Red Lettering

Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

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July Recap: Realm Makers, Questions, and a New Name

Warning: expect many words and a few pictures, with minimal editing done on either. This is going to be a long post. It’s going to get personal. Bear with me. (Or don’t. I’m not going to force you to read my blog post if you don’t want to.)

Sunday, July 22nd, as the clock inched closer to eleven, we pulled back into our driveway in the darkness. My sister Caitlin, my sister Faith, and I had just traveled nearly ten hours back home from St. Louis, back home from Realm Makers. The last hour of the drive, I finally realized that I was, in fact, exhausted. That need for rest expressed itself in shivers and a feeling of frigidity that denied the warmth of the summer night.

In the previous fourteen days, I had changed my social media branding entirely from one name to another. I finally checked off the last piece of writing advice that you’re told so very often: attend a conference. I had met friends who mean the world to me, in spite of their distance from my house, and met an author who was (and still is) one of the most influential people in my writing journey. I traveled farther than ever before; drove farther than ever before; juggled before an audience for the first time (it was the aforementioned friends, but it counts!). I learned I would be published for the first time. And the time finally came for me to address the questions that had been circulating quietly in my head for the last year and a half.

 

PART ONE: NAMES

For as long as I’ve been looking for writing advice, I’ve seen the same pieces given over and over again: show don’t tell. Keep reading. Keep writing – just finish the novel! Go to a writers conference.

For years it was implausible at best, though every year I knew people who were going to conferences. First, the Florida Christian Writers Conference; then Realm Makers, a bizarre little niche market conference which was exactly what I wrote. Last year at the end of July, I applied for a job at a local Chick-fil-A, because next time Realm Makers came around, I was going to be there.

 

 

When I registered for Realm Makers, I waffled back and forth over whether to use my real name, or the name by which I’m known: Athelas Hale. I’ve been using Athelas since 2011: it’s been a part of my writing identity since the day I began to write publicly, and all of my connections have been made under that pseudonym. To go to Realm Makers, a professional writing setting, would be to set that name in stone. Though it could be changed at a later date, it would be more easier to do it earlier, rather than later.

I decided to stick with it. I set it to be the display name on my name-tag and ordered business cards. They arrived with time to spare. All was well.

July 12th, less than a week before the day we would leave for Realm Makers, I was talking to my friend Jessi and she brought up the very uncomfortable question: “I wonder if the word athelas is copyrighted.”

I had become so comfortable with it as a name that I never thought to look it up.

July 12th, less than a week before the day we would leave, I scrambled to order new business cards because, as it turned out, it was time for me to switch over to my real name. The Tolkien Estate had made the decision for me.

Re-ordering also allowed me to fix some color issues that appeared during printing.

Hi. I’m Kira Thomas. It’s nice to meet you.

Remarkably, my new business cards arrived on time. Vistaprint, y’all – A+ printing and shipping time.

Six o’ clock Wednesday morning rolled around, and we pulled out, raindrops collecting on our windshields, our hearts full of anticipation and nerves.

PART TWO: QUESTIONS

 

“Juggler Extraordinaire,” my name tag read. Because, first of all, this is a spec fic writers conference – did they really expect anyone to put a simple “writer” or “editor” in the title section? Anyone there could safely assume that I’m a writer, and juggling is without question one of my more interesting and extraordinary skills.

But both important, and more understated: the last few years have been tough for me when it comes to writing. I’ve had good months and bad months; but mostly bad. Frustration built up, and at one point last year I told a friend, “I feel kind of like I’ve reached the point in my writing journey where I know so much about writing, that I can’t write anymore.”

Eventually, it led back to that old familiar question: am I supposed to be writing at all?

When I put my information into the Realm Makers registration page, I was no longer comfortable calling myself a writer.

Was I at Realm Makers to learn the craft, to meet new people, to see old friends? Yeah.

I was also there to find an answer to this question.

Opening day, they made the statement (and I don’t remember now who was speaking): “You are here for a reason, and you have questions. We can’t answer those questions for you, but we are here to help you find the answers.”

Soon after we got our schedules, I circled all of the classes I would be taking. The M&Ms were just there for decoration.

Thursday evening, we sat in on the Flash Critique Session. Weeks earlier, I had submitted a 300-word short story as part of the competition. Each of the ten submitted stories were read aloud by Scott Minor (except the first, which was read by a plucky volunteer because no one could find Scott), and then a panel of judges gave their critiques, both the good and the bad.

Seven stories were read and critiqued. I agreed with some of the critiques; I disagreed with some. I recognized the names of many of the authors, and appreciated many of their stories in various ways.

Eight stories were read, and I began to wonder if they were going to read mine. Was it not chosen as one of the ten? Did they hate it? Did it stray too far from their theme?

Nine stories were read. The night was growing late.

“The Dragon in the Wood,” Scott Minor said, in that Alfred Wilberwale voice of his, “by Athelas Hale.”

“You broke all the rules,” the first gentleman on the panel said when my story was read, “but you did it really well.”

I went to bed exhausted and happy that night, ready for the next day.

I attended Sharon Hinck’s continuing session class: “Faith-Infused and Faith-Fueled Writing.” The first morning, she told us that she would share some of her personal story, but not yet. We are writers, and we know better than to dump a lot of backstory at the beginning. The backstory would come on Saturday, after her two sessions on Friday.

She taught on what our reasons behind writing should be; how we ought to write; who we write for, and whether our writing matters (hint: it does). She spoke on tools of the trade, and how to effectively communicate a message without turning our novels into poorly-done sermons. For the first time, I heard an instructor tell us to double- and triple-check our theology when writing, because it’s never only fiction. When it was applicable, she told us miniature stories of her experience, and how other people have reacted to her books, until her foreshadowing and hints turned into a full-blown origin story during the last session.

But the last session happened on Saturday, and we’re not there yet.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early, and lead rapidly into one of the conference moments I was most anticipating: meeting Bryan Davis. I’ve told before how he’s influenced me as a writer, so I won’t add more words to this already wordy post to rehash that. Suffice to say, after ten years, I was ready to meet him in person.

We walked in, and nearly strolled right past his table because we expected him to be somewhere else. Not my proudest moment.

Introductions happened. We shook hands. I had nothing to say, so I awkwardly hovered around the table, and about twenty minutes later, everyone moved into another room to hear him speak.

I’ve been following him for ten years, so I know nearly all the stories he tells when he speaks. So it was with this speech, but I listened because, even though I know all the stories, sometimes it’s good to hear them again.

He spoke about his own writing journey, from the first book he tried to write, to the rejection notices, to his marketing efforts in the early days of his writing career. Then he told his Autarkeia story, and about some of the responses he’s received from his books. In his story, you can clearly see how God took care of Mr. Davis when he followed the call to write.

And he talked about how speculative fiction matters.

Soon after he left was the final session of Sharon Hinck’s class, where her origin story unfolded. She told us the story of how God called her to write to begin with, how God called her to write after medical issues got in the way, and how God is using her now. “Good theology includes you being valuable, even when you don’t produce,” she told us.

You are building on the foundation of the authors who have come before you, she said, and directed us to think of the most influential books in our lives. The ones that teach us things; the ones that change our direction, or solidify a truth that we needed to know.  

Even though I was listening to her story, my notes from that session don’t cover what she spoke on. Instead, they ramble about what I already knew: that stories are valuable, and speculative fiction can and has changed lives. I’ve known it for so long, and been so familiar with the stories of the authors who have experienced miracles and promptings, that I’ve begun to take it for granted.

From then on, the conference wound down quickly with one presentation after another until it was time for the closing keynote. Mary Weber stood before us all and told a room full of writers: “Writing is not your calling.”

Your calling is to love God, love your family, and love others. 

Sometimes the two intersect, but you weren’t made to write stories and die.

You were made to love people – and if you love people through the writing of your stories, that’s okay, too.

And then she reminded us that our heritage, created in the image of a Creative God, born again as His adopted children, is to be unstoppable creators.

The conclusion from the critique session came in: guys, I’m going to be published in Havok, January of 2019.

And the conference proper ended that night, with only the post-conference workshop to follow.

PART THREE: THE CONFERENCE

My cosplay was Masayi Sairu, from Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s “Golden Daughter“.

To provide a dramatic pause for the continuing narrative, now is the time to insert everything else that happened in the conference before we get around to The Answer.

We walked into the hotel, checked in, and began to look for the stairs to find our room. Before we were a minute into our search, familiar faces came around the corner, and we all but ran into some of my favorite people, headed by the fabulous Katie Grace. There was squealing. There was hugging. There was sentiment.

Then we had to hurry to find our rooms.

The conference was full of faces that are dear to me. My Camp Cabin and my people: Jessi Roberts, Jaye L. Knight, Kara Swanson, Jeneca Zody, Stephanie Warner, Rosalie Valentine, Tricia Mingerink, Savannah Grace, Ashley Townsend. There were some people who I’ve been acquainted with for years, and even a reader of this blog (it was fantastic to see you! I know we only said a few words to each other, but I’m glad you were there!).

I met new people, and accidentally ran into people I’ve followed on Pinterest for years (Meaghan Ward, and Elizabeth Lewis). I met and discussed story ideas with Captain America during the costume banquet (I kid you not: when my sister and I went to stand in line for desert, we found Captain America… at the end of the line). Upon seeing some promo material for this book, I tried to track down the author all day. We finally ran into each other, and I found myself the happy owner of a new book to take home to my little sisters. We discussed aspects of salvation with a friend, and I’m scheduled to duel Lisa Mangum any time now because she hates the ending of the Lord of the Rings.

Carla Hoch’s classes were exactly as fantastic as I expected them to be. I came home from Sharon Hinck’s class with a whole list of all the obstacles we as a class could come up with, and at least three possible solutions for every one of them.

One night, my sister looked at me and quietly observed: “You look happy.”

And I was.

PART FOUR: THE ANSWER?

 

I realized how exhausted I was when, the day after we got home, I started sobbing over something definitely not-sob-worthy, and for the next week, I was tired and cold on most days. I’m still tired.

I came home with my question still swirling in my head, and fully prepared for it to swirl for a good long while. But I also came home with the assurance of something I had known so well, I had all but forgotten: there is value in stories, and – more importantly – God Himself places value in the stories that His people tell.

That assurance makes me feel a whole lot better.

For years, I’ve been of the belief that God calls us to act in love and to serve him wherever we go, however it seems reasonable to us, as we are educated by the Bible. We’ll probably make mistakes and errors in judgement, but in the end, God has this all worked out. We don’t see a lot of prayer and fasting before action with the disciples: we see them say, “God said to preach the word, how about we head twenty miles south to that town over yonder?” They lived what they knew of God’s character.

Maybe God didn’t call me to be a writer. The question will probably stick around for a good long while. Maybe I don’t have to be called to be an author… to be a person who writes.

But for now, I’ve made the decision that I’m going to operate as though He has, under the knowledge that it is good to create stories that give hope to people and glorify his name. When He’s ready for me to stop, He’ll let me know.

For whatever reason, the first year that we were able to make it, the theme of the conference was this: love God, love people, and be honest in your writing. For whatever reason, what I gained from this conference was not new information. It was a constant, steady call to remember what I’ve learned in the past– to call to my attention the personal stories where God has taken writers, picked them up from whatever they were doing before and told them to write. 

WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE THIS BLOG?

I started this blog because, as a young girl, I was very confident in my abilities as a writer. I still am: I know how to identify good writing when I see it, so I can usually self-diagnose whether a piece is good or bad.

But I started this blog to teach others what I know and, right now I feel all taught-out. I know both too much, and too little, to continue teaching.

As of tonight, I don’t know what this blog is going to be. I guess we’ll see together, if you’re interested.

 

END NOTE:

Dear critique panelist:

I have eight semicolons in this blog post. You are absolutely right. I need to use them less.

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Flash Fiction Challenge: “I was Within and Without”

Today I’m participating in Rachelle O’Neil’s Flash Fiction Challenge again. I received a very interesting prompt from Evan White: “I was Within and Without”, a quote from the 1920s novel The Great Gatsby. These words had to be found in my story at some point.

There’s a story behind this story, one of intense procrastination (and time-consuming biology), six or seven hours of working on a story one day, and two stories written from this prompt.

My first story (one with a much grander feel than the one you’re about to read), I wrote over the course of a few days, but mostly I finished it earlier this morning (because, procrastination and biology). When I finished it, it ended up at 2,363 words; 1,363 words longer than the 1,000 word limit for the Flash Fiction Challenge. For several hours, I worked to edit out those 1,363 words. With around 300 more to go, I let my sister (who had read the lengthy original version) read it again. She (indirectly) told me that the original was better.

For the sake of the story… I dropped it. If it was already worse off, I didn’t want to edit out another 300 words. I reverted that story back to the original word count and set it aside. My faithful readers, you may be able to read that story some other time.

By this time, it was around six o’ clock in the evening, three hours past the suggested deadline to post the Flash Fiction pieces. I grasped for new story ideas, came up with something, and because the day was lengthy already, made cookies (readers, cookies are always helpful) before returning and writing this new story that you are about to read.

After editing out a few words on this new Flash Fiction story, I finally have it ready to post here, with apologies to Rachelle for being late, thanks to my sister Faith, for reading my original and letting me know it was better before, and thanks to Katie Grace, for reading over the second story for me to let me know whether or not it was absolutely horrible.

Now that you know the story behind this story, I do hope you enjoy it.

I was Within And Without

  Gusts of wind rushed through the trees, the blasts of air broken only by branches flung by the wind. I ducked around trees, straightening my leather jerkin. He should have known better than to go out today. Everyone spoke of rainstorms or hurricanes, and in the cliff-strewn forests, safe ground didn’t exist. If he wasn’t somewhere dodging flying trees, he probably lay at the bottom of a ravine somewhere.

But then, that’s why I’m here.

I brushed my hair behind my back and cupped my hands around my mouth. “Matthias!”

The rain hit.

I stumbled under the force of it, the wind catching me and blowing me a few steps forward before smacking me into a tree. Water streamed down my face, blurring my vision. Keeping a hold on the tree, I blinked rapidly, scanning the area. “Matthias!

The wind snatched away my voice. I cast a glare upward in irritation. Child, where are you?

“He-elp!”

The voice, worn thin by the force of the wind, barely reached my ears. “Matthias!”

“Help!”

Ducking low and watching for branches, I sprinted toward the voice. I had to duck once under a branch that nearly snagged my hair, and the rain obscured my vision every few seconds.

When I made it to the edge of the cliff, I nearly fell off.

I scrambled back from the edge, breath catching in my throat and my brain snapping sarcastic comments. Moving more carefully, I knelt and peered over the edge.

The rain lashed at the sandstone over a thirty foot drop, tree roots protruding from the surface. Clinging to one of them, battered, rain-sodden, and gripping the strap of a blue backpack, hung Matthias.

My first glimpse of him as a boy showed him as an average twelve-year-old.

“Matthias!” I shouted.

He looked up. “Help!

“Drop the backpack!”

He shook his head, eyes wide and frightened.

I sighed, swept my dripping hair off of my face again, and scanned the surface of the sandstone. “All right,” I said. “Hold on—I’m coming!”

I slid over the edge, carefully placing my feet on roots and ledges in the sandstone. The wind smashed me against the rough wall, stealing my breath, and I dripped almost as much as the sky. Slowly, I made my way downwards, toward Matthias.  As I neared him, I could see the facial features I knew so well; younger, his hair a few shades lighter, but still him. He shivered, clutching the root with all his might.

“Keep holding on,” I said. “I’m coming.”

The wind thrust me against the sandstone and I smacked my chin against the rock. Warmth spurted out, accompanied by sharp pain. I shook water from my eyes and glanced downward.

Matthias still clung to the root.

Something moved on the edge of my vision, and I sucked in a breath. A tree limb careened through the air. I followed it with my eyes, rapidly glancing between it and the expected place of impact.

Matthias.

“Matthias, let go!”

A fall would be better than an assisted one!

Matthias looked up at me, eyes wide. The tree limb jerked in the wind, and I thought for a moment it would miss him.

It jerked back, crashing into the side of his head. His grip on the root released, and he fell.

Cursing under my breath, I scrambled down the sandstone, slipping more often than not and grasping roots to slow my fall. I hit the ground hard, stumbled, and dashed to Matthias.

Red streaked from both sides of his head, where the tree limb hit and where it smashed his face against the rock. I lifted him as best I could, grunting and grabbing his backpack as an afterthought. Surely there was a cave or sheltered area somewhere around here.

It would be just my luck if there wasn’t.

I was Within and Without. Sheltered Within a world by a depression in the ground ringed by sandstone, I fought Without for breath, life, and, if convenient, no lasting brain damage. The darkness fluctuated, sometimes deepening, but he breathed through the night.

Matthias stirred as dawn lit up the eastern sky. I lay on my back a few feet away, sore in a way both physical and far from it. But he lived; I lived. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

Matthias groaned, but as his eyes opened he quieted, gaze darting around. Suppressing a groan of my own, I rose to my feet.

Matthias stared at me for a moment before finally saying, “Thank you.” The fact that he remembered was impressive on its own; the fact that he politely thanked me added to it. “Who are you?”

I smiled, bending over and offering him a hand. “I’m Hope.”

He took it, and I helped him to his feet.

“Matthias,” he mumbled, rubbing the back of his head.

“I know.”

He glanced at me, uncertainty flickering through his eyes.

“Your books are in the bag. I think they might be ruined.”  He looked wide-eyed toward his backpack, and I laughed under my breath. “If you go straight east, you’ll be home in an hour.”

“…Thanks,” he said.

I smiled. His mannerisms, though younger and more uncertain, were as familiar to me as breathing. I took a deep breath and reached into my jerkin, withdrawing a small blue orb. “Here.”

He took it, turning it over in his hands before looking back at me.

I stared into his equally blue eyes, solemn enough that he gave me his full attention. “You’re going to save the world someday, Matthias Wendell. Don’t forget it. Learn how to use that. When you’re done with it, give it to a little girl named Nadine.”

With an irritated push at my damp hair, I turned and started toward the opening in the rock.

“Hope,” Matthias called, and I turned back. He paused. “Nadine means hope.”

I smiled and nodded. “You’re right.” With another nod and a wave, I turned and jogged off into the forest.

 

Half Blood Cover Reveal (and GIVEAWAY)

In but a few months, Jaye L. Knight, author of the Ilyon Chronicles (Resistance and The King’s Scrolls), will be releasing her prequel novella, Half Blood.

Just looking at the cover, my heart is preparing to be shattered into a million tiny fragments. We’ll all be crying at this one…

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00026]

About the Book

The gasps and murmuring grew. Though some were hardly more than whispers, clear words reached Jace’s ears—dangerous, monster, animal, soulless. He tried to back away from their accusing eyes, but the collar pulled hard against his throat and held him in place.

For all his years as a slave, Jace has known nothing but the hatred people hold for his mixed blood—one half human, the other half the blood of a race considered monsters. Always, he is the outsider and quickly learns it is better to keep to himself. But, when his volatile ryrik blood leads him to do the unthinkable, he is thrown into a world of violence and bloodshed.

Forced to become a gladiator, Jace finds more and more of his heart dying as his master works to break down his will not to become the monster everyone believes he is. When a stranger interferes with his master’s harsh punishment, Jace’s world is upended yet again. But with it comes the possibility of hope that has long since died. Could the man possibly hold the key to escaping the hopeless darkness that is Jace’s life? Is there such a thing as life beyond the cruelty of slavery?

See where Jace’s story all began . . .

Coming This Summer
Are you aware of just how awesome this is going to be? If you haven’t read Resistance and The King’s Scrolls, I suggest that you do so. IMMEDIATELY. In fact, if you wish to read my reviews for them, you can read them here: Resistance and The King’s Scrolls.
For those of you who have read them, you should add Half Blood to your Goodreads so we can all appreciate how awesome it’s going to be, together.

goodreads

About the Author

JayeAuthorPhotoJaye L. Knight is an award-winning author, homeschool graduate, and shameless tea addict with a passion for Christian fantasy. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

You can connect with Jaye on her website, blog, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

 

Giveaway

As part of a month long celebration for the one year publication anniversary of Resistance (Ilyon Chronicles – Book 1), Jaye is giving away several fun prizes! Enter for a chance to win using the form below! U.S. entries only please.

(You can also visit the other awesome sites hosting the cover reveal)
A Writer’s Faith
Morgan Elizabeth Huneke
A Writer’s Heart
Thoughts and Rants
Written Rest
To Be A Person
Tialla’s Tellings
The American Anglophile
Knitted By God’s Plan
Elvish Pens, Fantastical Writings
Pencils Can Change The World
Crafty Booksheeps
Zerina Blossom’s Books
Ryebrynn’s Random Ramblings
Through the Realm of Dreams
Red Lettering
Leah’s Bookshelf
The Official Website of Brent King
Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections
Shattered Fractals
Flights from the Aerie
E. Rawls
The Pen of a Ready Writer
Scattered Journal Pages
Sutori no Hana
The Art of Storytelling
poetree

Get to Know Your Characters Responses: Right-Hand Man

Get to Know Your Characters Right-Hand ManHappy Thursday, readers! With blog tours and the conclusion of the Get to Know Your Characters challenge, today has been an exciting day here at the blog. Do take the time to visit (and perhaps comment) on the exceptional pieces below!

By Gabrielle Massman

Prompts Chosen:

  • Your villain’s right-hand man is between three and ten. Write something that shows what their life was like at that point.
  • Write about the time when your villain and his right-hand man (or woman) met.
  • Your character has lost something important—what is it, where is it, and why do they need it?

The Unmaking, by Natasha Roxby

Prompt Chosen:

  • Write about the time when your villain and his (or her) right-hand man (or woman) met.

By Alea Harper

Prompt Chosen

  • Your character has lost something importantwhat is it, where is it, and why do they need it?

Choices, by Katie Grace

Prompt Chosen

  • Your character has lost something importantwhat is it, where is it, and why do they need it?

By Jessica Lockwood

Prompt Chosen

  • Write about the time when your villain and his (in this case, random minion) met.

By Jessi L. Roberts

Prompt Chosen

  • Write about a year before the start of your story.

By Faith Song

Prompt Chosen

  • Write about a time when your villain and right-hand man were interacting normally. Let us know how they talk to each other, what sort of friendship (or enmity) they have.

By—me!

Prompts Chosen

  •    Your villain’s right-hand man is between three and ten. Write something that shows what their life was like at that point.
  • Write about the time when your villain and his (or her) right-hand man (or woman) met.

These two are my villain, and his right-hand man, from the not-yet-begun novel, By the Light of Five Stars. 

Note: The word “Thond” means father. (If you’re curious as to why I used “Mama” instead of creating a word for that: “mama” is a title or endearing term for mother found in many different languages that could not possibly have borrowed from each other. I figured that, if it’s found so frequently in our world, it could very likely be found in another, too. 


 

The shrill, desperate cry of a baby filled the air.

Mathio cringed, drawing in a breath sharp enough to sting his lungs with the cold air. Mama had said that the baby would cry, that it was a good thing—but his mind could not help but flashing back to when this had happened last time. Tumo had cried and could not stop until the day before they buried him.

“It won’t be that way this time,” he reminded himself fiercely under his breath. “It won’t. The baby will be okay.”

Only the frost witnessed the break in his voice.

Backing up against the wall of the midwife’s house, Mathio squeezed his eyes shut, wrapping his arms around his thick coat. Thond would be out any minute now to tell him about the baby. Mama wouldn’t know that Mathio had trekked across the town to get to the midwife’s house when he was supposed to be at home, but Thond would know—fathers always seemed to know.

Across town, a confused rooster crowed—dawn would not come for hours, but apparently the rooster did not know it.

To the right of Mathio, the latch clicked and the midwife’s door opened. His breath catching in his throat, Mathio pivoted toward the door.

He was latching his arms around Thond’s waist before his father even managed to get half-way out the door.

“Whoah,” Thond murmured, sliding further out of the door. “Someone is eager.”

Sniffing, Mathio nodded. “Is the baby good?”

“Very,” Thond said.

Mathio stepped back to peer up at Thond’s face, voice dropping to a whisper. “The baby isn’t going to die?”

“No, Mathio,” Thond said. “He won’t die.”

A rush of relief flooded through Mathio, the tension draining out of his muscles. If Thond said the baby would not die, the baby would live.

“It’s a—a boy?” He asked.

Thond smiled, but the moonlight illuminating his face revealed the wrinkle in his brow. “Yes,” he said. “A boy.”

“Can I meet him?”

“In just a moment,” Thond said. Taking Mathio’s hand, he guided him to the door and sat upon the step, staring into Mathio’s face.

Panic gripped Mathio again, and he reached out with his free hand to wrap it around Thond’s strong, warm one. “The baby is going to be all right—”

“Yes, yes,” Thond’s deep voice murmured.

“Then—,” Mathio started.

“Don’t worry,” Thond said.

Mathio swallowed hard and tried not to worry.

“The baby’s name is Essien,” Thond said, voice soft yet seemingly loud against the relative quiet of a sleeping city. “He is the third son.”

Mathio waited for Thond to continue, but Thond only looked at him, quiet.

The weight of his father’s words hit Mathio like an invisible punch in the stomach. “He—he will get the stars?”

“When he turns twelve,” Thond quietly confirmed.

“But—” Exhausted tears pricked at Mathio’s eyes. “But they’ll hurt him like they hurt you.”

“He’ll be all right,” Thond murmured, pulling Mathio into his arms. Mathio hid his face in Thond’s shoulder, biting his tongue to keep the despair from washing over him.

But Thond had said the baby—Essien—wouldn’t die. Thond had to be right.

“You’ll look out for him, won’t you?” Thond said, his voice vibrating Mathio.

Not raising his head, Mathio nodded. “Always.”

Pulling back, Mathio looked up at Thond’s face.

His father smiled and stood. “Wait here,” he murmured.

Biting his lip, Mathio nodded, not taking his eyes off of Thond as he opened the door, stepped inside, and closed it behind himself.

Squeezing his eyes shut, Mathio tried to envision what his brother’s face would look like. The images flashing across his mind matched only babies that he knew already; boys and girls he could name. Surely Essien would look different from that.

The door opened again. Inching backwards, Mathio tried to quell the nervousness rising up inside of him. Thond stepped out, a bundle of blue cloth cradled in one arm, a candlestick clasped in his other hand. His reassuring smile lit up by candlelight, Thond crouched, nodding for Mathio to approach.

Swallowing, Mathio stepped forward, peering into the face of his brother.

Eyes closed, face illuminated by the flickering candle, Essien’s tiny, beautiful face forced a jolt through Mathio’s heart.

Silently, he vowed that he would never—never leave his brother’s side.

“Essien,” he whispered, testing out the name. “Essien?”

Though Essien’s eyes did not open, Mathio could have sworn his tiny lips turned upward in the faintest smile.

 

 

 

 

 

Get to Know Your Characters Challenge: Right-Hand Man

Get to Know Your Characters Right-Hand Man

Happy Tuesday, readers! And ’tis indeed a happy Tuesday, for today is a day of announcement for a new Get to Know Your Characters (in blue this time! Isn’t that splendid?).

What is it?

GTKYC is a trimonthly challenge to discover more about your various characters while stretching your proverbial writing muscles. It’s a challenge open to anyone who wants to jump on board, be they young or old, or somewhere in between.

How does it work? 

Anyone who wishes to participate in the challenge picks a character from one of their stories. Each GTKYC Challenge has a specific character type — in this case, The villain’s right-hand man. (If your villain is more of a loner type, feel free to do the villain himself,  or if your villain has no right-hand man, you can do a former best friend, current best friend, random minion #87, or basically whatever you want).

The participants have sixteen days to create work in any medium they like (poetry, prose, even film if you’re feeling brave) about their character, choosing a scenario from The List Provided Below to write about. Post your work on your blog, and leave a link in the comments or email it to me (craftingstoriesinred(at)gmail(dot)com) and I will post all links to participating blogs in a follow-up post. That post will go live at the end of the challenge, on February 19th, and will also contain my responses to the challenge. Because I’m posting them on my blog, I request that all stories be clean. I do have some young readers.

If you do not have a blog, you can post your response in the comments of this blog post and I’ll link back to your comment and let people know it’s here so they can check it out.

Post your response at any point from now to Thursday, February 19th. If you can, please get the link to me by the 18th.

Why should you do it? 

Well, because knowing your characters is important! You can also get a chance to share about your awesome characters, exercise writing muscles, get feedback from other writers, and have a chance to publicize your blog right here!

The List Provided Below

Feel free to do more than one, or mix and match scenarios!

  • Your villains right-hand man is between three and ten. Write something that shows what their life was like at that point.
  • Write about the time when your villain and his (0r her) right-hand man (or woman) met.
  • Write about a time when your villain and right-hand man were interacting normally. Let us know how they talk to each other, what sort of friendship (or enmity) they have.
  • Write about a year before the start of your story.
  • Your character has lost something importantwhat is it, where is it, and why do they need it?

I look forward to meeting your villain’s second-in-commands over the next sixteen days. If you have any questions, feel free to comment!

 

 

Get to Know Your Characters Challenge Responses: Antagonists

Get to Know Your Characters ChallengeToday is Thursday, readers—Thursday the 16th. As promised, the Get to Know Your Characters: Antagonist closes today, with some exceptional pieces of work from a couple of different writers. Do go check out their work, and I’m sure they would love to have you comment!

First Blood, by Michael Hollingworth

Prompt Chosen: Write about the first time your villain killed or ordered the death of someone.

So Easy, by Beckah (Ghost Ryter)

Prompt Chosen: Write about the first time your villain killed or ordered the death of someone.

Untitled, by Katie Grace

Prompt Chosen: Your antagonist is between three and ten. Write something that represents their life at that point.


I decided to write something with my villain from IOTW. It brought up a slightly awkward question of what exactly to call him; he gave my protagonist four choices when she first asked his name. Eventually I decided to call him what he’s called in the novel for the sake of continuity, but at one point in the story he refers to himself by another one of his names. The majority of the time he’s called Rais, but in his thoughts, he calls himself Rashad.  Before you reach this point and give me the look, know that it wasn’t an accident.

This was a very interesting thing for me to write. Since IOTW is in first person, I never had the chance to go this far into my villain’s point of view prior to this. Though he’s changed slightly between this time and the novel, it was nice to be able to get a feel for his character. 

The prompt I chose:

  • Write about when your antagonist moved into his place of current residence.

Darkness.

Nothing but darkness as far as Rais could see. Slowly, he lifted himself upon bleeding hands, raising himself onto his knees, though nothing was beneath him to support his weight.

“No,” he whispered, the word punctuated by his heartbeat thudding in his ears. “No, it didn’t happen. It. Didn’t.”

Not even an echo drifted back to him. He remained completely and entirely alone.

His thoughts chased themselves around in his head, none quite becoming comprehensible, all of them filled with the desperation he tried to push back within himself.

…it should have worked…

   … he must have been dying…

    …not wrong… I could not have been…

   …Why?…

   Carefully, Rais climbed to his feet, allowing his eyes to slide shut so they would not continue straining to see. He knew there would be no light. His whole body screamed pain at him and he could feel the damp of blood and sweat, but he remained on his feet. Rais inhaled slowly through his nose and let it out through his mouth, shaping his face into the smile he had become so used to wearing.

He could do this. He knew he could manage, if only he could stay calm.

If time had been even vaguely measurable, standing there for a long moment might perhaps have worked. As it was, Rais was more aware of the lack of time than of the steady breathing in-breathing-out pattern, and abruptly he collapsed onto his knees again, beating at nothing with his fists as the desperation welled up inside of himself.

“No!” He shouted. “No, I did not fail!”

The silence did not even have the decency to answer as it would have in a world.

Slowly, Rais allowed himself to sink down lower onto the ground. His heart slammed against his ribcage and the silence magnified the sound of his breathing until it seemed almost deafening.

Light. Rais scrambled to his feet, his entire body shaking. He needed light.

Peeling his eyelids open, he stared out into the complete darkness surrounding him. He could see nothing, no matter how hard his eyes strained.

You must know how to do this, he said, mentally adopting his slightly patronizing tone to speak to himself. Think, Rashad.

  Rais closed his eyes again, balling his hands into fists and ignoring the pain that shot up his arms. Light danced across the inside of his eyelids, teasing him with it’s lack of existence. Slowly the correct words came to his mind, and though it made his gut twist further into a knot, he whispered them.

“In case you ever have to form a half-world,” he had been taught. “This is how you go about it. One step at a time, eh? Keep it easy, though. No cementing. Keep it changeable. Your world, eh? Your commands oughta keep working whenever you give ’em.”

    He could feel the energy draining out of his body, but he kept his eyes squeezed shut, forcing himself to continue. It would work—it had to.

They thought they could imprison him. Idiots—he could do this. He could bend the prison to his own will.

Light flashed through his closed eyelids, staining them red as blood. He opened his eyes, gasping for breath as he saw the sun, the complete, glorious desert sun, beginning to rise on the horizon.

Perhaps it was fake—he didn’t know for sure, but he could see light. It was all that mattered.

Rais collapsed, the entirety of his energy spent, but he did not close his eyes; he remained staring up into the sun that belonged in the early morning desert sky. It already gave off enough heat to bake anything that happened to fall beneath the rays of light, but Rais did not care.

“You did not succeed,” he whispered, his lips scarcely moving. “I will not stay here. I will save it.”

He closed his eyes, letting the light that shone from nothing and onto nothing wash over him, his lips now moving soundlessly as he let the exhaustion and the effects of the injuries take over. “You cannot stop me from saving the desert.”

 

 

 

Get to Know Your Characters Challenge: Antagonist

Get to Know Your Characters Challenge

 

Good afternoon, folks. Today is the day that Get to Know Your Characters returns; hopefully with a better picture this time, and a more official way of doing things.

From this point on, Get To Know Your Characters has turned tri-monthly. Every three months, on the first Tuesday of the month, bloggers are challenged to write something about the specified character type from their novels (whether works-in-progress or finished) and post it on their blogs. The point of the challenge is to help authors learn more about their characters through writing prose, exploring situations in character’s past with their pen (or keyboard).

Those participating in the challenge write up their bit of writing, post it on their blogs (or in the comment section of this post, if they don’t have a blog or would prefer to not post it on their blogs) on or before October 16  (preferably before, but life can be life, so it’s best to have a “or”) and send me the link to their posts. Sixteen days after the challenge was issued, the blog post will go up here with my piece of writing and with a link to the post of every person participating.

The character-type for this month: Antagonist.

The way of doing things: Pick a topic from this list and write something 100 words or more and post it on your blog.  (Feel free to mix and mash topics, or do more than one, if you wish!)

  • Your antagonist is between three and ten. Write something that represents their life at that point.
  • Write about a year before the start of your novel.
  • Write about the first time your villain killed or ordered the death of someone (bonus points if you focus on how it made them feel).
  • Your antagonist and his/her best friend, brother or sister, or second-in-command are talking about something completely random of your choice, within the past year.
  • Write about when your antagonist moved into his place of current residence (then again, maybe I’m the only one interested in seeing the villain moving into his lair).

BONUS: Write about the day or night before your antagonist was born. It’s slightly random, but sometimes it’s interesting to explore what was going on at that time.

The Challenge closes on October 16, so you must have your piece of writing posted and the link sent to me by or before that date. You an email the link to me or post it in the comments here.  (If you do decide to post it on that date, it’s best if you get it to me before noon, that way I can be sure to have it when I post the blog post.)

Over the next sixteen days, I look forward to being able to meet your antagonists.

 

 

Get to Know Your Characters Challenge — Responses

Get to know your characters challenge protagonist

 

It’s Monday. Late Monday, though I planned on posting it earlier today, but as long as it’s before midnight, it’s not too terribly late, I suppose.

As those who read last Tuesday’s post know, this blog was the origin for a challenge: to write about your protagonist’s past from a list of ideas. Not many people participated this time around, but those who did made it worth it.

The Participants 

Katie – Cousins in Christ *

Emily Fisher – Posted Hers In the Comments of Tuesday’s Post.

Alyssa – Alyssa should post hers in the same place Emily did, on the comments of last Tuesday’s post.*

*These stories aren’t posted yet, but don’t fear. Watch. They will be seen.

 

My Snippet

I’m afraid what I wrote is not very good, and, indeed, might make “mediocre” look bad, had not a friend helped me with some editing. Read on, and do know that this is certainly not the best I’ve ever written. However, you get to meet two of my protagonists from my top-secret novel, IOTW. Nothing this detailed about them and their story has ever ended up on the internet before now.

I decided to mix these three prompts into the same story:

  • Write about your protagonist celebrating a major holiday, such as Christmas or New Year’s Day.
  • Write about a year before the adventure started.
  • Write about interaction with a childhood friend–while in childhood, or what would happen when the two met again after several years of not seeing each other.

Clumps of snow clung to my hair, stinging my already burning face whenever I moved my head. My smile had become too big for my cheeks, my face told me, and now it hurt as a consequence. I slumped onto the ground, leaning against the wall of my house. Nathaniel sat next to me, a grin firmly on his face.

I took a breath slowly. His bombardment of snowball were more than my lungs had agreed to put up with.  They decided to let only a small portion of the usual air in, intent on making me sit.

At least Nathaniel had suggested resting, not I.

Slowly, my breath returned and I pulled at my hair, dropping bits of snow onto the hard-packed ice beneath us. “Merry Christmas Eve,” I said. Bouncing, I added, “Papa said my cousins will be coming. Then everyone will be home.”

Nathaniel looked at me, his smile fading slightly. Drawing his knees up to his chest, he dipped his head in what might have been intended to look like a nod. “Merry Christmas Eve,” he said.

My forehead tied itself into small knots, and I leaned forward. “What’s wrong?”

Nathaniel blinked a few times, shaking his head. “Nothing.”

His answer came too quickly to be comforting, but I let it go. “Good.”

He smiled faintly, turning his gaze onto the snow beside his glove-clad hand. I watched him for a brief moment, then turned away and looked at the sun, dipping dangerously close to the horizon. “We’d better go inside.”

Nathaniel’s gaze stayed fixed on the invisible, fascinating thing on the snow. I sighed. “Nathaniel? Come on, it’s Christmas Eve. Let’s not do this today.”

Ever since I had known Nathaniel, he had moments where he seemed to be somewhere far away. Most of the time, it passed quickly. Every now and then, he would stay that way for hours.

He blinked, inhaling slowly. “I’m sorry. What were you saying?”

I let a smile break out over my face. “It’s okay. It’s going to be night soon, though.”

He let his gaze wonder to the Western sky, then got to his feet. “I’ll race you around the house again.”

I blinked, then lurched upright. “Okay, go!”

Mama called my name, and I glanced over to the door as she stepped out. I let my shoulders sag, though secretly I felt glad to avoid more running. “I guess we better go in now.”

Nathaniel nodded, brushing snow off of himself.

“We’re ready,” Mama called. I glanced at Nathaniel, then darted to the door. Nathaniel jogged after me.

Mama waited until we were both at the door before opening it, stepping back inside. I stepped in, followed by Nathaniel. He tugged the door shut after himself.

I had not realized how cold I was until I stepped into the warm house. Nathaniel grinned at me, sliding his coat off and brushing the snow onto the rug in front of the door.

“Just hang it up,” Mama said from across the room. “We’ll clean it up later.”

Nathaniel glanced at her and did as he was told.

I fumbled with my buckles with numb fingers. When Mama made me the coat, she thought it too big for an eleven year-old girl like me, but I had insisted I could manage.

Well, when I haven’t frozen my fingers, I can manage.

The buckle came loose, and I worked my way through all the others, finally removing my coat and hanging it on the peg on the wall. My scarf I left in my hair to keep it away from my face, but my shoes quickly found themselves on the floor beneath my coat.

Picking my way around the various things that lay scattered in my way, I moved to sit next to Papa, looking over his shoulder at the well-worn Bible in his hands.

Nathaniel sat next to me and Marshall took the opportunity to sit on him. “Hol’ me, ‘Than’il?”

Nathaniel looked at Mama, and she nodded. He shifted Marshall until he sat still, then wrapped his arms around him and looked at Papa.

Papa glanced around once, then started. “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.”

The wind pushed against the ground, the cold from the snow and night air bothering it not a bit. Whooshing into the air and pushing against the faces of the boy and the girl’s father, the wind carried the cold with it in order to bother them.

    The girl’s father slowed, and the wind dashed away, observing what held his interest. “Are you sure you won’t stay with us tonight?”

    The wind pushed at the scrawny branches of nearby trees, then moved forward and entered the small house. Cold immediately greeted it, the house’s walls hardly held in place by now.

   Turning attention back to the girl’s father and the boy, the wind slid back to the ground again. The boy gave it a look, but the wind knew that, though the boy could see and hear the wind like the girl’s father could not, the boy would never address the wind. “No,” he said. “I’ll be fine. I know it doesn’t look very good, but the inside is warm enough. Thank you for letting me come over for dinner.”

   The girl’s father smiled, but the wind caught the doubtful look he cast the house. The wind’s amusement took the form of blown snow across the ground. The wind knew they had done this before, many times.  “It was my pleasure, Nathaniel.”

   The boy’s smile touched his face, but not, the wind noticed, his eyes. “Good night.”

   “Good night.”

   The boy made his way toward the house, and the wind left the girl’s father in peace, moving after the boy as he opened the door and stepped inside.

   He stopped, then smiled, inclining his head. “Lytton,” he said.

   The wind whispered to itself. The man, again, was here. The wind had not expected him to come this year, though he came every year at Christmas. Of course, the wind felt no surprise.

   The boy moved into the house, closing the door and moving to sit cross-legged before the man. The man sat on the floor, looking at the boy.

    For a moment, a long silence passed, broken only by the wind against the floor and the trees outside. The man glanced at the wind, a small smile tugging at his lips, but he, like the boy, did not address it. Instead, he turned to the boy, slowly inhaling.

   The boy up from the floor to meet the man’s gaze.

   “I wish you would come home.”

   The boy, the wind knew—for the wind knew a great many things—had not expected that. “I… I can’t.”

   The man leaned back, and the disappointment the wind knew he held remained far from his face.

   The silence stretched again until, finally, the boy leaned forward, dark eyes bright. “Tell me about it again?”

   The man smiled—for real this time, the wind noted with much whooshing about the room. “The night had long since fallen, but the sky was lit up still. They slept while we were there, and He alone knows we were present.”

   “You came to see Him?”

  “Yes,” the man said softly, eyes lost in the memory. “And we did. After the shepherds had left, we saw Him sleeping as a baby.”

— 

Well that is it. Now, I have a question for you: Did you enjoy this challenge, and do you like the idea of it? Would you be willing to participate if I did another? Would you like to see it return, or should this be a one-time thing? I need your comments now, more than ever.

This next part should get a prize for randomness. For the past week or so, I’ve been trying to decide if I want to post a link to a story I entered in the contest. Finally, I’ve decided that I should. You readers are getting the first look you’ve had into my writing, and I feel I ought to let you know that my writing isn’t always like the above bit. So, I present to you a story I wrote, which you can read here (mine is all the way at the bottom). I hope you enjoy it and the other stories… The others are so very good.

Get To Know Your Characters Challenge – Protagonist

Happy Tuesday, readers. For those of you concerned that this post signals the end of all character interviews on Red Lettering, don’t worry. We’ll resume the normal posting schedule with character interviews two weeks from today.

Today, though, seemed like a good day to test-run an idea of mine. Somehow, it seemed fitting to do it on a character interview day, not only because everybody gets excited about character interviews and I hope to have people look at this, but because in a way, I get to do something similar to interviewing all of your characters.

 

Get to know your characters challenge protagonistEven though tags and challenges abound in the blogging community, very few focus on what we writers do best: write. Occasionally, people will do character and writing-related tags, but those are few and far between. And so, I thought, what if there was a challenge to help writers develop their writing skills while learning more about their characters?

What if there was a challenge on someone’s blog where people would be challenged to pick a couple of options from a list, and write about their protagonist’s past?

Here’s How it Works

If you’re willing to participate, pick one or more challenges from the list below and post your completed snippet-type stories about your protagonists on your blog this coming Monday (July 28). Steal the picture and leave a link back here, and leave a comment on this post sometime between now and Sunday with the link to your blog. I’ll include a list of all participating blogs with links when I post my challenge snippets on Monday.

 

The List

  • Write  about your protagonist from when he or she was between three and ten. Write something short that represents how their life was that point.
  • Write about your protagonist celebrating a major holiday, such as Christmas or New Year’s Day.
  • Write about a major turning point in your character’s life: the death of a loved one, a point where they find out a secret that changes their life, ect.
  • Write about a year before the adventure started.
  • Write about interaction with a childhood friend–while in childhood, or what would happen when the two met again after several years of not seeing each other.
  • Write about when your character first interacted with your villain. (This for those who have already met their villains.)

Interested? Want to get to know your protagonist better and exercise your writing muscles? Want to absolutely make my day? I’d absolutely love to have you participate. The longer the list of participating blogs posted on Monday, the better.

Note: Those of you who don’t have blogs, but would like to participate anyway, can leave their challenge snippets in the comments on this post or the other.

Why Do You Write?

I ran a thousand miles for you

Knowing you would break My heart

And I  would do it all again

Because I couldn’t stand to be apart…

~J.J Heller, “Red Against Your Black”

It’s not that He knew that we might, possibly, maybe turn away and spit on the face of the One who had come to save us. He knew we would.

“‘For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD;’ so turn, and live.”

Isaiah 18:32

While I may not know you
I bet I know you
Wonder sometimes, does it matter at all?
Well let me remind you, it all matters just as long
As you do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you,
Cause he made you
To do

Every little thing that you do
To bring a smile to His face
Tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every thing you do

Steven Curtis Chapman, “Do Everything”

 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

1 Peter 4:10, NIV

Go, tell it on the mountain,

Over the hills and everywhere

Go, tell it on the mountain,

That Jesus Christ is born.

John Wesley Work Jr, “Go Tell it on the Mountain.”

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

Romans 10:14, ESV

“Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That, after all, is the case.”

-Annie Dillard

 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Mark 16:15-16

I write for love.

 I write for those who are not forgotten.

For those who are looking for Truth.

For those who have closed their eyes.

Because hope is not dead, and there is still a God who changes lives.

Why do you write?

(For those wondering, this is like a super-condensed version of this post on my other blog.)

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