Drained of Youth


These past six months, I’ve gotten older.

It’s a bizarre thing: colors seem darker, and smiles don’t come easily. So much has happened. It’s been a trip full of ups and downs; if I wrote a story about it, the reader would finish in a melancholy mood.

Does this mean it was a bad experience? No. It’s not a bad thing to see things with clarity. Hurt me with the truth, but do not shield me with a lie. I’ve always said I live by a policy of honesty: if I have to talk, I’m going to tell you how I feel, whether you like it or not.

Be careful encouraging me to opine.

Because of this policy, I didn’t know how to deal with liars. People I thought were genuine turned out to be faking with me. Please, don’t act like a friend when you really aren’t.

Since I’m a writer, I learned from this. It’s one reason why we write: to pour emotion into a tale readers can relate to. One thing I gained from this trip is emotion, the words for books with more depth.

Now I can write about heartbreak and feel it. I can describe disappointment. I know what it’s like to be stabbed in the back and see those I love cry. I even know what it’s like to live without water.

I know how to stick up for myself. I remember the day I stood up and said what needed to be heard. It was satisfying; I could tell by their reactions that someone had to tell them. My words were a long time coming.

Words are powerful.

Most of my stories so far have been hopeful, but we do need balance. In life, there is heartbreak and pain. This trip has put me through shadows, so I can write about darker emotions.

I have shed tears. I can write stories that shed tears.

Each experience made me stronger, made my future tales more powerful. I will be digging into sensitive parts of my memory.

Storytellers use our dark experiences to connect with readers. We see the positive side of suffering. We use our heartbreak to speak to those who read with broken souls. If this trip allowed me to one day help a person who’s hurting, I’m grateful for every tear.

I wouldn’t take back the memories. Everyone goes through times of suffering. I want my stories to mean something to you when, one day, you’re also hurting.

I leave this country with mixed feelings, a sore heart, and plenty of stories. I’m eager to share them. Reading got me through the darkness; one day, I hope my stories will help you get by, too.

Nothing in life is in vain, not even heartbreak.

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The Autumn Prince Returns


In October of 2015, I released a serial on my blog called The Autumn Prince.

It became more popular than I had anticipated; one reader called it the “highlight of her month,” and I am still humbled by that. The following year it was adapted into a short story for the Crows on Heartstrings anthology, where it shines among dozens of beautiful tales and drawings.

After the release of Crows on Heartstrings, different projects related to my Fallen Faery Tales series distracted me from The Autumn Prince. It managed to slip my mind for a long time, until now.

When the serial finished on Halloween of 2015, the story just wouldn’t get out of my head! I wrote it again as a novel that November because the characters and ideas were still so vivid.

A week ago, a friend encouraged me to find that draft and read it again. I couldn’t believe I had written it! I found myself wanting to know what happens next. So The Autumn Prince is back.

This April I’m working on edits for The Autumn Prince. My plan is to have it shine by the end of the year so I can query it in the winter. For this book, I am going to seek traditional publishing. The Autumn Prince has a different feel from Dissonance and Serenade; it wants to take the different road.

It wants to hit bookstore shelves. It wants to be your autumn read. For that, I need to work on it.

If you enjoyed The Autumn Prince when it was a serial on my blog, I hope you’ll like it all the more as a full-length novel. I’m surprised at how well I did adapting it into a book; it may have been a first draft, but it didn’t make me cringe!

I enjoyed reading it, and being the author, that’s saying something. I hope and pray you will enjoy it too.

Of Ghosts and Old Doorbells


The old doorbell had been silent for over twenty years. After this house was abandoned, people eventually stopped coming to visit, or even to try and sell things. It had been so long, in fact, that the ghosts started to assume it was too rusty to ever make another sound.

Three generations of ghosts dwelled in the old house; they drifted lazily up and down the stairs, reenacted balls in the parlor, had the same conversations that had echoed in the halls for hundreds of years. They spoke of wars long finished and weddings whose couples had long been buried together.

In the midst of this nostalgic echo, this perpetual sigh, the doorbell rang. It was really just an old bell situated somewhere by the front door; someone outside rang, and a string caused it to rattle. It wasn’t the loudest sound, and it hadn’t been touched with the greatest strength—the noise it made was indeed feeble—but when that doorbell rang, everything stopped.

The ladies dressed in ballgowns stopped their repetitive gossip to look at the door, wide-eyed. The butler, who had long run out of things to do, stopped mid-pace with his hands clasped behind his back. The scullery maid got to her feet, bouncing; an old greyhound who rested by the chilly fireplace lifted his head, whining.

“Visitors!” cried one of the ladies, fanning herself (in vain, because she could not produce any air with a ghost fan.) “I do miss playing the piano!”

“Stop it, Dinah,” said her companion with a deep, dramatic sigh; “you know as well as I that we cannot touch anything. Not even the door.”

Dinah played with a lock of her long blonde hair; it had come out of her elaborate knot, somehow, over the course of her years being dead. “Then who’s going to answer the door, Annie?”

Her companion, clearly the wiser of the two, shrugged with a regretful smile. “None of us can. We cannot touch anything.”

“But we should be polishing the silver,” said the butler, speaking for the first time in centuries. “Lighting candles. Dusting the curtains!”

“We can do nothing of the sort, Mr Brown.”

The dog whined, putting his head back on the ground, nose twitching as if struggling to hold back real tears.

The doorbell rang again, a bit more loudly this time. The ghosts stared at the bell as it rattled into silence, some hugging themselves, some breathing heavily, all knowing perfectly well that they could do nothing about it; they had no physical hands with which to open the door for them, no real voices with which to greet them or sing happy music.

“Then what did we get from any of this?” asked the maid sadly, sitting back down on the ground and crossing her legs as they listened to gravel crunch—their visitor was walking away, having realized no one was home to answer them.

Annie paused, gazing at the bell as she forced herself to think, really think, for the first time in a while. “It woke us up, Dinah. I think that’s good enough. It woke us up.”

With that, she took a step back and crossed to the other side of the room, where she lifted her chin and stood with her shoulders back.

“And I propose,” she continued, “a change. Shall we spend the next twenty years in this corner, rather than that one?”

Dinah watched Annie with a quaint frown. At last she shrugged, seeing as there was nothing for her to lose anyway; she crossed the room as well, while the baffled Mr Brown watched, himself reluctant to do anything differently from how it had been done a century ago. “I say,” she exclaimed, “it’s sunnier in this corner.”

The dog got up and crossed the room after her, where he sat down at her feet in the exact same position to listen. Annie smiled, taking Dinah’s fan and using it herself—it was her turn, after all.

“Now, then,” she said to her friend, as the other ghosts slowly began to shift position until the next person rang the doorbell, “tell me about your wedding plans.”

3 Reasons Why We Need Dreamers


It’s recently come to my attention that I am too much of a dreamer…and I don’t want to change.

These aren’t the sorts of dreams with a set goal at the end of the tunnel. When your chosen career is storytelling, it’s easy to forget the ‘rules’ and stand out even in your own crowd. For example, if you blog about books and are passionate about classics rather than trending novels, you aren’t going to review books like other readers.

You’re a dreamer. You’re different. You’re facing a challenge similar to mine.

I’ve been told multiple times to “wake up,” which implies there’s no place in the world for dreamers like me to splash some color here and there. I’m not growing out of this – I’ll always be a child at heart. And recently, I’ve decided to embrace it.

I’m not apologizing anymore for being a dreamer, and here are three reasons why you shouldn’t, either–three reasons why the world needs people who don’t conform to the standards of what is ‘right.’

We need dreamers because growing up can be toxic. It’s important to be more mature, of course, and learn to handle things in a manner befitting of your age–but when this proper behavior puts out the light of enchantment, the world becomes a dim place.

People want to be reminded of the freedom of childhood. Even when it seems you’re being mocked because you’re different, trust me, your fresh outlook on the world is helping someone now far more than you think.

We need dreamers to break the rules. Already in the world of blogging we see dreamers and creatives making a comeback, showing that it’s acceptable–if not necessary–to break the rules for success. And I might add that, with the Internet, we are free to be ourselves, unconventional though we may be.

We need dreamers to make art. Where language is a barrier, art will get the message across. A picture can mean the same thing to two people who have nothing in common–or it might mean something completely different! Without dreamers and the artists to create pieces that speak universally, what would our world look like?

Of course, not all dreamers are the same. Not everyone who makes art will be engrossed by tales of faeries, obsessed with glitter and small animals (like me, heh heh.) The point of this post is that it’s fine to be different, and you shouldn’t allow people to bring you down or prevent you from expressing yourself

You might be a more organized dreamer than I am. You might specialize in painting while I write novels. You might love pop music while I prefer indie–you might find enchantment in black and white, while lately I’m obsessed with pastels.

It’s okay. Be yourself.

This year I’m going to stop apologizing for being a little different, and I choose to be grateful for it instead. Embrace your unique personality and see how it affects your career and life.

If you’ve been put down for breaking the rules, I hope this year you’ll find the courage to accept who you are–unique and capable of true magic.

Guest Post: Life in the Tunnels


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A couple of days ago, I posted this excerpt from World of Shadows by Emily Rachelle (purchase it here!) If the excerpt wasn’t enough to interest you in this story, the author herself wrote a guest post describing the world where all this magic takes place–it’s well thought out, magical, intriguing. My review of the book is coming soon!


When Beila investigates her strange recurring dreams, she discovers a society of invisible people living in an enchanted world of connected underground tunnels. Life in the tunnels is an entirely foreign experience to an average New York teenager like Beila.

Food

In the middle of the tunnel world stands a magical garden that astounds Beila. A variety of vegetables and even fruits familiar to the villagers from their lives before the curse grow in this room, the largest in the tunnels. A sizable amount of the villagers’ lives revolves around this garden. Most nutrition comes from the produce, but social life centers in this place as well. Adults meet over cooking fires to tell stories. Children play games in the open patches of dirt. The light similar to the sun does what it can to cheer everyone’s spirits as the years stretch on.

The people can also eat meat and different breads and pastries from rooms in a specific tunnel hallway. Many of these foods were inaccessible to the villagers in their lives before the curse. At first, having such luxuries available made the curse almost seem worth it. As time passed, though, the food became commonplace and no longer made up for the cramped spaces, or lack of freedom and passing time.

Entertainment

One of the worst parts of the curse is the boredom. Magic rooms providing for all your needs may seem amazing, but most the villagers’ lives before the curse were centered on professions to meet needs. Those professions are unnecessary now. Even if villagers wanted to work, the space and materials to do their old jobs aren’t available. Adults have resigned themselves to lives of games, storytelling, and cooking, the only activities available to them. Those who still enjoy craft work might also spend days tearing apart clothing from the little “shop” to design something new, be it a toy or garment or something else entirely. The number of people interested in this hobby varies throughout the years; on the one hand, it provides something new to do, but on the other hand, the results of your work usually vanish by the next morning.

Children do have a few toys. Some of the children owned toys before the curse which came with them to the tunnels. These include dolls and tops. One of the “shops” also contains a few toys, which vanish from wherever they’re left each night and re-appear on the same shelf every morning. Most of the children’s amusement comes from games—races, leapfrog, pretending to be adults, jokes and riddles, hide and seek, tag. Some children enjoy drawing in the dirt with fingers or sticks, as well.

Family

Family units mostly mirror the society the villagers lived in before the curse. The passage of time caused the village’s interactions to change gradually, but these changes affected the larger society more than individual families. Marriage depends more on companionship and support than love or emotion. Parenting is a balancing act between not spoiling children and not being severe. The age determining adults from children is younger than modern American standards, but the distinction between age groups bears little familial or societal significance after years of life frozen in time, unaging.

Society

Most physical needs—food, cleanliness, clothing—the magic meets. Social interaction is therefore the most important part of a villager’s day. The village is a tight-knit community. There is no one leader, and with little change occurring over the years there has rarely been a need for one. It is hard to keep track of the years passing, but the village tries to observe the regular holidays such as Christmas (Noel), Epiphany, and the days of the saints.

As time has passed in the tunnels, the magic has begun to deteriorate. Villagers now need to help keep the garden pruned and organized. Clothing sometimes needs mended and shoes need fixing. These signs of magic deterioration are concerning for the villagers, since the signs indicate the magic keeping the people alive could be fading. The need for these types of work do bring back some of the sense of meaning and usefulness that was present in their lives before the curse, though.

Time passing also caused a societal shift. Family and societal hierarchies faded. Certain key women became vital to the village as a whole, bringing women up to a higher level of importance than before. By the time Beila arrives, most of the village operates in an almost matriarchal style by default, since its most important figures have a female majority. However, gender has little bearing on a person’s position in the village as a whole.

Excerpt from World of Shadows by Emily Rachelle


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I am a huge fan of faerie tale retellings, so when Emily asked me to review World of Shadows a while back, it was perfect. I’m still working on my review (let me tell you now, it is worth the read!) Until then, here’s an excerpt from the story itself.

World of Shadows is enchanting! Buy it on Amazon and add it to your Goodreads shelf. Here’s what the book is about:

In this urban fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, modern-day teenager Beila Durand is plagued by nightmares that lead her to discover – and wind up trapped in – a cursed underground world. The invisible people that live in this medieval village depend on Beila learning the truth behind their curse – and why she is the only one who can set them free.
In her quest for answers, however, all she seems to find are more questions. Where do the echoing screeching at night originate? Who is the isolated man that speaks with Beila from the shadows of his cloak? What does this New York girl have to do with any of it? And will she ever find a way back home?

And finally, the excerpt! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

“Hello?” I call out cautiously.
The hood turns sort of toward me—facing the floor to my right—but the figure remains seated. “Yes.” The voice is low, a male’s.
“Excuse me?”
The side of the cloak makes a wide gesture. “Come in, welcome.” He sounds young and not at all frightened like the invisible woman I heard before. In fact, he almost sounds unhappy, resigned, possibly even bored. Most notably, of course, he speaks clear, easy English.
“May I ask…where am I?”
“The tunnels.”
I nod and take a few steps forward, then take a deep breath and repeat, “Yes, I thought so, but where?”
This time the hood faces me directly, still completely covering the man’s face. He remains silent for a minute before pushing against the curved arms of the chair and standing quickly, like the President or a king just walked in the room. Again, he is silent and motionless for a long minute.
“Your name.”
“It’s Beila. I’m Beila Durand, from New York.” Another minute of silence passes, and I feel like he’s examining me. Perhaps I wouldn’t feel as awkward if I could see him—his eyes, his face, even his general form to confirm that he’s human. It’d be nice just to make sure I can see him, that he’s not invisible too. Or maybe, if he would only speak, then this place wouldn’t seem so stifling. “And you are?”
The hood nods quickly. “Ah, yes, of course. My apologies. I am…well, perhaps it is best for me not to say. Call me whatever you like, I suppose.” At least he’s polite.
I take another step toward him to close some of the distance between us. The cloak side makes another wide gesture, this time seeming to indicate the chair. I shake my head and sit cross-legged on the floor, so he takes the chair. It seems a little too much for me to sit in this mystery cloak man’s throne.
“Is your name dangerous?”
The hood shakes. “No.” Then it leans back ever so slightly before dropping forward. “Actually, it is. Now that you ask, yes. It’s…best for you to not know about me. Not yet, that is.”
Yeah, that’s not weird at all. “Okay then. Next question…why am I here? Oh, and you still never said where here is.”
“Those are questions I cannot answer for you.”
My eyebrows bunch up. “That makes three. Is there anything you can tell me?”
“Only that these dreams are very important, to all who live in the tunnels. Our lives are in your hands.”
“Our? You mean the griffin too, then?”
There is no response, no movement of the cloak.
“And the invisible people, with the cold hands that speak French? They live here too, right?”
I wait for him to speak. I’m beginning to wonder if he will when he clears his throat. “You have done well to learn this about our world. But I cannot answer questions for you. You must learn the truth for yourself.”
He likes that I’ve figured this stuff out, but he won’t help me any. Interesting. “So they do live here—the invisible people, and the griffin—here with you, in tunnels. But you can’t tell me anything about them, or you.”
He nods.
“Why not?”
“To tell would be grave. The truth must be sought for us to be saved.”
So many new questions come to mind with that statement. I focus on just one. “What do you mean, saved?”
The hood shakes and I nod. “I get it, no questions. Well then, if you’re not going to tell me anything, why am I even still here? Why doesn’t anyone come to take me to the cave? Or why don’t I wake up—something like that?”
The hood nods again, past me rather than at me this time. “You may leave whenever you like.”
When I turn around, all I see are the massive doors. Closed doors. I turn back around. “So I just up and leave, then? The cave’s out there?”
“When you step through the doors, you return to your home. The cave is unnecessary from here.”
“Huh. Unnecessary.” I push off the floor and stand, brushing the dirt off my hands onto my pajama pants. It’s only then that I realize I’m in my pajamas, with my hair down and unbrushed, as if I climbed straight out of bed into this room. I wave to the cloak, suddenly a bit self-conscious. “Well, guess I’ll be going, then, if that’s it.”
The cloak rises from the chair and steps forward. “Before you leave, milady.” Suddenly a necklace dangles in front of my face, right there in thin air. I look at the cloak-man, who just points to it and nods once. I take it and hold it out in my palm, trying to get a better look at it in the torchlight. It’s some sort of golden pendant on a chain. The pendant is an oval, with the design of a ribbon tied in a bow carved on top and a fancily scrolled loop carved on either side, connecting the pendant to the chain. Matching scrollwork curls along the bottom of the oval. The center of the pendant features a portrait painting framed by a thin gold line. The painting is of a young man, with nearly-shaved dark blond hair and eyes the same color. He’s wearing armor that’s elaborately carved and painted in red and black designs. The piece isn’t like anything I’ve ever seen in the city, and I’ve been to quite a few unique shops.
“What’s this?”
“A necklace. For you, Beila Durand. Take it with you when you leave.”

Into the Enchanted Forest


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You’ve lost yourself in a daydream again.

The paths of your wondering have led to the greenest forest you’ve ever seen – even colors appear bolder in this place. There is a breeze but it’s not unpleasant; branches are thick, yet you don’t fear what you will find here.

You’ve been walking for quite a while before you notice them – little lights in the bushes. They’re like fireflies, hiding when you squint to get a better look. Though fleeting, they’re impossible to ignore once you’ve spotted them, much like magic or love.

You ponder: is this what it would be like if the stars tumbled down to float among trees? They may be closer, but they’re no easier to touch. Instinct whispers that they will vanish if you try disturbing them.

Not wanting to scare off the magic, you continue on your way. Flashing a little smile, you wander deeper into this enchanted forest, planning to get lost in more daydreams from now on.

Book Review: Wendy Darling – Stars by Colleen Oakes


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I am fascinated by retellings of classic novels! Some stories are so beloved that they capture imaginations for years, never losing their magic. Often these retellings can be shallow and unoriginal, but Wendy Darling: Stars did not disappoint.

It’s the story of Peter Pan told from Wendy’s point of view, and though it’s been a few years since I read the original book, this version was lovely to read. I enjoyed the care placed in each relationship. Conflicts were added to make characters realistic and believable; even though they’ve been written before, they were pleasantly original here.

No one was perfect in this book. Wendy’s brothers all had flaws, and even her father, though overall kind, still valued the family reputation over her happiness. He won’t approve of Wendy’s relationship with a young bookseller named Booth, and that disagreement creates a chasm between them, one we could feel—because they’d gotten along well before that. There is a scene where she and Mr. Darling are looking at the sky, looking for the second star to the right, and it was so cute that I was sad when they fell apart.

Peter Pan in this novel is more human than in other retellings. His crush on Wendy makes him more than a boy who won’t grow up; here he’s a young man afraid to face reality. There were scenes where he was kind to Wendy, and others where he lost his mind. There were times when he was considerate of others, and dark moments when he thought little about killing. Like Wendy, he’s older and makes decisions that are fitting for his age.

I also liked that the book was well-written. The author put thought into plot and location, and the writing was poetic. This novel took me through the streets of London; I flew in the skies of Neverland, swam with dark mermaids, and stole from pirates.

This book is ideal for people who loved Peter Pan. It made me sad for Wendy and Booth, made me curious about Peter, and took me to a world where lost people never grow up. I can’t wait to read the next one.

The Blue Lady, Part II


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The wind appeared to whisper words as Lady Evelyn walked up a familiar cobblestone road. Her destination was in sight, the home where she’d grown up. Light spilled through one of the windows; she remembered it had been the parlor where her father used to sit and read.

It had been years since she came here, but she could not bring herself to feel more than deja vu. Little excited her these days. Hopefully in this familiar place, she would find puzzles to pass the time.

It was a handsome house with red shutters. Two rocking chairs sat abandoned on a frosty deck. Though candles had been placed on the windowsills in form of protection, she was not a dark entity to be scared off by superstition.

She slipped through the door with no great effort and looked up at a familiar crystal chandelier; to her right, a winding staircase inched to the second floor. Her feet made no sound as she made her way to her father’s parlor.

Inside, two people spoke in quiet voices. The first was a child. “What a cold night, Grandfather.”

“I know, Abigail.” There was a sigh. “The fire should warm you soon enough.”

Evelyn peered into the parlor, where the fireplace had indeed been lit. She saw by its glow that two armchairs had been occupied, one by a girl of eight or nine. Across from her, a feeble old man hugged himself against the draft.

There was sadness in their eyes. It was strong enough to shock a ghost.

Her wandering eyes stopped on a portrait hanging over the mantle. It was a painting of herself at the age of sixteen, three years before she breathed her last. She’d been in the forest for so long that her own face startled her.

In the painting her dark hair was braided, woven into the same style she wore now. Her blue eyes peered from the depths of the painting, an uncanny likeness. She wore a blue dress much like the one she’d been buried in.

Abigail spoke, voice oddly hushed. “It always feels like that painting is watching me, Grandfather.”

Evelyn wondered if her presence could be sensed by the living in this house.

“Souls often haunt objects. It lets them catch a glimpse of the living.”

“Will you tell me how she died?” asked the girl.

“It’s a grim story, dear.”

“I’m old enough.”

There was a long pause, and he sighed. “Very well. I don’t like how your mother protects you from everything.” He looked into the fire for a moment, reminiscing. Then he clasped his hands and began.

“Eighty years ago, the city was struck by a plague.”

To Be Continued…

Book Review: The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton


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The Faerie Ring follows the story of a pickpocket named Tiki. She lives with several other homeless children in Victorian London; together they make a family, looking out for each other when things get rough.

When the youngest child, Clara, falls ill with consumption, they find themselves facing a huge hospital bill. It’s more than they could steal in the time given them. Just when it seems hopeless, Tiki finds a bizarre stroke of luck and seizes it.

She manages to steal one of the queen’s rings. The reward for it is enough to pay for Clara’s medical bills, and even to make sure her little family has a decent home. The challenge is finding a way to trade it in without being caught and arrested.

But it won’t be simple. The ring is not just a bit of jewelry; it represents a truce made long ago between the Faerie court and English royalty. Some faeries will do anything to destroy the ring and what it represents, putting Tiki and her family in danger.

Even though I liked this book, it needed work. The writing could have been tightened up. If not for the several errors I spotted while reading, it would have been one of my favorite faerie stories.

I enjoyed the setting, but I wish the author had elaborated more. There wasn’t much detail for me to explore the streets of London, which sometimes made the story feel flat and a little too straightforward.

Despite it all, The Faerie Ring was a fun read. From the beginning, I wanted Tiki to be successful so she could keep her little family together. I’m going to give the next book a try soon.