Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
(This book looks great, check it out at Jeri-Smith Ready's website!)
Fantasy, to me, has always been the Dragon Riders series, Conan the Barbarian, of course Lord of the Rings, or maybe A Wrinkle in Time, or The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, etc.
But Urban Fantasy is normally set in a city-style world (post apocolyptic, future, alternate earth time, etc.) and often features shape shifters, werewolves, vampires, angels, demons, etc--the tried and true elements of the horror genre.
I started thinking about this when I went hunting for urban fantasy at my local book store and saw the horror genre had one small little shelf, and all the vampire/monster books, etc. were placed in the fantasy section. If the horror author was well known (Koontz, King, etc.) they were simply shelved under 'fiction.' Douglas Clegg and Brian Keene were on the horror shelf, and I think Clive Barker, if I'm remembering correctly, but gosh, the whole genre is practically gone from my bookstore.
So is Fantasy absorbing everything? Is horror becoming more of an 'element' than its own specific genre? What's going on?
What do you think?
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, you don't want to miss this. Seriously, I love this song. "Beat the Clock" by Kelly Marlow from ROTOR is as awesome as he is! I was truly stoked when he agreed to let me use this song for the new Extreme Hauntings trailer.
School's Out 4-Ever is now available, for all of you who have been anxiously waiting to see what happened to Kaylee after her sentencing for arson and grave robbing. Check out the trailer and let me know what you think!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Hi Everyone! I'm totally stoked!!!! Kelly Marlow of ROTOR, has granted me permission to use his song Beat the Clock for my new book trailer! YAY!!!!
School's Out 4-Ever is the second in my Extreme Hauntings horror series. My heroine is sent to an all-girls reformatory to serve her sentence for arson and grave robbing. Except of course, the girls start dying and it's gonna be a race to serve out her "time" before she dies next So "Beat the Clock" is an AWESOME song for this trailer. You can listen to it here:
(It's the third song on the playlist.)
I'm excited to get this puppy put together!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Here's a little excerpt that comes early in the book. (I don't want to give too much away! ;) )
Kaylee's first breakfast at Barclay Hall:
Kaylee stared at the white tablecloth, wishing everyone would go back to ignoring her. The chatter began again as three cooks pushed carts of food between the long trestle tables, passing out stackable covered plates. The durable plastic appeared totally out of place beside the glass goblets and fine silver.
A freckled-faced girl, straight brown hair pinned to one side with a sparkly butterfly barrette, sat across from her. She fussed with her napkin, opening it, spreading it, then adjusting her food and moving her cup to the North Pole of her plate.
Beside her, a dark haired girl with piercing blue eyes chuckled. "Good idea, Nancy. Don’t spill on the tablecloth again. I would hate to see you earn another demerit."
Nothing friendly in that teasing tone, nothing at all. Blue-eyes leaned back to give the white-garbed cook room to serve her, then lifted the lid straight up and handed it back. Kaylee hurried to imitate her and nearly upset her glass of orange juice.
Several girls gasped. Whatever happened if they spilled something or dropped food on the tablecloth was something Kaylee decided she didn’t want to discover.
"Be more careful," the dark-haired girl said low, her smile bright. "And don’t stop smiling. Keep smiling, and you can say whatever you like, if you’re not in earshot of the dementia sisters. I’m Destiny, by the way. I’m in for joy riding, which is totally lame because the guy said I could take his car. He totally backed out when he found out I was underage. What about you? What are you in for?"
The way she grinned the whole time she talked was so weird. More weird was doing it herself. "I guess… just vandalism and stuff."
"Really?" Destiny shrugged. "You must have had a tough judge."
Not a judge, Kaylee thought, father. Dad had chosen this place for her and she was beginning to think juvie and jumpsuits might have been a better idea. The more she looked around at the girls, the more fear and misery she saw behind all their smiles. Desperation, like a grinning skull, lurked beneath their smiles and perfectly styled hair.
Snippets of thoughts came to her. A girl counted down the weeks until graduation and hoped she won’t be stuck in summer school. Another girl wanted her mother to help get her out. Another wanted to live with a cousin. One younger girl prayed for deliverance from the dark in a high-pitched panicky way. Nearly all thought of running away.
What have I gotten myself into?
When her gaze fell on the girl who’d applauded so sarcastically, she almost dropped her forkful of pancake. From beneath a mop of pitch-black hair, she stared as if she knew Kaylee listened to the thoughts around her.
Concentration broken, the voices rushed in on her, growing into a roar of clamoring minds all wanting her help. She wanted to run screaming from the room. Her hand shook as she reached for the small glass of water beside her plate. Careful not to slosh, she focused on swallowing, on the sensation of liquid going down her gullet and into her twisted stomach. She set the empty glass down and, eyes closed, mentally shut imaginary access panels to every voice, like a video game puzzle one had to solve to beat the level. With every silenced voice, her fear receded. Everything would be okay…
"Ladies do not sleep at the breakfast table." Miss Deanna jabbed the handle of a flashlight between Kaylee's shoulder blades. "Sit up straight and open your eyes."
She did as she was told and lifted her fork, but the flashlight came back with such force, she knew a bruise would form there. What the heck did she want?
"What do you say when someone helps you?" Miss Deanna asked.
"Thank you," Kaylee said.
"Thank you to whom?"
"Thank you, Miss Deanna."
The woman tugged on her blazer sleeves and smiled. "You’re very welcome."
She moved on and Kaylee exhaled.
"Told you to just keep smiling. What are you, sick or something?" Destiny asked. "You know your dormie, Allison, she got sick before you got here. She said something in her room made her sick. What’s going on in your room?"
Smiling while trying to talk was so annoying, but she didn't want Miss Demon-anna poking her with the flashlight again. "I’m fine. Just… nervous I guess."
"It was Tracy, wasn’t it? I swear the looks that girl gives would make anyone want to throw up. They say she’s a lesbian and into witchcraft. I think she’s just pathetic." Her smile broadened as she glanced at the sarcastic girl. "Don’t let her get to you, even if she stares all weird at you. She’s harmless. Just a loser with no friends."
Tracy watched her intently, smiling in a way that made her skin crawl.
She ate a pancake to hide a scowl. All around her others maintained forced smiles. This was so sick, so twisted. What the heck kind of school was this?
Friday, September 11, 2009
Hi everyone :)
DFF has a new reveiw!! YAY!! :)
Thanks so much to April for responding to a contest announcement and purchasing DFF! But then--MUCHO THANK YOU for reading and reveiwing--and then THANK YOU BUNCHES for the ROCKIN' REVIEW! :)
Here's part of what she wrote, but please--give April a visit to read the rest:
Cafe of Dreams Blogcritic
"Do you love a great ghost story? Do you love a book that will not let you out of its clutches once you have opened its cover? How about a story that is so engrossing that time passes like the blink of an eye? If you answered "yes" to any or all of these questions, I suggest you run — quickly — to pick up a copy of DFF: Dead Friends Forever by J.R. Turner. In all honesty, this is one of the best ghost/paranormal stories I have read in a very long time. Yes, it is geared toward young adults, but at the age of 35 I loved it. DFF contains suspense, horror, realistic and believable ghost and paranormal occurrences (yes, I am a believer in such things), as well as friendship, determination and loyalty."
"Any one who loves a great ghost story, I highly recommend DFF: Dead Friends Forever - whether you are a young adult, adult, male or female, this book will appeal and burn itself within your memory. A new favorite book for 2009 for me!"
Thank you sooo much April!! :)
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Hey everyone ;)
I've been super busy, but plan on getting back on track now that the kids are in school.
I'm working on a bunch of projects:
1)Editing Requiem for Heather Ingemar for Echelon Press (GREAT short story--can't wait for it to be released!)
2)Writing a new novel and working through Authonomy--see it here: Redemption
3)Praying for my editors son, who was injured (depressed skull) in a sporting event in Canada. This means School's Out 4Ever may be delayed--but no worries--his health is far more important than any release date and those who are waiting, it won't be long now!
4)Finalizing the synopsis for Detour 2 Death and gathering all the notes taken while writing the first two in the Extreme Haunting's series.
5)Creating a guide for book clubs for DFF: Dead Friend's Forever and one for School's Out 4Ever.
So that's where I'm at, amongt a host of other projects, but I wanted to drop by and let everyone know I'm still alive!
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Hey all, I thought it would be fun today to do one of two things:
A)Post the back cover blurb for the book you're reading
B)Post the back cover blurb for the book you're writing
Now, not everyone is a writer here, so this would be a great place to share the sort of books you DO love to read, and why. Those of us who are writers and haven't written a back cover blurb, reading those posted by others will help you craft your own—and when you share, we'll all get a gander at what you've got going on.
If you're just now writing your own back cover blurb (or summary paragraph for a query letter) there's a quick easy trick to help you get the ball rolling:
The 3 C's
Character, Conflict and Conclusion
A grieving Cinderella does her best to embrace her step-mother and sisters, but when she catches the eye of the prince and falls in love, she comes to understand the only family she'll ever have is with him.
Okay, not so hot—but it's great at boiling a story down to it's basic elements and themes, which really helps when working on that blurb.
So okay, let's see your Blurbs! ;)
I'll post one from the book I'm reading:
Others by James Herbert:
"Nicholas Dismas is a Private Investigator, but like no other that has gone before him. He carries a secret about himself to which not even he has the answer... He is hired to find a missing baby. One that was taken away at birth... Or was it? His investigation takes him to a mysteriously located place called Perfect Rest. It is supposed to be a nursing home for the elderly... But is it? Here Dismas will discover the dark secret of the Others. And in an astonishing and spectacular finale he will resolve the enigma of his own existence."
Saturday, August 29, 2009
I hope you enjoyed the exercise. We'll move on to discuss how to apply these concepts to your work in progress and delve a bit into the peaks of a story.
Perfecting Your Pace 3:
The purpose of using the emotional theme of anticipation in the exercise was deliberate. It is a perfect example of a typical valley. Had I suggested the theme of anger or love, this moment could take place at anytime. Through anticipation, we can study the basic aspects of infusing activity and pertinent thoughts into what might be a scene that slowed the pace instead of sweeping toward the next peak.
The key factor in any valley is creating a sense of danger, threat, or obstacle to the protagonist's ultimate goal. Should the valley simply be 'down time', it will encourage the reader to 'put down' the book. Pace is all about keeping the reader turning the page. Asking an imaginary reader what she would like to see next can be enormously helpful in deciding what should come between the peaks.
I've not spoken much about peaks, as I feel we instinctively write those much easier than the valleys. Also, without the strong depth of the valley, the peaks don't seem quite as high. Once these are in place, you'll begin to feel the impact of the peaks more.
I mentioned before that a peak is more about the external conflict or plot, and less about the inner journey. This doesn't mean that there is no impact on the inner journey. When analyzing peaks of famous works, however, the inner journey is less important as compared to the external plot in almost every case (aside from the final, climatic moment.)
Scarlet O'Hara delivers a baby while Atlanta burns. Her inner journey is shown very well without hardly any mention throughout. It isn't until they escape from Atlanta that the inner journey takes center stage. It is during the valley of the escape, where she meets Rhett Butler, that we see her emotional and internal response to the peak. Does this mean delivering the baby was not emotionally intense? Not at all. It merely means that in the heat of the peak, there is no room for Scarlet to stop and evaluate her thoughts and feelings.
Romeo and Juliet is an interesting example because the external and internal plot are both romance, however, if you look at the external subplot of the feuding families, you'll notice that each of the scenes related to this battle-while intensely emotional in the moment-have a much stronger impact on the emotional journeys of both characters during the valleys. The eventual demise of Tibalt is a crucial moment-yet it does not impact the romance until the deed is completed. In other words, Romeo does not stop to contemplate Juliet's feelings during sword play, he is in fact, wreaking vengeance for Mercutio's death.
When reaching the final, climatic moment, we see the internal and external journeys converging in an explosive, emotionally charged way. The moment when Cinderella places both slippers on her feet and the Prince becomes hers is a deeply emotional triumph over the wicked stepmother and stepsisters. The moment when Buttercup and Westley defeat Prince Humperdinck by challenging him "to the pain." And a cinematic reference, from "A Knight's Tale", when Will defeats Count Adhemar as his father (brought by Jocelyn) hears the crowd call his boy, "Sir William."
All the above are highly emotional peaks where there is little need to explain the full impact of the events on the inner journey, but which resonate deeply within the audience just the same. Because, as has been discussed, the valleys have all conveyed the nuances of humanity the characters have struggled to overcome or embrace.
Now, using the sensations and the knowledge you gained from doing this exercise, return to your work in progress and check the valleys for emotion and action. Strengthen anything you feel needs to be layered with the reaction or lesson of the preceding peak on the internal journey and when you're all done, evaluate the impact it has on the next peak. The task as a novelist is not easy-your job is to make the reader fear the characters will never reach that moment through the suspense created by the pacing tricks we've discussed.
I hope you've enjoyed the workshop and our time together. I open this up for further discussion and will answer any questions you may have!
Have a wonderful day!!
Friday, August 28, 2009
Perfecting Your Pace 2: Exercise
Most of our discussion so far has been about the peak and the descent. Today we'll discuss how to create a page-turning valley. As a mentor for aspiring authors, I've found the single hardest aspect of the craft is making those down times not just relevant, but also exciting. A simple trick any author can use is to assign the valley an emotional theme. Whichever character the scene is written in, hero, heroine, or villain, the emotion you choose should be strong and relevant to that character's journey.
For early in the work:
Hero: His inner journey may be to learn patience: show him impatient. Emotion:
Heroine: Her inner journey may be to better handle stress: show her stressed.
Villain: His inner journey may be to embrace his darker side: show him resisting. Emotion: Regret
For later in the work:
Same Hero: Show his patience sorely tested. Emotion: Fortitude
Same Heroine: Show her stress levels rising to the breaking point. Emotion:
Same Villain: Show him relenting to his darker side: Malice
Once you've decided (and this may be instinctual) which strong emotion needs to be most prevalent in the scene, begin crafting or rewriting to bring that emotion to the fore. Readers are most interested how the processing of information affects the character at any given moment. As in yesterday's
example, a reader will be eager to discover how the heroine responds to winning the divorce, as much as they wanted to know if she won in court or not.
Using the assigned emotional theme and as many of the following items as you can, create an active Valley scene where your character is constantly moving, thinking or speaking if you choose to use more than one character. You can write anything you want, as long as the protagonist is involved (physically) with all the items in the list and it follows the given theme.
Emotional Theme: Anticipation
Should you make a discovery during the process or have any questions, please feel free to share! Tomorrow we'll discuss the ascent and how to apply these concepts to your work in progress.
Enjoy your day!
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I've decided to pull up an old workshop I wrote about four years ago. I hope you find this helpful!
Perfecting Your Pace Part 1
by J.R Turner
Pacing isn't just about slowing down in certain spots and speeding up in others. It's not just about the length of sentences and paragraphs. Pacing isn't just about giving the reader a chance to breathe or getting them to turn the pages faster. The idea behind great pacing is to keep the reader turning ALL the pages ALL the way through the book.
We've all heard talk about peaks and valleys. Peaks: the climatic moments, turning points, black/darkest moment, and grand finale. Valleys: the descent from a climax, a breather, and the ascent toward the next peak. This is a legitimate way to explain pacing, but it's a visual model that doesn't show the importance of each aspect.
A deeply moving scene is not always a valley, but every valley should be deeply moving for the reader. A valley isn't the characters sitting down to eat because you suddenly realized they must be starving. A valley isn't the characters brushing their teeth because you realized they have to kiss someone. And a
valley isn't a scene where the protagonist is shopping for food, clothing, or an essential item because you realized they needed this item. These are segues, or transitions.
A valley is a dinner where the characters explore their own depths to learn the truth about themselves and about what the plot has made them see. A valley is a character brushing their teeth AND thinking about the person they want to kiss and how that person has changed them. A valley is a scene where the shopping is used as a tool for the character to avoid, confront, or debate the current obstacles in their path.
In other words, it has real meaning and moves the plot forward.
Peaks, of course, are all the scenes, both physical and emotional, where your character is forced to confront an obstacle. Whether the physical is overt or not, these moments generally show much more activity. Emotionally, the characters feel extremes-it is not always a deep feeling-but an 'in the moment'
feeling. Many times, after a peak, there is need for a valley scene where the feelings can be analyzed and used to decide the next course of action
There is only one time that the peak of a story must carry emotional depth, and that is at the climax. Until then, the peaks have intense, emotional impact at the moment, but the depth isn't realized until the valley. At the climatic peak, both occur in the same moment.
How to implement these peaks and valleys is another matter all together. This is where the peaks and valley's visual is really elegant. The rise of suspense toward the confrontation, the fall out after the confrontation, are easily seen in this visual. The only difference between fiction and true life is the characters should never, ever be allowed to rest.
As you build suspense (both physical and emotional) you must keep the pressure on. If you find you're writing something and you're bored with it, then the reader will be too. If you find that you're writing in a description or dialogue that doesn't confront the obstacle, then it might be better paraphrased or
This is where transitions come in handy. Transitions are those moments when the character finally reaches the top of the peak (having overcome the obstacle) and stands there for a moment, breathing in the fresh air and preparing to descend. Or conversely, where they've come to the point of taking action and begin to climb.
The descent is trickier to handle than the climb, simply because it's not so important how the character comes down, as how they'll handle going back up again for the next obstacle. A descent can trick an author into slower prose, into getting to that valley too quickly, or skipping the descent entirely. While
this may not be a bad thing at times, it is most often when the hook for the next peak gets overlooked-and when we inadvertently offer the reader a chance to close the book and return to their regular lives.
The trick with descents is to decide how fast or slow they need to be.
1) Pam won in court and will get the house, the car, and alimony from her ex-husband. (This is her peak)
2) She watches the courtroom empty and considers how she feels (This is the transition)
3) On the way home, she pulls the car over, hyperventilating. She can't believe she's free.
4) When she gets home, she discovers he's already called to threaten her.
5) She accepts the next phone call and reminds him of the restraining order.(This is the end of the transition and takes us into the valley.)
6) She decides to take measures to protect herself (This is the valley-preparing for the next obstacle.)
Through those six passages, you can see how logic and plot play a major role in deciding how fast or slow the descent should be. Sentences #3, #4 and #5 are how fast the descent works for this plot. Notice there are tangible, plot related events on the way down. Sentence #6, shows what happens in the valley as a direct result of the peak. Each plot will have it's own pace.
The single most important aspect of pacing, however, is writing for the reader. Instincts alone can't dictate to us what our readers will want to see next, though it is very important. It's equally important that we read the books our target audience reads now. This greatly improves are ability to understand what our instincts are actually saying to us.
Eating, sleeping, dressing, traveling (for the most part) are not elements that keep the reader wanting to see what happens next. They don't flip eagerly through to see what the character will wear to clean her house or go jogging. They're not real interested if she decides to have pancakes or cereal for breakfast. These are story adjectives, and like in sentence structure, if you use too many adjectives and not enough verbs or nouns, the sentence becomes shallow, flowery, and only a good example of purple prose.
Review your work for any descents that don't directly relate to the plot of the novel. Ask your characters what events, directly reflective of their personalities, they take next. If you find there is need for a change, it may not be necessary to scrap what actually occurs, but to add to it-to make it relevant and layer in hooks for the following valley and peak.
In the next part, we'll discuss how to hook the descent, valley, and ascent for the peaks of your story, as well as an exercise to offer some hands on experience in perfecting your pace. If you have questions, please feel free to ask. Enjoy your day!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
I went back through the archives of a group I once belonged to and found a little something I wrote I thought might be interesting to explore:
What is the Purpose of Tolerance?
To allow the coexistence of other living things in a non-hostile environment in such a way as is beneficial to other living things in said environment.
In other words:
It's not merely a begrudging acquiescence (a passive hostility) of that 'others' existence, but rather an interested and sincere acceptance of the other, including their differences; a recognition of that other's well-being as vital to the growth and the harmony of the environment.
What is NOT the purpose of tolerance:
To allow non-beneficial or hostile entities to create disharmony or negatively influence an environment from a non-reciprocated level of acceptance in which the negative entity seeks to spread INtolerance of those existing in the environment.
In other words:
Tolerating genocide, hate speech and the like are not the acts of a tolerant person, but to paraphrase a quote I recently read, they are an act of cowardice.
That's how I see it in my view ;) What's yours?
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Episode #8: No Mercy At Crystal Castle
When last we saw Julie, she had arrived at Crystal Castle and discovered that the woman pretending to be her grandmother was no other than Merciless, the evil woman intent on stealing the throne...
Digel barked furiously. Nona's beautiful face shred and split, revealing that of a bat. Mercy's cackling filled darkened the gleam of the sparkling throne.
"You can't be crowned!" I shouted. "Only my grandma can!"
Mercy pointed one evil claw at me. "Seize her!"
I ran toward the stairs. Tears fell and turned to crystal and clattered to the castle floor. Digel cried out and I turned back. I needed to escape, but I wouldn't leave him.
Three crystal guards joined the other two. Digel wriggled under a massive clear boot.
"Let him go!"
Mercy laughed. "Come to me, girl, or his bones will be crushed."
Fists clenched, I took three steps. "What have you done with my grandma?"
Fine robes dragged behind her as she stepped around the altar. "I always planned to reunite all of you. Once the crown is mine, I'll erase your bloodline forever."
Two large doors opened slowly. Children, dressed in the jungle garments from Inti's village, cold and shivering, filed out in four lines. The last of the sun revealed knotty ropes they pulled over their thin shoulders. Attached to the end of those ropes, a huge iron cage on crystal wheels rolled from the shadows.
Nona lay curled in the center, curly hair draped across her face.
"Grandma!" I yelled. When I tried to go to her, two crystal guards grasped my arms. Through the warm coat, the iciness of their grip chilled me.
She rose, pushing her hair aside. "Julie?"
"I'm so sorry, Grandma. I wanted to help." I wished I could have been smart enough to save her.
"Listen to me, darling." She rose to her knees as the children halted. Her slim white fingers went round the iron bars. "You did everything right."
"Quiet!" Mercy shouted. "I gave no one permission to speak."
The bat-faced hag snapped her fingers and a guard brought her a velvet box. "It's time to begin the ceremony. The sun is gone."
From the box, Mercy lifted a silver dagger, the handle covered in rubies. A new guard lifted the crown gently on its velvet pillow. He stood to one side of the throne and returned to his statue self.
"Bring her to me," Mercy ordered those holding me.
I kicked and fought, but they didn't feel pain. I did though, and they held me so tight, I swore bones shifted. They forced me onto the altar and one held me at the shoulders, the other gripped my ankles.
I glared. "You won't get away with this. I know you won't. Inti won't let you."
"Such courage and bravery!" She mocked, laughing. "Child, you are no match for even the Monboys, or the Wiramen. Do you think you stand a chance against me?"
She lifted the dagger high and began muttering. Above her, the sky turned brilliant purple with night stars. A full moon sped overhead so fast, it freaked me out.
I worked my hand inside my messenger bag, praying to find a letter with a rhyme to end this, or at least allow me to get away and free Digel, who whined now and again, and Grandma who I couldn't see from my angle. I closed my eyes, terrified of the glowing dagger above my head.
"She belongs to me, Mercy." A woman called from the back of the room. A very familiar woman.
"Mom?" I croaked and tried to see past the guard.
Mercy grinned. "You're too late."
Mom said, "Crystal Castle Glass Guard protect…"
"NO!" Mercy shouted.
My fingers found the dagger in my bag and I gripped it tightly in my hands.
Grandma leant her voice to Mom's and together they finished, "Royal relations with love and respect!"
The guards released me. Mercy brought the dagger down in a desperate move to cut out my heart before I could get away. At the same moment I buried mine deep in her stomach. She staggered back with a strangled cry as I rolled off the altar.
She raced to me, dressed beautifully, her long blond hair curled and swaying around us as we hugged. Digel rubbed against my legs. Mercy fell, her clawed fingers grasping the knife in her belly. The children cheered.
"I'm so glad you're okay," Mom said, kissing the top of my head and holding me out so she could look me over. "You are okay, aren't you?"
"You brought the letters?"
I nodded again.
"Good," Grandma said from the cage. "Read the red one, sweetheart. Send Mercy back."
I didn't take time with the knotted ribbon and the paper crumpled as I yanked it off and turned to where Mercy had fallen. She wasn't there. I gasped. A huge weight landed on me and we slid across the floor.
Mom yelled, "No!"
The clatter of crystal boots was nearly drowned by Mercy's shriek as she clawed at my head. Before I could do much more than protect myself, she howled in outraged pain.
Inti stood, surrounded by his warriors and the guards, a crystal spear in his strong arms, and Mercy on the other end, skewered through her back.
"Now!" Grandma yelled. "Read it now!"
I stood quickly, trying to smooth the paper. The first line, blurred from getting wet, was unreadable and I scowled at the rest. I knew this poem! I remembered all the nights in Grandma's yard when she, Mom and I had recited this over and over again. They started it for me. I joined in and we sang the words in perfect harmony:
Down and down the witch shall go,
Round and round she will spin
Until only love and peace flow,
For evil and hatred can never win.
Her screams faded with every verse until only a few insects swirled where her body had been. Then they too flickered, sparked and went out. The children cheered again, hugging each other. Inti and his warriors embraced them.
Mom whispered something into the lock on the cage and it opened. She winked at me. "I've got a lot to teach you."
Two crystal guards held Grandma's hands and she stepped down to hug me She smelled like always, my grandma, my Nona.
"When you died, I though I'd never see you again," I sobbed.
"I know," Grandma whispered, catching a few of my tears. "I'm here. Stop crying now. I think you've enough diamonds here to pay for college."
Mom chuckled and held out three in the palm of her hand. "She's not the only one who missed you."
We stood together and I asked, "Why didn't you tell me about Grandma?"
"Oh sweetheart," she sighed. "I wanted to protect you from Mercy and I wanted you to have a normal life for as long as you could. It's part of our training, to understand grief. You don't know how badly I wanted to tell you. I knew how much pain you felt. I went through the same thing when my father died."
"Is Grandpa here?"
Grandma said sadly, "No honey, only we women continue on here. Our husbands are mortals. "
This was a lot to consider but a huge moonbeam lit the castle and we were surrounded by rainbows. Awe filled everyone's expression.
Mom said softly, "Time to finish the ceremony."
My smile fell. "Do you really have to cut my heart out?"
Grandma chuckled, "Of course not, silly. You love me. You could never have loved Merciless, therefore, she had to steal your heart."
"Come along, Julie." Mom held her hand out.
Grandma sat on the throne and Mom picked up the crown. She handed it to me and when my fingers touched the golden metal, the jewels pulsed with my heart. I glanced at Mom in surprise.
"The youngest must crown the next in line. Only your heart can decide whether or not Nona has learned and earned her rightful place as Queen."
Grandma smiled and bowed to let me place the crown on her head. When I did, the missing heart in the center pulled in the moonbeam rainbows and filled the gap. The colors hardened and became a ruby of the deepest red.
She straightened and grinned as all of use cheered.
Mom wrapped an arm around my shoulders. I said, "I want to stay here forever, Mom. I don't want to go back home."
Grandma said, "You have to return to train. Each year now, you'll take over mastering the directions and have a long and loving life with your family."
"It's our destiny," Mom said. "And you've already the strongest we've ever seen."
That made me wonder. "Where's Great-grandma, then?"
"When I passed," Grandma said, "My mother went on to the next dimension. Her time here prepared her to move on. And so it will be with your mother, and with you, and with your daughter."
Inti interrupted. "Thank you, all of you, for returning the children of my village to us. They have spoken of the Queen keeping them warm and safe."
Queen Nona said, "It was the least I could do for all your help, Inti. You are a fine warrior and I'll order your return swiftly to spare the children further hardship."
"Can we go with them, Mom?" I asked, eager to see those ladies hug their children again.
"No, I'm afraid your dad is likely terrified we've both disappeared for good. We need to go back, and quickly. Especially before he can sell the house."
"We're not selling grandmother's house?" I asked elated.
She shook her head. "No. Your father wanted to, but destiny strangely made it so we can live there forever."
I grinned. "Strangely."
She hugged me and I closed my eyes. A chill wind made me shiver and I felt the world slide sideways. Mom said, "Oh, I almost forgot to tell you."
When I opened my eyes, we were back at the graveyard beneath a full moon, standing beside Grandma's grave. Surprised, I regretted not giving Grandma one last hug and kiss goodbye, but I figured I'd see her soon anyway. Right now I wanted to know what Mom forgot to tell me. "What?"
"You're going to have a new baby sister."
While I smiled, something deep inside me turned icy. In the back of my mind, I heard Mercy's evil cackle.
Thank you for reading Letter's to the Fifth Direction!
Visit Bella Vida online here
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Visit J.R. Turner's website here
Tweet with J.R. Turner here
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Episode #7: To Grandma's Castle We Go
by Bella Vida and J.R. Turner
When last we saw Julie, Inti stood in the snow, surrounded by snarling wolves...
Inti's men commanded their horses into defensive positions. The wolves bared massive canine teeth, yellow eyes glowing as they snarled and growled. Heads slung low, the six slunk toward Inti. The warriors raised their weapons and I gripped my spear.
A loud howl broke the silence, followed by another and another. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled and I did my best not to scream, to be brave and not show fear as I turned and looked back. A dozen more wolves stood in the snow behind us. These weren't the beautiful beasts at the zoo back home, but fearsome creatures with snapping jaws.
Two warriors blocked the wolves from the front, giving Inti time to jump on his horse. Digel barked madly at first, then leapt onto my horse, startling the big animal. I crouched low over him, wrapping my free arm around his warm tummy.
A wolf leapt and bit a meaty chunk out of the nearest warrior's leg. I threw my spear and it pierced the wolf's side, but the scent of blood brought its brothers on us. They attacked horses and warrior alike.
Inti yelled, "Move!" and slapped the back of my horse.
I held tight to Digel and the reins, flanked by a man and a woman warrior, as my horse raced far into the forest, into the darkness.
We rode for hours until the sun sank just below the tops of the trees. Exhausted and thirsty, to my relief, the guards halted us when we came on a small stream. We let the horses drink while Digel and I shared apples and bread from my messenger bag.
"How far away is Crystal Castle?" I asked.
He didn't understand but from his hand gestures I guessed we were supposed to wait for the others to join us. Side by side, Digel and I drank from the shallow stream. I hoped Inti and the others were okay and kept glancing back to where we had come out of the forest, hoping for sign of them.
Digel brought me a stick and I smiled. "Want to play?"
He yipped and wagged his tail. Always trying to cheer me up, I thought and threw the stick. He brought it right back and we did this until a cry from the air startled me. After the Wiramen, I'm not a huge fan of birds.
The lady warrior whistled to a hawk, who called back. The exchange went on for another few seconds and I watched amazed. Then both warriors gestured for me to get back on my horse. I wanted to protest, to say we had to wait for Inti, but from their worried faces, I decided not to try. One of these days I would teach them my language or learn theirs, this lack of communication sucked.
At the end of the forest, glowing green hills lead into a valley and beyond that, the towers and spires of a castle rose to the clouds.
"It's Crystal Castle!" I yelled with excitement and pointed.
Their eyes widened with horror.
My shout gave us away. I covered my mouth, "Oh no."
A shriek carried from the forest on a gust of wind.
"What was that?" I whispered.
The horses nickered and whinnied, uneasily clomping in the shallow water. From the blackness between the trees, a shadow moved. A mad scream hurt my ears as a wailing face flew at me. I ducked so low, I slid off my horse. The shadow looped back, screaming horridly and I ran, icy water soaking my boots. Ahead more shadows lurked in the trees, their faces pale and filled with soulless agony.
The male warrior halted my headlong dash. Digel went by, barking at the shadow until it returned to the forest. He growled low and though they moved from trunk to trunk, they didn't come back out again.
The lady warrior whistled again and a white owl flew out of the pines. She secured a note to its leg and set the big bird off again. I watched it go, shocked to see the beautiful white feathers turn into the leathery large wings of a bat as it headed for Crystal Castle.
"We are almost there," Inti said behind me.
"Inti!" I spun and returned his happy smile. We were reunited again, his men behind him. "The castle is just down this path. Are you ready?"
"Yes," I said happily and mounted my horse. Together we all rode, Digel trotting eagerly beside us. Just as the sun began to set, we reached the dazzling Crystal Castle lit by thousands of golden rays.
Ecstatic, I hurried off my horse and burst through the outer wooden doors. "Grandma! Grandma! I'm here!"
The wide foyer had the shiniest floors I've ever seen. Two large doors stood on opposite sides of a wide staircase. I ran up the stairs as fast I could. The second floor lay open to the cold air, no walls, just large archways and columns. Across the black and white tiles, a golden jeweled throne sat high above an ornate altar where a sparkling crown rested on velvet.
"Grandma!" I shouted with delight.
She stood, young and beautiful, wearing wonderful robes. At the altar, she said, "Darling, you made it. Just in time. The ceremony begins tonight. The stars and planets are aligned. Julie, you came through for me."
I raced to her, Digel barking loudly behind me. My grandma, alive and here! My heart burst with joy.
From the columns, two crystal soldiers broke away, and stopped me from reaching her by crossing their pikes to bar my path.
"Grandma? What's…what is this?"
She gestured to the crown and I peered past the crystal soldiers. All the jewels in the crown glittered atop its pink velvet pillow, except for one. The largest one, at the center of the uppermost point was missing. I remembered the Shaman and what he said about how the ceremony couldn't begin without the stone.
"You see, darling," Grandma smiled. "The crown must be complete before we can begin. We need the ruby heart."
She gave me such a look, my pulse pounded. "But Grandma, I didn't know I was supposed to bring it to you."
"You have brought it to me. You had it all along." She laughed, but it wasn't my Nona's laugh at all. A horrible and strange cackle I recognized from the awful face made of herbs back at Inti's village. "All we have to do is slice open your chest and cut out your heart."
"No!" I yelled.
Digel barked furiously as Mercy, the jealous hag who wanted to destroy my beautiful Nona and now me, shed the skin of my grandma and revealed her true self.
Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion of Letters to the 5th Direction!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Remember too, I have articles at my website on the craft of writing if you haven't read them already.
1) Look at the beginning of your sentences. Do the first two or three words need to be there? If you eliminate them, does it make the sentence stronger?
2) This is part of the previous--if you have the word "it" in your sentence, "it" might mean the sentence can be better constructed:
3) Last, run a search for these words in your manuscript and see how many you can eliminate because they are unnecessary:
Often times, the following context shows what those words mean, or the sentence simply doesn't need the word to be there at all. Words like "almost" generally indicate that a stronger sentence can be created.
Do NOT eliminate all of them--that's been a complaint every time I share this list. My advice is meant to get rid of words hindering, not enriching, your story or style.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I'm looking for a few good readers out there. I'd like a pair of fresh eyes for general opinions on the opening four chapters of an urban fantasy I'm thinking of pursuing.
If you could email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're intrested, I'd be truly grateful for any thoughts you might have after reading.
Thank you so much!
Monday, July 27, 2009
Hey everyone :)
Just dropping by on a Maybe Monday to let everyone know I've been interviewed today:
Book Tall with J&J
Anyone who leaves a comment is entered to win an autographed copy of Stark Knight and a free personalized book thong ;)
Stop on by and say hi!
Saturday, July 25, 2009
By Bella Vida and J.R. Turner
When last we saw Julie, she and the warriors traveled to Sky Bridge where the Wira birdmen attacked and they fought for their lives...
Warriors to the back and front cried out in rage, frightening the birdmen for a mere second. Stunned they could be so easily freaked, all of us shouted and slashed until we reached the end of the bridge and raced for the cover of the trees. The Wira didn't follow and I sank to my knees, trying not to wretch as I used a fat leaf to clean the blood off my hands. Tears blurred my vision.
Inti placed an uncertain hand on my back. "The Queen will be proud of you."
"I don't care about the stupid queen. I want my Grandma and I want Mom and Dad and I want to go home."
"Yes. I take you to your Grandma, the queen."
"The queen is Grandma?" How dumb could I have been not to put it together sooner? "Grandma's alive?"
Joyously I hugged him. He patted me awkwardly. "We go now."
I pulled back. "Yes. We go now."
He smiled. "You make fun of me?"
"No," I said. "I'm in a hurry, too."
"Good. We should make it in three moons."
We walked down the mountainside, silent and somber in the hot humid jungle. Two warriors died defending me. Though going downhill was so much easier than walking up, the noises here seemed louder, more wild.
Later that afternoon, between pretty, but really stinky red flowers, I spotted a boat on a wide river below us. A man with the whiskers and yellow slicker of a sea-faring captain waited on a pier. When we got closer, I saw one arm ended in a bright orange crab claw.
When he spoke, sandy water gurgled in his neck. He covered a hole in his throat and said, "It is my honor to have her royal princess aboard my ship. Seas the Moment has weathered every storm, every battle and I, Captain Cabral, shall personally see to your protection!"
I gave the weary vessel a once over and wondered if there were any storms or battles left in the old thing, or its captain. Spic-n-span clean, though, and so much better than walking.
Inti said, "Thank you, Captain. We are most grateful."
"We must leave quickly," he said. "My claws itchin', means a storm brewing. We leave now, we'll make it out before it hits."
"We are ready when you are," Inti said.
"Well, then, all aboard!" The captain yelled in his crusty voice, "Shake a leg, prepare to haul anchor."
The boat stunk of fish and Digel dropped his nose to the planks, sniffing happily in every nook and cranny.
Cabral Jr., his claw not yet full sized, smiled at me. "Princess, I'll take you to your room."
I followed him down a short stairway and ducked into a room with four hammocks attached to the wall.
He gave me an apologetic grin. "This is the best room. The other is where we keep the fish in season. It's not much, but the ropes are solid. You can leave your bag here. Are you hungry?"
I nodded. "Thanks."
"We have your meal ready your royalness," He bowed awkwardly.
Okay, embarrassing! "I'm Julie. Just Julie."
"Yes, Princess Just Julie. Whatever you say." He smiled and I shook my head.
We had fish for dinner.
Below decks again, Inti offered me the top hammock and I climbed a little ladder to get in. Digel barked until Inti picked him up and set him by my feet.
"Rest now," Inti said. "The boat will take us around the Grave Desert and leave us on the shores of the Black Forest. The Crystal Castle isn't far. The Queen is waiting for you there."
How did he expect me to fall asleep after that? To think, I'd see Grandma again so soon. Excited, I lay a long time until the swaying hammock rocked me to sleep.
The sound of a violin woke me. I sat up in the pitch black. Digel was gone, too. Carefully I climbed down, wrapping the thin blanket around my shoulders, and followed the music onto the deck.
A small group of children dressed in pajamas sang and danced as a young boy played the violin faster. They joined hands, spinning in a circle.
Fat rain drops fell and the faster the boy played, the faster the rain came down. Instead of rushing to get out of the rain, a little girl turned and dove overboard. To my horror, another went, and another.
"Wait! Stop!" I ran toward them.
By the time I reached the boy, the others were all gone. He ignored me and kept playing. I raced to the railing and looked over, but no child bobbed, crying for help in the black waters below.
Digel barked, his fur soaked with rain.
"Julie!" Inti shouted. "Do not move!"
At the sound of Inti's voice, the boy stopped playing and turned his gaze on me. He opened his mouth wide. A yellow light streamed from his eyes and mouth, his slim body melding into the form of a huge snake. He coiled, head bobbing above me.
Shocked, I froze and his tail wrapped around my legs, squeezing. I screamed.
He leaned close, hissing. "I will have you for my supper."
His jaw unhinged, then awful hot orange blood sprayed me everywhere. Inti had chopped off his head. I gagged. In reflex, the boy-snake's tale tightened around me. The other warriors rushed to my rescue. They hacked and pulled on the rain-slick flesh. I turned my face to the sky, gasping for air and letting the rain rinse off the gook.
Finally the tail came free and together, the warriors threw the piece overboard. I gulped air. Digel licked my leg and I patted him on the head. "I'm okay boy."
"Those are water spirits, lassie. They get you to play and then it's down their gullets you go." Captain Cabral said.
"I'm fine," I said, humiliated now. "Nothing happened."
How foolish of me to go up there and get tricked. Inti would scold me now and I didn't want to hear it. Back in my bunk, I hurried to fall asleep so he wouldn't make me feel worse than I did.
No one came to wake me in the morning. Only Digel lay with me, keeping my feet warm in an icy room. Why had it turned so cold? Bright sunshine streamed in through a round window. "Where is everyone, huh, Digel?"
He uttered a little whine.
Inti came in with warm clothes, a coat, boots, gloves, hat and scarf. Already bundled up, he reminded me of a tattooed Eskimo.
"Thank you," I said and accepted the clothing. "Thank you for saving me last night."
He nodded once. "The journey will end and you will soon be with the Queen."
He left me to dress and I hurried to see why everything was so cold, and because I was starving. On deck, Cabral jr. handed me a hot biscuit—filled with fish. I ate as I stared at the huge forest pines and firs as big as skyscrapers all around us.
By the time we docked, Digel decided he liked sitting between my warm boots. We said goodbye to the Captain and his son.
"We are honored to have been a part of your journey." Captain Cabral bowed low, hit his son in the belly, and the boy joined him in the bow.
"Thanks," Julie said, unsure what she was supposed to do.
Inti saved her and urged her to fall in line behind the warriors ahead. Not far from port, and old man and his wife waited with seven horses. Inti introduced me, "This is Goodman Tall and his wife. They've brought you these horses as gifts."
The older man's eyes twinkled as he came forward, dragging his cap off his head. "For the princess, for you your royalness."
"Uh, thanks," I said. I totally wasn't getting the hang of this. Grown ups ordered me around, they didn't give me gifts. I couldn't imagine my mom bowing and saying thanks after giving me a ride to the mall.
We didn't stay long, to my relief, but got on the horses right away. Inti helped me onto mine and Digel trotted beside us, shying away from the horse's hooves.
We wound deeper into the darkness and Inti whispered, "Stay close. These are unfamiliar woods to us."
I nodded. Even Digel seemed to understand the need to stay quiet. He didn't bark or yip or anything. We rode until a huge mound of snow covered the path ahead.
Inti hopped down and gathered a big chunk, breaking the snow apart in his hands. He gave me a glowing grin. "We are almost there."
Out of the darkness, a fox with three tails dashed in front of the horses. Mine whinnied and reared back. When she came down, wolves emerged slowly, their eyes glinting in the growing dusk. They made a ring around us, with Inti at the center and without his spear.
Tune in next week for the exciting continuation of Letters to the 5th Direction!
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I'm thrilled today, because I got my laptop back! Yay!
For those of you who don't know, a flying mouse smashed my screen on July 6th and I had to have it replaced. (Next on my list: a wireless mouse so my wire won't get caught on the edge and snap out of my hands again!)
There is something to be said for mobility—and not being stuck in my basement, as lovely and charming as it is. I always wanted a real office, with book cases lining the walls, and now I have that—even a wonderful fireplace for those long cold winters. The only thing my office is missing? Windows.
I am a floor-to-ceiling window type of gal. If I ever had the opportunity to design my own house and build anywhere I wished, I'd choose a spot with huge trees, a windy little river nearby—for swimming, fishing and canoeing, and I'd have awesome windows all throughout the house to let in natural sunlight and allow us to enjoy the view.
That, for me, would be thrilling ;) In the meantime, though, I've got my laptop and I can make anywhere my office—well, as long as I'm not getting rained on ;) Here's the view I'm enjoying this morning as the sun comes out:
(Excuse the wonkiness, the screen doesn't help the clarity)
What about you? What would be your perfect office? Do you have one already? Got pictures we can see? Share what you think is the perfect workspace for all you do ;)
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Okay folks, it's time to understand sentence constructions. We often get tied into a patter of two or three of our favorites, maybe offering up something different now and again when the green squiggle of grammar grumpiness shows up.
The most common sentence constructions I've seen in fiction writing are:
Jimmy walked to the store. (Simple)
Walking to the store, Jimmy whistled. (Beginning with a gerund)
Jimmy, while whistling, walked to the store. (Parenthetical asides.)
Those three can become monotonous and beginning with a gerund is a construction that should be used as sparingly as possible as it lends itself well to telling, rather than showing. So today, we're gonna learn about prepositional phrases!! Ooo goody!:) No, really, this will be fun, if you don't let the grammar grumpies ruin the experience.
Just remember, PRE-positions. That's it, not hard at all, right?
So here are the rules:
The "pre" means it comes before the object. It's always got a buddy with it because it has to show the relationship between the word it modifies and itself:
All through the house, not a creature stirred.
So the prepositional phrase here: all through the house—modifies where its buddy, the creatures, didn't stir. Where didn't they stir? In the house of course!
Let's try another:
All across the country, Joe is an excellent mechanic.
Hmm… Something seems odd with that one, doesn't it?
Sure, maybe Joe is a traveling mechanic, but the sentence doesn't seem to match. This PREposition isn't really Joe's buddy. Now, if we make them buddies, see what happens:
Despite missing three fingers on his left hand, Joe is an excellent mechanic.
Now we've got a relationship going! The relationship between the PREpositional phrase and Joe here is obvious: Joe is overcoming a difficulty to meet and exceed the demands of his career.
So give it a whirl, begin a sentence with a prepositional phrase and share it in the comments. This is a great construction to switch starting a sentence with a gerund. After all, every solid writer needs a strong toolbox!
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Episode#5: Battle at Sky Bridge
By Bella Vida and J.R. Turner
When last we saw, Julie was taken to the village in the jungle trees and met her dog totem, Digel. The Monboy's injured Inti and stole her grandmother's letters. She went out on a limb to get them back, grasping them just before she started to fall...
A hand grasped my ankle and yanked me back into the hut.
Inti had saved me, but he looked angry. "I'm not healed yet and you are in trouble."
"How did you know?"
You little tattle-tale!
He whined and I wanted to apologize. If he hadn't barked for help, I would have a busted skull from a ten-story fall. I petted him, scratching behind the ears. "You good doggie, you."
If fuzzy puppy teddy-bear dogs could smile, Digel did then.
"You have the words," Inti said, nodding to the letters I held in my free hand. "Good. Do not speak those words until we reach the queen. I will take you."
He didn’t sound happy. "Are you mad at me?"
"No." He sighed. "My army must wait now."
"While you take a kid to see her grandma. I get it."
"You are no ordinary child." The skin over his wound puckered as he straightened. "It is an honor."
"When do we leave?"
"In the morning. Today you will work and tonight need your rest." He went to the door. "Come. We have much to do."
He took me to a round hut with no windows. Much larger inside than expected, I stared in awe. Bows, spears, knives, swords, and a bunch of weapons I didn't recognize covered the walls.
"Your weapons choose you." He smiled. "Close your eyes. It will help you hear."
"I don't think I can hurt someone."
"To save the children, you must close your eyes."
Okay, I closed my eyes, but that didn't mean I would actually use a weapon. "What now?"
"Be still and listen."
"I don’t hear anything."
I figured I better not argue. Music played far off, like a flute, and the melody got louder the more I listened. The music sang, turning me, spinning me and I was glad my eyes were closed.
I opened my eyes. My left hand clutched a spear, painted with the red designs from the shaman's face and ending on a sharp tip. In my right, I held a shiny dagger, its handle sparkling with green and purple jewels.
Inti's eyes were large. "It is true. The blood flows in your veins."
Six tattooed men filed in and stood around me. Inti addressed them. "She has come. You must prepare her while my wound heals. We leave in the morning."
They nodded and Inti turned to me, then walked out. No one would ever say he talked too much.
Unsure what they wanted, I asked, "You want me to help pack?"
They responded with horrified looks, like I just asked them to slice off their ears or something. A taller one said, "You are to be prepared by us."
That didn't sound good.
By sunset I understood just how bad it was. My arms ached, legs burned and shoulders had turned into balled-up bruises. I never knew I had it in me. While I learned to use the spear, I remembered forcing the trolls out of our house. While I practiced with the dagger, I heard Grandma telling me what a big help I was in the kitchen.
From time to time, I caught a warrior staring oddly at me and wondered if I shocked them in a good or bad way.
Hot, tired and sweaty, Digel and I gladly went with the three women who came to get me. They looked so much alike, they had to be sisters. The youngest smiled and said, "Time to rest and eat. We will care for you now."
I yawned and nodded. If I hadn't been so tired, I would feel weird letting the women clean me up. My tummy rumbled as the youngest helped me into a soft dress that almost touched the floor.
A huge feast on a wide platform sent off waves of mouth-watering aromas. The three girls sat near an old man with a huge beads and gold around his throat. "Welcome," he said to me. "I am Chief Tuyen. My daughters have treated you well?"
I nodded, embarrassed.
"Good. Sit and eat now. You have a long journey when the sun rises."
I sat on the nearest empty mat. Everyone brought something to eat and more food lay before me than at Thanksgiving. A bowl of soup gave off the most tempting scent. Without a spoon, I did like everyone else and raised the bowl to sip from the edge.
As it came near, I saw more was in the bowl than the soup. A reflection—not of me—but of Mom and Dad talking to police officers glimmered across the surface. My mom looked so sad as the cop handed her the orange ribbon, the one I lost at the cemetery.
Chief Tuyen said, "I will send her a message. She will understand."
"Understand?" I cried. "You don't know my mom. She freaks if I'm even one minute late. I have to go back."
Inti appeared beside me, the wound on his neck gone. "The Queen will care for your mother and father. Finish your food. You need your strength."
He wouldn't budge. I scowled and shoved a huge chunk of bread in my cheek to make him happy.
They didn't let me sleep late. Before dawn, the sisters woke me with a gift. Soft leather shoes, pants and a vest that left my arms free. They even gave me a belt for my dagger.
"Thank you," the youngest sister said.
The middle one said, "For saving the children."
"I miss my daughter and sons," the eldest sister said, tears in her eyes.
No pressure there.
Inti came into the hut. "Time to leave."
Ten warriors, three of them women left with me and Digel. Even at this early hour the jungle floor felt hot and sticky. We walked in a quiet line, half the warriors in front and half behind me, Digel at my side. The two men in front used machetes to cut a path and as the sun hit the dewy plants, I imagined them slicing through the thick humidity.
Just when I decided I couldn't take another step, Inti demanded we rest. I sat on a log and he handed me a weird balloon of water.
"Drink," he said. "We need to cross the sky bridge soon. Can you walk faster?"
I drank and gave Digel some before I returned it to Inti. "I don't know. How far away is it?"
"We need to be there by dark." He raised a hand, fingers spread, and everyone immediately got to their feet. "This way."
He led us uphill. In an hour, breathing became hard. Digel suffered too, slowing to keep pace with me. Inti pointed to a spot beside a large boulder. "We are almost to the sky bridge."
Thank goodness! I could make it that far. "C'mon, Digel. Almost there."
At the top, the amazing view halted us. Rolling hills, winter lands, a spray of colorful trees, and in the distance, a waterfall made me wish Grandma could be there with her favorite camera. Only she died and now there would never be anymore pictures.
The sky bridge spanned a chasm miles deep. I squeaked, "We have to cross that?"
He laughed. "We are lucky. Sky bridge has ropes to hold."
Nothing lucky about this.
Three men started across. I wished I had a leash or something for Digel, just in case. A woman went next. Inti motioned me forward. "Do not look down."
I grasped the ropes slightly above waist height and tested the first board. Solid. A few feet in I got the hang of the sway and bounce of the bridge. This wasn't so bad, really. Digel whined and started after me. I waited for him to catch up and when he did, he began barking and growling.
Inti joined us. "Please quiet him."
"Hush, Digel," I said. "Why does it matter if he barks?"
"The Wira," Inti said.
Before I asked what the heck a Wira was, one of those birdmen from the lagoon swooped down and Digel barked more frantically. Above, a whole flock of Wira took to the sky. I watched in horror as one dive bombed the man behind Inti.
"Behind you," I cried and drew my dagger.
Too late, the Wira clawed at the man's eyes. Blinded and forced off balance, he fell from the bridge, his scream drowned by others as the flock attacked.
Inti pushed me even as those in front ran back to help. "Do not stop. Get off the bridge!"
A Wira landed on my head, his long beak stabbing at my face. I cried and thrust my dagger into his chest. He squawked and I flung him aside. Digel barked, then bit the taloned leg of another coming after me. He shook the ugly, human-faced beast over the edge, but it flew back.
We rushed as fast as a jumble of people could. A woman fell, her back shredded by three Wira. I turned away, sickened.
One flapped in front of my face and I slashed its throat in a move taught to me by the dead warrior. Blood covered my hand and I wanted to weep as it raggedly flew sideways, then fell from view. The other side looked so far away. How would we ever make it there?
Tune in next week for the exciting continuation of Letters to the 5th Direction!
Previous episodes: #1 #2 #3 #4
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Hey everyone ;)
I'm thrilled to announce that I'm finishing the sequel to DFF: Dead Friends Forever today.
I'm nearing the end and doing a 10K with Milli Thornton, author of Fear of Writing to get this puppy off to the publisher. School's Out 4Ever is true thrillfest. I'm lovin' how this all turned out.
Okay, if you want to come join in the fun for the 10K day, it's never too late. Come on over: http://tinyurl.com/nqmogq
Hope to see you there!!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I've seen a lot of bad advice floating around lately on what showing actually means. From everything to adding details to using italics, it's getting insane out there.
Showing is really very simple once you understand and focus on one simple, single word:
That's all you need to know to show.
Now, to show in different perspectives is another thing and this is where people get REALLY off track. First person, omniscient or third person, whatever POV you're working in, you adding details and using italics won't turn a telling sentence into a showing sentence.
Let's take the most popular form of fiction writing: Third person. More specifically: close third-person, or close narrative from the third-person perspective. This is when the character is in charge of the story and the writer is only a conduit between him or her and the blank page. Most often the criticism of too-much "telling," is based on a lack of narrative closeness.
Here's an example of the differences in narrative distance:
She couldn't wait for the bus to get moving so she could see all the sights.
The bus rumbled and she silently urged the driver to get moving as she craned her neck, hoping to catch sight of the huge Hollywood sign.
Keeping in mind the single word imply can you see how I changed from telling/far to showing/close?
If we add details or italics, it doesn't change the "Far" example from telling to showing:
She could hardly wait for the rumbling, shaking and smelly bus to roll down the road. I'm dying to see all the magnificent sights awaiting me.
The above is still telling, especially if the character wouldn't think (the italics) so formally.
There's another school of thought that wrongly believes any form of telling is breaking POV, that the writer is pushing aside the character and interrupting the story to talk directly to the reader. This is no more true than a voice-over of a character's thoughts (as in Look Who's Talking) breaching POV, it is true, however, if it is the writer breaking in to tell the reader something the character doesn't know, can't see, hear, feel, taste or touch.
So, the "Far" example above is still in the POV of the character—it's simply offered from a distance. If this were narrator intrusion, it would look like this:
Beverly's long blonde hair sparkled in the sunlight as she bounced in her seat, wide blue eyes fringed with dark lashes glistened with excitement.
Beverly didn't know her excitement was on hold because the bus driver had to wait ten minutes to stay on schedule.
In the first example, ask yourself the last time you were excited to do something and the only thought you had was how your hair sparkled or the color of your eyes?
In the second example, ask yourself how many times you read a bus driver's mind? :)
I think I'll stop here for now, but if you have any questions, please ask!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Tonight Echelon Press is holding an open chat for the public:
Title: Hot Seat with Publisher
Repeats: This event repeats every month on the second Tuesday.
Notes: This chat will take place in the "Current Events" Room.
Everyone is invited to come!
This is a great opportunity for everyone to get the chance to talk about how the industry works, what Echelon is like and basically ask anything you've been wondering about the process of publishing and a career in writing.
Hope to see you all there!
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Episode#4: Merciless Dreams
By Bella Vida and J.R. Turner
When last we saw Julie, the Lady of the Water saved her from the birdmen, she was chased out of the crystal caves by a dragon-headed snake, and taken to safety by a warrior named Inti. The village shaman gave her a potion to help her see the truth.
I drifted in a weird place full of shadows. First, her song came from far away, but then drew closer.
Take the key and lock her up…
Lock who up?
Lock her up…
Yes, baby, it's me.
Why did you leave me?
So you could find me.
I spun in a circle, trying to find her in the shadows. Through the mists, I saw my parents come home. The mess freaked them out and they shouted for me. I tried to answer, but no sound came out of my mouth.
You've passed into the fifth direction, honey. They can't hear you.
Why not! You weren't supposed to go, Grandma. You left me all alone! Where are you?
Before me, her face, young again and beautiful came forward. The blue in her eyes swirled, moved like oceans beneath billowy clouds.
The old man rattled something I could hear, but couldn't see and the mist closed over her face.
Wait! Stop! Don't go!
A gust of wind burst into the hut and my eyes opened. The curtain broke apart, dried leaves spinning into the shape of a hideous face with an open mouth. A cackling, harsh and nasty laughter hurt my ears so bad, I covered them.
The shaman shook what looked like the rattler off a snake the size of a horse.
The laughter stopped and the leaves drifted down like burnt snowflakes all around us. He slumped and sat back on the floor.
I checked my palms for blood, but they were clean, though my ears still rang some. I asked, my voice shaking, "What was that?"
"Mercy," he said with a scowl.
I began to think whoever Mercy was, she had been totally misnamed. "Who's Mercy?"
He squinted, his face sad. "She is older than any, born when your earth was brand new and life sprang free and beautiful. In everything, there is light and dark, up and down, north and south, east and west. The beauty of your earth matched the ugliness of Mercy. Her children were hideous creatures and their children gave birth to bats, snakes, and the nightmares of your land.
"Greed and jealousy boiled inside her, the evil within rising like smoke. She used her magic and trickery to steal what she wanted. Then she began to steal knowledge from humans, plucking their minds like feathers from a bird. This is why humans cannot remember their own birth or much of their early times.
"She went too far and stole from the elders. They forgot their own children, forgot their tribes and where they had been, who they had loved. This frightened the heirs and they banded together to banish her and lock the fifth direction. But Mercy was already too clever and without a guardian, she found ways to return and steal what she wanted from your world.
"As is the duty of all rulers to lead their people into battle, a queen came to watch over the gates, to protect the ways. You have this queen's blood in your veins. You are the next heir."
"Me?" I squawked. "I’m not even thirteen yet!"
He smiled. "You will not take the throne for many years. Our queen has not yet had her crowning ceremony." He lost the smile. "Mercy tried to take the crown, but escaped with only a single jewel. Without it, the queen cannot have her ceremony."
I frowned. "If I'm not 'sposed to be queen, then why am I here?"
He shook his head. "No one knew your strength. None before has ever been able to cross this soon. We believe you are here to bring the jewel back. This is why she took our children."
"Because of me?"
"Not because of you, no. Mercy takes what she wants and now she wants a bigger army. The queen protects the way, but without the crown, there are... gaps."
"Gaps I made," I said forlornly. "I didn't know."
"Because Mercy stole that knowledge. She took just enough of what your grandmother taught you to make sure you opened the directions."
"That's not fair! All this happened because an evil lady came into my head and stole what I needed to know? Why do they call her Mercy anyway? There's nothing merciful about her!"
He gave me a sad look. "No. Not merciful, merciless."
Later, I sat on a ledge, in the dark and cried. I couldn't help it. I had seen Grandma, if only for an instant. I had seen her and I didn't even get a chance to hug her, to tell her how much I loved her. No. What did I do? I yelled at her.
Something warm and smooth touched my arm and I jumped in surprise. Beside me, a little brown puppy with reddish fur looked up at me with sad eyes, as if to say stop crying, you're breaking my heart. "Well hello there, little fella."
His ears perked up and he tilted his head. My belly growled and he dropped his front paws on the ledge, tail end in the air and growled back. He yipped, not loud, but like a command. The dog barked, this time louder, and I tried to hush him before he woke the whole village.
Inti appeared, a round loaf of blue bread in his hand. "Here, take this before he shouts at me again."
I took the bread. "You understand him?"
"Enough." He shrugged.
"Is he your dog?" I carefully tore a piece of the bread away and sniffed. Blue meant moldy back at home, but here, it meant fruity or something sweet. After the first taste, I didn't stop.
"No, he's a bush dog. He came after the children disappeared." He hunkered down and stroked the dog's fur. "His name is Digel and he's been waiting for you. He's your totem."
I didn't think I had seen Inti grin so widely before. "Why are you smiling?"
He shrugged. "A dog totem is good. You are loyal, not easy to break and a protector."
A protector? I couldn't even protect the pantry back home.
The next morning I woke to see a monkey staring at me through the window of Inti's hut. I rubbed my eyes, but the monkey didn't go away and he had a boy's face! I gasped in surprise and it must have startled him because he screeched like a chimpanzee.
"Saki!" Inti scolded. "He's a monboy, and they're all thieves."
Digel barked, but before any of us could stop Saki, the monboy took my bag and tossed it to another boy-faced monkey perched in the opposite window. Digel ran between the two, barking and jumping high as the monboy's chattered with laughter.
"Saki, Loki, stop!" Inti shouted. When they didn't, the warrior took Saki by the neck, but the other monboy bared long fangs and leapt onto his back, sinking his teeth deep into Inti's shoulder.
I screamed. Digel barked and growled. Three warriors burst into the hut and outnumbered now, the monboy's escaped out a window. Inti dropped to his knees, blood running down his arm and back from the punctures in his neck. Punctures like a vampire.
The men gathered around, their tattoos striking even through my tears for Inti's wounds. If I was supposed to take the throne one day, they'd call me the Weeping Queen. They helped Inti to the shaman's hut and I followed to help. This was all my fault after all.
The shaman kicked everyone out but me and muttered something that made Inti sleep. As he cared for the wound, he said, "You must get to the Queen."
"But I don't know how."
"You do. The same way you came here."
The letters! Did the monboy's get them? I hopped up and ran back. Digel jogged beside me and I said, "Help me find my bag, Digel. Help me, please!"
He panted, tail wagging at the window where Saki first appeared and I caught a glimpse of blue below. The strap of my messenger bag was hooked on a branch. On my tiptoes, I stretched my full length and snatched it back up, empty.
I threw it aside and covered my face. They took them. The box was gone.
Digel barked at the window urgently.
"What is it?" I went back to look and my heart leapt. They took the box, but left the letters. They were scattered in the branches of the tree far below. As I watched, a breeze took the orange letter from the stack and it flew out of sight. "No!"
I scampered out the window and knelt on the slim ledge. Digel barked like crazy behind me, but I concentrated on reaching the remaining letters. Just a little further and I would have them. I braced myself on a branch ten stories above the jungle floor.
As my fingers touched the top letter, the branch snapped and I shouted in surprise, tumbling forward.
Tune in next week for the exciting continuation of Letters to the 5th Direction!