Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Trying to Write Through Pain

   This week's musing is not so much about writing but how pain can affect my attempts at writing.
   Several weeks ago I injured my left knee doing things a sixty-four year old shouldn't be doing. Even with medication, the pain made it difficult to sleep and definitely affected my concentration while trying to write. I did manage to squeeze out a scene for last week's Saturdayscenes, but my lack of concentration showed in the quality of the writing. I also managed to make it through an edit of a short story I sent to Karen Conlin and wrote last week's blog post. I accomplished a few things but not as much as I wanted.
   I finally got in for an MRI on Saturday and unless you're a medical student or doctor, the findings are written in a language foreign to me. I did pick out several words such as torn, sprained, excessive fluid and degeneration. I talked to my family doctor today and he believes that at my age, surgery wouldn't be necessary, but I'll find out for sure when I get a chance to talk to an orthopedic surgeon.
   The point of all this is aimed at my younger readers. Protect your knees while you have the chance. The overall poor condition and damage to my knees is the result of working for years in the construction business not wearing knee protection and carrying more weight than I should. Proper lifting technics kept me from hurting my back but put an excessive load on my knees. Always wear knee protection of some sort when working on your knees and make more trips with a smaller load each time or find someone to help you when moving materials.

OK, enough lecturing! Here is another scene from my Fan/Fic. It's a little longer than the others but couldn't find a spot to break it up. Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading.

This is not how it was supposed to be, Alanna grumbled. Somehow that man, Rand al’Thor, had reversed the Warder bond she laid on him. The idea had seemed so simple at the time when she thought of it. She would put the Bond on him and gently guide him to his destiny at the Last Battle. The reality was that she had tried to tame a raging torrent and felt like a mouse desperately clinging to the back of a charging war horse. Some aspects of the Warder Bond worked as they should since she was always aware of his emotions and could sense where he was even when separated by hundreds of leagues. What wasn’t part of the Bond was the nagging desire to please him.

When the small gate had opened just above her writing desk and deposited a letter with her name on it, she had been too stunned to move. Not only by the suddenness of the letter appearing but by the overwhelming presence of Rand. Everyone had been on edge since he disappeared days before. Ripping open the letter in unseemly haste for an Aes Sedai , she let the envelope drop as she scanned the contents. As she had known, it was from Rand and asked her to pack quickly and meet him in the Heart of the Stone in five minutes. He had an important mission for her that he couldn’t trust to anyone else.

One part of her silently fumed at what she was doing. She was Alanna Mosvani of the Green Ajah and had been Aes Sedai for over fifty years yet here she was in the Borderlands, hiding behind an illusion and spying for the Dragon. The rest of her was filled with a peace and a sense of rightness like she had never felt before. The Bond with Rand was now a ray of pure sunshine that warmed her and filled her with hope. A sharp point of jealousy stabbed her heart when she saw the golden veins of love that coursed out to the other women who had bonded him. She was old enough to understand that some things could never be changed no matter how much she would like them to.

Rand explained how he needed someone to inspect the Borderlands and give an accurate and un-biased assessment. He was especially concerned about the progress of his good friend Lan Mandragoram, who was traveling to Tarwins Gap in Shienar to attack the Trollocs massing there. Rand knew that Lan would attack whether he was riding alone or with an army. Either way he was planning on riding to his death. Rand needed enough advance notice to make sure he could deliver an army large enough to prevent that from happening.

Alanna traveled first to the Silverwall Keeps at Firchon Pass. The Keeps were built to protect the border between Kandor and Arafel and covered both sides of the pass. Only a small opening between the two Keeps allowed passage. The number of Malkieri she found gathered there was astonishing considering the fact that the nation of Malkier had been destroyed by the Trollocs about the time that Alanna had first worn the shawl of an Aes Sedai. During the intervening years, the Blight had continued to spread south completely consuming what was left of their nation.

Casting the weaves to hide her ability to channel and mask her ageless Aes Sedai face did nothing to change her attitude. Dressed as a Lady from a minor House with her glossy black hair and penetrating dark eyes, people reacted to her with respect and honor. Her attitude expected it. She was Aes Sedai after all. The reality was that she was in the Borderlands where all women were held in higher esteem than in the south.  

“Peace my Lady. The King will arrive when he arrives. Where else will he go? He must travel through the Firchon Pass if he means to attack at Tarwin’s Gap.”

The elderly man and his equally graying wife were patiently leaning against a wagon filled with supplies along with their children and grandchildren. All were wearing bits and pieces of armor scavenged from attics and barns and all had a weapon of some kind. What confused Alanna was the fact that these people were from Shienar and she had seen folks from all the other Borderlands as well.

“Master Fredo, I can understand why the Malkieri are gathering but why do I see people from all the other kingdoms here?”

“For the memory of Malkier, Lady Alanna. When I was a young man neither Arafel nor Shienar were Borderlands. Malkier stood between us and the Blight but we always sent men north to join the Lancers of Malkier when Trollocs threatened. The last King of Malkier rides north to battle and we are honor bound to join him.”

Gliding from group to group, Alanna discovered a truth hovering just under the thoughts of everyone she met. All of the farmers, tradesmen and fighters were gathered here for only one reason; to die. They weren’t here to answer the call of the Dragon Reborn. They had come to ride behind the banner of the Goldren Crane, the last King of Malkier and to take the battle to the enemy. An undercurrent of sorrow could be seen in the faces of the women as they tried to encourage their men, hiding glistening eyes behind their smiles. Some had chosen to fight and die alongside their sons, husbands and fathers rather than to live without them.

The earth began to tremble as waves of sound radiated out from a point just past the gates of the Keep. Thousands of voices were raised in cries of hope and joy. It took Alanna a moment to pick out the actual words from the roar as the crowd settled into a chant. The Golden Crane! and Peace Favor the King! So it begins.

The southern end of Firchon Pass erupted into organized chaos as horses were hitched to wagons and people began striking camp. In short order, wagons and men on horses began lining up to pass through the gates and follow their King. Having commandeered a seat on a supply wagon driven by a youth from Arafel, Alanna stayed with the army for the two days it required to reach the fortress at Fal Dara. Once there, the word came down that the army would attack Tarwins Gap on the morning of the second day.

Now that Alanna knew when Lan was planning his attack, she needed to hurry and inspect the borders of Kandor and Arafel before returning to Rand. Having spent the last couple of nights inside the wagon, she knew it well enough to open a gate to a small stand of trees about a league west of Chachin, the capitol city of Kandor. The skies here were darker here than anywhere else she had been. The underbrush showed no signs of life and the trees were dry, bare skeletons, their branches hanging limp. Littering the ground were the bones of small animals who had called this spot their home. As she hurried away from the death and decay, she couldn’t stop brushing her hands against her skirt in a vain attempt to wipe away the evil she felt.

The time for secrecy was past so she removed the weaves that hid her features and her ability to channel. Alanna knew that there were Aes Sedai with the army camped around the Capitol and they would be the best source of information.

She strode, unchallenged, through the rings of sentries surrounding the camp and after receiving directions from a young officer, approached a large isolated tent. A privacy weave had not been raised since she could hear voices from inside the tent which meant she wouldn’t be interrupting. In a normal voice she announced, “Alanna Mosvani of the Green Ajah. May I enter and speak with you?”

A moment of silence from within, then the tent flap was thrust aside revealing a tall, fiery haired woman with a boyish figure, a multitude of freckles and wearing a dark green dress.

“Alanna!” she exclaimed with a smile lighting up her face. “It really is you. Light be praised! It’s wonderful to see you again. Please come in. We have been in the dark for so long, hopefully you can separate truth from rumor for us.”

Alanna relaxed and returned her smile, “Candance, what a relief to find a friendly face. I will tell you what I can but my time is short. I was sent to assess your situation and report back quickly.”

Entering the tent she scanned the faces of the women gathered inside. It appeared that every Ajah was represented by at least one woman. Graciously accepting a chair and a cup of tea handed to her by a young Yellow, Alanna relaxed even further as she recognized every Sister there and none were on the list of suspected Black Ajah that the Amyrlin had been circulating.

“To avoid wasting your time and mine by asking me questions I might not have answers to, I will tell you what I know to be truth. The White Tower is whole again and Egwene al’Vere was properly raised as Amyrlin. She chose Silviana Brehon of the Red Ajah to be her Keeper of the Chronicles. Let me assure you, Egwene may be the youngest Amyrlin the Tower has ever had but she is no one’s puppet. She has already defeated one of the Forsaken in a direct confrontation and managed to un-mask the Black Ajah. I will see that the list of known Black Sisters is sent to you. Also, Rand al’Thor, along with Nynaeve Sedai, cleansed the male half of the Source which means we no longer need to fear men who can channel. The Dragon has gathered all the armies of the south and plans to send them to the areas of the Borderlands which are in greatest need. Possibly as early as tomorrow he plans on traveling directly to Shayol Ghul , break the remaining seals and confront the Dark One.”

 Alanna paused to take a sip of her tea and wait for the Sisters to absorb what she had just told them. She knew they would have questions even though she had asked for none.

Candance glanced at the other Aes Sedai, stood up brushing her skirt and then cleared her throat. “Alanna, my old friend, we are here because we disagreed with the Tower’s intention to guide and control al’Thor. The Prophesies are clear. The Dragon must be free to fight this battle in the way he decides. We believe that the Aes Sedai will only play a supporting role in the upcoming battle. So, how can we assist you in accomplishing your mission?”

Alanna saw nothing but determination in the faces of the women around her and a real desire to help.

“I have heard that some of the Watch Towers north of here have gone silent. Do you have any estimate of the number of Trollocs moving south or when they might attack the Capitol?”

A few of the women lowered their heads while several raised tea cups to pursed lips but none would look her in the eye. A moment passed in awkward silence as Candance sat down, then answered Alanna in a quiet voice.

Heath Tower, which is about halfway to the Blight, was the last tower to be heard from and they went silent last night. None of the other towers have reported in days. We’ve opened small gates by several of the towers to send out scouts but none have returned. We could see Heath Tower in the distance and it had a column of smoke rising from the top. The other towers appear dark and deserted.”

Alanna surged up out of her chair, threw her cup to the floor and glared at every one of her fellow sisters. “Why has no one traveled to Heath Tower to bring men and supplies or at least check for survivors? How can you sit here and do nothing when you know that men could still be alive out there?”

“Alanna Mosvani,” Candance fired back. “Do you think we would just sit here if we could do something for those men? I am the only one of us strong enough to open a gate and then it’s only large enough for one person. The Queen decided it would be a waste of lives to try and send men through one at a time.”

Scorn dripped from her voice as Alanna surveyed the room. “Have I discovered a tent full of Novices? Since when do Aes Sedai listen to the whims of a Queen. Bloody ashes, Candance. There are enough of you to link and form a full circle which would enable you to open a gate large enough for a full squad of men to pass through.”

Earlier she had felt Rand move to a spot not far to the south which meant that he was at the Fields of Melinor and would need her report before meeting with the rulers gathered there. She was running out of time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

An Editorial Experience

   This last weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of working with a professional editor, Karen Conlin. She graciously took some time away from her larger projects to look over a short story I submitted. This story is a departure from my usual fantasy writing and is loosely based on personal experiences and feelings. It's set during present day and something I felt compelled to write. Others have enjoyed the story so much, I felt it would be advantageous to have it edited before I submit to any contest or publish to Amazon.
   Several areas she pointed out were known problems for me, like incorrect punctuation, overuse of adjectives and confusing sentence structure that makes it difficult to tell who is doing what to whom. She did however, identify two areas I was completely unaware of.
   The first is in the area of dialogue and the way my male characters speak. To her, they sounded too formal and stilted. I had to sit back and think about that one until I realized that is exactly how I sound. I rarely interact with others and communicate even less. If I'm forced to share my thoughts, I think about what I'm going to say and try to sound as intelligent as possible. And yes, I've been accused of sounding pompous on several occasions.
   I know this stems from the fact that I grew up with a speech impediment and also that my mother insisted that my father and I spoke both German and English clearly and fluently. The two of us having been born in Mississippi made this a difficult task to say the least. It's interesting how many people have commented on the strength of my dialogue while writing fantasy. My fantasy characters obviously insist on sounding any way they want.
   The second area is in the use of clichés. After the thousands of books I've read over the last fifty odd years, I'm sure I've read every cliché ever written numerous times. Some writers go to great lengths trying to stay away from them, but for me, using a cliché is easier to understand than some of the convoluted sentences they come up with trying to avoid them. But I will do my best to re-word and eliminate those clichés.
   All in all, I'm very pleased with the results of her edit and I know the story is stronger and cleaner as the result of her suggestions.
   In an attempt to be consistent, I'm sharing another short scene from my fan/fic. Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading.

   The moment their hands touched, a sound, like that of a massive foundation stone being dropped into place, reverberated through the gathered armies and continued for hundreds of leagues in all directions. The mists surrounding them disappeared as the rest of the group shook off their stasis, unaware of anything other than the remnants of the rumble in the air. Only Min, as she slowly climbed back to her feet with Rand’s help, was aware that something was different.

   “What happened?”

   “An understanding,” Rand answered with a smile for Perrin, and then turned to his wife. “Faile, please accept my apology for the things you have had to endure because of the mission I sent Perrin on. It was never my intention to see any of you harmed in any way.”

   After an ‘I told you so’ look for Faile, Perrin turned to the line of people waiting to be introduced to the Dragon. Motioning for Rand and Min to walk beside him, he addressed the stately, dark haired woman who was first in line.

   “Rand, this is Alliandre Maritha Kigarin, Queen of Ghealdan and Arganda, her First Captain. Both have endured many hardships because of their service to me.

   Moving down the line, they stopped in front of the First of Mayne and Galad. Perrin turned to Rand to introduce them and watched in shock as his friend dropped to one knee, his back arched as a hiss of pain escaped his lips.

   Perrin dropped down beside him. “What is it, Rand?”

   “Someone very close to me has just been injured, mortally if I don’t hurry. I will open a gate to her position and place a protective shield a hundred arm-lengths out. I have no idea how many enemies will be caught inside that circle. She was supposed to be in the Borderlands so I must assume that Trollocs will be inside. I will need Aiel to clear the circle and a ring of men in armor to shield her until a healer is found.”

   At the first sign of something wrong, Galad signaled his Honor Guard forward. Perrin bellowed out orders for archers and shields. Maidens of the Spear were already arriving from all directions. Berenicia of the Yellow, one of the Aes Sedai who had followed the Dragon, stepped forward.

   “I may not be able to heal her completely, but I should be able to keep her alive long enough for someone to arrive with more power than I. Who is it may I ask?”

   “Alanna Mosvani of the Green,” Rand answered. Seeing that a large number of Maidens were already gathered and Perrin had positioned a group of Two Rivers archers behind them, he continued. “Everyone stay low. As soon as the gate is open I want all channelers and archers to send through three volleys.” He knew the Maidens would be the first to go through the gate no matter what he wanted. “Only twenty Maidens through first and then the men in armor. More Maidens will follow if needed.”

   One moment there was nothing, and then a gate appeared large enough for ten abreast. The body of a woman lay face down just past the opening and hundreds of figures dressed like Aiel turned to stare. It was obvious that twenty Maidens would not be enough.

   Fire balls, lightning bolts and arrows sped towards the enemy but with little effect. Rand knew that Alanna didn’t have time for a prolonged battle and was just about to commit himself when an elderly Wise One appeared.

   “Save your friend, young man. The reason for the Aiel involvement in this war is now clear. Ji’e’toh demands that we cleanse this corruption from the memory of the People.”

   At a signal from the Wise One, Aiel poured through the gate, Maidens and men together. What could only be described as Shadow Aiel were being forced away from the gate. Rand, Perrin and Galad were just about to head through the gate also when they were showered by gravel and clumps of dirt thrown up by a horse that came to such an abrupt halt, it sat down on its haunches. Nynaeve was already out of the saddle and running for the gate.

   “Rand al Thor, are you three going to stand around gossiping or are you going to help me. She can’t be moved so you will have to protect us while I work.”

   If the situation hadn’t been so dire, Perrin and Rand might have shared a smile over Nynaeve’s tone but they only nodded and ran to surround her. A large number of the Shadow Aiel, seeing four people alone, rushed forward for an easy kill.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My First Complete Story

   For this week, I wanted to share the first chapter of my novella, "The Princess and the Apprentice" along with a short synopses. This is an easy to read story of two young people thrust into a situation not of their choosing. It won't change the world but should provide several hours of enjoyment.
   Aldan arrived at the King's Castle expecting to apprentice to the King's Mage. Before he is able to recover from the journey, the castle comes under attack and he is forced into the role of the Princess's protector. Along with two guardsmen, they flee the castle through a secret passage and Aldan is confronted by beings and places he'd only read about.
   Plagued by a lack of confidence in his abilities and confusion over the budding relationship with Princess Odessa, the companions struggle to reach a neighboring kingdom for help. With every confrontation, Aldan's confidence grows and Odessa discovers a source of magic only she can use.
   Upon arrival, they discover the kingdom under attack from an ancient evil and only they have the power to combat it. Will Aldan's confidence and Odessa's rare magic be enough to prevail and guaranty the help they need to return home?

   Any comments as to whether this first chapter is good enough to make you read on or not, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!

                                    Chapter One

                               The Castle


Aldan Beaverson hurried along the cobblestone street leading to the King’s Castle at the west end of Westalia. He had made good time on the road after leaving his master’s home on the far eastern border of the kingdom. However, today the weather became unpredictable and he’d arrived in the city later than planned. The rich aroma of roasting mutton and the sound of laughter coming from a nearby inn pulled him away from his intended destination. It had been a fast paced but lonely five days.

Aldan stepped through the door into silence as every eye fell on him and then quickly turned away. Forced laughter erupted from several tables, and it appeared that more patrons were knocking back drinks than eating. The innkeeper seemed loath to abandon his sanctuary behind the counter when Aldan called him over, the one serving girl busy refilling mugs.

The food was surprisingly good, but he wasted no time in savoring the meal. Silence fell once again when he stood, and the laughter returned full force as the door shut behind him. The weather had taken a turn for the worse while he ate and heavy, dark clouds now filled the sky. Shifting shadows from old bushes and the rustle of leaves from ancient oaks, added to the unease he felt after leaving the inn.

Aldan breathed a sigh of relief as the dark silhouette of the castle came into view. This was the first castle he had seen outside of the pages of a book and the reality of it stopped him in his tracks. It would not have surprised him to hear the ground groan at the weight of the massive stone structure. Dull faced granite blocks, most covered with moss or ivy, were a testament to its extreme age. What he didn’t expect was the smell.

Apparently they drained the castles garderobes into the moat, probably as an extra deterrent to keep enemies out. Fortunately, the drawbridge was lowered. Holding his breath, Aldan hurried across to the sally port in the massive wooden gate. A quick pull on the bell rope and a voice from somewhere above called down.

“Who goes there?”

“Aldan Beaverson. I’m the new apprentice mage.”

“Aye. We’ve been expecting you. A moment please while I summon the mage.”

Aldan hoped they would hurry as one of the shadows detached itself from the nearest building and slowly made its way toward the bridge. He quickly rehearsed one of the few defensive spells he had learned and loosened his sword in its scabbard, just in case.

About the time he determined to cast his spell, the portal opened and he was unceremoniously dragged through as the nervous guard peered out then slammed the door.

Unaware he’d been holding his breath, Aldan gasped, “What in the Seven Hells was that?”

“That is why you are needed here,” announced an elderly, silver haired gentleman. “And why the gate is always kept closed. Well met, young Beaverson. I am Jordan Ryecliff, Kings Mage. I must return to the King but the chamberlain should arrive shortly to escort you to your rooms. I will see you as soon as I can, but plan on asking your questions on the morrow when we have more time.”

With that, the mage turned to leave in a swirl of flowing, dark blue robes and disappeared down a corridor just as a harried, portly man approached from the opposite side of the entry tunnel.

“Ah, Master Beaverson! So glad you finally arrived. Welcome to Greystone Castle. I’m the chamberlain, Horis Whitely. Please follow me and I will show you to your rooms.”

Before Aldan had a chance to answer, the chamberlain headed back the way he had come. Hurrying to catch up, he couldn’t help but notice the poor state of the castle. Dust covered everything in the hall and cobwebs hung from the ceiling. The wooden banisters and railings, of the three flights of stairs they climbed, hadn’t seen a polish cloth in a very long time. The hour was not that late, yet the only sounds to disturb the eerily quiet halls were their footsteps.

They arrived at a door the chamberlain opened with one of the many keys attached to a ring. Aldan entered the room, pleasantly surprised at what he saw. His rooms had been thoroughly cleaned and several lit candles gave off a pleasant scent. A small fire crackled cheerfully in the fireplace. Tapestries hung on the walls depicting forest scenes and someone’s garden. Not really to his tastes but better than scenes of battle in their blood spattered glory.

Master Whitely waved in the direction of a small table to one side. “I suspect you are quite weary from your journey but a small bottle of wine and a platter of meat and cheese has been provided in case you are hungry. I must leave now and return to the King but the Mage indicated he would visit you before turning in. A key to your room hangs on a peg next to the door. Just as a precaution, always keep your door locked. Goodnight.”

Aldan shook his head as the chamberlain exited the room and quickly shut the door behind him. Other than the one question he’d been able to voice upon entering the castle, they had given him no opportunity for further conversation. He didn’t need to be a scholar to figure out something was terribly wrong. Where were all the staff, and why keep his door locked in the King’s castle?

A knock at the door put a hold on further musings. With the chamberlain’s warning still fresh in his mind, he cautiously stepped to the door and called out. “Who’s there?”

“Your royal welcoming committee-- as it were.”

Intrigued, Aldan opened the door to be confronted by a stunningly beautiful young woman about his own age. Long dark hair framed the face of an angel with deep green eyes and wearing a simple but elegant gown. Having someone like her appear at his door did not happen every day.

“Are you going to invite me in or just stand there and stare?” she asked as one corner of her mouth twitched, and the twinkle in her eyes threatened to un-mask her royal attitude of indifference.

“Ah, sorry my lady,” he stammered in apology. “I was expecting Mage Ryecliff.”

Aldan quickly opened the door as she glided in on slippered feet. The material of her dress made a swishing sound as her perfume filled the air. He shut and locked the door as he’d been told, all the while desperately trying to regain his composure. Why would Princess Odessa visit him in his rooms, alone?

He faced the princess and executed his best bow using the form taught to him by his mentor. “Forgive me your Highness. I am Aldan Beaverson, apprentice mage, at your service.”

After a perfunctory glance at the rest of the room, the princess returned her gaze to Aldan. Wavy blond hair that just touched the tips of his ears, framed an angular face dominated by a set of expressive dark brown eyes. The tall, slim body that would fill out as he aged gave her a glimpse of what the future promised.

 “At least you are more pleasing to the eye than our last apprentice. Your hair is shorter than I prefer but that will grow out in time. Now come away from the door and join me at the table. We must talk.”

Aldan rushed to position her chair as she sat down, then sat facing her across the table hoping she had missed the color in his face at her frank appraisal. So many questions flashed through his mind, but where to start?

The princess sat there quietly with the same faint smile as if waiting for something. This time, the heat that rose up from his neck was for his own lack of manners. “May I pour you a glass of wine, Princess?”

She answered with a nod of her head and a quick glance at the platter of food in the center of the table.

“Please help yourself, Princess. Meat and cheese are all I have to offer you.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that, but we can talk about that later. Right now, I feel I must inform you of the happenings inside the castle.”

“Please do. The city is full of rumors that the Southern King is poised to attack and I’ve felt something was amiss ever since I entered the city. It has only gotten worse now that I’m in the castle.” Aldan gestured with the knife he used to cut slices of the meat. “Even the air around me feels oppressive and filled with malice.”

The Princess nodded in agreement. “That is one of the reasons why most of the staff has abandoned the castle. That and other things.”

His attention riveted on her face as the hair on the back of his neck rose in apprehension. “What other things?”

Eyes wide in fear, trembling, she pointed to the door with a piece of cheese and whispered, “Those things.”

Reluctantly, his head swiveled to face in the direction she pointed and watched in fascination as a black cloud oozed under the door and formed into a being unlike anything he had ever seen before. It only took a moment to realize they were completely defenseless against it.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Importance of Critique Groups

   After our Writer's Critique Group meeting last night, I was once again reminded how important a meeting like that is for a writer. It makes no difference whether you are an established author or just starting out, being able to discuss issues in your writing, face to face, with your peers, is priceless.
   I was also reminded of the diversity in what people enjoy reading. Some will love what you've written and some will not. That doesn't mean there is anything wrong with your writing, it just shows how people have varying tastes. It reinforces the fact that a negative review isn't always a reflection of your writing, but the reader's likes and dislikes. While I may not agree with a negative critique, it stimulates conversation and new ideas to make the story stronger.
   Writing is difficult enough as it is without trying to find your way through the woods alone. Joining a group that will make that journey with you, helps not only you but everyone else as well. Even the most successful authors have a dedicated team to help them reach their goal.
   I highly recommend that if you aren't already part of a writing group, find one to join or start your own. is a good place to start if you live close to a major metropolitan area. They list groups all over the world, not just in the U.S. Your local library is also a great place to find a group or to post a flyer looking for others to join yours.
   Don't be discouraged if the first group you find isn't a good fit, just keep looking. It took me three tries to find a group that fit me. The first one had a bunch of poets (yuk) and the second was all romance writers (double yuk), but the last one had a mixture of all types. I've been with them for over a year and couldn't be happier.
   Find a group that fits and give it a try. What have you got to lose?

   Today's scene is another from my fanfic. Thanks for reading.

   Rand began to pace in front of the Sisters with his handless arm behind his back. As Min watched closely from a short distance away, she could feel through the bond that he was apprehensive, yet determined.

   Stopping in front of the group, he gave each one a considering look. Every Sister met his eyes, and after a nod of his head, he continued. “I will not apologize for what happened or for what some of you were forced to do. There was little trust left in me. One group of Aes Sedai kept me locked up in a small trunk, being let out only to be beaten or watch Min being beaten. The other group went expressly against my wishes by increasing the number of their group to a point where I felt threatened. Do you think I could dare release either group to possibly try and capture me again? I did what had to be done at the time. However, that time has come and gone. During the Age of Legends, all men and women with the ability to channel were called Aes Sedai and worked together in all things. We were the servants of the people, not rulers or manipulators. We must work together again to have any chance of restoring the Dark One’s prison.”

   As Rand paused, Min noticed the air around him begin to shimmer, the light warped and bent. The circle of blue sky over their heads was expanding, the blue richer and deeper, and the sunshine brighter. The image she always saw around him was changing. The pinpoints of light were escaping the pit of darkness in droves, and the Light be praised, the darkness was diminishing. Whatever was happening to the man she loved more than life, it was wonderful and right. Knowing he would feel it, she sent all of that love through the bond.

   “I release all of you from your oaths of fealty,” Rand declared with a big smile in Min’s direction. “If you see any of the others before I do, I give you the authority in my name to release them also. You may come and go as you wish, but please remember what I have said. I am not to lead this battle. That responsibility will fall to others. My purpose will be to focus the Light of this world to counter the Dark One and keep him from escaping while others repair his prison.”

   “But my Lord Dragon,” Kiruna Sedai protested. “You hold the Crown of Illian and armies, including the Aiel, fight in your name.”

   “What of the remaining seals on the Dark One’s prison?” Berenicia Sedai demanded. “It seems foolishness in the extreme to destroy the only thing left holding the Dark One.”

   Rand almost had to laugh at how quickly the women had regained their balance. They were Aes Sedai, and when they asked a question, they expected an immediate answer. Aes Sedai were always in control, and made a point of letting you know when they thought you were wrong. Was that a thing of Aes Sedai, or was that just a thing of women, he mused.

   He held up his hand in front of his face to hide his smile and to stop the flood of questions before they could really get started. He was surprised at how right it felt to have the Sisters returned to their proper positions. He had been as uncomfortable with the situation as he was sure they had been.

   “The Crown of Illian will soon be returned to the man who deserves it. The Aiel and any army that wants to fight in my name may do so with my blessing, but I will not lead them. Concerning the remaining Seals, Berenicia Sedai, I was there three thousand years ago when the Hundred Companions and I placed those Seals on the Dark One’s prison.  Believe me when I tell you, even one Seal left in place will interfere with repairing his prison.”

   Leaving the Aes Sedai to absorb that revelation, Rand put his arm around Min and started walking back to camp. He saw the look on Min’s face that a woman had when she knew what you were thinking and didn’t like it.

   “Don’t ask.” he said, laughing.

   “Alright, sheepherder,” she growled with a punch to his side that made him grunt. “Now that you’ve sent that gaggle of geese squawking in all directions, what are you planning to do next?”

   Once again, a look of apprehension and determination crossed Rand’s face as he replied. “Something I’ve put off for too long, Min. It’s time to face the Wolf.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Is It Too Late For Me?

   The last weekend in August marked the end of another year of summer swap meets. We are lucky that in our area there is still an operational Drive-In theater that holds swap meets every Sunday during the summer. The Drive-In has been owned by the same family for many years and they plan to keep it going for many more, but developers are continually trying to force them to sell their land.
   Ever since my home construction business failed and my wife became disabled, we have become dependent on what money I can generate at the swap meet to cover those extras that we can't afford to plan into our limited budget. Every year I force myself to set aside several hundred dollars to purchase items in the spring at auctions/estate sales. My goal is to find items I feel I can sell at the swap meet for a profit.
   I have always been an avid reader, but since I could no longer afford to buy books, the library became a favorite hang-out and I started to re-read the books I already owned. Frustrated by the lack of new titles available at the library and tired of reading the same books over and over, I started writing my own stories. Quite by accident, I discovered I had some small talent for writing stories.
   After reading some of what I'd written, my children convinced me to pursue writing as a new career path and enter some contests. Being totally naïve about the writing industry, I picked up a writer's magazine from the library and found a few contests to enter. I wrote several short stories and submitted them. They were rough drafts since I knew nothing of self-editing or hiring an editor. One finished in the top ten and the other received an Honorable Mention. I dreamed that writing would become a nice source of extra income for us.
   After several years now of being in a critique group and several writer communities, I realize that it will probably be a long time before I see any of that extra income. Writing is hard for me because I have trouble focusing on the computer screen and my arthritis makes it difficult to hold a pen for very long. It seems that the only ones who make money are those who have a large number of books already published and are able to put out new stories on a regular basis.
   As I enter my sixty-fifth year on this earth, I wonder if I'll have enough time to produce enough material to generate a steady income. I do not look forward to being a door greeter at Wal-Mart. It may sound strange to some, but I would like to get to the point where I have to pay income taxes again.

   I will be sharing the second half of the final chapter in my YA fantasy this weekend for #Saturdayscenes if anyone is interested. For today I'd like to share another short scene from my fan/fic.
   Thanks for reading.

After emerging from the Tower, they had stumbled about half a league toward the River Arinelle where Thom had to stop, unable to carry Moraine any farther. As he gently laid her down next to a fallen log, she woke long enough to profess her love for him and he his love for her. Thom got a small fire started with the help of Moraine’s power as Mat, feeling like a third wheel on a two wheeled cart, wandered down to the river where he found a small pot and with his luck snared a rabbit. All that was left of the rabbit were a few small bones smoldering in the fire and the little bit of tea Thom had was running low. They must have been inside the tower longer than Mat thought since the sun was dipping behind the trees and the temperature was dropping fast. Not as cold as in the spring but summer still hadn’t caught up yet. Dark clouds had covered the sky for so long now that he could barely remember the last time he had seen the sun. The Dark One’s touch on the world was getting stronger. Mat could feel Rand pulling him north so strongly that there must not be much time left.

   “Thom,” Mat said, “we can’t stay here.”

   “I know lad, but what can we do? We are hundreds of leagues from the nearest village and that asha’man won’t be putting up a gate until tomorrow at noon. I don’t like the idea of spending the night in these woods without food or shelter either.”

   Mat stood, looking to the north. “That’s not what I meant Thom. Rand needs me and I think maybe he needs Moraine as much or more. Remember what the Eelfinn said, ‘You must give up half the light of the world to save the world’. I gave up my eye to save her Thom. Don’t you think that maybe she is the key that Rand needs to defeat the Dark One?”

   With a glance at Moraine who was still sleeping, Thom looked back at Mat. “You just might be right, but I still don’t see what we can do about it right now.”

   Mat tried to think, but the pain in his head from losing his eye was almost more than he could bear. He’d been cut up pretty bad a number of times, but nothing compared to the ache he felt where his eye should be. This was not a wound that could be sewn up and bandaged. Not that they had any of that stuff now anyway.

   At that moment Moraine stirred and opened her eyes. She’d fallen asleep as soon as she finished her bit of rabbit and a little tea. It was no wonder after what she’d gone through. It was said that the Aelfinn and Eelfinn fed off of the emotions of any human they caught in their world and they had been feeding off of Moraine’s fear and despair for a very long time. Mat didn’t think he could have survived that long with those bloody snakes and foxes and still be sane.

   “Matrim, as much as I enjoy a fire in the woods with a special gleeman and a good friend for company, we can not stay here.”

   Mat and Thom shared a look over the fire. Wasn’t it just like a bloody woman to tell a man what he already knew. Mat half expected her to give him an earful for not bringing some clothes when they came to rescue her. How were they supposed to know the Eelfinn would take her clothes? Now that she was awake and a little rested, she would probably try to take over. In Mat’s experience that’s what Aes Sedai did as easy as breathing.

   Moraine gave him one of those looks a woman has that said she knew exactly what he had been thinking and then surprised him by saying, “Matrim, I can do nothing right now to help us, so it will be up to you. Maybe we will get to see just what it means to be one of the strongest ta’veren in an age.” Ta’veren was a term from the Old Tongue for someone who pulled on the strings of the Pattern to meet his needs or was pulled by the Pattern to fill a need.

   “What!” Mat groaned. “How is being a bloody ta’veren going to help us? It certainly hasn’t done anything for me yet that I can see.”

   “I have faith in you Matrim. I’m sure if you think about it, you will find a way.”

   Think! How can a man think with so much pain and why did it feel like his eye was still there? It wasn’t like he was afraid of the One Power so maybe he should let Moraine heal him just this once. He had to be able to think didn’t he? With a sigh, Mat slowly undid the leather thong holding his foxhead medallion around his neck. With the medallion touching his flesh, any weaves of the One Power channeled at him fell apart. Standing up, Mat moved over to the other side of the fire and knelt down in front of Moraine.

   “Elayne said that a woman can still channel while wearing this,” Mat said. “As weak as you are, I want you to wear this to protect you. I think you are more important to what is coming than I am.”

   Oh this was bloody hard for him!

   Taking a deep breath, he continued, “Moraine, you are one of the few Aes Sedai I trust so I guess I could accept healing from you just this once. Not that this will become a habit mind you. I just need to be able to think without this pain if I’m supposed to figure a way out of here.”

   “Oh Matrim,” Moraine said softly. “You have given me back my life. A gift greater than any other. I cannot accept this from you. Please keep it as I think the pattern is not done with you yet.”

   Moraine slipped a hand out from underneath Thom’s gleeman cloak, exposing the milky white cleavage of her breasts. Not that Mat would look. He was a married man now and they didn’t do that kind of thing, did they? As she was reaching for his head, her eyes narrowed.