Jan 31, 2016

Somewhere in this foggy mind is week 4's story

I fell a bit behind with the 52 Short Stories in 52 Weeks challenge due to catching a bug that I think might actually be a plague in disguise. I did manage to jot down some ideas for the 4th story, though, so I'm hoping I can get my head a little less foggy so I can work on it. Right now I'm having trouble stringing two thoughts together. Stringing together several thousand words might be a challenge. I adjusted the photo to look blurry because I thought it looked neat, but right now that's sort of how my head feels!

For this story I probably need to be able to focus because I'm stepping a little outside my comfort zone. It’ll be first person, which I rarely write for anything other than direct verbal responses from characters like this. I think this might be the best approach, though, since the characters aren't at all human and have no names or identities. I haven’t even yet written the world where this takes place, so that'll be new, too! (I have characters from different planes/worlds, but so far I’d only written them on the human one.) This is what I'd like to do with these short stories, though. I'd like to use them to branch out a little into different styles and into things that will help with my world building. So we'll see how it goes. If I post another story here soon, it worked. If I don't... well, I probably ended up just taking a nap.


Jan 23, 2016

Short Story: "Mile Long Cow"

"So there's this cow, you know?"
Well, that was something of a letdown. "A cow."
"Yeah! A cow. You know, with udders and horns and hooves."
"Only some cows have horns."
"Right. This one does. So there's this cow with horns. And it was green."

(The basis for this story was a prompt calling for a fairytale, so this was as close as my characters wanted to get. I was going to spend more time editing and polishing this up, but I have a feeling that would be like polishing a turd. Umm... literally. You'll see. I blame credit my husband with the terms "mile long cow" and "smarfy". I think I was channeling him while writing this stellar piece of literature. This is technically canon since it would take place during book 1. Creators and muses, grant me the patience to handle Sol for an entire trilogy.)

Unexpected Inspiration Short Story - "Mile Long Cow"

Adair groaned a sound that was closer to a whimper, not that he would admit it, as a flash of light made its way to his eyes. He clenched his jaw and positioned his forearm to block out as much as he could. Sol was tinkering away at an invention, which meant he needed light. When Sol needed light, he didn't do it in half measures. The interior of the wagon-house was lit like the beacon of a lighthouse and didn't help the throbbing pain inside Adair's head. Despite the groaning and grumbling, Adair knew it wasn't overly bright. It was just the headache making his sight much more sensitive.

Not to mention his hearing. Sol's hammering wasn't helping, either. Adair could ask him to stop, but if Sol wasn't actively working on a project, he'd be actively talking. That wouldn't be an improvement. Adair moved the pillow from behind his head and dropped it over his face instead. He didn't need to breathe if it meant the light and noise were lessened, right?

It took a few moments for him to notice the lack of hammering. This relief was short lived when he felt Sol sit next to him. Oh no. Maybe he'd think Adair was asleep and-

No such luck. Sol lifted the pillow partway from his face. “'Less your hands have noses, this is a bad idea.”

At least the room was back to being lit by only the two lamps. Sol must have pulled his weaving from the three balls of light because they no longer floated around his head like curious glowing hummingbirds. Sol himself still possessed the ever-present glow that marked him as a Weaver to Adair's arcane sight. While it wasn't blinding, it was enough for Adair to fumble for the pillow so he could put it back over his face. He answered Sol's comment with a halfhearted grunt.

“Oookay. Breathing through your hands it is. Let me know if you need anything? By like talking through your knees or whatever?” Sol asked as he stood. His bare footsteps were light as he crossed the wagon, but he didn't return to his project.

Adair grimaced, this time not from the pain. Sol was rapidly becoming one of his closest friends and Adair knew he valued when people treated him with respect. A lot of people didn't. They took Sol's silly, lazy grin and unorthodox way of talking to mean he was simple. The fact that Sol was built a little like the mountains he came from probably didn't help. He towered over everyone in Concordia.

With a sigh, Adair pushed the pillow aside and sat up. The wagon was dimmer than he'd thought, so Sol must have adjusted the lamps. Now he really did feel guilty; Sol, as a Lightweaver, needed brightness and fire the way Adair needed paint and ink as a Colorweaver. Adair cautiously inched his way across the cluttered floor to where Sol sat on his bed.

“Sorry I snapped. I didn't mean-” Adair caught sight of what Sol was holding in his glowing hands. “Why do you have my sketchbook?”

Sol gave him a wide smile that meant Adair was forgiven. “Just wanted to look at the pictures. You draw some weird things.”

Adair sat next to him and leaned over to see what he was talking about. “Oh, those aren't weird. They're from a study I did of the Muses.”

Sol gave him a blank, bemused smile.

Adair rubbed his forehead with the heel of his palm. Was he really going to have to explain the whole mythological history to someone who had never heard it before? Sol had lived in this country for years. Surely he knew what the Muses were! “The Muses. You know, the constellations? That the months are named after? It's said they came down from the stars to teach the old artists their secrets.”

Sol's smile remained the same for a few seconds until his strange, pale eyes widened in comprehension. “Oh! I didn't know the months had names for a reason. So, like Scriven and Pritchel and Chia Squirrel?”

“Yeah, exactly,” Adair started to answer before the last one registered. “Wait, 'Chia Squirrel'?”

Sol sheepishly scratched the back of his neck. “Uh. Yeah. Isn't that what month it is now? Or did I lose track again?”

Adair hurt too much to do more than chuckle. However, the amusement he gained from the idea of drawing the shapeshifting Muse of illustration as a terracotta squirrel covered in sprouts almost made up for the headache. “It's Chiaroscuro. Kee-are-o-skyur-oh. Aren't you supposed to be good at foreign languages?”

Sol shrugged, a massive movement with his broad shoulders. “I thought it was named after a small animal. I mean, you've got a bird in here. And a mushroom.”

“Andante, Muse of music. And Piquant, culinary Muse.” Adair pointed these ones out.

Sol's head shot up from the drawing Adair had to admit did resemble a toadstool. “Your Muse of food is food? Isn't that cannibalistic?”

Adair shouldn't have been surprised at Sol's use of a five syllable word, yet every time he used one it was jolting. “Well, no. Because… You see, it's… It's because… Huh, I never thought about it that way.”

“And this one.” Sol flipped back a few pages. “You drew a tree. Please don't tell me that one's the Muse of like carpentry or carving.”

Now it was Adair's turn to feel sheepish. He cleared his throat. “Umm… woodworking, actually, so yeah. But there's a reason! Trees are always replanted and found wood is preferred over cut.”

Sol was clearly not buying this.

“None of the others are like that!” Adair needed to think about it for a minute and thinking was difficult right now. But no, surely none of the other ones were so… self-destructive? He flipped to the next page in the sketchbook. “Right! See, this is Tessera. She's a dragon and the Muse of glasswork. More reasonable, right?”

Sol tilted his head to the side and said in a much more serious tone than usual, “Addy. I make things. If a dragon made something out of glass, the thing would have to be the size of like a building. A wagon at the smallest.”

Adair found himself rubbing his forehead again. How was Sol, of all people, out-logicking him? Not to mention causing him to make up words inside his own head. His headache must be getting to him if Sol's comments were making sense. This was the man who said with a straight face, not three days ago, “we had a monkey, but he got promoted” in response to why he had placed a ruffled collar on Adair's cat. According to Sol's brother they'd never had a pet monkey. Adair still didn't know what it meant.

“Okay, fine, I concede. Some of the Muses are weird. But it makes sense that the Muse of sculpture is-”

Sol held his hand out to stop Adair's statement. Adair blinked at the bright orange sun on Sol's palm; with Adair's head making a mess out of his arcane sight, the sun seemed to be glowing independently from the rest of Sol's hand.

“Wait! I wanna guess this one.”

Adair reached over to push Sol's distractingly bright hand out of his field of vision. “Go ahead.”

Sol reclined with his back against the wall. Judging from his position, this was going to be more than a simple answer. Adair felt genuine curiosity about where Sol would go with this and turned to sit cross-legged to face him. As long as he didn't look directly at Sol, the other Weaver's glow wouldn't increase the pain in his head.

When he had Adair's full attention, Sol cleared his throat. “So there's this cow, you know?”

Well, that was something of a letdown. “A cow.”

“Yeah! A cow. You know, with udders and horns and hooves.”

“Only some cows have horns.”

“Right. This one does. So there's this cow with horns. And it was green.”

“So, not a local cow.”

“Why? Don't you have green cows here? Everything else is colorful.”

Adair couldn't tell if Sol was serious or not. He decided not to bother asking. The answer would leave him more confused.

“Where was I? Okay, the green cow wanted to get to the field on the other side of the river. Maybe she heard the bulls on the other side were throwing a really great party. Sheeps and pigs and everything were invited. It was great. A party with no farmers or herders to bring down the fun.”

“Or maybe she wanted to go because she heard the grass was greener?”

“She was already green. Why would she want greener grass? Maybe redder grass would make her purple. I dunno, you're the color guy, not me.”

Adair should have pointed out that it wasn't red and green that made purple. The explanation would probably fall flat, so he decided to skip it. Instead he prompted, “So there was a party?”

“Yeah! But there was no bridge or boat for her to cross and the water was too deep. But she heard there was this mushroom growing in a forest close by that granted wishes. So she- the green cow, remember- went and found this mushroom-”

“Let me guess. This mushroom was Piquant.”

“No, it was sickeningly sweet.”

...a pun about flavors. Sol's story was devolving into puns. Adair wondered if he could get out of the wagon while he still had a chance.

“So the cow ate the mushroom while all the while thinking how she wanted to cross the river. Well, I guess she thought it. Do cows think? Anyway, nothing happened. Nada. Zilch. Only a bad taste in her mouth from the mushroom that wasn't your food-Muse.”

“Nothing?” Creators curse it, Adair was getting drawn back in.

“Nothing. Until she reached the river again and found it was just a stream. Of course she thought maybe she'd found the wrong place- okay, yeah, cows must think- but no, there were her hoofprints in the mud. But they couldn't be. They were like itty bitty compared to her hooves. They looked like ant prints. But ants don't have hooves, so she knew they couldn't be from ants.”

“Maybe farms had started housing ants and putting tiny hooves on them?”

“Don't be thick. What kind of farm would choose to have ants? So since the river was only the size of a stream, she crossed over it and headed in the direction of the party. She heard the music playing, but it was so quiet. 'What kind of party has quiet music?' she thought. Maybe it wasn't as smarfy as she'd heard. But when she got to where the music played, she was horrified!”

Was it worth asking what “smarfy” meant? Probably not. “How can you horrify a cow?”

“Easy. By being half an inch tall.”

Adair blinked. “Come again?”

“All the other animals were itty bitty, just like the not-ant prints! The cow realized that was why she could cross the river. She was like a mile long!”

“Talk about one potent mushroom.”

“You can say that again. So the cow- the mile long cow- didn't like being so big. Her one chance was to find another mushroom, but where was she gonna find another mushroom as big as like a hill? She wasn't sad, though. She knew if there was one, there had to be more. So she headed off to find one.”

“...And?” Adair asked when Sol didn't add more to his story.

“And what? That's the end. She left to find a mushroom and was never seen again. Probably a good thing when she was a mile long.”

By this point Adair had completely lost track of why Sol was even telling this story. He shifted position and his knee bumped against the sketchbook Sol had left sitting between them. Right! They were talking about the Muses. “So how does this connect to sculpture?”

“Well, where cows go, they leave piles behind. When it came from a mythic cow a mile long, it turned into magic cow pies. From there, that's where all your clay comes from.”

Adair stared at Sol and wondered if he should start questioning his taste in friends. "... did you just tell me this whole thing so you could make a joke about poop?"

Sol grinned a smirk that was far too knowing for Adair's liking. “I distracted you, didn't I? How's the headache now?"

Quite honestly, Adair had forgotten all about it. "Fine until you reminded me, I guess?"

"Then I'll have to tell another one. So there was this ten-ton tuna --"

Jan 22, 2016

Character "Wreck This Journal" Pages

Every once in a while I break out my Wreck This Journal and do a page or two. Most of the time I try to relate the page to the story I'm currently working on, so these three pages all involve characters from my "Unexpected Inspiration" series. My usual medium is colored pencil, so these pages all use that.

This is the "Write One Word Over and Over" page, but I went against the instructions because I couldn't decide on a single word. "Strength", "creativity", and "courage" are words that I like to focus on because they remind me that I can have those things. That being those things are important! For the page, I tied them into three of the protagonists in my fantasy series- each of the characters possess one trait the most. (Flower and strength for my warrior/healer Blythe, his paintbrush and creativity for my artist mage Adair, and his hourglass and courage for my socially phobic thief-turned-bodyguard Etri.) Their traits start to blend together after they spend a lot of time together, though, so in the background every color (character) gets to have all three words. My characters and writing give me strength, creativity, and courage. :)

Here's Etri again. I did this page of my WTJ during "Asexual Awareness Week". Since I'm ace, I traced my hand while wearing my black ring (that's kind of our symbol), then colored in the asexuality flag behind it. The opposite page was free, so there I drew Etri. Why? Because he's also ace! Yay, representation!

And I can't have Etri without his dorky brother Sol. For this page my first thought was to turn my hair into a paintbrush. Well, I’d already done a paintbrush (see above), but I really liked this idea. Then I remembered a scene that happens in book 1. Adair’s cat is constantly stealing his paintbrushes and trying to eat the bristles. One of the other characters… well, he’s a little strange. Sol’s something of a genius ditz. He’s absolutely brilliant when it comes to tinkering and inventing things, but the rest of the time he’s an airhead. He says the strangest things! Sol sees the cat gnawing on a paintbrush, so he decides what the heck, there must be something to this. Adair walks in to find him with the brush in his mouth and Sol mock-pouts “My lollipop has a mustache!”

Looking at these pages is making me want to do more creative (and probably silly) things with my dorks, so maybe I'll do some more pages soon. :)


Jan 17, 2016

Short Story: "Rising to a Challenge"

Two months in and she was still adjusting to having not only a full kitchen, but an entire restaurant under her command. Every day began to feel like a series of disasters.

(I used the prompt of "A story about rising to a challenge" for this one. I decided to make this a play on words since one of my minor characters is a chef and all I could think was something involving bread not rising. This takes place at about the same time book 1 starts, but these characters don't enter the series until likely book 2. It was neat getting a feel for characters I only really mention in passing!)

Unexpected Inspiration Short Story - "Rising to a Challenge"

"Owning your own restaurant is a great opportunity," her master said when the position was offered to her by a retiring chef. "It will open up doors for you in the future," Master Landry added. "It will give you a leg up when you're promoted to master," he promised. What wasn't said, though later she realized was implied pretty hard, was "Please get my son out of my house."

Nina glanced over at said offspring and let out a groan. Ostensibly, Feren was reading. In actuality, while the books were open on the table in front of him, his attention was directed towards the group of young Protectorates walking through the door. She found it unsurprising that Feren scowled at them. At least Nina assumed he was scowling. His hair had grown in a bit after he had hacked off his braid and it hid much of his face, including the scar that was his reason for discarding his braid in the first place. Feren always scowled at the Protectorates who walked in the door, which was stupid since the restaurant was across the road from the training ground and they always came here for lunch.

This wasn't something she wanted to deal with right now. One of her younger cousins was handling the till since Feren was "busy" and the dubiously helpful help manning the place would have to do for now. That was one of the negatives she'd learned too late of running a business as a novice. If she had waited until she was a master, at the least she'd have a reasonably competent apprentice to help. All she had at the moment were a handful of younger siblings and cousins- frequently busy with their own apprenticeships- and a few adults she was able to keep on the payroll. And Feren, of course. She suspected that he was the reason most of the original help had left after the old owner retired, although they never said as much.

Nina pushed open the door to the kitchen and slunk down onto the lone stool in the room. Today had gone wrong from the moment she came downstairs to begin prepping for the day. She recognized that she was overwhelmed. Two months in and she was still adjusting to having not only a full kitchen, but an entire restaurant under her command. Every day began to feel like a series of disasters. In just the five hours since sunrise, her newest help managed to burn the breakfast eggs and the muffins she'd prepared the night before were discovered to be stale. Then her cousin miscounted the till and had a minor panic attack before Feren eventually come downstairs to double check this for him, which Feren made out to be an incredibly big deal. Nina refrained from pointing out that this was Feren's responsibility simply because she was too busy trying to extinguish the fire on the stove.

And to make matters worse, the dough wouldn't rise. Still. It was nearly a week since it had last risen. At first she thought the conditions were wrong or someone forgot to add the yeast, so she took over this job. Baked goods were supposed to be her specialty and when she couldn't get it to work, she had to admit to herself that there was a problem. She feared she was the problem. Her weaving felt weaker and she assumed it was from stress. Without as much arcane flavor to add to her ingredients, no wonder things were burning that shouldn't and prepared food was going stale almost immediately. No matter how inept her help, fire should not have been possible. Any food she touched should stay fresh for at least a week. That was how her weaving worked and after seven years of training, it should function reliably.

Undependable weaving didn't explain the dough, however. Did it?

Nina lifted her head from her hands when she heard familiar footsteps thud across the floor. She winced. Feren no longer dressed as a Protectorate, so how he managed to continue to make noise in soft shoes was beyond her guess. It would be just like him to have something loud and uncomfortable in the soles solely to create melodramatic entrances.

Feren boosted himself up to sit on the counter, something she told him wasn't professional at least three times a week. She didn't have it in her to argue right now. Instead she leaned her forehead against his thigh. At least the Artisan clothing he wore now was soft. If she had tried this a few months ago, she would have bonked her head on the sheath of a knife and had rough, heavy trousers as a pillow. The velvet robe was nice, if entirely impractical for a kitchen environment.

Feren ran his fingers through her short hair in a gesture she found to be soothing. Oddly enough, this haircut had corresponded with Feren's. In her case, though, it had simply been easier and cooler to have it short. Feren had lopped his off as the symbol of renouncing his position of bodyguard after deeming himself a failure.

They sat in silence for a moment or two before Feren spoke. "You know, you don't have to do this alone. You can ask for help. I'm sure my father would come out for a week or two if you asked."

He was right. She wasn't a master yet, so she could technically ask for help. And her former master would help without hesitation. That thought made her grind her teeth. How would she show herself ready to be a master when she couldn't even last a season before begging for aid? She must have made a sound because Feren squeezed her shoulder and said "hey" to get her to look up at him.

"What do you need me to do?" he asked.

She could count on one hand the number of times he'd asked this without first being assigned a task to do, then usually proceeding to grumble the entire time he worked. He had been in such a lousy mood since he changed careers. She hoped this question meant he was feeling more positive.

"Help out more without complaint, I guess. Be here when you're here." That was what bothered her most, now that she thought about it. He'd grown so distant. While he was always a little grouchy, this level of disinterested antagonism was new.

He nodded once. "You got it."

It was that easy? She looked up at him with a raised eyebrow and pursed lips.

"You're running yourself ragged. Anyone can see that." Feren reached down to take her hand. "I'll help more. My test is on Daegurn. After that I have a month before the docents resume class. Then I'll be more helpful. I promise."

Nina could hold out for three days, assuming he kept his word after this round of testing ended. She held out her index finger to seal the promise. It gave her reassurance that he hooked his finger around hers without hesitation.

"Now what brought you back here?" she asked. "I assume it wasn't just to check up on your artist."

Feren rolled his eyes and tilted his head in the direction of the door. "I needed to get away from those lumbering oafs."

"A few months ago those 'oafs' were your friends. You were fine with them then."

Feren gave one last frown in the direction of the dining room before turning his attention back to her. "They're always hanging around here. I know, I know, they've always done that, but I just don't like it, okay?"

"Can you at least be civil to them even if you can't be friendly?" When he only gave an uncommitted grunt in response, she could feel a headache coming on. "I don't get it. What's the problem, anyway?"

Feren crossed his arms over his chest. "They're not good enough. I know they're not good enough. If they keep hanging around, one might get it into their head that they want to be your sentinel. You deserve better than them."

Oh. Ohhh. Now it made sense. Feren had filled that role for several years. Of course he was hyper critical of what he saw as competition. Nina stood up and pulled Feren from his perch on the counter so that they could stand face to face. This was important. "Ren, you know we need to find a sentinel within the next few years. If you keep chasing them away, how will we ever know which one is a potential match for us?"

Feren brushed the hair out of his face with the back of his hand. She could tell this gesture meant he was uncomfortable with the direction of their conversation. He normally touched his hair when the subject of finding a new bodyguard came up. Like any Protectorate, sentinels included, a braid was once a large part of his identity.

He let out a sigh that momentarily blew his hair out of his face. Nina reached up to tuck this behind his ear before he finally answered. "It's too soon, okay? That isn't the type of third I'd expected to ever have. I need to get used to the idea of being guarded, I guess."

His voice was soft and the truth of it stung her heart. Back when Feren had been her bodyguard, he'd filled this role for another artist, as well. Not all young would-be triads worked out and theirs was included in that number. Adair had left to find his own path after Feren renounced his role as sentinel. She wasn't angry at Adair for this. He knew as well as she did that three Artisans with no sentinel wouldn't work, so he'd left her and Feren free to find the one they needed. The problem she faced now was that somehow her once-guard needed to grow accustomed to the fact that he would have a sentinel in his life sooner rather than later.

She caught both of Feren's hands in hers and squeezed them. Later she was sure he would complain about her getting flour on him, but right now he didn't mind. "We have time. Focus on completing your studies and doing what you can here. I'll see about more training for the staff. If things are still crazy in a few days, I'll send a letter to your father. We'll make this work."

For once Feren had no snide comment; his smile was purely genuine. If he was willing to work at being more present, this would work. Nina felt confidence and optimism rising in her heart for the first time in days . Now if only she could figure out how to make the dough rise alongside her spirits.

Jan 14, 2016

My magic is a mess, but at least it's colorful!

I decided that I really need to sit down and work on my magic system because it ties so much into the characters, the different species, the main culture’s history, and what the heck am I even doing with all these different worlds?? This dang thing started out as a simple short story with all humans and now it’s this series with lizard people and shadows roaming the place and I don’t even know anymore! Take a deep breath, Meri, you can figure this out. It’s a good thing your mages see magic as color because it makes sorting this out a lot easier!

Okay, so I have 12 different types of magic (well, 13, but the healing magic is separate and doesn’t work the same way as these ones, so I didn’t include it) and I have them separated by who uses them. The 9 in the purple box are used in Concordia (the main country) by the Artisans. Basically there’s a bunch of magic all tied into the arts. Magic isn’t overly powerful here; each person with magic can really only use it for one thing that’s tied into their artistic field. (Like my main character is a cartographer- his magic falls under Drawing/Painting and it makes what he draws move around on the page, which is useful for interactive maps! He gets creative, though, and learns how to draw on the air to create illusions.) Anyway, where it gets complicated is that mythology has some basis in truth: the muses are the ones who taught the people of Concordia how to do these magics centuries ago. The muses weren’t human, although 3 came from the same world as the humans (those are the green 3).

What I am realizing is that my three unrelated magics are still tied to the Artisan magic in a way. This is cool because I didn’t know this before today! Imps come from the same world as the Creators (3 red magics) and are a kind of magic/energy draining pest, which I did know. Light and shadow were originally part of one world and are now split- but the glass magic was taught by one of the creatures of light and a creature technically of shadow taught painting magic. This sounds so convoluted when summarized, but it does make sense!

I never really know what to call my non-humans collectively- I usually use “elementals” but that makes it seem like earth/fire/water/air which they aren’t, “creatures” sounds demeaning since they’re almost all intelligent, and “aliens” (what I suppose they actually are) sounds sci-fi when I’m writing fantasy and it’s magic that allows them to world-hop, not technology.

Ugh, this is getting super long. Okay, basically magic in the purple box is the main magic in this culture and revolves around the arts. The 3 magics on the right are what some of my other characters have and are sorta connected to the purple box. And that’s it, I’m done trying to sort out this mess for today. I got a pretty color-coded chart out of today’s work and that’s success, right? ;)


Jan 13, 2016

Book Review - Hawk

I received Hawk by Marie Powell from LibraryThing as part of the Early Reviewers program.

Here's the summary from Amazon:
Hyw yearns to join his father in serving the charismatic Llywelyn, Prince of Wales. If only Hyw dared tell anyone of his ability to scout through the eyes of a hawk, it might help secure his place in the royal guard. Cat, his sister, longs to inherit the magical ability that runs through her mother's line. If only she could see her future, now that she is 13 and promised to a boy she barely remembers.

When a messenger summons the prince to a secret meeting, Cat and Hwy find themselves in the middle of a war that threatens to destroy all of Wales. Can they master their special abilities in time to save the royal family-and themselves?

Set among the actual events and personages of late 13th century Wales, Hawk is a fantasy novel that recreates what life might have been like for two teenagers coming of age.


I had worried that this book was going to be one where it was difficult to keep track of the characters considering that it started with a cast list complete with pronunciation. I skimmed this, but I knew it wouldn't be much help to me since I have a hard time flipping back to indexes and glossaries with ebooks on my Kindle. (I love ebooks for convenience, but sometimes physical copies make things easier, but I digress.) Luckily I had nothing to worry about. Powell did a great job giving the characters personalities and identities, so I didn't need to flip back to figure out who was who and who was related to who. The names, though Welsh, were fortunately also not a problem in the slightest. I'm always happy when fantasy is easy to follow! 

Back to the characters, the author did a wonderful job bringing them to life. The chapters alternated between a pair of siblings and I enjoyed this style, probably because I liked both of the characters and was invested in what was happening to both of them. I tend to like multiple viewpoint stories, anyway, but this was well done. The secondary characters were pretty well-rounded, too, which is likely why I had no trouble keeping track of who was who. 

I don't read a lot of historical fiction/fantasy (usually just plain fantasy) and I wasn't disappointed in this approach to magic. It blended well with the historical aspects of the story. I don't want to get into spoilers, but I particularly liked how Hyw (one of the main characters) learned how to work both his animal-related magic and the magic that helped his prince. 

The story had a nice pace and with short chapters, it sped along and kept me interested. The only minor issue I can bring up is that the end of the story felt a little rushed. I guess I wanted to know more about what happened with the characters and their magic! The story ending where it did was understandable, though, considering that Powell was working with a specific time/event in history. If there's a sequel, you can bet I'll be reading it. I'll give this four and a half stars and recommend it to readers who enjoy YA fantasy or historical fiction with a side of fantastical.

Jan 10, 2016

Short Story: "A New Beginning"

He needed to remember that a new location did not mean safety. It only meant a different kind of danger.

(The prompt I used for this short story was "A story entitled 'A New Beginning'." This takes place about seven years before Book 1 [Colorweaver] when Etri and Sol first came to Concordia as teenagers.)

Unexpected Inspiration Short Story - "A New Beginning"

The young would-be-thief leaned further inside as he perched half in and half out of the open window. While getting into this position had been easy due to the recent discovery that his magic could do more than he had been taught, this form made it difficult to do anything that involved any of his senses. As a shadow sounds were slightly muffled, sight was clouded, smell was almost nonexistent, taste was impossible, and touch was hit-or-miss. Yet he couldn't pass directly through solid objects; if the window hadn't been partially open in the first place, this plan would have failed from the start.

Right now hearing was of utmost importance. With his body back in a shape that possessed ears, he listened to check if any of the residents were awake. No sound greeted him, so he deemed it temporarily safe and slid down to the floor. The moon was waning and the streetlights were too distant to shed much illumination on a room that had the tangy scent of metal and chemicals. This meant he was inside the metalworker's studio he wanted to search. He let his eyes adjust to the near-darkness and spotted what he was looking for on the far wall. Sol would be pleased. With this many metalworking tools, it was unlikely the artist who owned this studio would notice one or two missing before Etri had a chance to return them.

Etri inched across the wooden floor in his soft boots and took care to avoid any potentially squeaky floorboards. He was so intent on silence that he failed to notice a shadow where a shadow didn't belong. As he reached up to grab the type of tool that Sol had pointed out to him while window shopping earlier that day, he found his wrist caught in a vice-like grip just above his glove and below his sleeve. It was only his upbringing that preached near-silence that kept him from making a sound. It was also this conditioning that allowed him to snatch his thin wrist away in an instinctive reaction that took his assailant by surprise enough to let him go. Touch was forbidden, especially skin-to-skin! How could this person be so careless!

Etri stared in revulsion at his own arm and took a deep breath to calm his racing heart. No, he was in Concordia now. He had to remember that things were different here. Old rules didn't necessarily apply.

Situated somewhere between fear of being caught and aversion to being touched, his mind raced as he sought a way out. The window was only a possibility if he could get away without whoever this was seeing how he was able to scale three stories without a means for climbing. The only door in the room would take him further into the building, which was not his intention.

The only thing to do was to see what kind of trouble he was in. He turned around to check and his eyes widened before he caught himself and smoothed his expression back to impassivity. This wasn't the armed and muscular bodyguard he was expecting to find in an artist's home. Instead a petite young woman a few years older than himself stood with a frown just visible behind a curtain of … blue hair? Were the people of Concordia so genetically dissimilar that their hair was as different from his own as their dark skin to his light? She was dressed in a loose shirt and trousers, not much different from what many of the less prosperous Concordians wore, Etri included. All this added up to her not having any better reason for being here than Etri did and he assumed that he had inadvertently run into another thief.

“Why are you here?” She phrased it as a question, but her tone was more demanding than inquisitive.

Etri begun to answer “I shall ask the same” when it hit him that he could understand her question. After a few weeks in this country, he had learned only a handful of words and phrases. His brother, who they had discovered had an affinity towards picking up languages, was their best chance of communicating until now.

Montglacian. She was speaking Montglacian. That couldn't be right, considering that no one here spoke it. He knew all too well that no one was allowed to leave Montglace and she didn't look the part even if she had.

With all of these thoughts pounding inside his head, he changed his answer. “I wished to borrow tools.”

The young woman tilted her head to the side and let out a disbelieving “hmm?” sound.

Etri's eyes darted to the window then back to the woman. It would be unlikely that one thief would turn in another. That would be counterproductive and dangerous. The truth might be his safest bet. “My brother invents things, but he is in need of tools. I only wished to borrow these until he sold what he created. With that money we could buy tools and return these.”

“You truly mean to only borrow them?”

Of course he did. He and Sol needed money and this was the best way to go about obtaining it. Sol at least had a penchant for creating useful objects from metal with his magic. No longer an apprentice-priest, Etri had no practical skills to bring to the table besides finding a way for his brother to get the supplies he needed. But he couldn't explain this to her or to anyone. Magic, their fugitive status… these were not things he would ever share.

Etri kept his mouth tightly shut and simply nodded. It suddenly occurred to him that she could be an agent reporting back to his home and that was how she knew his language. Panic welled up in his chest as he realized he had already given away more than he should have by mentioning his brother. For as far back as he could remember Sol had been the one in the most jeopardy and Etri didn't feel as though a change in location was likely to change this.

His feeling of unease didn't diminish when the woman eyed him up and down as though appraising him. Or possibly recalling his exact appearance to use against him later, his already worried mind supplied. He needed to remember that a new location did not mean safety. It only meant a different kind of danger.

“I have a deal for you.” When she finally spoke again, her words had lost their suspicion and sounded almost… kind. That in itself was strange. Etri had only heard his own language spoken through levels of monotone. She had the correct accent and sentence structure, but her inflection was all wrong.

Etri waited for her to reach her point and explain this deal. He guessed that she must be expecting a response when she didn't continue, so he mirrored her earlier action by tilting his head. He assumed this would convey that he was awaiting more information.

Whether or not this was accurate, she continued her offer. “I lead a group of...” she paused as though fumbling for a word. “You could call them reverse thieves. If what you spoke was truth, you could do well at this.”

“'Reverse thieves'?” Etri couldn't make sense of that and had no idea what word she had tried to find.

She gave him a small smile. “Exactly what I said, if a bit cumbersome. We return what was stolen.”

She reached into the small pouch on her belt and made a point of showing him the necklace in the palm of her hand. This she placed on the workbench behind them. “This is why I am here. If you wish, you can join us. In return for that work, you would be given room and board. Your brother, too, of course.”

That sounded too suspicious. Why would a stranger wish to help people she did not know, particularly this stranger who was fluent in a language she should not know? “You turn me over to the city guards if I refuse, yes?”

The woman had the incivility to chuckle. “No, although I would suggest you try a different career. A typical thief would be displeased by your competition and the artists' guards more so.”

Etri mulled over his options. On the one hand this meant potential refuge for himself and Sol. On the other, this could be more danger than it was worth.

Life had always included a level of background fear and they had nothing to lose when they had nothing left. Hope and freedom were such strange concepts, yet he found himself aching for a new start despite the risk. He knew Sol would agree.

The nod he gave would either sign their lives as forfeit or grant a new beginning.

Jan 4, 2016

Terms for story lengths are confusing as heck

Aha! I think I finally figured out what the little story things I write are actually called. I’ve been using "ficlet" which I think I got from my fanfic days about four thousand years ago, but no one seems to know that term when I mention it. It looks like they’re actually called vignettes. "Ficlet" can be used for original fiction according to google, but vignette is probably the more correct term. I don't know if I want to start using it here on my blog, though. I mean, with "ficlet" you can at least make a guess at what it is- a short work of fiction, a tiny story. Even the name sounds cute and short. "Vignette" just makes me think of grapes or vinegar or food or something.

Oh, what the heck. I'm probably using the term "short story" wrong, too. I mean, I have written some short stories in the low thousands of words, but the 25k word ones are probably supposed to be called novellas. Novellettes? One of my friends pointed out that fanfiction gets all the good descriptive terms that make sense. Over here in Original Fiction Land everything's all grey and may or may not depend on a specific word count. Sigh. I'll be over here waffling about what to call my writing, I guess! And nevermind the fact that the short story I'm currently writing is essentially fanficion of my own dorks. Ya know, for that extra level of confusion.


Jan 1, 2016

A good (writing) start to the new year

Stayed home for New Year's Eve because I wasn’t feeling well, so I decided to try writing one of the short stories I have bouncing around inside my head. After not writing anything except notes/ideas in almost two months, this felt great! 2k words isn’t bad for being out of practice and it’s a solid first draft of a first chapter. I really am excited about my goal of writing short stories and ficlets this year!

This isn’t the story for the week one challenge since it'll likely take me longer than a week to do. (I might finish it for one of my wildcard weeks.) I wanted to start it anyway, because at this point I’ll take whatever words spring from my head onto the page. In this case it’s a story set about ten years after book one where the one character finds himself in an alternate reality and his alternate self (a ghost) finds himself in the real reality. This should be fun!