For the first time in years, I’ve actually had some time to kick back and enjoy the coming of Christmas. Usually, I’m running around like crazy, and the season comes and goes before I even notice it’s here. I was afraid this year was going to be the same, but things worked themselves out a few days ago. It was weird going to the grocery store this morning and realizing that I could take as much time as I wanted to because I had nothing needing my attention. Not presents to wrap. No food that needed to be done ‘right now’. Off from work, projects completed. I’m grateful in a way I can’t put into words.
That being said, it’s been a crazy year this year. A lot of good things have happened, but they’ve come so quickly that I haven’t had time to process them yet. I think I’ll save that for the new year. For now, I’ve finished the first draft of The Spirits of Yule, and I’ve started on the next book in The Trials of the Young Shadow Walkers. This one focuses on Kayne Soulton rather than Ethan Grimley. I’m not sure yet where Kayne will lead, with all his hot-headedness, but I’m anxious to follow. I’m hoping 2019 will give me a little more time to write now that some things have been resolved and put to rest.
My plan at this point is to have The Spirits of Yule out for next year’s holiday season. Below is a continuation of the last two weeks, just a bit of a sneak peek, unedited.
Thank you all for your support, and have a blessed holiday.
Flight Through the Forest
Eleanor groaned and rolled over. She pulled the blanket up around herself and shivered. Her hip dug into hard stone, and the smell of smoke assailed her nose. Smoke? Stone? Blanket? Hadn’t she been lying in the snow? Memory flooded back, and Eleanor jumped to her feet before she realized what she was doing. The ogress had wanted her to join her, in what Eleanor had no idea.
“Glad to see you awake.”
Eleanor froze, heart lodged in her throat, and looked around. She stood in a ruined building under a partial roof. A woman with long, black hair spotted with gray sat on the other side of a small fire. A pot sat warming in the flames.
The woman laughed, a musical sound that spoke of mystery and magic. She was human as far as Eleanor could tell, but there was something off about her, some scent Eleanor couldn’t place. “My name is Ravyn Grimsbane. I come from Crowrest.” The woman smiled, and the room, if it could be called that, lit up. “You’re safe, for now.” Ravyn waved her hand at a spot opposite herself. “Sit down. Get warm.”
Eleanor eased herself to the floor, keeping the blanket wrapped around herself to cover her nakedness. “I don’t understand. What happened?”
Ravyn sighed and stirred the pot. “We’re nearing midwinter. It isn’t a healthy time to be out and about, for others thrive at this time.”
“What do you mean?”
Ravyn cocked her head to the side, a look of confusion on her face. “Surely, you’ve been in E’ma Thalas long enough to know that creatures walk the night, that the wilds of the forest are closer to people than they are in other places.”
Eleanor chewed on her bottom lip and nodded. Her mouth watered as the aroma of whatever was cooking reached her nose, and her stomach grumbled in response. “I’ve heard some tales, sure, but I don’t go out much.”
“Mother, the ogress has moved on. We should be fine tonight.”
Eleanor swung her head around fast enough to make herself dizzy. A woman about her own age stood just within in the light of the fire. Auburn hair hung in ringlets past her shoulders, and spectacles reflected the firelight.
“This is my daughter, Gwennyth.”
Eleanor nodded. “I’m sorry. I’m Eleanor Hestenfield.”
“You aren’t from E’ma Thalas,” Gwennyth replied. It wasn’t a question.
Eleanor shook her head and fought back tears. “No. I’m from the Xaggarene Empire.”
“And you’re a Shadow Walker. That’s what they call themselves, isn’t it?”
Again, Eleanor nodded. “How did you know that?”
Gwennyth plopped down between Eleanor and Ravyn and stared at Eleanor without blinking. “There’s magic around you. Lots of it. But you aren’t a wizard.”
A single tear escaped Eleanor’s eye as she turned away from the women. “I’m a Lycan,” she said with trembling voice. “I had to leave the Empire.” From the corner of her eye, she saw the two women exchange a look.
“That makes sense,” Gwennyth said. “It explains the magic aura around you.”
Eleanor turned back to the two women. “What do you mean?”
Ravyn shifted position and poked at the fire. “Gwennyth sees magic.” She gave her daughter a loving look. “Most of us don’t.” She shrugged. “But she can. We don’t know how.”
Eleanor pulled her blanket more tightly around herself and wished she had thought enough to drag the clothes with her. She knew other Lycans had stashes around the forest and in the mountains, and she’d always meant to do that. But she always returned home to transform, so it had never mattered.
“I have extra clothes,” Gwennyth said after a silent moment. “I’m pretty sure they would fit you.”
“Thank you,” Eleanor replied.
“That’s the down side to changing form,” Ravyn chuckled. “Non-essentials like clothing tend to remain as they are.”
Eleanor gave her an embarrassed grin and followed Gwennyth out of the fire light. Cold bit through the blanket, and Eleanor’s teeth chattered. She considered returning to ly’kita form just to be covered with fur, but Gwennyth’s voice cut through her thoughts.
“Here. Change quickly. It’s too cold to dawdle.”
Eleanor looked over to see Gwennyth holding trousers, a shirt, and a cloak. Boots sat at her feet, and a faint smile brightened her face.
“Thank you,” Eleanor replied as she took the clothing. She dropped the blanket and quickly donned the clothes. “Why are you and your mother out here in the cold?” she asked as she pulled on the boots.
“We’re headed to Letallatos for Oberon’s celebration.”
Eleanor’s heart dropped into her gut. “Oh. Sounds like fun.”
“You could join us.”
Eleanor pulled the cloak around her and stared out at the swirling snow. “No. Abilene, my pack leader, sort of, has said we were invited, but it’s really not my thing.”
“It’s not mine, either,” Gwennyth admitted with a glance back at her mother. “There are plenty of other wizards joining us, too.” Gwennyth sighed. “Most of them just blip themselves there, but Mother prefers to travel without magic. She says connecting to the forest is important.” She shivered. “Maybe she’s right, but I’d much rather connect in spring and summer.”
Eleanor chuckled. “So would I. I usually spend most of winter in a cave in the Borderland Mountains. I should never have come this far without preparations.”
Gwennyth turned away and took a step toward the fire. “Sometimes our emotions get the best of us.” She shrugged. “It happens. There’s food if you’re hungry. We’ll leave out as soon as the light shines, but you’re welcome to share the fire tonight.”
Well, we’re getting down to the wire on the Christmas holiday, and, once again, it’s come upon me unawares. I think most things are done, but I can’t be sure. Tree. Check. Food. Check. Gifts. Um…partial check. There are still a few more things to get. Holy cow! Am I gonna make it in time? I’m not sure. I could sure use a little help from the man in the red suit. He hasn’t let me down yet, so I have complete faith that things will be ready on time.
As to the Christmas story, it’s coming along. The first draft of the first two sections is complete. Now, on to the rest. I did come up with a title and a cover, though, so that’s something.
If you read last week’s excerpt (remember, these are unedited), then scroll below for the next installment. Also, remember there are spoilers for those who haven’t read Wolf in the Shadow.
All the best and have a wonderful holiday season.
Flight Through the Forest
Snow on snout.
Leaves under feet.
Eleanor wanted to rid herself of her human mind. She wanted to forget she had ever walked on two legs. She wanted to revel in the joy of being a ly’kita, to hunt, to leave the past behind forever, not just in the world but in her mind as well. She wanted to run forever, to be free. She let the scents of the forest—the trees, the flowers, the animals, life and death—wash over her as she cried to Worichiom to take her body and mind and set her free.
Before she realized it, Eleanor had left the cover of the trees and entered a small range of hills. She slid to a stop in the snow and sniffed the air. The cold crispness of the winter air filled her nose and cleared her mind. She panted and licked at the snow to quench her thirst then sat on her haunches to rest.
I need to return for the clothes.
The thought entered her mind unbidden, but she pushed it aside and looked around her. Hills rose above her, grass almost covered with snow. Wind howled between the hills and blew snowflakes into her face. She blinked her eyes to clear them, and her breath caught in her throat. A creature, not human according to her nose, crawled up the hill in front of her. Eleanor blinked again, several times, and cocked her head to the side.
The creature climbing the hill was unlike anything she had seen before, in either form. Cloven hooves sank into the deep snow, and multiple tails whipped away the falling flakes. A mass of tangled hair whipped in the breeze, and a sack across its back wriggled eerily.
Eleanor dropped to her belly, her canine senses telling her to be cautious. She slithered forward to get a better smell but stopped when the creature halted its climb.
“I see you.”
Eleanor froze. Snow whipped into her face and ruffled her fur the wrong way. Her heart beat wildly in her chest, and she panted as terror pumped through her veins. She tried to speak, but the sound was nothing more than a growl.
“None of that. I know you. Better than you know yourself. Come with me and join me. I could use another creature to help me with my work.”
Eleanor stood, but she didn’t move forward. A gust of wind shifted and brought the creature’s stench to her nose. She sneezed. Ogre. She hated the smell of ogre.
“Come on now. I won’t harm you.”
Eleanor shivered. Ogres couldn’t be trusted, and this one was far different from others. Older. Almost godlike. She sneezed. Still… It was cold. Frigid. And she could use a rest before returning home.
“That’s a good girl. Come with Grýla and let’s get you warm.”
Eleanor took a tentative step forward, then another. Her fur stood on end from more than the cold, and she wanted to turn and run. But she was exhausted from her run and the discussion with Abilene. Rest wasn’t an option, and this creature, Grýla, was currently her only choice.
“That’s a good ly’kita. Come on now.”
Eleanor took another step, and something set fire to her chest. She howled with the pain and buried her face in the snow to ease the burn. A throbbing, began near her heart and moved through her until every part of her ached. She tried to take another step, but her legs gave out, and she landed on her side in the snow.
“Begone, foul beast!”
The ogre screamed and hurried down the far side of the hill, while Eleanor’s head swam. She tried to rise but found her legs too weak to hold her. She shivered at the chill wetness against her skin and realized she had lost her ly’kita form. She was lying naked in the snow in a storm increasing in ferocity. She could barely see in her ly’kita form, and now she’d lost the heightened sense of smell she needed. She tried to will herself back to her Lycan self, but her body refused to respond. She searched for the source of the voice, the one who had sent the ogre running, but all she saw was a vague, humanoid outline. She tried to call out in hope of help, but her voice, too, had abandoned her.
The world went black.
It’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.
Tips for Creating Holidays
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!!!!!
I’ve gotten away from books and writing over the past couple of weeks, so I think it’s time to bring that back into focus.
This time of year, I love reading books about the holidays. One of my favorites is The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. This is always the first one I read each holiday season. L. Frank Baum tells the story of Santa’s life. It isn’t the traditional story, if there really is one, and it takes place in Oz.
Santa begins life as an abandoned baby taken in by the nymph, Necile, in the forest of Burzee. He grows up among the immortals and doesn’t know there are others like himself until the Great Ak takes him on a tour of the world. Once he learns that he is part of the human race, he decides he will serve them and leave the protection of Burzee. It’s a great tale, full of fun and imagination, and one I highly recommend for seasonal reading.
Another favorite of mine is A Christmas Carol. Yes, I’m aware that there are hundreds of variations of this story, and I watch them all. Every year. I try to see one movie a day for the entire Christmas season, but I also read the book at least once. It, too, is one of my favorite, must-have holiday books. I love the creep factor Dickens wove into the tale. Sure, it’s a Christmas classic, but it’s also a horror story that slithers into your blood and rattles your bones. It’s a wonderful ending to the reading I begin in October with Frankenstein, Dracula, and the like.
I also enjoy writing holiday books, and have two that take place during the Yuletide season. One is The Chronicles of Ethan Grimley III: Revenge of Cronus, and the other is A Gift from Sir Klaus. Both are available from Amazon, though A Gift from Sir Klaus is currently only available in paperback. I also have a short story for adults called “Yuletide Sparkle.” I’m thinking of working on a few more, but not for this season.
What are some of your favorite holiday reads? Share with us and help us find something new.
I’ve was always one of those people who loved the hustle and bustle from Thanksgiving to Christmas. I didn’t even think about getting gifts before the turkey had been carved, eaten, and put away. I loved diving into the day after Thanksgiving, not so much for the deals but for the experience of it all.
I got over it.
Several years ago, I figured out that getting everything done in advance made the season much more enjoyable. I started getting the gifts early and had them ready to wrap as soon as the tree went up. I discovered, too, that this eased some of the financial burden, the one thing I really hated about the holidays.
This year is no different. Everything’s decorated and wrapped, and now I just have to bake the goodies as we want them and watch cartoons. I love it! I’ve also found that I have more time to write doing things this way. Being a winter junkie, I’m far more productive when the weather gets cold.
And to make things even better, we got snow. Now, I know some folks are from the northern climates that see lots of the white stuff, but where I live snow before January, and even then, is rare. Loving it! It’s a nice change of pace, and I was able to focus on writing and just watch the snow fall. It was awesome!
How do you prepare for the holidays? What are your secrets to getting things done without stress?
The holiday season is in full swing, and I think we’ve gotten everything ready at the homeplace. The tree’s up, the gifts are wrapped, and the stockings are hung. I think we’ve watched all the classic Christmas cartoons at least once and are starting on the second round.
There have been times in the past when the holiday season seemed to be far more work than it was worth, but this year feels a bit different. There isn’t as much running to do anymore, and my work schedule allows us to go out and participate in some of the community activities. For the first time in years, we were able to see the parade. It wasn’t a fancy thing like the Thanksgiving Day Parade, but it was nice to finally get to see a hometown parade again. Hopefully, there will be other activities to do over the next few weeks.
In the meantime, we’ll continue our tradition of watching movies and cartoons and picking from our advent box. This is something we started several years ago. We wrap a large box and cut a hole in the top. It’s filled with small gifts of nothing much–candy bars and gum, silly toys, stocking stuffers–and we reach in and take something each night from December 1 thru December 24. When the box is empty, it’s Christmas. Granted, my children are mostly grown now, but it’s still a fun thing to do together in the evenings. W
I hope everyone has a joyous season, regardless of which holiday you celebrate, and remember to do what you can for those less fortunate. Even the smallest gesture performed with pure intention can mean the world to someone else.
Have a wonderful season with family and friends, and feel free to share the traditions you value most.
I’ve been playing around with book trailers and have redone the ones for Aradia’s Secret and The Chronicles of Ethan Grimley III: A Walker is Born. Check them out and tell me what you think. I’d like to hope my skills are improving somewhat.
In other news, I have a new book releasing November 21, 2017. It’s a children’s story, A Gift from Sir Klaus, but I’ve done it as a Draw Your Own Illustrations book. I was thinking about reading comprehension and ways I used to have my students practice. One thing we did was to draw scenes from the story. It’s the same principle. The text is at the top of the page, so budding artists have plenty of room to draw. Look for it on Amazon on Tuesday.
Update: A Gift from Sir Klaus was ready sooner than I thought it would be. It’s available on Amazon.
I also updated another trailer. This one is for Wolf in the Shadow.
Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate the holiday. Have a wonderful day with family and friends!
A Gift from Sir Klaus
‘Twas Yuletide at last, and a crystalline night.
The morn would soon bring the rebirth of the light.
Alone on his mountain a-dressed all in green
Sir Klaus stood surveying the wintery scene.
The toys in his pack he loaded onto his sled,
While he waited on young ones to snuggle in bed.
Then down through the snow with his white wolves to guide him
He came with the presents to leave there beside them.
Into each home he crept on silent-clad feet
Leaving gifts by the hearth and taking cookies to eat.
Then away he would slip with a flick of the reins
While children awoke to toys, dolls, and games.
But ‘ware ye the child who would hinder the old,
For Sir Klaus will leave thee nothing but coal.