Quote of the Moment

"Magic comes from what is inside you. It is part of you. You can't weave together a spell you don't believe in." - Jim Butcher

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Magic Is Reality, Reality is Magic: Lughnasadh

Magic is Reality, Reality is Magic is a series that highlights aspects of religions, particularly Paganism. We pull things from everyday life to use in our fiction. Magic is one of the key attributes of fantasy. Why not explore the realm of magic that many people already have in their lives?


Picture By David Monniaux
Lughnasadh, also called Lammas (which at times I prefer to use simply because I almost always spell the former incorrectly), lands on August 1 and is the first harvest festival of the year. It's also a sabbat that honors the god Lugh. Harvest time has always been important--a representation of fertility and the success of growing food needed to sustain everyone for another year. This is the grain harvest, such as wheat, corn, and barley. Living where I do, I can see the rows upon rows of corn ready to be harvested soon!

It's a time to feast on all the harvest that has been brought in already; grains, fruits, and vegetables. And corn tends to be at the top of the list, since it's found in so many places. Some of the corn can even be used to make a Corn Dolly, to be used as a fertility charm and a ritual centerpiece. Alcohol made from grains, like whiskey, as well as bread, are also used in the festivities. Perhaps bake up a tasty batch of cornbread. Yum!

Aside from what I mentioned above, symbols of Lughnasadh include roosters and many things associated with threshing grains, like threshing houses and even carrying a bride over a threshold. And to keep up with the importance of corn, you can use popcorn to make strings of decorations for the celebration.

Of course I've only touched on information about this sabbat, so I encourage you to explore a bit further if it interests you. And here are some websites to start with: Lughnasadh, All About Lammas (Lughnasadh), and Lughnasadh - Overview.

Further Reading Suggestions:

Franklin, Anna and Paul Mason. Lammas: Celebrating the Fruits of the First Harvest. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 2001.

I hope you found this tidbit interesting! If you would like me to touch on a particular topic that fits in this series, please don't hesitate to contact me with suggestions.

NEXT UP:
Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Chapter 2 (Saturday, August 1)
What's In A Name? (Wednesday, August 5)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Chapter 1

DISCLAIMER: This is rough draft material. Don't be surprised if you fall into plot holes, trip over inconsistencies, and get hit in the head with direction changes. I've done my best to read through several times before posting, though, to make sure most spelling and grammar errors are corrected. Any constructive comments are welcome for when I revise this novel. Thank you for reading!

All current and previous chapters for Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession can also be found on Wattpad. And for an easy to access list of all chapters that have been posted to Born to Write, please visit the Table of Contents.

A new chapter is planned to be posted to Wattpad every Friday, and that chapter will then be posted on Born to Write on the Saturday after.

Prologue: Resolution and Novel Blurb

* * * * *

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession

Chapter 1

Obsidian clutched one side of the heavy wooden chest, insisting on helping the coach driver who transported her. After all, nestled at the bottom, waiting to be discovered, was her portal book. And she didn't want it to be found. Oh, no. If the Guardians knew it existed, not only would it disappear, she would too. They took their duties too seriously.

Sid had made it this far, showing that she was willing to give her life to become a Guardian herself. The tests had been passed, her and her family scrutinized, and now she wrested her chest off the back of the coach in front of the House of Portals, a dedicant, eager to learn.

To learn how to read the book she had found six years ago.

The chest thudded on the ground, and Sid sat on it, muscles in her legs and arms throbbing.

"There you go, miss," the coach driver said. "Shall I knock for you?" He pointed to the ornate double doors in front of them, the decor of its frame similar to the arch of the gate she had found on her family's land. It even had the ancient script at the top.

Sid wondered if it was the word for house. Or perhaps Guardian. Oh, or portal. She hoped it didn't mean doom. "No. Just going to catch my breath, then I'll knock straight away. Thank you kindly for the smooth journey."

It had been smooth, but sleepless. She couldn't believe she'd finally attained her goal. For the most part. It was only a matter of time before she knew every word of that ancient language. Then she could open her gate.

The driver stared at her for a moment, perhaps unsure what to make of her, then shook his head and pulled himself up behind the horses. Soon his existence was nothing but dust kicked up by the horses and the wheels.

Sid not only wanted to catch her breath, but revel in her accomplishment, to take in the beauty of the House of Portals. And enjoy her last bit of freedom, since she didn't know when she'd be allowed to step on this side of the threshold again.

Perhaps the word meant prison.

Best not to think such dark thoughts, especially when she was about to pass through those doors. Now wasn't the time to doubt, to question her goal. She'd had six years to change her mind, and she'd been unwavering. Then why did she feel like she'd swallowed an egg? One that hatched inside of her, releasing a chick to scratch around her insides. Ugh.

Knock, Sid. Just knock on the stupid door.

She stood, fist poised over the engraved wood. Such beautiful carvings, ones that if she looked hard enough gave the hint of telling a story. The story of all the Guardians who gave their lives over to protect the portals.

The doors swung open. Magic, it had to be. They knew she was here, hesitant to enter, and whatever magic soaked the gates had seeped into the walls of this place and sensed her presence. The magic wanted to suck her in, sure as the gate on her family's land had all those years ago.

A figure stepped out of the shadows and under the arch.

Sid released a shuddering breath. No magic. Just a Guardian. Well, she thought he was a Guardian. He couldn't be more than a few years her senior, though. Slim and willowy, he stood about half a foot taller than her. His light brown hair brushed his eyelashes and thin, metal-rimmed glasses perched on his nose.

She wished she could see his eyes better, but the reflection from his lenses half hid them. His full lips needed a smile--it would truly light up his face and make him rather handsome, but he only offered her a stern, straight-lipped look.

Yup, had to be a Guardian. Guardians were too damned serious.

"Obsidian?" he asked.

"That's me. But you can call me Sid."

He raised an eyebrow, so precise and effortless that Sid thought he may have practiced the maneuver in front of a mirror. "Sid? That sounds like a boy's name."

Rude. "Well, it's my name. No one else has ever had a problem with it." If all of the Guardians were like this one, she'd have to summon all of her restraint not to go off on them. It would be worth it, though. She needed the knowledge. Right?

"No matter." He motioned forward with his hand and two more people came out of the shadows. "These two dedicants will take your trunk to your room. Please follow me, Obsidian." He turned and disappeared back into the shadows.

Sid hesitated. She didn't want her belongings out of her sight. Would they go through her trunk to make sure she didn't bring anything with her she shouldn't have? She hoped not.

The Guardian peeked his head back out. "I assure you, nothing will happen to your things. Please, come."

She glanced at her trunk, imagining the book wrapped up in a cloth all the way at the bottom. If only she knew magic so she could hide it, so no one could find it even if they sifted through her items. But she didn't, and she couldn't. She'd made it this far, and she wouldn't let her fear of discovery stop her now.

"Coming." Sid stepped over the threshold--a wave of power swept over her, and she swayed. She looked back at the door, wondering if she'd actually stepped through a true portal, into another world. No, that was silly.

The two dedicants walked through carrying her trunk on either end, nearly slamming into her.

She side-stepped to get out of their way. "Sorry." She then turned to catch up to the Guardian, yet her surroundings made her pause again. Two sets of spiral stairs led upwards, the dedicants with her trunk maneuvering up the one on the right. From what she could tell, there were at least two levels leading up. In between the staircases was a door, larger, but just as ornate as the one she had stepped through. And another ancient word etched at the pinnacle.

The entrance she stood in was open, the ceiling high and ending in a dome. Someone had painted a beautiful mural on the dome, one that she could spend days studying and still not be tired of the view. A round world, likely Nect, shone in the middle, blues and greens made with a reflective paint to draw the eye. Surrounding the world were six gates. And a chain connected each gate to the world in the center. Flora laced the gates, different for each one.

"Are you coming, Obsidian?"

Sid pulled her gaze from the dome, wanting to lay on her back and study it more, but this Guardian had no patience. "Yes, yes." She jogged to catch up.

"Well, then," he said when she finally caught up. "This way first." He turned right, down one of two hallways that branched off of the entrance.

She practically had to run to keep up with his long strides and quick pace.

"Even though it's called the House of Portals, it's a bit more complicated than that. We're in the main building, which is a circle that wraps around, so it duals as a wall. Out the large door you saw is the central area of the compound, which we'll look at later. The first floor you'll find the kitchens, laundry, workers' quarters--."

"Do you have a name?" Not that what he was saying wasn't fascinating--actually, it wasn't, not unless he was telling her where the gates were--but she'd rather not just call him the Guardian. He knew her name, after all.

He stopped abruptly, and Sid ran into him. Like running into a wall.

"Oh. My apologies. I'm Damian." He looked down at her, head cocked, but didn't offer his hand in greeting. "I've been assigned as your mentor while you pursue your studies."

Him? This might be harder than she thought, especially if she had to spend most of her time with this unsmiling, rude man. "Aren't you a little young to be a Guardian mentoring others?"

Damian didn't answer right away, brows knit together. He pressed his pointer finger to the bottom of his chin briefly. "That's a matter of perspective. I was born and raised here. All of my pursuits have been to learn the ways of the Guardians, so I was a dedicant for most of my childhood. Young perhaps to you, who just stepped through the doors and know nothing. You'll probably never know as much as I do."

Condescending jerk. "Have you ever been outside of the House of Portals?"

"No." He clasped his hands behind his back. "Now, enough questions. It's time to continue the tour." His pace seemed quicker this time.

They continued around the circular building, Damian rattling off where everything was. Dorms, libraries, study rooms, classrooms. Sid tried to remember everything he mentioned, but she was more focused on him. No wonder he didn't have any manners or didn't know how to smile. What was it like to never see the outside, to spend your entire life shut away among a bunch of people who had sticks up their butts and lived for the rules they set down? Sounded miserable.

"And finally", Damian said, "we'll go out to the courtyard."

They'd made a circuit all the way around the first floor and were now standing in the entrance again, in front of the large door across from where she came in. She hoped he'd show her her room soon because he'd worn her out already with the long loop.

Damian opened the large double doors and ushered her through.

She obliged and felt that rush of power again when passing under the arch.

He stepped through behind her as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. Perhaps he was just used to it.

Sid blinked, the sunlight in her eyes a shock after being in the dim indoors of the main building.

"Here we have a few other buildings, including the council chambers right in the center."

Once Sid got used to the light, she froze, the sight ahead of her unbelievable. Sure enough, she saw the top of a large building further away, actually further than she'd expected if it was in the center, as the circumference of the building didn't feel that big.

That's not what she cared about, though. The entire courtyard was littered with portals. Not one or two, no, but dozens. And all in pristine condition. She couldn't discern any type of pattern for their placement. They were where they needed to be, some even tilted at off angles embedded in small hills.

Sid wanted to walk up to the nearest one, only feet from her, and touch it, feeling the engravings and the word at its pinnacle, like she had many times with her gate back home. She knew she couldn't, not with Damian standing right behind her. No one shall touch the gates without permission. Rule one.

Well, they couldn't watch her all the time.

* * * * *

Chapter 2

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Prologue

If you enjoy the Prologue of Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession below, you can find a new chapter posted every Friday on Wattpad. Happy reading!

* * * * *

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession

Prologue: Resolution

Obsidian traced the symbols with her fingers. Dirt embedded in the creases crumbled down, but the stone held strong. Magic. Everyone knew the portals of Nect never aged, never degraded.

But they could be hidden. Just like the gate she reached up to now. Vines entwined around it and dirt caked the etched stone, so it looked part of the wooded hillside, no matter the season. Which was why no one knew this gate was here.

Not until she tripped over it.

Sid retraced the symbols, wondering what they meant. Only the Guardians knew the runic language, though. The word at the pinnacle of the portal gave a hint to what lay on the other side, she knew that much. But no one had opened one for centuries to even see. The Guardians kept the secret of how to do that as well. They kept that secret and refused to use it.

This particular gate stood about the height of an adult female, but Sid was only twelve, so she had to stretch still to feel the etchings. She imagined the beauty under all of the dirt and grime. Oh, how the stone would shine if cleaned up. How the portal would beckon.

It already beckoned to her. Touching it felt right, like she was part of it.

Sid's grandfather had claimed his father had come from a portal, that her blood wasn't wholly Nectinian. But those were silly stories meant to entertain. Weren't they?

The surge of contentment from the stone on her fingertips made her wonder. No, those tales had to be just that, tales. No one had passed through a gate in ages, let alone someone coming from another world here to Nect.

Perhaps the portal just called to her to be opened. It had laid here hidden for so long that it craved to be used, to be entered and have the world on the other side rediscovered.

This is why the Guardians refused to let commoners near the portals. Strange magic held them together, and that magic could turn a person mad. Some people claimed the Guardians didn't even know the extent of the magic, which is why they never stated exactly what kind of danger just touching a portal could cause.

Obsidian didn't care about the possible dangers. She knew she was meant to find this gate.

And she'd keep it to herself.

Her arm grew tired and she pulled it back, then sat down cross-legged in front of the hidden stone arch, staring at the runic word. Yes, all hers.

If she told anyone about it, the Guardians would descend on her family's property and claim this section as their own. There'd be a permanent guard on the portal, and her mother, father, and brothers would be scrutinized, watched, until they were pretty much bullied to leave their ancestral home behind.

Sid had seen it happen to a friend in two sanctions over. At least those Guardians were far enough away so as not to catch wind of her portal. As long as she kept quiet. No one could know, not even her mother. And she'd make sure to steer her two younger brothers away from playing near it. Their land was large and half wild, so it wouldn't be a big problem.

No saying what would happen to her if the Guardians found out. The whispers of what happened to people who actually discovered a portal tended toward the gruesome.

She shuddered.

Sid pushed herself up from the ground, intent on feeling the word again, but something in the ground scratched her palm, drawing blood. Too many rocks around.

"Ouch." She brought her hand to her mouth, sucking on the wound, which made it sting even more. Stupid.

She shook her hand, trying to brush the pain off. It wasn't that deep, but the shallow cuts always seemed to hurt the most.

The setting sun shone threw the trees and a glint from the ground caught her eye. Perhaps it wasn't a rock that had scratched her. She crouched to get a closer look. Metal. It had to be. She tried to dig around the object with her fingers, but she needed something stronger to loosen the dirt.

Sid hunted on the hill for a strong fallen branch and lucked out after a short search.

Then she dug. The branch scratched her hands up even more with her frantic motions, but she didn't care. She had to unearth this thing--it had to be connected to the portal. Perhaps even a hint at how to open in.

Once the dirt was loose enough, she bent over and yanked out the item, falling back onto her butt with the force of her pull.

A metal box about the size of a cat. And one that was rusted nearly beyond recognition. She hoped whatever was in it was still intact. Sid turned it around in her hands, looking for the latch, and heard the contents bang. Ah, there it was, as hidden as the gate itself. A push lock. She needed both thumbs since there were two mechanisms, each on opposite sides, and she ground them into the push locks until her fingers throbbed. Open, come on, just open.

And when she thought the box would refuse to obey, she heard the tell-tale clicks. Yes.

The lid slipped off, revealing an inside in much better condition than the outside. As if the same magic holding the portals together made sure the black metal lining remained pristine. Or the book that she revealed had its own kind of magic.

Sid plucked it out of the box and turned it around in her hands. The cover was made of leather which smelled as new as the day the book was bound, and on the front were the same runic letters as on the gate. She paged through it--all the same, written in a language she didn't know.

A language only the Guardians knew.

Well, then, she'd just have to become a Guardian.

Sid placed the book back into the box and locked it. She removed her jacket and wrapped the box in it, so as to hide her discovery when she returned home. Finding a hiding place for it in the house would be necessary. Or the barn--that would be even better.

The sun had nearly dipped below the horizon. She imagined her mother's voice calling to her just out of reach. "Sidi! Dinner is ready. Sidi!" Time to get home before her parents began to worry.

Obsidian clutched the wrapped book to her chest and ran, thinking of all the steps she needed to take to become a Guardian in the next six years.

Then she could finally read the word etched into the portal. And the book in her arms.

* * * * *

Blurb:

Obsidian successfully plays the game expected of her, passes the tests, and is accepted as a Guardian. Though she jumps through the hoops, she doesn't want to follow the precepts at all, to guard the portals but never open them. She believes its a waste to not explore the worlds within, like her ancestors had. How can they protect themselves if something comes through the portals if they don't know what's in them?

Obsidian's appointed mentor, Damian, is a straight-laced young Guardian, who can't contain the young dedicant. He's always believed the laws are in place to protect all of Nect, but Obsidian starts to make him question his own principles. She doesn't allow him any time to examine the possibilities, though, and he has to decide between reporting her or standing by her side to protect her from whatever horrors she stirs up.

Will the Guardians end Obsidian's life, or will something from another world get to her first?

* * * * *

Chapter 1

NEXT UP (July 29): Magic Is Reality, Reality Is Magic: Lughnasadh

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

"Dancing in the Wind" Cover Update

I've been sitting on this for a while because I needed to update things in all of the stores. And then things like writing kept getting in the way. =D

Anyway, here's the new cover for "Dancing in the Wind"!

I also reformatted everything for Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Smashwords (Smashwords also distributes it to iBooks and some other stores). Things look a little nicer, plus I added some back matter (About the Author, Newsletter Sign-Up, Connect Online, and Other Stories). If you purchased a copy already, you can probably contact who you purchased it from to get the updated version (it's not a new edition, since there were no changes to the story or front matter).

Also, if you've read it and liked it, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads! Reviews are one of the best things you can do for writers, aside from buying their stories and books. ;)

You can also find a snippet on one of my older blog posts, HERE.

That's all I got for today. I hope you all like the new cover. I know I do!

NEXT UP: Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Prologue

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Crazy Necro Antics, Fifth Edition - Wedding Bells Part 2: Broadsword Wedding

The necromancer is a playable character class in Everquest, also called necro for short. Necros have an ability called feign death--some nicknames for this ability are FD and flopping. This series will highlight some funny instances of feign death. You do not need to be an Everquest player or even a gamer to laugh at these antics. Happy giggles!

What's going on? Morrigann remembers the tempting glass of wine offered to her. It was delicious, but it had an odd aftertaste. Who was it again that poured it? The world is all fuzzy and she's drifting away. She swears she only had a few sips, no where near enough to get drunk.

A moment of brief lucidity. Beautiful doors. Such gorgeous stained-glass windows. Where is she? Why can't she seem to move? How did she get here in the first place? Too many questions--she's never been this drunk before. Never blacked out before. Her vision fades again as she stares at the colors of the glass.

She returns to consciousness once more. Sunlight filters into the windows, and she smells the flowers. The heady scent wafts into her nose, making her feel as if she's floating. Odd. She definitely prefers flopping to casting Dead Man Floating on herself. She needs to stop waking up in places she has no recollection of wandering to. Before she can try to process her location, blackness takes her.

An altar? Is she crashing another wedding? She swore she wouldn't again, not after the last time. Those wizards still give her nightmares, and she was lucky to escape with her life. No way she wanted to be in another chapel! But it does look like an altar....

Instead of drifting off into nothingness again, her vision clears and she finally focuses on her surrounding. Here she is, flopped in front of an altar. What is she doing here? Who did this to her? She tries to get up, unsuccessfuly, but she hears movement and grunting, as if someone is dragging another body, like they must have dragged her. She must have been drugged with the wine!

Eek! Morrigann's been saying that way too often lately. The other body they pulled next to her is that of a shadowknight. And there's another shadowknight looming next to her. She's been caught in a broadsword wedding! She doesn't want to get married, especially to a shadowknight. No way, uh uh. The tip of the looming shadowknight's sword looks way too sharp.

But she has to risk escape. Thankfully, she comes to her senses soon enough before the minister has a chance to make the marriage binding, and bolts through the chapel doors, narrowly missing the sweep of that wicked sword.

Not only is she going to avoid weddings, but it might be time to lay off the wine as well. Time to stay upright for a bit instead of flopping through life.

If you have any suggestions and silly antics you'd like to see, please post in the comments! It's possible your chosen antic(s) may be used in an upcoming post. All requests will be attributed in the post with a link back to the requester's blog (so include your blog link as well if I don't know it).

NEXT UP: New Cover for "Dancing in the Wind"

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Chains of Nect - Blurb and Cover Reveal

It's time for an update! Aren't you all so lucky. Don't care about what's going on with me and my progress? Feel free to skip the post. But I can't promise you won't miss something super crazy awesome if you do.

The Plan is unfolding nicely, so far at least. I've been posting parts of "Dude in Distress" to Wattpad twice per week now. The last section is due to be posted on July 10. So, if you're curious if the unicorns manage to save Dom from Big Bad Girl, please pop over to Wattpad to read the story.

Chains of Nect will roll out on Wattpad starting July 17, and there will be a new scene posted every Friday. I already have two scenes good to go, and this month I'll be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo which should net me several more scenes--it's nice to be ahead of the game, just in case something happens! (Like last week when I got sick and my writing schedule went to hell.)

Interested in reading the prologue of Chains of Nect 8 days before it releases on Wattpad? Then you should sign up for my newsletter (form is to the left) because the first issue will go out on July 9 and include a sneak peak of the prologue. The main goal of the newsletter is to announce my upcoming publications, but I'll also have some bonuses in them now and then. If you're worried about your inbox filling up, I'll send no more than one per month, sometimes less frequently.

Oh, but you want to know what Chains of Nect is about? Of course, of course. Here's the blurb:

Obsidian successfully plays the game expected of her, passes the tests, and is accepted as a Guardian. Though she jumps through the hoops, she doesn't want to follow the precepts at all, to guard the portals but never open them. She believes its a waste to not explore the worlds within, like her ancestors had. How can they protect themselves if something comes through the portals if they don't know what's in them?

Obsidian's appointed mentor, Damian, is a straight-laced young Guardian, who can't contain the young dedicant. He's always believed the laws are in place to protect all of Nect, but Obsidian starts to make him question his own principles. She doesn't allow him any time to examine the possibilities, though, and he has to decide between reporting her or standing by her side to protect her from whatever horrors she stirs up.

Will the Guardians end Obsidian's life, or will something from another world get to her first?

Not enough for you? Fine you've talked me into it. Here's the cover!

I've also been playing the Short Story Submissions Game. The intention of this game is to gather as many rejections as I can. Yes, I know, the point should be to get as many acceptances as I can, but if I aim for that, I'll just depress myself. Here are my tallies for 2015 through June:

Submissions - 28
Rejections - 25
Acceptances - 1

I may not hit 100 rejections this year, however I hope to hit at least 50! And yes, you noticed, there's one acceptance. I had that story listed at the top of The Plan. "Bloodstains" will appear in a limited time fall anthology through Dingbat Publishing (anthology title and publication date still to be determined). That should be a fun set of stories.

I'm also still running Writing Quest every month--feel free to join us if you have some writing goals.

I think that's all as far as writing goes. Probably leaving the state of my house out of this post is the best idea (scary pretty much sums it up). I get writing done and everything else gets neglected. Go figure. Though the evil kitchen is due to be remodeled this month, barring more delays.

I feel like I'm forgetting to cover something, though. What do you think? Is there something else I should have touched on?

NEXT UP: Crazy Necro Antics - Wedding Bells Part 2