Let Death Touch Your Characters – Writing Grief

Myths of the Mirror

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The first book I read that dealt with death was Charlotte’s Web. I cried at the little spider’s demise and reread the book a week later, so I could cry again.

When I grew up, I became a grief counselor and hospice volunteer. I ran grief groups for children and families. The resiliency of children, their ability to find joy in the midst of deep sorrow and uncertainty, led me to a career in early childhood mental health.

I did all this before death balled up a fist and punched me in the face.

On July 3, 2003, my youngest brother, Dan, was shot in the head. Twelve years later, his murder remains officially unsolved.

As you might imagine, my experience has led me to be somewhat discerning about the presence of grief in the books I read. In fact, a psychologically “normal” character’s complete lack of any grief response to the death of…

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Camp nanowrimo

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I’ve just finished camp nanowrimo, and I’ve WON, so sorry for being late with this blog.

For any non-writers who may be viewing this, nanowrimo is a challenge for authors to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. There are virtual camps during the year, one of which is in July. In t h ecamps it is a little less hectic as the author can set his/her own target.

I set myself the target of 10,000 words for July and finished a couple of days ago. I did find it quite difficult. I had originally set 20,000 words. The beauty of the camps is that up to a certain date you can change your target. I wasn’t getting on very well and so I lowered it to 10,000. I’m not sure how I did 50,000 in November!

I’ve entered a short story into a competition too. I’m not expecting anything from that though.

I hope to be able to post a fuller blog next week, but I thought you would all like to know what I’m up to. I am now struggling with my latest novel, a historical novel set in Roman Britain about a slave boy and his sister who want to take revenge on the Romans for taking them away from their family. I am having trouble in finding anything about everyday life among the non-Romanised Britons. Most of what I’ve found has been for primary school kids! Stuff for adults seems to concentrate on the BIG history (who was Governor, who was Emperor, what battles were faught etc.) or the life of the Romanised Britons in the major cities.

If anyone knows anything about this, then I would be grateful if you could let me know.

Visit by Author Vanessa MacLellan

vanessa photo smallWelcome, Vanessa, to my blog. I am pleased to have you visit.

Vanessa is a new writer and is just about to publish her debut novel, Three Great Lies, set in a mythological Egypt. I am personally anxious to read her novel. It sounds interesting and original.

Vanessa McClellan was born and raised in the farmlands of eastern Washington, works as an environmental engineer, and is an avid birder, naturalist, gamer, and runner living in Portland, Oregon. Her website is vanmaclellan.com.

Twitter https://Twitter.com/McCVan

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/vanessa.maclellan.75
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/113218298408867923612/?rel=author

The following is an interview with Vanessa.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a tattooed, vegetarian, outdoorsy woman with one head in the clouds and the other firmly settled in my hiking boots.  I’m an environmental engineer by day, author, runner, reader, gamer, naturalist by night (and weekends).

2. When did you start writing, and why?

When I was a wee lass I’d make up stories to tell my mother while she was gardening.  I think it started there.  My favorite subject was Baggy Piggy, who had a curly Q tail that never ended (I knew this, because I drew him incessantly with pink crayons).  I remember, before I could even write, ‘writing’ (aka doodling) on paper and then reading them to my great grandmother.  Storytelling is in my blood.  I guess that’s enough of a reason why.

Though the fact that I enjoy it doesn’t hurt.  I have little people in my head (doesn’t every author) that want me to explore their worlds, flesh out their personalities and goals and give them something to do.  I can’t take all the credit, it’s partially their fault.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?

I write speculative fiction.  Mainly fantasy, though I mix horror and magical realism in there.  I write fantasy because fantasy is what first got me excited about reading.  I remember my older sister, Audrey, handing me the first of the Pierce Anthony Xanth novels, and I was astounded at these magical places, characters with magical talents, all of the magical beasts.  Magic.  Magic.  Magic.  I wanted that.  To live there.  Be special.  Be something more than just human.

And I read as much fantasy after that as I could.  Tolkien, Eddings, Pratchet, Weiss and Hickman, Duncan.  You know the era and the authors.  That’s what fueled me as a young reader.  I hope to fuel other readers too.

And the joy comes from creation and imagination.  Of speculating: What if? and expanding from that.  I am the master of my own universe, what is not to like?

4. What is your latest book? Any forthcoming books?

My debut novel, Three Great Lies, releases August 6th.  It’s fantasy, with historical and literary trappings.  It carries a bit of a Finding My Place in Life theme.

Jeannette Walker, a modern scientist, ends up in ancient, mythological Egypt.  Though she constantly casts doubt on the existence of such a world, she has to learn to live in it.  While trying to save her mummy friend’s soul from a wicked tomb robbing ring, she realizes a few important things about life.  What those are, well, you’ll have to read the book!

I have one complete manuscript for a dark fantasy I’m currently shopping out, and am working on a modern super hero series.  There’s always something I’m working on.

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of Three Great Lies.

Ancient, mythological Egypt.  It never rains.  People’s lives aren’t equal.  Prayers constantly dance upon lips.  Beer is a meal.  Sand is a major filler in the bread.  Children of gods walk the street with the heads of animals and prophecy on their lips.

To Jeannette it’s, of course, a total shock.  There are people about in public naked and jackals speak.  A mummy—a desiccated, lumbering thing—chases her through the crowded streets, accusing her of stealing his ba!  It’s not necessarily a friendly place, but people are people, and even Jeannette is able to find friends in ways she never expected.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?

Jeannette Walker is my protagonist.  She’s mid-twenties, a scientists with a jilted past.  She still holds the hurt from a past betrayal and has learned to trust nobody and nothing.  I love her voice and her mind-chatter.  And she’s got a good heart that struggles to show through her armor.

Abayomi is the dead man walking, a reanimated mummy who seeks his lost ba container so he can continue on to the afterlife.  He’s a perfect citizen who knows his place in the world and doesn’t seek to unbalance tradition.  Until his friends are endangered, then his loyalty shines like a beacon.  True best friend material!

Sanura is the young daughter of Bast, cast out from her litter.  She’s lost and alone and Jeannette saves her—saves her—and she’ll never forget such gifts.  Sanura, like most young people, is soul-searching, trying to found out exactly why she’s been cast away and what her purpose and place is in life.  Her journey is one everyone can connect with. She’s the spirit of the story.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about Three Great Lies.

A major aspect of the book (the stray dog theme) sprang to life at an agility dog show.  The midsummer day was baking hot and I had parked myself under a tree for the next show.  A Jack Russell Terrier was looking at me, with that intelligent tongue-lolling smile terriers have.  Honestly, the dog was smiling.

And that was the original start of the novel:  “The dog was smiling at her.”  It’s since changed, but that line and scene are still in there, the theme planted throughout the novel.  The story just unfolded from that one dog’s smile and here we are now.

8. Any challenges with getting Three Great Lies to where it is today?

Three Great Lies has been on a long journey.

In 2008, I wrote my fifth NaNoWriMo novel.  That was Three Great Lies.  It was titled simply “Egypt” back then.  It was a 50,000 word rough draft.  Then I added extra plot threads and themes, and it topped out at 140,000 words.  That’s quite an addition!  Then there were years and years of critiquing and editing.

Finally in 2013, I begin seeking representation for Three Great Lies, and it was picked up by Hadley Rille Books (which was the most perfect place for this book to land).

Now for the rough stuff.  As I was due my edits, my publisher had a stroke.  (Though he insists he was abducted by aliens to an alternate universe.)   It was terrible, we weren’t sure if he would make it.  The entire press huddled together in worry and anticipation.  I was wavering between feeling devastated for my publisher’s situation and worrying about the state of my book (and feeling so so guilty for that.)  But he did pull through and has worked tirelessly on my novel, by my side every step of the way.

Now, we’re here, and my novel is published!  I think other authors might have pulled their book to seek other representation, but I knew Hadley Rille and my publisher were perfect for my book.

9. What’s your writing process?

First and foremost, Three Great Lies was a ‘pantser’ book.  I didn’t have an outline.  I wrote forward from the smiling dog on guts and intentions.  I had this idea of where I wanted to go, with no map on how to get there.  Now, I am an outliner.  I think the process, for me, would have gone so much faster if I’d had a more solid idea of the substance of the story.  As it was, lots and lots and lots of editing and rewriting were necessary to make this book shine.

When I’m in the thick of writing and editing, I try to work on the novel every single day.  It keeps my writing sharp and my mind on the storyline.  It keeps me from losing plot threads and missing finer details.  For me, every day is the way (ooh, that even rhymes.)

And another thing I’ve learned:  Do not work heavily on writing in the summer.  I like to play outside too much and I feel guilty if I don’t write.  Now, I just hold up my hands and let it all go.  Summer, for me, is play time.  No guilt for taking some time off writing.  Because, we’re our worst guilt-trippers.

10. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.

You can find me at:  http://vanmaclellan.com/

<a href=” http://www.amazon.com/Three-Great-Lies-Vanessa-MacLellan-ebook/dp/B010Y96WTO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1436222042&sr=8-1&keywords=three+great+lies”>You can find Three Great Lies at Amazon</a>

Thanks for reading!  I hope you come by and check out my site and my novel.  It was a joy to write and I hope it brings joy to you as well.

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Three Great Lies:

While vacationing in Egypt. . .
Jeannette Walker, a cynical scientist jaded by swarms of tour groups and knick-knack shacks, is lured by a teenage tour guide to visit a newly discovered tomb. No other tourists there! Inside the chamber, she tumbles down a shaft and 3000 years back in time.

Now, in a world where deities walk the streets and prophecy stinks up the air, Jeannette is desperate for normal and the simple pleasures of sanitation and refrigeration. However, a slave master hawking a cat-headed girl derails her homebound mission, and Jeannette—penniless in this ancient world—steals the girl, bringing down the tireless fury of the slaver.

Saddled with a newly awakened mummy and the cat-headed girl, Jeannette, through her unparalleled experience gained from watching spy movies, contrives a plan to free them from the slaver’s ire, but will she have to dive into the belly of the beast to succeed?

<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/Three-Great-Lies-Vanessa-MacLellan-ebook/dp/B010Y96WTO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1436627974&sr=1-1”>Available at Powell’s</a>

Publisher’s Weekly Review

MacLellan’s fun debut drops Jeanette, an American tourist in Egypt, into ancient Thebes. After she wakes Abayomi, a mummy who’s lost his key to the afterlife, her journey of discovery is filled with danger and thrills. A great sense of character evolution drives the plot, as Jeanette learns that her safe, mundane, passive modern life can’t compare to the active role she takes in freeing Sanura, a child of Bast, from slavery, or working to stop tomb robbing. Her friendships with Abayomi, Sanura, and others form organically, leading to an unlikely but well-handled romantic subplot. Supernatural elements help develop the world around Jeanette, but don’t overpower it. The descriptions feel like what a modern person in Jeanette’s situation would notice, rather than generic scene-setting. A strong conclusion sets this light fantasy a notch above its peers. (Oct.)

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-9892631-4-6

Interview with archmage Yssalithisandra

Archnage Yssalithisandra

I apologise for being a day late with the interview with Archmage Yssalithisandra, but she was  extremely busy with some new magic texts that have recently come to light and put the interview off for a day.

Me: Good morning, Archmage Yssalithisandra. I am glad you decided to meet me and answer afew questions that our readers would like toknow about.

Yssa: Please call me Yssa. Everyone does, you know. It is a pleasure to be interviewed by you.

Me: How is it that an elf is working in Hambara and not in Rindisillaron, the elven homeland?

Yssa: I came here because of the Mage Tower. There is no longer one in Rindissillaron, you know.

Me: I believe there was one once though. Why has it not been found or rebuilt?

Yssa: Mage towers are always built on special places where the mana is at its strongest. Places where it wells up rather like springs out of the ground. The whereabouts of the Mage Tower in Rindisillaron has long been forgotten, as is the case of the towers in most places in Khalram.

Me: Why has this occurred?

Yssa: It was after the Forbidding when they were deserted for several hundred years.

Me: The Forbidding?

Yssa: Yes. Two hundred or so years after the death of Sauvern, there was an uprising by a group of mages who thought that because they could weave the mana, they were superior to others and that they should be the rulers of all the lands in Khalram. There was another group who opposed them, of course and the result was a terrible war. The results were so devastating that when the rightful rulers were restored, the practice of magic was forbidden throughout the lands that make up Khalram. All books of magic were burned and the mage towers were, for the most part destroyed. All people who could do any magic were put to death too.

Me: So that is why you are researching  the past. To find the lost spells. How long ago did the Forbidding occur?

Yssa: How long? Well it began about 600 years ago and lasted for about 3oo years. That means that it ended about 300 years ago.

Me: And in 300 years you still haven’t found all that was lost?

Yssa: Remember; there were no mages in the continent when it ended, nor any books. We had to start again from scratch.

Me: How is your work coming on?

Yssa: Oh, we’re beginning to make more progress and we keep finding books that had been hidden away by mages when they thought they would be executed. One such is the one Mabryl found and Carthinal brought to Hambara.

Me: Do you think that the mage towers will ever be re-built?

Yssa: That depends on whether or not we can find where the nodes were that they were built on. In the past there were said to have been mages who were able to detect these places, but we know of none at the moment. There are a few mages who can weave the mana without recourse to arcane language and hand gestures, but use just the power of thought, and it  is possible that some of these could do so as they are much more sensitive to magic. We have yet to find any though, so at the moment it’s just a hypothesis.

Me: You met Carthinal when he came to take his tests. What did you think of him?

Yssa: (blushing slightly) He is a very charismatic young man. He is also a very talented mage. I oversaw his practical test, as you probably know, and was most impressed.

Me: Is it true that you had a relationship with him while he was in Hasmbara?

Yssa: (looking down at her hands.) Yes. It was brief, and then he left to do the job that the Duke set him. I don’t know when he’ll be back, but I don’t expect him to want to continue with me.

Me: Do you think you will ever go back to Rindissillaron?

Yssa: Probably not. I do go to visit my parents as often as I can. Mother says it’s not often enough of course. She misses me, I think. I have no brothers and sisters, so I’m her little lost lamb. She means well, but she does fuss.

Me: Thank you for giving up your precious time, Archmage.

Yssa: Yssa!

Me: Sorry, Yssa. I am sure our readers will be interested in the history that you have told us about, and good luck with the research.

Yssa: Thank you. It was a pleasure talking to you. Grillon’s blessings on your readers.

The Last Hunt. A short story by V.M.Sang

088tigerblurTHE LAST HUNT

I need a wee.

I could use the litter tray, but I prefer not to. OK, I’ll admit it. I want to go outside to hunt. It’s just getting light and that’s a good time for hunting. I’ll just go upstairs and wake someone up to open the door. (Don’t know why they won’t get a cat flap. It’d save them always having to get up.)

The door’s closed. No use going to the boy’s door. He never gets up for me. I’ll just scratch at the adult’s door.

Ah! Someone’s moving. It’ll be her, I expect. He never comes to let me out if he’s in bed. I don’t think he hears me scratching. Here she comes.
‘What do you want, Kim?’ she says to me. ‘Do you want to go out? Come on then. I’ll open the door.’

We go downstairs and she unlocks the door. I rush out into the dawn. It’s cool, but pleasant. Now for that wee.

That’s better. I wonder what’s about this morning? I’ll go over to the common I think. There’s always more game over there. Over the fence and down the next garden path. They’ve got a fishpond, haven’t they? I’ll take a quick look. A nice fish would be good for breakfast.

Hmm! Fish! Sit quietly, Kim and wait for them to come up. Here’s one. Quick flash of the paw and scoop it out. Ha ha. It’s flapping all over the lawn trying to get back to the water. Can’t understand why they want to live in it. Nasty wet stuff.

One quick jump and there’s a tasty snack. Now to see what else is about. A quick sprint across the road and onto the long grass. Quiet, now, Kim. You don’t want to frighten everything away before you’ve had your fun.

The birds are starting to sing. I like birds. They’re fun to try to sneak up on, but they’re quick and can fly. It takes great skill to catch them. Much more than mice and voles. Squirrels are fun too, and frogs. I like the way frogs jump about when I let them go briefly. Toads are horrid though. They don’t jump and they taste foul.

There’s a blackbird pulling up a worm on the cut grass. I can probably sneak up in this long grass until I’m near enough to pounce.

Missed her. I remember the time I did catch a blackbird. I’d been out early, like today, and managed to get him. He made such a squawking that She came out. She shouted at me to let him go and ran after me. I fled with my prize under some bushes but she came after me, grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and pulled me out.

Oh the indignity of it! I opened my mouth to tell her that this wasn’t how to treat a cat, and the blackbird took the opportunity to escape. He flew up into the nearest tree and sat there laughing at me. That hurt my pride somewhat.

I can’t understand humans. Why do they make such a fuss about birds? They don’t eat them. At least not the ones in the garden, but they get very cross if I chase them. They don’t mind if I catch mice or voles though.

Except for one occasion, I remember. I’d caught a baby vole. It was small enough to fit in my mouth and I took it home for the humans. When I got to the door it was closed and so I made a little chirrup, which I could do with my mouth shut. They should have known that that sound meant I had something in my mouth, but no, it seems not. Sometimes humans are so stupid. Anyway, the boy opened the door. As I went in, I suppose he saw the little vole’s tail sticking out of my mouth and he grabbed me, saying, ‘No you don’t. You’re not bringing that in here.’

Of course, that made me open my mouth and the baby vole jumped out and ran. I ran after it, but it disappeared under the boiler.

I sat there for a time while the humans poked under the boiler with sticks, brushes and whatever else they could find to try to make it run out, but it climbed up and they couldn’t get it. I could see that there was no chance until they had stopped their fussing so I walked away.

‘Oh no you don’t,’ He said. ‘You brought it in, you’ll get it out.’ And He picked me up and carried me back to the boiler. I stayed there for a few minutes and then went away again.

I suppose they got the little thing out again eventually, but they couldn’t see that the problem was of their making. If the boy hadn’t grabbed me I wouldn’t have lose it like that. Oh, well, so much for memories.

Now what? I’ll just listen for a while, I think. See if I can hear anything underground.

Squeaks. Mice probably. Where is the entrance to their nest then? I think that it‘s a mouse family, judging by the number and pitch of the squeaks. Now for my nose. That should tell me where their run is and lead me to the entrance.

Here it is. The entrance to the nest. Now to wait.

Here she comes. Ready to pounce. Quiet now, I think she’s suspicious. Tail lashing then—jump.

Got her! I’ll play with her for a bit first before killing her. That’s always good fun. Right, carry her away from the hole so she can’t run back into it. Now to let her go. See her run, crouch and—pounce.

I think I’ll try throwing her up in the air and catching her. Hear her squeak! She’s truly scared now. Let her think she’s getting away again and—pounce. Ha ha. This is such fun. Throwing again, letting her run again.

I think that’s enough for now. One quick bit and she’s dead. What’s that? I think She’s calling me for breakfast. All that hunting has made me hungry. What She gives me is better than mouse so I’ll leave that and go home.

Run quickly across the road. What’s that? A car? Can’t get across in time…

If you enjoyed this story, (or even if you didn’t) please feel free to make comments. Constructive criticism please. The other kind is useless.

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Find out more about the World of Vimar

I have often wondered how it comes about that we start the year 10 days after the Winter Solstice. This doesn’t seem to make any sense. It is not on any obvious astronomical day, so why then? It would be more logical to start it on the solstice when the days are beginning to get longer, or at the Spring Equinox when things begin to grow anew. Even the summer solstice could be considered as at that time the daylight is waning and that could be considered an ending. Autumn Equinox too could be thought of as an ending of the old year as all the crops are gathered in ready for the cold winter ahead.

Similarly, why start the day at midnight? That too seems illogical if you look at it closely. To me it would seem more logical to start the day at dawn.

I considered these things when deciding about how time was to be measured on Vimar and came up with the system you can read about below. I have kept the hour as I did not want to make completely wholesale changes to confuse my readers too much and so I kept the hours and minutes as they are on Earth.

The World of Vimar

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Vimar circles its sun in almost exactly 360 days. This leads the people to have divided their year into 12 months of 30 days. Since it is not exactly 360 days, but in fact 360 days and 4 hours, this means that every 6 years an extra day is added to the year. This is added at the end of the year and is called the Day of the Gods. It is a holiday for everyone and as it comes just before Grillon’s Day, also a holiday when the New Year is celebrated, everyone looks forward to this time.

Because all the important astronomical timings are 6 or multiples of 6, the people of Vimar have come to believe that six is a holy number. Thus when they came to devise the timings of the day, they decided to divide it into 24 hours, much as we do on Earth, However, they begin to count their day from the time of dawn on the 2 equinoxes, unlike Earth, where timing is taken from the mid-point of darkness at this time, more or less. Once every place began their day at dawn, regardless of time of year or place on the planet, but this became somewhat confusing as trade increased, and so the standardised time began. Thus what on Earth would be 6am, on Vimar it
is 0 hour, and Earth’s 12pm is Vimar’s 6th hour.

Vimar has 2 moons, Lyndor and Ullin. Lyndor is slightly nearer to Vimar than Ullin and appears to be a gold colour. Ullin appears more silvery. It is considered propitious when the moons are both full together, and if both moons are dark, that is considered to be the least lucky time for any ventures. The best times for starting any venture is when both moons are waxing, and conversely, if they are both waning, that is a bad time, although endings are good at this time.

The world has 2 large continents, The one featured in the Wolf Pack is the continent of Khalram. Grosmer is the largest country on this landmass and has a climate ranging from Mediterranean in the south to cool temperate in the north. To the west, beyond the Western Mountains is a vast plain on which live the nomadic people known as the Horselords for their mastery of the beautiful horses they rear. It is said that a huge ocean lies beyond this plain, but no one knows for sure.
Beyond the Mountans of Doom in the east are the lands of Pelimar, a loose coalition of city states, Erian, ruled by an elected Master and the elven land of Rindisillaron. The lands to the south are largely unknown to the people of Grosmer, Pelimar and Erian, although trade does occur occasionally. The Great Desert is largely to blamed for this lack of contact. There is a large, mysterious continent to the far east also that occasionally comes to the attention of the people of Khalram because of the Raiders who come for plunder and slaves.

Once, the elves and humans  all lived together in Khalram, but soon they began to fall out and so the elven land of Rindissillaron was founded in the east of the continent. Here the elves could live in the way they wished, close to nature and disturbing the natural world as little as possible. The dwarves have always lived in the mountains where they can dig for the ores and gems they are so good at working.

The other races, such as orcs and trolls, were banished to the far north, as far as the mountain range known as the Roof of the World and even beyond, it is thought, although no one has ever managed to cross this range and return.

If you liked this post, or have any questions about it, please contact me.

The Wolves of Vimar books 1 and 2 can be bought from http://amazon.co.uk/, http://amazon.com/, or http://smashwords.com/

A Poem

I have written poetry as well as prose during my lifetime. Unfortunately some of them have gone missing. In fact, all but one of my very early ones have gone to that great poetry book in the sky.

Here is one I wrote recently, I hope you enjoy it.

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Autumn in Sussex

The Downs are wreathed in mist, like smoke
From a dying fire.
The leaves are turning red and gold
Like flames upon a pyre.

Spring’s little lambs are grown to sheep
The swallows they have flown.
The blossoms that the summer brought
Their petals all have thrown.

Now autumn’s bounty fills the woods,
The hedgerows are ablaze
With hips and haws in colours bright
The senses to amaze.

The smoke from wood fires fills the air,
The scent of autumn true
The autumn sun is cooler now
And mornings filled with dew.

The cobwebs shine with dewdrops bright.
The spider in her lair
Thinks nothing of the rainbow hue
That scatters in the air.

And children kick the fallen leaves
As laughingly they run
To gather conkers, shiny brown,
Gleaming in the sun.

We gather blackberries from the hedge
And apples from on high.
Up in the tree they ripen now
To turn into a pie.

But autumn sometimes has a kick
And the rain lashes down.
The wind, it howls within the eaves
And through the trees doth moan.

Sometimes Jack Frost, with fingers cold,
Paints upon the glass
Pictures of fern and leaf and tree
Flower, bush and grass.

Then suddenly the trees are bare
And autumn’s bounty’s past.
Winter’s cold has now arrived.
With its arctic blast.
.

If you enjoyed reading this poem, please make a comment, or ‘like’ it.

Extract from The Wolf Pack. Book 1 of The Wolves of Vimar Series.

I have decided that I will start to serialize The Wolf Pack on WordPress. I am already serializing it on Blogger but I think that it will be a good idea to restart the serialization here so that new people can read it from the beginning.

So here is the first extract–the Prologue and Chapter 1.wolf1

PROLOGUE

The Most High of Kalhera looked at his visitor.
‘This is most irregular. What you propose is possible, but forbidden.’
The magister replied, ‘I realise that, Your Holiness. That’s why I’ve come to see you. I need your permission to perform the rite and to provide a cleric who can do it.’
‘You would deny Kalhera some souls. She doesn’t like that, you know. If you deny her these, she will demand some others in recompense. That is the way.’
The magister looked the Most High in the eye. He held the gaze of the other as he told him, ‘It will not be for all time.’
He held up his hand as the Most High opened his mouth to speak. ‘I cannot say for how long these souls will be denied to Kalhera.’ he went on, ‘It may be a few years, or it may be millennia. Your Holiness, I have had a dream. Sometime in the future these souls will be returned to Kalhera. Please grant me permission to perform the rite.’
The Most High looked at the magister and then he rose. ‘I will go and commune with Kalhera. If she permits it, I will grant you both your requests, permission to perform the rite and a cleric to perform it. I believe it requires both a Cleric of Death and a mage?’
With that, the Most High of Kalhera, Goddess of Death and the Underworld left the room through a door obscured by a black curtain.

They carried the body of their king across the land and over the mountains until they reached the place he had asked to be his final resting-place. It was a beautiful place. A deep, forested valley surrounded by high mountains and with a steaming lake in the bottom. The lake was fed by water from deep within the volcanic mountains and was a warm and pleasant temperature. It had been the king’s favourite place in the entire world, albeit not in his own lands. It was here that he had met his true love. She was not mortal, but his love had been reciprocated and he wished to be near her in death.
The king was buried in a burial mound that they prepared, and then they prepared two others, one on each side. They interred their king with due ceremony for all there were only fourteen of them there. The magister had half expected a fifteenth, but then she may have been watching from hiding, as she was shy of people. He looked at the others.
‘Are you all ready?’ the elven magister asked the assembled young warriors.
‘Yes!’ they chorused.
He looked round the group of twelve. They were so young. He had asked for volunteers, and they were all more than eager. At the beginning, that was. Now one or two of them seemed more than a little afraid. Not that he could blame them. It was a very frightening thing he was asking of them. He noticed the youngest of them was visibly trembling. He was a lad of only sixteen turns of the sun, and yet he had volunteered readily enough when asked.
The old elf sighed. Better give them one last chance to change their minds. He hoped that none of them did or there would not be sufficient for the task. Certainly twelve was the recommended number, but maybe less would suffice.
‘There is no censure to any who wish to change their minds. It is a fearsome thing you are volunteering to do.’
One member of the group looked at the youngest. ‘Are you all right, Bry?’ he said. ‘No one will think you a coward if you withdraw.’
‘Maybe not, but I would,’ replied the young man. ‘I said I’d do it, and do it I will.’
‘So be it,’ the mage said. ‘Form the circle.’
The twelve young men formed a circle around the mage and the cleric of Kalhera, who had also accompanied them on their journey. They drew their swords and knelt, sword tips on the ground and hands clasped over the hilts. They bowed their heads.
The young man known as Bry closed his eyes. He did not know what was to happen, only the outcome. His fear was almost palpable.
The others felt it too, but they were all warriors, and none of them, not even Bry, allowed it to affect their determination to go through with it. They had loved their king and wished to do this last thing for him.
Bry heard the cleric begin his chant in the centre of the circle, and then the mage joined with a chant of his own. The two chants seemed to weave around each other, in and out until the two men seemed to be chanting one chant.
The young man felt a little strange, light headed, almost, and then there was a sudden wrenching pain that seemed to be accompanied by a crack. It was gone almost as soon as he felt it and he wondered if the spell had failed. He dared to open his eyes. Yes, something had gone wrong for there were his companions still kneeling in place. He glanced down at himself. Yes, there were his hands grasping his sword.
But just a moment! What was that lying in front of him? With horror, he realised it was his own body. The spell had worked after all. He was dead, but his soul was tied to Vimar. He would remain here to guard the body of his King until the prophesied time came.
The group of twelve warriors looked at their bodies. Bry was thinking of all the things he had not done in his sixteen years. He would never now marry and have the love and companionship of a woman, never hear his children and grandchildren laughing and playing. Never again eat a good meal or get drunk with his companions. For centuries to come he would patrol this lake and the hidden tomb in the caves below, protecting them from harm until the eight came. The Wolves.

PART 1

MEETINGS
CHAPTER 1

PROPHECY

The half-elf leafed through the book that he was studying. He was due to take the tests to end his apprenticeship soon. Mabryl, his master and adopted father had sent off to the Mage Tower in Hambara asking for the young man to be considered for the tests at the next opportunity. He was a tall, handsome young man, just over six feet with shoulder-length auburn hair, a closely trimmed beard and eyes of an intense blue.
He was sitting in the study at the home of Mabryl in Bluehaven, which was situated on the south coast of the land of Grosmer. With him were Mabryl’s other two apprentices, 14 year old Tomac and 16 year old Emmienne. Tomac pushed a lock of his unruly dark hair out of his eyes.
‘I think that’s the Master coming in now, Carthinal,’ he said. ‘You’d better get looking as though you’ve been doing something instead of moping around waiting for that letter, or you’ll be in trouble.’
Just as he said this, the door opened and Mabryl entered shaking his cloak out as he did so.
‘It’s pretty cold out there,’ he said, ‘and it’s turning to snow if I’m not much mistaken. Unusual this far south.’ He turned to his three apprentices. ‘Have you finished the tasks I set you?’ He hung his cloak on a stand by the door. Carthinal stood up and walked over to the fire, putting a fresh log on to the flames.
‘Come and get warm, and, no I’ve not finished. I can’t seem to settle down to anything until I hear about whether I can take the tests soon. I think Emmienne has finished though. I can’t say about Tomac.’
‘Nearly,’ replied Tomac, jumping down from his chair and carrying his workbook to his master. ‘I was a little stuck on the moon phases though. It’s complicated trying to work out both moons at the same time.’
‘Stick to it, youngster,’ came from Emmienne on the window seat. She grinned across at the younger boy, the grin lighting up her plain face. ‘I had problems too, but it comes eventually.’
Tomac groaned and went back to his seat.
‘I’ve finished though, Sir,’ she said. ‘I’ve learned that new spell you gave me and am sure I can make it work. When can I try it?’
Mabryl laughed. ‘Such enthusiasm. We’ll try it out tomorrow, I think. In the meantime, I’ve made what I think may be a big discovery. Perhaps the most important one for many, many years. Look.’ He put an ancient looking book on the table. The three apprentices gathered round.
‘I think it may be a spell book from before the Forbidding,’ he went on.
Emmienne gasped. ‘That is old. And if it is, we’ll be able to find lost spells. You’ll be famous, Sir.’
‘Calm down, Emm. It may not be the spell-book of a magister, or even an arch-mage,’ smiled Carthinal. ‘It may have just the spells we already know and not any of the lost ones.’
Nearly seven hundred years previously there had been a war between conflicting mages. It had caused such devastation and hardship that the king had forbidden the use of magic on pain of death, and he ordered all spell books to be burned. Some, however, had been hidden and these came to light occasionally. During this time, much knowledge had been lost and there were mages working to try to re-discover the lost spells. If this book were to be of use, it would need to be taken to one of these mages.
Just then the door opened and Lillora, Mabryl’s housekeeper entered.
‘Sorry to disturb you, sir,’ she said, ‘but a bird arrived a few minutes ago. I thought you should know.’ She glanced towards Carthinal and smiled. ‘Probably nothing important though,’ she teased.
‘I’ll come and look,’ replied the mage and left the three apprentices to their own devices.
Carthinal picked up the book and began to leaf through it. He could understand little of what was written there. Firstly it was in an archaic script and language and secondly he was as yet only an apprentice and had not the knowledge to understand more than a limited number of spells.
He frowned as he tried to read the words on the page. He lifted the book from the table to take it nearer to the light when a loose page fell onto the floor. He stooped to pick it up and realised that he could read it, unlike the rest of the book, and that it was not a page that had fallen out, but a note that had been inserted there. He took it to the window seat and sat by Emmienne to read it.
‘What’s that?’ asked the brown-haired girl, straining to read it upside down.
‘I’m not sure,’ replied Carthinal wrinkling his brow. ‘It fell out of this book that Mabryl has bought but it doesn’t seem to be the same writing, nor is it in the same archaic script. It’s a note of some kind.’ He paused to read it.
Just then, Mabryl came back holding a piece of paper in his hand.
‘It’s good news, Carthinal,’ he told the young man. ‘There is a space for you to take your tests in the next batch, which take place just before Grillon’s Day. That’s in about five sixdays time so we’ll need to leave here soon to allow us time to settle in before your ordeal.’ He saw that Carthinal was holding a paper. ‘What’s that you’ve got there?’ he queried.
‘It fell out of the book you bought,’ replied Carthinal. ‘It doesn’t seem to be by the author of the book though. It’s in a more modern script that I can read. It doesn’t make much sense though.’ He handed it to the other man who read it, then read it again, this time out loud.

‘“When Kalhera descends from the mountains, and orcs once more roam the land,
When impossible beasts occur and the never-dying man is once more at hand.
Then the Sword that was lost must once more be found; only it can destroy the threat
And kill the immortal mortal to balance out his debt.”

‘It does seem a strange thing to write,’ said Tomac, ‘and it doesn’t make a lot of sense either. How can Kalhera descend from the mountains? She’s a god and the gods don’t come down to Vimar.’
Mabryl turned the page in his hand and saw some more writing on the back.
‘This says that it’s a quotation from something that the writer heard and wrote down. The author says he visited the Oracle on the Holy Island and this was what he was told the Oracle had said earlier in the day but to no one in particular. Only the attendants were present it seems.’
He replaced the paper in the book on the table and turned to Carthinal.
‘We must take this to a colleague of mine in the Mage Tower when we go,’ he continued. ‘She is working on finding the old spells, I believe and this may be of use to her. The loose note may be a prophecy if it came from the Oracle, but who knows when it was made? It could be that it was centuries ago, or yesterday; and it could be referring to a time well in the future or even in the past. I think we should ignore it for now.
‘Lillora says that our lunch is almost ready, so I suggest we go to the table before she gets mad.’
The three apprentices forgot all about the book and the note as they enjoyed the housekeeper’s excellent cooking and after the meal they returned to their studies.
Mabryl gave them all tasks to complete and then went out again to visit the Duke of Bluehaven who was an old friend of his, taking the book with him.

Duke Danu of Bluehaven had trained at the Mage Tower in his youth. He had some talent for magic, but with the death of his elder brother in an epidemic, he had to take over the duties and prepared to become the Duke one day. He had never taken the tests to end his apprenticeship, but he retained an interest in magic and still practiced it in a small way. ‘To keep my hand in,’ he told people.
Today he was sitting in his study going over the accounts of the duchy when a knock came at the door.
‘Arch-mage Mabryl to see you, sir,’ said his butler.
‘Send him in, then,’ replied Danu, rising from his seat and walking over to clasp Mabryl in a hug. ‘You’ve not been to visit in some while, my friend,’ he scolded the other man. ‘Busy with your three apprentices, I suppose.’
Mabryl smiled at his friend. ‘Yes, they do keep me busy. Carthinal is ready to take his tests and become a full mage now.’
‘Is that so?’ Duke Danu raised an eyebrow. ‘Doesn’t time fly? Hardly seems any time at all when you took that scruffy little urchin in off the streets. Everyone thought you were mad, you know. Taking a street child to be your apprentice; and then adopting him? Well, it seems we were wrong. He’s turning out all right.’
‘Considering his background, yes. He still has his faults and I can’t say there weren’t times when I agreed with you that I’d done the wrong thing. He still needs to control his temper better and his good looks don’t help him to control his baser instincts. Girls, and older women too, flirt outrageously with him, and he enjoys it a little too much! But I didn’t come here to talk about Carthinal. I’ve made a discovery and I want your opinion.’
He pulled the spell-book out of a bag at his side. ‘I’m going to take this to Yssa at the Mage Tower when I take Carthinal. She will be the best to decide how important it is.’ He handed the book to Danu.
The Duke whistled. ‘This is important, Mabryl. I can’t read it, but it certainly looks like a spell-book to me. It’s old and could easily date to before the Forbidding.’ He picked up the note that was still between its pages. ‘What’s this?’ he asked.
‘A little note that was in the book. Carthinal found it. It doesn’t seem to belong to the book though, and I’ve thought it could be a hoax. Someone putting a seeming prophecy in an important old book.’
‘Maybe, but I don’t think so. Some research I’ve been doing suggests that Grosmer is about to face some danger. This may be a prophecy about that. I would suggest you take it to Rollo in Hambara when you go. His library is much more extensive than mine is and he can find out more. I’ve been in touch with him about this possible danger so he knows a little of what I suspect.’
‘I don’t know Duke Rollo,’ Mabryl replied. ‘He may not believe me. I’ve heard he’s a suspicious man. I think there is a possibility this note is a hoax even if you don’t. I’ll need to prove that I’ve come from you.’
‘I’ll write you a letter to give to him,’ Danu said going over to his desk and picking up his pen. ‘I’ll also give you this.’ He picked up a small statuette of a trotting horse about three inches long and two high that sat on his desk. ‘It’s one of a pair that we found in our adventuring days. He has the other. He’ll know that I’ve sent you when he sees that, especially if you ask him about the other one. Now, sit down and I’ll get some wine for us to drink while we talk about other things.’
The two old friends then spent the afternoon remembering past times and gossiping about the goings on in the city of Bluehaven as the afternoon passed into evening and the Duke’s work lay unfinished on the desk.

There are dragons and magic in the world if only you look for them… V.M. Sang

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