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A Time To Write

I wear dual hats, writer, author, and publisher. It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned and continue to acquire new knowledge in this ever-changing industry of publishing. When I write, I can’t wear my ‘work’ hat, it ruins creativity. And when I work, I can’t write. It’s not unusual for hundreds of manuscripts to end up in my inbox. If I choose to send them out for review, that will be the deciding factor if we take them on. I see a lot of pieces, and we have talented award-winning authors on our label, but I can honestly say few pieces are written as beautifully as 50 HOURS by Loree Lough, and that is the truth.

50 HOURS

FRANCO ALLESSI is a broken, lonely man who wants nothing more than to outrun the ghosts of his past. For years, he tries to numb the pain of his wife’s death with cheap beer and whiskey. When he’s convicted of drunk driving, the judge revokes his license for six months and orders him to serve fifty hours of community service. Franco chooses Savannah Falls Hospice for his community service, for no reason other than it’s walking distance from his dilapidated house trailer.

On his first day on the job, he meets AUBREY BREWER, a woman whose time on earth is quickly ticking to a stop. Their unusual connection teaches powerful, life-changing lessons about friendship, acceptance, and the importance of appreciating that precious treasure called life.

Now, the endorsements (we have too many to list) for this book speak for themselves; I get it, it deserves every one of them. Catherine Lanigan, Author of Romancing the Stone, The Jewel of the Nile, and over forty-five novels and non-fiction, said, “I defy anyone to start the beautifully written 50 Hours and to put it down or to go on with their own lives as they had before reading about the remarkable, emotional and insightful relationship between dying Aubrey and the lost Franco. As a recent widow myself, the strength, humor and respect between the main characters shot close to home, but delivered so much hope and love that even as I march forward to tomorrow, my perspective has altered—all to the positive. In her last days in this life, Aubrey finally lives out the dreams she’s been too browbeaten by her mother and ex-husband to accomplish. She can only do this with help from Franco, who risks imprisonment to see her wish come true. Emerson said, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.” Aubrey and Franco succeeded. Believe me when I say, THIS IS THE KIND OF BOOK THAT WINS PULITZER PRIZES. “

The main character, Aubrey, is ill, that silent killer, cancer. Cancer destroys or touches too many families in the world, let alone our country. My mom died of cancer, too young, but once diagnosed she didn’t last long. When I read the book 50 HOURS it was inevitable, I was reminded of what she went through and what we went through as a family. But I’ve always wondered what she was thinking, secretly, when she wasn’t trying to put our minds at ease.

Aubrey, a character of strength, hope, determination and sharp wit, dares you to take her journey with her and see and feel what she’s feeling through her eyes. But not in an emotional roller-coaster draining sort of way. She is the perfect definition of courage. Fearless at times, vulnerable at others, but always positive and selfless. She helps Franco, the recovering alcoholic serving time in the form of community service, who inadvertently helps her. Together, they’re the perfect team. Knowing what I know, about cancer, having experienced it with my family, it was touching to read it through Aubrey’s point of view. To take her walk with her, the walk. Knowing the diagnosis and how Aubrey really felt at times, was insightful. I think my mom, like many sufferers, think of those around them most. I was able to ‘see and feel’ things through Aubrey’s eyes.

It is undeniable that authors often bond with their characters while creating them; after all, it takes time and energy to develop fictional beings that a mass audience can relate to in the novels. When they tackle subjects that affect millions of people daily, be it illness, death, addiction, poverty, etc., it’s not unusual for authors to conduct extensive research to ensure the accuracy of the details that they write. Back stories, depth, facts, characteristics, and ultimately the feelings that bounce of the paper and touch people, emotions, must be believable. However, it is shocking when life unexpectantly imitates art. I was stunned, but can’t even begin to imagine what Loree must have felt, when I found out that the she, the author, was diagnosed with the illness that her character had while writing the novel.

The research that she was conducting to develop her character, Loree was suddenly applying to herself. Aubrey, the character terminally ill, and now the author, Loree Lough, found themselves in the same position. Healthy when commissioned to write; diagnosed while half-way through the novel. She was living out Aubrey’s nightmare. Surely it was impossible to divide the two emotionally at times. How did that happen and why? I can’t even begin to fathom it.

Multiple Myeloma, incurable bone/marrow cancer. I can barely say the words, and I couldn’t even begin to imagine completing the novel as beautifully as she did, knowing what all she had endured. Talk about a time to write. How did she do it?! A time to write. Writing from within; seamlessly, and beautifully as one with Aubrey at times.

It is no wonder that Aubrey leaps off the pages and into your heart. Loree’s heart and soul can be found in between the lines. This novel will touch people not just because of the terminal illness, but because of the life-lessons that Aubrey teaches Franco and Franco inadvertently teaches Aubrey. Inspiring hope in the midst of despair, reminding us of what is truly important in life. I honestly believe that this novel was meant to be written and meant to be written by Loree and shared. The screenplay had been stashed for years. Pulled out. Re-filed. Why now?

Loree Lough’s 50 HOURS is a poignant story that reminds us how precious life is, especially if our world has been turned upside down by cancer. But don’t be fooled: This novel will leave readers feeling hopeful, no matter how hard the dreaded disease has hit them. ~Jack Watts, award-winning author of 16 books, including “The Moon” series and Creating Trump Nation.

Loree has graciously discussed her treatments, some experimental, some traditional, and is willing to visit openly about her diagnosis, treatment, and the development of Aubrey (character), and this novel. She can be contacted via social media, her website or right here: contact@progressiverisingphoenix.com

A portion of Loree’s royalties from her 100’s of best-selling novels, go toward cancer research and other charitable organizations.

 

Amanda M. Thrasher

50 HOURS 

Loree Lough

 

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Realms of Light — A fanfic

Hello, before I return to Jorthus or undernoticed artists, or even rambling creative thoughts, I thought I would present a portion of a fan-fiction story I began many years ago. I had read some Fanfic, but had never tried it. I heard that it is a good writing exercise and a way to get the creative juices flowing when stuck on one’s own work. I gave it a try.

Now, I must say upfront that THE RACES, NAMES, OR PLACES MENTIONED ARE NOT MY OWN. (I elaborated on some concepts presented in two of my favorite bodies of work, THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and DRAGONLANCE CHRONICLES.) That said, there may be some spoilers to those who may have never read the books or watched the movies/cartoons. But, mainly, this was just for fun.

Again, a disclaimer:  I do not own, nor did I create, these characters. I wrote this as homage to my favorite writers, J. R. R. Tolkien as well as Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

Chapter 1

It seemed that weeks, or months, had passed since his arrival here.  It was difficult to trace time.  Daylight came and went with no real sense of urgency.  Here he was just beginning to understand the concept of eternity.

Existence carried on much like it did in life in this Resting Place, as it was referred to by its inhabitants.  One could sleep if tired, or eat if hungry.  Though the need was not as strong as it had been in the previous life.  Here one did things out of habit rather than necessity.  Food and drink were delicious and would fill the stomach, but there was never a point of real hunger.  Only the enjoyment of taste and smell would drive one to partake of the bounteous harvest of this peaceful land.  And of course, the mere love of eating is all the motivation a hobbit needs to eat his fill.

The Resting Place, a spirit realm that reaches to all of creation, was the mingling of many races from many worlds in peace and harmony.  Here to rest, to recover from pains of both mind and soul.  The physical pains were left behind on other planes.  This was a place of healing and learning, if one was willing to heal or learn.  Some residents in this land of glory were still clinging to old ways and seemed loathe to give them up.

This realm was extraordinary.  It was a reality, in form and feel like the physical realities that the inhabitants had left behind, but clearer and brighter.  Only spirits dwelt here, but not as a ghost or haunt might in the physical worlds; here all things were spirit so that when one reached out to touch a tree, it was actually the spiritual form of a tree and therefore tactile to one.  The clothes and manners of those dwelling here were the forms chosen by them from their memories.  They had homes that suited them and lands that were pleasing to them.  They dwelt in happiness and contentment, for the most part.

The only discontent here is what they brought with them and would not release.  That is why most were still here.  Some spirits learned to move on to other realms, to find other greater places to dwell.  Some remained here out of fear, some remained out of ignorance, and some remained out of loyalty to those that were not ready to move on.

Those that feared what was beyond this realm, quailed and shrank from learning how to move beyond.  Those that did not wish to move on out of loyalty were allowed to visit both realms, and those that did not learn how to move on, were allowed to stay as long as it would take to learn.

But, some here stayed out of shame.  They are those that could not or would not let go of their hurts.  They did not feel that they should move on.  The light beyond gave them little comfort, mainly guilt.  They had a choice to make.  To let go of their pain and move forward into the light of the Realm Beyond, or to fade into the comfort of the shadows and stay here forever.  Or worse, to slip into the darkness where no hand or light could touch them.

On this particular day, the sun shone through the round window of a hobbit hole.  Not an extravagant hole, a modest hole.  Tastefully decorated, and just the right size for a single, male hobbit. The hall branched off onto a study, a bath, a bedroom, a sitting room with a large fireplace, and most importantly, a well-stocked kitchen.

Frodo Baggins sat quietly in the patch of sunlight that streamed in his sitting room window.  He had been reading one of the books from his shelves.  Books he had remembered from his youth in Bag End.  As his desire to read the story he had picked out dulled, the words on the pages had dimmed to nothing.  Now, he sat with a book of blank pages lying open and forgotten on his lap, staring out the window into the meadows and forests beyond.

He had wandered that countryside when he had first arrived, as most souls do.  Exploring with an insatiable curiosity and undisguised wonder over the beauty and glory of these lands.  But, over time, he had grown weary of the same sights and paths.  He had settled into this little home and began to study other things.  Things closer to himself.  Things about himself.  Things, he was not altogether comfortable about dealing with alone.  Avoidance had been his next tactic to pass the time.  He tried to occupy his mind with other things so that it would not stray onto paths of the soul that he rather not tread.  He wrote stories.  He read stories.  He took short and frequent walks, baked large amounts of food, and even learned how to do his own gardening.  He gave many dinner parties and had tea with Sam and Rosie every day that the weather allowed.  Which was practically every day.

He tried to limit the time he was allowed to sit alone and think about the things that had passed, or what could have come to pass.  When the dark moods came upon him, he would retreat into his comfortable little hole and hide from the queries of others.  They wanted to help him feel “better”, but could not.  Only he could do that, though he did not know how.  At these times, he felt restless, though venturing out seemed impossible.  He wanted company, but all those he knew would know too much about his troubles.  He felt lost and alone, and the brighter the day shone outside his house, the darker the shadows seemed inside.

He was in one of those moods now.  The books had lost their appeal.  The meadow seemed too bright, a brightness that would expose his darkness to all that saw him.  He wanted to hide.  He wanted to escape.  He wanted something.  Something else.  Something that was not in this small, close hole and something that he had yet to find outside.

Slamming the blank book closed, Frodo kicked his footstool aside and went to the bookshelf to replace the book.  As he slipped the book into place his eyes fell on his hand.  Though spirit matter, his third finger was still missing.  He had thought it odd at first.  When he had asked about it, some spirits had suggested that perhaps a strong power had separated the finger even at the essence level of being and that the matter would regrow with time.  That had confused him.  Although the ring had been on the finger at the moment of separation, Gollum had thrown the digit away.  It would have been burned to nothing in Mount Doom.

Perhaps as I should have been

Sam had suggested that he had grown accustomed to not having it and the spiritual form was simply adjusting to that perception.  That was too kind and, Frodo felt, too easy an explanation.  It was easy enough to hear those around him say that he was forgiven for any wrongs, for they only knew as much as he had told them.  It was easy for them to say that the missing finger did not mean anything, for they did not know what was in his heart.  They had not been in his mind at the moment it had been lost.  They did not know, could not know.

But, there was one here in this realm that would know.  The Master of this Realm could see into his heart and lay bare his mind.  He would know.  He did know.  Although Frodo had not faced Him yet, he felt that perhaps he had already been judged.  Some dark part of his heart whispered to him that the finger was gone forever to be a reminder of what he had done.

How can I forgive myself …

His musings were cut short by a noise at his door.  It was not a knock.  It sounded as if someone were trying to pry open his door lock.  Curiosity stirred inside him for the first time in months.  He moved to the door and placed his hand on the center knob just as the thing swung open.  He jumped out of the way with a startled cry.  He was not sure what to expect on the other side, but the form that met his eyes took him by surprise.

There, crouched in the center of his doorway was a Halfling.  But not in form nor dress, a hobbit such as himself.  This being was slender, slightly taller in height than Frodo himself, dressed in an outrageous colored tunic, leggings, and boots with a fur vest.  His ears had small points, similar to an elf’s and a wide, child-like excitement in his brown eyes.  He had chestnut colored skin that wrinkled as he smiled up at the astonished hobbit, and his long, brown hair was tied up in a topknot that overflowed down his back.

At the sight of Frodo, the figure leaped up with one hand extended and introduced himself in a frenetic, high-pitched voice.

“Hello! Pleased to meet you.  I’m Tasslehoff Burrfoot.  Your door is fascinating.  Too bad it wasn’t locked.  Nobody locks their doors anymore.  It’s terribly frustrating.  I heard there were other halflings about, ones that I’m not related to and came looking.  There seem to be a lot of doors in the ground around here.  Do you all live underground? Is it hard to keep the grass roots from dropping dirt on your head?  Are there any tree roots in there?  Do you live alone? Are there a lot of others like you?  What do they call your kind?  I’m a kender.  We come from Krynn.  It’s not around here, but we seem to end up here anyway.  Where are you from?  Which world, I mean.  There are so many.  I’ve met a lot of fascinating people around here, wherever ‘Here’ is.  Why do your feet look like that?”

This strange individual had barely stopped to breathe in his excited speech and had shook Frodo’s hand and pushed past him to explore the hobbit’s hole uninvited.  Frodo was momentarily at a loss for what to do or say.  He stood by the open door with his mouth agape, watching the kender manhandle just about every item in his home.

“Oh, I…uh, who are you? And why are you here?” he stammered, as he closed his front door.

The strange little fellow waltzed up to him again and smiling, shook his hand again.  He spoke very slowly and with exaggerated clarity.

“I’m sor-ry.  I did-n’t kn-ow that you were fee-ble-mind-ed.”

Frodo almost laughed at this but felt a little insulted as well.  He pulled his hand out of the other’s grip.  “I’m not feebleminded!  You just took me by surprise is all.”

“Well, then.  I’m Tasslehoff Burrfoot.  I’m a kender from Krynn.  I died, I guess.  And after spending some time with my friend Flint, he’s a dwarf, we came here with the rest of my friends.  Except Fizban wasn’t around at the time, which kind of disappointed me.  But, he’ll probably get around to it later seeing as he’s busy being a god on Krynn and all.”

Frodo saw his eyes begin to wander onto the shelves again and decided to keep the kender’s ramblings on track.  “You died on Krynn, you say.  Where is Krynn?” he asked conversationally.

“I don’t really know.  It had three moons and was far from here, I think.”

He stopped to think hard on the subject and this allowed Frodo a moment to get his bearings on this intrusion.  The fellow did not seem to be hostile and neither did he seem to be in a hurry to leave, so Frodo decided to find out as much as he could about him.  He had heard mention of other “little folk” in this realm, but after extensive wanderings and never seeing any halflings other than hobbits, he had given up the search.  Now, out of the blue pops this kender.

“I’m sorry, I do not mean to be rude.  My name is Frodo Baggins.  I’m a hobbit.  That’s the name for halflings in Middle-earth.  That is from where I hail.” He tried to be polite for he had no idea what kind of temperament a kender might have if insulted.  Had he known a kender’s temper, he would have counted himself lucky that he had chosen the course of diplomacy instead of ordering the creature out of his home.

Tasslehoff came back to the present with a snap.  “Baggins!  I’ve heard that one before.”

“You have?” Frodo was astonished and intrigued.  A faint cloud of paranoia slithered under his heart as well.  What was being said about him?

“Yes, I met a Baggins fellow just yesterday.  Is it a common name?”

“Well, no, not as common as some.  Did you meet Bilbo?”

“Yes, that was his name.  Slightly older than you.  Likes to talk about dragons.  He walked with me for quite a while, then said he was hungry and went home.  If I’d known that he lived in a hole, I would have gone with him.  I’ve never met anyone that lived in a hole before.  Well, no one that intentionally lived in one, anyways.  We were so busy talking and walking that I didn’t really see how odd his feet were.  Do all hobbits have feet like that?”

Frodo smiled, his suspicions gone.  “Yes, I believe they do.  Are there other…kender?  I had thought that I had explored this land well enough, but I’ve never seen one of your kind before.”

“Well, that doesn’t surprise me!” Tasslehoff said knowingly as he plopped into Frodo’s favorite chair and placed his colorful boots on the ottoman.  “We kender rarely stay in one spot.  Besides, something that I’ve noticed about this place is that if you don’t expect to see something or someone or somewheres, then you probably won’t.  It’s kinda like the Abyss in that way.  You have to Think about going somewhere new before you can get there.  Me, I’m always looking for someplace new, so I usually find it.”

Frodo found himself being pulled into this conversation as he sat on a small, wooden chair near his fireplace.  This lively visitor had certainly gotten his mind off his troubles.  Now, his interest peaked, he was anxious to learn more of these other halflings and this other world.

“Abyss?” he queried as he started to brew some tea out of habit. The kettle hung from a small hook in the front of the hearth so the tea-water stayed warm.  “What is the Abyss?”

Tasslehoff seemed astonished.  “You’ve never heard of the Abyss? Well, let me tell you about the time….”

The kender went off on a long and rambling tale of a land of the dead that he had visited by accident where dwelt, at that time, a dark goddess of great beauty and power.  He told of gnomes and mages and a time-traveling device.  There seemed to be no end to the kender’s ability to talk.  One tale seemed to blend into another and Frodo felt that he might need to take notes in order to keep things straight.  Little did he know that with Tasslehoff, repetition of a tale was par for the course.   Though, the tales often varied with the mood.

The time passed so quickly listening to the kender, that when Tasslehoff finally came to a halt in order to put a sweetcake that Frodo had given him into his mouth, the hobbit was shocked to see the window behind Tasslehoff was dark.  Frodo jumped up, “Oh, It’s night.  I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t notice the time.  I’ve kept you far too late, Tasslehoff.”

“Call me Tas, all my friends do.” He hopped up as well, though he seemed confused as to why he was being ushered to the door.  “Am I late for something?”

Frodo was taken aback. “Oh, I assumed that you would want to be home by dark.”

“Oh, no.  I don’t really have a home.  I’m staying with my cousin, Gintilli*, for right now because she’s new here.  Her place is huge because she hasn’t decided whether she’s staying or not, yet.  She takes care of her half-sister, who doesn’t go anywhere, so she made a big house so she could explore without leaving it.  But, I don’t have to be there all the time.  I’m trying to get Gintilli to leave with me, but she feels bad about leaving her sister alone.”

“So, you are not expected somewhere for the night?” Frodo asked cautiously.

“Oh, no! I can stay all night if I want.  Don’t worry about me.  I don’t really get tired much anymore, so I can talk all night and all day!  In fact, that’s why Flint went to visit some gully dwarves he’d met a few months back.  He said that I needed the rest. Though, I thought it strange at the time, since Flint can’t stand gully dwarves.  But, I’m not a bit tired. So, I went exploring.”

Tas settled back into the sitting room and began eating again. Frodo was not entirely sure how he felt about the prospect of Tasslehoff staying all night in his home.  He was not properly prepared for a guest.  He did not wish to be a bad host, but he was not really ready to be a host in the first place.  At least, not to an overnight, and possibly indefinite, guest.   He had enjoyed the kender’s company and his tales were new and fascinating.  The kender, himself, was cheery and talkative, albeit a little intrusive and blunt at times, but Frodo was flustered, nonetheless, at this sudden turn of events.  He hurried to the kitchen to check his cupboard for proper meals.  He could not let a houseguest go hungry.  Then he looked for fresh linens and inquired about the kender’s sleeping and bathing needs.

“I’m fine.” Tas grinned. “I’ll just stay awake.  And I bathed before I left the house.”

Though, from his description of who he had visited in the last few days, there was no telling when he had “left the house”.

Tasslehoff watched Frodo bustle about the house for a while, then decided to follow him in case he went anywhere interesting.

“You don’t need to make all this fuss over me!” Tas chimed in behind Frodo, who seemed startled to find Tas there.  “I just came to visit.  The food is delicious though.  Do you make it yourself?  Gintilli and I usually just ‘think’ stuff up.  Did you know that you can do that here?  Just think about something hard enough and it shows up.  Like magic.  Though, I daresay the cooked stuff you gave me did taste better than the food we got.  Maybe we didn’t think about the flavor of the food hard enough.  Do you have anything to drink around here?”

“Yes, of course.  I have some ale and some mead.”  Frodo led him to the kitchen where the two settled for a while.  Frodo started a fire in the small fireplace where he heated his pots.  Tasslehoff took one sip of the offered ale and began another tale of his world that told of an inn that was renown for the best ale in the land.  The Inn of the Last Home, it was called, and it was in the town of Solace where he had lived for a long time with his dwarf friend, Flint, and a half-elf named Tanis.

Frodo listened intently, spellbound by the kender’s enthusiasm and descriptive tales.  Krynn was a world of dragons that talked, some good and some evil.  Humans, elves, gnomes, dwarves, and kenders fighting draconians, dark mages, and minotaur.  He told of his adventures with his closest friends, Flint and Tanis, along with a pair of brothers, Caramon and Raistlin, a knight named Sturm, and an elf maid called Laurana.

They had saved their world from the dark goddess by blocking her from entering the physical plane of Krynn and killed the bad dragons with ancient weapons called Dragonlances.   He talked about the love between Tanis, the half-elf and the young, beautiful Laurana that was a scandal among the elves, and of the sultry relationship Tanis shared with a captivating human woman named Kitiara, who was a half-sister to the twins Caramon and Raistlin.  He even went off on a tale about a wooly mammoth that he encountered as well as sharing a few stories that he knew of the adventures of his Uncle Trapspringer.

Frodo learned quite a few things out about Kender during all this talk as well.  They love to tell tales, they get sidetracked easily, and they seem to have no concept of personal property.  He listened and asked questions until he found himself fighting to keep his eyes open.  He was in the habit of getting a good night’s sleep, though he did find that he was not as tired or sleepy here as he had been in life.  The need for sleep seemed to rise out of habit rather than necessity, as many things did in this realm.  As he realized how weary he was, he also looked around to find that they had eaten nearly everything he had had in his larder.  He had not really been aware of time passing as he listened to Tasslehoff’s tales but they had been sitting for quite some time. Looking into the sitting room, he saw that the sun was shining into the room.  How long had they been talking, he wondered.

Tasslehoff was about to launch into another tale when a knock came at the door.  Frodo jumped up with a hasty, “Excuse me” and went to the front door.  He noticed that his legs did feel a bit odd.  Not as though as they had been asleep, like they would have if he had sat for an extremely long time in Middle-earth, but like he simply had to get used to walking on them again.

As he reached for the doorknob with his right hand, he stopped cold.  For a brief moment, he thought that he had seen his missing finger.  His heart skipped a beat.  Then it was gone again, as if he had imagined it.  He began to ponder this odd phenomenon, when the knock came again and jogged him back to the moment.

He opened the door, and there stood Samwise Gamgee.  He looked a bit worried, wringing his hands and shuffling from side to side as Sam used to do when he was upset.  As soon as he laid eyes on Frodo, he seemed to relax.

“Oh, there you are, Mr. Frodo.  I thought something had happened to you,” he said with an exhale of relief.

“No, Sam.  I’m fine.”  Frodo ushered his old friend inside with an outstretched hand.  “Come in, come in and will you please stop calling me, ‘Mister’ Frodo.  We are all equals here, you know that.”

“Of course, I know it, but it’s hard to remember it.”  Sam tried to explain his reluctance to give up what was a comfortable habit.  “I’m just so used to thinking of you, and referring to you like that, Mr. Frodo.  If you get my meaning.”

Frodo had tried to break Sam and Rosie of the habit ever since he had seen them again and knew that it was probably futile.  They would call him that until they no longer felt the need to do so and there was nothing he could do to change it.  He smiled and sighed as he led Sam into his kitchen.

“Well, there is someone I’d like you to meet,” he was saying and then stopped.  The kitchen was empty.  “Now, where’s he gotten off to?”

“Who, Mr. Frodo?” Sam asked, curious at his friend’s good mood.

“Tasslehoff.  I wanted you to meet him.  He’s a fascinating fellow, Sam.”  Frodo was peeking around corners and behind furniture as if his visitor was playing a game of hide and seek.  He had wandered from room to room and after peering inside a wardrobe and finding nothing, he stopped with his hands on his hips.  He suddenly noticed Sam staring at him as if he were completely insane.

“He was here a moment ago,” he said in his own defense.

Sam decided to try a new topic.  “Not to interrupt, but I came over to see if you were alright.  Rosie and me was worried about you, seeing as how you usually come over to tea before dark.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Sam.  I meant to come over last night, but I met Tas and we started talking and he started telling his tales.  I lost track of time.  Please give my apologies to Rose.” Frodo halfway gave up his search for the kender, though he wondered where he had gone so quickly.

“Well, we don’t expect you to live your day around us, mind you.  But, seeing as how it has been two days, I just thought that I would pop by and see if you were …well…”

Frodo stopped in shock.  “Did you say two days?”

“Yes, Mr. Frodo.  When we didn’t hear from you.  Well, we got worried.”

“Two days?” he repeated to himself in wonder.  Then he laughed.  A full-hearted laugh.

Sam smiled to see Frodo in such a wonderfully good humor and began to chuckle as well, though he did not know what they were laughing at.  It was just good to see Frodo laugh again.

“No wonder I was running out of food,” Frodo wiped a tear from his eye.  “We sat and talked for two days!  And I didn’t even know it.  No wonder I’m so tired.”

He sat down on a nearby bench and held his head in his hands as the laughs became less hysterical, then rubbed his face and scalp to wake himself back up a bit.

“You mean, that you haven’t slept in two nights, Mr. Frodo?”  Sam seemed worried again.  “That can’t be good for you.”

“I don’t think it really matters that much in this realm, dear Sam.  Don’t worry over me.  You did that enough in life.  But, I do apologize for missing tea, and not giving any notice or explanation.  It was just that Tasslehoff talked almost non-stop and all he had to say was so very interesting.”

“If you say so, Mr. Frodo.”  Sam sounded as if he was beginning to doubt if this Tasslehoff really existed.

“I’m not crazy, Sam.” Frodo chuckled, he began to doubt that statement himself, though.  “I found him trying to pick the lock on my front door.  It seems that is a common thing that kender do.”

“Kender?”  The tone implied that Sam had heard of them before.

“Yes.  Have you heard of them?” Frodo jumped up.  “Where have you known that name from?”

Sam looked as if he were caught with something that he should not have had.  “Oh, I believe that Gandalf had mentioned that name to me.  Just a few days ago.”

“Gandalf?”  Frodo contemplated this new information a moment, then shrugged it off.  “Well, he did say that he had met quite a few new folk around here.  And he did say that if one is not expecting to…”

He got a sudden thought and shouted.  “Tasslehoff?  Are you still here?!”

This outburst startled Sam, but he was even more startled when a voice from two rooms away answered.

Frodo smiled triumphantly.  “Sam, I want you to meet Tasslehoff Burrfoot.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*Gintilli Dibbertill is a kender created by my best friend for role-playing the DRAGONLANCE role-playing world by Wizards of the Coast. The Player Character claims relation to the Burrfoot clan, though that is unsubstantiated. She and her sister do not appear in any books or movies.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That is the beginning of my fanfic. I hope you enjoyed it. It was fun to write and it filled a need in me to give Frodo a place to deal with feelings over his ordeal and possibly move on to a relationship as the other hobbits had done. Yes, it is a love tale. I had a crush on Frodo ever since seeing the 1978 animated movie The Lord of the Rings.

If you liked it or would like to read more of it, please leave a LIKE or a comment to let me know. Thank you for joining me in this little experiment!

Amanda Thrasher, Article, books, Cereal Authors, Life, Literary, Musings, Sharing, Uncategorized, YA

Teens, how well do we know them?

BITTER BETRAYALI’ve recently finished my new YA titled BITTER BETRAYAL. Like any piece that a writer completes some will love it, some hate it, some like it, some will agree with it, and some will disagree with it. Every person is entitled to their thoughts, but my hope regarding this piece is that my audience receives the important message impressed on me to share while still being entertained through the actual story line.

I have raised a son and still have teen girls living at home, fourteen nearly fifteen, and sixteen, almost seventeen. One an artist, introvert, and the other an athlete who is always surrounded by other teens. Our house is that house, the one where kids often hang out. I don’t mind that; it means I know where my kids are, and that brings me peace of mind. It also gives me a chance to talk to and listen to them. Good kids. Great families. Solid community. But the stories that I hear over and over again, from the teens and teens that I interview, are horrific. Knowing some of the parents, like me, they likely have no idea how certain things affect our kids. But listening to them as they tell the same stories/scenarios, different kids, over and over, is shocking.

As usual, a lot of it revolves around social media and the pressures that kids face daily. Surprisingly we rarely talk about how desensitized kids are today. The things that shock ordinary people don’t faze teens at all. Sending nudes to strangers, acquaintances, or boyfriends when asked, most parents think their kids would be too smart to do something so stupid; they’d be wrong. Impressionable teen girls do this on a daily basis, and when I ask them why, the answers are always the same. “Because he asked me too, and he said he wouldn’t show anyone.” I always ask the following questions. “How well did you know the boy?” And, “Did he share the pictures?” As expected the answers are heartbreaking; they often hardly know the person at all, online relationships formed through snap chat, twitter, and whatever else they’re using. Yes. The pictures had been in their words “sketched” which means shared. “Did your parents tell you about the dangers of social media and sending pictures?” And of course, they knew better and had been warned multiple times via parents, school, and what they’ve talked about amongst each other. It’s not the bad kids that get caught up in this behavior, it’s the kids you go to church with, have over for dinner, and play football or cheer, good kids, “Why did you do it?” Their answers as a parent first and foremost are disturbing and concerning, as a human being, terrifying as they often say the simplest things, “I don’t know.” Or, “Because he asked me to do it.” Or my favorite, “Everyone does it.” It’s not uncommon to find girls sending pictures unknowingly to the same boys. Being played.

Topping off this disturbing behavior is the fact these kids are often, for lack of better words, blackmailed and harrassed. Once the guilt sets in, after they’ve sent the pictures that they shouldn’t have sent, then the boy(s) often older harasses them to get more pics., often more revealing by threatening to expose the girl. The girls crumble doing one or two things: breaking down and sending more, telling their friends or someone they can trust, and blocking the person(s) until someone is suspicious and the harassment becomes public, and everyone knows who sent nude pics.

Instant communication is another factor that affects teens. I’m not a doctor by any means or a psychologist, but teens take on entirely different personalities when they’re in love (think they’re in love), and have the ability to instant communication at their fingertips. Girls and at times boys, waiting on those instant messages, conversations, snaps, has made some of them semi-obsessive. It, the social media, can make them frantic. Girls will fight with other girls publicly over boys, calling each other terrible names, and the war of words in the social media realm begins. Strangers get involved, reputations are drug through the mud. It becomes a mess of words. I’ve personally witnessed these things unfold right before my very own eyes and have had several teens discuss them openly with me and share their stories. Dangerous situations, impaired judgments, drugs, drinking, social media mistakes, obsessive behavior, all revealed in the social media realm. It’s a scary world.

What’s shocking to me is how little, we as parents, know about our kids. We think we do; every parent believes that they would know if something terrible was happening under their roof. It’s sad; the truth is, most don’t until it’s too late and once the damage is done, clean up begins. What’s the answer to the social media madness? I certainly don’t have one, but I am aware of the problem that surrounds our teens. All we can do is stick together as parents, be alert, and open to listening to what the teens are saying. The best advice that I can offer to help with awareness regarding this issue is don’t be naive; it could be your teen. It can happen under your roof. Your kid can be that teen, the one that sends the nudes, drinks too much at the party, causes the fight, starts the rumor. Teens on social media; scary stuff, be alert.

Amanda M. Thrasher

Cereal Authors, Fantasy, Life, Musings, Nonfiction, Ramblings, review, Sharing, Uncategorized, writer's life

Just Breathe a Moment

Having just wrapped up a very long serial “short story”, I have a moment to step back and decide what to blog on next here at Cereal Authors. Usually the topics involve writing, reading, or the like; however, I have been wanting to touch on something for a long time:  The support and respect of artists.

I’m not here to condemn or remonstrate anyone. But, many artists (writers are included in this as writing is an art) feel undervalued in society as a whole. I speak with many on a near daily basis and the general consensus is that the hours and effort we put into our work is not always valued the same as, say, a factory made item at a store. There is the common meme  of the coffee cup price compared to an ebook price. Which one took longer and was harder to make? Let’s guess.

But, like I said, this blog is not to place blame on the consumer. No. I want to take this opportunity to celebrate the artists! Specifically, the ones I know, and who have few outlets for advertising or voice.

Aside from the wonderful writers here (all talented and hard working), I would like to draw some attention to other craftsmen in my midst. Please visit their pages, sites, or stores and give them a like or two or a share, even if you can’t afford to give them an income. 🙂

First, we have Myriad Fae Creations.

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If you appreciate hand sculpted trinkets, costume pieces, whimsical soaps, faeries and the like, please visit her website, Facebook page, and Ebay offerings.  The creator is Kate Elizabeth Davis, a multi-media artist. She has been constructing fantastic works of her imagination since she was a child. I know because I grew up with her! Yes, she is my sister and she credits me as part of Myriad Fae because of my sketched cards, but I’m not playing favorites. Her work speaks for itself (and when the work happens to be a puppet made for a stage production, then it actually CAN speak for itself).

Second, I share with you Einini Glassworks.

https://scontent-mia1-2.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/553203_327447853980448_1117475337_n.jpg?oh=ead011529a67d4e5aed420c1eaf52d32&oe=59153E59Just breathe elinni blue

A wife and husband team who create beauty and elegance in glass and stone. Brian Ellis is the stained glass artist and Heidi Ellis is the mosaic artist. Together, they have a variety to offer. Stained glass items including suncatchers, votive candle holders, and Tiffany reproduction lamps, as well as mosaic glass tile artwork including panels, candleholders, mirrors, tables and picture frames. Check out their items on Facebook, Etsy, or their website.

If you are more into 2D wall hanging art, our third artist is Harriet Duncan.

https://i2.wp.com/www.harrietduncan.com/assets/fine_art/Dicksee_Chick_120dpi.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/www.harrietduncan.com/assets/photography/Colony-Winter-Park.jpgNo automatic alt text available.

She is an award-winning photographer, graphic and fine artist who produces unique photography and fine art, documenting old Florida and other places, near & far. She has a flair for the eccentric and nostalgic. Her art draws on her bohemian roots and blends art deco with a Gauguin aspect for an intoxicating visual brew that one can best enjoy on a beach at sunset. Please explore her world on Facebook or her website.

This is just a sampling of the talent and hard work that can be found out there, waiting and eager to please some interested art appreciator. There are thousands. They create, display, and imagine in the hopes that something they found beautiful can gain a home with someone else that finds it beautiful, too.

Thank you for your time.

 

Heather Poinsett Dunbar, Musings, Sharing, Writing Process

Writing Process: Drafting methods panel program but what’s your process?

How do you draft your manuscript?

And how did I get interested in this topic?

I thought it might be interesting to share some methods Chris and I use and see what other authors do.

First …a little background.

At some cons Chris and I wind up as guests on several panels.  I’m not sure sometimes how we got pegged as experts on anything.  Ha!

At the last con, I wound up on a panel for a workshop on drafting and we had to come up with what we do to draft our works, which is weird for anyone writing with a partner.  Chris and I threw together a powerpoint presentation because that’s what he and I do to stay on track in a panel, otherwise we tend to get easily distracted by shiny things and digress a lot.

We have several presentations like this.  Some new authors think they’re great because it’s sort of organized instead of just a bunch of people at a table throwing out ideas and most panel goers don’t have a notepad with them..They can take a packet, write notes on it, etc.

Unfortunately the rest of the panel decided to spend 2 hours talking about their publishing experiences, editors, and their local writing group who seemed to mostly be interested in tearing up authors works in progress instead.  I was the one indie author in a crowd of traditional authors from another city who all knew each other.  Since I run a booth with the hubby and a few minions (Yes, I actually have a minion who cosplays as a minion at cons – LOL), I generally spend most of my time there at the booth and can’t mingle or network at most cons.  I’m sure I miss out on some great conversations, but honestly I’d rather send the hubby to deal with that sometimes.

So here’s our program.  I hope you all find it useful or at least interesting how two people can work out a way to draft manuscripts together.  Maybe if you’re stuck on your manuscript, it may give you an alternative or two to try.

Writing and Drafting Methods

However, I still would love to hear about what you do.  Do you have a set process for drafting?

Maybe it’s time to start a dialogue about our processes?  🙂

 

Dianna Graveman, History, Life, Musings, Nonfiction

The more things change . . .

Well, I was off the (Cereal Authors) grid for a while . . . about three and a half years. In that time, a lot has changed: my youngest moved to Jackson, Wyoming; my oldest moved to Tampa, Florida; two of my kids got married; and lots of other business-related and life-related stuff happened.

More changes are in the works for 2016. I don’t mean to sound like a politician here (God knows, we all get enough of that during the election season!), but change is good. It is life-affirming. It keeps me young(ish).

Recently, my coauthor/husband and I completed our fifth regional history for Arcadia Publishing: Legendary Locals of St. Charles. DurLegendary Localsing our research, we encountered the stories of many notable locals who weren’t afraid of change or of trying new things. For example, Sophie Hupe became a well-respected midwife after she was widowed at age fifty-one. Previously, she had worked as clerk, run a millinery shop, and partnered in the hotel business. Not bad for a woman born in 1848!

Kathryn Linnemann, another “mover and shaker,” started a library with donated books in her own home, later moving it to a small room at a local school as the library grew. In 1918 a fire destroyed the little library and several of its books, but Linnemann didn’t give up—she salvaged what she could and continued to operate in a small shed until a library board formed and a tax was passed to construct a new building in 1930. Talk about a woman who wasn’t afraid of change! Of course, she also embraced diligence, because she remained head librarian of that facility for forty years.

Spring is a great season for change: new wardrobe, new buds on the trees, new sprouts in the garden, new life. It’s a wonderful time to try a new hobby or pursue a long-neglected passion, like blogging! So here I am back with the wonderful group at Cereal Authors, wishing everyone a season full of jubilant changes and joyful happenstances.

To Spring!

Update: Legendary Locals of St. Charles was the #2 bestseller at area independent bookstores for the week ending March 27, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

 

 

 

Fantastic Blog Hop, Fantasy, Fiction, Literary, Musings, Ramblings, Romance, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized, YA

Where the Winds Blow — Part 11

by Ruth Davis Hays – 2011

The Khnyghtsyde household recovers from ‘Khiall’s vicious attack on Galian as the crisp days of summer draw to a close on the verdant countryside of Culetan. However, the sultry warmth of the season will not withdraw before it wields its unrelenting power upon the kindled passions of two young hearts… (Some mature content)

 

Weeks of recovery rolled by in an outward blur of boredom. However, secretly, their lethargic summer days were intermixed with a rush of adrenaline during stolen moments and forbidden meetings, when Lauralei and ‘Khiall were free to probe each other’s blooming lusts.

Heated kisses in the cubby under the stairs; giggling conspiratorially at their near detection; midnight rendezvouses to delve into the deeper recesses of their cravings.

They struggled to remain on the high road during these taboo ventures; Lauralei allowing her inquisitive spirit to roam dangerously close to complete abandon. Dancing around an unchaste inferno, its heat lured them to plunge into its licking flames.

Given a silent license to explore her body as long and as often as he liked, ‘Khiall’s lingering touches penetrated her most pernicious ecstasies, inflicting moments of great pleasure upon her compliant body. His own delicious contagion was kindled in correlation with hers. Frenzied by his shamefully ardent experimentation, she would eagerly reciprocate, much to his satisfaction.

Resisting the tumble into that tantalizing, yet deeper, abyss of lust, they would oft part sated but starving still. Although abandoned appetites hammered inside her, she wanted to let him choose the time and place for their most intimate of gestures. However long she must endure the foreplay, it seemed only polite to let his recuperation dictate their pace.

Lauralei would have done well to remember the old dwarven adage, ‘give care to your ambitions.’ Hers were not left waiting long.

One night, thundering with violence and a flurry of light in the sky, their moment finally came.

She stretched in her soft canopy bed, anticipating the rain that teased the air with piercing dankness, when her window erupted with lightening. A silhouette spread across her ceiling. Flinging her blankets aside, Lauralei sat up with a yelp. Her skin was bare and luminous in the glowing night. The fright taken offered her breath back in hesitant gulps. 

Dressed only in black leggings with perspiration glimmering on his chest, ‘Khiall stalked into her room, the balcony behind him was left in glowering shadows.

Expecting their usual timid and enjoyable trade of manual climaxes, she realized something had changed. The glow from her bedside oil lamp reflected in his rapacious glare. With jaw set, chest heaving, the fae crawled steadily closer to her. Eyes level and intense, all frivolity gone, his breath trickled down her neck as he inhaled her scent. He was so near as to touch her, but he didn’t. His long ebony tresses trailed sporadically on her skin. Lauralei stayed completely still, barely able to breathe, as one would when trapped by a wild animal. He was strange this night. There was ferocity in his posture that was alien to her. Fear began to curl up into her heart, and she felt an inordinate vulnerability sitting naked in front of him.

“Dharromar?” she whispered, trembling. He didn’t answer except with a rigid stare, his face only a fraction of an inch from hers.

The heat radiated off him, teasing and enveloping her. Inhaling his musk with a tiny gasp, she heard a whimper mingle in her throat. His intensity controlled her, emptying her mind of any thought outside of him. Her mouth was dry; she realized that she was no longer sure what his intentions might be. He acted as though he could either kiss her … or kill her.

Prowling around her, a beast with his head low, he moved up behind her. His rabid breath tumbled over her shoulder, brushing her wavy hair in its wake. Tensely, she waited, unable to see him.

Lips wide, his hot mouth was suddenly against her neck. It was a bite more than a kiss, but chills flooded her helpless body regardless. His hands swiftly encircled her waist, taking her bosom firmly; his fingers eliciting spiral cravings inside her as they brushed her nipples. Raising her arms, she embraced his dark head, arching back against him. She grasped his pointed fae ears and stroked them with a fierce tug. Groaning loudly, his body compressed against hers as his teeth pulled on her skin.

As the storm outside raged, they tossed and groped urgently, following their bodies’ needs at last. They held nothing back. Rain began to pelt down in sheets, billowing out her white drapes and soaking her floor far beyond the balcony threshold. Their passions mirrored the tempest; his unspoken insistence leading his movements. Her former experience with such carnal matters paled and seemed nonsensical to her as she was swept along a torrid river. Mere touches plummeted them both into the most frightening caves of unbridled deviance.

Tumbling onto her back, his zealous figure looming over her, Lauralei wrapped him in her legs. Her ripening body awaited him. Assailing her with wandering abandon, he seemed to drown in his wild and unfocused appetites. Like a life-preserver upon bucking waves, she pressed against him and taught his hips a more refined dance, all the while murmuring words of encouragement. This brought them both into a combined endeavor to harvest the entire pleasure opening before them.

His fullness raked her unpaid longing, making it grow to the point of annihilation, like scratching an itch that has long annoyed her. She struggled to restrain any moaning outburst; her rapture cresting oft as he hounded his own elusive moment of ecstasy.

Thunder pounded the air. Faster, he fought after the sweet death of his desire as she used her fist to stifle her overpowering urge to cry out. The night flashed white around them and his body shuddered inside her. A harsh cry slipped from his trembling lips. He lowered himself onto her bed, his skin swiftly becoming chill to the touch.

Basking in her own lagoon of bliss, Lauralei shifted, searching for his face which was buried in her thick pillow. His shoulders still shook with each breath. After a moment, ‘Khiall gazed at her through black strings of hair and apologized faintly.

“Why?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he chuckled, a smile lighting his features to a sublime beauty.

She kissed his warm lips. There seemed nothing more splendid to her at that moment than to look at him.

*******

 

Follow more adventures from the world of Jorthus on jorthusbooks

and the website Books of Jorthus

Fantasy, Fiction, Literary, Musings, Mystery, Ramblings, Romance, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized, YA

Where the Winds Blow — Part 10

by Ruth Davis Hays 2011

Computer issues have delayed the monthly post, but here it is.

Passions set aside in the wake of tragedy, Lauralei waits for news of her recovering brother as well as the fate of her beloved. After Galian suffered the consequences of baiting his stepbrother ‘Khiall, the head of the Khnyghtsyde family imposed a serious punishment on the attacker of his son…

 

It was not until days later, when ‘Khiall was repeatedly missing from the family meal table, that his stepsister was able to ferret out information of what had befallen him. The servants and family members were amazingly tight-lipped. But, Lauralei’s entreaties wore away at the old gossiping housekeeper, Kora, who offered all she knew one afternoon in the courtyard while tending the laundry.

The half-breed faerlin had been held down and beaten with a cane stick until it broke over his back, a particularly dreadful punishment. Restricted to the cellar for an undetermined amount of time, his recovery was slow. The old housekeeper was permitted to slip him bread and water twice a day, but she said it would be anyone’s guess how long Solomen would hold him in account for Galian’s suffering.

Days and nights passed listlessly after that report. Lauralei agonized over ‘Khiall’s absence, and she was not alone in her protests. Ammarron took to wearing a dark veil over her beautiful face, a symbol of her sadness to remind her husband that she still had issues over how he treated her son on the whole. Galian began to join them at the table and was moving about the house, albeit at a slower than typical pace. His wounds would leave long scars on his face and neck for the remainder of his days. Sarrah, in her usual unthinking way of trying to inject levity into the situation, joked that now they could tell the twins apart.

Yet, two more weeks crept by with no sign of ‘Khiall rejoining the household. Lauralei wondered if Solomen even cared whether the young fae ever saw the light of day again. Deciding to take up the matter with those that had the most influence, she at last spoke with her father’s wives.

Eventually, after a period of twenty-three days, the heart of Solomen was softened by the females’ petitions, and he let ‘Khiall out of the cellar.

The boy looked wretched. Although her father still declared that ‘Khiall was a pariah, the women of the house descended upon him, cleaning wounds and ministering to his needs.

~~~~~

Follow more adventures from the world of Jorthus on jorthusbooks

and the website Books of Jorthus

Fantasy, Fiction, Literary, Musings, Ramblings, Romance, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized, YA

Where the Winds Blow – Part – 8

by Ruth Davis Hays 2011

The sprouting infatuation of young love can be tested by tragedy and harsh words, but Lauralei finds it hard to face some realities when it comes to her beloved step-brother…

*******

An effortless week rolled by with the household growing calmer than it had been in years. Everyone seemed to notice the new mood, though few could guess the cause.

The fact that only two members understood the specifics of the fresh era did not escape the quick eyes and obnoxious ears of the twin Khnyghtsyde boys, Galian and Corian.

They had kept a close watch on their sister ever since she had come home from school. Unbeknownst to her, they shared with each other, as if it were a secret news item waiting to go to press, every time one of them saw her staring with moon-tranced eyes at their stepbrother. They followed her as she slipped in and out of the halls, making her way to the broom closet under the main stairway in the afternoons. Silently they listened to the quiet laughter and strange rustling noises that emanated from it until they grew bored and wandered away. They knew she was sneaking around to be with ‘Khiall, though the reason still escaped them. To the family, the fae boy had always seemed morose and unpleasant company.

Until lately.

~~~~~

Kora was preparing to go to market, when Lauralei approached her father with a request that ‘Khiall be allowed to accompany them. She pointed out coquettishly that he would be good protection, as his archery skills were far better than her own. Solomen gave her an unfathomable look, remarking that this was true since the young fae did not know his own strength sometimes.

Although the comment floated past her in incomprehension, she pursued the topic and finally won her argument by bringing to light how cooperative and unobtrusive ‘Khiall had been as of late. Solomen agreed that the boy had been making great strides towards obedience and earning his trust in the past few days; however, his past did still overwhelm his recent good humor.

Lauralei was forced to use her pleading eyes and pouting lip, which always worked on her father’s heart. He relented, allowing D’harromarrie’khiall to go to town again after his forty-year banishment. The condition he insisted on was that the twins go with them. To this, Lauralei agreed with a rough sigh.

They all traveled to town in relative silence. Kora was sitting bundled in her multicolored shawl on the springboard seat of the open wagon as Corian held the reigns and guided the oxen masterfully. He was a hearty boy of fifteen, as was his twin, but he gave off an air of greater maturity. Galian rode in the back of the wagon with Lauralei. He would sporadically leap up, bolting across the boards to point out things along the road, and causing the body of the wagon tilt. They all would humor him, though they knew he was only doing it to release his coiled up energy and gain attention.

Lauralei sat quietly, leaning her arms on the wooden sides, watching the country hills of Culetan province rattle by and trying her best to not look like she was eying ‘Khiall, who rode on horseback along side of them. For himself, ‘Khiall was keeping his attention on the road ahead. His steady hands guided the plodding, distracted gelding towards town with ease. The old horse was ornery with anyone else, but ‘Khiall had a special way with animals. Lauralei guessed that it had something to do with his faery heritage.

Though the center of town was only two hours from the house, Lauralei felt it took forever to arrive. The sun high, Culetan’s market was full, and Lauralei had a few silver saved that she was anxious to spend. As the twins tumbled from the wagon, D’harromarrie’khiall swung down from his saddle and immediately helped Kora out of her seat. Stiffly, she made it to the ground and smiled at him in gratitude. Lauralei skipped over and told her to have the twins help with any of the shopping needs, as she and her stepbrother were going to the cobbler for new shoes. Grasping ‘Khiall’s hand, she pulled him away before Kora could object.

Dragging him into the clothing district, where tailors had their finest offerings displayed about their storefronts for customers to peruse, Lauralei appeared to be the happiest girl on Jorthus. She was free from the house, had money, and was with her favorite person in the world. Nothing could spoil this day for her.

Their first stop was at a dressmaker’s shop. She adored the array of diaphanous garments displayed, fantasizing that she had someplace fancy to wear them. Seeing a particularly lovely one, she turned playfully to Dharromar and asked, “Would you like to see me in this one? Shall I try it on?”

He was only paying attention to her graceful movements and the sunlight on her dark hair, oblivious to the area in which they were wandering. The fact that she was talking about a dress came as a surprise. He shrugged noncommittally.

Giggling at his distracted nature, she headed into the store. As Mistress Khnyghtsyde entered with ‘Khiall in tow, the excited tailor attempted to ingratiate himself to her while keeping a fair distance from the fae. The thin, elderly human directed Laurelei to his constructed imitations of her chosen garment, all “ready to alter to fit” of course. Her smile grew with each touch on the silken fabrics. Although anxious to show off how lovely she would look in the dress, Lauralei could not help noticing as she disappeared in back to change that the shopkeeper was staring fearfully at ’Khiall. The attitude of this man drew a shadow of concern over her lightened heart and threatened to sour her mood.

Pushing the thought away as the deep rose colored silk reflected back at her from the mirror, she primped her hair and went out to parade in front of her precious Dharromar. She emerged from the dressing rooms with the gown flowing away from her curves like a wonderful dream, only to find the reticent tailor waiting behind his counter and her stepbrother standing outside the doorway like a dog that had been scolded.

She spun on the proprietor.

“What is the meaning of this?” She motioned to Dharromar. “I wish him to see me in this dress, why is he outside?”

“Please, young mistress.” The little old man bowed humbly to her. “Forgive me, but it made me nervous to have that changeling… I mean, the faerl in my shop alone.”

Lauralei was incensed. “What? Well, I never! Such impudence and bigotry, right here in Culetan.”  She stormed back into the dressing area. Wriggling out of the dress immediately and returning in her old clothes, she tossed the frock at the tailor angrily. “It doesn’t suit me at all!  And, I will never come in here again unless my brother is welcome as well!”

She exited quickly, taking ‘Khiall’s hand as she went.

The rest of the visit in town seemed to follow a similar pattern. She could scarce find a shop person that was comfortable with her fae step-sibling around. People passing them on the street, though she had grown up knowing most of them, would flash a quick smile to her and then, as their faces dropped, would scurry to give them a wide berth. The more this happened, the more irritated Lauralei became until finally giving up on a nice afternoon of shopping, they headed back to the wagon to rejoin the others.

In spite of her relentless inquires on what was causing this bigotry towards him, ‘Khiall was mum on the subject. He plodded along beside her, his face downcast. His attitude was one of acceptance more than irate indignation, which confused Lauralei. She could not understand why he tolerated this attitude from the people of Culetan. It was not as though they had never seen fae before. There were half-elves living in the region and he, himself, had lived here for over sixty years. Her anger simmered as she sat on the back edge of the wagon, legs swinging with the bumping and jostling as they headed towards home.

The afternoon was growing warm with no breeze to relieve them. Their purchased goods crowded around her, isolating her from all except her brother Galian. He sat with her for the most part, but he would occasionally leap off and jog around on the road, only to tear after them and jump back up. Each time he escaped to wear off some pent up energy, she would see ‘Khiall circle his horse around from the front of the cart to herd the boy back on course.

After an hour of this torture, she asked Galian about the strange behavior of the townsfolk. Grinning from ear to ear, he was not only eager to share knowledge that he had gained from eavesdropping on adults, but was happy to impart gossip about the wayward fae.

“It’s because of what he is,” Galian hinted.

“That’s absurd!” she scoffed. “There are other faerlins and half-elves around. They have never treated them differently. Culetan is not some backwoods hole of zealots.”

“But, he’s not faerlin or elfin,” he whispered mysteriously.

Crossing her arms, dubious of anything one of the twins had to share, she waited for him to end his dramatics and continue. He spun around to make sure of ‘Khiall’s location and then sat down to tell all he knew.

“I heard father say that ‘Khiall is actually a creature called a Changeling. A demon that masquerades as a fae only so it can feed on their young.” Seeing her scowl, he insisted, “It’s true! He just doesn’t know it. His mother kept it a secret from him. And, long time ago, before you were born, he used to attack the townspeople whenever the family went there. That’s why father didn’t allow him to go.” 

Her silence gave Galian encouragement, and he elaborated his absurd story. “They say that once, years ago, ‘Khiall was allowed to attend the town’s school, but one day, out of the blue, he almost killed another youth. Tried to rip Jerem’s head off for no reason! Father had to put the boy back together, so he knows it’s true. That was when father forbid ‘Khiall to leave the estate. He was confined to his room for the longest time and the mayor wanted to send him to prison, but Ammarron talked them out of it. They said that if ‘Khiall does one more horrid thing, he’ll have to be taken away.”

Lauralei found herself reluctantly believing this tale despite her love for her stepbrother. She remembered nothing from him to warrant this, but she did know him to be an impassioned young man with many moods and a questionable ancestry. Still, her mind refused to accept these stories as anything except false gossip on the side of her scheming younger sibling.

“Now, why would he attack someone? Honestly, Galian, you’re as bad as a gossipmonger!” She shook her head, haunted by the faces of the shopkeepers, and turned to watch the horizon rumble by. Typically rational adults had watched ‘Khiall with loathing in their eyes. Something had definitely happened in that town.

Galian, frustrated by her rejection of his story, stood up with stiff resolve and poor judgment. He shouted towards the black-haired fae on horseback, “Ho there! Khiall! Eaten any tasty babies lately?”

Lauralei was staring agape at her little brother, appalled by his display, when she heard the horse’s hoof beats stop. The wagon rolled past the still form of D’harromarrie’khiall as he glared at the brash young human. Spurring the horse, he rode up next to them.

“What the hell did you just say to me?” he fumed, his face red with restraint. Lauralei saw a wild fire behind his fae eyes. His breath was short. Galian leaned over the wagon wall to provoke him again, needlessly.

“I was telling Lauralei how you try to kill people that know what you really are. And, if you don’t find a way to control yourself, you’ll end up on the scaffold.” He sneered at the fae.

‘Khiall’s glance cut over to Lauralei, then he returned his attention to the twin. “Stop it, Galian. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” He warned through tight lips.

“What’s the matter? Afraid that if she finds out about you, she won’t want to ‘play’ with you anymore?” the boy poked.

“Shut your mouth,” The fae insisted, pulling his horse up closer to the wagon.

“Father said you were a daemon and not really Ammarron’s son at all. You’re not a fae. You’re a Changeling.”

“I am not! Shut up, you little weasel!” ‘Khiall roared at his tormentor.

Kora was turning around while hollering, “Alright! Settle down back there!”

Irritated, Corian began to reign in the oxen. He shouted at ‘Khiall to leave his brother alone. Lauralei was yelling at Galian instead; nevertheless, Galian merely laughed, giddy with all the attention and taunted ‘Khiall again.

“Changeling, changeling! You’re a fraekin’ faery-raper, flesh-eater, baby-kill…”

“Leave me alone!” ‘Khiall lashed out with one hand, stopping the tirade.

Her young brother’s blood flew onto Lauralei’s face and she screamed.

Corian dropped the reigns and leapt over the barrels into the bed of the wagon. Galian, four gashes across his throat and chin, tumbled off the back of the wagon into the dirt. ‘Khiall stared down at him, pulling his horse back as it tossed its head in objection to the chaos around it. Kora shrieked in fright. As Corian ripped off his shirt to wrap his twin’s throat, he shouted curses at ‘Khiall.

Lauralei, trembling with shock, could only help gather up her sibling and hold pressure on his wounds as they prepared to hurry home for help. Her tear-filled eyes turned up to ‘Khiall. He blinked at her, seemingly not comprehending what had just occurred.

Suddenly, Corian ran towards the horse and snatched ‘Khiall down from the saddle. Leaping up, the fae backed away uneasily, prepared for an attack with droplets of gore clinging to his fingernails. The twin ignored him, moving to toss his ‘other half’ onto the horse’s back and then climbed up himself.

“Lauralei,” her brother ordered, a greater maturity about him, “Get Kora and the wagon back to the house! I’m taking Galian on ahead to father! And, ‘Khiall…you can go back to Hell!”

Corian rode off at a gallop, cradling his wounded brother tight. Kora was trembling and sobbing helplessly as Lauralei climbed up next to her. Gathering the reigns, she looked down at ‘Khiall. His eyes were searching her face for censure or absolution.

“Don’t worry,” she muttered so Kora wouldn’t hear. “I’ll tell father the truth of what happened here.”

 As she left him to walk home, something in ‘Khiall’s expression told her that this statement did not bring him much solace.

 ******

Fantasy, Fiction, Literary, Musings, Ramblings, Romance, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized, YA

Where the Winds Blow – Part 6

by Ruth Davis Hays 2011

Their titillating meeting in the secret hiding space being interrupted by Sarrah calling for Lauralei, the two young, would-be lovers parted hastily. Lauralei disappeared out the small, wooden door to the hall stairs closet, much to ‘Khiall’s disappointment. 

~~~~~

PART SIX — Congenial Contemplations

The small closet was suddenly quiet without her inside it. ‘Khiall sat back heavily, his body swirling with the new impressions that life had thrust upon him. The strange, aimless urges of this past week had integrated in a storm of contact with soft flesh. Reluctant to abandon these sensations which buzzed about his loins, he closed his eyes and imagined Lauralei’s warm, supple form was still against his, goading him on to a stronger frenzy.

 Her image moved slowly against the blackness of his private suffering. Her eyes enticing him to caress her silken skin and made promises of remuneration. As his pulse tingled, the centralized draw curled towards his hips. Reaching down to examine the thickness pushing tight between his thighs, he felt the contact send a spark through him similar to her touch.

 His head fell back against the beams of the cupboard, its chipped paint flaking off into his fine hair.  With a soft moan, he brushed his fingers harder against his trouser front, imagining her hands there.  The fabric was harsh against him, but he no longer cared.  His breath becoming labored, his burgeoning affliction demanded extra consideration.  Stretching out one leg, he bit into his lower lip as he thought of Lauralei’s round, creamy breast and his palm cupping the bare flesh of her hips.

 A wonderful misery throbbed along his tense muscles.  He felt the desperate constriction of his clothing and fumbled with the drawstrings. With a sweating pant, his groin cried out for more than just imaginings.

 Barely hearing a pounding from without the closet that matched the rhythmic  pulse in his ears, he was not aware of the determined steps of Solomen until his name was shouted only a few inches away from his hiding place. His boiling blood turned to ice.

 Fearing that his own breath would give him away, he sat motionless, trying his best to quiet his nagging excitement.

“Khiall!” his stepfather shouted from the hall. “Where are you?”

 He knew trouble would come if he kept Solomen waiting; so, banishing the last thoughts of Lauralei, he tried to silently scramble to the door.  In an awkward panic, he tied his trouser front again only to discover, in horror, that his enthusiastic lower member was still in shrouded evidence. As Solomen’s legs came into view just outside the door, ‘Khiall saw them through the small slats and became desperate to rid himself of his incriminating impediment.

 “Khiall! We have a foundered horse in the east meadows!” The patriarch bellowed before storming off down the hall mumbling loudly, “Where is that damned faerlin?”

 Seeing this as his chance to escape the broom cupboard unseen, ‘Khiall hurriedly searched for how to diminish his erection. He felt his hand pricked by a straw of the broom that had repeatedly attacked him earlier. He quickly snatched out one of the hard reeds and rammed it under his thumbnail. Biting his lip and wincing with the pain as tears came to his eyes, he felt with satisfaction that it was working. His ardent stumbling block was dying. Sucking the blood from under his nail, he quietly opened the door to find his stepfather and muttered curses under his heated breath as he did.

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