#KidWriter Blondie Returns with Chapter 2 of The Elementals! #DragonStories #ProudMom

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Greetings one and all! I’m having a smile and then some as I rediscover my research on the humor found in everyday misadventures. While I complete that blog post for you, please enjoy Chapter 2 of Blondie’s dragon-filled adventures. x

Click here for Chapter 1 of Blondie’s story!

Forward: Hello, everyone! As I promised, here is chapter 2 of The Elementals. Enjoy!

Blondie the dragonmaster

CHAPTER 2

“Where is she?!” Inferno huffed. “She’s been gone for nearly an hour!”

Rainbow gazed at the sky. “She’ll be back any minute now.” she said.

“That’s what you said one bloody hour ago!” Inferno shouted.

“Oh, shut up you two. Here she comes.” Boulder said sternly. Hurricane glided over to where the other dragons were hiding, bleeding in several places.

“Hurricane!” Rainbow yelled, “Where have you-“

“I don’t want to talk about it.” she murmured, glumly shuffling to a tree.

“What did you do to yourself, you soggy fish?” Inferno glared at the soaking dragon. “Where’s Gila?” Comettail asked hopefully. Hurricane just stared at the sea.

“Oh.” Boulder whispered. A screech wailed behind them.

“Come on! We can’t just sit here!” Inferno hissed. “RUN!” The five of them scrambled madly to the middle of the forest. Wingbeats fluttered after them.

“In here!” Rainbow headed towards a hollow in a willow. Everyone soon was squished inside. The screech sounded again, but it seemed frustrated. The wingbeats faded away into the distance.

“Wow. That was close.” Hurricane sighed, relieved.

“Thanks, Mr. Willow.” Rainbow patted the bark.

“What are you thanking a bloody tree for?” Inferno said.

“Mr. Willow told me about his hollow right before whatever-that-was got us. You should be more grateful!” Rainbow huffed, insulted.

“I oughta-” Inferno snarled. A shrill caw pierced the air. Comettail jumped.

“S’okay, Comettail. Just an ol’ crow.” Boulder said, glancing outside. “C’mon, everyone. Let’s get out of this hole.” Hurricane grunted as she hoisted herself out.

When everybody was out, the caw sounded again. A large, black bird was perched on a twig, its black pearl eyes staring at them.

“Uh, hi!” Rainbow greeted the crow. It cawed again, flying off into the underbrush. The crow’s head popped up again, cawing at them to follow.

“I think it wants us to go with him.” Comettail said uneasily. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

“C’mon, guys! Let’s go!” Rainbow said enthusiastically.

“Wait, you sheephead! It could be a trap!” Inferno yelled. But she was already gone. “Dratted dragon will get us all killed, I’m sure of it.” she grumbled as she tore after her.

They eventually found Rainbow in a clearing absolutely FILLED with vines. The crow sat on top of the biggest one, cawing nervously. “Look! There’s a dragon caught in there!” Rainbow pointed a claw towards a lump in the center of the vines.

“Oh my foxes…” Boulder whispered.

“Red Dragonroot. The most poisonous plant of all time.” Comettail stated, shivering.

“Well, don’t just stand there! Help me!” Rainbow said.

“You’re the plant dragon! Don’t look at me!” Inferno shouted.

“Shut up!” Hurricane boomed. Everyone looked at her in shock. “Rainbow, try to coax the vines to let that dragon go. If that doesn’t work, Inferno can burn them.” she recited, as if she had been thinking this up all along.

“Hmph. At least I can make something pay.” Inferno grumbled.

Rainbow grunted as she conversed with the Dragonroot. “It’s not working!” Rainbow cried, ” And I have the MOTHER OF ALL HEADACHES.” “Burnin’ time.” Inferno grinned as her claws glowed a bright orange. She sank her talons into the nearest vine. It shriveled into ash. Comettail scooped up some Red Dragonroot ash into a glass vial he kept in a pouch around his waist. “Could use this stuff for later.” he said.

Sooner than later, all the vines were burnt. In the center laid a jet-black dragon, groaning as she stood up.

The crow screeched gleefully and landed on her shoulder. “Thanks, Pitch.” the dragon wheezed. Pitch nuzzled against her snout.

“Who the bloody heck are you?!” Inferno said, her claws still sizzling.

“Why, my name is Raven.” the black dragon said. Her voice sounded like a spilling waterfall, one word flowing over another. It was almost entrancing. She also had one silver diamond earring.

“Uh, what particularly were you doing inside a cluster of Red Dragonroot?” Comettail squeaked.

“I was on a quest, of course,” Raven explained like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “For the Forest Shard.”

TO BE CONTINUED…….

Make sure you stay tuned for chapter 3 of The Elementals in February!

We’ll hold you to that, Kiddo! And I better finish that research…

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#ProudMom #Writer Moment! Blondie Shares Her Latest #Dragon #Fiction.

FORWARD: Hello, guys! I know you’ve been waiting for The Four Realms 2, but I’m still working on it. In the meantime, I’ve come up with a new several part series that I think you might like. I called it: THE ELEMENTALS. I based this off of the Wings of Fire series by Tui T Sutherland. I’m hoping to actually publish it someday, but anyway, let us begin.

-Blondie the Dragonmaster

PROLOGUE

Long ago, before Earth even knew it was Earth, there were dragons. Tens of thousands of them, soaring through the sky. There was also magic. Sorcery and wizards still existed in that long forgotten age. Humans were hidden at the time, kept away on a misty island. But like I said, there were dragons. They were advanced, these dragons. They had wars, hated, loved, defended, studied, and used magic. The strongest magic-wielding dragons were called the Elementals. They were named Forest, Water, Air, Fire, and Cosmos. They protected the land from wars and harm as best as they could, and became the greatest dragons ever to live.

Then, out of the forests, there was rebellion. The foxes, lead by the vicious sliver fox Ashenfur, captured the kingdoms, one by one. Their dragon citizens were not killed, as you might expect, but they were captured and controlled by unknown fox magic. Almost all dragons were brainwashed to Ashenfur’s army and added to his multitudes. The Moon, Cloud, and Ocean Dragons went into hiding. The Elementals fought the best they could, but, with some freak sorcery, their essences, and magic, were trapped into five stones. These stones have been hidden long ago into temples and secluded areas so Ashenfur and his league don’t ever find them. Just before he died, Cosmos sent me a foretelling of dragons to come and save us all. I only hope this prophecy is true, or we will be forever in ruin.

Written by Swiftclaw, Moon Dragon that foresaw prophecy

Chapter 1

“Here they come with the babies.” “Oooh! I’m so excited!” “Keep it down, okay?” “Sorry, Blizzard.” Two dragons stood on the edge of their cliff, their home. Moon Dragons flew towards them, in their claws five little dragons. Blizzard the Snow Dragon huffed. “Eat us out of cave and cliff they will.” “Aw, come on, Blizzard!” Gila the Desert Dragon said. “You raised me just fine! I’m sure they’ll be just as easy.” “One of you was enough. But five…” he sighed. “I wish I was back in Queen Pine’s army. Tearing through foxes like no one’s watching.” He touched his scar on his side, then wincing. “If you were still in Queen Pine’s army, you would be brainwashed like everyone else. And you wouldn’t’ve found me.” Gila said. Blizzard grumbled. “Just promise you’ll help.” “I promise!” The Moon dragons landed, dropping five bundles on the rock floor. “These little runts are in the prophecy?” Blizzard said disapprovingly. “Blizzard!” Gila said. “They have the strongest magic in all the continent. We’ve sensed it.” One of the Moon Dragons said. “Keep them safe until they are fully grown.” “Yeah, I guess.” Blizzard said, squinting at the baby dragons. “Take care.” The Dragons took off into the sunset. “How did I come from a general in Queen Pine’s army to a mother?!” Blizzard sighed. “Come on, Blizzard! I’ve already set beds!” Gila shouted from the cave. Blizzard snuffed and picked up the bundles. “Someday these dragons will grow into basically second Elementals. The way I see it, our world is doomed.”

10 YEARS LATER

“Quit it Inferno!” “I quit when I want to!” “Please stop, you guys!” “SHUTTUP!” Blizzard roared. “Gila, I told you to take them hunting!” “Sorry, Blizzard, I forgot. I was finding a new cow fondue recipe with Boulder and Comettail.” said Gila. “Well, take them!” Blizzard snarled. “We do need cows for our fondue. C’mon Inferno and Rainbow. You look like you need a break.” “Thank goodness! I couldn’t find out the daily news from Mr. Willow if they kept fighting!” Rainbow, the multicolored Forest Dragon said. “WHO THE BLOODY HECK IS MR. WILLOW?” Blizzard said. “He’s the tree by the creek, of course!” Rainbow said. “The…tree?” Blizzard whispered. “Yeah! He makes the funniest jokes!” “I hate living with magic dragons. I hate it, I HATE IT!” “Now, now, Blizzard,” Hurricane the Ocean Dragon said, “If you didn’t live with us magic dragons, the prophecy wouldn’t’ve been fulfilled!” “Learn too much from that fluffhead Gila, you do, hybrid.” Blizzard sighed. “Why do you keep calling me hybrid?” “You have a weird sky blue color, unlike the Ocean Dragons, abnormally large wings, likewise, but you have gills, so you’re an Ocean Dragon.” Blizzard explained. “Furthermore a freak hybrid.” Hurricane looked down at the stone floor. “Hmmph.” she said. “It’s the truth, Hurricane. Can’t avoid it.” “Allright!” said Gila, rubbing his claws together. “Let’s hunt!” Commettail, the Moon Dragon with a unusual white tail tip, gulped. “What if a cow kicks me and I die?” he shivered. “Aw, shuddap, you lily-livered runt.” Blizzard said. “You’re ten times the size of a puny cow.” “But I read-” “Enough!” Blizzard exclaimed. “Gila, just take them BLOODY HUNTING.” Gila nodded and flew left into the forest, past the sparkling ocean in front. Five dragons followed suite, into the wilderness.

“Mr. Willow says there’s a cow patch up that way.” Rainbow said, pointing further west. “Who cares what bloody Mr. Willow says? He’s a tree!” Inferno, the Fire Dragon, spat. “Wait, Inferno,” Boulder, the Stone Dragon, said. “I see a herd of cows down there.” “Hmmph. For a mistake, you have a remarkable sense of direction.” Inferno said. “Hey! Gila!” “Now, now,” Gila said, “We can’t be quarreling amongst ourselves on a hunt. Hunts are all about teamwork.” “But that’s what Blizzard calls Boulder. A mistake.” “I don’t care what Blizzard thinks of Boulder.” “But Gila,” Boulder said as they landed in a meadow, “Why does Blizzard call me a mistake?” “Weeell…” Gila started, “There was supposed to be a Thunder Dragon here for the part of Air. Well, Thunder Dragons don’t give up their hatchlings that easy. The Moon Dragons accidentally found a Stone Dragon instead, and brought him here.” Gila explained. “That was you. Blizzard was going to quickly snap your neck, but I stopped him.” he sighed. “Can we stop telling Boulder’s sob story and catch us some cows?” Inferno said. Gila sighed and trotted to the clearing, Boulder following close behind.

“I caught a cow the size of a Thunder Dragon!” Hurricane said as they soared back. “Oh yeah?” Inferno sneered. “I caught a cow the size of this entire continent!” “That’s slightly impossible,” Comettail said, “No cows ever grow that big, and you wouldn’t’ve been able to-” “Whatever, Comettail. You’re no fun.” Inferno huffed. “Carry it.” Comettail whispered. “Here we are!” said Gila. “Hey, Blizzard! We have some cows!” No answer. “Blizzard?” Gila whispered. “He probably went back to join the army.” Hurricane joked. “He wouldn’t. Stop being silly in a VERY SERIOUS SITUATION.” The six dragons searched the entire cave, looking for the Snow Dragon.

“Claws up, you filthy reptiles.” “Ashenfur!” Gila hissed. “He found us.” “Indeed I have.” Ashenfur smiled in a charming, deadly manner. “Now claws up, and it won’t be a slow death.” “Never, you dirty-” Inferno started. “SHH.” Gila hissed, covering her snout. “What did I hear?” Ashenfur said, “Oh nothing. These must be the Elementals! What an honor!” he said in mock awe. “Oh, what a shame I have to kill these famous dragons.” He leapt toward them, snarling, all charm gone. Ashenfur collided with Gila, wrestling in a tangled ball. “Run! RUN!” Gila yelled though clenched teeth. “What are you waiting for? LET’S GET THE HECK OUT OF HERE!” Inferno said, taking off toward the forest. Rainbow, Boulder, and Comettail reluctantly followed her. Hurricane stayed behind, gazing at the fight. “I’ll catch up!” she said, and bolted towards Ashenfur. Snarling, the gray fox turned and saw Hurricane barreling towards him. They soon were locked in a fight heading towards the cliff. “HURRICANE! WHAT ARE YOU BLOODY DOING?” Gila yelled. Hurricane slashed at Ashenfur’s left eye, leaving a bloody gash. Ashenfur yelped with pain and sliced Hurricane’s side. She cried out and tumbled off the cliff into the ocean below. “NO!” Gila roared, charging at the silver vermin. Ashenfur tripped him and he was soo hanging off the cliff. He chuckled. Gila looked next to him on a stone pillar and there was Hurricane, alive and clutching her side. He gasped. “I guess the joke’s on you.” Ashenfur cackled. “I had hoped she would die, but I guess she could be the last thing you’ll see.” Ashenfur roared with laughter. “You, you, coward, you!” Gila growled. “Isn’t it perfect?” Ashenfur said, giggling, as he sank his fangs into Gila’s claws. Gila roared in agony as he plummeted downward, sinking into the depths.

“NOOOO!” Hurricane cried, and dove in after him.

TO BE CONTINUED

I hope you enjoyed it so far! I’ll be posting part 2 next month. If you have any questions or ideas please comment them! And stay tuned for my podcast with my mom!

Isn’t Blondie a wonder? Every time she asks to share her writing here, my heart skips a beat. It is going to be a beautiful December. x

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

This #PrivateEyeJuly #Podcast continues where the #magic is gone but the #monsters remain: #TheLastSmileinSunderCity by #LukeArnold

Good morning, my fellow creatives! During these cloudy, humid summer days, nothing strikes my fancy quite like a mystery.

Brilliant indie author and book reviewer S.J. Higbee recommended this book a while back, and at last I’ve found the perfect time to try it: The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold.

Let’s take a sip together to taste the grit beneath the glitter…well, maybe that’s not the best metaphor here, but let’s, um….oh, let’s just try it.

If the embedded link recording is not showing up, you can click here to access the podcast site.

Next week I’ll actually take a little break from fantasy for a traditional mystery. You’ll see why soon. x

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for…you know. Starting the #PrivateEyeJuly #Podcast with a #Supernatural #Mystery: #MeddlingKids by #EdgarCantero. #FirstChapter #BookReview

Good morning, my fellow creatives! I was so excited to discover July’s reading theme:

Mysteries?! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

But but but, rather than retreading all sorts of ground I’ve already trod before with my Agatha Christie posts, I decided I should focus on mysteries with a fantasy flare–mixed with a recommendation or two you amazing souls have shared with me. 🙂

Let’s begin with a story inspired by a special cartoon favorite in my household: Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero.

Let’s take a sip together to taste the mystery and all its dark flavors.

If the embedded link recording is not showing up, you can click here to access the podcast site.

If you’d like to recommend a read for the podcast, let me know in the comments below! As always, I’d welcome reading any indie authors’ stories as well. x

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#WriterProblems: How Do You Name Your Characters? #WritingTips

When you begin a story, what do you see?

A landscape of danger and mystery, perhaps. A relic with power to change the world dropped in the rain while fleeing the enemy. A duel of ambitions, weapons poised to take life and light of all.

You see a brittle world, crushed and smoldering. You know how to save it.

Maybe.

We don’t always begin with the conflict or the setting. Sometimes, we begin with an identity, one which turns the wheels of the plot in ways we are not yet sure, but we know the workings are hidden there, beneath the face of this person.

This name.

“It gives me great pleasure, a good name. I always in writing start with a name. Give me a name and it produces a story, not the other way about normally.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Now I’m sure this method worked wonderfully for Mr. Tolkien, as I believe he’s gotten himself published a few times. However, we other creatives just do not always have a name to go with and find ourselves going “the other way about” quite a bit. Let’s explore a few of those situations together.

When a key scene and its conflict are etched in my mind, the character names are but one detail in a sea of details–not to be fussed about until the rest of the moment is captured. That was my approach in “The Hungry Mother” (free to read in Mobius: The Journal of Social Change!) where I could see the con artist and the mark engage in a rundown park, but not hear their names. So, my first draft had nothing but alphabet letters for character names to keep them straight. Only after that first draft was completed did I consider the backgrounds of the characters and setting to discover Puritan-style names for the homely, rural Remembrace and her daughter, Tace. But what of my network marketing hustler? Social media loves to dub such people “Karens,” so there was that name…eh, too on the nose. So I looked back into my own memories of bullies and deceives to uncover the name of a girl who was a real jerk during our school days: Nicole.

The woman turns away from the old man and locks eyes with Nicole. For a moment, Nicole is a freshman on the bus all over again, snickering at the pathetic group of Old Sancs boarding to attend school at New Sanctuary thirteen miles away, and none was more pathetic than the hunched creature in patched rags named Remembrance Priest. That was the creature Nicole pictured when she messaged that name and a hundred others about Suzy Ray! and its wonders. That was the creature Nicole pictured when agreeing to meet in this town forgotten among the fields of corn and cow shit.  

“Oh, my, gosh,” Nicole says. Normally she must count to three between each word so she sounds as wondrously pleased as possible, but Remembrance’s total lack of hunchback makes the greeting almost genuine. “Look at you, Mem! Has it really been ten years?” And a part of Nicole wriggles at how ten years has affected Mem. Her skin is smoother, firmer. Her braid of thick hair looks strong enough for a rope swing. Was Mem always this tall? Did another Ray of Sunshine beat me here?

Mem waves like the homecoming queen she never was. “Hiii!” She says and embraces Nicole so tightly Nicole almost spills her drink. Mem’s lips press through Nicole’s dark curly hair and onto her Suzy Ray! sunshine studs. “Sooo good to see you, Nicole. You look sooo pretty.”

Ten years clearly hadn’t taken the sliding whine out of her voice.

When the conflict shines so clearly before us, we must capture every line, every movement, as quickly as we can before that light dims. It is all too easy to allow our exploration of names get in the way of storytelling, so using the simplest identifier possible will keep characters straight until their true identities come to you.

I’ll be the first to admit I got lost in names for my Fallen Princeborn novels. Nearly all the names went through multiple changes as I researched history and better understood my velidevour world. Only Charlotte’s name remain unchanged, for it was a choice close to my maternal heart. Bo and I had been considering the name for our daughter-to-be, but in the end we gave Blondie a different name and Charlotte remained bodiless, name of strength, fluidity, tenacity, beauty and…I just had to put that identity, that soul, to use. The different versions of “Charlotte” also allowed the girl to make her name a boundary in and of itself, which helped those around her–and readers–see when she had finally accepted the friendship and trust of another.

“Come  now,  Charlie, don’t  leave.”  Liam’s fingertips graze her hand.

“Don’t call me Charlie.” That’s for family. You are not my family.

~*~

“Cate’s the luckiest princeborn ever, having a brother like you,” Charlotte lets the thought out, surprising herself a little, but sorry for the slip? Nah.

Dorjan blushes. “Well then, here.” He pulls an extremely fast hat trick of hair tug, ear flick, nose tweak. “Consider yourself an Honorary Durant.”

And now Charlotte can’t help but hug them both, these two who were willing to fight alongside her before they had known her a single day. “Call me Charlie.”


The House of Artair holds many Gaelic names. I wanted this family to be rooted to the Isles, intelligent and fierce. “Artair” is a version of Artur, which is Gaelic for “Noble Bear.” Considering the vicious head of the House, Bearnard (“strong as a bear”), transforms into a bear, this was a perfect fit. Liam’s name was a tricky one; it needed to carry the weight of his parents’ aspirations as well as the truth of his inner spirit. Plus, as a writer, I wanted the name to carry a timeless feel to it. Discovering Liam means “resolute protector” was nothing short of a miracle. Liam’s parents are determined to see him lead all velidevour into a new age of dominance; Liam desires to protect Charlotte and those who have come to support him and fight alongside him. And it’s a timeless name. 🙂

Granted, we sometimes allow ourselves a name purely because it sounds cool. Disraeli is the name of a Celestine, offspring of stars and magic. Why did I pick the name Disraeli? Because I saw it in a magazine and thought, That’s a really cool name. It was originally the name I intended for Arlen, but when I realized the need for the princeborn names to carry meaning and history, I knew I had to change that name. Still, I had to find someone to hold that name, and a creature of the stars just happened to fly by…

The world can help us discover character names, too. As I worked out the history of River Vine and the velidevour trapped there, I could see the natural setting would mean everything to them. They were souls who used animal and human bodies to hunt their prey as dictated by wicked The Lady of the Pits. Nature above ground would be their peace, their refuge. This led to me using plant names for many of them, such as Nettle, Poppy, and Campion. Does your own story-world have ties to nature, the elements, or some other unique feature in the setting?

Or perhaps the very world in which you write must change. This happened to me a ways back with Middler’s Pride. The first version of the story was a co-collaboration of sorts with fantasy author Michael Dellert, but as our goals with the character changed, he continued on his world’s story arc and I continued on with the character. This meant renaming recreating the Shield Maidens’ world and practically everyone in it, starting with the protagonist Gwen.

Back to one of my favorite resources: The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook!

Now here I had to keep in mind that I was not just renaming a protagonist, but a character within a group of protagonists. This meant I did not want the characters’ names to sound alike, have the same cadence, start with the same letter, etc. Now that may sound silly–why should those impact the name if the name MEANS something amazing?–but this is an important strategy for the readers’ sake. How on earth will readers keep a group of protagonists straight if their names blend together or are easily mistaken?

So I first had to look at my own Shield Maidens whose names did not need to change: Wynne, Tegan, and Ellylw. I had chosen all these Welsh names loving how the names bounced so dramatically between simple and complex. Each starts with a unique sound and phonetically differs enough that one shouldn’t confuse them when reading aloud. But they were also all rather short, so Gwen’s new name could not be that simple. Oh, it could have the potential for a nickname–Ellylw becomes “Elle” pretty quickly–but it still needed to be longer than a couple syllables. So, I focused my search on longer Welsh names, and came across Meredydd, “Protector of the sea.” Considering Middler’s Pride is the tale of Meredydd and the other Shield Maidens rescuing the River Goddess from a cursed beast, this name felt right.

Mer watched the sunlight caress the blade. She heard footsteps, and knew the others had pulled in around her to form a half-circle. Hauling lumber would surely take them until dawn, but by dawn she’ll have this worthless batch of—

“Wynne, stand here. Tegan, right? How’s your balance?”

I’m really hoping I can redesign these covers later this year.

“Hey, what?” That circus freak, walking about like she was next in command. The bloody nerve. “You heard the captain. The best way to get that dagger down will be a ramp, and that’s going to take lumber. All we need is an axe and—”

 “No we don’t.”

And I’M the upstart? “Captain Vala said—“

“She said to get the dagger.” The circus freak pressed down on each of Wynne’s shoulders. The pretty face winced, but didn’t complain. “We don’t need lumber. Just a couple good backs. Wynne, I think you can do it.”

She shriveled at the compliment. “I-I’m afraid I’m not as strong as you. I don’t want anyone getting hurt.”

“All the more reason to train up,” Meredydd tugged her arm towards the gate. Ye gods, it was soft as dough. This girl wasn’t lying. “You can’t be a Shield Maiden without power in your limbs.”

“And she’ll get there.” The circus freak grabbed Wynne’s other arm. “But not because you make her do something stupid.”

If Mer could just get Wynne behind her and away from this twit—“Would the king bestow a weapon upon an idiot?”

The key will be some series consistency!

The circus freak’s scar across her gross face went all squiggly. “Sure, if he’s desperate.”

Wynne yowled. Tegan’s fists tightened around her hips and she screamed:

STOP YOU’RE RIPPING WYNNE’S ARMS OFF!”

Three loud THUDS and the girls fell in a heap against the gate. Tegan coughed, shook, and ended up plopping down herself. “Look, this”—she waved at the three of them—“is stupid. Mer, you want to follow orders the idiot way? Fine. I’ll go with you. Wynne, you want to work with…”

“Ellylw.”

“Huh?”

“Sounds like a pig call.” Mer ignored Tegan’s glare. It seemed to keep her magick at bay, for one thing. And for another, the circus freak’s name did sound like a stupid pig call.

Wynne fixed her hair. Gods help her when a twig undoes her braids. “I think it’s pretty.”

You would.

The circus freak rolled her eyes as she finished catching her breath. “Just call me Elle, it’s easier.”

We are blessed to live in a world of countless tongues and histories. A single name can be the seed to a hundred variations, each unique with potential for an identity across the oceans. Whether you begin with that seed or uncover it as you dig through a story-world’s soil, be mindful of that name’s beginnings, the culture in which it is rooted. Nurture that name with the respect it deserves, and you will find a character as strong and perfect as the imaginary world you cultivate.

~STAY TUNED!~

The Hero with No Name but a Thousand Faces will soon be upon us! Let’s not forget to celebrate some everyday absurdities, too. More author interviews are on the way, and don’t forget I’ve got Story Cuppings, a weekly podcast of first chapter reviews!

Last but not least, hopefully–HOPEFULLY–we can talk about some story stuff. 🙂

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#Podcast: Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto. #FirstChapter #BookReview #FantasyFiction #PrideMonth

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! It’s been a whirlwind of a week with my university’s literature festival, where I got to present on the diverse representation Outsider Hero in film and the joy of finding humor in everyday experiences. Let’s take a break from academia now to fly away with Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto.

What does a reader experience in those opening pages, and what does a writer learn? Let’s find out!

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

I hope you enjoy this sip from Crown of Feathers with me! If there are any stories you would like to recommend for sipping on this podcast, let me know in the comments below! I’d also welcome reading any indie authors’ own stories.

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#IndiePublisher #Interview: @WyldbloodPress Discusses #ShortFiction #WritingTips, #FavoriteAuthors, and #Submissions

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! As my children’s school year comes to an end–and my students bombard me with finals to grade–the online celebration of fantasy fiction continues with Wyrd and Wonder.

This month’s interview is unique. Rather than interviewing an indie author, I have interviewed an indie publisher. My friends, welcome to the world of Wyldblood Press!

Let’s start with the niceties. Introduce yourself, please!

I’m Mark Bilsborough, publisher and main editor at Wyldblood Press. We publish short and long fiction on our website, in our bi-monthly speculative fiction magazine and novels. We publish digitally and in print.

Before we dive into the Wyldblood, let’s first here about your journey as a reader. What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

Tough question. I can think of a few I liked when I was younger but dislike now – Tolkein, for instance (and I know this might sound sacrilegious). I loved Lord of the Rings when I was twelve but when I tried to reread it a few years ago I found myself bogged by the meandering narrative, irritated by the burst into song and puzzled by the lack of female characters. Plus I hold him responsible for the glut of high fantasy names and by-the-numbers epic fantasy plotlines that make many doorstop-sized fantasy books so inaccessible. But without Tolkein would we have had Game of Thrones? So I’m still in awe of his influence and legacy even though I won’t be digging into The Silmarillion any time soon.

Tolkein aside, I’ve grown into fantasy more generally and I can appreciate the flexibility of the form more now. And I like poetry now. I’d always hated it (thanks, education, for making me read it), but Simon Armitage, Carol Anne Duffy, Seamus Heaney, Percy Shelley and John Keats (and a whole bunch of others) are definitely on my reading list now.

I took a while to come around to Becky Chambers and Emily St John Mandell but I’m glad I did.

What inspired you to found Wyldblood Press? Did you see something unethical in the publishing industry that you felt could be righted with Wyldblood?

I launched Wyldblood Press deep in lockdown last year. I’d just self-published a collection of my own short stories through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service and I thought “well, that was easy!” I then thought, “wouldn’t it be better to publish through an imprint?” So I set up Wyldblood and invited submissions.

But then I thought (and this is where the ethics come in) that it would be wrong to publish my own stories if I’m publishing other people – why should I get a free pass to publication when other people have to go through a rigorous and competitive selection process? So I send my own stories to other places and keep my fingers crossed.

I’m not new to editing though: I used to run a sword and sorcery fanzine called ‘Crom’ and for many years I’ve been producing journals for British Mensa – first on creative writing and latterly on speculative fiction.

Sounds like experience abounds in your writing life! Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both!

TRUTH. I love to write, but finding time to do so is an eternal battle. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Planting my behind on the seat. I’m easily distracted – I guess most writers are – so firm discipline is important. And it would help if Twitter could close down for a few house every day too.

In writing short fiction, you have to hook readers to care about characters, ground them in your story’s setting, and leave them pondering about your story’s end all within a few hundred to a thousand words. Can you walk us through the process of crafting your fiction’s pacing and language to accomplish so much so quickly?

I’ve got a big whiteboard and a multicolored clutch of marker pens. I then plan it out in big, sweeping curves making sure the story beats are all there and in the right place. Seeing the whole thing visually makes it easier to see whether the story is paced well – this works better for novels, because there’s more to think about – but it works for short fiction too.

Language is important. With flash fiction there’s no meat on the bones and every word must count. So draft revise, draft, revise, draft, revise is my advice, always asking ‘does the story need me to say that, in that way?

Many writers, and not just beginning writers, fall in love with their own words (I know I do) and sometimes it’s hard to cut out those perfect metaphors – but it’s not about the author – it’s about the story.

Oh, I fall in love with my own words far, far too often, lol. What would you say are common traps for aspiring writers?

Thinking they know how to write when they don’t. Thinking it’s easy to get published. Thinking their great original idea hasn’t been seen before, many times. Thinking they don’t need to get critiqued and seek out the opinions of others. Feeling down when they get rejected (we all get rejected – dust off and resubmit!).

How did publishing your first story change your process of writing?

My first published story was a competition win in a UK print magazine: Writing Magazine. They paid me a nice professional fee and all my friends and family could pick it up in their local supermarket. I thought “hey, this is easy.” How wrong I was! I think I learned more from the subsequent rejections, kind editor comments and networking.. The competition win gave me confidence and probably an impetus to push my writing – but the process? Trial and error, and a willingness to take and work on feedback.

How long on average does it take you to write a short story? I’d love to hear more about your process, as I’m always working on that balance of writing, teaching, and parenting.

I’m pretty quick and I tend to write my first drafts in long sprints. I learned that on Odyssey, where we had to produce a new short story every week. We had a 6,000 word upper limit and I always like to get my money’s worth. I’m also a deadline-chaser – if you give me months to do something I’ll start writing a day before it’s due and deliver it at five to midnight. So I had to write fast.

I write best late at night after everyone’s gone to bed. But that’s just me.

Redrafting (and you have to redraft) takes longer and I set time aside for that. I’ll usually show the first draft around other writers for feedback then, if I agree, I might make some changes. Then I do a proofing edit. Sometimes that’s enough, but more often than not it’s rinse and repeat.

Marketing is often the bane of many indie authors. Do you have any tips on marketing and/or platform building that you’ve found effective with your own writing or publications?

Get social. Twitter etc don’t come naturally to me but they’re really important. Network. Go to places (real or virtual). Be seen. Be noisy (put pleasant). Build a website, a brand, a reputation. Sell to places. Network. And advertise  there’s a way to do this profitably – but it takes patience, perseverance and a steep learning curve).

The most important thing, though is clarity. Knowing what the objective is (sales? Profit? Exposure?) then being clear about the methods and the message.

Wyldblood’s first anthology (published February 2021) features stories about werewolves. What was your process for selecting this theme, and what themes do you see being featured in future anthologies?

The werewolf anthology was pretty much unplanned. We emphasised wolves in our early marketing and branding because Wyldblood seemed to suggest wolves. And so, without specifically asking, people were sending a lot of werewolf stories our way. So many, that we had enough good ones for an anthology. So we did one.

It’s obvious in hindsight that calling our press Wyldblood and using a wolf head as a logo would have that effect. But at the time all I thought was that my grandfather’s middle name – Wydblood – would make a great name for a publisher.

Your announcement for your werewolf anthology Call of the Wyld got me thinking of those iconic pieces of folklore that haunt us through the centuries. One of my favorite fantasy authors, Diana Wynne Jones, had this to say about writing:

If you take myth and folklore, and these things that speak in symbols, they can be interpreted in so many ways that although the actual image is clear enough, the interpretation is infinitely blurred, a sort of enormous rainbow of every possible colour you can imagine.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this quote.

Great quote. Most folklore is metaphor and speaks to our hopes and (usually) our fears. Werewolves – loss of control, release into savagery. Vampires – identity crisis (coming of age, embracing sexuality, the lure of danger). Fairy tales are usually about innocence lost (Hansel and Gretel. The Pied Piper. Pinocchio). Myths and legends are about making sense of a confusing world (thunder and lightning? Must be the gods fighting).  The myths shift and adapt because we shift and adapt – we don’t (I hope) believe in the thunder god now but we’re happy to buy into the Marvel reimaging of, say, Thor. The image still speaks of power, and of beings more might than us, of hard choices and titanic struggles.

And Vampires have come a long way since Bram Stoker (and before – vampire folklore stretches back through time). Today’s vampires have their affliction under control and are presented as attractive love interests (Twilight, The Vampire Diaries), or are footsolders in the war against the Lycan (Twilight). Or are substitute zombies, laying waste to humanity (The Passage). But in all iterations they represent a dark and sensuous alternative to the mundanity of our own lives. They’re attractive immortal, seductive – our forbidden fruit. Just one sip…

Are there particular authors you friends with, or authors that have inspired you to become a better writer?

I’m in a writer’s group with Jaine Fenn, who’s been published many times by Gollancz and Angry Robot, and I hang out from time to time with Tiffani Angus (who’s just been shortlisted for the British Science Fiction Award for best novel – Threading the Labyrinth) and Jacey Bedford, who’s probably lost count of the number of her books DAW has published. Vaughan Stanger’s a good friend (and one of our first readers) and dozens of his short stories have appeared seemingly everywhere, often multiple times.

I’m part of the Milford Writer’s network – a loose collection of writers who have attended the annual Milford writing workshop in Wales. That’s a networking and critiquing group – that keeps me sane and grounded. They push me, gently point out my writing’s flaws and praise its good points.

I came across a lot of famous ‘name’ writers both on my Creative Writing Master’s course and Jeanne Cavelos’ excellent Odyssey writing workshop. I tried to learn from them all. My biggest early influence, though, was Hugo-winner Kij Johnson. I went on one of her novel writing workshops at the University of Kansas and she was inspiring, guiding with enthusiasm, openness and insight. She’s also one of the best writers I’ve ever come across.

Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

Yes – usually when I have to read something. As an English major at University endless great works were required reading – in my defence I read some of them, but I kept being distracted by all the great science fiction books in the library.

I also get intimidated by our massive submissions pile. I love seeing great stories, but sometimes I don’t have the head space (or time) to work through them. Thank God for first readers (I’d be lost without them).

I review books for an SF newssite ( www.concatenation.org ) and I get real reader’s block if I come across something I can’t get into. The normal way round that would be to read something else but if I’m reviewing I feel obliged to finish – and that can block me for weeks.

I get writer’s block too – I have it now. I’m putting off edits for some short fiction because I hate the redrafting process. The first draft is a massive creativity burst but after that the process becomes more mundane and I worry that it sucks the joy out. But I have a deadline and deadlines are a great motivator.

A massive submissions pile sounds like writers love submitting for Wyldblood! You published the first edition of Wyldblood Magazine this past January—congratulations! Are you currently accepting submissions? What does it take for a piece of writing to be featured in your magazine?

We’re usually open in some submission category or other so it’s always worth checking out the website. At the moment (mid April) we’re open for flash fiction (we publish a story once a week on the website and we’re always hungry for material), open for novel pitches (synopsis and first 10,000 words) and open for steampunk stories (up to 10,000 words for an upcoming anthology: Runs like Clockwork. We’ll reopen for short stories on July 14th.

To get published means beating off some very fine competition. The stories we take have strong, clear narratives, are cleverly written and have engaging characters. It goes without saying they need to have got the basics right – structure, theme, conflict, resolution – and give us confidence in the author’s writing ability (there are only so many comma splices I can overlook).

Thank you so much for your time and tips, Mark! I look forward to seeing the new worlds gathered for Runs like Clockwork. Folks, I hope you check out Wyldblood Press soon…and perhaps my new podcast when you have a few quiet minutes, hint hint. 🙂

~STAY TUNED!~

I think we’re about ready to talk about names…or the power of familial storytelling. One of these University projects will come up, to be sure, lol. I’ll continue reading fantasy fiction for my podcast, and Blondie is working on ANOTHER story to share with you! Be still, my writing heart! xxxxxxx

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#ProudMom Moment! My Daughter Blondie Shares Her #Fantasy #Fiction.

Happy Mother’s Day, my fellow creatives!

Whether you’re a mother or you’re the one who mothers; whether your mom is present for a hug, or a wave, or a kiss heavenward, take a moment to share love with those who share their nurturing love with you.

To celebrate Mother’s Day, Blondie has finished her pictures and story so I can share them here with you. Looks like a day off for me!

Blondie adores Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon, as you can see. 🙂

Welcome, my friends, to Blondie’s story: THE FOUR REALMS.

The Four Realms #1: Four Kingdoms

T’was the winter of the fall of Tyrannus when the realm was divided into four kingdoms. The Kingdom of Dragons was the most powerful of them all. King Flamescale ruled the land. He was a ruthless, unforgiving king, and treated people from other kingdoms with no respect. The neighboring kingdoms often rebelled against him with no success. They were powerless against him. One of those kingdoms was not really a kingdom. It was the QUEENDOM of Foxes. The queen was none other than the wielder of the Vermillion Sword, Queen Scarletfire. She was a born warrior and was kind to her people. She never really trusted other kingdoms and their ways, even though they fought for the same purpose. The wolf kingdom was mostly the same way. The king was the wielder of the Axe of Titor, King Siberius. He was the leader of a great pack and took care of them all. The wolf kingdom and the fox queendom hardly knew each other existed, until one day

The king of hawks, King Skyfighter, turned rouge over the years, so he decided to attack.

Hundreds, thousands, millions of hawks came from the sky and attacked the foxes and wolves. They barely had time to suit up for war. CHARGE!!!! The wolves and foxes were fighting separately at first, until Scarlerfire saved Siberius from a diving hawk. Then, in return, Siberius saved Scarletfire from a hawk, too. Soon, the kingdoms were working side by side. Seeing they were losing, the hawks retreated hastily. Meanwhile, King Flamescale oversaw the entire battle from the battle from his palace. He was worried about the kingdom and queendom might attack his kingdom. So he thought of a plan to get rid of their leaders. He called the king and queen to his palace and said, “Wait out in the field you fought the hawks so we can pay tribute to the dead.” It sounded pretty suspicious, since the King rarely did so, but they obeyed.

As the sun went down, Scarletfire and Siberius waited. Then, dragons of every size, shape, and color imaginable came roaring from the skies. The king and queen realized the Dragon King had the whole thing rigged. So, under the cover of darkness, Scarletfire and Siberius jumped onto the dragon army’s highest general, and steered him toward the palace. The general was none other than Toothless the Night Fury, confused and lost, and decided to join the army. The entire army followed Toothless, unaware what in the world was going on. Scarletfire and Siberius stormed into the king’s throne room.

“(You’re still alive?! Darn army has failed me again.)Well, looks like you caught me red pawed.” The king said, smiling slyly.

“You tricked us, you sniveling worm.” Siberius snarled. “Are you going to kill me? Ha! It would disgrace the legacy of the dragons if their greatest king was slain by two mutts.”

“There are three things wrong with that. One, yes, we are. Two, you are the WORST KING EVER. And three, WE ARE NOT IN ANY WAY MUTTS!!!!” Scarletfire roared, stabbing the king in the wing.

“CURSE YOU, YOU DAFT DOGS!!!!” the king yelled, slashing at Scarletfire, missing, and hitting Siberius in the face. Siberius growled and cut at the king’s legs. The king, crippled, began breathing fire EVERYWHERE. Scarletfire then leapt and blinded the king with her sword. The king, beyond enraged by this point, screamed and tried to swipe and scorch Siberius and Scarletfire. Together, they jumped and slashed at the king’s unprotected chest.

The king shrieked, and was no more.

From that night forward, the dragons, wolves and foxes built a new civilization and lived in peace. The hawks remained rouge and kept themselves hidden in the shadows, plotting their revenge. Rumor has it that there is a lost heir to the dragon throne, but that’s for another time.

(P.S, Toothless met Hiccup again and promised to come back to the Realm again and bring his friends. But that is for another time)

This historic legend and novel is by: Blondie the Dragon Tamer

I’m so proud of my eldest! She’s even working on a new story about a girl forced by her awful aunt to face a wizard. “Can I post my story on your website when I’m done?” she asks.

Me on the outside: “Of course, Kiddo!”

Me on the inside:

This Mother’s Day, I hope you find many moments to dance on the inside as well as the out. Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

My #Podcast for #Readers and #Writers is up! Episode 1: #Raybearer by #JordanIfueko

Happy Wednesday, one and all! I’ve officially got the first episode of my podcast done and done. To help celebrate Wyrd and Wonder–and because it’s just been recommended so gosh darn much–I chose to start with Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko. What does a reader experience in those opening pages, and what lessons can a writer take away in studying but a few paragraphs? Let’s find out together.

I hope you enjoy this sip from the story with me. Any feedback on the podcast itself will also be greatly appreciated, as I hope to make this a weekly thing. x

If the link above does not work, try this one! Story Cuppings • A podcast on Anchor

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#Writing #Music: #TwoStepsFromHell

Welcome back, fellow creatives! I hope spring brings you days of renewal and hope. I’m in a daze with all the conference work for university, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel! With the right music and support, I can pace myself to reach that light.

We all learned when we were wee that music carries a special storytelling power. Maybe there was that one movie soundtrack you listened to over and over again to relive your favorite scenes. Maybe there was a favorite musical where the songs of characters help tell the story, or an opera where the emotions of instruments and characters alike blended into one voice. I was very much a soundtrack child, but my father’s love of New Age music had its influences on me, too, and one album in particular got a play on our stereos: David Arkenstone‘s Quest of the Dream Warrior.

Now you may be wondering why I titled this blog post Two Steps from Hell and here I’m sharing New Age from the 90s. Hold yer hightops, I’m getting there.

In a highly, highly visually-charged culture like the U.S. of A., engaging in music that told a story–no stage, no movie, no book, just music–felt very unique to me as kid. Music like this feels more…more open to the possibility of telling multiple stories. Yes, Arkenstone had one story in mind when he composed the music, but because the visuals of the story were left to the audience, I felt like I could take those sounds and make a story of my own. (I did, too. It involved a band of bandits helping a kid thwart an evil sorcerer. At one point he became a giant eagle for coolness. Wonder where that story is…Anyway.)

This is where Thomas Bergersen comes in. Another kid from a small town, though his is in Norway. Just another soul who loved music. But while I enjoyed taking my lessons and then moving to words, Bergersen taught himself composition and orchestration. In the mid-2000s He partnered with Nick Phoenix, a composer based in the States, and together they created Two Steps from Hell. Their music has appeared in loads of movie trailers like Batman v. Superman, but I’d rather focus on their albums here, for what is this month of May but a time to celebrate the fantasy storytelling we love?

Yes, my friends, Wyrd and Wonder is back! Let us see how story-music of others may inspire your own storytelling.

Perhaps your characters are on a journey through a land of light and mystery. Perhaps danger runs as freely as the river alongside their road. Can’t you feel it in the strings, in the herald of the brass singing in the air?

Oh, don’t let the synth take you out of this moment. One of my favorite elements of Two Steps from Hell is their ability to bring voice and synth together with the orchestra. There is a timelessness here, a genre-bending that allows the music to reach those in the future, the past, or an Elsewhere altogether.

Like the sea. Perhaps your characters are not upon the land at all, but upon the water, their ship leaping with the crest of every tumultuous wave as they close in upon the enemy before it can attack the innocents ashore.

Fear is cast overboard as your characters take to the cannons, take to the ropes, take to the enemy’s hull and climb, swords divine with sunlight as they battle the enemy from hull to stern.

Two Steps from Hell have several albums available, and I wish dearly I could review them all here. While all albums are epic, each also carries its own identity. Dragon brings such an air to it through the strings without synth, for instance, while Skyworld embraces that synth to add the presence of technology to the setting. Dragon‘s trilling strings show us the dragon wings beating in large, sweeping motions. It cuts the clouds as the warring windjammers upon the water. When the violins run their scales downwards, you know the dragon is diving…to aid? To conquer? It is up to you, storytellers.

For that is the joy of music such as this. It is up to us to create the story, to share what we see when the story is told. Whether the story takes us on a journey of swashbuckling under the sun or through the shadowed realm of our own grief, music guides us into the unknown on wings of hope.

These are the days where we celebrate Impossiblity’s rightful place in our imaginations. All is never truly lost if we take heart. Even the courage of one soul can be enough to vanquish the darkness and rise a legend.

~STAY TUNED!~

I’m really excited to share my pilot podcast episode next week! We’ll study the story-starts of some fantasy books throughout May–for of course we must–and hopefully by the end of May we’ll know if this hair-brained scheme of mine is, um, you know, going to work, and what have you.

I’ve got a publisher interview coming up as well as some ponderings about names and the importance of oral storytelling in the home. Blondie is also finishing up the illustrations for her story to share here about The Four Realms, which makes my heart smile.

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!