A Noble’s Quest – Book Review

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A Noble’s Quest
Book 1 of the Empire’s Foundation Trilogy
by Ryan Toxopeus

Backcover:
Thomas and Sarentha flee everything they know when Thomas murders a co-worker. In the dead of night, a cloaked noble approaches and offers them a sum of coins they cannot refuse. His sole request is for the pair to retrieve an amethyst from a tomb.

From there, they are introduced to Eliza, a spirited and head-strong noblewoman who proves her competence with her skills in diplomacy and combat. Together with Thomas’ strength and steadfastness, and Sarentha’s drive and inquisitiveness, the trio makes and odd but capable group.

Their adventures take them across the lands of the Tamorran Empire to witness sights they never imagined. With grand plans in motion, everything hinges on Thomas, Sarentha, and Eliza’s success.

Artefacts need to be crafted, alliances need to be formed, and above all, secrets need to be kept. Not even their own allies know every facet of the Noble’s Quest, and he plays a dangerous game by creating plots within plots.

I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of this book at this year’s Kitchener’s Tri-Con. Walking around the tables I was taken in by the cover and talking with Ryan I knew this was a book I couldn’t wait to read. A self-published author Ryan has created a fantastic world full of secrets and heroes. Taken from past Dungeon and Dragon campaigns the book is steeped with traditional epic fantasy traditions. From rough and battle crazed Dwarfts to fair and beautiful elves, gnomes, halflings and dragons, this book does not disappoint.

We start with our two main characters, Thomas and Sarentha – lumberjacks. Poor humans who have no choice but continue to cut down trees for almost no pay in a country where wood is no longer in high demand. Sarentha has dreams of grander, of becoming rich like the nobles, having adventures and going to Tamor – the Empire’s capitol. Thomas is more level minded, head down and does his work as he’s supposed to. Their lives are changed radically when Thomas enters a rage and kills a fellow employee with his axe. The two flee the scene and question their futures.

It is then in the middle of night the two are approached by a cloaked figure. A noble who employees them to acquire an amethyst from a tomb. From there our two average joe’s enter into a wild adventure. After completing their first quest, the noble keeps them in his employ and sends his niece Eliza with them to complete the next round of quests that includes them obtaining more unusual artifacts.

To Sarentha’s enjoyment the group gets to travel all over the Empire, to Tamor, the jungle where the Elves live and even down to the far south. Yet, Thomas is concerned about the purpose of the quests, and dealing with the aftermath of his murder. Along the trip, he is faced with foes and continues murdering those opposing them and their quests. It was refreshing to see a character deal with his actions even if it’s internal. By not wanting to kill, it sets the story up for it’s ending and how Thomas manages to save the Empire with much less death than what could have been.

The story is full of secrets, with a promise of all being revealed when all the artifacts are obtained and forged. And let me tell you – the secret is amazing! I did not see it coming. When the truth was revealed my mouth just dropped!

My only concern was the lead up to the reveal with a battle – more like a revolution – seemed anti-climactic. I guess I was expecting more of an intense and elaborated battle. It didn’t quite work out that way – there were battle scenes, but it seemed to be done within a chapter and a half.

Overall A Noble’s Quest was a fantastic fantasy book that I recommend to all fantasy fans! I can’ wait for the second book (which is already out on amazon and createspace). This will be a series I keep my eye on.

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Distractions

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I know – it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on my blog. There is a reason behind it, though I’m sad to say that i’ve been procrastinating on my reason these past couple of weeks.

First, the reason. I set a goal for myself for 2016 – a goal to edit two stories of mine. I thought it would be easier to start with my short story “The Nightfall”. It has turned out to be more complicated and in depth editing than I thought. I’ve been working hard for a few days with prowritingaid.com and the Nightfall. Catching my passive verbs, sticky sentences and other bad habits of mine. Yet, my ending keeps changing. I’m still in the process of re-writing it and as i’m doing that I get new ideas on how to re-write past scenes. Let’s just say it’s not going exactly as I imagined it. Full of setbacks and A LOT of doubts i’m only slowly plugging away at it.

And that story is only 10k words long!

How am I going to handle myself when I move onto my Paranormal Adventure novel of over 50k?

It’s scary and daunting and when I get overwhelmed like i have now I turn my focus to something else. A book, my quilts, movies, tv shows, and games. Just something to distract me so my subconscious can work away at the problem.

Lately I’ve been focusing on creating a Dungeon and Dragon’s character. Pintrest is full of amazing character designs others have drawn and created. If anyone’s following me on Pintrest – sorry for all the demon and other fantasy pins. (But not really 😉 )

This past Christmas, my boyfriend gave me a set of dice and the 5th Edition of the D&D Players Handbook. The two of us had stumbled upon Critical Role on the Geek & Sundry site and fell in love with the program that involves a bunch of voice actors playing D&D. I have played only a few times back in college with my roommate and friends. It was fun, but I was stiff and uncomfortable my first time out. Now, after learning more on writing backgrounds, getting in character heads and cosplaying  – I feel like giving it another go. My boyfriend is on the same page and has also expressed an interest in being the DM. With his contacts at work it seems we are getting closer to finding others who would give it a try too.

Which means, I need to get my character into gear – as well as help my boyfriend buy the necessary materials and books for DM’ing the game. Thankfully i’ve already decided upon my character, managed to get my scores and hit points but still working on her appearance and backstory – not to mention Armour Class and weapons.

I’ve chosen a Tiefling – with a catch. Tieflings have demonic heritage somwhere in their bloodline. Yet, as I scroll through pages of artwork – I realize many of them have horns – if not all. I have a different visual in my head.

In my mind, my Tiefling is more of a cat demon then devil demon, with cat ears, fangs, eyes, and a tail. (Preferably a lion’s tail that has a tuff of fur at the end.) I picture her with red hair with a black undertone/strip. Perhaps a couple of black tattoo looking strips along the side of her face and down her back to her tail. The tail will then be he same red as her hair with the tuff black.

There are demons in the D&D world that are tiger like called Rakshasas, my plan and hope is that i can have my Tiefling fall into that line of demon, without any horns. Unfortunately as my boyfriend and I read the Players Handbook and search the net, we are unable to find any answers if that is possible or not. Both of us being quite noobs to the game it’s hard to decide on an answer.

If there are any experts or at least more experienced players out there who could help me with this issue, i’d love the feedback!

My basic background in my head so far has my character longing to be accepted into the society she grew up in. Her grandfather is/was a Master at Arms at the castle with enough respect that transfers to tolerating my Tiefling by the townspeople, but never fully accepted or respected. She enters the Guard to start her path of becoming the next Master at Arms – to follow her grandfather’s footsteps and in her mind become a respected citizen. Her training is never completed and is betrayed by her group of fellow guardsmen while out on a hunt – which was really is a rouse to betray her and banish her from the town.

There is still more I want to work out, but I feel i have a foundation that I can build on as the campaign moves forward.

I’m really excited about this prospect and has been a great distraction from other pressing matters. I will still do my editing this year, and I will let you all know how it goes. I might even post samples as I get further along.

But until then, procrastination and distraction is my name.

Wild – Book Review

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Wild
By Cheryl Strayed

Book Flap:
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State – and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparking with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Please bear with me with this review. I had read the book in November before Christmas yet had not been able to write out a review until now. It’s been some time and a few other books in-between but I still feel compelled to talk about Wild.

My dad picked this book up for me in the summer while I was still stuck on walking the Camino de Santiago trail. (I’m still wanting to do this!) I’m unsure of his motivations, but I was aware that he and my mom had seen the movie previously and I’m sure he wanted to give me more glimpses into what it takes to walk difficult and challenging trails.

Like with many of my books in my ‘to be read’ pile, it took me a while before I picked it up to read. I have not seen the film yet, or knew much about the story in general except for the fact that a young woman was hiking a wilderness trail. Wild turned out to be a very unexpected reading journey for me. Not only do we follow Cheryl as she recounts her time spent on the PCT, but we get glimpses into her thoughts, scattered that they were and into her own being – her past, her faults, and relationships with several people throughout her life. In particular her relationship with her mother.

The flashbacks took some getting used to, not to mention the book itself doesn’t feel like it’s all in chronological order. We spend just as much time on the trail with Cheryl as in her mind going back through her life and life choices before she took on the challenge of the PCT. Yet, I can understand the purpose of writing in this style. After all walking day after day the mind wonders and it doesn’t always wonder in order. In that way, we truly feel that we are walking next to Cheryl as she struggles with life, the PCT and her ‘Monster’ pack.

I wonder how many of you know about the Pacific Crest Trail? I will admit that I am unfamiliar with how long it is myself. The only reason I knew anything at all about it is from a previous documentary about John Muir and that part of the PCT incorporates his trails and dedicated to his memory. Let’s just say that the PCT follows the mountains along the west cost. That’s right, it’s up and down mountains, through valleys and reserves. I could just imagine the scenery and beauty that is along the way, but I don’t think I could ever climb the mountains as those who take it up do. It definitely takes a certain something to get you up and hiking each morning. Not only do you have to carry your backpack with you with all it’s gear – but food as well, water too for some areas, and cooking equipment to eat at night. I can understand groups going, that way you can shift the weight of certain equipment around – but solo hikers have it harder I think.

Cheryl Strayed took on this challenge on purposefully alone. She carried everything she could, with stock piles of more food mailed ahead of time along the trail for her to pick up. Not only did she have to deal with her backpack weight issue (which she overdid), but also the fact that for many days – weeks even, she was completely alone. She had to deal with problems by herself, which included getting lost a lot and bears. Yet, despite many times doubting her own abilities and wishing to give up and go home, Cheryl pushed on and managed to accomplish something that I think is truly amazing.

There are so many stories in Wild, personal stories involving Cheryl’s own internal growth and healing, as well as stories of people she came across while hiking – fellow hikers, strangers and those that gave her rides when she needed them. I remember crying in a few places on the book that dealt with her mother and the fight with cancer Cheryl had to watch her go through. It struck chords that I didn’t know I had, while at other times there was humour and encouragement to go out and do something just as crazy.

Wild was an amazing account of Cheryl’s adventures along the PCT. It has a powerful message about not giving up and to keep walking forward despite the pain, hardships and other emotional problems that are dragging you down. It is a pilgrimage, a transformation we see Cheryl go through along the way.

If any of you have not read this book, I do recommend it. I think it’s well written, even if it’s off track at times, and heartfelt. As for the movie – I have been sitting on the fence about it. I’m sure many of you know that most movies never turn out as good as the book. I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually, but the book is in high standings for now.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

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When I play video games, I typical go to the RPGs, the Final Fantasies, Star Oceans, Xenosaga and the like. I am not a first person shooter. My aim is horrible and I know before even trying such a game I would get frustrated and give up.

Drake’s Fortune was not like that. I’ve been tempted to play the game in the past. It looked fun, interesting and maybe the one shooter game I could live with. This past summer on my vacation my boyfriend lent me his copy of Uncharted, just this past weekend I finished the game. Yes, it took me a while, I didn’t play it every day but once in a while I’ll pop it into my PS3 and enjoy the ride.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune follows Nathan Drake a treasure hunter looking for clues from his ancestor Sir Frances Drake to discover the treasure of El Dorado. His accompanied by reporter Elena Fisher and partner “Sully” on an adventure that takes them through abandoned Nazi submarines, plane crashes, jungles, ancient ruins and supernatural beings.

It’s one hell of an adventure and I am sucked into the game very quickly every time I turn it on. Of course I’m not a natural at these games and there are times that I do get frustrated and turn it off, but I like the gameplay, the puzzles you have to solve and the action is fun. And after some time, and like 30 goes of the same shoot out I felt that I did get better at aiming and killing the enemies.

I was hesitant at first when my boyfriend would come over and said I could play in front of him. I was afraid he’d make fun of my as my brother would. I was mistaken, watching him play I learn he and I are on the same level which made it fun and less intimidating. The two of us had some fun taking turns playing Nate and working through the problems. He did laugh at me, but only when the monsters came out of the darkness and I would scream, literally scream out loud! I laughed at myself too.

 

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Anyways… I was surprised by how much fun I had with this game and I actually want to play it again, see if I can unlock anymore trophies. (Which I did unlock a number the first time around!) I might be better the second time, knowing what’s coming. Though I may end up switching this game with Uncharted 2 and continue with the story.

For any gamers out there who are like me and try to avoid such shooting games, I would highly recommend you give this one a try. I think you will enjoy much more than you think!

A New Year Approaches…

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It’s crazy how time flies! Only two short weeks ago I was finishing up NaNoWriMo with plans to start editing past works in December. Yeah – that didn’t happen, at least not yet.  Instead, Christmas has taken hold of me. I have spent the last couple of weeks working on crafts and shopping for gifts in an attempt to prepare myself for the holiday season. I’m excited to say that I at least have all my gifts bought and mostly wrapped. My small christmas tree is up (it never actually comes down) and decorated. I even helped my boyfriend this year set up his!

These past couple of weeks have been great for down time, and unwind from the 50k story I had just written. I’ve been able to relatively forget about the hurried and nasty parts of my past writing and let my brain veg out and take on a different line of thoughts relating to past writing projects and their problems.

Work has actually been slow, allowing me to daydream more than usual, and most of my day dreams focus around new stories, characters, plot ideas and plot holes within my ideas. As of late i’ve been touring around the TV Tropes site working on ideas and how to flesh out parts of a story in my head. It’s been a little helpful, at least it has helped me flesh out some major plot ideas surrounding ‘The Hero’s Journey’ and figuring out if my idea is a ‘MacGuffin’ or not. I love that I want to focus on past projects but instead i end up doing research for new ones.

I’m still having issues with my plot lines for this VR game novel idea i’ve got stuck in my head. I think i’ve finally figured out the main quest inside the game, but need to develop more obstacles and issues for my MC to face outside of the game, and link them all together. I will admit Earnest Cline’s Ready Player One has helped me sort out a few kinks in my head. My main issue that I just have to bring up now is the relationship between my MC and her mother. I want it to be a strained relationship, how the mother is trying to push her daughter into being more productive with her life instead of in the VR world. And how my MC doesn’t know what she want’s to do with her life and poor grades. I know there are issues there that I can play with I just haven’t been able to grasp them all in my head yet to make sense or use out of them!

IT’S FRUSTRATING! Which ends up me going to Netflix or gaming to try and let my brain mellow and subconscious work on it all.

Besides research for new projects, i’ve been watching Critical Role on the Geek and Sundry site. It all stems back to Will Weaton’s Titanfall RPG game they had done this past year that eventually got my boyfriend and I to watch Critical Role. It has definitely inspired my love of fantasy all over again! I’m hooked on it and together the two of us are trying to catch up on the past season – or two? It’s hard given that many of the episodes are close to 3 hours long. I’d love to figure out the twitch site and watch it live eventually, but the geek in me has ordered that I watch all the past episodes in early before that every happens.

I’m not sure if i’ll be posting anything new before the New Year. I’ve got Star Wars this coming weekend, a party Saturday night with my BF, then christmas the following weekend – and new years after that!

If I don’t post anything until the New Year, I want to thank you all for taking an interest in my work this past year on my blog. It’s been three fabulous years and every year I learn something new and gain more experience. (Yeah EXP!)

Merry Christmas to all!

Another NaNoWriMo Over

It has been a whirlwind of a month, but I am happy, excited,  and exhausted to tell you that I have completed another NaNoWriMo. At just over 50k, I managed to get enough words of my fantasy novel down on the computer and validated it all last Friday night. Now that it is over, I am once more at that ‘what now stage’.

This has been my fifth NaNo, so I am aware of the drain and the ‘what now’ question that circulates through man NaNoer’s minds. You would think I would be used to such thoughts, but I’m not. Every night now I look at my laptop and don’t know what to do with myself. I have other projects I can work on. A short story to edit and revise once more, my NaNo Novel from my second attempt to do a third round of edits and revisions on. Yet it feels too soon to launch right into another project. I want to write, but I also want to give my body – and mind a break.

So i’ve decided to move my train of thoughts from writing to crafting. My coffee table is covered with Christmas fabric, pins, snowflake buttons, thread and scissors as I try to cut, sew and stuff twenty star ornaments before Christmas. (6 are done, plus 2 test ones).

It has helped kept my mind busy and preoccupied for the most part but my computer just sits there looking at me – taunting me to come back and write. Anything! Not just a story, but a blog post, or a book review, movie review, something to keep me writing every day as I’ve done for the past 29 days.

I’ll get there eventually. Christmas comes first, but my new years goals are already set. Editing, Editing and more Editing!

NaNo Updates

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A week into NaNo and I’m already struggling. It started back a few days ago when I realized I had to describe my magic academy/school. A castle with white stone and many other architecture structures that I’m at a lost to describe. It caused me to look back and realize my description has always fallen short.

During NaNoWriMo, the pressure is one for word count, and for me it’s to get my plot out on paper. I tend to write plot driven novels with character development as an outcome. Put a character in a number of conflicts and see how they handle it and how they change by the end. This story is no different, my character is nervous, and a bit fearful at her own powers, my hope is by the end she becomes more confident and accepts herself for who she is.

So I leap over description in my nano novels. Something I need to perhaps change in the future. Past that small hurdle in my writing saga, I have almost come to a complete halt in writing all together.  Before I knew it I was at the end of my plotting. My story is not finish, nowhere near to it, but I had only plotted the first nine chapters – and ended up stretching it to twelve. With the twelfth almost complete I realize I don’t know where to go next. My current main character i was using for my POV seems to suddenly got boring. I also had the issue of how to raise the steaks, to keep the conflict going.

Thankfully I remembered advice from past NaNo’s and switched perspectives to another character. It helped me get through tonight’s hour of writing, as well as plot out the next four chapters.

After that I may be struggling once more to find a direction where to take my novel. So many worries, so many words left to write!

My mind is closing in on mud at this time, so apologies if my post seems off. lol

For all those participating in NaNoWriMo, have you come across any hurdles yet? 

CINDERBLUFF – Fire (Short Story)

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Sascha Cinderbluff crumbled the note in her hand. A rage built up inside of her, the piece of paper in her hand suddenly burst into flames. With a jump and a yell, Sascha tossed the fire ball into the sink just as it disintegrated into black shards. It was the morning of her sixteenth birthday. Instead of a birthday card, a gift or something to celebrate the momentous day – all her mom left behind was a piece of paper stating she was working late.

Working late on a Friday night could only mean she had a date. Sascha stared at the crumbled remains of the note. She was angry, and it took all her control to keep her emotions from flaring up again. She didn’t want a repeat of the apartment fire when she was ten. With a sigh the red-haired teenager counted to ten and took a deep breath, repeating the process until most of the anger subsided.

Fifteen minutes later, Sascha was out the door and heading for school. Friday was such a meaningless day, half of her public high school ended up skipping, while the other half dazed about in class waiting for that final bell to sound. Sascha was no wanted to go back to bed herself, but forced herself to attend class.

Approaching the school, Sascha saw a bunch of her friends hanging out by ‘the tree’. A gravel and dirt pit just outside school property. It was the hangout for every smoker, drop out wannabe, and druggy. She called the group friends, but they barely knew each other. Sascha and her mom moved to Vegas almost two years ago. It was the longest they had stayed in one spot since she could remember. These people tolerated her, and asked no questions, perfect to just hang around with when bored.

“What’s up?” Niki asked, blowing a puff of smoke Sascha’s way. She was the ringleader of the group. If you could get in with her, you were in with everyone else. They stuck up for one another and covered each other’s back.

“Nothing.” Sascha shrugged. So what if it was her birthday, she won’t bore them about her morning disappointment.

“There’s a band playing tonight at the Underground.” Nikki informed her. “You should join us.”

“Sure, sounds good.” Sascha answered with a smile. A party in a bar sounded just what she needed.

“Awesome, we’ll be out front around ten.”

The bell rung and Sascha moved towards the front doors. Nobody else budged, either they didn’t have first period or were too high to even care. School was boring as ever and throughout the day Sascha longed to join her friends out by the three. Yet she couldn’t bring herself to skip class anymore. The last time she tried, the school contacted her mom. That was a yelling match Sascha wanted to avoid a repeat of. The only thing that kept her going was the nightclub that evening. This was to be her sixteenth party – even if nobody else knew.

Vegas was renowned for their parties, it wasn’t hard to find a bar or nightclub that fitted your style. Being under-aged made things difficult, but not impossible. Thanks to Niki, Sascha had a fake ID on hand that worked like a charm.

****

The Underground was a punk rock hang out. Full of college students, live rock bands, cheep drinks and loose security. Sascha met her friends outside. Niki work a pair of high healed boots that made her an inch taller, with fishnet stockings, a pink skirt and silver top. Her makeup completely changed her appearance, Sascha almost didn’t recognize her. The other girls dressed in the same style, high heals, short skirts and shorter tops.

Sascha wondered what she wore would be acceptable. She had to search through her mother’s wardrobe to find anything that would be sexy. She ended up wearing a one shoulder silver dress, with black boots that had a small heel to them. Niki gave her a look and nodded before gesturing her to join them. It seemed her dress was short enough.

Passing security was a breeze, it was all about showing enough boob – as Niki informed Sascha later. Once inside, the group claimed an empty table and ordered a pile of drinks. The main reason to visit the nightclub was to get wasted. The guys ordered beer while the girls ordered anything with vodka in it.

Sascha kept to drinking beer. She preferred the vodka drinks, but last time Niki took her out, she almost set the coat room on fire. Alcohol and fire didn’t mix, Sascha learned that the hard way. Still, it was her birthday and Sascha wanted to enjoy herself.

Full of beer or liquor, the group took to the dance floor. Niki dragged Sascha to the front as the music picked up its tempo and beat. The night flew by, drink after drink, song after song, Sascha and her friends went go wild that Friday night. There was flirting for free drinks, dancing with college guys, and even a fight or two between such guys.

By midnight, Sascha’s head started to throb. She made her way to the restroom to shut out the base of the band for only a few moments. When she returned, her friends were nowhere in sight. The Underground had reached its peak and capacity. Sascha was tipsy and weaved in and out of people, trying to scan the faces for anyone she knew. A heavy feeling formed in the pit of her stomach, fearing they had left her behind on some epic drunk adventure.

She reached out and grabbed the bar to steady herself and tried to get her mind to think straight. A man from the crowd came up and sat on the stool beside her.

“A drink for the red pixie.” He said to the bartender. Sascha looked up at the man and around, wondering who he was talking about before realizing it was her. The mystery man had black, neck length hair and pale skin. He wore a mauve dress shirt and jeans with a dark leather jacket. He seemed older than the college guys she had been dancing with all night.

“No… just water,” the teenager slurred. She should head home, it was late. Sascha’s mind told her. Her mother would be home soon, she didn’t dare wish to have her mom catch her in this state. “I need to leave.”

“But the night is still young,” the man stated, taking a hold of her wrist. Gently at first but when Sascha tried to pull away he hardened his grip. The drink appeared on the bar next to them. A warning signal went off in her head. This wasn’t right, I have to leave – her drunk mind tried to reason.

“I have friends, I have to find them.” Sascha tried to reason with the man.

“I’ll help you.”

That pit in her stomach grew when the stranger stood with Sascha and with an arm around her shoulder pushed her through the crowd. Inside Sascha pleaded with any deity that Niki’s face would pop up and rescue her. Her legs were wobbly, and her mind still wouldn’t act fast enough to find another way out of this mess.

The man talked in her ear, small things about the nightclub and what brought him out here. Then he talked about her body, how beautiful she was and blow on her ear.

“Please – don’t.” Sascha said with force. Her heart was beating loud, even in the midst of the live band and nearby speakers she could still hear it. She had never been in a situation like this before, she didn’t know what to do. The man wasn’t paying any attention to her comments, or even the desperate attempts to wiggle her way free from his hold.

In a last ditch effort, Sascha screamed for help. But the cheers and music from the stage were so loud, nobody heard her – except for the man. His grip on her wrist tightened so hard Sascha thought he’d break it. His free hand pushed her forcefully to a side door and deserted back hallway of the club.

“Leave me alone!” Sascha shouted. She twisted her body and attempted to kick the man in the shin. The hand on her wrist just twisted, increasing the pain. He threw her against the brick wall and gripped her throat with his free hand.

There was a strange, wild look in his dark eyes. It made her feel like he had no soul, he was empty and hungry inside. Hungry for what? The dread increased and Sascha tried to scream once more.

“Shut up!” The man yelled, squeezing his hand around her throat, cutting of much of her hair supply. “No… no… no… don’t struggle… little pixie girl,” he said with a soothing tone. He brought his head near hers and stuck out his tongue to lick her check, then neck, then… Sascha had to close her eyes and try to not think of what he was doing to her. An ager was building up inside of her. She knew what that meant, and for the first time she didn’t hold back. She fought to keep that feeling going, that warmth, dangerous feeling that could explode.

“I’m warning you,” Sascha said through the crushing windpipe. “Let me go now!”

The man laughed and pressed his body against hers. He was crazy, Sascha reasoned, insane even. She warned him though… this was his fault, the teenager reasoned to herself. Closing her eyes once more, feeling his weight, the alcohol on his breath, his hands on her throat, used it all to bring the curse to its surface.

At once, the man’s leather jacket burst into flames. He screamed and jumped back, letting go of Sascha as he tried to remove the burning jacket. Sasha fell to the floor chocking and inhaling fresh air. The man was in hysterics. With the jacket off, he tossed it into a corner full of janitorial equipment. But it was too late, his dress shirt was on fire, and he could not get it off.

Sascha tried to flee to back to the nightclub when the janitorial equipment exploded into flames knocking her back. The flames were out of control, Sascha’s emotions were out of control. She watched helplessly as the fire jumped from one energy source to another, building in size and intensity.

“Oh no… not again.” Sascha mumbled and turned back to the hallway. The man who had tried to rape her was on the floor, screaming and burning. A horrified look crossed her face. She never had control of the fires, they always just happened, but nobody had died. Sascha realized with a sinking terror what she had done. Paralyzed with fear, she watched the man die in front of her – because of her. She wanted to throw up, to scream and run. It wasn’t until the fire alarms sounded and the sprinkler system activated that her survival instincts kicked in. Sascha ran past the remains of her attacker with tears in her eyes and pushed on down the hallway looking for a way out.

All the doors she came across her locked, no windows either that she could climb out of either. Desperate, Sascha pushed herself forward. The hallway was full of dark charcoal black smoke, the flames kicking at her heals. At last, a neon exit sign glowed through the smoke a head of her. Running with all her remaining strength, Sascha threw her whole body weight against the door – only to have it open on her as she fell to the ground.

“Got a live on here!” A voice called out. Sascha gasped and looked up. A fireman helped her to her feet then passed her down a line of others to the street. A blanket appeared around her as nearby paramedics searched her for burns. The street was full of flashing emergency lights, firetrucks, ambulances, and police. The paramedic offered Sascha an oxygen mask which she accepted and took deep breaths of fresh air into her body.

Someone was trying to talk to her, maybe get medical information, but she couldn’t hear them. She took out her iPhone and began texting Niki. There were other patrons of the Underground gathered on the street. Some were getting medical attention while others talked to police officers taking statements.

Sascha knew she couldn’t stick around any longer. The police would be down her throat in no time and she could feel guilty radiating off of her. She took the oxygen mask off and threw it back at the paramedic before joining the throng of people.

“Hey wait!” The paramedic yelled. “You’ve just been in a fire – aren’t you burned?”

“No, I’m fine.” Sascha said before dashing off.

Still no news from Niki. Please deity, don’t let her be in that fire. Sascha prayed a second time. She tried calling, no answer. She texted Niki again. Still no reply. Sascha couldn’t afford to linger about any longer, cops were questioning everyone. She spotted an opening in the distance, void of cops or ambulances. Her chance to escape without getting noticed.

“Where are you going?” A hand landed on her shoulder, gripping tight to pull her around. A middle aged detective with a strip shirt and brown jacket stared at her. “Who are you? Have you been questioned yet?”

“Ah… I need to find my friends.” Sascha said, unsure what would get her free now.

“That’s not the questions I asked. Name.”

“Sascha Cinderbluff.”

“Cinderbluff – that’s weird.”

“You’re telling me. I had to grow up with it.” Sascha replied. She tried to put on an innocent face, maybe they would just let her go.

“How old are ya?”

“Old enough to be here.”

“ID.” The detective was not playing any games. Sascha hesitated, but the look she received made her fork over the fake ID. “Sarah Cinder?”

Sascha groaned. How could she have forgotten the mix up Niki made when she created her fake ID. Like a fool, she gave up her real name prior to handing over the ID. The detective looked at her suspiciously.

“You’re the one they found at the back?”

Sascha said nothing. Always better to say nothing.

“Did you see what happened, how the fire started?”

Again silence.

“You know it’s a federal offence to withhold information from the police?” He glared at her, evaluating her reaction and behaviour. “You don’t have a burn mark on you… they said that flames filled that hallway. You should be burnt to a crisp.”

“I outran the fire.”

That made the detective laugh. “Alright Miss Cinderbluff – or whatever your real name is. You need to come down to headquarters. We’ve got some questions to ask.”

Before Sascha could protest, the detective escorted her to a nearby police car and locked in the back seat.

“Am I under arrest?”

“Not yet, missy. Not yet.”

Sascha’s heart pounded again, faster and louder than before. She took three deep breaths. No more fires, no more fires – she told herself. Sascha let out a cry of despair, some sixteenth birthday.


Part 4 of 4 Prequel series of 2015 NaNoWriMo story: Silverleaf Academy –  Cinderbluff

Part 1: Titanore
Part 2: Wintersoar
Part 3: Skyshard

SKYSHARD – AIR (Short Story)

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AirHeader

Ciara Skyshard hid behind a marble pillar as a lone palace guard walked by. She hurried through darkened hallways past tapestries, paintings of her ancestors and statues until she reached the servants secret stairwells. The Princess of Atalia followed her handmaiden’s written instructions to the letter.

It was the final night of the Atalia’s Gala – the most distinguished music festival in all of Aihine. As tradition, on the final night of the Gala, the royal family hosted the final concert followed by a royal dance. Guests and visitors from all over the magical realm of Aihine filled the palace; fairies, elves, dwarfs and mages – anyone who’s anyone attended. It was Ciara’s favourite time of the year, the entire festival was what she lived for. Musicians from all over the realm came to Atalia to perform, even the royal family had a musical tradition. Every Skyshard had musical talent, wether it be an instrument or vocals. It was part of their fairy magic. Ciara was a vocalist and even took part in the Gala for the past three years when she was thirteen.

Tonight, however, what held the Princess’s attention was a local band performing in the south end of the city. Ciara had begged her grandfather – the King – to attend the performance, but he refused.

“The Widow’s Pub is not a reputable place to visit for Skyshard,” was her grandfather’s reply. He then continued to lecture her about family traditions, of honour and expectations. Ciara heard this lecture countless times. Music was everything to her, but these restrictions annoyed her. Only performances of traditional nature, with the location close to the palace were open to her. Ciara yearned to venture further out into Atalia. To visit the local pubs, hear the local music, sing and learn the ways of the commoners she would one day rule over. There was a whole world of new music emerging in the realm. Instruments from the human world leaked over, creating a new sound, style and rhythm.

It was thanks to Ciara’s handmaiden, Renee, that she even knew about such music. The two were close in age, and shared many of the same interests, including music. It was Renee who would sneak in records of the new bands for Ciara to listen to, and Renee who risked her job helping Ciara sneak out of the palace to see one of their favourite bands The Ailing Elves.

Ciara wore her plainest dress, a light blue with silver lining with a dark cloak overtop. Nobody noticed her as she snuck down the servant stairs and made her way through the kitchens, basements and courtyard. To the nearby guards, she looked like a simple servant on her way home. Ciara had to hold back the giggle as she hurried past them through the main gates, head down, face averted.

Atalia wrapped itself around the mountain, the palace carved into the exposed rock surface. The city was full of tall buildings, steep streets and narrow alleyways. Ciara never visited the city without an escort of guards int he past, this was a new experience for her. She pulled her cloak tighter under her chin as she navigated her way towards the meeting place Renee set up for them.

Not far past the palace walls music floated in the air towards her. Every tavern, hotel and pub had local musicians playing their hearts out on the final night of the Gala. Even the community square were full of crowds and performing artists under the warm spring night. Ciara pushed her way through the mob of people, looking at every face for the brunette fairy.

A hand tapped on the Princess’ shoulder. Ciara turned to see her handmaiden Renee with a bright smile on her face.

“You made it! I can’t believe you snuck out! No offence m’lady, but I never thought you’d really go through with it.” Rene said, giving Ciara a nod of respect.

“I’m surprised myself.” Ciara laughed. “Perhaps I have more of my grandfather’s stubbornness than I thought.”

“He will not be happy if he catches you.”

“Well, then let’s not get caught.” Ciara said with a teasing smile on her face. “So, which way to the Widow’s Pub?”

“Down that street.” Renee pointed out. “Wait, is that what you’re wearing?” The handmaiden put a hand on Ciara’s arm and opened her cloak.

“It’s the simplest one I have!”

“It has jewels in the silver lining! I told you this would only work if you hide your identity.”

“Well… sorry. I am a princess, I can only look so plain!”

The two fairies stared at each other until Renee dropped the cloak and led the way to the pub. “Stay in the shadows, try not to attract attention.”

“No promises.” Ciara said with a smile. It took fifteen minutes to reach the Widow’s Pub. They could hear the band’s music a block away.

“The Ailing Elves!” Ciara shouted with glee as she jumped and clapped with joy. She grabbed her handmaiden’s hand and pulled her into the Pub. Renee didn’t have to worried about Ciara’s dress, there were countless other Noble Ladies present in more flattering and glimmering attire.

The pub was ‘rocking’, it took no time for someone to approach the two and put a hand out towards the blonde haired Princess for a dance. Ciara accepted at once and joined the others on the dance floor. Renee wasn’t far behind. The two passed between partners as the Ailing Elves played, their music getting louder as the evening wore on.

“Tell me, does the Princess of Atalia visit such pubs often?” Ciara’s current dancing partner asked. He was an elf with a deep reddish-brown shoulder length hair. His silver eyes cut through Ciara as she fumbled at the question. His hands caught her and kept her from falling.

“I… I think you’re mistaken.” Ciara blushed and looked away.

“I saw you perform two nights ago at the Queen’s Hall.” The elf replied. “Even in that dress, I can tell who you are. You have an amazing voice.”

“Thank you.” Ciara said, unable to think of any lie to cover her identity.

“I’ve been trying to get arrange an audience with you since, however the King seems very protective of his granddaughter.”

“He can be stubborn,” Ciara said with a frown. “I guess it’s a coincidence to run into you here… unless you’ve been following me,” Ciara’s gut turned as fear gripped her. Was she safe with this man?

“No fear, princess.” The elf replied, noticing the worried expression on her face. “I have not been following you. It is a coincidence. My name is Zyn Westerwood, I am a talent agent for the School of Vireo.”

“Vireo!” Ciara almost shouted the name. Her blue eyes opened wide with recognition.

“You should apply. Vireo would be honoured to have a vocalist like you walk through its halls.”

“Oh… I would love to!” Ciara said without thinking. She saw the smile on Zyn’s face. “But I can’t,” she explained, “I’m already enrolled with Silverleaf Academy.”

“Ah, I should have known.” Zyn said, his expression softened, but that energetic glitter fell out of his eyes. “It is a renowned school, only the best gain acceptance.”

“It is a school designed to groom future leaders,” Ciara said with a scorn. “If I had my way, I would have applied at Vireo a year ago.”

“I’m sure you will end up enjoying Silverleaf Academy.”

“That’s just what my father said.”

“The Prince is a wise man. I wish I could hear you sing once more before then end of the Gala.” Zyn said, his face coming close to Ciara’s ear. “Perhaps if I say a word to the band?”

“The Ailing Elves? You know them, may I meet them?” Ciara eyes twinkled. Any trepidation of exposing her true identity vanished at the thought of singing with the band. Zyn noticed her attention and excitement and lead her by the hand towards the stage.

It was a whirlwind experience. Ciara for once had trouble finding her words, almost as bad as the band members themselves. It seemed even every member of the Ailing Elves had gone to Vireo, knew Zyn and agreed to let Ciara sing.

Ciara had preformed numerous times, in front of hundreds during the Gala’s different venues, but this felt different. She stood out in front of the patrons of the Widow’s Pub, in front of strangers, of people who didn’t know her name, her title or position. They were already half drunk, and eager to hear the next set. The drums started the beat, the guitars joined in, then Ciara opened her mouth. Notes flew off her lips as she pronounced each word of the ballad. The crowd went wild, they cheered and even joined in on the chorus. They were a hit, she was a hit.

Ciara became alive on stage, lost in the music, a Princess and a Singer. They were reaching the crescendo, the place was bursting, the note lingered on Ciara’s throat when a clamour at the door to the Pub caused everything to stop.

Guards in the Skyshard purple pushed their way in, shields up and barking orders to stand back. The crowd parted, along with shouting insults for ruining the night. It wasn’t until Ciara’s father, Prince Rivan Skyshard stepped through that a real stillness spread through the Pub.

“Ciara Skyshard, it is time to leave.” Rivan announced across the room towards the stage where Ciara stood. She looked over at Zyn, and the members of the Ailing Elves to mouth an apology before descending the stage. The patrons moved back to allow her through, a soft whispering of her name floated to her ears. Ciara spotted her handmaiden nearby and gestured for Renee to stay put. No need for both of them to get in trouble. For her, it would be a lecture from the King; for Renee, it could be her job.

As soon as Ciara was within arms length of her father, he snatched her tight and pushed her through the column of guards towards a waiting motor-coach. The moment the two Royals were on board, the coach started and the guards left the Pub.

It was a quiet ride back to the Palace. Ciara avoided making eye contact with her father though she sensed his violet eyes staring at her.

“I thought you were sick, weren’t you?” Her father finally spoke. “You seem better.”

“It was a Bogus Ill Spell. Kids use it all the time to avoid lessons.”

“As I remember.”

“Are you mad at me?”

“Mad? No.” Rivan’s voice melted that made Ciara look at her father. His features were fair, with dark hair and purple eyes. “I am angry, and upset. Do you know the dangers of this area? Anything could have happened to you, and for what? To see a band?”

“It’s more than just that!” Ciara exclaimed. “I was safe, there were other Noble Ladies in the pub, I wasn’t the only one.”

“Yes, I saw them, but you are not just a Lady, you are a Princess and the future heir to Atalia.”

“Does grandfather know?” Ciara asked, a worried look on her face.

“He does. Hearing that you sang as well will not ease the matter.”

“OH, please don’t tell him about that!”

“I’m afraid he will already know.” Both father and daughter knew the magic the Skyshards possess. Fairies of air, they have power over the wind, and all that is carried within in. Voices, secrets, singing. No wonder they knew where to find her. “He will be waiting for us in the audience chamber.”

Ciara nodded and sank back into the seat, curling a loose strand of hair around her finger.

“One last question. Was there anyone who helped you out of the Palace?”

Ciara shot a panic look towards her father. “No,” she lied. Her father sighed, she was a horrible liar, there was no way of convincing her father otherwise.

“Just like your mother. The truth is always on your face.”

Ciara sighed. The mother she never knew. Her father always told her how much she reminded of him; the hair, the looks, the inability to lie. It was all she had, there wasn’t even a portrait of her in the palace to look upon to judge for herself. Her mother fought in the last war, between the human realm and Aihine, side by side with her father. And died next to him, leaving Ciara to carry on in her stead.

The coach came to a halt outside of the front doors of the palace. All the windows were dark, bright orbs of light lingered outside for them to follow. The two walked down the hallway alone save for the few guards who stood outside the Audience Chamber. Golden light peaked out under the doorway. The doors flew back on their own as the two passed through them and closed behind them. Kaydon Skyshard, the King of Atalia sat on his throne made out of white stone, rooted into the mountain’s foundation.

King Kayden Skyshard leaned back on the throne and eyed his granddaughter through his own pair of violet eyes, stroked his greying blond beard and remained silent until the two reached the bottom of the throne.

“How do you explain this?” He growled. “A Skyshard in the South quarter? Singing like a banshee to a bunch of drunkards? What is this? Rebellion?”

“No, grandfather.” Ciara said, her voice a soft whisper. She held the sides of her dress tight with her hands. Her grandfather could be the nicest man, but also as cold as stone. “I… I wanted to hear different styles of music.”

“Music? This is about music? Sneaking out of the palace, venturing through the city on your own? You risk your life for music?”

“Isn’t that what the Skyshards stand for? Aren’t we known as the greatest musicians?”

“It is only a saying, we do not risk our lives!” The King roared.

“My life was not in jeopardy. The pub is well-known and has a decent reputation. There is more to life than living in this palace of stone. You keep telling me we are servants of the public, of the people. That royalty is a privilege and honour – not a right. How can I look down at them and know what they want without being around them, living with them?” Cirara asked. “I don’t want to rule from high, separate and held above – I want to understand them, know their dreams and goals and help them achieve it.”

“And you think singing from a top a barrel in a low-end pub will achieve that?” The King asked.

“No… well maybe in the long run. Before I can really be called a Princess of Atailia, I want to know what life is like as a commoner, to live and be one with them.”

“Out of the question.”

“Grandfather, please listen!” Ciara cried. “I know I can’t emerge myself given my status, but I want to try. I’ve been wanting to suggest something for a while. Silverleaf Academy is one of the safest places in all of Aihine. Instead of putting me with the other Princes and Princesses in the Royal Tower, put me in the Noble one. It’s just as safe and I’ll be surrounded by the professors and guards of the school. I can live life amongst my peers, not above them. I’ll still take all lessons of a Royal… If I don’t live up to your expectations… if my grades suffer at all… I’ll transfer to the Royal Tower the following semester. Promise.” Ciara looked at her grandfather with pleading eyes, hoping he would understand her reasoning. The Palace was her home, but she grew tired of the restrictions on her life. She wanted a taste of freedom, even if it wasn’t full freedom. She wanted to be a ruler who knew her people.

“My daughter has a point.” Rivan Skyshard spoke up. The crown prince stood silent through the exchange, watching his daughter stand up to their overbearing father and seeing the potential in her. “I recall the benefits of being placed in the Nobel Tower during my years at Silverleaf.”

“You were not Crown Prince back then.” The King reminded his son. “A third son has more freedom to explore his options. Times have changed, your daughter is now second in line, the future of the kingdom.”

“If safety is still an issue, perhaps I can suggest a solution that could benefit all sides?”

The King grumbled and waved his hand for Rivan to continue.

“You recall the Titanore’s? My friend and fellow roommate from my own days at Silverleaf – Rig Titanore? His daughter is also entering Silverleaf Academy this year. Perhaps I can pull some strings and have the two girls become roommates? Petra Titanore is very much like her father, strong and loyal. If asked, I’m sure she’d keep an eye out on our Princess.”

“Wait, what!?” Ciara shouted. “That dirt covered imp is going to Silverleaf too?”

“She is a fairy with magic abilities, just like you Ciara.” Her father replied in a firm tone.

“The last time we met, we fought over a flower and a piece of metal… then she pushed me into the mud!” Ciara grumbled and folded her arms in front of her chest. “I’m not sharing a room with her.”

“The Prince has a point.” The King spoke. “You either accept your father’s suggestion and have the Titanore as your protector and roommate or you stay in the Royal Tower.”

“I don’t need a protector!” Ciara whined.

“After the events of tonight, you have little choice in the matter. You will not be running around Oakenwood singing in taverns.” The King leaned back on his throne and narrowed his violet eyes on his granddaughter.

Ciara gave a pout and glared at the two men in the room. “Fine, whatever.”

The King gave her a dismissive wave. Ciara turned, flipped her hair at them, and stormed out. Disapproval coming out of every pore. Petra Titanore – the name itself made Ciara’s blood boil. The price she pays for her people.


Part 3 of 4 Prequel series of 2015 NaNoWriMo story: Silverleaf Academy –  Cinderbluff

Part 1: Titanore
Part 2: Wintersoar

Clairvoyance Chronicles – Volume 1 – Review

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Clairvoyance Chronicles – Volume 1Book Cover
By: Natasha Guyot

Clairvoyance Chronicles is a compilation of short stories, yet each story ties in with another to create a novel. Natasha Guyot makes a world inhabited by supernatural beings, Fae, Were’s and Shifts. Through the numerous stories we get glimpses into their lives, what they are living for, and what they are fighting for. Some stories flirt around the main plot line, focusing on minor characters while others deal directly with a major threat working it’s way towards them.

All of the short stories ad written in first person of the particular character, but there is more to it. Many of the stories jump back and forth in time. We are not talking about decades but centuries here. Fae and were’s live a long life and as the common theme around all the stories is supernatural it is only natural to assume their lives are long and complex because of it. At first it slipped me up a little but you soon get an idea of the individual’s person personality. But showing you scenes of their past you learn what has driven them, why they became what they became and how important the future holds for them.

The entire collection surrounds a particular nasty abnormal called Keno. (I really do love that name). A being who can not be killed and is building an army of were’s of all animals to topple the Fae council as it stands in present day. We get our first glance of Keno and his villanous ways in the first story with Neyla taking place during the stone age when Keno kidnaps Neyla’s daughter and ends up killing her to persuade Neyla (who is a saber tooth cat were) to his side. From there we learn how over the centuries he keeps appear, keeps knocking at the Fae’s door but none of his past schemes work and his is driven underground once more.

There are many other side stories that happen throughout the collection, many of them relating back to Keno and his current strategy of creating a were army but the number of newly bitten people and children turning into weres. By getting insights into the same situation from multiple angles we the reader get a more thorough insight into the issues at hands. At first it is odd to read one story from one prospect, then to see it continue through another’s, but it works out as we learn to care and value each of those characters we read about. There is even a short story on Keno that is insightful, giving us clues as to Keno’s real motivation. But no worries – nothing is given away at this point.

I have never read a book like this before. Most of the books that are complied of short stories may have a common theme but are never liked as much as they are here. It is creative and I have been drawn into many of the character’s story. Being that this is the first volume, there are many unanswered questions by the end of the read. I am left on the edge of my seat wondering what is going to happen next! It is panful and exciting at the same time.

Besides the story points of the review above, I wanted to make mention of the characters themselves in the stories. They range in diversity which is really inspiring. There is also those with disabilities getting their own representation. I found it amazing that one of the shifters named Gabby was blind, and learned to shift into a bat form to help her see in a different way. There was not much talked on this matter but I hope to see her take the form more in the upcoming books.

Natasha Guyot has done a wonderful job in creating a world of supernatural beings living along side humans. Through years of hardships we see these characters still struggle with everyday life and the greater good. I am looking forward to reading more and to find out what Keno has in store for many of her characters.


About the Author:
Natasha Guyot is a French author, scholar and public speaker. She is passionate about Science Fiction, Fantasy, Transmedia, Gender Studies, Children Media and Fan Studies. The two of us met on a Star Wars RPG site years ago and have become great friends ever since. I’m excited that I was able to get a chance to not only read some of her fiction work, but to review it as well.

Clairvoyance Chronicles will be available to purchase in November at the following locations: Goodreads page, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia.

Keep up with Natasha’s work and future projects by visiting her Blog.