Conquer Writer’s Block

Attention all aspiring authors. I loved this book! I used the advice in the pages of  The Story Template, by Amy Deardon to create a detailed and expanded outline for what I think is my best plot ever. I have drama, I have tension, and I have a usable structure to pin it all on so I can concentrate on weaving words into story. If you want to read a couple of excerpts of the story I created using The Story Template, visit charlene-amsden.com.

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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

 

Today’s Wild Card author is:

 

 

and the book:

 

The Story Template: Conquer Writer’s Block Using the Universal Structure of Story

Taegais Publishing, LLC (July 25, 2011)

***Special thanks to Amy Deardon for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Amy Deardon is married with two children, and spends much time taking care of her family. In her life BC (before children) she was a scientist who did bench research. She is also a Christian who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus.

Amy has written one novel, A LEVER LONG ENOUGH, about a small military team that travels back in time to film the theft of Jesus’ body from the tomb. This book won two awards.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

THE STORY TEMPLATE is a programmed learner that allows the writer to develop her story from chaos. The book uses a series of exercises for the writer to construct her story’s four foundational pillars; learn how to use the “secret weapon” of story structure: the story template; build character depth and believable change; and construct subplots. THE STORY TEMPLATE then reviews writing techniques, and finishes with discussions of editing, writing the synopsis and query letter, submitting one’s work to agents, and types of publishing that the writer may wish to pursue.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.95
Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Taegais Publishing, LLC (July 25, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0981899730
ISBN-13: 978-0981899732

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Writing a novel or screenplay sounds like a great idea until you sit down to start. Where do you start? Many different methods exist to write the story, ranging from extensive preplanning to venturing onto the first page without an idea. This book describes an approach to developing story–laid out as a sequential series of exercises to facilitate implementation–that you can use whether you prefer a structured or loose approach to writing. You can use it at the start to develop an idea fragment, or later to rescue a partial or completed manuscript that doesn’t seem to be working. The method works whether you want to write plot-driven (genre) or character-driven (literary) stories. It enables you to efficiently use your time and creativity by breaking down the process of story building into a logical plan. You will not waste time sitting at your keyboard, wondering what you should write and how you can organize your ideas into a complete manuscript.

The idea for this book originated from my own learning process in producing a novel. Having written scientific articles, newspaper columns, and other nonfiction, when I decided to write a novel I was surprised by how difficult it was to get the words down. I tried outlining, and I tried just going ahead. I had wonderful ideas, but although the scenes I wrote were exciting the story itself often seemed somehow “wrong.” I threw out more pages than I care to remember. Through sheer grit I finished the novel, but when I thought about writing another my heart sank. I decided to first solve the problem of understanding how story worked.

I chose twenty entertaining, modern novels in different genres, and fifteen more-or-less recent films (and I’ve since confirmed my preliminary observations with tens of more stories). One at a time, I took them apart: I made a list of each scene, then did a word count or timed the scene, calculated percentages and other statistics, and graphed each story onto a five page chart. I studied each story’s progression, then compared the progressions of different stories to determine common pathways. I also read all that I could on constructing stories. The writing how-to literature was heavy on techniques (plotting, point of view, characterization, dialogue)–all of which are important–but there wasn’t much on blending it all together. Screenwriting how-to books were stronger on structure, but still didn’t give me all I needed.

I studied story after story, puzzling out how they were built. First, I identified elements called story posts, and found that these posts fell reliably within the timing of the whole. Then I found consistent trends of progression in the plot, as well as consistent trends of development and interactions in the characters. My biggest surprise, in fact, was finding just how unvarying were the underlying levels of the story. I also identified a unit of story construction I call a “bubble” that bridges the gap between the high concept ideas for the story and individual scenes.

Once I had my background knowledge, I coached students to develop their stories, and thereby constructed an algorithm for the practical application of this theory.

So, what is this “story template” that is the title of this book? Is this a formula or blueprint you can mindlessly follow, like a paint-by-numbers canvas?

In a word, no. I like to call what I found a template since it describes the shape or progression, on a deep level, of virtually all stories. Recognizing this pattern in a story is something I liken to sketching a face. An artist will tell you that a person’s eyes are about halfway down the head, and are separated by another eye width. The bottom of the nose is halfway between the eyes and the chin, the mouth is proportionally between the nose and the chin and extends to imaginary vertical lines drawn below the eyes’ pupils, the tips of the ears hit about eyelid level, earlobe tips at bottom-nose level, and on and on. Faces are infinitely varied, yet if the artist ignores these rough proportions, no matter how carefully sketched the face will always look “wrong.” Similarly, you will use the template to ensure that your story elements are proportionally correct and all present. The template gives you a guide, but never dictates, what you can write.

Getting the story shape right is the first, and (in my opinion) the hardest step to writing a gripping novel or screenplay. Without good structure, the story tends to meander without a point: although it may have high action, it is characterized by low tension.

You may want to first read this entire book to get an overview of story before starting with the exercises. Keep in mind that shaping a story is intensive work, and it will take you weeks or even months to get your story organized. This is normal. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t skimp on the exercises. Take your time to thoroughly work through each step. At the end, your story will be much stronger, and the actual writing will go like a dream.

This book is not sufficient for producing a finished story ready for publication or production. You will need to master further writing techniques such as characterization, description, dialogue, transitions, editing, etc. I will touch upon a few of these to give you some direction, but the only way to get really good is to practice. Fortunately, many excellent books are available for help. See Appendix One to start.
Outline of The Plan

I like to use the metaphor of constructing a house to envision building a story. To assemble a house, you move from larger to smaller elements to sequentially put something together. Only after you have worked through many tasks is it finally time to do the fine details of painting the windowsills and installing the wallpaper. Similarly, while you have ideas about character arcs and plot twists, and maybe you’ve even written some scenes, you will be well served to develop a direction before writing through your manuscript. If you write your first draft as the ideas occur to you, then this will comprise your story planning. You’ll find that you probably don’t have enough material to form an entire novel or screenplay, and even if you do it may not hang together. Believe me, this is a laborious and frustrating way to go.

The Story Template gives a series of actions for you to do that will allow you to develop your story ideas with a minimum of angst and wasted energy. Some exercises will be quick, others will require a great deal of thought, and perhaps even a marination of thought, before finishing. Don’t be in a rush–some of your best ideas will come as you play with character or event possibilities. As you continue to develop your story you will probably revisit different components of these exercises, going back and changing previous work, as you move through this programmed story outliner. That’s okay. Just go with the flow, and have fun.

When you’ve finished with these exercises, you will be ready to start writing your manuscript, with ease and flow and speed, because you will have already done the hard organizational work. Even if you want to change the story as you’re writing, you’ll be able to do so with an understanding of how to balance the changes. You will have a detailed roadmap that will allow you to bring your vision–your book or screenplay–to completion.
Writing Tools

You are a writer. Before you start, you need to assemble the following items:

1. A tool with which to do your major writing, either a computer, an old-fashioned typewriter, or paper and pencil. If you do handwrite your notes, you may want to treat yourself to a special pen that you love, and is only to be used for your magnus opus.

2. A system to organize your template exercises. I prefer hard copy: printing out computer files, or writing on loose leaf paper, then placing the sheets in a three-ringed binder. This notebook may inspire you and give you a sense of accomplishment as you look through to see how much you’ve done. Not as recommended is keeping files only on computer because they’re harder to flip through, mark up, and juxtapose ideas; or a spiral or bound notebook because you can’t replace pages or change their order. But do what works for you.

3. A small notebook to carry with you at all times. Use this to jot down any thoughts that come to you.

4. Index cards. Get two packs, and we’ll go over how to use them to story board. Also get a roll of masking tape and a permanent marker (thin tip) for bold marks. Finally, you may want to purchase an index card binder to permanently keep your cards in order.

Getting the Words Down

Here are some tips to help you get the words down:

1. Decide on a daily quota of words that is manageable. A good starting goal might be 300, but remember to keep pushing this number up as you become accustomed to the writing process. Create a log to record your daily output. Post this on your refrigerator or otherwise keep it prominent in your daily life.

2. Set aside at least fifteen minutes at a time in which you can remain undisturbed. Aim for an hour or more if you can.

3. Don’t start your writing session by checking your e-mail or doing anything else except for writing.

4. Turn off anything that might distract you–music, radio, or television. Some people can write through these things, but try without for a few days to see if you do better.

5. If you’re stuck, do free-writing where you talk to yourself on paper. Something like, “I’m trying to figure out what Jason’s problems with Mike might be in this scene. I was thinking about…”

Let’s get started.

F.A.I.R.I.E.S.: Baptism by Fire

It only seems logical that M.C. Pearson would create a vivid and compelling novel.  As an experienced book reviewer she certainly knows what it takes to make a great story.  And in, F.A.I.R.I.E.S.: Baptism by Fire, Pearson has covered all of the bases: drama, peril, intrigue, humor, hope — and wonderfully fantastical beings that captured my heart and my imagination and pulled me into the story like the magical force-field that pulled Mellie into their realm.

I know this book is labeled YA, but don’t let that stop you from reading it.  Compelling stories don’t have age limits.  If you love adventure, worship The One, and wish to bring his kingdom to light on earth, this story will pull you in and bless you.  You don’t have to take my word for it.  The first chapter is below.  Check it out, you’ll be charmed and intrigued.

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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

 

Today’s Wild Card author & illustrator is:

 

 

and the book:

 

F.A.I.R.I.E.S.: Baptism by Fire

FIRST Wild Card Press (December 5, 2011)

***Special thanks to M. C. Pearson of FIRST Wild Card Press for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

M. C. Pearson graduated from San Jose State University with a B. A. in art, served as a multi-media illustrator in the United States Army, earning the rank of sergeant, and spent four years as a house parent for at-risk youth. Now married over 20 years, she homeschools her two children, volunteers with her church youth group, and runs a book review blog alliance (FIRST Wild Card Tours) while writing and drawing. F.A.I.R.I.E.S.: Baptism by Fire is her first novel.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

 

Unwittingly chosen to join an army of fairies, who fight for the Light of the One, a teenaged girl learns about spiritual warfare as she attends a military academy with fantastical beings.

FROM THE BACK COVER:

Here lies a most precious treasure,
Awaiting one Chosen to deliver.
Seek out the red cousins in the East,
For on this your greed mustn’t feast.
The wealth of a species now in your hands,
Do with it as the light demands.
Give them your gift to unite,
For it is the darkness we all must fight.

EDITORIAL REVIEWS:

“Imagination runs wild in F.A.I.R.I.E.S. Pearson brings young readers through a looking glass and into a world bursting with adventure, heroism, and fascinating creatures. Readers will be inspired to be true to the One and left with anticipation of more to come.”
–Jill Williamson, award-winning author of
By Darkness Hid, and other books

 

“Sprinkled with delightful illustrations, and brimming with a full bestiary of magical creatures, F.A.I.R.I.E.S. is a fun, clever romp through the alternate landscape of the most magical world of all, our own. Read, and take up the call: ‘Defend and Emancipate!'”
— D. Barkley Briggs, author of
The Book of Names, and other books

 

F.A.I.R.I.E.S. will appeal to readers who love the interplay of fantasy and reality. A rich cast of eccentric characters and exotic settings make this a fun addition to the folklore of the battle between good and evil.”
–Mike Hamel, author of
YA fantasy series: MATTERHORN THE BRAVE

 

F.A.I.R.I.E.S. is one of those rare gems I want to tell everyone about. It’s highly imaginative, packed with adventure, and full of hope. A must read for kids and for kids at heart. Even better than Narnia! I was thinking about Pearson’s wonderfully memorable characters for days.”
–C.J. Darlington, author of
Thicker than Blood

 

“Ms. Pearson’s extravagant and imaginative F.A.I.R.I.E. kingdom will surely delight the young and the young-at-heart in this tale of good and evil, light vs. darkness. The fantasy-loving reader will not be disappointed!”
–Linore Rose Burkard, award winning author of
Before the Season Ends, and other books

Product Details:

List Price: $17.99
Paperback: 482 pages
Publisher: FIRST Wild Card Press (December 5, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615530222
ISBN-13: 978-0615530222

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Four thousand seasons shall pass while our swords grow rusty.

Where once one chose to divide, another shall be chosen to unite.

One changed the past, the other shall change the future.

One must emancipate the other to allow the light its dominion.

The realm, now torn, allows the shadow to abide, as humanity lies blind to its peril.

The bond of friendship must endure, for the army of shadows awaits another tear.

Dust off your swords.

Unite the realm.

Destroy the strongholds.
Foretelling of Didasko Gnome Digdeep

†

PART ONE


MANY ARE CALLED
BUT
FEW ARE CHOSEN
†
CHAPTER ONE

Off and Running

t was an accident!” Mellie yelled, not caring who heard or stared. Tears streaked her face as she fled down the Santa Cruz coastline, away from her family.

You don’t need them, a voice hissed in her ear, Escape. Run away.

Scorching sand burned at her feet and bitterness ate at her heart. Mellie pumped her legs as fast as they would go. Her feet pounded with the rhythm of her emotions, beating a tempo with the crashing waves. Run-a-way. Run-a-way. Run-a-way. Adrenaline pulsed through her veins, quickening her step.

Why did I have to be the youngest? Only 12 years old. Never smart enough. Never athletic enough. I just wish they loved me.

Once, just once, she wanted to do something that would make her sisters see that she wasn’t the stupid, awkward, ugly, little baby sister.

As she ran, she wiped away some tears with the palm of her hand. Her fingers settled on her large nose, a gift from her dad’s Hungarian ancestry.

Chelsea got the ski-slope shaped nose. I had to get Half-Dome. It just isn’t fair.

Her hand dropped to her side and she pinched at her stomach. It still had some of its baby fat.

Ugh, why are my sisters so perfect? What happened to me?

Pushing her short bangs from her forehead in disgust, she mumbled, “Maybe I’ll find treasure. I’ll be the rich one, and then they’ll have to accept me.” But she knew better. California didn’t hold any more undiscovered treasures.

The sand, hot and coarse, cut at her feet. I wish I had remembered my shoes. She wore only a black, one-piece swimsuit and a San Jose Sharks sweatshirt tied tightly around her waist.

Breathing rapidly, she began to tire. She slowed her pace to a walk and looked back across the beach. The sand was so hot that waves of heat rose from it and blurred her view. A lone seagull screeched overhead.

Her sisters were nowhere in sight.

Man, I thought for sure that Chelsea was going to chase me down and kill me.

She had to admit that it was a little gratifying to see the sand fly from her foot, covering Chelsea’s sub-sandwich and freshly oiled stomach. Grinning slightly, the tears stopped flowing. She rubbed her eyes.

Mellie looked in the direction of her sisters. “You guys can never take a joke.” Flipping her golden hair, she turned her head back toward her chosen path. She no longer smiled as she stomped her feet in the cold surf, remembering the hateful words that had been said.

“Oh, waa waa, you stupid cry baby! Go tell mommy! Maybe she’ll feel sorry for her ugly, fat baby. Why don’t you grow up? We don’t want you near us. Can’t you understand English? You are so dumb. Look at her mouth open. Oh wait, here she goes…come on, baby…cry!”

Mellie knew she couldn’t go back. They would only ridicule and torment her further. Her mom would never believe it was Chelsea’s fault. No, the evidence was on Chelsea’s side. Who was the one with the sand all over her oily, coconut-smelling body? Who was the one who had a sandwich full of sand? Mellie walked on.

After her temper finally cooled, it occurred to her that she had never walked so far alone.

How far have I gone?

A shadow passed over her, and she looked up. Nothing was there. A cool breeze from the ocean created a stark contrast to the scalding sand. She shivered but kept walking, lost in her loneliness.

Not until she stubbed her toe on a large broken clamshell did she look at the beach. A chill snaked up her back. Nothing appeared familiar. The sounds of the surf were still there, yet something was decidedly different. She felt dizzy. Looking around, she could not quite pinpoint the change. Then it struck her.

No people.

Where did everybody go?

Even though she could see no one, Mellie could swear that she felt eyes staring at her.

She looked inland across the sand, saw movement near some eucalyptus trees, but decided that the wind must have caused it.

Trees? So close to the beach?

Something shook the trees again, causing goosebumps to stand out on Mellie’s arms. Alarmed, she checked the skyline. The sun was close to setting. She hoped that the police weren’t out looking for her.

Suddenly cold, she pulled at the arms of the sweatshirt still tied around her waist. It fell to the sand. Bending to pick it up, she once again saw a blur of movement, except this time it came from a rocky outcrop by the waves. She shook the sand out of the sweatshirt and hurriedly tugged it over her head.

“Okay, I’m seeing things.” Mellie yanked at her hair, pulling it out of the sweatshirt. She stared at the sinister rocks. “Hel-lo?” Her voice cracked as she spoke louder. “Is someone the-ere? Hello?” No answer. The shadowy rocks seemed to quiver with excitement, beckoning her closer.

Hmm…probably just a seagull.

Even if it was a bird, she did not want to see it.

There’s no way I’m going over there.

The wind picked up and blew her hair into her eyes. The sand spun with the wind.

Yes, definitely time to move. I need to find a road.

She turned back toward the sweet smelling, oddly placed trees.

Mellie arrived at the base of the first, colossal eucalyptus tree. Without warning, one of the branches fell in front of her, then seemed to get up from the ground and pose its bottom stems in a military-like stance.

Mellie screamed and jumped back. “Branches don’t stand.”

“They do if they are walking sticks.” The eucalyptus branch chuckled, stretching to its full height, considerably taller than Mellie’s meager five feet.
She gasped, grabbed the branch, and threw it like a javelin, as hard as she could.

As she took off running, she heard a bark and halted. Turning, she saw a golden retriever bounding toward her with the stick in his mouth. The dog dropped it at her feet. She watched the dog run into the grove of trees and disappear before she fearfully turned back to the possessed stick.

It had already gained its footing again and stood over her. Mellie was too frightened to move this time.

A face emerged from the skinny twig and took on the characteristics of a male human, but none like Mellie had ever seen. He had hair made up in rolls as if it were a powdered, green-silver wig, the same color as the leaves that grew all around his skinny body. His face was long and his forehead high. The twiggy man smiled and said in a distinctly British, albeit breezy, accent, “Do not worry, you are safe.”

Mellie couldn’t answer.

“Ahh…I love new recruits. They are so easily addled.”

Feeling more confused than threatened, Mellie found her voice. “What? What do you mean, new recruits?” She rubbed her eyes, shaking her head. “Okay, I’m talking to a stick now. Yes, I have lost it. I have gone totally mental.”

“Oh, I say, am I to understand that I am the first to be revealed to you?” With round, leathery leaves, the branch resembled a toddler toy with rings stacked on one another.

She dropped open her mouth and nodded.

“Well, let me do this properly, then. Ahem. Mortal, made of clay, you have been Chosen to join the Fantastical, Aerial, International, Reasonably Inconspicuous, Emancipation Squads.”

“What? What are you? You look like a stick…but you can talk.”

“Yes, child,” the stick replied with a sigh. “But, I think we are quite past that by now. Have you not heard me? You have been Chosen.”

Mellie opened her mouth wider, closed it, frowned, and opened it once more. “Chosen? For what?”

“You did wish to be different? To change who you were? ’Twas an especially strong desire, yes?” The branch crossed its arms and tapped its twiggy foot.

“Umm…”

“Dear me, this is highly unusual. You made a choice to run away from a miserable life and asked to be set free? Correct?”

“Well, I, ah…yeah. I guess so. What did you say about recruit for some squad?”

“Humph. I see that I was not understood. Yes? Let me elucidate. The Fantastical, Aerial, International, Reasonably Inconspicuous, Emancipation Squads , or shall I say F.A.I.R.I.E.S.? have accepted you into their organization. You asked. You were answered.” The branch attempted a smile, but looked impatient instead.

“Fairies? I don’t believe in fairies.” Mellie winced, half expecting him to fall down and writhe in pain until she clapped her hands.

“Quite right. You are not supposed to. If humans truly believed we existed, we would never get anything accomplished.”

Mellie laughed and looked around for a hidden camera, thinking this must be a joke. “Right. Ah…heh…okay, bud, brilliant costume,” she said, imitating the branch’s accent. “Where’s the zipper?” She reached toward him and touched a soft leaf.

The branch slapped her hand away and stamped its foot with a loud cracking noise. “I beg your pardon. I have not been a bud for over 800 springs!” He paced, his leaves crumpling, mumbling to himself about humans and why, in the One’s name, did he listen to that confounded gnome who told him that he needed to stand gate duty. With his rank!

“I’m sorry I upset you. Please, I’m very confused. I’m lost, and I just want to go home.” Mellie bit her lip.

The branch stopped mid-pace. “Home? Earlier, did you not wish for a new life? And riches? I know you wished for treasure, hmm?”

“How do you know that?” Mellie furrowed her brow. “Have you been reading my mind?”

The twig man didn’t answer her questions, asking his own instead. “Ahh, so, you admit this, yes?”

She narrowed her eyes. “Yes, but…well, this really isn’t what I had in mind.”

The branch threw up its twiggy fingers. “Oh, well, of course you did not have this in mind. After all, we are reasonably inconspicuous, especially to humans. How could you have this in mind? However, is it not superior of the One to think that this is what you would have chosen had you known about us? Anyway, ’tis irrevocable now. So, if you would just follow me, we shall get you signed in and enrolled for training.”

The branch marched off between the trunks of two large eucalyptus trees.

Mellie slid uncontrollably after the walking stick. She planted her feet firmly, refusing to budge, but she slid after him anyway. Grasping at branches of nearby trees, she panted heavily as she struggled to resist following the branch. Some kind of invisible tie connected her to him. He seemed to pull her along with his every step.

Mellie thought about her sisters and how mad they were at her. I’m dead meat if they find me. Mellie quickly gave up her battle and ran after the eucalyptus branch, barely keeping up with his stride.

†

The sand changed to coarse dirt, with pebbles and sticks. More and more trees filled Mellie’s vision. Bushes scraped against her bare legs and slapped her face as she moved deeper inside a forest of eucalyptus and redwood trees. She winced in pain as a razor-sharp rock sliced her foot. Stopping to nurse it, she wished once again for her forgotten shoes.

“Excuse me, sir?” Mellie looked around. She could not see the branch anywhere.

“Do not call me ‘sir’, I work for a living.” The branch peeked out from around one of the gigantic trees. “And please, try to keep up. We need to reach the gateway.”

Mellie limped up to him. “Sorry, sir…I mean…umm, what should I call you then?”

“Oh, well, we did skip that. Did we not? Yes, all right, an introduction then.” The branch man seemed to enjoy formal etiquette for he gave an elaborate wave and bowed. “My name is Regnans, family of Myrtaceae, born member of the F.A.I.R.I.E.S., Britannia Wing, rank of Master Nymph Dryad.”

“Nice to meet you, Reg…Reg?” Mellie chewed on the inside of her mouth. Never good at remembering names, she knew she would offend him with her lack of manners.

Sure enough, the dryad raised an eyebrow and pursed his lips. “Regnans.” He gave a hurt sniff, then drolly sneered. “If you find that a difficult name, you should meet the rest of my family, all seven-hundred thirty-four of them.”

“Sorry, I just…well, it is a lot to remember. It’s a nice name, though. My name is Maryellen Goodwin of Bret Harte Middle School, San Jose, California. But everyone calls me Mellie.” She stuck out her hand, intending to shake. Regnans stared at her.

“That is a strange curtsy. However, I guess ’twill do. We must get moving now. The shadows abound, you know.” Regnans made an about face and marched off faster than before.

Another hour passed, and still they strode along the forest floor. Mellie’s feet were now cut, blistered, and bleeding. She kept up as best she could with Regnans’s long stride. Whenever she tried to stop, he would pull her on with that invisible force of his.

Stupid, pompous, magical Star Wars freak.

She whimpered as she limped. Darkness and mist now covered the woods. As she was about to plead for a break, Regnans stopped. Except for her heavy gulps of air, all seemed quiet.

Regnans stiffened even more than usual. Nothing on him moved, apart from his eyes, which darted around quickly.

“All is safe, we may proceed.” He held up a twiggy finger to his woody mouth. “Please do not speak, and try not to breathe so abominably loud.”

Mellie nodded with a disgusted frown. Sweat dripped from her bangs. She tried to calm her breathing, even though her vision blurred, and her legs wobbled. Her blisters had popped by now and oozed wetness.

Regnans moved again, yet this time he took slow, deliberate steps, all the while scanning his surroundings. He walked up to a massive redwood tree and stroked its bark.

A breeze stirred up, rattling the leaves, sounding almost like spoken words. Mellie thought herself crazy again. However, the longer she stood there, the more she sensed that it really was the tree’s language, as if she had never listened to trees properly before. It said, “If you love, you will say the one true love that leads the way.”

Regnans whispered in a leaf rustling voice, “Ah-gaw-pay.”

A loud grumbling sound, as if someone awakened after a long sleep, shook the grove. The redwood tree opened two eyes, each the size of Mellie’s head, and blinked. A great fissure erupted below the eyes in the shape of a crescent, and redish-brown wooden teeth emerged. A long, knobby branch pushed its way out above the mouth and inhaled deeply.

The tree chuckled. Instead of the whispering leaves, a low, rumbling utterance of human speech came from the redwood tree. “Regnans? What brings you to my neck of the woods?” He blinked again. “And who is this? A new recruit? A human? A Chosen?”

Mellie knew she looked silly, standing there with her mouth in an ‘O’ shape, but she couldn’t move. This was simply impossible. There is no such thing as fairies!

“Yes, yes. Please open the gate, we must not dawdle here…they may be watching.” Regnans looked agitated.

A deep laugh resounded from the redwood. “Oh, Regnans. There are none who watch here.”

Regnans mumbled something about hamadryads and their pride, then proclaimed in a slightly louder voice to the tree, “We must be sober, be vigilant, because the shadow walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom it may devour.”

The hamadryad looked chagrined. “You speak true, dryad. Forgive me for acting like an arrogant seedling.” He glanced at Mellie, and with a lowered voice asked, “And what is your name, little human?”

Mellie managed to squeak out, “Mellie Goodwin.”

“Ah, ’tis always nice to have a Good Wind.” The hamadryad laughed heartily.

“Sorry to interrupt this lovely tete-a-tete,” Regnans said, “but would you please open the gate? I left Westside completely unguarded.”

An annoyed creak came from the base of the redwood, followed by a sigh. “Yes, Regnans. Agape you said, and agape it is. Go with the light, my friends.” The large, joyous eyes closed, and the hamadryad whispered in his leaf rustling voice, “Until we meet again, Good Wind.” His face disappeared, and his roots lifted and pulled apart, exposing a tunnel within his trunk.

Regnans grabbed Mellie’s hand with his rough, wooden one, and pulled her inside the opening. The tree closed itself abruptly and left them in total darkness.

Regnans cleared his throat and said, “Let there be light.”

A burst of dazzling brightness sparkled from the tunnel’s wall. Mellie glanced around and noticed a long, winding stairwell leading down into the ground.

“Shall we, then?” Not waiting for a reply, Regnans started down the steps.

Available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

The Mirror of N’de

If I could only pick one book I read this year to share with a friend, The Mirror of N’de would be it. I can’t begin to tell you how incredible this book is. The heroes in this story are young teens, but don’t write this off as just another young adult read. L. K. Malone has created a vivid and powerful story that will resonate within the heart of anyone who reads it.

Have you ever known the betrayal of a friend? Have you wavered in making a decision, unable to decide which course leads to betterment and which leads to disaster?  Have you ever had to sift through the words of the people you trusted looking for deceit and manipulation?  Have you ever had one of your bad decisions cause trouble for someone you love?  No matter how old we get, we’re all still capable of making a wrong choice. That is why everyone will identify with young Hadley Mivana.

Hadley wins an honor greater than any she’d ever dared hope for, but with it comes a staggering responsibility.  If she trusts the wrong person or chooses the wrong path, people will die.  More than that, they may even lose their eternal souls.  Hadley strives to do what is right, but how can she know what that is when she has nothing to guide her but a children’s bedtime tale no one quite believes, and weird dreams she’s forbidden to mention?  Perhaps the emperor’s son will help …..

Don’t just take my word that this is a great read.  Check out what everyone else is saying about The Mirror of N’de.

About The Mirror of N’de:
In the mythical city of N’de lives thirteen-year-old Hadlay and her people, the Ramash. Scorned and abused by the unloving and absent Emperor, the Ramash are poor people, placed second to the ruling class of the Oresed. Young but bold, Hadlay rages against the injustice in her city. When she is chosen for the honor of serving the Prince in the Tower, she hopes to find a way to right the wrong… but soon discovers that things are worse than she believed.

While Hadlay works to better her people’s condition, she struggles to abide with the abusive Oresed and understand the meaning of her dreams in which a fantastical white horse appears to her and speaks in riddles. When Hadlay stumbles into one of the Tower’s secret rooms, she discovers a hidden mirror that doesn’t just show her reflection, but reveals much more: the horse’s name is Sirach and he has a plan to save the children of N’de, if only Hadlay can bring them to the mirror. Hiding her knowledge of Sirach from the Prince, Hadlay sets out to do Sirach’s bidding. But when Sirach’s presence is revealed, Hadley’s life is in danger and the only way to save her is for Sirach to give up his own.

Crafting powerful narrative and creative characters, author L. K. Malone spins a compelling tale that combines exciting entertainment and the Christian story. In The Mirror of N’de, readers will empathize with the desires of an oppressed people, will anger at the affliction of a cruel adversary, and ultimately rejoice with the revelation of a Savior.

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The Giveaway!
To celebrate the release of The Mirror of N’de, Kegel Publishing is sponsoring a $50 Amazon.com giveaway. To enter all you have to do is send a tweet (using @litfuse) about The Mirror of N’de or share about it on Facebook!

If you tweet we’ll capture your entry when you use @litfuse. If you share it on Facebook or your blog, just email us and let us know (ckrumm@litfusegroup.com). Easy.

Not sure what to tweet/post? Here’s an idea:

TWEET THIS: New YA fantasy – The Mirror of N’de – compelling narrative and creative characters! @litfuse RT for $50 to @amazon http://ow.ly/7AWGT

FACEBOOK THIS: Don’t miss this debut YA fantasy story: Crafting powerful narrative and creative characters, author L. K. Malone spins a compelling tale that combines exciting entertainment and the Christian story. In The Mirror of N’de, readers will empathize with the desires of an oppressed people, will anger at the affliction of a cruel adversary, and ultimately rejoice with the revelation of a Savior. Share this for a chance at $50 to Amazon.com http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/text/13440685

About L.K. Malone:
L. K. Malone is an insatiable reader who devours nearly a book a day when she isn’t writing. Favorite genres include political thrillers, historical fiction, romance, and fantasy. Some of her favorite reads include the Hunger Games series and the Harry Potter books, which inspired her to try her hand at fantasy with a Judeo-Christian twist. Malone is a Colorado native with a large extended family, which includes two lovely young women who graciously let her mentor them through the Denver Kids program, and a handsome menagerie of pets.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from LitFuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thanksgiving in Early America

When we sit down at our Thanksgiving meal this month, we’ll be recreating a celebration that is as old as our country: sharing food with loved ones while thanking the God Who has provided the abundance.

While we understand that the First Thanksgiving was celebrated here by the Mayflower survivors along with the Indians that had helped them, the first official proclamation that was decreed to celebrate such a holiday was in 1777. It was a recommendation to the thirteen states by the Continental Congress to set aside December 18th that year as a “solemn thanksgiving” to celebrate the first major victory for the Continental troops in the American Revolution: the Battle of Saratoga.

The Battle of Saratoga has significant interest for my own family since one of my ancestors was a soldier there. But he was not on the American side—he was a British Redcoat. After surrendering to the Americans, he escaped the line of prisoners and somehow made his way to Massachusetts and into the life and heart of my fourth great-grandmother. *SIGH* L’amour!

This family story was the inspiration for my Deer Run Saga that begins in 1777 with The Road to Deer Run. There is an elaborate Thanksgiving meal scene in this novel as well as in the sequel, The Promise of Deer Run.

Some may wonder why such detail was afforded this holiday in my novels set in Massachusetts, while Christmas is barely mentioned. The reason is simple: Thanksgiving was the major holiday in the northern colonies, with Christmas considered nothing more special than a workday. According to Jack Larkin in his book, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, “The Puritan founders of New England and the Quaker settlers of Pennsylvania had deliberately abolished (holidays) as unscriptural.”

But Thanksgiving was begun as a way to give thanks to God for His provision. It usually began with attending church services in the morning, followed by an elaborate feast in the afternoon. The food for this meal was prepared for weeks in advance.

Since the individual state governors chose their own date to celebrate the holiday, it was theoretically possible for some family members—if they lived in close proximity—to celebrate multiple Thanksgiving meals with family and friends across state borders. The dates chosen could be anywhere from October to December, according to Dennis Picard, Director of the Storrowton Village Museum in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

Chicken was most commonly served, said Picard, as it was readily available in the barnyard. And the oldest woman in the home had the honor of slicing the fowl for dinner.

Pies were made well in advance of the holiday and stored and became frozen in dresser drawers in unheated rooms.

“I like the idea of pulling out a dresser drawer for, say, a clean pair of socks, and finding mince pies,” said Picard, tongue in cheek.

Indeed!

Have a BLESSED Thanksgiving!

Author Bio:

Elaine Marie Cooper grew up in Massachusetts but now lives in the Midwest with her husband, her three dogs and one huge cat. She has two married sons and triplet grandchildren who are now one years old. The Promise of Deer Run is dedicated to the triplets and to veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.Elaine has been a magazine freelance writer for many years, and is a regular contributor to a blog on the Midwest called The Barn Door (www.thebarndoor.net) and a blog on Christian living called Reflections In Hindsight. She is the author of The Road to Deer Run and the sequel, The Promise of Deer Run. Prior to becoming an author, Elaine worked as a registered nurse.

This article provided by Elaine Marie Cooper and KCWC.