Fantasy Friday: Through Elisena’s Eyes Part 2, Chapter 2

I know it’s not Friday. This week was hubby’s birthday and I needed two days to recover (no, not because of alcohol. I’m pregnant peeps and don’t drink.) We went to the aquarium and I epically failed by forgetting to bring the stroller so our one-year-old was VERY difficult. He cried. Then I cried. Everyone but my husband cried that day. But, after a prayer break, it got much better. It appears I have to be extra prayed-up for special days since the enemy always attacks double on those days. I’m figuring him out. But I digress. Here’s chapter two of part two of Through Elisena’s Eyes. Here’s part one, chapter one if you haven’t read it yet. Happy reading!

fantasy-girl-face-portrait-green-hair-tattoo-fantasy-15706-resized

 

Do not stir up love before its time.  

The swirly, glowing scarlet letters engraved the door to Courtship. Vines and puffy pink flowers layered the wooden exterior, and a robust amethyst stone dominated the center.

With my umbrella closed and clipped onto my back, on came the swarm of extra-awkward emotions. The rapid throb of anxiety poked my skin; excitement rubbed warm and cold on my forehead; and lust’s hot tingling consumed my chest. I snatched my umbrella and opened it with a trembling hand. “Elisena Dillion.”

At my quiet declaration, the amethyst stone swelled with light, and the door opened. Pounds of flowery-sweet aromas slapped my face. I coughed as I walked inside. Bright blossoms filled multiple planters against each wall, and mini flower pots decorated every desk, occupied by a few giggling girls and many nervous boys. At the room’s front, tall candles and an ivory vase overflowing with flowers  adorned a massive desk.

Gripping my umbrella, I skittered to a desk in the back and sat down. On my left, a blue-haired girl wearing a colorful headpiece and spectacles held up a huge, open book entitled: Advanced Dragon Taming.

I smiled. I wish I had something as effective to hide behind.

“This is quite a small academy, isn’t it?” Thrine’s voice made me jump. I turned to my right as she set her carrier atop a desk. Eldin stood beside her. Eyes peering downward, Eldin sat in front of Thrine and then set his gaze to the room’s front.

I tilted my umbrella to the right. At least now only his calve and tapping boot burdened my peripherals.

A four-foot explosion of multi-hued petals burst before the colossal desk. A tiny woman with fuchsia ringlets and a matching dress appeared. She stood atop the colorful foliage. “Welcome, future brides and husbands!” She curtsied. “I am Lady Meltmoore and it is my absolute pleasure to train you in the ways of love!”

The blue-haired girl beside me flipped a page in her book.

“Young dragon tamer in the back, please come forward.”

The girl peered from behind her book, her magnified, teal eyes blinking.

“Don’t make me wait, dear. Tardiness is unattractive.”

Pulling her shoulders back, the girl slapped her book shut, tucked it beneath her arm and strode to Lady Meltmoore’s side.

“Now you.” The preceptor pointed at a slump-shouldered boy with black bangs masking half of his face. Lady Meltmoore curled her finger, beckoning him. He pushed his squeaking chair back and scuffled to the blue-haired girl’s side. Even hunched, he stood nearly two feet taller.

“Now, I want you to introduce yourselves to one another.”

Blue-hair shot her hand out. “Surta Ragnild.”

Slumps arched his hand and gave hers a weak shake. “Layne Locklin.”

After he released, Lady Meltmoore glided behind him. “Again, and this time, try to impress Miss Ragnild.” She clasped his shoulders and yanked them back, making him five inches higher. As many classmates laughed, I lifted my umbrella and snuck a glance at Eldin. Thrine’s yellow-painted nails softly scratched the back of his neck. Planting his elbows atop his desk, he leaned forward. She dropped her hand and angrily tapped her fingers against her carrier.

Why was he being cold? Or maybe he didn’t care for public displays of affection. Or, he felt nervous being around the romantic companion he hadn’t seen in almost a year. I slowly arched my umbrella to the left, allowing half of me to be outside of its force-field. Anger hammered against my back while embarrassment’s hollow churn inflated my gut. Thrine’s fierce emotions trumped Eldin’s, making it highly difficult–and painful–to try and read his heart. I straightened my umbrella and focused on the awkward trio at the front of the room.

Layne cleared his throat. “My name”–his voice thundered as blue light waves flowed from his mouth, making the room quake and knocking over several pots–“is Layne Locklin.”

Surta gawped. Lady Meltmoore clapped her hands and a batch of colorful petals burst from them, raining on Layne and Surta.

“You may return to your seats.”

As they hurried back to their desks, Lady Meltmoore continued. “First impressions are the stepping stone, the building block, to any relationship. Indeed, a failed first meeting can be reconciled later on, but if you absorb these lessons on courtship, your failure rate will minimize immensely. Now you!” She pointed straight ahead–at me. Scrunching my forehead, I touched my chest.

“Yes, my mysterious umbrella-yielding young lady. Please come forward.”

As my peers whispered and snickered, Lady Meltmoore’s big eyes scanned the boys. “Have we any volunteers?”

Strangling my umbrella stick, I rose and walked to the preceptor’s side. Several boys sank deeper into their seats while a few yawned loudly. The slick-haired boy seated in front of my desk said, “Maybe if she lost a little weight first.”

As my cheeks burned and prodigies laughed, Surta crossed her arms. She focused on Slick-hair. A large double-sided mirror appeared in front of him, displaying him with large yellow fangs, furry ears and a wrinkled snout. He recoiled and scrambled out of his chair.

Surta smirked. “I think many girls should also be afraid of how hideous you are on the inside.”

A handful of girls applauded. Despite my still-burning cheeks, I managed to smile. Usually, only Javin defended me and–

Eldin rose from his chair and walked toward me. With each step closer my palms moistened and my empty stomach knotted and ached. Lightheaded from the lack of food and Eldin’s constant presence, I inhaled slowly. Fainting at this moment in front of his dearest would not only be embarrassing, but it’ll seal my fate as having no friends outside of family except Eldin. And with how he’s been acting around me today, another “odd” display and I’ll lose him entirely. As Eldin stood at my side, Thrine glared and straightened in her seat. With her cropped, green hair and yellow eyes, she looked like a poisonous dawn blossom, beautiful but ready to kill.

“Well…” Lady Meltmoore smiled at Eldin. “Handsome and brave. This one has already made a good first impression. Wouldn’t you agree, ladies?”

Many girls nodded or voiced their agreement.

“Now, dear”–the preceptor circled me–“how necessary is this umbrella?”

I tightened my slippery hold on it. Eldin’s glistening purple eyes met mine. If I could somehow drown out Thrine’s wrath and everyone else’s toxic emotions, I could see into Eldin’s heart and maybe get a better understanding of his unusual behavior around me. Taking another deep breath, I pressed the button on my umbrella stick. It snapped shut. A horde of emotions pounced on me; excitement, amusement, boredom, apathy, annoyance, curiosity, anger, rage…I winced.

“Elisena, focus,” Eldin whispered. His gentle yet fierce gaze locked onto me, steadied me…

Frozen, I drew in another long breath and concentrated on his shining irises. The wrathful shoves pummeling me from Thrine lessened like a tiring fighter’s punch.

Lady Meltmoore peered over Eldin’s shoulder. “Ah, so you two already know each other. Well then, rather than an introduction, young man, how would you ask Elisena to a romantic outing?”

Sweat dropped down my temple. What kind of horrible joke was being thrust upon me? I didn’t come to the Academy to be tormented by a lost love.

A new sensation rose from the barrage of others; a warm wind. It caressed my cheeks and brushed my shoulders…

Interest…romantic interest. I swallowed, my throat scratchy. Did I read him right? Maybe he was acting for the sake of Lady Meltmoore’s inquiry. Or maybe it came from someone else’s heart.

Eldin spoke. “Elisena Dillion, I’ve known you since before permanent memories of you settled into my mind. Though seldom, I’ve seen you smile and I’ve watched you cry.”

The warmth turned hotter and the gentle wind strengthened, sweeping over my face and chest. My lightheadedness worsened.

“And though I’ve tried, I’ve never known how to figure you out, but”–he smiled–“I’d like to start. So, will you allow me the privilege of getting to know you better? You can choose a place that won’t put Javin in his grave.”

Despite the tears in my eyes and ever-growing muscle weakness, I chuckled. “That would be nowhere, but he doesn’t need to know.”

“But he’s your stalker. You know we wouldn’t be able to hide for long.”

“You’re right.”

“But, you also know I can handle him.”

My mouth fell open, remembering his scuffle with Javin in our barn. As much as my brother annoys me, seeing him get beat up isn’t something I like to witness.

Now Eldin chuckled. “I’m messing. I think my only option would be to win him over, too.”

I shook my head. “You know that’s impossible.”

“Maybe.” His smile faded and his tone shifted to a more serious one. “But it’s worth a try.”

Whiteness invaded the sides of my peripherals. As Lady Meltmoore’s floral claps assaulted my ears and nose, wrath slammed into my gut. I stumbled. Thrine rose from her desk and marched to the door. Another emotion crashed into my chest, knocking the wind out of me. Heartbreak.

The white fog clouded my vision as strong arms cradled my waist. Gasps and Lady Meltmoore’s frantic voice faded. Releasing my umbrella, I closed my eyes and like that day at the marketplace back home, once again, I fell prey to unbridled emotions.

Advertisements

Fantasy Friday! Short Story: Through Elisena’s Eyes Part 2, Ch 1

Click here to read Part 1 if you haven’t already!

tristan-gassert-430456-unsplash

Chapter One

 

Just close your eyes, breathe, and shut out their hearts.

My hands trembled as I stood in the mass of prodigies walking toward the Servants’ Lodge entryway. The daystar rose above the orange forest surrounding me and Javin’s new home, exposing the happy, excited demeanors of my peers, but not their innermost feelings—fear, awe, uncertainty. Every heart’s true emotions scratched against my skin like an old rope.

I reached for the umbrella clipped to my back by my waist-belt while Javin gave me an understanding nod, a few pink feathers falling from his matted tresses. Besides his leather Servant’s tunic and pants, he appeared more like a lost nomad rather than a fellow prodigy at Knights’ Elect Academy. I smiled as I opened my umbrella. Maybe next to him I won’t look so odd. 

An elegant red-head and her identical twin sized me up before whispering to one another and laughing. Well, at least they notice me.

“Elisena!”

Oh no. Even though my umbrella’s invisible force-field blocked out all the feelings and thoughts streaming from the surrounding prodigies, it couldn’t stop my own heart from jolting, stopping, and then racing seemingly all at once.

Eldin walked toward me, a smile on his perfect lips. Nearly every girl he passed trailed him with their eyes. He stopped in front of me and then glanced at Javin. “Hi.”

Javin growled like a graether and then wrapped his arm around me.

I shrugged it off. “Hi.”

“What are you doing here?”

“What are we doing here.” Javin hugged me again.

I glared at him. “If you don’t take your arm off me, I’ll tell that pretty blonde you were staring at a few minutes ago exactly what you were thinking about her.”

Now Javin glowered as he released me.

Eldin’s purple eyes widened slightly. “So that’s your prodigious gift? You can…read minds?”

I slowly twirled my umbrella. “Not minds…”

His olive skin paled. “Well, uh, I have to get going, you know, eat, figure out where my first lesson is and all of that. Fair day.” He turned around and strode toward the lodge’s crumbling steps.

My cheeks burned. I wish I didn’t have my umbrella open. As Eldin walked through the open door and disappeared, I bowed my head. Or maybe I do.

“I don’t know what you see in him.” Javin extended his arm, a mossy scent emanating from him. As a twirlwing swirled down like a green cyclone and landed atop his hand, its big eyes incongruent with its tiny beak, Javin looked at me. “Actually, what do you see in him?”

“That is none of your concern.” I marched forward, gripping my umbrella while more of my peers whispered and laughed—mostly at me, but some at Javin. I came to the academy to discover my purpose, but instead, I find my past.

“It is my concern.” Javin strode beside me. “Especially without Father around. But, I’ll let it go…for now.” He set the fluffy-feathered twirlwing atop his head, adding more colorful feathers to his messy hair, and then opened his satchel and removed a scroll. After opening it he said, “I have Wisdom for first lesson. Third floor, Hall of Sage. What do you have?”

“I don’t know.” I walked up the dilapidated steps to the porch and then onward through the open doorway. Prodigies stepped aside to make room for me and my umbrella. An auburn haired boy tried to poke it. Javin hissed at him and the twirlwing spun off his head and in front of the boy’s face. He recoiled and ran off.

The wide Main Hall opened up to a commons crowded with barrels of pink water and roughly patched couches. A wall-high cobblestone and wood fireplace stood against the center wall, three gray stone platforms on either side of it. I veered to the right where all the other prodigies traversed into a circular entryway leading into a banquet hall.

As Javin followed me inside, the aroma of fresh-baked bread greeted me. Prodigies/Servants sat at multiple darkwood tables beneath the blue light of a massive chandelier. To the left, more prodigies stood in a line before floating platforms with apron-wearing women behind them, serving loaves of bread and stew. My stomach rumbled.

“I hope that stew is meatless,” Javin said. “I can eat like a vegetarian graether right now.”

“You do that.” I scurried to one of the only empty tables remaining, near a large risen platform in the back, and hurried into a chair. Mugs of water sat on the table. I grabbed one and guzzled, hoping it’d somewhat fill the void in my gut. Hopefully Javin wouldn’t hound me for skipping morning meal.

A green-haired girl carrying a tray with a bread loaf and steaming stew sat beside me. Her yellow eyes shined and she held her chest high. “Waiting on anyone?”

I shook my head, though Javin would probably pop up soon, and looked away.

“Nice umbrella. Not exactly a good choice if you’re trying to be invisible. Though I don’t think you really want to be, do you?”

My grip tightened on my umbrella’s bronze stick. Did she have a similar gift to mine, or was it just a discerning guess?

“Come on.” She smiled. “No one really wants to be alone. But I get it. You’re picky about the company you keep. That makes two of us.” She reached her hand out. “My name is Thrine.”

I shook it. “I’m—”

“Elisena.”

“So you can read minds or just know people when you see them?”

“No. Eldin Lightsmith told me about you.”

My stomach lurched. Thank Sovereignty she didn’t have a prophetic gift. “Oh. How do you know Eldin?”

“We met at the annual Royal Garden Gala two years ago. We’ve kept in touch ever since.”

“That’s a beautiful celebration.” I feigned casualty. “What did he say about me?”

“That he worked for your father.” She spooned a mouthful of stew, its savory scent making my hollow stomach ache. “And that you were the oddest person he’d ever known.”

I lifted my mug to my mouth and chugged. The oddest person he’d ever known? That explained the bewilderment ever-flowing from his heart whenever he was around me. But the last time he peered at me in Father’s barn it had changed to curiosity. Maybe he meant ‘odd’ in a good way. Unlike most people, he never avoided me. Well, not until today.

Emmer.” Eldin neared our table, carrying a tray of food. My heart hammered as he stood between me and the girl.

Thrine rose. “You mean—”

“Thrine, right. I apologize. I’m still getting used to it.”

“You will soon enough.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.

I set my mug down with a trembling hand, my empty stomach twisting. Eldin glanced at me. He grasped Thrine’s wrists and removed them, breaking away from her kiss. She watched him as he set his tray down on the other side of her chair and sat. “So I see you met Elisena.”

Thrine eased into her seat. “She just so happened to sit at the table I told you to meet me at.”

“Small academy.” He bit into his bread.

Thrine scratched his back. “I’ve missed you. Can you believe it’s been eleven months since we last saw each other?”

He nodded. “It seems a lot has changed since then.”

She stopped scratching his back. Her narrowing eyes landed on me. “I hate to ask, but can you excuse us?”

“Uh, certainly.” I rushed to my feet.

“Welcome, Servants!” A silver-haired man with a protruding chin, wearing a cotton robe, stood on the risen platform beside a giant woman with black braids.

She wore a tunic dress with two calve-splits. “May everyone please take their seats.”

I looked around. Javin stood by a table near the entryway, brown liquid oozing down either side of his mouth as he waved me over. The pretty blonde occupied a seat next to him, while prodigies filled the others. Not a single seat remained. Torn between thankfulness and growing discomfort, I slowly sat beside Thrine again. She crossed her arms as the man continued. “My name is Overseer Enri, and this is the Assistant Overseer, Lady Bridie.”

The woman raised a large hand. “Fair day, prodigies.”

“Firstly, we would like to thank all of you for choosing to be apprentices here at King Nifal’s Knights’ Elect Academy. Each of you has been invited because of the prodigious gift you’ve been given by our Supreme King through your lineage.” He removed a small, silver tube from his robe pocket and spoke into it, his voice now amplified. “The foundation of knighthood is service. Throughout your first year, you will learn the principles of servanthood, along with basic combat and preservation. If you succeed, next year, you will move on to become Squires, and in your final year, you will be trained as Warriors and leave the academy as knights of the kingdom you’ve selected to serve and protect.” He handed Lady Bridie the tube.

“Now onto Ground Rules. The only time you are permitted to leave the grounds is for your end of the year three-month visit. Curfew is at the twenty-second hour. Common respect to your preceptors and peers is expected of you, and there is a guide of those expectations and the punishments for disobedience in your General Knight’s Guide found in your designated dormitory.”

I snuck a glance at Eldin. He quietly ate his meal, his stare fixed ahead on Lady Bridie. She handed the tube back to Overseer Enri.

“If you need assistance, my office is on the first floor in the Hall of Enri, and Lady Bridie’s is in the adjacent corridor, the Hall of Bridie. Again, welcome to Knights’ Elect Academy. We look forward to seeing you grow.” He slipped the tube back into his robe pocket and sped off of the platform, Lady Bridie running to keep up with him.

Thrine uncrossed her arms. “You can excuse yourself again.”

Eldin put his bread down. “You can be more respectful, Em—Thrine.”

“I apologize.” She spoke slowly and high-pitched. “Elisena, can you be so kind as to once again remove yourself from our table so that I may hold a private conversation with my suitor?”

Tears blurring my sight, I stood with my open umbrella and scurried to the circular entryway, ignoring the stares and laughs from my fellow prodigies. Eldin Lightsmith, the young man I’ve known since infancy, the one I grew to love and often prayed to someday have the honor of marrying is courting another girl.

Can this day get any more heart shattering?

Fantasy Friday! Short Story: Through Elisena’s Eyes: Part 1, Ch. 3-4

*Click here to read chapters 1-2 if you haven’t already.

elisegreenback

He Peered at Me

6th of the Days of Warmth

Distractions are harder to dust off than I’d previously planned. Especially when they are a handsome, hard-working, six-day-a-week presence. And when I’ve given so much thought and attention to them for so long. Too long.

Eldin was here today, working on the farm with Father and Javin as always. However, today was different. Very different. From the outside, no one would notice the change. But being able to see inside, changes happen more often than you think. Some for the better, others for the worst. Today, it was both.

Father prepared to collect chump—chewed grass made savory and nutritious by the saliva of gurns—from our oldest gurn, Magenta. She had apparently swallowed more than she could chew because before Father could grab the pail to catch the chump, Magenta vomited grass the size of her head onto his lap. He called in Eldin to catch whatever chump remained, then Father went inside to clean off.

Did I mention Father had me brush leakers from Magenta’s fur? I tried desperately to ignore Eldin’s heart by overly concentrating on scraping off a giant, oozing leaker from Magenta’s rear, but then the change happened.

The usual loyalty, diligence, joy, kindness, and compassion poured from Eldin’s heart in warm waves that ignited my mind with thoughts of King Nifal, but I realized the horrible feeling of pity wasn’t prickling my skin. Sadness hung, heavy in the air. But bewilderment changed to curiosity. And then reality slapped me in the back like a pleased Gavrailian. Eldin hadn’t attempted to chat with me as he always did. He sat as quiet as I’d been since he replaced Father in chump-collecting.

I removed my stare from the stubborn leaker and looked over at Eldin, seated on the stool, pail in hand, catching chump. But he wasn’t just catching chump. He was peering at me, observing me as if I were some mysterious artifact.

My skin tingled. My stomach flopped. I never held gazes with his shimmering, deep purple eyes. They infiltrated my soul, making my knees weak, and heart pound.

I scraped so hard, brown leaker-insides splattered onto my face. I dropped the brush, my cheeks burning.

Eldin jumped to his feet and removed a handkerchief from his back pocket. He tried handing it to me, but I was so embarrassed, I just scurried out of the barn as Javin was entering with a pail of water. I crashed into him, drenching us both.

“Elly!” Javin grabbed me by the shoulders, his eyes lilac, mirroring the concern and anger consuming his heart. “What happened?”

“Nothing I—”

“What did you do to her?” Javin released me and strode toward Eldin. “Did you touch her?”

I bustled after my hot-hearted brother. “Javin, he didn’t do anything.”

“Really, Javin?” Eldin set his pail on the ground. “You think I would ever harm Elisena?”

“That’s ‘your sister’ to you,” Javin said.

Eldin smiled, yet anger kindled in his heart. “Elisena is much more than just ‘your sister.’”

Javin stepped close to him. “Maybe to our family, but not to you. So don’t you dare even think of—”

“Of what? Being her friend?” Eldin stepped forward as my heart ached at the mere friend response, while every inch of me cringed at the swelling anger in him and big-mouthed Javin.

Eldin continued. “You aren’t her father so you should stop acting like one.”

Javin shoved him. Eldin staggered, knocking over the pail of chump. Javin swung his fist. Eldin dodged and then rammed into him, sending them both tumbling to the ground.

Eldin raised his fist.

“Please stop!” I screamed. And cried. Eldin peered at me again. Remorse.

He lowered his arm, rose to his feet, and walked out of the barn.

I have a feeling more distractions are on their way.

for blogs incentive

Emblem-Isolated

Did My Calling Just Knock?

11th of the Days of Warmth

Eldin hasn’t been back. It’s going on day four of his absence at our farm. Father said, “It’s best to give the boy space to forgive.”

Meanwhile, I am needing my own space to forgive Javin. Papa-twin is banned from roto-flying and has twice more work to do until Eldin returns—if—Eldin returns.

I pray Javin would at least attempt to work on his trust issues. He and Father are two unhealthy extremes in the trust arena. Despite all he’s been through, Father is quite trusting. Whereas Javin is the complete opposite. He doesn’t even trust Father because of how trusting Father is. It’s a deep-rooted heart issue that began when we were seven.

Father and Javin sat outside shearing the new purple fur that had grown on our youngest furth, while Mother brushed my hair in the cottage fore-room. I used to enjoy going on adventures around the farm. We own a few acres, and Ollander and his wife always let me venture into their land.

They have two big slinkpaws; a fluffy black male and an orange-spotted female. Rina, the female, loved to play with me. I’d hide and she’d come skulking. With a playful growl she’d pounce and we’d roll around in the grass. That day we actually rolled down a hill. My adventures always left a tangled mess of brown curls, but because of the hill-smashing, the knots were worse, and Mother had to untwine sticks and grass.

The brush caught on a knot. Mother cussed and yanked. Anger speared from her heart like a dagger into mine. She yanked again. More cussing. I started to cry.

“Well if you didn’t act like an animal and play with those beasts, you wouldn’t have this ugly, wretched hair!” She pulled so hard the brush broke.

I wailed. Mother threw the brush on the floor, strode to the closet, and shoved the curtain aside. Rage, disappointment, and something even more horrible suffocated the air. She snatched her satchel off a hanger and stormed out of the cottage, leaving the door open. She screamed at Father. I ran to the entryway and peered outside.

Mother stood across from him while he held back Javin with one hand, the other grasping Mother’s. “Lillian, please. Let’s go inside and talk about this.”

“Oh, now you want to talk!” She shook her hand free. “You’ve had years to get to know your own wife, but you put this farm before me.”

“I work for you, for our children.”

“Stop. Just stop it. It’s too late. You’re too late.” She turned to the right. Alongside the cottage, three sibling rotos and their mother drank from a water tray. She marched in their direction.

Father released Javin and trailed Mother.

“Mama!” I jumped off our wrap-around porch and raced to her, Javin following suit.

Anger, disappointment, and self-pity bombarded my seven-year-old frame, poisoning my thoughts. Good for nothing. How could he? I want nothing to do with him. 

Mother hopped onto the mother roto. She screeched and flapped her red wings.

I reached up and clasped Mother’s calve. “Mama, where are you going?”

Javin gripped the roto’s feathers. “Stay, Mama! Stay.”

Father’s voice trembled. “Lillian, don’t do this. Please. We need you.”

Grasping the reins, she looked down at Father, and something I didn’t understand then consumed her heart. “You need me. What about love?”

A crushing weight of defeat and jealousy shrouded Father’s broken heart. Tears spilled from his purple eyes. “Clearly, you know nothing of love.”

She kicked the roto’s side. She leapt into the air and they soared away.

From that day forward, Javin never trusted anyone, but me. We were the victims. We were the ones abandoned. Our own mother traded us for what she believed was love and chased that fantasy to another town. Word traveled fast about her adulterous relationship with a married man of seven children.

Father couldn’t protect us from that betrayal, but Javin believes he can spare us from another. And so he behaves accordingly, keeping people at a distance or pushing them away. He certainly shoved Eldin hard. I guess it was an answered prayer. No distractions now. Which reminds me…

Today is Invitation Day. All the gifted in Zephoris who have been chosen to attend Knight’s Elect Academy will receive a letter of acceptance and invitation. No one gets to apply to the academy. They have only to wait for the letter and choose to accept or reject it.

With all the thoughts of slapping Javin or pushing him into roto waste, I hadn’t thought about this day. Well, I somewhat forced it from my mind. How could my gift be used to serve the people of Zephoris? Knights are strong and intimidating. I’m short, somewhat hefty, and shy.

It’s hard to imagine King Nifal would want me to become a knight. I’m clumsy with a sword at best and downright hazardous at worst. Ask Javin. The scar at the end of his eyebrow and descending his cheek is a consequence of my terrible swordsmanship. After that epic failure, he and Father never let me lift a sword again.

One moment.

Hmm. Javin’s anxiety level is tearing through the walls of my bedroom and prickling my entire body. Even Father’s nerves are leaking in. Now intense anger from papa-twin. He’s yelling at Father. I’ll be back.

Back.

Javin received an invitation to Knight’s Elect Academy.

And so did I.


Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’re taken out of Elisena’s journal and into Knights’ Elect Academy, where Elisena, who is trying to discover her purpose, instead finds part of her past. 

Writing Craft Wednesday: Write to a Specific Audience

209bb7d6-e3e9-4850-86e7-ca06ba2a5938

Who in Zephoris is your audience?

The above photo is from my second time at the Florida Christian Writers Conference back in 2013. Everyone in this photo–minus Obi-Wan Brynobi–is in my target audience. I know exactly who I want to write for: teens and young adults. I remember seeing a teenage boy walking around Islands of Adventure in a Harry Potter cloak and thinking, that’s who I want reading my fantasy novel. I can still recall what he looks like. Can you say something similar?

Now you may be thinking: I want any and everyone to read my book. That’s great, I do, too! BUT, it’s important to be a little–a lot–more specific when writing your story. You have to be intentional about who you want reading your book most and then write to them.

Think of it this way: when producers are considering a movie to try and push on investors, the first thing the producers look at is marketability. Will this thing sell? And how do they determine if it will? They look at stats that include demographics and then are able to better determine if this film will do well at the box-office. I hate to break it to ya, but you’ve gotta consider the same thing when it comes to your precious novel.

All right, Natasha, fine. I’ll be more specific. But once I know who I most want reading my story, then what? 

Glad you asked.

Write to them. Picture someone you know in real life who is exactly in your target audience; your Star Wars loving twenty-something best friend; your sixth-grade, Harry Potter adoring little sister; your Lord of the Ringsseventeen-year-old fanatical cousin. Picture him before you write and imagine how you would relate your story to him. Would you recite your story to him the same way you’d recite it to your grandma? Probably not. Let’s close the age-gap some: would you recite the story the same exact way to your LOTR-fanatic seventeen-year-old cousin as you would to your twelve-year-old little sister? Maybe you’d tell it a little more similarly than you would the former, but still not in exactly the same way.

ciprian-boiciuc-193062 copy

Why do you think there’s a separation between Middle-grade fiction and YA (Young Adult) fiction? Not every middle-grader is on the same level as their high-school counterpart. And there’s even some places like Barnes & Noble who identify “teen fiction” because yes, there is typically a level of difference in maturity between a seventeen-year-old and a twenty-two-year-old (that’s even biologically, brain-wise etc.). 

So don’t fear that being specific means you’re automatically not going to relate to hundreds of thousands of potential readers. Harry Potter is beloved by child and adult alike, just as Lord of the Rings and Narnia are. A good story is enjoyed by many, but a generically written, non-specific and thus, lesser detailed and weaker-voiced tale can be read less, since it’s not speaking confidently to a certain audience. It’s better to have a group of people relating to and thus connecting with your story, than an auditorium of empty seats, of people who missed it. 

Until next time, happy helping!

ricardo-cruz-31577

 

Here’s a Great Resource to Get Free Book Reviews & Publicity!

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 3.11.20 PM.png

All right fellow authors, have you heard of M.C. Frank’s the Book Robin Hoods book community? There’s a number of fiction-loving readers on there who have either a book review blog, Goodreads account, Instagram (some with thousands of followers!), or all three! It’s simple, the site gives out these reader/reviwers’ emails, and you can query them, asking if they’d like to receive an eBook copy (or print if you can afford to), of your novel in exchange for an honest review.

ciprian-boiciuc-193062 copy

I’ve received several reviews from these readers, and even snagged some Amazon ones (and we all know Amazon reviews are gold). So, what are you waiting for, author? Check it out!

Happy helping!

ricardo-cruz-31577

Fantasy Friday! Short story: Through Elisena’s Eyes: Part 1, Chapters 1-2

elsineawater

This is the first “chapter” of Part One of Through Elisena’s eyes. It’s written in journal format. In part 2, we are taken to first-person past-tense point-of-view and the setting takes place at Knight’s Elect Academy. I’d love to know your thoughts so feel free to leave a comment. Happy reading!

The journal of Elisena Dillion 

Village: Rockey Valley in Jazerland

Part One

In Case You Care…

1st of the Days of Warmth

My name is Elisena. I will be seventeen soon, and I live in the rigid yet beautiful mountains of Jazerland, the land of the faithful. But lately, faithfulness to our dear Supreme King has been slowly replaced with rebellion, though no one’s brave enough to say it—yet. But I could read their hearts—quite literally.

Some would call it a gift and some, a curse. I deem it both, though it has always leaned more toward the cursed side. You see, when I see into people’s hearts, I know not only what they are feeling, but what they are full of…

Take my neighbor, Ollander. He is a tiny little man, about the size of a three-year-old boy, but he has more courage than a dragon. Laneth Crag and his eight boys at the edge of the mountain think Ollander is, “all mouth, no moves,” but they are in for a surprise the next time they scorn him. His heart has been patient, but that patience is thinning. All week he’s been entertaining revenge and believing it’s justice, but truly, he just wants to prove to his wife that even though he’s smaller than her, he is brave.

Reading his heart is usually refreshing, but there’s some hearts I wish I were blind to…

Like Eldin Lightsmith’s.

newupdateblog

Emblem-Isolated

None of Us Have Destinies, But We Do Have…

3rd of the Days of Warmth

It’s heavy on my heart, but I know it’s true:

I do not have a destiny. But I do have a purpose. I just don’t know what it is yet.

Having a destiny means no matter what you do, or don’t do, you will accomplish what you were created to do, even if accidentally.

This is a grave lie. It’s easier on the heart, certainly, but it’s dangerous. I refuse to allow any lie to hold me back from fulfilling my purpose.

See, if I believed in destiny, then I can just sit back and let it happen. But if I know the real truth, that I have a purpose which must be sought after, then I have a target to hit.

I know my gift wasn’t an accident, but I have the choice, the free will to choose how I am going to use it. Although I am certain seeing into hearts isn’t just for my personal knowledge, and there has to be some greater purpose for it, I haven’t discovered that calling yet. This nagging why will not leave until I find the answer.

So I will continue seeking. I will continue knocking. Somehow, I will awaken to my purpose and use it for a greater good. And I am preparing now.

My first task in finding my purpose: remove all distractions. I must stop walking within range of Eldin’s home so I can peer into his heart. It’s too painful and it’s wrong. With most people, seeing their hearts is second-nature, but sometimes, I choose to see more, to focus rather than look away.

Peering into Eldin’s heart is my greatest temptation and greatest source of pain. He’s too good. Don’t mistake me; he is certainly not perfect—none of us are—but Eldin’s heart is unlike anyone’s I have ever known.

True, not many people live this high up the mountains, but our nearest marketplace is always crowded. That’s why I despise going. Crowded places means hundreds of conflicting desires and fears and feelings and love and hatred drowning my heart and thoughts.

I cringe thinking about my first melt-down. It’s bad enough I’m a little on the heavier side, but since our village is so small, everyone remembers the strange daughter of Ronen dropping onto the dirt ground in the middle of the marketplace, crawling into a ball while quaking and sobbing. Worst of all, Eldin was there.

He works for my father, tending our rotos and other creatures, and had joined us and Javin, my twin brother/second father, to the marketplace for extra-sensitive feather-wash. The flocklings of our mother roto are allergic to nearly everything but humans.

Well, Eldin had just returned with a basket-full of glass-contained wash. “Hey, do you know where Mr. Dillion and Javin are?” He’d asked.

“No.” It was the only word I’d spoken to him that day. And it was a lie. Of course I knew where Javin and Father were. I could sense Javin’s anxious brotherly/fatherly love, worrying about leaving his “baby sister” alone for a few minutes so he could help Father get new saddles and reins for the flocklings. They were only twenty yards away, though their hearts quickly disappeared in the sea of others.

First, a wave of excitement and awe—no doubt from all the surrounding children—crashed into me. I stumbled.

Eldin nearly dropped the basket of glass containers. “Elisena, are you all right?”

Another wave. This time, impatience and frustration. I staggered again. Eldin grabbed my arm and steadied me. “You look ill. Let’s find a seat—”

And then a tidal wave. Excitement, awe, impatience, frustration, happiness, sadness, jealousy, envy, adultery, hatred. I could no longer hear or feel Eldin. Confidence, arrogance, manipulation; feelings I’d never felt before drowned me. And I collapsed beneath the black ocean of hearts exposed.

Eldin still pities me whenever I’m around; pity, sadness, bewilderment. Everything a girl never wants to feel from a guy she hopes to impress.

Though I don’t hope anymore. I don’t even dream anymore of a romance with Eldin. Fantasies are for fools and I refuse to fall victim to a broken heart.

So I hide. And seek; seek for my purpose. But I pray somehow it finds me—soon.

Good Vs Evil: Gray Morality in YA Stories

“What sorrow for those who say
that evil is good and good is evil,
that dark is light and light is dark…”-Isaiah 5:20 NLT

This seems to be a trend now in many YA books. From reviews I’ve read, lots of authors are sending out “gray” messages; that morality isn’t always black and white. I’m thinking of a show based off of a book series where one of the main characters, who is likable, is in an adulterous relationship. Meaning, she’s sleeping with a married man. But it’s never addressed as wrong…in fact, it is presented as right, as following your heart, and the message is to sympathize for the adulterers and that the adulteress is to be pitied since her married lover hasn’t yet left his wife for her.

“You can’t help who you love” can be debated, but you can control the choices you make. You can choose to avoid and/or not get too close to a married man you feel attracted to. You can choose to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” as Jesus said, which I would assume, if you were married, you wouldn’t want someone sleeping with your spouse behind your back.

Commitment is love. Love is not feeling. True love doesn’t give up because fiery feelings have dissolved. There are certainly biblical grounds for divorce, such as abandonment and adultery, but not just because you don’t feel like you’re in love anymore, or you’re not happy anymore with your spouse so you want to walk away. “Love suffers long. Love is not selfish,” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5).

But Satan loves to blur the lines. An adulterous relationship may feel good, but feeling and objective truth often collide. Where once most everyone viewed adultery as wrong, the lines have now been systematically and consistently blurred over time and now it’s “gray.”

What topic or circumstance have you read in a YA book recently that took a once widely accepted black and white or biblically wrong choice and made it gray?

Happy discussing!

ricardo-cruz-31577

Love Triangles: Hate ’em or Love ’em?

Some love love-triangles, others despise them. For me, they sometimes work and other times they fail miserably. What I think makes them work and why is simple enough. There’s something about a challenge that ignites us, especially when it involves someone we care about–let alone two people we care about. So when a couple faces a test of their love, our interest is piqued, and what better test than the temptation to love someone else? We also like to see when love fights and doesn’t give up easily.

But it’s kinda like a double-edged sword, isn’t it? At least it can be for me. I get pretty upset when a gal has clearly proved her love through sacrifice and commitment, only to then face the threat of being dumped by her guy for some chick who likely hasn’t shown the same level of sacrificial devotion. When the temptation is superficial–enter someone really attractive and mysterious or confident–that’s a fail for me. If that person’s a threat then either it’s not very believable, or the guy is a shallow jerk who I then end up not liking anymore because he dared entertain the idea of leaving his girl for lust. That’s annoying and makes me lose respect for the guy. Or the super typical obvious bad-girl/guy whose just trying to mess things up for the characters who are in a relationship. Those are never believable because you always know the character being hit on isn’t gonna fall for it and that the villain/villainess is gonna get found-out.

But then there’s those really likable other romantic interests; someone you can maybe root for whose relationship with the main character is a lot more complex, has more depth and history; like a long-lost-love, or a close companion whose also always been there for the character; or someone who even seems like a better match for said character. *Spoiler alert for the two of you who have yet to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi* I felt that way about Rose and Finn in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I actually really liked Rose and felt like she and Finn were a better pair than Finn and Rey (even though it’s still not that official with Rose and Finn, it’s certainly more official than him and Rey).

So, how do you feel about the infamous love-triangle? Have you read/watched one that you really enjoyed? Feel free to share your thoughts in a comment.

Happy helping!

ricardo-cruz-31577

Introducing Characters the Right Way

Ever meet a new character in a book and not think much of her? Her introduction was quite normal, mundane, lackluster. New characters should pique our interest. There should be something about them that causes us to want to know more. Sometimes, they don’t even have to say a word, but rather, it’s something this character does that sets him apart, makes him weird, unique, noble, horrible, awkward, funny, something other than normal (even though we all know no one’s completely normal; we all have our corks and “normal” is often subjective, but there’s pretty normal and then there’s really not normal or different).

What makes this new character different from previously introduced characters? What can be shown about this guy that hasn’t been seen in anyone else, or maybe has been seen, but not quite in the same way? Pick a word that you think would cause you to wonder about a person you’ve just met: mysterious, spiteful, cautious, nervous, brave, creative? Now consider a unique way one of those characteristics can be displayed. Think outside of the box because there certainly is one and you don’t want your character–even if he’s just a side one–to be typical.

ciprian-boiciuc-193062 copy

I know it’s easy to get lazy with side characters–I’ve been guilty of not always giving them too much thought–but they’re apart of your story, apart of the world, and they either build it in a way that makes it cooler, richer, more believable, frightening, wonderful, or they don’t add anything to it and that’s a wasted opportunity.

What side characters have you read recently and loved? Feel free to share your thoughts in a comment.

Happy helping!

ricardo-cruz-31577