Monday, May 20, 2013

The Rive's Grip

Just as Alexander regained his rhythm, the forest fell to an
eerie silence. His pant legs shifted in a breeze carrying a
dreadful chill.
He froze. “Oh, no!” A chill came over his entire body.
He jumped behind a broad tree trunk and folded his arms
into his chest. Large as it was, the tree trunk left him
The whistle of the rive made its approach. It aggressively
blew up and through the surrounding trees, tossing twigs
and leaves about in a fury. Alexander had no time to react as
the whistle gave way to an angry moan.
He felt cold, clammy claws grabbing hold of him and
yanking him from his hiding spot. He desperately reached
for anything to hold him in place, getting only a hand full of
loose dirt which blew right through his fingers.
Within seconds, the wind sent him high into some thick
leafy branches. He latched on to a portion that stuck out just
enough. The wind forcefully pulled at his body. He winced as
his hands slipped over jagged knots in the wood. Blood
seeped from between his fingers.
His bones popped and snapped as the strength of the rive
stretched his body. He shut his eyes tightly and let out a
curdling scream. The thick tree branch creaked under the
tremendous pressure. At any second, Alexander’s lifeline was
certain to break.
He braced himself with his right hand and used his left to
reach for another nearby branch. His fingertips barely
brushed the rough ridges. He scraped and clawed with
everything he had, but it was just out of reach. Then….snap!
Like a feeble toothpick, the branch gave way, sending
Alexander helplessly into the grips of the rive. A funnel
formed, gobbling him up and putting him into an
uncontrollable spin. It carried him back to the river, gaining
momentum as it went along.
A terrible dizzy spell took hold. His eyes rolled to the back
of his head, and he lost consciousness. The funnel flushed
him through like a piece of garbage and spat him right into
the river.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cozmo the Wolf

Suddenly, the support of the mountain under his legs disappeared.  Alexander had reached the edge of a cliff.  Over went his stomach, then his chest.  He scuffed his chin and nose on the sharp edge of the rock, which stuck out enough for his fingers to grip. Alexander dangled over the precipice, listening to rocks hit the ground far below.

His hands trembled as he clenched the rigid lip of the cliff. Bit by bit, his fingers slipped over loose gravel until only the tips remained exposed on the surface. 

“Help!” His cry bounced off the mountainside; then there was only a silence that left Alexander hopeless. His hands trembled. Something cold and damp squished up against his fingers. Alexander was being sniffed.

“Help me! Please!” he gasped. “I can’t hold on much longer.”

“One might say that my timing is nothing short of miraculous,” a deep and clever-sounding voice said from the surface above.  Alexander strained to look up toward his fingers.

Just over the edge was a black nose with a drip hanging in a taunting manner off the tip, and a pair of dark, hollow eyes peering down at him. It was a wolf with matted, ashy-gray fur, and a bleak disposition. 

“What do you think?” the wolf asked.

“Um, if you help me up I will certainly have an answer for you… Mr. Wolf, sir.” Alexander gave the wolf a desperate half smile.

“My name is Cozmo,” said the wolf, just before sinking his teeth into Alexander's arm.


Cozmo snarled and groaned as he tugged Alexander's lanky body up the cliff.  His hind legs slid over loose gravel, drawing him to the edge.

Alexander braced his other arm around Cozmo’s neck and pulled himself to safety. Cozmo let out a vicious growl and threw Alexander away from the cliff’s edge. They both sat, breathless for a moment.

“Thank you, Cozmo. You saved my life.”

Cozmo shook the dirt off his fur. He snarled and sniffed while looking Alexander up and down. “Do you think I did all that work for nothing?”

Alexander stumbled backwards. “Are you going to eat me?”

“Well, yes, of course I am. If you don’t run, it will make this much easier.” Saliva dripped from the gaps in his teeth as he let out a sinister laugh and began his approach on Alexander.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Rolling Boulder

The other day I was scrolling down my facebook newsfeed (my morning ritual) when I stumbled across a picture of a man pushing a boulder up a mountain. I had to laugh out loud because that was the exact example I had been using to explain the process of promoting! The picture was attached to Luke Roman’s blog post about rejection. Does every writer have the same feeling?

The actual writing is the blissful part. I can escape into a world that I created every day. Submitting to publishers, polite rejection letters and getting critiques to improve your craft can be a test of emotional toughness. In other words… being told how terrible your writing is over and over again until your skin is thicker than that leather jacket in your closet from the 80’s. If you continue to write after being run over by a snow plow in a gravel pit the passion must be there.

If you do get published, the mountain only gets bigger. Now you have to promote your work. What the heck! I write fantasy stories about giant bird/wizards and talking frogs. What do I know about promoting? The day my book was released I felt sick to my stomach. Wait… now I have to actually sell books? How am I going to do that? Half my neighbors don’t even know I exist. How in Gandalf’s name am I going to tell the world to buy my book?  The mountain just kept growing; and so did the nausea.

Then came the reviews. Yeah, that whole sick to my stomach thing… I felt like all my vital organs were doing the Macarena through my ribcage after only slightly skimming through one review. Don’t get me wrong, I can handle criticism. It comes with the territory; but now the snow plow is running me over in front of an audience.

On the other hand, when someone has something nice to say… now, this is where the boulder can really hurt. I don’t dare take a moment to enjoy a good review in fear that the boulder will roll right back over me smashing my face in the dirt. The fun factor in chasing a rolling boulder down a mountain with dirt in my eyes is low.

I’m still learning about the publishing world. It can be frustrating, demoralizing, and a crushing blow to the ego. I have scraped my dignity off of the pavement so many times, I’m pretty sure it is paper thin and full of holes. Nothing wrong with a few holes… right? The funny thing is I am actually enjoying the experience. Meeting other writers and doing guest posts are a lot of fun! Most of all, I take comfort in the fact that I can still escape all of the craziness and write my fantasy stories.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

John William and the Bandits of Basswood - Coming soon!


Coming Soon!
Have a look...
Alexander Drake's story has been told. His father, John William started it all years before when he entered Azra’s Pith. This is his story. John William was born an explorer; just like his dad before him.  His adventure really began with the worst year of his life. He lived everyday in misery until his twelfth birthday. He set out to turn things around and find his smile again. A new friend gave him an invitation he could not turn down… follow me and change your destiny.
He never imagined being captured by bandits and taken to a ship riddled with river rats was part of his fate. Not just any bandits – the Bandits of Basswood; known to be a ruthless and wild crew of thieves. Trying to escape would be a ridiculous idea. No one has ever escaped and lived to tell about it. Someone should have mentioned that to John William before he snuck off the ship. The chase out of Basswood was on. He took a chance to change his destiny and ended up on a wild ride to save his life.


The Hills and Valleys of a Newbie Writer

2006, late August, early, early morning… I groaned and rolled myself out of bed. My six month old son could be heard shifting in his crib through the baby monitor. He was finally starting to sleep through the night. I shuffled to his room wiping the sleep out of my eyes.
“Good morning, little man!”
He looked at me with his adorable toothless smile while clutching the ear of his tattered, stuffed Mickey Mouse. I scooped him out of his crib and grabbed a book of classic fairytales we bought when he was a week old.
“Which story should we read this morning?” We snuggled on the couch with a ba-ba (bottle). “Well, it looks like we’ve read every story.” Just like every other morning, I though about writing my own stories. I certainly had plenty of ideas; and have since childhood.
The little man took an extra long nap that day and I parked myself in front of my computer screen. I just started typing; the story was spilling out through my fingers. It was therapeutic – like I was releasing my bottled up imagination.
I finished the rough version of ALEXANDER DRAKE’S EXTRAORDINARY PURSUIT and wanted nothing more than to keep writing. So I continued on to part two. I also considered submitting to publishers with a “why not” attitude.
I knew nothing of the publishing world. After submitting to a handful of publishers and agents, I received a handful of rejections (mostly polite and generic). Hmm, I suppose I won’t be rubbing elbows with J.K. Rowling after all… oh well. Lesson number one for a newbie writer: humility. After that experience I thought it best to continue writing simply because I really enjoy it.
I joined Authonomy, a sort of online community for writers which I found to be very supportive. I reluctantly put bits of THE REALM OF AZRA’S PITH (Alexander Drake’s title at the time) up to be critiqued. Lesson number two for a newbie writer: you need a thick skin – when I say thick, I mean tough, and leathery – no sissies allowed!
Trudging through comments like “you couldn’t write a letter to your cat”, and “your title sucks”; I received some very helpful feedback and learned a lot about my writing. The “letter to your cat” statement is an exaggeration. I don’t think anyone would be that cruel; but I did change the title if that tells you anything.
2007, mid June, late afternoon… I sat in my squeaky desk chair checking my email. Let’s see, “become a millionaire working from home” – spam, “meet singles in your area” – spam, “The Realm of Azra’s Pith Submission”… huh? I clicked on it expecting a late rejection letter – but it wasn’t. Someone actually wanted to publish my story!
After running around the house like a headless chicken I submitted my contract to Rain Publishing. The release date was set for October of 2008… a very long year and a half away. Lesson number three for a newbie writer: patience – because the process take’s f.o.r.e.v.e.r.
For a few months I skipped around basking in the glow of my newfound title: “Published Author”, giving myself mental high-fives … Yes! I’m a published author… yes!
2008, late March, mid-morning… I was spinning around in the same squeaky chair checking my email. The fist subject line read “To all authors – very important please read”. As I read everything went a bit fuzzy. I did manage to finish half the email before my stomach started doing back flips. “Rain Publishing is closing…,” I suppose I needed a dose of lesson number one (humility). It certainly was humbling every time someone asked how my book was doing – the book? It’s doing… okay, I guess.
After a month of wallowing around in self pity, I climbed back on the old saddle and pulled my files up. I decided to start at square one with Alexander Drake, and pretty much rewrote the entire manuscript. I was happy with the updated version; so out it went. Yet again, I submitted to a handful of publishers and agents. You’d think I would have learned my lesson the first time.
With the rejections came some slightly more positive feedback from a polite and extremely patient submissions editor at Wild Child Publishing. She let me know that I need to make a lot of corrections before she could consider it any further. Lesson number four for a newbie writer: proofread. If you think your work is perfect… have someone who knows what they are doing proofread it for you.
I took a month, bought some editing software and allowed the authonomites (members of Authonomy) to rip it to shreds. Then, I resubmitted it.
2009, early October, early evening… YES!!! A publishing contract! This time I took a pass on the basking, and the self proclaimed title. Of course, I had to revert back to lesson number three (patience)… Alexander Drake did not get released until June of 2011.
The biggest lesson I learned through the ups and downs of the last five years is to detach from the outcome and just do what I love… write.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Glow

Alexander wandered over to a far corner out of sight from the others and lay down on the cold, hard ground. “You’re sick….” A soft voice whispered behind him.

Alexander shut his eyes, hoping the voice would go away. He felt gentle tapping on his shoulder.  “Please leave me alone," he said while jolting his shoulder forward. The tapping persisted. He shifted his body around with a scowl on his face.

The shoulder tapper was a girl, slightly younger than Alexander, with fair skin and hair so white it glowed in the candle light. You’re sick, but I can help you,” she whispered again.

“What?” asked Alexander, looking puzzled.

“Your presence is tainted.” She extended her hands. “Close your eyes.”

“Uhh… What are you going to do?” Alexander asked.

“Shhh…,” A warm glow emanated from her hands.  Alexander’s body went limp. A pair of wretched claws burst out of his chest and tried to latch on to him.

“The sickness is leaving you,” she whispered. Her pale blue eyes sparkled. The glow coming from her hands intensified and smothered the claws until they disappeared.

Alexander opened his eyes. He was frost bitten, and extremely confused. The fog was slowly starting to clear. He tried to put the pieces together. The night before, he’d been safe and sleeping in his bed in Verhonia. Now he was wandering the mountainside searching for his mother, who he knew was killed by Imperius when he was a baby.

 The girl sat across from him with her hands in her lap and a warm smile. “I’m Sarah.”

“Alexander,” he replied, rubbing the back of his neck. “What happened to me?”

“You had dark magic in you.” She brushed her white hair off her shoulder. “It’s okay, you’re better now.”

”What did you do?” Alexander asked, looking baffled.

Sarah giggled “I fixed you.”


If Hoppers Ran The World...

What is a hopper, you ask? At first sight you might believe you were looking at an ordinary old frog; but hoppers are extraordinary creatures. It is true that to some a hopper’s appearance leaves something to be desired. From a hopper’s perspective there is nothing more handsome than a pudgy, well fed belly and a decent pair of long gangly legs.

The world would be a much different place if hoppers resided here. For starters, the average age would be 217. Hoppers have been known to live to see their 471st birthday (which they consider to be yet another splendid reason for a party). Instead of gas stations and coffee houses on every corner you would find dense bunches of weeping willows inhabited by hoppers doing what they do best; eating, laughing and leaping. Hoppers do love to eat; so what’s on the menu? Vegetable stew, of course—morning, noon, and night… and anytime in between.

Hoppers love to have fun and what better way than a good lily pad leap? Nothing against football or baseball; the most popular sporting event would likely be lily pad leaping. Any hopper would travel far and wide to catch Ferdinand (a very well known and likable hopper) displaying his impeccable posture and grace in a lily pad leaping tournament. He has been known to plunk his round mid section into the calmest water with out making even a tiny splash. He is also a great talent when it comes to belly flopping.

On the topic of travel, how would a hopper get from here to there, or anywhere? In Azra’s Pith soaring through the air on the back of a friendly empyrean wizard is the fastest and most exciting way of getting around. Realistically speaking, I don’t know how accommodating an owl or hawk would be to a hopper jumping on its back and asking for a ride.

Hoppers like to be courteous and consider it bad form to exclude anyone for any reason. That said… there would be one exception to this rule – murks. I think the name says it all. Murks are giant, stinky, sloppy, black birds with terrible manners. If you invite a murk to dinner, they might take the liberty of putting you on the menu. I imagine a “no murks allowed” law would be strictly enforced at all times.

You may not enjoy vegetable stew all that much, or hopping fancifully on water plants; but it would be difficult not to be enchanted by such a friendly, loyal, fun loving creature. You can catch Ferdinand, the fearless hopper, empyrean wizards and even murks (though I would try to avoid those) in Azra’s Pith, a place of beauty and wonder. Beware, something evil lurks in the shadows… I hope to see you there!