Let it Snow!!!!!!

IMG_20181209_083352For those in northern climates, snow isn’t a big deal. However, I’ve spent my entire life in the southern United States, so seeing the Christmas tree and snow at the same time is something that’s never happened. Until now.

This morning we have several inches of snow on the ground, the tree is lit, the fireplace is going, and cinnamon buns are in the oven. It’s a perfect day to sit back with something warm and write and craft.

My current work in progress is a Grevared version of A Christmas Carol. I meant to get on it earlier in the year, but life has a way of taking its own path sometimes. So instead of it being ready this year, I’m hoping to have it out in time for the season next year. Below is the first few pages, unedited, but there are spoilers for those who haven’t read Wolf in the Shadow. 

IMG_20181209_080632 (2)Flight Through the Forest

5373 AOP

Running.

Wind in face.

Nose to ground.

Muscles straining.

Freedom.

Eleanor ran through the forest of E’ma Thalas on all fours, a grin on her canine face. Her padded feet made almost no sound as she darted through underbrush and across fallen leaves. She leapt over fallen logs and nipped playfully at small creatures. Her vision, sharp and full of color when human, had faded somewhat, but her nose brought her the scents of the forest in a heady potpourri that made her run all the faster. Asing, carnivorous plant/animal hybrids, growled nearby, and nonyana’e droppings littered the ground. Eleanor paused for a moment and looked upward to see the giant birds soaring overhead. Other creatures, spitmollers and ghighets, scurried for cover as she approached, though even in ly’kita form she would not dream of harming them. And covering it all, the scent of falling snow—cold, fresh, and heralding Yuletide.

Eleanor slid to a stop and shook the snow from her coat. She shivered in the cold and stood panting while her heart pounded. Yuletide. Another one. Alone in the forest. Eleanor sat down on her haunches and wished her ly’kita form could cry tears.

“Your control is good, much better than eight years ago.”

Eleanor looked up to see a woman. At over six feet, she towered over Eleanor’s Lycan form. The scent of alpha female seared Eleanor’s nose and mixed with the odor of human sweat and food. She could smell the herbal soap, a mixture of lavender and honey, the woman used, and the scent of her leather coat caused Eleanor to sneeze. She bared her teeth for a moment in response to the alpha female scent, one she had never liked, before settling down with her head cocked to the side.

animal close up cold danger
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“Cool it, little girl. I’ve been doing this longer than you’ve been alive, and I’ll kick your ass no matter what form you’re in.” The woman held out trousers, a shirt, and a cloak. “Now, how ‘bout you get dressed.”

Eleanor sneezed again and considered licking the woman in the face just to annoy her, but after eight years in Abilene’s company she had learned better. Instead, she willed herself back to human form, and, after a moment of dizziness, took the clothes Abilene held out to her.

The wind bit into her bare skin, and Eleanor found herself looking around for Worichiom, the spirit of winter. She slid into the clothes with a shiver and ran her fingers through cinnamon hair. She glanced down at her bare feet and wondered if Abilene had remembered to bring boots.

“You were looking for me,” Eleanor said once she had dressed. She winced as she walked across the detritus on the forest floor.

“Yeah,” Abilene replied. She brushed a strand of mint green hair behind her ear and stared at Eleanor with golden eyes. She pointed at the ground beside her, and Eleanor reached down for the pair of boots sitting there. “Oberon and Titania have invited us for Yuletide. Jorge and Bria are planning to join us. The pack. Family.”

Eleanor turned away as she donned the boots, her attention on the falling snow. A lump formed in her throat, and she shivered with a sudden chill. A weight settled across her shoulders, and her heart paused before racing on. “You have fun,” she said at last. “I’ve already made plans.”

white snowy environment with pine trees
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Abilene stood with her hands on her hips, snow dusting her black coat, and glared at Eleanor. “What plans? The same as last year? And the year before?” She made a disgusted noise and shook her head. “Girl, you gotta let it go. The past is the past, and there ain’t nothing you can do about it. Move on.”

“Let it go, Ab. I’m used to being alone, and I prefer it that way.”

Abilene threw up her hands and stomped away. She stopped and propped against a nearby tree with her arms crossed. “So, what are you gonna do? Head back to the Borderland Mountains and find a cave? That’s where you’ve been living, isn’t it?” Abilene pushed herself away from the tree. “You’re not an animal, Eleanor. None of us are. It’s been eight years, for the gods’ sake. Accept yourself.” She paused a moment. “And us. You’re pack, Eleanor. Family.”

“Accept what, Abilene? That I can never go back to the Xaggarene Empire? That my best friends rejected me because of what I am? That–.”

“That what? That Timothy has never responded to your letters? That he’s never forgiven you?” Abilene reached Eleanor in two strides and placed her hands on the smaller woman’s shoulders. “You have no way of knowing the letters ever reached him. You don’t know what he thinks or feels. And as to returning to the Empire…there’s no reason you can’t.”

“Justin.”

“Pfft. Justin Harper is all talk. Surely, after years in his company, you realize that. Hell, girl, I smelled it on him before we even met. The woods were full of it, and so is he.”

“But what if he told others? If the entire guild knows what I am, what I did, then I’m dead the minute they find me. You know that.” Eleanor wrapped her arms around herself and shuddered. The Shadow Walker guild would hunt her down if they knew she was a Lycan, if they knew she had been the one…Cooley Cray… Her mind refused to voice her deepest regret, the shame that had shaped the last eight years of her life.

This time Abilene punctuated her words with a shake. “No, I don’t. And neither do you.”

Eleanor snatched away from her friend and mentor. Regardless of what Abilene said, Eleanor didn’t feel like pack. She didn’t feel accepted. “Whatever. I’m not going to Letallatos for Yuletide.” She shrugged. “It’ll just be a bunch of elves and fairies drinking and dancing, and you know how annoying pixies can be.”

“And you’re forgetting the feasts and the games and the comradery, and I’ve heard that he’s invited the wizards of Crowrest and Ragekeep as well. This is the biggest bash in a century, all to celebrate the little prince’s first Yuletide. You don’t want to miss it.”

“I don’t wanna go.” She shrugged again. “It just doesn’t sound like any fun.”

“Fine,” Abilene replied. “Do what you want. The gods know I’ve tried for years to get you to move on and accept yourself. It’s all on you, girlie. There’s nothing else I can do for you.”

Eleanor turned away as tears forced themselves into her eyes. Abilene had a point. She was now in control of her Lycan abilities and had no more need of the older woman. Eleanor wanted to say she enjoyed Abilene’s company, but that wasn’t the truth. Abilene was simply there, someone within her sphere that she needed. Eleanor was grateful for her tutelage, of course, but that wasn’t the same as considering her a friend. The same was true of Jorge and Bria, two other members of the pack. They were there, and she was grateful, but she wouldn’t miss them if they were gone.

“You don’t have to stay alone, Eleanor,” Abilene whispered. “There are people who care about you, who accept you for who you are. You just have to be willing to open yourself up to their friendship.”

green trees
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Eleanor wanted to respond, but the lump in her throat forbade it. She swallowed hard and closed her eyes. She hugged herself, fists clenched, but she couldn’t face the other woman. Something squeezed her heart and pulled on her lungs, and she tightened her jaw to force herself to breathe. She wanted to turn to Abilene, to tell her that she needed that care, that friendship, but she didn’t dare. She knew where that led, and she wasn’t about to go through it again. Never again.

“Well, you know the way to Letallatos if you change your mind.” Abilene turned away then paused. “Not everyone is invited to the elf king’s court for the celebration. Don’t take that for granted.”

Eleanor kept her eyes closed as she listened to Abilene’s footfalls in the leaves. She turned her face upwards, and the falling snow mingled with the tears on her cheeks. A sob forced its way up from her gut and burst out in a scream that shook the trees. Birds squawked and left their perches, and small animals scurried for cover. The scream turned into a howl, and Eleanor found herself in ly’kita form, without meaning to, for the first time in eight years.

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Holiday Weekend — Creating Fantasy Holidays

IMG_20181122_163331It’s been a wonderful holiday weekend for me and mine, and I’m a bit sad that’s it’s over and the real world intrudes again tomorrow.

I’ll admit I’m a bit tired, though. Two days of cooking followed by two days of decorating was a bit much, but the turkey had his day, and now the tree twinkles.

Holidays are a time to be with family and friends and are a vital part of creating any fictional world. Or at least in making it complete. In the world of Grevared, holidays occur throughout the year. Most of them take place around the same time across the countries, but they differ by country and culture. For example, the demons mourn the loss of their own world around Yuletide, while the humans celebrate the season with gifts and decorations. The elves continue to honor the solstices and equinoxes even though the void has no visible celestial bodies. The celebrations of each country and culture differ slightly as well, and this helps to add depth to the holidays.

The same is true of the autumn holidays. Those who follow the Arcana Maximus celebrate the ritual of Akatha Mabikym, which is a ritual that returns the spirits of the dead to the chaos of the void. Those who don’t follow the Arcana tend to focus more on the harvest and the plenty that comes with it, even those in the larger cities like Ymla and Sangeron.

IMG_20181124_105130Tips for Creating Holidays

  1. Consider what we already celebrate. Many of our current celebrations are world-wide in many respects, for humans tend to celebrate the same milestones of life regardless of individual culture.
  2. Think about the world you’ve created. What are the important times of year for its inhabitants? Are there things that are important to one group that aren’t to another? (e.g. Those who don’t follow the Arcana Maximus are less likely to celebrate the ritual of Akatha Mabikym, and many outright disagree with it.)
  3. Add in elements of the fantasy world to the holiday. In Corleon, for example, horses play a major role in the economy of the country. Therefore, horses come into play during their Yuletide celebrations, and hay is commonly used to decorate.
  4. Don’t be afraid to mix and match celebrations that are already in existence or do some research into older celebrations and pull elements that we no longer use in our modern time.
  5. Have fun with it.

Creating holidays for your world can be one of the most rewarding parts of world-building and can help you get to know the characters and cultures you created all the better. Even if you never write a scene including one of the holidays, simply indicating that they exist can bring your world to life in the minds of your readers.

Best wishes and Happy Holidays!!!!!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

http://www.hiddenhollowediting.com

Random Thought – Folklore

2017052295133200_2 (2)I had a strange dream the other night that got me thinking about the story of “Hansel and Gretel”. Nothing serious, mind you, just the prevalence of these tales in our culture, in all cultures, really.

One of the things that’s always fascinated me about folklore and religion is the similarities between cultures that weren’t supposed to be in contact with each other. It’s always made me wonder how so many different people in so many different places could come up with the same thing at around the same time period. Don’t get me wrong, I understand Jung’s idea of archetypes and the collective unconscious and the universality of human experience. After all, we are all born, live, and die. We have to come to terms with ourselves and learn to live in the world on our own. I get that.

What’s always fascinated me is the amount of similarity and the desire of humans to pass on lessons through stories and analogy. I mean, when I’m trying to get my kids to understand something, I don’t couch it in metaphor and euphemism. I say it plainly. We do the same thing when talking about our day at work or teaching history, in some respects at least.

Why then the need for these tales? We know they serve a purpose outside of entertainment. Many of these tales allow children a glimpse into the adult world long before they experience it themselves. They allow us to meet fear in a form that isn’t as frightening, and children who are read fairy tales generally have an easier time with reading and comprehension. There’s something basic about them that speaks across time and culture to that place within us that makes us all human beings.

But who first thought them? Who crafted these marvelous glimpses into long ago that are so powerful we’re still rewriting them today? Was it an ancient family seated around a fire after a day of hunting? Was it a mother desperate to give hope to a sick child? Was it a sibling offering comfort to the younger ones in times of trouble?

I would love to create a time machine and travel back to that distant time just to watch this phenomena unfold, to meet the richness of culture and experience the connection that allowed the same thoughts, and plots, to arise on opposite sides of the world.

I suppose these are odd thoughts, and they definitely ramble, but I’ve spent the day making snow to decorate with, and I’ve had plenty of time for wandering thoughts.

I hope all have a wonderful holiday week and season.

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

http://www.hiddenhollowediting.com

Whew! That’s Over. Now What?

Business Card FrontThings have been a bit hectic lately, so writing has been on the back burner. Now that the holidays are upon us, I’m not so sure things will slow down, but I have hope.

Now that the weather’s cooling down and the leaves are changing, I find myself more motivated and more creative. The problem comes with deciding where to focus my time and energy. Do I want to continue with Grevared? I have a ton of stories in the works and more ideas in my noggin’. Do I want to get started on the YA modern fantasy that’s whirling around in my head? Right now, there are two stories, mostly fully formed, written in a notebook. Do I want to work on the horror stories that come unbidden into my dreams? And, boy, did I have a doozy last night. Or do I want to focus on building my proofreading business? I can do this for others, but making sure my own stuff is free of typos is another thing all together. Or do I want to abandon all of that and return to researching folklore and mythology? It’s not like we’ve figured it all out yet.

Business Card1Mostly, it’s a matter of time management and organization, but I think it would be easier to petition the Universe for a few more hours in the day. But would that help? I’m not sure. I have no doubt I’ll figure it out when my mind has had a little time to slow down and consider a bit. Until then, I’ll keep on keeping on and do what I can when I can and hope the results are something others want to read.

At the end of the day, it’s the joy that comes from doing it, the journey rather than the destination, that matters.

Best wishes,

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

http://www.hiddenhollowediting.com

 

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Random Thoughts – You’ve Got This

Lissa Dobbs, Author

Be the lightI was coming home from the grocery store with my son when the song “Jesus Take the Wheel” came on. It’s one of those that I like to hear now and again, as much because of my interest in all mythology and religion than for any other reason. I also like the idea of a higher power that will, occasionally, lend a helping hand. Well, my son, being a teenager, made the comment that maybe Jesus didn’t want to take the wheel because it wasn’t needed. He was being a smartass at the time, but his comment made me think.

There are times when we want nothing more than to turn over whatever is going on to someone else, anyone else, just for a little bit. We want God or the angels or the Universe to just make the bad times go away and let us have some peace. We…

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Something About the Old Ones

gray concrete building on top of hill
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Autumn is my favorite time of year, and when Mother Nature finally looks at the calendar and cools things off, I’m in full creative mode and ready to kick back with some old movies and tap out some words. This is especially true in October when the leaves are changing and pumpkins sit everywhere. (Okay, so, the stores may be a little ahead of the game with Christmas, but we won’t go there.)

I’m a horror movie junkie, but I don’t like most of the newer ones. I’ll sit through It or A Quiet Place or The Conjuring, but those aren’t the ones I thrive on. I prefer the old ones, like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman. These are classics, of course, but I also like the ones like the Beast of Yucca Flats, any of the ones made before 1950.

And why would I prefer those to the modern movies with their fancy CGI effects and digital processing (whatever it’s called)? Because the old ones have a creep factor not seen in a lot of modern films. There’s something about the use of light and shadow, the lack of color, the hollow sound of the voices, that is both skin-crawling creepy and peaceful. There’s a calm in them, possibly because of the soundtrack, that’s soothing even in the midst of being chased by a monster. They create an ambiance of dark places when the light of the fire didn’t quite reach the corners and of wrapping in a blanket to chase off the chill.

That’s not saying there aren’t good movies out there today, just that these have a special place in my heart and bring a sense of ‘autumn’ and Halloween that most others don’t.

What are some of your favorite Halloween movies?

Best wishes,

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com/childrenstories

http://www.hiddenhollowediting.com

Void Serpent: From The Flora and Fauna of the Lands of Grevared by Inquisitor Mylar Massengill

Void Serpent Hand ColoredAppearance: It has a dragon-like head and a serpentine body with no legs or wings. Most have horns on the head, though this can vary. Void serpents often grow to be several hundred feet long, and they have the strength to destroy a ship. Mating rituals are unknown, for no one has ever seen this activity. It is believed that the females lay eggs, but this has not been definitively determined. Void serpents also possess the ability to spit fire, though they are rarely seen to do so. They attack without provocation, and their population numbers are unknown.

Habitat: Void serpents live in the void. There is no other known habitat.

Diet: It is believed that the void serpent lives primarily on other void creatures, though just what these creatures are is still largely unknown. However, the serpents will eat those on the ships they attack.

Threat: The void serpent is extremely dangerous.

 

Notes: There is a legend, though I can’t vouch for its veracity, about demon creatures called Serpent Riders. It is said these beings have tamed the void serpents and use them to travel the void. I don’t believe in this legend, however, for there are none who can survive the chaotic energy in the void.

 

A Bit of a Conundrum-Adult, YA, or Both?

Starshine Cover PurpleI’ve been playing around with the idea of The Hidden Roads, a series originally intended for adults. However, I’ve got an idea for a YA version, and I’m torn between having two of them, one for adults and one for YA, and making just one series that’s YA. It really wouldn’t be that difficult to make the adult character a bit younger and add her to the YA idea I have. The stories would gel nicely and add another dimension to the YA story. Below is an excerpt from the beginning of the adult one (unedited). Thoughts on which way to go would be appreciated.

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

http://www.hiddenhollowediting.com

The land was what mattered to Gemma. It always had. The way the pines and oaks cast dancing shadows over rolling hills had given her immeasurable pleasure. The scent of rain on fresh-turned earth had wrapped her in peace, and a silver moon nestled in a bed of stars had filled her with joy. She would speak for hours on the growth of a single sprout, and Serenity couldn’t remember ever seeing the woman without dirt stains on some part of her clothing.

But that was then.

Serenity sighed as she switched off her beat up Ford Tempo. She propped her hands on the steering wheel for a moment and simply stared out the windshield.

The house was the same as it always had been. A simple structure of wooden slats with a large wrap-around porch and flowers planted in beds at its base, it had been Gemma’s refuge from a world she didn’t understand.

“I wish I’d come when she asked,” Serenity muttered to herself.

Gemma had asked Serenity to come and live with her several years before, but Serenity had refused, determined to make it on her own. She’d spent enough of the previous twenty years being told she was a failure, not ambitious enough. When her world had ended, she determined she would not become dependent. On anyone.

“Yeah, ‘cause that worked out so well.” Serenity blew her bangs out of her face. “Idiot.”

Serenity climbed from the car and grabbed her backpack from the backseat. She shouldered the bag and stepped up onto the porch. A tear slid from her eye as she realized Gemma wouldn’t greet her with a smile and a song. Not anymore. Gemma had disappeared six months before. No note. Nothing missing. No sign of her since. And her sisters had determined she was never coming back.

 

Abyss

This little piece is one of those that just came fully formed. I can’t decide if I want to keep it as it is or make it into something longer.

This, then, is the place where souls are born.

I wouldn’t have known but for the pinpricks of light that shone in the darkness, beckoning those who yet had hope, who had not let the swords of life slice their tender hearts.

I stood on the edge of a cliff, needing only a single gust to propel me into the abyss. Feet flat and bare toes curled at the edge, I waited for a sign. Any sign. For good or ill. For hope or utter despair. I did not care which.

The lights fluttered around me, tiny butterflies that wanted only to live, and I wondered at their existence, at their desire for purpose. Below me stretched the abyss of utter oblivion, a yawning maw that promised dissolution. The choice was mine. Rise up and become again or plunge into the depths of nothingness.

This, then, is the place where souls are born. Not from a place of light, but from the darkness of despair, from that last moment where fear dominates and leaves only a desperate need to survive. From the hope of renewal when all other hope has gone.

I had to choose. Become the light in the darkness or welcome the bliss of nothingness.

The winds of change grabbed tendrils of my hair and caressed fevered skin. I stood, toes curled over the edge of the cliff. Thoughts of life flashed through a mind too tired to reason as I watched the lights do their dance of hope, each memory a shard of glass in an already broken heart. Choosing one above the other exceeded my capabilities.

The wind howled, angry now at my hesitation. The lights whirled faster, desperate to gain my attention, while the abyss waited below with no need to encourage.

I could wait no longer. With one final breath I closed my eyes and let my soul make its choice.