Thursday, July 31, 2014

Party Game - Scavenger Hunt

Via Pinterest
Because Half-Hidden is based on the premise of hunting, Scavenger Hunt just feels like a natural choice for today. I've hidden twelve pictures from my  around my blog, together with twelve fun facts about the book.

Below are hint for where to find these pictures. The year that the post was posted, and a clue to the post's title. Every picture will be at the bottom of its post, and after it, the fun fact. When you find one, comment on it, and I'll keep track. Every one you find will be an entry for a drawing, the winner of which will read the first few chapters that I wrote for Camp NaNo last year as well as the snippet that I have in my RambleK.

1. 2014. This is not normally a good Combination.
2. 2013. This Dragon doesn't care much for Trees.
3. 2013. I'm an Extrovert, by the way.
4. 2009. The Iliad and Odossey
5. 2011. Gwain and the not Green Knight
6. 2012. Fire and Walls.
7. 2012. Ashes and Wind
8. 2010. An Old Oak
9. 2012. This Spaghetti sounds nasty.
10. 2012. This isn't Snow White, but the title sounds like it might be.
11. 2014. I keep Makilien cool.
12. 2013. They aren't blood brothers ... for one thing, they're girls.

Have fun, and good luck! May your fires burn strong!

300 Dragons - Chapter 1

Chapter 1

In his dreams, Jyson could always fly. The ground would disappear from under his feet and he would soar through the air, the glaring sun not a torment, but a source of energy. But then he would always wake up.
He has often wondered about the meaning of these dreams, and why they were so consistent. Flight was not something he coveted in his waking hours. He was normally quite content with his feet firmly routed on the ground. It was just during the night …
However, this was not a morning given to contemplation. He and his cousin, Samul, had been summoned to the capitol for the first time, and thoughts could not be spared to anything beyond the fact that they were leaving today.
Do you think King Hubert is going to prefer you or me me?” Samul asked, flashing Jyson a grin over the stable partition as they saddled their horses. “Because frankly, I don't see how he's going to resist my charming manners.”
Jyson shook his head as he tightened the girth. “If he can get past your pretentious attitude, I think you'll do just fine.”
It's part of my charm, Jy,” said Samul. “Now you, I really don't know what you have to recommend yourself – unless he's interested in broody young knights given to violent bursts and obsessed with keeping their hands smooth.”
You never know,” said Jyson, frowning momentarily at his gloved hands. “I've heard that King Hubert can be quite the broody man himself. We might find that we have much in common.”
If he can get past your gloves.”
Look, I don't wear gloves because I like it and you know it. It was my father's last order to my mothers that my hands never be seen, and I like to respect that.”
You don't have to get so worked up about it, Jy,” said Samul, daring to laugh. “I just think that it was a very strange request. Did he think your hands deformed or something.”
Jyson tensed slightly, as he thought of the other part of his father's last order – that he never tell anyone the reason. No, his hands weren't deformed, but the truth was almost as bad. “We'd better get going,” he said aloud, opening the stall door. “We have a good two days' journey ahead of us.”
You're right, I have two whole days that I can torment you non-stop. I can spread it out, instead of cramming it all in now.”
Jyson took a deep breath, willing himself to ignore his cousin. He liked him and all that, and he could be amusing at times … but there were other times when he could be just a bit exasperating.
Hey, Jy,” continued Samul. “Do you think there's any chance we might see a dragon on our way there? Because that would be seriously cool.”
It would only be seriously cool if it stays well away from us. Those beasts breath fire, if you'll remember. That's seriously hot.”
What's this!” exclaimed Samul in an incredulous voice. “Jyson cracking a joke? The world must be coming to an end!”
Jyson sighed. This was going to be a long two days.

Hey, Jy! What do you think that is?”
Jyson glanced halfheartedly in the direction Samul was pointing. “I really have no idea.”
Looks like an umbrella bird to me.”
They live further south – in the jungles. You're not going to see an Umbrella Bird in the desert.”
It might be lost.”
If it is, it'll soon be dead. They can't survive without water.”
Then we should go rescue it!”
Samul, if it is an umbrella bird, which I seriously doubt, it can fend for itself. If it isn't, then it can definitely fend for itself.”
You are so hardhearted, Jy.”
No.” Jyson sighed again. “I am just mindful of the fact that this is a path of protection, and Grandfather has strictly ordered us to not step off of it for any reason, lest we get lost in the desert ourselves.”
Ah, he just doesn't want us to have any fun,” said Samul.
I'm more willing to believe that he doesn't want us to not reach the Capitol,” said Jyson. “If we get lost, it's going to be very hard for us to win the king's favor and all that.”
Ah, well, when you put it in that light, I suppose that this path does have a certain appeal ...”
Jyson closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He had predicted that two days' travel in an unchanging landscape would make for a very bored Samul, and he had been right. They were barely half a day away from their grandfather's estate, and Samul was already wondering what the hoped-for adventure had done with itself.
His thoughts were suddenly cut short when a strange feeling spread over him. Not foreboding, exactly, but it was something very similar, causing the hair on the back of his neck to rise. “Something's nearby,” he said, not sure why he was so certain of that fact.
Really?” asked Samul, excitement rising in his voice again. “What? Where?”
I – I don't know,” said Jyson, frowning. “But it's …” He turned his head in the direction Samul had been pointing. “It's that direction.”
That's the umbrella bird,” said Samul. “We've already decided that we're going to leave it alone, boring as the prospect is.”
No … it's …” Jyson found himself unable to speak as the brown creature that Samul had been pointing to suddenly zoomed towards him, becoming recognizable.
That's no umbrella bird,” said Samul. “That's a dragon.”
Jyson was unable to speak as he reigned in his horse and watched the dragon glide over the burning sand. Its eyes were fixed on him, and Jyson had the oddest feeling of familiarity, as if he had seen those eyes before.
Just before the dragon reached the path, it veered upwards and soon disappeared far into the hazy sky, and the feeling was gone.
Jyson shook himself and turned to his cousin, who had stopped several feet ahead of him. “Well, there's your dragon. Do you mind if the rest of the trip is uneventful?”
For today at least,” said Samul. “Can't promise tomorrow. Was it too scary for you? It didn't even blow smoke at us!”
No it was … let's just get going. We're wasting time.” Jyson dug his spurs into the horses sides and he was off again. Samul was not slow to follow suit.
Soon the dragon's eyes were pushed to the back of his mind and all but forgotten.

And we have arrived intact and without harm,” Samul announced, as they neared the walls of the Capitol. “And in good time, too. We should be able to have a nice, long heart-to-heart conversation with the king, and still have time for supper.”
We might,” said Jyson, impatiently. “But I really doubt that King Hubert does.”
Yes, yes, you're right as always, Jy,” said Samul handing his papers to the guard at the side of the gate. “Well, we'll get supper at least, I'm sure.”
Yes, what a relief,” said Jyson, handing his own papers to the other guard.
King Hubert is waiting for you,” announced Samul's guard, handing Samul back his papers. “You'll find him in his throne room.”
Eh, same for you,” said the other guard, handing Jyson his. “Now hurry up.”
But sirs,” said Samul. “This is our first time to visit our lovely Capitol. We don't know the way to the throne room.”
The main road will take you straight to the palace gates,” said his guard, irritably. “You can ask for further instructions when you get there.”
Thank-you kindly, sir,” said Samul, tipping his hat good-naturedly. “Now, if you don't mind, we'll just be along.”
It wasn't until they were through the gates before he finally turned and acknowledged the look that Jyson was giving him. “What?”
Grandfather told us that the main street leads straight towards the palace gates,” said Jyson. “In fact, that information is pretty much universally known throughout Rintaria.”
Ah, but I wanted to make them feel useful.”
You annoyed them, that's what you did.”
It's good to be among people again, don't you think?” asked Samul, changing the subject, and gesturing to the crowded street spread before them. “The Capitol is certainly a busy place, isn't it?”
Well, this is where the king lives,” said Jyson. “Of course it's going to be busy.”
Slowly, but surely, they guided their horses through the maze of people. No one took much notice of them, except for a beggar or two asking for alms. At last they came to the magnificent palace gates.
Samul whistled as they dismounted. “And you thought that the gates to the city were something to look at! Why, I do believe that these are solid gold.”
Nay,” said the bored guard who stood by this gate. “Merely wood covered with gold plate. King Harold doesn't like people knowing that, though. What's your business, gentlemen, or have you only come to ogle at the gates.”
Papers were again produced and examined, and soon the gate was opened for the pair. No sooner had they stepped in the courtyard than a groomsman approached them and claimed their horses. A moment after that, another servant appeared, bidding them to “follow him.”
And there goes asking for directions,” complained Samul. Jyson just shook his head.
The palace halls were as busy as the streets, but it was an organized busy. Their guide lead them effortlessly though the people bustling here and there, people even pausing to acknowledge their presence. It wasn't long before they found themselves standing before a pair of magnificent doors, solid oak and carved with the most intricate design, which stood open, showing the way into an even more magnificent room.
Unlike the halls, this room was peaceful. The chandeliers glittered on the ceiling, the carpet leading to the throne was pristine, and every step made on the hardwood floor could be heard. The throne itself was on a platform at least twelve feet off of the ground, and was covered in gold and ivory. The throne was also empty.
Well, well, don't just stand there!” a powerful voice boomed and echoed through the room. “Come in, come in – state your business! What do you want with the great and mighty King Harold?”
Because of the echoing, it took a few seconds before Jyson focused on the speaker, who was a powerfully built man just exiting his prime, his brown hair just beginning to be touched by gray, who stood just to the side of the steps leading up to the throne. He wore a purple robe and a thick band of gold encircled his head.
Jyson and Samul shared a glance before Samul took the initiative to step forward and bow deeply. “Your Majesty, I am Samul, son of Lord Elar, Grandson of Lord Garan, Baron of Ridaria, and this is my cousin, Jyson, whose mother was my father's sister. We have obeyed your especial summons and are willing to receive the honor of joining your service.”
A broad smile spread across King Harold's face, and before Jyson could think to join his cousin in obeisance, had already gestured for Samul to stand back up. “Ah, Garan's grandsons. Fine young men! Your grandfather must be very proud!”
Before either young man could respond, a woman's voice rang out. “But why do you not mention Jyson's father? Do you consider it a shame to be sired by my friend Dular?”
Jyson at last noticed the two ladies seated in luxurious velvet chairs on the other side of the throne. They looked to be the same age, one with rich, golden hair, the other with hair whiter than snow, though it did nothing to make her look older.
The white-haired rose and took a few steps nearer. “Yes, you have grown into a fine young man. I'm sure Dular would have been proud.” She paused and turned an inquiring look towards the golden-haired. “Do you not think so, Analyssa, my daughter?”
Jyson blinked, as he realized who the pair were – Queen Blanche and Princess Analyssa themselves! And it seemed that Queen Blanche's famous youth was no rumor at all.
Princess Analyssa stood up, flicking her skirt with her wrist so that it billowed around her dramatically. “I wouldn't know what Dular would have thought of him, for I never met Dular,” she said, her voice sweet, yet powerful at the same time. “And I do not think it is propitious for me to state my own opinion, mother.” With those words, she swept down the carpet and past Jyson and out of the room. The smell of desert roses lingering momentarily after her.
Ah, since we are to be denied my daughter's favored opinion, we may as well get down to business,” announced King Harold. “The two of you will make fine additions to my men, if you resemble your fathers even in the slightest.”

You flatter us, your majesty,” said Samul, dipping into another bow. “We will pleased enough if only our service can bring honor to you.”

Welcome to Rintaria

Via Pinterest
I've told you about my cousin, the one who inspired Chris in The Ankulen. That same summer, my sister and I were studying Greek mythology, and I told him all about Jason and the Argonauts.

He was hooked, and the next two stories we did, he was Jason. The first one has become part of Bookania, but it's the second that I'd like to talk about here.

It was a story of a young knight who wants to marry a princess, and had been told by her father that he could - if he slayed thirty dragons. Then he joined a group who were also hunting dragons - though for very different reasons. They informed him that the thirty dragons he hunted were actually the last of the good dragons, and that the princess, who loved the good dragons, would only marry him if he helped slay three hundred evil dragons.

I decided that I wanted the party to be made of seven people, including Jason. But I needed reasons for the others to be hunting. My character was secretly the princess in disguise, so she was easy (This cousin has played my love interest so many times ...). Then I tossed in a pair of siblings whose family was wiped out in an evil dragon attack.

That left three more members.

A brilliant idea came to me - what if the last three members were actually dragons - the good dragons - trapped in human form. And they hunted the dragons because it was a way by which they could someday restore their scales. And the reason that the princess loved the dragons so much was that her mother was one of them.

The cousin loved this idea.

(And yes, my intention had been to withhold this plot twist from ya'll until you read the book, but I've realized that it's a plot twist that most of you would figure out, and since there are other somewhat popular books that have the same twist - books I hadn't read until I'd already formed the basic plot, I'd like to point out - I decided that I'd just put it out in the open and let ya'll deal with it.)

The story game we played outside eventually fizzled away, and it's possible that he's forgotten about it. I started writing a bit of it in my RambleK document, but I didn't officially start digging into the story until last year's Camp NaNo.

And by the way, the reason for the change in this Jason's name to Jyson was not because they were too similar (I'm a huge fan of overusing names) but because their love interests have too much in common. Both have two names but go by the second predominately, both are associated with dragons, and both are associated with the color gold. And both have knives as their weapon of choice.

This book is part of the Ankulen universe - basically, if you read about a certain redhead talking about dragons in The Ankulen, she's almost certainly talking about the dragons in Rintaria. It's a desert world, and I would describe its culture as more Arabic than many of my other worlds. I'm very much looking forward to sharing this world with all of you.

Also, check out Robyn Hoode's blog for an interview with Stardrana, the half-Hidden (the name that the humanized dragons gave themselves) heroine of the book.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Party Game: Pin the Tail on the Donkey

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 What's a party without a good game of pin the tail on the donkey? 

Except I don't have any donkeys, so we're going to play pin the title on the book. I'm going to list several snippets from my books, and ya'll have to guess which book or series each is from. And to make things a bit difficult, I will be changing a few names. Send me an email with your guesses (I've disabled commenting for this post), and the person who guesses the most correctly will win a chance to read what I have written for Colinda and the Swan's Secret.

1. “We're still scum to them,” said Matthew. “You might have found some friends, but none of the elves seem to think very much of me.”
     “Well, I'm sure you'll grow on them,” said Anna, encouragingly. “They're just put off by the fact that you work in close quarters with the prince, and that you were his friend once.” She sighed. “They'll soon realize that you're just like them.”
      Matthew frowned. “That's just it. I'm not just like them. And neither are you. You're just better at fitting in than I am, that's all.” He frowned as he flexed his own arm. “Among the humans, I was feared for my strength – but I'm little more than a weakling when compared to my fellow Lornies.”

2. “Ashlyn!” she exclaimed.
    Ashlyn turned to see Linda in the water. “What are you doing here?”
    “Swimming,” said Linda. “I always swim first thing after I get home from boarding school.”
    The man who was with Ashlyn came over. “Who's this, Ashlyn?” he asked.
    “Linda,” said Ashlyn, with an unexcited voice. “My crazy roommate. No, I don't know what she's doing here.”

3. For answer, I was suddenly pulled out of the middle of the road as a runaway carriage rushed by. Oddly enough, no one was chasing it.
“That’s a car,” said Mark.
“A runaway carriage?” questioned William.
“Uh … no,” said Mark. “It’s a carriage that runs without any horses.”

4. “We share much in common with the dragons we ride,” explained Aoril. “Fire is one of those things.”
    “But how does fire cure a burn – shouldn't that make it worse?”
    “Our fire does not work the same way that the dragon's does,” Aoril explained. “Usually we use it only to strengthen ourselves during our battles against the wyrmen and to heal ourselves. Only Tabetha can use it to heal another.”

5. Jane wished that her palms were sweaty. Sweaty palms didn’t burn holes in the upholstery.  No, when she was nervous, sparks leapt out of her fingers … and since she was very nervous …
   Swallowing, she balled her hands into fists and thrust them into her fire-proof pockets. Nothing could be done, however, for the ones in her hair. She could distinctly feel one tickling her ears. It wasn’t uncomfortable, normally she would find it reassuring, but people weren’t supposed to know of her superpowers.
   Closing her eyes to focus, she extinguished that stray flame, feeling heartless and cruel, as she always did when she put them out. She wished she were at home, or in Nightterror’s cave, where she didn’t have to kill her flames, could just be herself.
   “Jane Ramov!” the announcer called. Her turn.

6. This is the road we were supposed to be on,” she declared one morning, jabbing a finger at the map that she had stolen from Andrew's pack. “Isn't it?”
Andrew glanced at the map. “Yep, I guess it is.”
“And this,” she added, moving her finger, “is the road we are on?”
“Yep, I guess it is.”
She shot him a brief glare, then jabbed her finger at a spot between the two roads. “If there was a path here, we could be on the main road in no time, and it'd save us so much time!”

7. “Why do you hesitate?” said the unicorn, “In the days of old, you would be on my back in but a moment, and I would carry you to anywhere you asked.”
“There aren’t any unicorns were I come from,” said Molly, for that was all she could think of to say.
“You are the Fairy Princess,” said Niabi, in assurance, “the Unicorn Princess is your personal steed.” Molly reluctantly got on the unicorn’s back. This reminded her of the time the Lianos had taken her to the horse farm down the street. They had said that she had had an excellent seat, yet was completely clueless as to what she should do with her reins and heels.

Good luck!

The Swan's Secret - Chapter 1

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Chapter 1
Crack in the Wall

It was after her. Colinda could feel It breathing down her neck. It wouldn’t be long, she knew with terrifying certainty, before It had her. But she wouldn’t give in. She couldn’t. She was the last hope. Yet, why she was, she couldn’t remember. Someone ran beside her, someone dear, yet who it was—was forgotten as well. This someone had less chance of escape than Colinda.
She willed herself to run faster, yet she knew it wasn’t enough. She would have to use her last resort. The one someone, she had forgotten this person too, had taught her and had told her to use only if there was no other escape possible. And there was no other escape now.
Her legs were giving out. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the other stumble. Now was the time. She stopped, muttered a few syllables, and then threw something off of her head. As the ground gave in under her feet, she knew they would both be safe from It, for a while at least.

Collie sat straight up in bed, sweat drenched, heart pounding. Would these dreams ever go away? This had been the worst one yet. She shuddered, trying to drive It’s maniacal laughter out of her head. It was in almost all of her dreams, and always something to be feared.
She glanced at the clock. 6:00. She might as well get up now, although no one else would be awake. No one, that is, except Dad, who was probably already at work. She sighed. Why did she have such a hard time thinking of them as her parents? Why, for her, did Mother and Father mean two people whose faces refused to materialize in her head?
She slipped out of bed, silently, so that she wouldn’t disturb Susan, who slept in the bed on the other side of the room. She eased out of the room, and tip-toed down the hall to the bathroom that she and Susan shared.
She flicked on the light, and, for a second, just stared at her reflection. She always stuck out like a sore thumb among the rest of the family. While they had olive complexions, her skin was the color of pale rose petals. While they had brown eyes, hers were the clearest blue. While they had dark brown or black hair, hers was a soft, golden blond. And sore was very much an accurate description, as a white scar on her left cheek reminded her. Even after a year, her scars still pained her, even though she had no idea where they came from.
She had no idea where she came from. She knew that Susan’s parents—her parents she reminded herself—had found her a year before, unconscious in their front yard. But how she got there, but why she had been unconscious, she had no idea.
Her scars had been open sores at the time, and, as she had been told, she had spent weeks in the hospital before she had woken up. Even then, she had been unable to sate their curiosities, for she could remember only that her name had been Collie. Funny thing was, she thought of herself as Colinda in her dreams. At the thought of her dreams she shuddered again.
Susan was a good sister. It was mostly because of her that her parents—their parents—had adopted Collie. Collie did love her new family, but had such a hard time thinking of it as her own. Who were her real family? Where were they? And how did Collie end up in the Liano’s front yard? Questions like these constantly plagued her, but there seemed to be no answers.
She pulled her nightdress over her head, and reached for the clothes she set out the night before. She pulled them on quickly, ran a brush through her hair, and then headed downstairs.
She had the run of the house right now, since she was the only one up. Mr. Liano—Dad—was already gone, as she had expected. She was usually up at this time, for those dreams plagued her. She had been having them as long as she could remember—which was only a year—and she hated them. Yet, somehow they seemed to hold some sort of key to what she had forgotten. She seriously doubted they were memories, for they were all far too fantastic. She did magic in many of them, like the one that morning, and in others, others did magic. They had to be only allegories, at most.
Perhaps something had been chasing her a one point. Perhaps someone dear to her had died, as she had seen in one dream. Perhaps—no, there was no way to explain the ones that showed people being turned into animals, they were just way to weird.
She tried to distract herself with a book. But that only led her to contemplation on the fact that, while she had no memories, or knowledge of science or history, when she had woken up, she was already an advanced reader, and her level in math had been quite high. She had a brain full of hard facts, with no memories to soften it. She threw the book down in frustration. Why couldn’t she concentrate this morning?
She wandered into the kitchen to fix herself some breakfast. Toast sounded good, so she popped two slices into the magical thing called the toaster. No, magic didn’t exist, she reminded herself; toasters were science, not magic.
Why did she do that? Why was she constantly thinking things of science as of magic?
Her whole life was a puzzle, and there seemed to be no solution. How had she gotten into the Liano’s front yard? Why had her dress, though very badly torn, as was her skin, been silk? Why had she spent four weeks in a coma that didn’t really affect her, other than a slight weakness? Somehow she knew the memory blank was due to something else. Why did she have that memory blank?
The toaster suddenly popped behind her, jolting her out of her dismal thoughts. She plopped the toast onto a plate, then scraped some butter onto them and squirted some lemon on top of that. She didn’t know why she liked sour stuff so much, but she personally found sweet stuff unbearable.
When she finished, she could still hear a scratching sound. At first she ignored it and took a big bite out of her toast, but as it grew louder, she had to investigate.
It was coming from the living room, so there she went. When she got there, her jaw fell to the floor in astonishment—and horror. A large crack had appeared on one wall, and was rapidly becoming larger. When it reached the ceiling and floor, the two sections of the wall began moving apart, revealing an enormous chamber that should have been impossible, as it was an outside wall.
Without thinking, she began walking towards it. Before she knew it, she was in it. Suddenly, the grating sound stopped. Then it started again. This time the walls were moving in the opposite direction. They were closing! She tried to run out, but it was closing much faster than it had opened, and her limbs seemed to be stuck in some sort of jelly.
Soon, she was trapped in total darkness.
Okay, she could admit it. Walking into a room like this one was stupid. Why had she done it? She walked towards the other wall, away from the wall through which she had entered, trying to get a feel for the prison in which she had found herself in. It seemed to take forever before her outstretched fingertips touched something solid. This seemed to be a big room, and—this was funny, the wall seemed to be a solid stone surface, rough and unhewn.
This was getting weird, almost like her dreams. But it wasn’t a dream. Her name was Collie. She was never Collie when dreaming. No. There had to be some other, weirder reason for this. She glanced around, and saw a distant flicker of a light, which she hadn’t seen before.
Slowly, she began walking towards this. More carefully this time, unsure of what she might find. Eventually she got to the unsteady flicker that was a sorry excuse for a lamp. All she could see with it was the black frame of the lamp, a key on a ribbon hanging from a hook in the wall, and a doorknob.
She tried the door, it was locked. Then she realized that the key must go with it. So, once locating the place to do so, she inserted the key, turned it, and turned the doorknob. This time it turned easily, and the door swung effortlessly away from her. The scene that met her eyes could never have been prepared for.
On one side of her was a rushing sheet of water, a waterfall, which threw rainbows onto the rock cliff on her other side. Her feet were on solid enough ground, but a lovely lake surrounded her. If it hadn’t of been for a series of stepping stones to the shore, she would have been stranded.
Beyond the lake, well flowered grass stretched for a ways, then was replaced by a forest. Not a thick, foreboding forest, but a pleasant wood, full of singing birds and such. Above her stretched a clear blue sky. The sun was rather low in one horizon.
She removed the key from the keyhole, intending to put it back on its hook, but the door suddenly swung shut. She examined the cliff and didn’t even see a crack to show where the door had been. She shrugged and put the ribbon around her neck instead.
She began to pick her way across the rocks, towards the shore. Suddenly, she heard someone call her name, “Collie!” and she lost her balance and fell in.

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