The Hero’s Journey in Fiction: A Revisit

 

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Years ago, I read a fantastic book named The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. In it, the author details the Hero’s Journey. This is a powerful story element that every writer, artist, or screenwriter should understand. It illustrates a protagonist’s adventures, from safe haven to the darkest dungeon—be they literal or figurative.

—What is the Hero Journey?—

The Hero’s Journey is a story mechanic that centers around the protagonist’s progression through the various acts of the story. Typically, there are four acts for each journey, from which the audience witnesses the evolution of the hero.

The first act of the Hero’s Journey introduces the hero, while the second and third act elaborates on their ordeals, and the fourth finishes round circle. You may notice certain tropes or definitions used in each act; these are minor plot elements that form the Hero’s Journey—and some are necessary to flesh out the story.

—Act I—

The Ordinary World

The story begins in the Ordinary World, a mundane realm that may be a safe haven or even a prison for the hero. Here, the audience learns about the hero’s life situation, his/her abilities, fears, and personality.

The Call to Adventure

From the Ordinary World, conflict arises that stirs the hero from complacency. This may be something serious like an assassination or a minor incidence like a strange phone call. The hero now has a choice to pursue the source of the conflict and resolve the issue, or remain in his or her realm.

Refusal

Initially, the hero may be hesitant to leave the safe boundary of the Ordinary World. The hero sees the risks involved and what’s to gain if s/he succeeds. Some stories skip this step with a willing or reckless hero who jumps onto the quest immediately.

—Act II—

The Mentor

The hero encounters the mentor, a wise or experienced individual. The mentor trains and/or guides the hero, providing new knowledge about the nature of the quest. This character is more often an elderly person but can manifest as a younger individual or inanimate object such as a legendary sword.

Crossing the Threshold

The mentor guides the hero away from the Ordinary World to the first Threshold—or the point of no return. The hero’s commitment is tested, determining if the hero is truly ready for the quest. The Threshold is the gateway to a new dimension, far away from the Ordinary World.

Tests, Allies, and Enemies

Now in a world of mystery and danger, the hero learns more about his/her new adventure. This strange world brings a host of challenges, allies, and enemies. Every obstacle is a stepping stone to unearthing the hero’s personality and capabilities. Abilities are sharpened, and pain is endured. Temptations are met, and the hero struggles with his/her inner shadow self.

—Act III—

Approach to the Dungeon/Inmost Cave

The hero prepares to enter the Inmost Cave. Setbacks occur, but the hero endures, priming for the Supreme Ordeal—an inner crisis that demands change from the protagonist. The hero must analyze personal flaws and push forward to complete the quest. This brief respite offers another connection between the hero and the audience as both understand the danger and gravity of the quest.

Supreme Ordeal

The protagonist faces a dangerous challenge, often against the antagonist, risking life and limb to complete the ordeal. The antagonist can also be a dark reflection of a father figure, such as with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, with exaggerated flaws of the protagonist. The Supreme Ordeal is a highlight of the hero’s quest, and everything is at stake. S/he must draw upon all the experience from the journey to survive against the antagonist.

Reward, Seizing of the Sword

If the hero succeeds, s/he emerges as a changed person. The hero also receives an award as proof of victory; this might be a mythic sword or artifact, signifying the change in the hero’s life. The hero now prepares for the last part of the quest.

—Act IV—

The Road Back

With the quest completed, the hero begins to travel back to the ordinary world, which is the opposite of the call of adventure. Instead of worry or pain, fulfillment and satisfaction arise. The quest is not done, as the last challenge awaits the hero.

Resurrection

The hero faces a test or battle against the antagonist at the final Threshold—likened to the supreme ordeal on steroids. This ultimate tribulation challenges the hero immensely, evoking his/her greatest fears and requiring all the experience they’ve gained from their quest. Failure may result, leading to the hero’s death, a dearth of all hope, or even a severe injury that mars the hero.

The protagonist is reborn from the flames of demise, returning as a new person–transmuted into the true hero, and no longer the false facade from before. Following the brush of death, the adventurer conquers the final ordeal, or the Dragon at the Final Threshold, seizing the Elixir. Reconciliation with the Father is obtained and the hero is purged, fully equipped to end the adventure.

Return with the Elixir

The adventurer returns to the ordinary world as a changed person—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Using the reward from the final ordeal, s/he improves upon the ordinary world and a new era of peace and reflection results. The prize is multifaceted, manifesting either as a damsel in distress, a powerful relic, or a shift in the climate of the realms.  At this point, the hero finishes the journey back to the ordinary world, but things will never be as they were.

—Conclusion—

Others Variables in the Hero’s Journey

While the hero’s cycle is a general formula for a fictional plot, there is a multitude of additional elements, such as sub-cycles that stretch throughout a trilogy. Sometimes, the hero cannot return to society as they are, instead choosing a form of exile to live a new life more suiting to his or her needs.

How The Hero’s Journey Relates to Readers

The Hero’s Journey repeats in every good fiction; it’s a retelling of human life, the growth of a person into a mature and wise individual. It is a blueprint from which anyone, as a soul, can appreciate the heroic archetypes and make changes for a more prosperous, happier life.

Thank you for reading, and happy Memorial Day! 🙂

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Making Maps for Fantasy Settings: A Tutorial

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Crafting a map for your fictional universe can be a handy resource for readers. Not every fiction has a cartographic reference, nor is it a requirement for good work. However, it dramatically compliments the space where the story takes place. When done correctly, a map benefits to both author and reader.

In this article, I’ll give an example of how I create my maps. You can take what you find appropriate and apply it to your projects. Hopefully, this tutorial will get you started. It may be a bit complicated and technical but bear with me.

—Some Startup Info—

You can use whatever media you want to design your map. I use a free program called GIMP, which is like an advanced version of Microsoft Paint, last I checked.

—Creating a Digital Map—

Layer 1: The Background

When you have your blank canvas set up, first address the background. My personal preference is a basic fill tool. Your mileage may vary, depending on what kind of background your story needs. Most maps are continents, so they require an ocean or blue background.

Something like this.

AtlasMapTutorial1

I did a fill command in GIMP for the ocean backdrop here, then added some darker shades to indicate ocean depth.

Layer 2: Landmass

The next layer I work on is the outline and general fill of the land. Choose a yellow, peach, or brown color that resembles dirt or clay—or do whatever you want of course—for the land color.

AtlasMapTutorial2

You can use a pathing or pencil tool to create the black outline of the land, as shown, then use the fill tool. Most land isn’t perfect or smooth—go for jagged edges along coasts or coves to simulate water erosion. You can also get creative and design fragment islands.

Layer 3: Land Color/Features

With the general land layer in place, you can focus on the more detailed facets of your map. This step can be done in several ways, but in my example, I use pure color to indicate trees and mountains.

AtlasMapTutorial3

That may be a doozy of a step forward, but allow me to explain. I used a light green to represent grasslands, dark green for forests, blue for lakes and rivers, brown for mountains areas, and white-brown for snow. One suggestion I have is—if you’re doing this method, select all of layer 2 with a wand tool, so you don’t create color outside the landmass.

For the water masses, I went back to layer 2 and erased parts of it. Doing this allowed layer 1 to fill in where lakes and rivers lie.

Layer 4: Additional Land Details

This is another optional and flexible step, depending on what you want for your map. I added redundant mountain figures and then floating islands here. This gave the map more depth.

AtlasMapTutorial4

Here’s a tip: create one mountain figure and then use the clone stamp tool to easily replicate it. This makes it a lot easier! 🙂

Layer 5: Landmarks

Now that you have your land finished, it’s time to add landmarks! What do I mean? Cities, castles, special areas, and so forth. No, you don’t have to draw an entire castle—use symbols to represent them.

AtlasMapTutorial5

In this example, I used simple dots with minor details. You can certainly be creative with this and draw one small castle—then, using the clone stamp tool, replicate it wherever you need to.

Layer 6: Map Legend

Every map needs a legend—a reference to tell readers what your landmarks mean. A north arrow or distance bar is also handy.

AtlasMapTutorial6

Position your legend so that it doesn’t overlap over map details. Choose a location where there is a lot of “empty space”; this will add visual balance to your map.

Layer 7: Captions

You need captions that specify major or minor points on the map. Include text for your legend, a title, and any additional information a reader should know. A small bit about who authored the map is also essential.

AtlasMapTutorial7

 

In this example, broader or more critical areas have a larger font size, while minor or smaller areas have a lower font size. If I were to do this over again, I’d probably make the font size for cities a bit larger, but at the same time, I don’t want to crowd the other map details with text. On an ebook or actual copy, the text would scale larger, but in the thumbnail here, it’s smaller.

Other Things to Consider

You could also add in fantasy details like sea dragons swimming in the ocean, or maybe other mythic creatures that add an “ancient” feeling to your map. Go wild! Remember, this is your map and fictional world.

—Conclusion—

Creating maps is a fun activity that adds important detail to your story. A map can be a wide variety of things—and the example above is just one of them. I hope this article has helped get you started with the map making process. Thanks for reading and click that “follow” button below if you like what you see. Cheers. 😎

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Eragon book 1, Inheritance

 

 

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Greetings and welcome back to yet another book review that I’d love to share with you all! 😀 I recently returned to the Eragon series to enjoy Christopher Paolini’s writing. Eragon is a fantasy epic series spanning several books.  This review will focus on the first book, and I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum.

Eragon, book 1: Inheritance

Premise

Inheritance is a big book at around 600 to 700 pages. The plot focuses heavily on worldbuilding and adventure. There are some great fight scenes and a subtle flair of romance—although this is more apparent in book two: Eldest.

Describing Inheritance in a few words, I would say—adventure, travel, and whimsical. The plot feels very unique, although it builds off traditional fantasy tropes such as elves, dragons, and dwarves (nothing wrong there).

Characters

Sadly, there aren’t many main characters in Paolini’s first book. Eragon is the young hero who finds his mentor, Brom, and a dragon hatchling named Saphira. They travel together, meeting a few characters along the way, but the overall cast feels small and lacking.

On a brighter note, the dialog and pacing within the story are excellent and some of the best I’ve ever seen. Paolini’s books are easy to read and have a fantastic immersion factor.

The main villain, a mad king named Galbatorix, you only hear about remotely, and he comes off as your traditional psychopathic villain. That may seem cliché, but Paolini presents the mad king in a charming and workable manner. Galbatorix also has lore that helps explain his past.

Magic System

The magic in the Eragon series is whimsical and fantastic, producing everything from fireballs to flight and object manifestation. It’s a soft magic system as has few rules others than the practitioner being gifted and trained in the arts.

I was surprised how quickly Eragon acquired magical techniques from Brom; then again, Eragon is the main character, so I let it slide.

Romance

Inheritance has very little romance, but it sets the stage for Eragon’s love interest in book two. Paolini did a better job at it with his second book, and it shows progression in his writing ability. Keep in mind he wrote book one when he was seventeen.

Conflict

The tension in Inheritance is predictable yet entertaining. It illustrates the timely fantasy battles you’d expect with orcs, elves, dwarves, and other creatures. At times the conflict felt drawn out or lacking, but overall it’s enough to keep the reader at the edge of the seat.

Overall Summary

The Good

Inheritance has incredible pacing and detailed dialog in a convincing fantasy world. You’re guaranteed to immerse yourself in this unique, whimsical land filled with dragons, magical swords, and evil kings.

The main characters are well written and suit their roles well, establishing a fantasy epic that ages well into later books. The reading is fluid and dynamic while challenging readers on occasion.

The Bad

Although the characters are excellent, there are only a few of them, and the cast feels small and compact. At times the premise and tension slogged or felt linear, reduced to nothing but traveling with little plot.

The Ugly

Inheritance feels linear and could have used more characters and subplots to enrich its premise. Fortunately, the second book does it all, and more—once I get to a review of that novel.

My rating for Inheritance: 4/5 stars—good

Inheritance isn’t a perfect book and suffers from a dearth of main characters and plot depth. Yet it has a beautiful, simplistic design that just works. In particular, the magic system is enjoyable to read about, and the ancient language shows immense worldbuilding that Paolini emphasizes in his later novels.

If anything, Inheritance is the stepping stone that introduces readers to the world of Alagaësia. If you’re a fan of fantasy, I would certainly recommend this book—but then continue on into the second novel to get a better idea of the series. Eldest fleshes Paolini’s world out in ways that Inheritance never did.

Thank you for reading. Have you any thoughts on Inheritance or the Eragon series? Leave it in the comments below. Love and gratitude to all my readers. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing, Book Reviews, and Reflections of the Self—a Spring Time Revelation

woman reading a book

Hello to all my lovely readers. 🙂

It’s been a steady month, working on my blog, doing book reviews, and revising my manuscript for Dragonsblade. I would like to thank all my alpha and beta readers—for all the feedback you’ve given me so far.

My WIP: Dragonsblade

Dragonsblade has progressed much in this past month alone. As I improve the story, I’m growing closer to my characters, particularly Pepper Slyhart and Tarie Beyworth. I’ve learned so much about POV depth alone—very exciting!

I’m always looking for more readers. If you’re interested, contact me via this site or check me out at www.betareader.io. My beta book cover has a big green gem on it. Thanks.

An Interesting Perspective on Writing

The other day, I ran across an article by a fellow blogger. She talks about the craft of writing and how we can use it in unique ways. I’d highly recommend checking it out here. Her blog is equally fantastic and has plenty to offer on the fundamentals for writers.

Book Review: The Faded Sun

A few weeks ago, I finished a sci-fi trilogy called The Faded Sun. I did a book review on it here if you’re curious. The books do a great job describing alien cultures, and I found the relationship between the main characters to be cute; the prose was a bit dry though, and the characterization was subpar.

I have more fantasy and sci-fi book reviews in the works. Stay tuned for more. 😛

Introductions of a Novel: Essential Tips, Tricks, and More

My article on false starts, introductions, and more contains vital information on writing the beginning of a novel. I suggest you check it out if you’re a writer. It has some nifty tips and amusing allegories.


That’s all for now, my dear readers—thanks for stopping by. I hope you’re having a lovely spring and be sure to enjoy the weather before it gets too hot. Cheers. 😀

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Book Review: The Faded Sun Trilogy

 

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Hello again, my lovely readers. Spring is in full swing, and I have another book review to share. A writing colleague recommended the series The Faded Sun by C. J. Cherryh. It’s a science fantasy three-book series. I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum for any interested readers. 🙂

The Faded Sun Trilogy

Premise

The Faded Sun series is a sci-fi story with subtle elements of fantasy in the background. Each book is average length—around 250 pages.

If I could explain The Faded Sun in a few words, it would be—sci-fi, desert, and culture. The premise reminded me of Dune by Frank Herbert, with the desert setting, science fiction elements, and how one of the characters becomes indoctrinated into a desert tribe.

While the idea beyond the book didn’t feel completely original, Cherryh put her unique spin on it with the sheer depth and description of alien races and their ethics.

Characters

There are two main characters: Niun, a young mri (one of the alien races in the desert worlds) and arrogant desert tribesman, who struggles to find his place among his people; and Duncan, another youthful human soldier, who becomes attached to the mri, eventually joining the desert tribes.

The dialog exchanges between the main characters felt dry at times and difficult to follow. There were a few excellently written spots, of course, which invested me, emotionally in Niun and Duncan.

One of the best facets of The Faded Sun is the relationship between Niun and Duncan, how it evolves over the course of three books. They begin as enemies in book one, distrustful of each other. By book three, they are bonded through kinship as brothers.

The villains were a lawful alien species called regul, who viewed the mri as a threat and wanted to wipe them out. That said, there was no fixed antagonist, rather, it was a faction of regul that changed from book to book. Because of this, I had trouble bonding (as a reader does to a villain) to the antagonist group.

Magic System

There wasn’t any magical system in The Faded Sun. I honestly felt a little disappointed, as this was listed as a science fantasy book. I suppose you have to expect that in a purer breed of sci-fi. I wrote a guest post on science fantasy and magical systems, if you’d like to check them out.

Romance

Again, being a strict sci-fi book, The Faded Sun did not include any romantic elements. Although there was a strong brother-to-brother relationship between Niun and Duncan, which I found to be adorable and well-written.

Conflict

This is where The Faded Sun shines. Chapters are filled with tension-inducing paragraphs, and Cherryh finds clever ways to challenge her characters; in particular, Duncan’s ordeals when he goes from human to mri are rife with conflict—and an interesting illustration of how adaptive and resilient humans can be.

Overall Summary

The Good

The relationship between the main characters, the conflict, and the sheer depth of alien culture presented in this book are the best aspects of The Faded Sun. This set the proper tone for a sci-fi trilogy—and it was, in some ways, philosophical.

The Bad

The dialog exchanges were usually dry, too long, or lacked sufficient emotion from the characters. Other segments of the trilogy felt like filler without much going on—parts that could have been removed or rewritten for better effect. The prose was okay, but I caught a handful of typos—and the pacing was mediocre. The antagonists also felt ambiguous and were hard to “love to hate”.

The Ugly

Parts of The Faded Sun read vaguely similar to Dune, and the side characters lacked sufficient background or emotion for the reader to sympathize. I would have also liked a more unique and fully explained technological system, rather than “generic” or “taken for granted” sci-fi technology.

My rating for the trilogy: 3/5 stars—average

The Faded Sun isn’t anything special, but if you’re a writer or sci-fi geek, you will enjoy the explanation behind the mri and regul culture. It personally gave me some ideas for my own alien races, and how to convey them to the reader. I would recommend this book for that facet alone; just don’t expect amazing dialog or characterization.

Thank you all for reading. Have you read The Faded Sun? I would love to hear your opinion on it in the comments below. Love and gratitude to my readers. 😀


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Dreams of the Scarlet Swordswoman #8

person sky silhouette night

Here’ some more creative writing from a dream segment in my upcoming book, Ethereal Seals: Dragonsblade. I had fun writing this part of Pepper’s dreams. It’s more philosophical and spiritual if anything. In the meanwhile, I’ve been super busy writing, rewriting, and revising the book segments from the feedback I get. Any feedback in the comments here is also appreciative. Thanks.

Alternatively, you can check me out at betareader.io. Also stop by my creative Twitch channel for gaming, writing, and artwork.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this little tidbit and thanks for reading! 🙂

 


Pepper woke with a start, beholding an ocean of stars. The blackness of space drew her in, stealing her breath. Each star twinkled like facets of a white gemstone out of her reach. A chill ran up her spine at the view of the vast cosmos. Comets, nebulae, and multiverses spiraled around her.

“What is this?” she said with her brows arched.

A tusked bear materialized before her, its body muscular yet aged, golden fur tingled with gray. Licking its paws, the beast marked her cheek with its mitt before walking away. She shouted the bear’s name, her hand outstretched, but he did not heed it. With a howl, the animal vanished into stardust.

Confused, she paced forward on an invisible floor, each step echoing around her. A comet crashed into a small star with a massive explosion, scattering the remains like children’s toy blocks. Pepper gasped and shielded her face, but the shockwaves passed through her harmlessly.

Pepper opened her eyes. Instead of a destroyed moon, crystalline dust scattered around her vicinity. Then the cosmic sand shimmered, coming together at a point. A small flame developed, growing larger.

She stared at the sight, her jaw slack, as the flame grew beyond her line of sight. It was now a star, too massive for her to gauge. Then smaller particles of dirt came, rotating around the star like a solar system.

“Are those planets? What’s going on? Where am I?”

She tried to turn away from the awesome sight, but couldn’t. Countless universes flashed before her eyes: death and birth; an endless cycle of life and transmutation—of alchemy. She saw the future and the past, meshed together. Images of herself flashed before her eyes. She saw herself as a different, but a familiar person—a female soldier. Another vision came, as an old man; others like animals, insects, plants, and even stars. She became it all, merging with the universe.

“Please stop, whatever you are,” Pepper cried, vaguely aware of her body. She grunted and flailed her arms against the cosmic seduction.

The frequency of visions increased, hundreds flashing before her eyes each second.

“No more, please!” she begged, falling to what she assumed were her knees.

The visions ceased as abruptly as they began, leaving Pepper in the bleakness of space. The sensation choked her, robbing what residue of Creation still lingered within her entity. She hugged herself and sobbed, now empty and alone—a nothingness.

Then, she saw it.

A cluster of multiverses, each shaped like gemstones, condensed into a sphere of white plasma. Around the anomaly, arms of multihued light rotated like rings. She couldn’t count how many limbs the thing had, nor how large it was—size was meaningless—only marveled at the magnificence of what she witnessed.

“The Ethereal Seals?” she said, confused about how she knew it was Gate. She glanced down at a jade sword she held. “It must be my connection to the Gate through my sword.”

She looked up. The Gate flashed and released shockwaves of warm electricity that sent pleasure through Pepper’s body, a sensation she could only describe as divine—not fit for mortal comprehension. The smell of lavender wafted in the air, on her taste buds. Her fingers stroked the tips of the Gate. It was soft and tender.

“What do you want from me?”

The Gate flashed again and vanished, leaving her in the void of space. She then noticed a blond youth—alone in the darkness as she—not more than a few yards away. The young man shivered violently, unable to obtain the heat he sought.

A small girl appeared next to Pepper. The newcomer bore jade twintails down her shoulders and clothed in a silver dress. Her earrings were the shape of swords, and her silver eyes equally as sharp. Her hands curved to a single point, the flesh like metal.

“Master, please go to him,” the little girl pleaded, clasping her bladed hands. She took a knee, gesturing to the youth.

“Dwyrm?” said Pepper, examining the girl, who remained bowed.

Pepper approached the youth on the horizon. Her hand caressed his face, felt the cold sweat on his body, and smelled the herbal aroma of his hair. The touch was like a jolt of electricity through her arm. A warmth grew in his body, and he smiled, his eyes closed, as he cuddled with her. She dug her fingers into his robes, savoring his embrace, a smile on her lips. For a few precious moments, nothing else mattered to the girl.

She was complete and one with Creation once more.

The red girl paused as an ominous shadow formed behind the youth. The image of a black dragon roared and seized the man, drawing him away from Pepper’s grasp. She cried in vain, watching the towering dragon devour him amidst his screams of agony. Fire flared in her spine. She bent double and moaned in pain as darkness engulfed her.

 

 

Poetry, Writing Tips, and More

tree tunnel at daytime

Hello, hello to all my readers. It’s only a week into March and it has been a busy month. I’ve worked on my beta manuscript nonstop, seeking feedback and writing, revising chapters—you know the drill. This journey has been a long one, filled with pain and joy.

If you’re interested in beta reading, check me out on betareader.io here. If the link doesn’t work, look for an ebook with a green gem on it. Betareader is a great website for beta testing longer novels.


I’ve posted some dream segments from my beta manuscript involving the main OC, Pepper Slyhart. They’re a bit poetic and romantic, as they involve her love interest, Tarie Beyworth. The antagonist is a dragon queen, seeking to control Pepper’s heart. You can check out my latest one here.


Although it’s March, it’s never too late to celebrate fantasy and science fiction. 😀 February was #Fantasymonth, and I wrote a fun piece about my interests as a fantasy reader. If you feel so inclined, you can participate in the game here.


Last, but not least, I created a simple list about writing a protagonist, building tension between character and plot, and how to bring it all together. You can check out that post here.

That’s all for now, my lovely readers. The rest of this month promises to be a productive one. In the meanwhile, stay cool and persevere in whatever your dreams are. Love and gratitude. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreams of the Scarlet Swordswoman #7

She held a demonic weapon in her hand—a monster, a work of evil. Pepper buried the sword in the dirt, broke it, and threw it away. Still, the fiend would not leave. She ran from the weapon, hearing the laughter of the sword claw at her soul.

Destroyed taverns and churches fell behind her, with misshapen demons and soldiers in pursuit. She came to a cliff side and screamed an unsaid name, lifting her hands. The horrors closed around her; at the front of the demons was the dark twin again. She carried a blade likened to a dragon tooth, its length vibrating with power and tearing at space like a vacuum.

The sinister double raised the weapon to strike. The red girl shrank back against the crag as her death approached, screaming the silent name again. The bone stopped inches before its target, and the villain gave a start before the appearance of a newcomer.

A handsome youth had appeared by Pepper’s side with a jade sword raised. While short of stature, his hair was like a waterfall of gold that stretched down his spine. His vest and pants sparkled with gemstones, like a torch of white flame.

Pepper’s twin growled like a wild beast. She backed up before his radiance.

“You shan’t touch her!” the youth cried, pointing his sword out in challenge, his brows furrowed.

The doppelganger roared and swung her bone of fire. The youth caught the blade, deflecting each follow up like a professional swordfighter. Sparks flew from the clash, the heavens trembled, and the earth shook. The antagonist found herself pushed back again.

“You cannot protect her forever, foolish elf. I, Tiamat, shall have her body and mind eventually. You will see.” With a hiss, Tiamat vanished into smoke, and with her, the rest of her lackeys.

Pepper sighed with relief, her hand at her breast. She regarded her savior, who turned to face her. He seemed familiar, but Pepper couldn’t remember his name, like a splinter lost in the deep recesses of her mind.

“Thank you,” she said, bowing. She hesitated and gasped, noticing she wore a long ball gown. Her mouth parted, fingers caressing each ruby, shining like specks of magma. The fabric was soft like silk, interlaced with tiny jewels.

She looked up at the youth, her brows arched in confusion.

He smiled, gently taking her silk glove, his lips pressed on one of her knuckles. “It’s my pleasure, milady. In exchange, could I ask you for one dance?”

“A dance?” she said, blinking. “Okay.”

He nodded and turned towards the cliff face. Heedlessly, he walked off the edge, still holding her hand. She followed behind him, her feet stepping on air as if it were stone. The gray sky turned sunny, and the milieu smelled of honey and perfume. The sunlight reflected off her dress, the fabric shimmering like diamonds cast in the lava of her hair.

Her heart raced, lips curled into a smile as her body tingled with warmth from his strong grip. He gently took her into a waltz, spinning her around, hands at her hips.

Pepper’s eyes never left his when she faced him. She felt the warmth on her cheeks, the passion in her body surging like wildfire for this mysterious man. Who was he?

He paused, holding Pepper close to his face, his lashes grazing hers. He kissed her on the lips, slowly, deeply. She moaned with the experience of his mouth—wet and soft against hers, so comfortable and exquisite.

He pulled back and frowned, hands at her shoulders. “Pepper, you need to wake up.”

“What?”

“Wake up, please. Everyone is worried.”

He released her and she fell from the sky—her invisible floor had vanished. She screamed as she descended towards the black ocean below. The light of the heavens vanished.

Then, everything fractured like glass.

Update and Dragonsword Chapter 1 Sample

Hello all. It’s been a busy month with Christmas on the horizon and NaNoWriMo a few weeks past. I’ve spent time on some poetry for an ebook and hours on my beta manuscript. The manuscript is for the first book of my series Ethereal Seals. I renamed the first installation to Dragonsword to better fit the context.

Lots of edits, fixes, and enhancements transpired over the past several months. Right now, I’m seeking an editor and beta readers. If you’d like to become a beta reader, please contact me through this blog or at my email energyflux2012@gmail.com. Thanks.

Without further ado, here’s an up-to-date sample of the book’s first chapter. Enjoy and let me know what you think. 🙂


Death wafted in the air. Shadows crept around the ancient blade. The sword’s destination was a red-haired woman with a weapon of fire and ice. Two armored knights, one a dark twin of the other, created a crescendo of intensity within their shadowy arena. Sparks flew, and the earth trembled. The redhead missed her mark, and the dark twin found its own.

The defeated girl fell to her knees. She retreated into silence before the enemy’s blade finished its job.

#

The girl opened her eyes. She regarded the legendary sword in her left palm, the weapon now only a stick. Through extensive use, the practice sword was little more than a wooden splinter. She tossed the makeshift sword away and sighed. Dirt mounds next stole her attention. She stood and brushed the dirt off her tan work clothes. “Enough daydreaming and swordplay for the day; it’s time to get back to work.”

The girl picked up a fist-sized crystal of aquamarine where the dark twin had once been. The stone’s surface reflected faint images, the illusion faded.

Pepper yawned and stretched her tall body. The light from the Twins, two stars of the sky, outlined her athletic figure. She winced at the view of midday and combed her hair, running fingers through strands of red. When her hand reached the knot of her ponytail, the redhead withdrew her hand. The girl’s tanned and freckled complexion radiated a youthful look, no more than twenty-three. She shielded her vision from the bright rays of midday, noticing air vessels gliding through the sky. Further still, she observed three moons. One of the moons emitted commercial flashes of activity.

She curled her bare toes in the dirt, feeling the earth swallow her flesh. Her gaze turned to the sloping leas. Distant snowy mountains and thickets stretched into the horizon. The sound of insects tickled her ears. She closed her eyes and allowed a gust to rustle her hair. The air proved humid but balanced with a gentle wind—typical weather.

“That dream was surreal, fighting with a shadow duplicate. Maybe someday I’ll get a chance to explore the world again and figure out what to do with my life.” She frowned. “Yeah right, maybe when I learn how to fly properly.”

Pepper dug into her pocket and withdrew a coin of gold. Despite the penny’s worn edges, the depiction of a gauntlet shrouded in vines shone clear as day. Underneath the design, curvy Atlasian cuneiform, engraved with a master smith’s arm. “The Slyhart family emblem,” Pepper said. She smiled and squeezed the coin before it fell to the ground.

The bauble flashed and light shot up a few inches high. The image of a man with red hair and a long ponytail emerged. He wore a blue jacket with a sword strapped to his undershirt. A red goatee jutted with a bold flair.

“You’ll get your chance at adventure, Pepper,” he said. “Life isn’t easy for everyone, especially us. Treasure it like I treasure your mom.” He fiddled with outstretched arms, as if for a weapon. “When we get back from this war, I’ll have some stories to share. We’ll take some epic voyages too like we used to—hoo-hah!”

A second image appeared of a short woman in a silver dress and a green braid. She bore a stubby tail and pointed ears. A pair of leathery wings folded behind her. She frowned and hugged the man in the blue jacket. “We hope this message reaches you well, dear. We love you very much.” Pepper rolled her eyes. “There’s extra food in the shed and a month’s worth of gold if you need it. Please promise to stay out of trouble. Don’t forget to water the fields.”

“We’ll have these demonic invaders routed by month’s end,” the red man averred. “We’re sorry about the delay, Pepper, but we’ll be home as soon as we can.” He clenched a raised fist as his silhouette wavered with the green-haired woman.

The vision vanished and the coin’s light dulled. Pepper pocketed the coin. She hesitated and brought a hand to her rear. At the base of her spine, there was a stubby tail of scales. It twitched at her touch.

“A tail but no wings,” she said, with a sigh. “Yes mom, I’m right on it.”

She regarded the water crystal in her other hand. Her grip on the stone tightened. Mist spouted from the rock, drenching the rows of crops around her. The crystal shrieked with a flash of light as it finished.

I miss them more than I thought I would. That’s the third message this month.

“I see you still enjoy the farm plots, Miss Pepper Slyhart,” said a calm, masculine voice.

Pepper turned to the voice. Her jaw dropped.

She smiled and ran towards a youthful and slender man of white robes who had approached her from the far road. His blond hair flowed down his back like a stream of gold, broken by a pair of pointed ears. His appearance suggested him in his early twenties as she. He was half a head shorter than she was. The youth carried an oaken staff tipped with crystal and some prayer beads. Vir’gol, they were called, or conduits for divine miracles.

“Sal’av, Tarie Beyworth,” she said. “I wondered when I would see you again.” The redhead and the monk exchanged bows and clasped their hands sideways—a native sign of Atlasian greeting.

“Sal’av, Miss Slyhart,” Tarie said with a smile.

She glanced over his robes and paused on a symbol of a flame imprinted onto the center of his habit. Herbs and medicinal bags hung at his sash. “How are you, my friend? I see—like most elves—you still haven’t grown a beard.”

“Elves don’t grow facial hair,” he laughed, “you know that. Besides, you should use our official name, not the archaic one. The world calls us Nymphians now.” He paused and smiled. “Besides, you Hyerians—you humans—are the ones with all the fur on your faces.”

“I’m just teasing. What news do you have of your abbey and the rest of the world?”

The monk stroked his elfin chin and grinned. “Well, affairs around the planet keep my church busy enough. One involves a clan of brigands and cultists causing mischief in several cities.” He hesitated. “I’d wager our planet Atlas still recovers from the war from years ago, let alone the previous conflicts.”

Pepper clenched her fists. “Those damn Elemental invaders. If they hadn’t shown up, we wouldn’t be in such a state.” She punched at a nearby bale of hay. It scattered over the vicinity. She exhaled to relax. “Now we have these Nog’roth demons plaguing our planet again. What I wouldn’t give to enter the Royal Guard and show them what for.”

Tarie gave a start. “I-I understand your frustration, Miss Slyhart. Maybe someday the Royal Guard at Midvale will accept your application as a knight. Though, I remember you’ve tried applying ten times already.”

“I suppose I can only keep trying, as depressing as it is for me.” She kicked at a rock. “I know I’m worth more. Maybe it’s because my mother is a Dragonite. That makes me half-dragon and half-Hyer.”

“Pureblood Dragonites are formidable,” Tarie said, “what with their supernatural strength. I’ve seen them spew fire and ice from their breath, even half-bloods can do it.

“For all that’s worth, I can’t do any of that. Here I’m stuck defending the farm plots from hill bears, crag wolves, and heavens know what else. My father was a renowned war hero who taught me swordplay and for what? How did it come to this?”

Tarie frowned and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Not many know of your dragon heritage. Thank the divine Aspects too. They say there’s a terrible curse, in which dragons trade their sanity for power.” He grimaced. “Anyway, you’d sooner be imprisoned rather than denied employment in the guard for your genetics.”

“Society doesn’t condemn us half-breeds without cause, but they sure keep us on a tight leash.”

“Take heart, Miss Slyhart. Good things come to those who are patient. If there’s anything my church or I can do, please feel free to ask.”

She smiled. “I appreciate the concern Beyworth, but maybe I’m not cut out for guard duty. I do well as a farmer anyway.” She paused. “It’s been months since I’ve seen my parents. I hope they’re okay.

“I had this nasty dream last night,” she said with a pout. “Honestly, I’ve had it on a routine basis. In my dream, I face off against this shadow variant of myself. This evil duplicate kills me. She’s always two steps ahead of me.” She leaned up, hands behind her head. “I don’t understand it—and the dreams are painful…too painful for a normal dream.”

“You’ve had a lot on your mind. I do believe some food and time off the farm may help you consider the idea better. It’ll be on the church.” He winked.

“You’re serious? You’ve been so busy with the abbey, and I wondered if you—” She hesitated. “I mean, that sounds fine with me, Beyworth. Let me grab a couple of things at my house first.”

She ran towards her conical residence. An oaken barn stood next to the egg-shaped house. Bars bolted the shed’s door, but with the metal rusted and bent from use. A brick chimney opened towards the far end of the estate where a smithy stood. The glimpse of an anvil, a rack of hammers, and metal tools caught the corner of Tarie’s eye.

“Okay,” said he, “I’ll take in the scenery here while you prepare.” The Nymph found a pile of hay for rest. He smiled at the sky and white clouds.

He perked up when his ears twitched at the sound of approaching footsteps. Pepper now dressed in long emerald skirts, guillotined with white and opal gemstones. Her earrings glinted in the afternoon sunlight, a match for her scarlet hair. The fragrance of herbs wafted into Tarie’s nostrils. He stood speechless and slack-jawed, the image of the young woman a stark contrast to the dirty farmer. He cleared his throat. “T-that green dress looks exceptional on you, Miss Slyhart,” he stuttered. “The place I have in mind shouldn’t be too far.”

Pepper blushed at his compliment. “I’m guessing Traveler’s Rest.” She smirked, hands akimbo. “Judging by that astonished smile, I’m right, aren’t I?”

“Yes, Traveler’s Rest is a small local town, but it has its share of marvels and plentiful commodities.”

“How should we get there? My parents took the family’s ship.”

Tarie pointed above. “I take it you still remember the art of flight?”

Pepper bit her tongue and glared at the sky. “I was never good at flying, but I do recollect the basics. Can we try something safer like riding an airship?”

“Ships cost a fortune unless you work for the Grust Cartel; a bunch of greedy and corrupt merchants they are.”

“True, we’d be lucky to rent a small shuttle for the day selling my whole farm. I have a Yazell ostrich mount I use for business trips.”

“That wouldn’t be fun,” he teased. “Come on; I’ll guide you through it. Ships and Yazell are better for long-distance travel anyway. Traveler’s Rest isn’t too far.”

“Frankly, I’ve only practiced Atlasian telepathy from time to time, but with my reclusive and dutiful life, I rarely get many chances to leave the farm.” She sighed and shrugged her shoulders. “My parents never taught me the basics of flying for fear of me traveling abroad with my genetics, I think. They wanted to keep me around the Crescent until I was ready, and I had the habit of going off on little adventures when I could. The one time I did try an extensive flight trip as a child I ended up in a coma for a week.” She cringed. “It’s been years since I attempted it and the idea makes me uneasy.”

I’ll keep an eye out for you. You can fly close to me,” Tarie said telepathically. The voice echoed in her mind and filled her cells with a warm tingle. “Be sure to ease into it,” he added, switching back to vocal speak. “Remember to first still your mind and then visualize a sphere of force around your body. The air of the Ether should surround you like a bubble.”

“Fine, I’ll give it a shot again,” she telegraphed. “You go first.”

Tarie nodded and kicked off from the ground. His blond locks flowed like gold curtains in the breeze. Tarie gazed down.

With several breaths, Pepper shut her eyes and wrung her hands. The air churned about, swirling against her flesh. Pepper heard a popping noise as gravity weakened. The refreshing breeze of weightlessness filled her being, fed from the ether traveling through her spine.

“Heavens, it has been a while,” she said, lifting into the air, albeit unsteadily.

They set out towards a town spotted miles away. The air invigorated their bodies with the smell of fresh pollen and foliage. Beautiful was the countryside of Atlas, with its mass of levitating islands, each with a share of waterfalls. Flowering groves and forests littered the landscape. Snowy mountain ranges reared on the horizon like sentinels safeguarding the Fertile Crescent.

Pepper regarded a herd of animals fifty feet below her. The creatures bore mats of fur like a bear, streaked with brown and black. Their muzzles and round ears twitched at the two flyers several yards above. One of the bears gave a screeching moan. It flourished its boney tusks at the aerial intruders.

“Look Beyworth, a herd of Grasnouts. Good thing we’re out of their reach. My farm owns a few docile breeds. They’re like a tusked hill bear.” Pepper smacked her lips. “I can still taste their delicious milk.”

“Grasnouts are a dangerous animal,” Tarie said with an uneasy chuckle. “They’re increasingly rare nowadays though.”

“What do you think of Grasnout milk, Tarie?”

He shrugged. “Unfortunately, the abbey only offers the staple water and fruit. It’s part of living a simple life for the divine Aspects.”

“That sounds boring,” Pepper argued.

“Perhaps, but I still—watch it, you’re floundering in the air—appreciate the simple lifestyle of my abbey. The church has done a lot of charity and missionary work, not to mention the refuges from the late wars they took in. I was also—” He stopped.

“You were what?”

“I—it’s nothing,” Tarie added hastily.

 


Thanks for reading. Hit that follow button if you like what you see. I’ve recently published poetry in an ebook, presented by ZPublishing. Here’s the link to their site. Be sure to check it out, as I get a commission on any sales. Thanks for the support, you guys. 🙂

http://www.zpublishinghouse.com?rfsn=2072883.91d12f

 

 

[Guest Post] Spirituality and Magic in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Gods and magic in SFF. Come on and check out this cool guest post I composed. Cheers. 🙂

Richie Billing

I’m delighted to introduce Ed White, writer of creative and visionary fiction, who’s contributing to the blog this week with an insightful post on a significant subject in SFF: spirituality and religion. Enjoy!


The Gods and Goddesses of myth, legend and fairy tale represent archetypes, real potencies and potentialities deep within the psyche, which, when allowed to flower permit us to be more fully human.

Margot Adler

In the realm of sci-fi/fantasy, gods are a curious breed. They represent something abstract—an idea or avatar beyond the reaches of mortal minds. This disconnect from the divine serves as a source of intrigue for the reader, and a subtle impetus for protagonists as they strive towards what no mortal has ever achieved.

Religion also plays a significant role in real-life. Gods and goddesses exist in every culture and region of the world, and there are hundreds of them. The power of…

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