Month: September 2016

Christian Convictions: Magic in Writing

Christians and Magic

I don’t care for the word ‘magic’. It can be a touchy word in the Christian community. Is magic bad? Is some magic fine to read and other magic not? Is it fine to write? Can I love Lord of the Rings but decide against reading Harry Potter* **? The word magic is so broad that everyone can have their own picture of it without anyone being wrong.

*The answer is yes, by the way. You can choose what to read as you please. You only need to have logical arguments involved if you’re trying to prove why one shouldn’t be read and the other should be read.

**Also, I’d like to note that I’ve not read Harry Potter. I’ve read arguments both for and against reading them, but I’m not currently making any judgments one way other the other. *glances to either side, wondering if I’ve managed to avoid offending both sides or have successfully riled everyone*

I split magic into two main categories. The larger category is fantasy magic, which I like to address as abilities, gifts, or powers. The second one is real-world witchcraft.

Fantasy Magic

Imbedded abilities

This allows characters in fantasy lands to communicate telepathically, animals to talk, shape-shifters to walk the land, gifts of invisibility or creating fire to be given from person to person, or an unusual ability to pass down a family line. I don’t consider any of this proper magic, nor would I call it magic in a book. There’s no mysterious force involved and no spells and chants. It’s simply the way things are in some faraway place. Why should one expect the laws of nature in a fantasy world to operate the same as natural laws here on earth? That’s the whole point of fantasy; to be able to create something new. Something different. I don’t think there is anything in general imbedded abilities which a Christian need shy away from.

Spiritual Powers

Especially in allegory, this can be fascinating to work with. Characters may have abilities which are gifts from the allegorical portrayal of God. Once again, these aren’t chants or ceremonies or something the character is making happen. It is a gift, and should be used as such or there will likely be consequences. And if there are gifts given by the Creator, there might be dark gifts given by the allegorical equivalent of Satan. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with this type of power either, if handled carefully. There were prophets in the Bible who God healed through, and there were also sorcerers. As writers, we don’t try to ignore the darkness in the world, but rather we show it for what it is, reveal the consequences, and bring out the brightness of the light. That being said, even in allegory I, personally, would not go into great depth of any sort of rites powered by the darkness.

Immaterial Force

In a fantasy world there might be an immaterial force or energy which anyone trained can tap into and use for good or bad. It might be called magic. It might be called science. Or it might be religious in nature. I waver on this issue. I would not call it wrong, but at the same time I think a writer needs to be careful with this type of magic. Here, in the real world, magic is bad. There’s not white magic and black magic. The dangers of using an amoral force is that readers may bring the ideas of a force which can be used for good or bad from the fantasy world and apply them to the idea of magic in this world, especially if one is using wands and spells and chants. A lot goes into how it is portrayed. Is it a sort of energy one can draw out with the right tools in a very science-like manner, or is the tone very magic ridden, with rites and ceremonies? Like I said, I wouldn’t go so far as to say this kind of ‘magic’ is always or completely wrong, but it also wouldn’t be my option of choice.

Portal Magic

This is the ‘magic’ that crosses the borders of time and space, dropping characters into the past, the future, or even different worlds. This can be portrayed as science. Or you can mix fantasy with real-life, as if it is something which always exists, most people simple don’t know about it. I’ve no problem with either of those aspects, though I’d not condone portraying it as a magic one has to speak spells over.

Real Magic

Here in the real world, there are only two sources of power. Power from God, and power from Satan. There’s not white magic and black magic; any magic is from Satan and should not be meddled with, which is why I don’t think any character in this world should have magical powers. They might have fantastical abilities due to a science experiment of some sort, but what they can do should have a natural explanation.

As I mentioned early, just because we are Christians doesn’t mean we avoid writing about any kind of evil. How graphically we describe the evil is a topic for another conversation, but there is evil in the world and we don’t try to gloss over it for our readers. Rather we show its consequences and the power of the light. All this to say, magic is a possibility in writing, if you are working on something like a spiritual warfare thriller, but it should never be portrayed as good. And I’d deal with it only in general terms. There is no need for a Christian writer to study the occult to write a ritual, and readers aren’t going to benefit from soaking up details about the darkness which are best left alone.

So when writing, there are a few basic questions you can ask. Is the book here, or in a fantasy world? If in this world, then magic should not be tampered with as an amoral power. Are there cool abilities you want give a race of people? Go for it. Do you want spiritual power in an allegorical world? Make sure the source of good and evil are clearly defined and don’t get carried away on the dark side with blood magic and spells.

Real magic in this world is always evil and should be handled with care, if at all. But what many call magic in fantasy is nothing more than fascinating abilities. And as for the real magic in fantasy, look at the source, the uses, and the portrayal to decide if it is worthwhile or not.

Note: What I write is what I believe after reading the Bible and holding conversations with friends and parents, but that does not mean I’m not interested in Bible evidence for another point of view. If the topics interest you, I encourage you to study them on your own as well. Friendly discussion in the comment section is encouraged if you have points you’d like to bring up, but this is not the place for a full-scale debate. : )

Posted by Hope Ann in Christian Convictions, My Writing, Writer's Corner, writing articles, 17 comments

Books as Rooms Challenge

Another writing tag! This one was started by Writefury and it looks like fun, so I’m going to have at it.

Rules:

  1. Link back to Writefury and the person who tagged you.
  2. Write 3 of your own books as rooms. They can be finished, works in progress, or even just ideas, but they have to be your own.
  3. Write 1 of your favorite books to read as a room.
  4. Tag 5 other people.

At least, that’s the basic idea.

Sooo, let us begin.

My Books:

Fidelyon

A broad room, with a smooth wooden floor and polished log walls. The ceiling is high, but not vaulted, and a fire roars on a great hearth at one end of the room. Green and gold tapestries, embroidered with delicate words, hang in narrow strips along the edges of the room, separating the weapons hanging from the walls. Silver lamps fill the chamber with a golden light. A long table, covered with steaming dishes, cold fruit, and glittering wine, divides the room in two.

Scarlet Rose

A white room, sterile, bare of anything but metal, glass, and glowing holographic lights. A narrow bed, fitted with straps , stretches along one wall. A flickering, transparent screen glows nearby. The two-way window is shattered, glass covering the floor. Broken syringes release a sour smell and small scalpels lie abandoned among the glass. The broken overhead plasma bulbs spit a shower of burning sparks and, in the fading light, one shape glows in laser paint above the bed on the blank wall. A crimson rose.

Forest of Darkness

A small room, built of stone, with thick purple and scarlet curtains covering the walls and narrow window, while soft rugs smother the floor. A small fire crackles, barely lighting up the shadows. Scrolls lie in heaps. Strange stones and figures lie scattered about shelves and tables while, before the fire, rests one seat; a divan, piled high with cushions and blankets.

Not My Book:

The Inkheart series by Cornelia Funke

A round room, with fluted arches and light streaming in broad windows. A spring gurgles merrily nearby and vines slip their green tendrils and sweet scent through the open windows. Glittering mosaics cover the floor. Books cover what little wall remains, beautifully illuminated, clean, fresh. Several lie open on the table, revealing blues and greens and scarlets and golds. A bird sings in the distance and several azure feathers, along with crystal stones and delicate treasure, lie scattered about the chamber.

And now for tagging people…I’m awful at this part of the game, but let’s see…

Ivy Rose

Bethany Smith

Erudessa Aranduriel

Anna S. Brie

Also, anyone else who thinks this would be fun…consider yourself tagged.

Have fun, and tell me what you thought below!

 

Posted by Hope Ann in A Writer's Life, writing tags, 11 comments

Fidelyon: ‘D’ with Ethaniel

Ethaniel, the main character in my novel, Fidelyon, has taken it upon himself to introduce you to his world by going through an alphabet of terms and names.

There is only one obvious word to go with ‘D’…Drexin, of course. One of my best friends, Drexin and I ran messages from the same outpost for over four years together. Under Ard’s observation we learned swordsmanship and all manner of fighting techniques, both with and without weapons. Away from Ard’s sharp gaze, we sometimes fell into all manner of mischief. Generally it was Drexin’s fault, whatever he may claim, but together we always worked our way back out again. Normally without anyone being the wiser.

drexin

Drexin (picture from Pinterest)

Drexin comes from a long line of messengers, and his father runs a nearby outpost while his mother and sister live in Almathea. But Drexin himself is determined to travel and explore…in both Elentisa and Voland if possible. Right now he has his eyes set on being a merchant and occasionally interrogates Cedric on what business entails. But that won’t be until after the war, if we’re not able to talk him out of it. Until then, he’s managed to get himself a position as a Kingsguard where at least I can keep an occasional eye on him.

 

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Posted by Hope Ann in A-Z with Ethaniel, fantasy, Fidelyon, Randomness, WIP, 2 comments

Summer Reading: Mini-Reviews

As summer has progressed, I’ve gotten busier. The good news is I’ve managed to keep track on writing. The bad news is that my reading list has suffered.

summer-2016-books1

Some of you might remember was writing monthly reviews on what I’d read, but I realized I’d only be posting about one or two books a month, so I decided I’d settle for writing seasonal mini-reviews on the fiction I’d been reading.

a-branch-of-silver-a-branch-of-goldOverview: When Heloise’s sister vanishes, she will do anything to get her back. No matter the cost.

Technical aspects: Writing: 4.5 of 5 – Characters: 5 of 5 – Dialogue: 5 of 5 – Theme 4 of 5

My thoughts: I loved the depth of the fantasy world and the characters. I also liked how there was very little romance…a few hints of what could happen towards the end, but that was it. This is the first book in a series and, while ending the story, A Branch of Silver, A Branch of Gold was left very open ended (obviously). The climax of the book was exciting but *spoilers* I did feel like it more involved Heloise reacting to situations and accepting help than actively forcing a conclusion.

Recommendation:  4.5 of 5. This book was an exciting read and I enjoyed how the focus was more sibling orientated than romance orientated…though that is something which I’ve a feeling won’t continue through the series.

elantris

Overview: Once a transformation called the Shaod gave ordinary humans power. Now it is a disease. For those who are struck, there is no cure and they are thrown into the city they once ruled, Elantris. But while Elantris is rotting from the inside, not all is well in the lands under its shadow either.

Technical aspects: Writing: 5 of 5 – Characters: 5 of 5 – Dialogue: 5 of 5

My thoughts: This is the closest to an ‘epic’ fantasy I’ve read in awhile. The book is long, but I didn’t find it slow. Also, three cheers for a story contained in a single book! I loved the depth of the fantasy world and the multiple threads of politics and religion with influence the story. The themes of loyalty and doing one’s duty are strong, but Elantris is not a Christian fiction book so the religions are just that, belief systems of the world. They’re not allegorical, they are just there. There is also a magical element in the story with an abstract force which can be tapped into by those with the right abilities.

Recommendation:  4.5 of 5. I love fantasy, so I loved all the subplots and threads of this story, but this book isn’t for everyone. However, if you enjoy world-building and don’t mind an abstract view of magic or fictional religions (they play a fairly large part in the story, though their details aren’t gone into much…it’s political as much as anything else) then I’d definitely recommend the book for those 13 and up (due to an element of violence which isn’t graphic, but is still present).

cave-worldOverview: Donny enjoys writing about his science-fiction world where all worlds are connected by the caves of the planet Arrax. What he doesn’t expect is to be caught into his own world.

Technical aspects: Writing: 4 of 5 – Characters: 4.5 of 5 – Dialogue: 4 of 5 – Theme 4 of 5

My thoughts: Cave World was a fun read. I loved the humor included as well as the idea of meeting one’s characters and entering a world one has created. The characters were fun and the plot moved quickly.

Recommendation:  4 of 5. An enjoyable read, but I’d recommend it for those 13 and up since it is on the darker side of Christian science fiction when it comes to violence.

Overview: What if some people have the gift to read characters out of books? And what happens when the villains escape and want to use the reader’s gift for their own profit.

Technical aspects: Writing: 4.5 of 5 – Characters: 5 of 5 – Dialogue: 5 of 5

My thoughts: I’ve read Inkheart and Inkspell, and Inkdeath is on my list sometime soon. These books are charming and well written with great characters. The first one started a little slow, the next one not so much. But even if it takes 100 or so pages before the story is moving quickly, they are also 500+ pages long so there is plenty of time for action. Warning: there are a few minor swear words, mainly when the aunt is talking.

Recommendation:  4.5 of 5. I’ve enjoyed these books very much. As I mentioned before, I love writers meeting characters and the idea of going into a book.

the-secret-of-the-lost-settlementOverview: A Colonel must find proof to save himself and his friend from the gallows while two brothers eager for an adventure take it upon themselves to help him.

Technical aspects: Writing: 4 of 5 – Characters: 4 of 5 – Dialogue: 4 of 5 – Theme 4 of 5

My thoughts: Secret of the Lost Settlement brings Colonel Nobody from The Boy Colonel and Lawrence and Chester from Brothers at Arms together in one adventure. This is a fairly quick and enjoyable read.

Recommendation:  4 of 5. If you’ve read the first two books, then this book is a fun sequel where you can see your favorite characters again.

What about you? Have you, or will you, read any of the books I’ve mentioned? What have you been reading this summer?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

 
Posted by Hope Ann in Book Reivews, Reader's Corner, 9 comments

My First Vlog…

Hello, everyone! So I finally decided (after many nights of agonizing with myself and telling myself that posting three times a week was enough and no one wanted to hear more about me) that Saturdays are going to be my random days for occasional posts…things like writing or book tags. Or vlogs!

Thanks to my friend, Ivy Rose, I have now started vlogging. Well, a little. I’m taking part in her Very Awesome Vlog Challenge and will be making a vlog once every two months at least. I may do it more often if they happen to be wildly popular or something weird like that. 😉

So, without more ado…here I am with all my pauses and umms and rambles.

*peers between fingers*

Are you done yet? *exhales* Good. 😉

Oh, and just so you know…this means I also have a YouTube channel now! So you can check it out and even, you know, subscribe if you want right here. I don’t think I’ll be posting too often; just vlogs and book trailers and…who knows? But I also have some writing music playlists and such which you other writers might be interested in.

If you have any questions I didn’t get to, just ask them again. And ask new questions…random and weird ones are welcome. Have fun!

Posted by Hope Ann in A Writer's Life, Vlog, 11 comments

New Fantasy Times: Musings of a Minion

Musings of a Minion

Heroes have overwhelming expectations placed upon them, and villains are pressed into stereotypes, but the one character who no one seems to expect much of are the minions. They work hard too, and they’d appreciate some recognition as this anonymous letter from a minion, delivered by Kirin testifies.

To whom it may or may not concern,

Everyone has a trade or craft or position of some sort, from smiths and bakers, to farmers and soldiers, to architects and sailors. I so happened to choose the path of a minion. Not, of course, that you should ever, ever, use that term. It’s a great inside joke, but do you know how demeaning it is when someone address us as a mere minion of some great leader? No? Well, try it sometime to our face and just you wait. You’ll be sorry.

Because honestly, face it, you use the term minion as if it is degrading. As if we are less than the one we serve, less than other people, and sometimes less than human. Is a soldier in the army treated as less than a person just because he’s under a great general? We are people, same as anyone else. We’ve loyalties, duties, likes, dislikes, families…we aren’t some brainwashed mass who does a villain’s bidding. I’d best add here that villain is just another term bandied about. To us, he is our employer. Perhaps a master. Perhaps a friend. Yes, there are some who might serve him out of fear, but then he’s little more than a slave driver. Generally ‘minions’ work because they choose to for money or for other rewards.

We might have ambitions to become like him someday, or we might just be working to put food on the table, but either way where do you think he’d be without others like us? No one, hero or villain, can do everything. So they hire helpers and others volunteer for the job. You don’t see the people helping heroes called minions, do you?

Though, frankly, the gross underestimation that generally comes with the term ‘minion’ does help us out quite a bit. I mean, how do you think we got our jobs? By shooting at a target and the one who hits the least gets promoted? We work to earn our way. If we deal in security, then we are at least a notch above the average shot or swordsman. If we work indoors, we are constantly on the alert. Our rise and fall is intimately connected to that of our employer (do you know how hard it is to find a job after working for someone termed ‘villain’?). This is also the reason a good villain will hire his helpers, not enslave them. But we aren’t just going to look the other way or fall asleep while guarding prisoners (there are severe penalties for that anyway) or (generally) accept bribes. Well, I take that back. It depends on the quality of our employer and what we think the long-term damage will be and how it affects us. The best course of action is to acquire the bribe then go to our employer. Hey, you don’t expect us to act honorably anyway. Why should we?

One thing we don’t do is fight among ourselves. There is a certain code among us, which we all follow for our own good. Sometimes, I admit, some man or woman gets ambitious, but such uprisings are generally put down from the top. Because no house will succeed when ripped apart from the middle. Now there is one exception. If faced with ‘minions’ from a different villain, insults and then blows might fly. But who can blame us? The others are generally insufferable.

We come from all walks of life and for all kinds of reasons. Adventure. Love. Revenge. The need to provide for a family. The experience. If we fail, there are standard punishments like anywhere else. If we betray, we die. But if we work hard and use our skills, we are able to obtain a view from the shadows that very few can see.

Remaining nameless to protect myself,

A Sharpshooting ‘Minion’

 

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Kirin Quillblade (or Elena) to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper’s missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

 

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Posted by Hope Ann in A Writer's Life, fantasy, Fidelyon, New Fantasy Times, writing articles, 4 comments

Fidelyon: ‘C’ Ethaniel

Ethaniel, the main character in my novel, Fidelyon, has taken it upon himself to introduce you to his world by going through an alphabet of terms and names.

I have two names which begin with ‘C’ for you today.

The first is Calexa. Of the twelve provinces of Elentisa, each with a capital the same name of the province, Calexa is the largest of them all. The fifth major port city along the Elentisaren coast, the city of Calexa is a center of trade and bustles with craftsmen of all sorts. The people tend to be talkative and merry, or so I’ve heard. I was only there once, briefly, in the middle of winter and in the middle of war. No one was merry and there was very little speaking.

Cedric is the other name that begins with C. The Councilman of Ryth, Cedric is also a merchant and savvy businessman. Brother to Anthedon, also a Councilman, the two have been a great help in the war against Voland. In private, they argue almost constantly, balancing Cedric’s occasional rashness with Anthedon’s cautious planning until they are sure they have hammered out the best plan possible. In public, they show an undivided front.

A father of two daughters, Cedric longs for home life but is dedicated to the wellbeing of his country, no matter the cost.

Unrelated to these ‘C’ words, Hope bids me inform you all that beta reading sign-ups for Fidelyon will open tomorrow! So keep your eyes open for that extra post if, you know…you’re interested in me and my story for some reason.

 

Sign up to my newsletter to get regular updates on my writing and secret stories about the realm-leapers and fantasy time travelers, Kirin and Elena, each month. Join the Legend Seekers here.

 

Posted by Hope Ann in A-Z with Ethaniel, fantasy, Fidelyon, Reader's Corner, WIP, 0 comments

How to Self-Publish on Amazon: the beginner’s step-by-step guide to self-publishing their first book

Ready to self-publish on Amazon?

Considering self-publication on Amazon, but don’t have a clue where to start or what to expect? Take a glimpse behind-the-scenes, so when the time comes to push the button and create your own ebook, you already know what lies ahead of you.

Before you publish

Assuming your book is already proofread and edited, the next step is formatting. You can hire someone to do this for you from places like Fiverr, or you can spend an hour or two and format the book yourself. Though some people use HTML code, I’ve found that following Amazon’s free ebook of guidelines using Microsoft Word works very well and is pretty easy to do. You can download a free copy of their formatting guidelines here.

You also need a cover. Don’t rush this step. Almost everyone judges a book by its cover to some extent and you don’t want your months of writing ignored because of a sloppy cover, especially when you can hire someone on Fiverr to make a good cover for as low as $20. Amazon’s guidelines for ebook covers can be found here.

Finally, research categories and keywords. You’ll be allowed to choose two categories and seven keywords when you self-publish your book, so pick the best ones you can to increase your book’s chance of being found in a random search.

Categories can be found on Amazon’s sidebar, with subcategories and sub-subcategories. Once you click a category, the number of books for that category will appear in the upper left-hand corner, giving you an idea of the competition. If you click the first few books and scroll down to the book information, you can see what number the ebook is ranked in the kindle store, getting an idea of how popular the category is. Together, these numbers will help you figure out what categories will give your book its best chance.

Keywords are somewhat similar. Think of Amazon like a search engine and imagine what people looking for a book like yours might type in. Try out the keywords and see how many results you get and what the books are ranked.

Finally, set up your Amazon account. Even if you have one already, you’ll have to get a KDP account and enter in tax and bank information, as well as chose a payment option (electronic transfer, check, etc.).

The Publishing Process

On your KDP dashboard, right at the very top, you’ll have the option to create a new title. Once you’ve clicked it, you only have two pages to fill out.

The first page is metadata about your book. You enter in your title, subtitle, series name (if it’s part of one), author name, a description, categories (after all your category research, the categories you see here and the ones you see on Amazon aren’t quite the same. You might have to do some experimenting with them to get your book in the categories you want), keywords, and the age range of your book (optional, but if you want your book in a children’s or young adult category, you might need to use it). At the bottom of the page upload your cover and manuscript, and move on!

The second page is all about money. You set the price for your book and choose your royalty option. You can select between receiving 35% royalties or 70% royalties. To use the 70% option, your book must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Once you’ve chosen your price, you push publish, wait around 12 hours, and your book will be live on Amazon and ready to buy!

After Publication

You can’t set a book’s price to free, but if you want a permafree ebook for marketing purposes, you can upload it somewhere like Smashwords, then contact Amazon to ask them to price match your book. They’ll generally do so within a few days.

Also, if you find a mistake, want to update a portion of your book, or change a category or the description, it’s very easy. Just click on the book in your dashboard and it will take you to the same pages you filled in when you published the book. Switch or change whatever you like, push publish again, and the changes will be live around twelve hours later.

Set up an account on Amazon Author Central so people can look you up and see what else you’ve written.

And you’re set and ready to go! Don’t let the publication process scare you and if you have any questions, feel free to ask below!

 

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Posted by Hope Ann in Self-publishing, Writer's Corner, writing articles, 10 comments

Beyond the Parchment: Part 1

Last month I gave you three options for the beginning of a serial story, and the third one won by a landslide. And so, without further ado, here is the ‘pilot episode’ of my serial story (including what I wrote last time). Enjoy!

It Just Had to be Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the Second

I wake up in the dark. Shreds of parchment flutter around me, sifting through the shadows in a noiseless wind. I watch them vacantly for a long moment as my thoughts slowly connect. A late night of writing. My muttered threats about deleting the whole document if it didn’t cooperate. My dreams filled with vague faces, half remembered prophecy fragments, and a gleaming silver sword a character was given as proof of his kingship…which he then accidentally stabbed into a stone, couldn’t pull it back out, and ended up leaving behind.

My lips, which have gradually turned upwards in a smirk, widen into a smile. Now that idea I’ll have to write down. I roll over, reaching for the notebook I always keep by my bed.

And freeze.

It isn’t there. Only darkness and the paper fragments, quickening in a wind I can’t feel. I narrow my eyes. Am I not awake then? Is this an inception type of dream? I frown. But I have to wake up. To write down that idea before I forget it. What idea was it again…? It will probably be something really weird once my logical brain gets a hold of it.

Except…

Except I feel awake. And the wind about me almost looks like… It looks like the portal cavern I’d been trying to invent the day before. That jolts me into a sitting position.

“Calm yourself, May Ann,” I growl to myself, then, “what if this is real? If I should be so lucky.” I raise my eyebrows. “Which I doubt, of course. Luck indeed. The portal didn’t even work. But then…you never know. It’s good for description anyway.”

The parchments have sped into a blur now. I stretch out one hand. For the fraction of a second, a cold gust slices against my skin, then it is gone. The paper. The wind. The darkness. Moonlight seeps through my window. Everything is as it should be.

I swallow down an unreasonable touch of disappointment and reach for my notebook. At least…

My breath quickens.

I’m not alone.

Reaching backwards, my hand closes about the dagger I keep by my bed as a shadowy figure steps through my door. I stare, barely even remembering to breathe as I take in the fair hair, short beard, leather armor, emblazoned hammer and whip, and the sword clenched in the man’s hand.

Emotions and thoughts batter about my mind too quickly to even acknowledge them, but one thought sears through all the rest. Why him? Of all my characters, why had the portal brought him through? There were so many others I’d rather see.

You’re asking why him when you should be asking why at all? Are you insane? Do you realize what you have done? What will happen now…boy, but he is perfect isn’t he? That sneer and the way he holds himself with such…such vainness. Even my inner voice is having trouble focusing on scolding me the man strides to the middle of the room, slowly turning as his gaze skims the maps covering the wall.

I should probably introduce myself. Something calming. Perhaps some flattery.

He steps towards my desk, his hand curling around a crystal figurine.

“Don’t touch that!” The words snap out of my mouth before I can stop them and the man spins, his eyes searching out the shadows. One long step, and his hand wraps itself around the front of my nightgown as he drags me from the bed, bringing the cool edge of his blade against my throat.

“You dare give me orders?” He demands. “Do you even know who I am? Of course you don’t. You should though. You will too, after tonight. You’ll remember me. Your whole world will remember me. Also, how far is your nearest tailor shop? Because I require the best of whatever –”

“What you require is something I’m going to be sorry I didn’t give you,” I grumble, twisting backwards.

“And now you’re interrupting me.” The man shifts his grip to my hair and holds up his blade before my eyes. “Don’t you know what this is, girl? It’s a sword. It will kill you.”

I smirk as my eyes travel adoringly up the engraved blade to the ruby studded hilt. “Well, it might if it weren’t Andrith, the third most powerful blade in Braceaon and incapable of killing anyone who is innocent. Frankly, you’d do better with a normal dagger. Can I hold the sword?”

“No.” The man growls out the word as he slams it into his sheath and thrust a dagger under my skin. The edge of this blade is sharp. Idiot that I am. “It’s the second most powerful blade. Now who exactly do you think yourself to be? And what are you dressed in? Is that the fashion here?”

“Andrith is the third most powerful blade. And it’s a nightgown. Something which, in your world, would be very improper for you to see.” The man snaps himself out of his perusal of my long nightgown with a suddenness which makes me suppress a grin. On second thought, there are worse characters who could have appeared at this time of night. “Also, I’m May Ann. Will you please remove that dagger from my throat?”

The man scowls, but actually complies, even though it’s only to step back and sweep a dashing bow and flick his cape over his shoulder. “Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the second, Earl of the third shire of Braceaon.” He never could resist introducing himself with a flourish. “And owner of the second most powerful sword in the world.”

Yep, just as vain as I imagined him. As far as swords were concerned…I’d looked forward to the discovery of the most powerful blade in my book for this very reason. I just hadn’t expected to be the one to tell the second son of one of the most powerful lords in Braceaon about it. For now the matter was best left alone. As well as the fact that Jerinthreo was claiming his brother’s title.

“Well, then maybe –” I reach over and flicked on the light switch. The next moment I am pressed against the wall, the dagger at my throat once more.

“Traitor!” Jerinthreo spat out the word. “Firstly, you can call me Lord Jerinthreo. And what do you want to do, signal my enemies?”

“It’s a light!” I protest. His glare deepens and I amend my statement. “Lord Jerinthr… Jerinthre… will Jerin do?” The names I make up; I’ll never be able to add that perfectly accented ‘eo’ like Jerinthreo had said it. “Everyone has them. Look!” I point upwards and at the light fixture and Jerin followed my gaze. I take the opportunity to shove his hand out of the way and sidestep towards my chair where I’d draped my clothes.

“It’s…natural then?”

“More or less.” I shrug. “Did you expect everything to be the same in this world?” How has he even gotten to this world anyway? The portal machine isn’t his, though I don’t put a bit of meddling – or outright stealing – past him. He must have got in another fight with his brother…

My eyes widen. “Daraton?”

Jerin’s gaze hardens. “What do you know of my brother?”

For a second, my breath catches in my throat as my mind sifts through the tangle of half-formed plot twists and characters. There’s no way to know exactly where the characters are or if they’ve even followed my storyline exactly, but as my gaze skims over Jerinthreo again, this time under the light, I pick up signs I missed the first time. The tear in his velvet sleeve. The lopsided clasp on his cloak. The scuffs on his boots. The tightness lurking under the faintest sneer which curls his lip and lifts the side of one nostril. My eyes end at his, taking in the green glare which masks fury and pain.

He takes a step forward. “Are you in league with him too?” His fingers tighten over his dagger. “Whoever you are; however you know so much about us –  because it obvious you’re not from Braceaon, tell me what you know about my brother right now. Because if you helped him murder my father, then by the blazing mountain itself…” His cavalier attitude has vanished but I hardly notice as I stare at him.

“Lord Balstin is dead?”

“Why else do you think I’m here?” Jerin spits out the words.

No. It’s not right. Something is missing. A few pieces shift in my mind. My picture is different from anything Jerinthreo or Daraton will guess, but it’s still far from clear. Except in one point.

I spring for the light switch, plunging us both back into darkness. “Is he here? Daraton? Did he follow you?”

In the moonlight, it’s hard to decipher Jerin’s expression. In any case, he doesn’t have a chance to answer as glass crashes downstairs. Jerin’s jaw clenched and he steps toward the door, drawing his sword. I grit my teeth and snatch my clothes and shoes from my chair, then grab Jerin’s arm, ducking as he swings his dagger.

“Come on. I know a way out.”

His eyes narrow. “Any why should I trust you?”

Feet thud through the house, nearing. Where has the portal let out at and who has come through? More than one person, from the sound of it. I send a glance desperately around my room, finally pausing as they rest on a green stone, framed with silver petals.

I spin back to Jerin. But it’s too late. Another figure fills the door in the moonlight and the room explodes in a clash of silver and metal.

So, what do you think? What should happen next? Any guesses as to backstory? Or clothes Jerin should try out, assuming he survives the fight?

Posted by Hope Ann in Beyond the Parchment, My Writing, Reader's Corner, serial story, 24 comments