself making an appearance in fine purple silk thread. There was a miniture house like the facade surrounding us, and perched on one of the turrets, a coal-black raven.

Benton blinked wide eyes. "Where did you get this?" he gasped.

"I found it," I said. "In the house of the Inkweaver who was driven away from our village when we were small."

Benton's fingers stroked his beard as he thought. "The one your friend mentioned," he referred back to Matthias' assessment of the situation. "So what he said was true, then? Even though he obviously doesn't believe in the existence of the Wordspinners?"

I nodded. "He and Terra are the only ones who haven't received a Gift from a Wordspinner, at least not on this journey--but Terra had met the Inkweaver once, a long time ago, so she at least knew about her."

He reached out toward the section depicting Naten's forge and ran his fingertips over the rough, sharp shards of the ash piles. "Brabant..." he mused absently, "I feel like I've heard that before..." He gave himself a small shake and pulled back to view the vast swath of empty canvas. "But why would the Inkweaver leave it behind if it wasn't finished?"

"That's what we intend to find out," I answered. "We've carried it with us the whole time, and it's shown the things we encounter--"

"So," he pointed to the depiction of Ronni and her mansion, "you knew you would cross Ronni's path before you even left your village?"

I shook my head. "Not exactly. It's only after we've gone through an experience, or met the person we need to meet, that it shows up on the Tapestry. We didn't take it out after meeting the Earth-Teller in Criansa, so..." I shrugged my shoulders.

"So you might have known ahead of time, but now the information would do you no good," Benton supplied. He continued staring at the swirl of colors and the exquisite artistry. "A Tapestry that fills in itself, that continues to spin long after the artist has abandoned it... I never thought such a thing would be possible." He looked at each of us. "So you were the one to find it, Callista," he mused, "and you can still hear its Tale, even if it's not finished, and it wasn't given directly to you?"

I nodded. "We tried asking the Talesmith about it, but he couldn't say. The Earth-Teller seemed to think that if a person hears the Tale, then it was obviously meant for them, whether the gift is intentional or not." I couldn't help frowning as I thought about all that we didn't know about the Wordspinners. It did feel good to be able to discuss it with someone who at least believed they existed--something I didn't see ever happening with Matthias, unless by some miracle he began to take me seriously.

"So," Benton said slowly, drawing his interest from the Tapestry and back to us. I wondered what he saw when he looked at it, if it shifted and changed for him as it did for me. "You left your little village behind and went through all of these," he traced our path over the tapestry with his finger, "all to find the Inkweaver who made the Tapestry, and to discover why she had left it unfinished, and yet still had a Tale woven into it for you?"

"More like several Tales," I said with a nod. "Every time we encounter something significant that ties into the Tale I am hearing, we move on and the Tale begins something different. It's all the same voice, so I know it is from the Tapestry--but it hasn't been the same Tale all the time." I shrugged, and my eyes traveled to the omnicarriage. "Besides that, we didn't leave Mirrorvale to seek after the Inkweaver. We left in the company of Crown chaperones, headed for a new Finishing School in Gramble City. It is designed to give us the necessary training to become the next generation of Scholars, Teachers, and Professors." Bringing it up again still stung, as everything about the Tapestry seemed diametrically opposed to not only the existence of the Academy, but taking us further and further away from ever rejoining that part of society--to what end?

"Ah yes, the Academies," Benton mused dryly, running his hands through his hair. "Did you know, the Academies were established right before the campaign against Wordspinners began? Some of the people you will talk to down here seem to think that the two have to be related somehow, as if the Academies grew out of a dispute between the Wordspinners and the Crown, or that the Crown established the Academies to remove society's perceived dependence on Wordspinners, giving them an excuse to get rid of them all."

"But why?" I asked again, as everything seemed to be pointing toward some sort of explanation, but nothing I had yet learned adequately explained a solid, rational reasoning behind it, only conspiracies and rumors. "If the Wordspinners are indeed so wholesome and beneficial, then what happened between the Crown and the Wordspinners that caused such a widespread falling-out?" I couldn't think with the hissing, persistent whisper running through my head, so I stood up and gathered the Tapestry. "More than that, if the Wordspinners are indeed so awful that they must be eliminated, why does King's Court endorse people like Ronni, to pick up even those who profess to bear witness of these Wordspinners? It's not like believing in them would call them back into existence, would it?" I held my satchel with both hands and stared at Benton with a pleading gaze.

He turned and met my gaze. Matthias might have been in my face long before I had gotten out half of what I had just said, but Benton didn't display any sort of reaction.

"Callista," he said calmly, "I want you to know that, even if I don't have all these answers for you, I am on your side in this matter. I want as much as you do to find out what really happened to the Wordspinners, and how to bring them all back. But without our freedom, there is not much we can do."

"Haven't you tried at all?" Rowinna asked.

Benton nodded. "A few times. Each time, Ronni seems to know what we are about to do, and she has her people--deaf as they are--in strategic places to stop our attempts. We've tried tunneling off the property, and she's filled those in. We've tried overtaking the controls for the platform, but those are rigged to the old dumbwaiter system in the house, up on the surface, so without an actual means of getting to the top of the Pit, there isn't much of a way to access it." His face set in grim determination. "Now you show me a miraculous Told gift that could be the key to getting us out of here."

Saturday, November 17, 2018

NaNoWriMo Story Update No. 1: The Story Floweth!

Granted, it's now halfway through the month and this is only the second time I've updated you all... but those first couple weeks, man--that was rough!!

The Situation

First of all, my current work situation has me frazzled and tired out most days, since I'm either sitting and talking, or pacing on high alert in a recess (noisy and chaotic) or crossing guard (vehicles and their drivers who do not go 20 MPH IN A SCHOOL ZONE YOU MONSTER) situation, so when I get home, there is a lot of "de-compressing" in order, and by the time I've got my energy level back, it's after dinner and there are only a couple hours before I start nodding off in front of the screen... So yeah, I spent most of the first two weeks lagging hopelessly behind.

Second, I started plugging away at my two projects, only to realize that, to my chagrin, thinking that I already had all my planning done and not doing any planning during October to get my mind into gear for November was a mistake. I had been avoiding these projects for so long, that when I finally sat down to write them in earnest... the words just were not there. I had "fallen out of my characters' heads" as the literary expression goes, and it was going to take a few days to get back into the swing of things--and with every day that ticked by when I was scrambling for even a thousand words, I fell a thousand more words behind.

It's been about three days of good, solid writing, though--so I think it's safe to say that I'm back! Things are humming, I am on track and slowly working my way ahead of the curve... and a holiday weekend is coming up, giving me even more of a chance to get all squared away before the month is through! I can still win this thing, I know it!

Now for the story updates!

The Last Inkweaver

I'm nearing the end of Chapter 22, and we are finally out of the clutches of Ronni the Bounty Hunter Queen! Dearie me, that first "transitional" scene, going from "this is horrible" to "now what" was really hard... I mean, at first I had thought that I felt like tweaking the plan... but I only got a couple hundred words in before I stalled and ended up having to go back to the "point of deviation" and write it all back through again, more or less like I planned it. I am very much amazed at how much more involved it all got--actual descriptions of the house in the woods, the Pit where she keeps her prisoners, and the whole community they've formed down there, as well as getting amazingly prepared for their eventual escape, should it happen in their lifetimes.

This particular scenario also marks a big turning point for Callista and I think things really came together in such a way that it's going to be simple enough to bring that out for the reader. Being able to bring in a new character and open up the Wordspinner concept into a more widespread area, I think, also adds a bit of cohesiveness, so that I'm not restricting the action in the book to only my main characters, like I did the first time around. Plus who doesn't love a good recurring character? Knowing where my story is going to end up lets me put in a lot more foreshadowing, that the reader won't see coming... this is going to be so much fun!

The Sheriff's Showdown

Two chapters down, eight more to go! I know I should really be focused on Inkweaver, as that's the project I really want to FINISH this year, in spite of the fact that the more I add to it, the more it feels like the story just gets longer and longer, and I'm still not getting any closer to the end! But all in all, I'm really happy about the way that this one has been turning out, too.

Just like Inkweaver, I am finding myself adding more secondary characters, and giving the setting and the world itself a little more color and variation, instead of narrowing my focus onto one or two people around which the entire story revolves. Among those are "Tru and Pru", a couple of good, church-going, spinster sisters who run a bed-and-breakfast in town and are always making other people's business their own. Actually taking the time to describe what's going on around Laura, and not just what has direct bearing on her, I think, is helping me form a clearer picture of what's going on, and a broader scope--and it is my hope that this will also be the case for my readers. As matters stand, I think I'm going to set that aside for now and "ride the wave" that is Inkweaver for as long as I can before returning to "the adventures of Laura." All in all, it's coming off pretty successfully and I'm happy with it!


So there you have it! Two weeks down, two more to go... "The End of Inkweaver Or Bust" is the name of the game! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

NaNoWriMo Update: WIP Wednesday #1

It's been a hard-fought week, for some reason... I'm currently behind on my word count--but I'm hoping to find my stride soon! Enjoy a couple excerpts that I've written so far!


The Pit was exactly that, a wide hole in the ground about as wide across as one of the Academy lecture halls. Worry, confusion, and my mind's absolute refusal to acknowledge our current predicament drove me into a frenzy. I paced back and forth across the small patch of open ground we occupied. When I collided with a wall, I would reach as high as I could, digging my fingers into the hardened clay and kicking the toes of my boots against it for a foothold.
"Callista," Matthias cautioned, "calm down!"
"I can't calm down!" I snarled at him, pacing to the far wall and trying again. I could see a sort of walkway dug into the side, barely wide enough to walk on and definitely leading at least halfway up to the top... but how could I reach it? I kept rambling as I wandered around, probably searching for an access point to the walkway. "It's a Pit, Matthias! We are in a Pit, and the only way out is farther than any of us can reach!" I stopped clambering and turned to jab a finger at him. "All because you can't help yourself when it comes to damsels in distress!"
I heard whispering, murmuring voices. From somewhere in the shadows on the other side of the pit, people seemed to emerge out of the walls. Most of them were old and frail, and none of them looked very well nourished or clean.
Matthias caught my shoulder as if he was afraid I would take off again. "My fault?" He demanded. "You're the one who's been acting strangely this whole time! I've felt like there was something you've been hiding from me ever since we left the forest where you found me?"
"And if I hadn't," I retorted, yanking my arm out of his grasp, "You'd be dead, strangled and smothered by blackrope by now! But are you grateful?" I let out a bitter chuckle. "Not even a little! You're right, you don't know everything about this journey, but that hasn't stopped you from trying to take charge, now has it? First the sword, then Morgianna, now Ronni--you just don't know when to stop, do you?"
"Callista..." whispered a gentle voice beside me. I looked over at Rowinna, and she handed a bundle of dirty cloth to me: the satchel that Ronni had called useless and empty. I heard the hissing whisper of a few words issuing form the Tapestry's Tale--but what good would they do for us now? We weren't free to go anywhere of our own volition.

The other prisoners of the Pit drew closer around us. I could hear them asking questions like "Is she all right?" and "What is the problem?" and I saw the pity in their glassy eyes as they stared right at me. The heavy weight in my chest returned, making it difficult to draw a breath. Amazingly, my body seemed to find moisture yet through which to vent my raging emotions, and the tears resurfaced, clouding my vision. I sagged heavily against the wall of the pit, holding the satchel in both arms.
"We're dead... This is it," I whimpered, "we're all done for."


In the list of everything I ever wanted to do in my life, even just the once, for the sake of "experiential writing research", walk through a desert in the blazing sun alone dressed in nothing but a synthetic jumpsuit did not even show up anywhere at all. And yet, thanks to a quirky typewriter, an impossible challenge, and goodness knows what other substance I may or may not have ingested to bring me here--this is exactly where I found myself in this moment.
The thing that irritated me most was the fact that there didn't seem to be any trees or means of actual shade under the clear blue sky and the blazing sun. My only relief came from the fact that the futuristic jumpsuit from the Phantessan space ship possessed some kind of super-wicking ability, evaporating any moisture on contact, so that even my sweat didn't cause any problems. Of course, I still lost those copious amounts of moisture, so I felt the dehydration settle over me at a much faster rate. The bright sunlight reflecting off the pale sand didn't help the dizzy factor, either. I kept my eyes down, watching my shadow as I shambled over the ground. Gradually, I came to more or less of a flat, packed surface, instead of loose gravel and soil, and the track seemed to follow more of a direction, like a road rather than just open scrubland.
I walked until my legs began to feel heavy, and still, I was the only thing in the desert that moved. To avoid getting caught up in my own misery, I did the unthinkable: I let my mind wander as I walked in this foreign location.

The last two adventures I'd experienced had been places I distinctly remembered starting to write about, and abandoning not long after. What, then, could this be? I didn't recall ever writing about a barren desert. I hated this feeling of overheating, of alone-ness. Certainly I would never inflict it upon my characters. Whenever I wrote a story, I would always start it with the people who lived there--so what was the point of having so much empty space in this place?
"It just doesn't make sense!" I said aloud. What did anyone care? I didn't, and besides, thinking my thoughts while dehydrated caused them to stop in the middle or twist in strange and obscure directions while I was still trying to think them. Speaking the words out loud helped me keep them in order.
"I've been walking far enough," I said through cracked lips, my voice croaking out of a dry throat. I looked back over my shoulder. "I can't even see the Phantessan ship anymore. This world is just too big!" My wandering eyes caught something, a slight change in the road I followed: long, deep, cracked furrows running parallel to each other, spanning just wider than the reach of my arms.
"Wagon ruts!" I identified them out loud. "Now there's something that fits! Where there are wagon ruts, there are wagons, and where there are wagons, there are people, and where there are people, there's a town!" I shuffled down the road with renewed (if still very much depleted) energy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Reader's Review: "Oblivion's Forge" by Simon Williams

Synopsis from Amazon:

Close to death, a loner who lives a life of slavery to geomantic forces tries to forget the horror he glimpsed and the god-like beings that threaten the very existence of the world.

A young woman cursed by a witch seeks shelter in a castle as winter closes in- only to find herself propelled into a nightmare.

A healer who has reached the limit of her abilities and endurance when she struggles with a mysterious, incurable disease, seeks help from her mentor but is swept up in events beyond her control.

In each of these people and many others, ancient forces stir in response to the existential threat facing the world of Aona. A suffocating darkness to stand against the destroying light; a raging torrent of power bestowed through a thousand years of blood.

Oblivion's Forge is the first book in the Aona series, which tells of a monumental struggle between two great powers, an unparalleled existential war.

"What if all of this- our powers, our world- is that last light hanging in the void?"

My Review:

One thing I will say about this book: there is no shortage of intriguing concepts and fascinating ideas here! Early on in reading this book, I began to get the vibe that it was a lot like Stephen King's Dark Tower, which I had recently read--and also kind of like Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, in its scope, the multiple viewpoints and how it all converges and builds up to this one scene at the end. That was very well done and I got some satisfaction along with the chills and the sense of foreboding I got when what all these characters were hoping for, and the conclusion I was expecting, were all thwarted in a most spectacular way.

The problem, I feel, was how much meandering and wandering and "head-hopping" I had to do to get there. Also the fact that, unlike Mistborn, there weren't really any stand-out characters I could track with and follow through the dark, despondent mire of supernatural machinations and inexorable destinies--Amethyst, perhaps, and the power she cannot understand that draws her in a specific direction, for reasons she cannot know, so she attributes her own reasons for this destiny placed upon her by another; also Iyoth, who kind of shows up randomly halfway through the book, but turns out to be more deeply connected to several other characters than anyone would have guessed. There's Vornen, who is kind of like the "Roland" of this series--a mysterious, roving "Ranger with a mission", disliked by many, who knows only slightly more about the truth of the situation than the people around him, yet cannot let go of his painful past...

And since this is most definitely the first book in a series, the end reaches far beyond the last page of this book, and so I am left with a conundrum: do I keep going to see where the author plans to take this world next, now that the big cataclysmic moment has occurred, launching a new set of problems and perils to challenge the characters... or do I leave it as it is, to avoid the pitfalls of getting sucked in deeper to wanton pain and destruction that is sure to follow this dramatic beginning? I suppose I can move on for now, whittle down my TBR list by a few dozen more books, and hold off on revisiting until I am good and ready. One thing I am sure of: Aona is a world worth revisiting in the future!

All that said, I would give OBLIVION'S FORGE a solid ****3.5 STARS**** for all the things it did do right: the history, the lore, the prophecies, the "otherworldliness" of it, plenty of food for abstract thought and fascinating concepts! If you are someone who enjoys getting drawn into books, enjoys heavy high fantasy with a liberal overlay of dark supernatural elements, and you're one who would have the time to stay committed to a series for the long haul, and doesn't get disappointed by much--then by all means, this is definitely a series worth picking up!

Further Reading: (Sci-Fi/Other Worlds/Deep Lore/Supernatural Peril)

The Untamed Series--Madeline Dyer
The Cadeau Series--Connie Olvera
       -Who Can You Trust? 
Alexi Sokolsky: Hound of Eden--James Osiris Baldwin
        -Burn Artist 
        -Blood Hound

Friday, November 2, 2018

Flash Fiction Friday: "Flashes of Inspiration" No. 21

Art credit: Adam Schumpert
#21 "The Ghost In The Crypt"

The air hung thickly around me. It was getting hard to breathe.
That didn't stop me from lighting one up and taking a long drag, relishing the cool detachment it brought me.
I stared at the thing in front of me. Of effing course it would be.
"Geez, Mirabelle," I muttered under my breath. "You couldn't pick something a little more subtle, could you?"

I stood at the foot of a gigantic stone door, carved and painted in ornate patterns and occult symbols. Every kind of warning sign and portent to danger, in every language since the dawn of sentience screamed at me there... and right there in the middle of my sight line, a gem as big as my face, like the world's most expensive PUSH ME button.

So I did. Taking a deep breath and saying the words Mirabelle had all but literally seared into my brain with a hot brand, I called up the ancient power and placed my hand over the jewel.
It felt like planting my hand over a dutch oven fresh from the fire. I spat my cigarette a good twenty feet as I screamed bloody murder and scared the bejeezus out of half the jungle. If Degarras and his men didn't know where I was--they sure as shooting did now. By the time it was over, I couldn't tell if I'd lost all the feeling in my hand, or just the hand itself.

Opening my eyes, I discovered that the gem was no longer glowing, and the absence of heat had created that sensation of numbness. My hand was still there, at least. I took it down.
With a great, rumbling groan, like a freshly-tranquilized elephant, the door gave an earth-shaking rumble as it slid and scraped its way upward. I couldn't imagine the mechanics required to lift something that huge, but once the opening was wide enough for me to fit, I decided I didn't need to worry about mechanics. I had a crypt to loot.

The further I got from the entrance, the less light I had. It got so dark, I half expected to see Mirabelle's faint outline in front of me, but no dice. The juju on this place was still too strong. I stopped when progressing forward felt pointless, when every step just might be a bottomless pit.
"Gee," I coughed in the stillness and silence, "some light would be nice."

I flinched and reached for the holster on my hip as something exploded right next to me. I stared right at it and nearly blinded myself.

A torch! As if commanded by my voice, lanterns burst to life all the way down the hallway. In the dim, quivering light, I saw no pits on the floor, just a hallway so long that the focal point extended to a tiny gap at the edge of my view horizon. I stepped forward, grabbing one of the torches out of its brackets, just in case I lost the light of the others. I counted twenty paces, then fifty, then one hundred. Had I gone a mile already? How long was this crypt, anyway?

I kept walking and counting, acutely aware of more and more things as I did. At five repetitions, my badge clip on my belt started chafing. (why the heck didn't I leave that back at the hotel?) By twelve repetitions, I was wondering what on earth about this mission warranted a two-piece suit and tie? I pulled at the knot and loosened my collar just a little. At probably the fourteenth repetition of one hundred (or somewhere thereabouts... I got bored of counting a couple times and arbitrarily started spewing numbers) I finally reached the doorway at the end of the hall, and I could see as I approached with the torch that the shadows contained therein weren't ordinary shadows. It was weird, seeing that thick black line that the light from my torch wouldn't cross. It gave the impression that the blackness filling the space in front of me had mass and volume. I could stick my hand in it and swirl it around, but according to my eyes, it was a solid mass that I shouldn't be able to just step into.
Which is why I proceeded to do exactly that.

The torch in my hand gave a little whuff-ing sound, and the light from it seemed to retreat around the flaming bulb part at the end--only to disappear completely and blaze brighter than ever when I took another step forward. I looked away and rubbed the dancing stars out of my eyes. I did notice that the thick shadows weren't thick any more. I could distinguish everything within a thirty-foot radius--

Including the gigantic stone coffin with a slab depicting the demigod war chieftain Brophistocles.
"Bazinga!" I cried, just because I had developed the trend of talking to myself... Except this time, my voice took on a thundering echo that rang for several repetitions. I clapped a hand over my mouth, but it was too late. A long, hissing groan issued from the shadows beyond my little circle. I drew the knife hanging from my belt.

"Sorry," I told to whatever spirits had no doubt become aware of my presence. "This dude has an amulet I need to free my girlfriend from the netherworld." I watched for more movement, but I only heard the sustained hissing. "Now, if you don't mind, I'll just be about my business and get out of your hair." If the Whatever-It-Was even had hair. Who cares? It's a metaphor. I shrugged and turned back to the sarcophagus.

Big mistake.

The first tentacle wrapped around my right leg and jerked it out from under me, slamming me flat on the stone floor before I could catch myself on my hands. It was sheer dumb luck that I managed to tuck my chin and take the brunt of the hit on my thick skull and not break my nose. It still hurt like heck. I hauled myself up on one elbow and twisted to see over my shoulder just in time to come face to face with another tentacle headed for my neck. I slashed at that with my knife, gritting my teeth against the horrible pain of the living tourniquet wrapped around my calf and squeezing tighter.

"Dagnabbit, let go!" I grunted at the alien Guardian. I should have remembered that ancient legends spoke of these creatures who thrived in the shadows of enormous tombs, determined and willing to set upon any living creature who dared trespass to disturb the slumber of such a auspicious figure. More than a dozen tentacles of varying sizes thrashed and wriggled as the creature sought to trap me. I dodged many of them, but occasionally the Guardian scored a hit. One particularly thick limb slapped me across the middle, sending me flying back against the rock wall. I landed hard, and the next thing that registered was another tentacle wrapped around the shaft of a spear! Too late, I moved to slice at it, and the Guardian hissed as it stabbed me in the side. I could feel the rush of alarm at the injury, but I still needed that amulet. I fought my way through the tangled, ever-changing forest of tentacles, slicing at any that got in my way, twisting and ducking to avoid others. At last, I threw myself on top of the coffin.

The Guardian let out a piercing shriek and the frenzy of the tentacles increased. I clenched my fist against my side to keep from bleeding out altogether. I knew I had to defeat the Guardian in order to gain access to the tomb--but how?


The voice that spoke I had only ever heard in my dreams. The heat trapped in the cave seemed to vaporize in seconds, and I felt the chill wind blow over me. When it faded, I saw her. Barely visible, made of dancing lines of blue light, but Mirabelle was there. She hovered between us, her hand resting protectively on my chest while the other arrested the movement of the Guardian. It hissed angrily at her, but she didn't move. Her ethereal blue skirts swirled around her, caught in an un-felt wind.

I grimaced as a shooting pain radiated from my stab wound.
"Mirabelle..." I grunted, "You're here..."
She didn't take her eyes off the creature. "I'm not sure how it happened. I swear, Damian, if I could manage to come in here by myself, I would have done that ages ago. Perhaps it just needed the touch of someone--"
"Alive?" I quipped.
She chuckled. "Thanks for putting it delicately, Detective."

Above us, the monster bellowed, as if it felt the need to remind us that it could still squash our puny little lives (well, existences, really...) if it cared to, at any moment.
"Now then," my ghostly girlfriend murmured, "we've got a threat to mitigate if you want to have a snowball's chance at getting that amulet."
I grinned. "Right behind you all the way," I replied.

Did you enjoy this tale? Head over to FLASH FICTIONS for more "Flashes of Inspiration"!