In Which Reader Me Sighs in Double Disappointment

You ever hear about a book and think, “Ooh, boy! Want, want, want! I’ll totally love it!” and then buy/read it and…well, it just didn’t do it for you? Yeah. I’ve been there. Twice lately.

Damselfly

Book the First: “Damselfly” by Jennie Bates Bozic.

Genre: YA Dystopian

Blurb: In 2065, the Lilliput Project created Lina – the first six-inch-tall winged girl – as the solution to a worldwide energy and food crisis. Isolated in a compound amidst the forests of Denmark, Lina has grown up aware of only one purpose: learn how to survive in a world filled with hawks, bumblebees, and loneliness. However, on the eve of her sixteenth birthday, she discovers that she’s not the only teenager her size. Six ‘Toms’ were created shortly after Lina, and now her creators need to prove to the world that tiny people are the next logical step in human evolution. In other words, they need to prove that reproduction is possible.

Um. No thanks. Lina’s already fallen in love with a boy she met online named Jack. Only he has no idea that thumbelina1847 could literally fit inside his heart.

When her creators threaten to hurt Jack unless she chooses a husband from among the ‘Toms’, Lina agrees to star in a reality TV series. Once the episodes begin to air, the secret of her size is out. Cut off from any contact with the outside world, Lina assumes Jack is no longer interested. After all, what guy would want to date a girl he can’t even kiss?

Slowly, very slowly, she befriends the six young men who see her as their only ticket to happiness. Perhaps she can make just one guy’s dream of love and companionship come true. But her creators have a few more twists in store for her that she never thought possible.

She’s not the only one playing to the cameras.

My Thoughts: With the premise of a tiny winged girl and a romantic reality show, I went in expecting something a little more like a lighthearted fairytale. Instead, the novel was more a tangled web of cover-ups, manipulation, and both the main character’s and my inability to be sure of what was going on and who to trust. Outside my preferences as it was, I can’t judge whether it was poorly done, but it certainly wasn’t pulled off in such a way that could overcome my inclination toward anxiety and disengagement when presented with that kind of plot.

What frustrated me most about the situation, I think, is that it felt like very little of what Lina did mattered; whether she cooperated or rebelled, powers outside of her held too much control for her decisions to make much of an impact. And while, for these reasons, I did sympathize with Lina, her voice didn’t particularly grab me and induce me to feel any special affection for her as a character.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): All told, it wasn’t the reading experience I’d hoped for. I expect, though, that it is largely a matter of personal taste, and other readers may enjoy it more.

Camelot Burning

Book the Second: “Camelot Burning (Metal & Lace #1)” by Kathryn Rose.

Genre: YA Steampunk Fantasy

Blurb: By day, Vivienne is Guinevere’s lady-in-waiting. By night, she’s Merlin’s secret apprentice, indulging in the new mechanical arts and science of alchemy. It’s a preferred distraction from Camelot’s gossipy nobility, roguish knights, and Lancelot’s athletic new squire, Marcus, who will follow in all knights’ footsteps by taking a rather inconvenient vow of chastity.

More than anything, Vivienne longs to escape Camelot for a future that wouldn’t include needlework or marriage to a boorish lord or dandy. But when King Arthur’s sorceress sister, Morgan le Fay, threatens Camelot, Vivienne must stay to help Merlin build a steam-powered weapon to defeat the dark magic machine Morgan will set upon the castle. Because if Camelot falls, Morgan would be that much closer to finding the elusive Holy Grail. Time is running out and Morgan draws near, and if Vivienne doesn’t have Merlin’s weapon ready soon, lives would pay the price, including that of Marcus, the only one fast enough to activate it on the battlefield.

My Thoughts: I really wanted to like this one, guys, but we just didn’t click.

As if often the case in the steampunk genre, the story relied heavily on creative visuals – goggles and corsets and gizmos like animatronic creatures and gun-sword hybrids. For those whose minds can easily envision such things, I expect it would have been a richer experience (despite the fact that, apart from the shiny trimmings and trappings, very little about this Camelot got described at all). Alas for me, visualization, particularly of unfamiliar concepts, is not my strong suit, leaving me to go through the story half-blind. And without the aesthetic to charm me, that story unfortunately fell flat.

I didn’t connect with the characters and their voices; didn’t feel I really got to know them as I’d like. Perhaps with my allergy to anything veering toward the technological, the mechanically-minded Vivienne was ill-suited to narrate the tale in the way that would best speak to me; I had a hard time following her stream of thought, and was generally confused to the point of boredom. I wonder if the story wouldn’t have been better told in 3rd person rather than 1st.

(Skimming the reviews on Goodreads marked with 2 or 3 stars – many of which, I note, also begin with various versions of “I really wanted to like this one, guys” – will further elaborate on a lot of problems I had with the storytelling. I am somewhat comforted to know it wasn’t all just me.)

All told, then, while I can’t help but be intrigued by the idea of a steampunk Arthurian tale, “Camelot Burning” and I weren’t a good match.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): I’d like nothing better than for someone else to read this and love it the way I’d hoped I would. If you think that someone could be you, give it a go.

Have any of you read either of these books and felt differently? Or perhaps you’ve had an experience similar to mine with another book lately? The comment section is open; do share.

And tell you what, friends: If you haven’t yet read these books but think you’d like to give them a try for free, tell me which one you want, and I’ll select one or two of you (depending on what kind of response I get) to win the copies I don’t feel the need to hang onto. You’ve got ‘til Saturday, September 6th. Battle it out!

Fly or Perish (INSPIRED Days)

Inspired Days Button

This is it, gang: My final post for “INSPIRED Days” – an approximate month of awesomeness celebrating my J. Taylor Publishing novel which has lately passed its 6-month semi-anniversary of publication. Without further ado, enjoy this excerpt from INSPIRED, retold from Yves’s point of view!

<<<>>>

Where is he?

Even amidst all the noise outside – the crowds talking, laughing, cheering, jeering, the ceaseless music – his father’s voice cut through. The boy huddled in the dark, too petrified to shiver. Don’t find me. Don’t make me. Please, just this once…

But why should this time be any different? Nothing changed in this place. He was caught in the sickening loop of undiscovered backstory, a merry-go-round of day in, day out sameness which would never still until anchored by the narrative’s starting point.

He wished his author would begin his tale. He wished just as hard that she wouldn’t. For to begin was to invite an ending, and he knew this story too well to believe its ending would be a happy one.

The boy buried his head in the arms crossed over his drawn-up knees. That end might be days or years in coming. Or his author might leave him to languish where he was forever, never finding the time or motivation to find his story’s details. Such things, he knew, happened with terrifying frequency, in the world of words.

How did he know? He wasn’t sure. No one around him gave any hint that they, too, were aware their lives were an unwritten fiction. For reasons beyond the boy’s understanding, the others in his backstory were not like him. It was as if he were the dreamer, and all else nothing more real than part of his dream – his nightmare from which, if his author never wrote him, he would never wake…

The boy’s ears were a moment in telling him something was wrong, but there it was – or rather, there it wasn’t. The crowds had silenced.

He raised his head, disoriented. Not a murmur or rustle did he hear. Nothing but the music, suddenly eerie in the absence of all other sound. Uncertain, the boy rose to standing, crossed the shadowy space on silent feet, and looked out into the evening dim. Nobody there.

His lurching heart propelled him forward a step. Something vital had changed in his world, but was it for good or ill?

A prickle dancing up his spine caused the boy to cast a look behind him, and what he saw there stilled the breath in his throat. Wide as the horizon and high as the sky, a wall of blackness edged forward, devouring all in its path.

From his creation onward, the boy had known only fear, but it was nothing next to his terror now. He moved as he never had before, thoughts of grace and elegance thrown aside by the need for speed. Even so, there was no way to gauge how swiftly he moved, for his surroundings changed from stride to stride, the nightmare he knew shifting through dreams unexplored. The wall of oblivion remained the only constant, not yet managing to catch him, nor yet falling behind.

At length, too exhausted to race any further, the boy flung himself at the closest thing to an illusion of safety – a wheatstack in a pastel field full of such mounds – and burrowed inside. If it could provide no protection, at least it would prevent him having to see it when the wall overtook him.

Huddled in darkness again, lungs battling for breath, the boy realized of a sudden he recognized this place. Wheatstacks, he thought. End of Summer. He’d glimpsed its like in his author’s mind before. He was in a mental copy of Monet painting.

Wheatstacks, End of Summer

“Yes,” a voice rang from out in the open, clear as the music of a bell. “She was much taken with Monet.”

She. Did the voice speak of his author?

Peeking out through the wheat, the boy caught sight of the speaker – now speaking again – a tall, slender man, glowing like lamplight, hovering in the air in the midst of three others: One big, one medium, one crouched low on the ground and brandishing the black tail of a cat. “An angel?” he answered a question the boy had not heard. “No, Uri, not I. Yes,” – his ringing voice bore a trace of amusement – “I know who you are. I know who all of you are. And you must be made to know it, too, if you wish your survival.”

The boy did not know who all of the people were, but he could guess. They must have been like him – his author’s characters, from stories beyond his own. But not the glowing one, the boy sensed. He was something more.

Though the voices of the other characters did not carry as the bell voice did, the boy could see them startle as Lucianíel (for this was the name the glowing man gave) informed them of the situation. That his existence was fictional was, of course, not the news to the boy that it seemed to be to the others, but at the stated cause of the oblivion wall, he gasped.

Dead?, he thought, dizzy with dismay. His author was dead? His only chance to have his story written, dead? Had he been standing, the pain of the thought would have sent him to his knees. It was over. He was doomed. Finished before he had ever begun.

“You needn’t be,” Lucianíel’s voice chimed, once more seeming to address the three strangers and the boy’s thoughts, both at once. “To exist outside of the author’s mind, the character requires the belief of someone outside of their world. Such is the advantage of having one’s story scribed. So long as the book exists to be read, the character is immortal.”

And what good is immortality if you live forever in a nightmare?, the boy wondered. Was it any better than ceasing to exist at all? He watched, indecisive, as Lucianíel and the others prepared to go – go how or go where, he did not know. If he revealed himself, would they take him with them? Did he even want them to?

Of a sudden, one of the characters – the big one Lucianíel had called Wilbur – turned toward the boy’s general direction, looking all around. Searching for something. Or for someone. Surely not for me? The faintest hope fluttered in the boy’s breast.

Wilbur’s fevered search among the wheatstacks brought him closer. Closer. So close, the boy could have stretched out and touched him. Then, “Come, Wilbur,” Lucianíel called him back.

“But—” Wilbur began, voice choked with grief.

Come.”

No, the boy thought as Wilbur turned away. Fear sucked his mouth dry of words, but his mind strained forward. Don’t go. Don’t leave me. Please.

And Wilbur’s gaze turned back. Catching sight of the boy, he jerked to a stop. “Wait,” he said. “It’s a person.”

The bell rang sharply. “What?”

“A person. In the haystack!”

In the space of a heartbeat, Lucianíel appeared at Wilbur’s side, both men crouching down nearer to the boy’s level. “Ah, so it’s you,” said Lucianíel, relief evident in his incandescent face. “I’d wondered at your absence. The choice is yours, child. Fly or perish?”

Fly or perish. The choice of story’s end, faced far sooner than expected. Too soon. The boy was not ready.

“Please come,” Wilbur softly implored. “You’re strong enough to have lasted this long; don’t you disappear now.” He held out a hand in pleading invitation. “It’s all right,” he promised. “You’ll be all right, if you just stay with us. I’ll look after you.”

You can’t protect me from everything, the boy thought. But looking into the pairs of eyes before him, shining gold and warmest gray, he felt sure both of these caring strangers would try.

Gathering what little courage he had, the boy placed his hand in Wilbur’s, placing his trust there, as well, and in Lucianíel. His ill-fated end was coming, but not today. Not to oblivion. His voice a hoarse whisper, he said, “I will fly.”

<<<>>>

And that, my friends, is that. If you’d love to nab the novel featuring this dear lad’s full story, remember there’s a giveaway on Goodreads with three paperbacks for the winning. Meanwhile, for the e-reading crowd, the novel’s e-version is on sale all month for a crazy-low 99 cents via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. So for anyone who hasn’t gotten hold of a copy yet, the time is now!

Thanks to everyone who’s joined me for the fun of “INSPIRED Days”! Regular, miscellaneous Ever On Word blogging will resume on Thursday. ‘Til then, farewell!

Chopped Liver Inspiration (Jack and the Genre-nauts, Act 6)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent

“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

“Every Saturday,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “Will and I and our friends from the story world of ‘The Outlaws of Avalon ’ trilogy—”

“Coming one of these days to a book retailer near you!”

“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment.”

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘Chopped Liver Inspiration’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on a bedroom set. Not the castle bedchamber set we usually see with the canopied bed and elegant wardrobe, but a modern affair draped with hoodies, hung with dreamcatchers, piled with books. On the colorfully quilted bed sits a girl in her upper teens, typing away at a laptop. Enter Allyn-a-Dale and Will Scarlet, stage left.]

Will/Hatter: Annabelle Iole Gray, I presume?

Annabelle [looking up, startled ]: Um, yes. That’d be me. And you are?

Will/Hatter [with a hat-sweeping bow ]: Artifice Cheshirecott, Mad Hatter, at your service. [gestures to Allyn ] And this is Jack Snow, chosen Santa Claus of Fairytale Forest.

Annabelle: Huh. I had no idea I had you in my head.

Allyn/Jack: We’re not in your head. We’re in your bedroom.

Annabelle [leaping back into her bed’s pile of pillows ]: Whaaat?!

[From behind the bed’s headboard, Sir Wilbur Lamb appears.]

Sir Wilbur: Sorry, author. I did tell them you might find it less disturbing were they to manifest in your mind rather than on your plane of reality, but—

Will/Hatter [cheerfully ]: But it’s all the same to me! All planes are my planes. So, where’s Lucianíel? It’s mainly him we’ve come to see.

Annabelle [grumpy ]: Doesn’t that just figure? Couple of cute strangers busting into my room uninvited only to say, “Yeah, hi, we don’t want you.” I’m changing my name to Chopped Liver.

Sir Wilbur: Real name, or pen name?

Annabelle: Both!

Will/Hatter: Aw, don’t take it personally, darling. It’s just we’re in need of some inspiration, and that’s pretty much Luc’s shtick.

Sir Wilbur: Well, Luc doesn’t appear to be around, at the moment.

Allyn/Jack [muttering ]: Probably refusing to lower himself to a bit part in a stage show of buffoons. I should have so much pride.

Annabelle: I could inspire you. What kind of ideas are you looking for?

Will/Hatter: I’m taking Jack, here, on a sightseeing tour on the way to his home in the North Pole. So far we’ve poked around a few corners of fantasy. What genre should we explore next?

Annabelle: List of genres, eh? That’s easy enough. To the Internet!

Allyn/Jack [addressing the audience as Annabelle returns to her laptop ]: Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre wishes to state on the record that neither we nor our affiliates hold to the belief that the Internet is a suitable substitute for a professional muse.

Accept no substitutes.

Accept no substitutes.

Annabelle: Here we go, there’s a bunch of them. Fables and folklore, horror and historical, mystery and— ooh, mythology! You guys should totally do mythology next! I’m halfway to a Greek myths expert; I could give you a ton of high points to hit.

Will/Hatter: Perfect! You’re coming with us.

Annabelle: I—what? How does that even—?

Sir Wilbur: They’ve already roped me in.

Annabelle [tossing closed laptop to the foot of the bed ]: Then never mind how. Count me in!

Will/Hatter: Up to four of us, now. We should really have an awesome group name. Peter Pan had his Lost Boys. Robin Hood had his Merry Men.

Annabelle: Jason had his Argonauts.

Will/Hatter [grinning ]: And now Jack Snow’s got his Genre-nauts. Lead on, Chopped Liver!

Annabelle: Yeah, no, that can’t continue.

Will/Hatter: I thought maybe not.

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Miranda McNeff and Kelton de la Cruz,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘the Internet’ and ‘buffoons’.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends:  Will and Allyn out!”

Creation Within Creation (INSPIRED Days)

Inspired Days Button

Welcome to the continuation of “INSPIRED Days”! – an approximate month of awesomeness celebrating my J. Taylor Publishing novel which has just this last Sunday reached its 6-month semi-anniversary of publication. ^o^

INSPIRED being a book absolutely all about the characters, I thought it only fitting that its main cast get in on the fun. So here’s our third guest post of the party, brought to you by the novel’s resident dude[ette] with a ‘tude, Uri!

<<<>>>

I wonder if Noah felt like this. “Yeah, hi,” says God, “clock’s running down on your world. You and this handful of others may want to get in the lifeboat.

Thanks, but… Dang.

Seriously. That’s like exactly how it happened. What the ever-burning heck?

Yeah, Danielle digi-painted me. She’s into that.

Yeah, Danielle digi-painted me. She’s into that.

It’s not like I was attached to my world, or anything – which totally sounds like sarcasm, but no, for real. Maybe it’s because the place wasn’t fully realized yet. Maybe it’s because I was still in the earliest stages of my character development. I dunno. But I can’t say I miss anything that got swallowed up in the flood of destruction.

Probably the weirdest thing was finding out there’s at least one more layer of reality out there than I figured. I mean, I’ve read books; even read books where, ohmigosh, this whole world’s nothing but a dream / somebody’s computer program / an ant farm / whatever. You see that kind of thing all the time. You don’t expect it will happen to you.

A person of weaker faith could have had her whole religion rocked by what I’ve gone through. But I didn’t see the need for a full-on theology crisis. I’m pretty open-minded. Or almost totally closed-minded, but willing to entertain new ideas so long as they don’t flatly contradict what I believe to be gospel truth. One of those. In any case, I don’t see how having Annabelle and her predecessor as author over my life precludes the existence and omnipotence of an Author, capital “A”.

To quote from a book ranked somewhere below Scripture:

There is creation within creation, and creators can keep creating new things because it is a part of them because they were themselves created. Like a story about a writer who writes a story about a writer a writer who writes a story about a writer, and so on forever, from that single starting place. That first writer. The first creator. And to be the first means he—or she, or something that defies a pronoun—is the only one so great, he didn’t need to be created to be. That’s why he’s worthy to be the God.

The Book of Inspired, chapter twenty-four, verse… Yeah, okay, our novel doesn’t have verses. Regardless, Scripture backs it up.

So God created mankind in his own image.

Genesis 1:27.

Ask a writer. They can tell you: Little pieces of themselves end up reflected in the fictional people they make. Among whatever else, it seems some of us got a mega share of our Author’s creativity, to the point where they, too, can say, “Let there be light,” “Let there be life,” “Let there be this person and this plot point in this crazy story arc,” and whole worlds will appear in the pages for the writer to look over and see that it was good.

So I’m not about to worship Annabelle. (In fact, excuse me while I bust a gut laughing at the thought.) But if the God I serve placed this girl in authority over me, then I’ll do all I’m able to serve her also, and serve her well.

Heaven help us all.

<<<>>>

Thanks, Uri! Reader types who’d love to nab the novel featuring this yin-yang chick of light and snark, remember there’s a giveaway on Goodreads with three paperbacks for the winning. Meanwhile, for the e-reading crowd, the novel’s e-version is on sale all month for a crazy-low 99 cents via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. So for anyone who hasn’t gotten hold of a copy yet, the time is now!

Inspired Sale, Kindle and BN

 

**Coming up Monday**: An introductory scene from INSPIRED, retold from Yves’s point of view!

Character Casting Call (INSPIRED Days)

Inspired Days Button

It’s Week Three of “INSPIRED Days”! – an approximate month of awesomeness celebrating my J. Taylor Publishing novel, of which yesterday marked its 6-month semi-anniversary of publication! *huzzahs, hurrahs, sings a round or two of “For He’s It’s a Jolly Good Fellow Novel”*

In honor of the occasion, here’s a piece of flash fiction I whipped up a couple months back, all about one of the many ways a muse may assist his author in finding inspiration. Enjoy!

<<<>>>

“Next,” the voice like bells rang out from the doorway. O was on his feet in an instant. This is it, he thought, smoothing a hand over his hair and down his shirtfront. Don’t screw it up.

O walked in with all the confidence he could scrape together, then uneasily wondered whether they were looking for confidence. What if they wanted someone shy? The posting, written in lights in the ether, hadn’t specified. Confidence seemed the safest bet for first impressions, though, so he kept committed to that.

Inspired Mock Cover

My early vision for an INSPIRED cover, as created by me.

The dark girl seated at the desk smiled, and the glowing-bright man seated in the air beside her beckoned O further in. The door closed behind him – from all appearances, on its own power. “Hi-hi!” the girl chirped. “I’m Annabelle. This is my co-executive, Lucianíel. And you are?”

“O,” said O, shaking the girl’s hand. “Or, something with an ‘O’. Possibly multiple ‘O’s. That’s all I’ve got for sure.”

“Fair enough,” she said. She turned to her floating, glowing co-exec. “How do we feel about Orlando?”

“Donovan, I think,” Lucianíel’s voice rang again.

“Orlando Donovan, then. We’ll hold onto it for later.” Scribbling the name on a notepad with one hand and gesturing for O to sit with the other, Annabelle said, “So, O. Let’s chat. What do you know about yourself?”

“Well, I’m a guy.”

“A good starting point,” said Annabelle, her curly cloud of hair bobbing with her encouraging nod.

“And I’m a killer.”

Her brows rose. “Oh?”

He nodded. “I have to be. I mean, I have to kill. It’s a psychological need. If I don’t, I’ll, I dunno. Get sick. Go crazy. It’s in my twisted nature. Also, I have really arresting eyes.”

“I noticed,” she said. “What are they, blue?”

“I think so, yeah. Kinda flickers between that and gray, but I’m leaning toward blue. Or… do you think I could have eyes like a raven?” he asked hopefully.

Lucianíel tipped his head. “Are you a raven? Descended of ravens or tied to them in any way?”

“Shape-shifting raven?” Annabelle inquired.

O shook his head. “I didn’t mean literal raven’s eyes. Just their color. Y’know how the feathers are just so black they shimmer, like, purple and green and blue? It would be incredible to have eyes like that!”

“Hmm.” Annabelle chewed on the cap of her pen. “Amazing eyes do not in themselves an amazing character make. The psychological need to kill is something, I suppose, but even that on its own is a little… so-so.”

Why do you need to kill?” Lucianíel probed, his own incredible eyes on O intent. “Whence came this vital need?”

O shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I’m really not sure. It’s something in my makeup. In my blood.”

“So this is not unique to you? There are more of your kind?”

“Sure. Or there were.” O shrugged. “I dunno. I might be the last, or separated from them. I feel separated,” he realized, of a sudden. “Isolated. I might not even know what I am, and that there are more like me. I feel like the only one.”

“Aww,” Annabelle said, absently sympathetic. A good half of her attention was on the fat little paperback in her hands, its pages well-worn and flipping with familiar ease beneath her fingers. “Dominic… Donahue… Here we are: Donovan. Celtic, Irish. Strong fighter, dark chieftain.” She turned wide, eager eyes on Lucianíel. “That could apply to a race of raven people quite well! A noble family name. Maybe he’s a long-lost prince!”

“Perhaps crows instead of ravens,” Lucianíel suggested. “Murder, and all.”

“A murder of crows – brilliant!” Annabelle cried. “Yes, yes, yes! You, young Donovan,” she said, stabbing a finger across the desk, “are a prince among crows! There was a conspiracy—”

That would be the ravens,” said Lucianíel.

“Say what?”

“A conspiracy of ravens.” He smiled. “Or an unkindness.”

“Ah, I see. Well, shoot, we’re rolling in awesome titling options, aren’t we?”

“Less awesome than obvious. But they’re as good a starting place as any.”

“In any case,” Annabelle continued, returning to O. “Conspiracy. Somebody wanted you gone, probably so they could cut ahead in line to the throne. That they didn’t just kill you shows it was one of the ravens.” She steepled her fingers, eyes gleaming in the glow of a plot unfolding. “A crow would have murdered you, but for one of the Unkindness, death would be too kind. They snatched you from your people and left you to grow up alone in a world not your own, desperate for the death of others without knowing why; a freak and a monster; friendless.”

O chewed down on his cheeks’ insides, trying to stem the flood of painful heat rising behind his eyes. As she said it, it was true. He wanted friends – of course he did – but how could he ask friendship, ask trust, of someone when he might kill them, or someone they cared about? It was bad enough that he cared. Each and every time. A crow prince raised with the morals of a gentler race. Every day was a battle of nature versus conscience, and he could not let conscience win. It would destroy him.

A tissue appeared before him. “It’s okay,” said Annabelle, gently. “Let it out.”

Taking the proffered tissue, he wept freely, embarrassed but unafraid. He sensed their compassion, the girl and the glowing man. Whatever happened today, however this ended, he had their understanding.

“I think we can work with you,” she said, when O’s sobs had softened to sniffles. “More than that: I would like to work with you, O. How would you feel about getting a story?”

“Please,” he said, a smile braving its way back onto his face. “I’ve been trying to apply for one for ages. You’re the first author who’s seemed to notice I exist.”

“And the last author you’ll ever need to petition,” said Annabelle, smiling wide in return. “You’re mine. Feel free to go hang out, for now. If you need anything, there’ll be other characters to show you around. Luc and I will be in touch when we’ve got more of a game plan for you. Sound good?”

“Excellent. Thanks,” said O, going in for the closing handshake. “I appreciate it.”

“The pleasure is ours,” Lucianíel said warmly. “Next,” he called, the first door swinging open in tandem with a second – the door through which O made his way out into the vastness of his new author’s mind.

“Hi,” he heard her greet the applicant behind him. “Sorry we kept you waiting. People were crying. So. A dragon master, huh? Tell me what that’s like.”

<<<>>>

Thanks for reading! If you’d love to nab the novel chronicling the start of Luc and Annabelle’s partnership, remember there’s a giveaway on Goodreads with three paperbacks for the winning. Meanwhile, for the e-reading crowd, the novel’s e-version is on sale all month for a crazy-low 99 cents via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. So for anyone who hasn’t gotten hold of a copy yet, the time is now!

Inspired Sale, Kindle and BN

 

**Coming up Thursday**: A guest post from INSPIRED’s Uri on reconciling her worldview with the surprise revelation that she’s fictional.

A Herd and a Third (Jack and the Genre-nauts, Act 5)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent

“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

“Every Saturday,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “Will and I and our friends from the story world of ‘The Outlaws of Avalon ’ trilogy—”

“Coming one of these days to a book retailer near you!”

“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment.”

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘A Herd and a Third’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on Allyn-a-Dale as Jack Snow and Will Scarlet as the Mad Hatter racing to keep pace with the treadmill portion of the stage beneath their feet. Thunderous drumming and trumpeting sounds from the orchestra pit while a moving backdrop of jungle greenery whizzes along.]

Will/Hatter [to the audience ]: Last time on our serial genre-hopping adventure, you saw Jack and me encounter the shape-shifting bird god of this, the jungle of the Abishan.

Allyn/Jack [also to the audience ]: What you did not see was the part not long afterward where Hatter managed to offend the local elephant goddess.

Will/Hatter: How was I to know leaving trinkets of ivory on her shrine was an insult?

Allyn/Jack: Well, if we live past this stampede, we’ll know better in future! How much farther before every elephant in this place gives up the rampage?

Will/Hatter [pointing ahead to a wall of faux stone about five-by-five feet rolling in from off stage left to stop just ahead of the treadmill, which likewise comes to a halt ]: Oh, they’ll probably have to call it a day about here.

Allyn/Jack: It’s not a terribly tall obstruction.

Will/Hatter: So much the better! You and I can hop it. And elephants, meanwhile, cannot jump. True fact. Up you go!

[Will gives Allyn a boost, Allyn gives Will a hand, and wha-bam, both are over the wall, which they subtly nudge onto the restarted treadmill, then jog in place ‘til the wall makes its exit, stage right. The drums and trumpets fade into silence.]

Will/Hatter [wiping brow ]: Phew, glad that’s over! If another colossal creature with the wherewithal to gore me to death never steps into the picture, it’ll be too soon!

[…At which point a sizeable chain-mailed knight bearing a broadsword enters, stage left.]

Allyn/Jack: Go figure.

Too Soon

Knight [stopping a respectful distance away ]: Greetings, lords among beasts. Whom do I have the honor of addressing?

Allyn/Jack [startled ] : Um, Jack Snow, chosen Santa Claus of Fairytale Forest, and Artifice Cheshirecott, Mad Hatter of Wonderland. Why, whom did you think you were addressing?

Knight: Oh, I beg your pardon. I’d assumed, as you’d come from Shan’s jungle, you must be a pair of animal gods in your most human forms.

Will/Hatter: “Shan”, is it? A pretty familiar name to call the Abishan by. You two must be close as Tweedles Dee and Dum.

Knight [smiling ]: Something of that nature. We’ve been through the end of the world together, for a start.

Will/Hatter: The end for a start… That’s INSPIRED philosophy if ever I heard it. [thrusts a finger in the air ] And if you and Abishan share a novel, and you’re a knight, that can only mean one thing!

Knight: That I am Sir Wilbur Lamb of the Order of the Dove?

Will/Hatter: Or that. A pleasure to meet you, Sir Wilbur!

Allyn/Jack [exchanging bows with the knight ]: Indeed. Your reputation precedes you – to say nothing of the guest article you posted earlier this week. But if the protagonists of your world and the cat god’s are friends and allies, why is there erected a wall between you?

Sir Wilbur: Oh, it’s no sign of ill will; merely a bit of a safeguard. We wouldn’t want any small children wandering into a land of predators. And though the majority of jungle creatures could easily get over the wall if they wished, most do not care for manmade constructions, and so will avoid it, which is to the good of the farmers in the area. The Southland could have lost half our bean crop if that raging elephant herd had crossed over.

Will/Hatter: Mm, yeah. Thank all for the wall. So, Wilbur, what do you do all day, besides act as the border guard?

Sir Wilbur: Well, I also—

Will/Hatter [wiggling his brows ]: Wanna join us on adventure instead?

Allyn/Jack [narrows eyes at Will ]: And by “adventure”, you mean “the most efficient route possible to the North Pole”?

Will/Hatter: Sure, right, that. So, y’wanna?

Sir Wilbur: I am between edits on my life story, just now. So certainly – if you’ll have me, I’d be glad to come along.

Allyn/Jack: Ah, lovely. A travel companion who will raise the sanity levels of our company from 50 to 66 percent. Which way do we go from here, Hatter?

Will/Hatter: I have no idea. [speaks in a singsong though a Cheshirecott grin ] But I know where we can get one!

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Miranda McNeff and Chelsea de la Cruz,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘rampaging elephants’ and ‘beans’.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends:  Will and Allyn out!”

The Few, the Humble, the Favorites (INSPIRED Days)

Inspired Days Button

It’s Week Two of “INSPIRED Days”! – an approximate month of awesomeness celebrating my J. Taylor Publishing novel as it nears its 6-month semi-anniversary.

INSPIRED being a book absolutely all about the characters, I thought it only fitting that its main cast get in on the fun. So here’s our second guest post of the party, brought to you by the novel’s sweetheart of a knight, Sir Wilbur Lamb!

<<<>>>

Being your author’s favorite character can be complicated.

I would like to firstly state that I in no way think I deserve to be Annabelle’s favorite. I— Pardon? Pray excuse me, readers; Uri’s saying something at me… Who do I think should be the favorite, if not me? Good gracious, Uri, I don’t know. Luc, perhaps, if a muse qualifies. He certainly puts in the most work, with her.

A piece of fan art created by my author’s author, Danielle.

A piece of fan art created by my author’s author, Danielle.

Which brings me back around to what I was going to say, which is how a favorite character has a double load of responsibilities. On the one side, you’ve got your story world to think about – your family and friends from home, and whatever portion of the plot you’ve got to hold up. And on the other side, you’ve got your secondary life, the one outside your book, in the free-for-all of your author’s mind, where – if the author’s anything like Annabelle – she calls you out to converse and— I’m sorry, now Abishan’s speaking. Is this urgent, Shan? I’m supposed to be providing a blog post… You should be Annabelle’s favorite? Um, certainly. I’ll be sure to tell her you said so. Pet you now? All right, if you’ll kindly stay quiet while I finish my assigned task.

Where was I? Conversing with the author. That can be awkward, for the favorite. Or perhaps it wouldn’t be so in every favorite’s case, but Annabelle is… well, less than circumspect about her feelings for me. Not that I wouldn’t have been able to see how she felt anyway, since we do share a brainspace. Even could we not read each other’s thoughts, though, it would be frightfully obvious that our affections are, erm, unevenly matched. But of course one doesn’t wish to offend or hurt anyone – (yes, thank you, Uri, I do speak for myself) – especially not one’s author, who does so very much for her characters. I mean, mercy, Annabelle gives us… virtually everything! Everything we ever had before we knew her (or even knew that everything we had was fiction), and far more, for she labors to finish the stories our late author began, that they may endure forever in the minds and hearts of the readers she’ll touch. And what can we provide to even begin to repay her?

Wait, Yves, say that again. …Yes, that is what is ours to offer. We give her purpose. Entertainment. Encouragement. Companionship. Love. Perhaps not always the exact same sort of love she has for us, but I, for one, do love her. And yes, Shan, you for two. And Luc and Uri and Yves for three through five, whether or not any of them will ever tell her in so many words.

And whether or not I remain Annabelle’s favorite in the years to come, she has been my favorite author I’ve ever known. For love and for duty, I will strive in both lives she’s given me to be worthy of her adoration for me.

Pardon, Luc?

“I said, you’re doing fine, child.”

<<<>>>

Thanks, Wilbur! A question for the writer types: Have any of your characters stolen your heart as the favorite? As for the reader types who’d love to nab the novel featuring this model of gallantry, remember there’s a giveaway on Goodreads with three paperbacks for the winning. Meanwhile, for the e-reading crowd, the novel’s e-version is on sale all month for a crazy-low 99 cents via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. So for anyone who hasn’t gotten hold of a copy yet, the time is now!

Inspired Sale, Kindle and BN

 

**Coming up Monday**: An all-new piece of flash fiction, featuring that most illustrious team of creativity, Luc and Annabelle!