Sunday, October 31, 2010

Novel in Progress: The Fey Kingdom

This beautiful image, titled "Pool of Potential", was created by Michael Orwick, and is posted at

I have started work on a fantasy novel. The plot elements come to me in snatches and spurts.

The first chapter introduces a brother and sister in their teens. They are eagerly awaiting the arrival of "the tale-spinners", who are wandering bands of storytellers from the four points of the compass.

It is considered an honor to be selected to join a band of these storytellers. Merilbeth, who loves to listen to, as well as tell, stories, dreams of joining their ranks one day...

Chapter 1: The Tale-Spinners of the North

Every spring they came down from the mountains, striding along like lofty, proud trees. Some carried harps on their backs, to accompany their storytelling. Others, of a more practical bent, carried bows and quivers full of arrows, although game was scarce in the higher ridges at that time of year. All of them used walking staffs, as the wizards did when they deigned to venture forth among mere mortals.

It was the spring of my seventeenth year in the world when at last they arrived in our valley.

Erik was the first to see them, from his dangerous perch on the tallest tree, far from the outskirts of our village. We could hear his excited shouts as he ran toward us, we who sat, patiently – and, in my case, not so patiently – washing and drying clothes on the riverbanks.

“The tale-spinners are coming!” His voice, strong and sure for a lad just turned thirteen, flew across the distance, echoing, it seemed, throughout the valley.

I had to stifle a sudden rush of envy, and was unsurprised by it. Pulling irritably on the long skirts that had inexplicably snagged on a dry branch, I plunged my hands yet again into the cold river water, scrubbing until the pain lanced up my arms, all the way up to my shoulders.

“Merilbeth!” His voice was much closer now.

“Merilbeth!” My irritation grew as he repeated my name, his voice dancing like pinpricks along my nerves. It was not often that my brother affected me thus.   I glanced up in his direction with what I hoped would be a studiously bored look.


His excitement was, I had to admit, infectious. I tried to stifle a grin as I looked down again and continued scrubbing, pretending to be totally engrossed in my work.

“Didn't you hear me?” He panted, trying to recover his breath.

I said nothing. Not to be discouraged, as was his wont, he leaned down over me, and shook my shoulder.

“What, are you not excited? The tale-spinners are here! I saw them myself! You’ve been waiting for the news for months, have you not?”

I remained silent, although I could no longer hide my grin.

With an exasperated sigh, my younger brother sat down next to me.

“I see your smile, “ he announced triumphantly. Then he frowned as he went on. “And yet, you do not seem happy at the news.”

Sighing, I stopped my scrubbing, and turned to look at him. My arms ached, and I welcomed a rest.

“I heard you, Erik,” I said finally.

“Then why….?” He pressed, but stopped as I abruptly glowered at him.

“Don't you see?” I hissed at him, my poor, gentle brother.   He took no offense, laughing as he cuffed me playfully on the shoulder.

“It is not your fault, of course,” I continued, regretting my behavior at once. "You don’t have to wash and dry clothes at the river every week, instead of looking out for tale-spinners.”

“Oh,” he replied, laughing once more. “Were I a female, I think I would detest this chore, also.”

I joined in his laughter. He certainly understood far more than our parents did. They held traditional expectations for their only daughter.

“But are you not happy that they have arrived at last?” His voice rose once more, and he pulled on my arm, gently. “You always used to ask and ask when they would appear, when I was smaller. Don't you remember how you would tell me some of their tales, at night, in the rafters, when you thought no one would hear?”

I had a sharp intake of breath, and my eyes widened in alarm. “And did they?”

He smiled. “No, f do not believe they ever did. But I have always wondered how you were able to store as many tales as you did in your memory. You never forgot a detail, either.”

I shrugged, blushing a little. I was so unaccustomed to praise of any sort.

“I don’t know…the tales were all so wonderful, so full of adventure, that I could not help but remember them.”

He grinned suddenly, and started to pull me to my feet.

“Come, let us go meet them before they enter the village!” he cried out.

“Oh, but I have yet more clothes to wash!” I exclaimed in alarm, fearing to hear Mother’s sharp tongue if I left my dreary work.

“Forget them!” he cried out with unchecked enthusiasm. “Were you not complaining about having to do this stupid chore? Come! If we hurry, we shall catch them before they turn the bend in the river!”

I was on my feet now, excitement rising. I was also ignoring the amused stares of the other girls who lined the riverbanks.

“But my skirts…” I mumbled, feeling uncomfortable even though I was not acknowledging the tittering of even my best friend, Caitlin.   I was going to receive a horrible scolding, not to mention the unending teasing of the village girls and women.

“Here, let me help you hitch them up so,” Erik said, fairly dancing around me. As he spoke, he began expertly tucking my voluminous skirts in, all the way about my waist.

I stood there, laughing, all my boredom forgotten. My brother always had this effect on me. He had always been this way – completely carefree, and yet, always mindful of others. He was, as my father always said, a lad with a good heart.

Erik tugged on my arm again, and I felt no more misgivings. We ran away from the river, and I ignored several cries of “There she flees, the lazy one!” and “Scolding tonight!” Caitlin’s voice joined them, too: “You can hide at my house!”

I put all my heart into the running. It was when I ran, which wasn’t often now, that I felt most free. It was totally exhilarating. My skirts forgotten, I ran and ran, trying to outstrip my brother, while he, laughing, also put his best into what had turned into a race.   I was proud of the fact that I was the fastest girl in the village. Long ago, I had warned them all of a coming horde of Southern trolls, whom I had seen from the top of one of the hills that ringed the valley.   The village elders had praised my courage, but had warned my father that I could not be allowed to roam the hills and woodlands like a boy any longer, lest any harm befall me.

That meant no more rambles with Erik, pretending to fight against the warriors of the tribe of Perelgan.   I had been fourteen at the time, and, in that summer, became a woman, as my mother put it, when the flow began…

I pushed all such thoughts out of my mind as I ran, free as the wind, light as the deer my father hunted, much to my eternal dismay.   I was the fleetest of maidens, I assured myself smugly. I was also the fiercest of warrior princesses.

We came upon them just as they rounded the bend of the river. The slanting rays of the sun sliced through the tall oaks bordering the bend. Birds flapped off the treetops in alarm as the strangers wove through the dense bushes, stepping onto the well-trodden trail that bordered the river.   They splashed, unheeding, through the shallow water by the bend. The river ran deeper as it meandered close to the village.   There were five of them. Three looked to be men beginning their middle years, one looked older than that, and the fifth was, I calculated, about my age, or slightly older.

It was the fifth tale-spinner that I found beautiful. He was quite tall, broad of shoulder, and his gleaming hair, black as the depths of a moonless night, hung clear to his shoulders.   His eyes pinned me to the ground, and I stopped in mid-flight, all the breath knocked out of me. Those eyes were the color of night, as well, and gazed steadily at me, unblinking.

They were still splashing across the river as we approached them. Erik turned back to look at me, since I had stopped, and he had not, racing all the way to the river’s edge.   I could not move, for some reason. My cheeks felt very warm, and I did not know why. My whole body, too, suddenly felt quite warm, then cold, then warm again. My breathing felt constrained, yet agitated.

“How fare you?” Erik courteously called out to the strangers, temporarily putting me aside, although I knew he was puzzled by my behavior.

“Well, my lad,” the oldest called out, “glad we are to find you. We were not sure our map would steer us true, but, thanks to our good friend Alden, we have found your village.”

He gestured to the youngest of them, he whose eyes had already enthralled me. My heart jumped, and I bit my lip in exasperation. Too late, I remembered my hitched-up skirts, as the warmth flooded my face. It would be too obvious if I were to pull them down now. So I stood there, mortified, unable to move.

Perhaps he was the one who had been prophesied for me at the time of my birth.

It could not be! I was going to grow up to be a tale-spinner myself. Free as the wind and the elements, I would let no one bind me in marriage. I would roam the face of the earth, traveling from village to village, from township to township, spinning my tales. No one and nothing would own me. I had sworn it upon the yew tree I had found in the forest, the summer after I became a woman. Such oaths were binding, our seer, Magda,  had always said. Of course, she could not know that I was defying her prophecy. I was determined to outwit it at any cost. I was even prepared to defy the gods.   I would be ever free…

They were across the river now, and drawing closer to me.

“I am Erik”, my brother proclaimed, then turning to me, shyly, yet proudly, added, “and this is my sister, Merilbeth.”

My eyes were riveted on Alden, as his were locked on mine. He smiled then, and that smile was my undoing. I smiled at him in return, only at him, as if his companions did not exist. Somehow I managed to forget my skirts, still bunched up around my waist.

“Is your village prepared for our stay?” The eldest man, whose short, black beard had glints of silver, glanced briefly at Alden, and then at me, a smile playing about his lips.

“Oh, yes!” My brother could not contain his excitement. “We have been ready since the first thaws began!”

The whole group laughed at this, and I liked them all at once, but, I must admit, most especially Alden.   They all came forward, and the eldest man laid a kind hand on my brother’s shoulder.

“Well, my lad, lead us on to your village, then.”

I turned away with a shy smile, my heart humming as we set off for the village. I swiftly straightened my skirts as I walked.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween and The Twilight Saga

Halloween was never mentioned in The Twilight Saga, that I can recall. How very interesting... One would think that Stephenie Meyer would include it somewhere in the books. After all, vampires have been part of Halloween for the longest time now, ever since Dracula made his debut. However, Meyer's vampires are far from "traditional". The Cullens are, essentially, good guys who have been dealt a rather bad hand by destiny, or whatever you might want to call it. They are not destroyed by sunlight. Instead, they sparkle. They are immune to crosses, silver, and garlic. And, most interestingly, they do not have fangs. Not even the Volturi possess these blood-sucking implements. You would think that vampires who do prey on humans would have them. Of course, the Volturi are also unaffected by the items mentioned above. (Hmmm...the similarity between the words "Volturi" and "vulture" has just struck me...guess I tend to miss the obvious

The Cullens do everything they can to fit in, and yet they don't. They stand out at Forks High School. The human students there don't know quite what to make of them, but instinct tells them that the Cullens aren't, well, like "regular folks". Yet, none of the Cullens has ever harmed a single student at the high school. This would not endear them to Stephen King's heart, that's for sure!

So I suppose The Twilight Saga and Halloween don't really go together. What the heck...a vampire is a vampire is a vampire...right? Not in the case of the Cullen family.

And what about Jacob and the pack? They're not really Halloween material, either. All of them are good guys, too. Their fight is with vampires. They do not prey on humans.

In fact, neither the Cullens nor the wolf pack are a threat to humans at all. Their common goal is to make sure no human is hurt, whether by one of their own, or "the other side". This is what turns them into allies toward the end of the series.

Halloween is mostly about terror and monsters trying to destroy humans. Even the tradition of going from house to house to collect candy has a dark side -- give us a treat or we'll reward you with a "trick". This could be anything from papering an entire house, and dowsing it wih water, to throwing eggs at the family car, to...who knows?

Furthermore, Edward Cullen's all-encompassing love for Bella Swan is hardly the stuff of nightmares, unless one wants to raise an eyebrow at certain stalker-like aspects of his behavior. But poor Edward can be forgiven for this. Unlike a real-life, human stalker, he only wants to protect Bella, not only from himself, but from anyone else who might want to harm her. He loves her for herself, not for any celebrity or societal status she might possess. He is the quintessential romantic, in love with her inner being... This kind of love is in scarce supply in the real, human world. Some people might think this cheesy. I think it's exceedingly romantic, and is at the root of the Saga's popularity, especially with the female gender.

If anyone comes to mind when one is thinking of Halloween and The Twilight Saga, then it's obviously the Volturi. What an appropriately nasty bunch they are! They're definitely of Dracula's ilk. Ugh. I have never liked Dracula, or traditional, scary vampires, with or without fangs.

So this year, I'll go with the Cullens. They bring an element of wholesome family fun to Halloween, I think, and I'm not being sarcastic or facetious. Baseball, anyone? Just make sure there's some thunder in the background, and we're all set to play!

So I can happily say, "Happy Halloween!", without necessarily endorsing any of the gruesome, scary aspects of this weird holiday.

Now I'm wondering what Reneesmee might wear when she goes "trick or treating"...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Poem: "Night Yearning"

He is a vampire, condemned by his very nature to hunt for blood. His adoptive father has taught him reverence for human life, but he rebels for a while...He longs for love, and doesn't know if he will ever find it. He also despairs of having a soul. Eventually,he will adopt his father's philosophy as his own.

His name is Edward Cullen. He has not yet met Bella Swan.

Disclaimer: This poem was written in response to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga, and is meant as a tribute to her character, Edward Cullen. No copyright infringement is intended.

soundlessly he searches dark alleys
where love’s refuse lies in broken heaps
softly treading, gently feeling
corners of lost memories

his soul is wounded by a love not found
eternity looms as damned tomorrows
as he gropes for light’s enchanted balm,
its soothing splendors,
in empty meadows ringed by crooked, misty sentinels

rain falls, storm clouds swoop as he hunts his prey,
yearning for something he cannot have
he slinks unnoticed in human shadows,
lurking in strangers' thoughts,
looking for one he longs to find
alone in boundless measures of treasured time

his soul is wounded by a love not found
twisting his life into paths unwanted,
dreams unwilled.
his yearning becomes one slow torture of

and yet…
he waits, knowing that love will touch the soft flowering
of slumbering, inner passions.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Book Review: Fallen

Author: Lauren Kate
Hardcover, 452 pages
Published December 8th 2009 by Delacorte Press (first published November 19th 2009)
Reading Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Supernatural tales of romance have always fascinated me, and this one certainly does not disappoint! I eagerly followed all the strange, mesmerizing twists and turns of the plot.

The protagonist, Lucinda Price, is a seemingly normal, average teenage girl from Savannah, Georgia, who attends a New England prep school, at which she is a 4.0 student. That is, of course, except for the shadows...which have accompanied her all her life, always showing up at the most unexpected moments...

Luce, as she is known to her family and friends, is doing very well at Dover, the prep school,until the day she and a date get caught in a mysterious fire, for which she is blamed. Since her date, Trevor, is killed, the judge for her case orders her sent to reform school. Poor Luce doesn't even remember exactly what happened. She does recall seeing Trevor's terrified face, and the shadows, looming closer and closer...until she loses consciousness.

It is at Sword & Cross, the reform school, that she meets two gorgeous boys, Daniel Grigori and Cameron Briel. They are as different as the proverbial night and day, one being dark while the other is light. Daniel seems bent on avoiding her, while Cam immediately starts to court her.

The novel's subsequent events are not only magically enthralling, but romantically enticing, as well.

The most compelling theme of this book -- that of eternal love, is depicted in the story of Daniel and Luce. The plot weaves in angels and reincarnation, adding the age-old combat between good and evil. Daniel is an angel who is condemned to fall for Luce, over and over, throughout the centuries. Luce always dies when she discovers that she, too, loves him, only to return every seventeen years.

This time, however, things are different...It turns out that Luce is the pivotal point in a cosmic drama that only begins to unfold in this book, which is the first of a series.

The three main characters, Luce, Daniel and Cam, are very interesting. Daniel and Cam are especially mysterious -- they keep Luce guessing as to their possible ulterior motives.

There are other very memorable characters in this novel, such as Arriane, with her mischievous, smart-punk attitude, and Penn, who helps Luce do some research into Daniel's family background. She also fast becomes Luce's main confidante and friend. Both of these girls were very loyal and helpful to Luce, who sorely needed their steadfast friendship throughout the novel.

There are several beautiful passages in this book, like this one describing Daniel’s wings:

"They came gradually, starting at the base of his shoulders, two white shoots extending from his back, growing higher, wider, thicker as they spread back and out. Luce eyed the scalloped edges, yearning to trace them with her hands, her cheeks, her lips.The inside of his wings began to glow with velvet iridescence."

Romantic, suspenseful, and an absolutely compulsive read, this book will delight anyone who thrills to the fascination of the paranormal combined with a love story!

Author Lauren Kate

Monday, October 11, 2010

What's the lure of the fantastic?

There are many reading genres, but certain people will gravitate toward fantasy and science fiction time and time again, to the exclusion of all others.  I count myself among them, with the only exception of the romance genre, which is also one of my favorites.  I especially enjoy reading paranormal romances like The Twilight Saga and the Night World series.  In fact, I prefer such books to ordinary romance novels, although I do read those, as well.

So what is it about fantasy and science fiction that so appeals to many people, although not all?  Is it merely the curiosity factor?  Is it the wish to escape?  But if so, escape from what?

It’s both of these things, and much more.  It’s the desire to tap into the deepest recesses of our minds, where symbols thrive, living in a world of their own, a world that our waking, rational minds find to be weird, incomprehensible.  Fantasy and science fiction, and paranormal romance as well, access this world that lies beyond consciousness.  It is the world of archetypes, those eternal realities first described by Carl Jung as the denizens of what he termed “the collective unconscious”.  He differentiated this level of the mind from the personal unconscious, which is that belonging to the individual person.  The collective unconscious is the heritage of the entire human race. 

I believe we long to experience this level of the mind.  However, since our waking consciousness finds it nearly impossible to communicate with it, we rely on symbols, mythology, fairy tales, and stories of alien worlds.  We even yearn to experience, at least vicariously, all the strange, wonderful adventures that are impossible to find in our waking reality. 

Why do we want to live in the world of the collective unconscious?  Perhaps because we feel the need to compensate somehow for the monotony of so-called ‘reality’, with its daily, boring routines – the morning commute, the gossip at the office, the bills in the mail…  For those still in school, there’s the piles of homework, being bullied by classmates, not being asked to go to the prom….  There has to be more to life than these things!  

So it is that we dream, each and every night, and enter that alien unconscious world.  So it is that we seek it when awake, through the works of such authors as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ursula K. LeGuin, L.J. Smith, and so many others that transport us into strange alternate realities, thus helping us to live as heroes and heroines, rather than ordinary people.  So it is that we become part of a world deep within us, while at the same time, part of the very cosmos itself.