Who Needs A Friend?

People Who Need People

The older I get the more I appreciate my friends. They’ve stood beside me when others have walked away. They’ve listened when others preached. But they also risked our relationship to tell me the hard stuff about myself or the situation I was in. It’s one thing to hear the truth. It’s another to accept, embrace, and change. Sometimes I listened. And then there were the other times…

Together is Better

Sherlock had Watson. The Lone Ranger had Tonto. Batman had Robin. They were inseparable. Can you even imagine one without the other?  As a writer, I wanted to create a similar bond between the main characters in Tears of Min Brock.  I drew from my own experiences (the good, the bad, the ugly) to add color and depth  so they seemed lifelike. At least that was my intent. :)

So here’s hoping you have a few friends to share life with and who love you, warts and all! :)

The following is the “FREE” post of Tears of Min Brock, Chapter 2

“Can’t you see?” Elabea said, her voice full of emotion. “If we cannot read, how can we discern true stories from false? You’ve taught us that Claire was destroyed in the war. But doesn’t this parchment tell otherwise?”

Mithe stepped between Elbea and the mob.

“Then allow me to tell you a short story,” Mithe countered, her saggy cheeks wobbling back and forth. “Long ago, during the Dark War, we received parchments just like the one you’re holding. My husband and two sons journeyed to Claire to answer the invitation, as did your father. They were made warriors and began to fight along side the King of Claire.

“In a great battle at Min Brock, the men of Allsbruth were trapped and outnumbered. The Ebonites destroyed them with no mercy, butchering them upon the Gilden Plains! My husband! My sons!! Killed for what? For a parchment from the…” She stopped before her tongue spoke the forbidden name. “He, the one who sent the parchments, did nothing to help, and they died like dogs!”

Mithe enjoyed the pain and distress her words were causing Elabea. She continued her story.

“Your father has never told you his tale, has he?”

Elabea shook her head.

Mithe snickered.

“Quinn, the mighty leader of Hetherlinn, has never told you why he and Gundin were the only survivors of Min Brock?”

Elabea’s eyes became as big the moon. She bit her lip to quell the tears.

“Ah!” Mithe gloated. “Evidently not! Then here is the truth: Your father is a coward! He betrayed us all! Your father and Gundinshould be dead! Not our men! Not my men!

“Now get rid of that cursed parchment before we do it for you!”

The mob rushed forward.

“STOP!”

The voice came from the shadow of a tree behind cottage Number 7. Galadin emerged from the shade and stood beside Elabea.

“Look at this!” the widow snapped, her long finger wiggling at Galadin like a serpent. “Behold the son of Gundin. The greatest warrior to ever walk Hetherlinn! Where is your father now, boy?”

Galadin stiffened his back and glared at her. “Leave Elabea alone! Go back to your worries!”

Mithe continued undeterred. “I’ll tell you where your father is! Mad he is, lost in his old dreams! You’re the son of a madman, Galadin! One day, you’ll join his insanity!”

Galadin’s eyes became slits of rage but he held his tongue. He leaned close to Elabea and whispered, “Let’s get out of here before they charge us.”

She took his hand and he led her toward his cottage, all the while keeping an eye on the unruly crowd. They continued to hurl threats and curses, and even threw stones.


Step Into My World

Characters

When creating characters, I draw from actors, athletes, politicians, neighbors, etc., and use their physical appearance or personality traits for the basic form. Next, I develop them with more detail so that they fit in my story.

In Tears of Min Brock, I created Mithe from bits and pieces of people I’ve come across in life. But was she believable?

Welcome!

Months later while dining out, I glanced up from my Teriyaki Chicken to witness Mithe waddling in! She didn’t have all of the physical characteristics I’d imagined, and I’m sure she was a much nicer person too, but nevertheless, there she was. My point is that the world is full of funny, interesting, weird, odd, stunning, horrible, beautiful people just waiting to step into your story’s world.

For those following the “FREE” book posts, here’s the next installment.

Passing each dwelling, she noticed all had a crystal arrow stuck in its door. The parchments rustled in the wind like dried corn stalks. Curious, she slowed her pace.

I’m the only one who’s removed the arrow and untied the parchment.

She suppressed her fears until nearing the communal fire, she heard her neighbors whispering and saw them pointing at the arrows. Anxiety and fear sparked within Elabea’s thoughts.

Mithe, the old widow, spied Elabea and most noticeably the parchment clutched in her hand.

“Look!” she hissed to the assembled families. “Here comes Quinn’s only child! Behold what the homely girl is holding!”

The whispers stopped. Eyes stared at her parchment. Children hid behind their parents. Elabea stopped cold in her tracks.

Mithe wobbled toward her, leaning heavily upon her thick, twisted cane. Wrapped about her head and shoulders was a dark tattered blanket; a few long, gray hairs protruded out.

Peering from the shadows was a round face whose flesh no longer fit the bone. Seventy summers had covered it with large, thick wrinkles, some of which cascaded off her high cheekbones like floppy saddlebags. A furrowed brow, wrinkled by bitterness, concealed her pain-filled eyes. The one feature that made Elabea cringe was her voice. Steam hissing out of a pot that had been on the coals too long.

Mithe raised a long, bony finger accusingly at Elabea. “Destroy that invitation before it destroys us!”

“So it’s an invitation,” Elabea cooed, delighted to finally know the note’s contents.

Mithe’s eyes narrowed, angry with herself for inadvertently revealing the parchment’s message. Regaining her composure, she continued her tirade.   “Do you wish to curse us? I command you to destroy it!”

“Why is everyone so afraid of it? What’s it an invitation to?”

Elabea searched their faces. “It’s from Claire, isn’t it?” she asked them.

The crowd pressed toward her.

“Silence!” one man shouted. “The Oracles forbid you to speak the name!”

“Death will come! We’ll be cursed!” yet another threatened.

“Take your parchment and leave us…NOW!” a woman boomed.

“I don’t believe the Cauldron can hear,” Elabea countered. A corporate gasp erupted from the crowd. Undeterred, Elabea continued. “What if the Ebonites tell us such tales in order to control us with our own fears?”

“Stupid waif!” Mithe hissed. “You know nothing of such things!”

“You’re right,” Elabea replied in defense, “I’m ignorant because no one has taught me such things. You refuse to teach us how to read, so how can I know if I cannot read for myself?”

The crowd stepped closer, but all eyes were on the parchment, as if it held unspeakable powers.

Or evil.


Looking for Love…

…In All the Wrong Places.

Even if you hate Country music, I think you’ll agree that the songwriter really hit the target…or a nerve!

A Treasure Chest

I’ve had seasons when I was a carbon copy of this song. Sometimes I was the recipient. Other times I was the devil. As a writer, these emotions/experiences are a treasure chest for character development.

Acceptance

We all want it. We all crave it. But do we ever find it? In my journey, it’s taken a professional counselor to help me face the truth about myself. Such insight and discovery has not only freed me to be a better friend, husband and dad, but has empowered me as a writer when fleshing out my characters.

So when that guy or girl dumps you, don’t loose heart. Instead, turn them into a character and let ‘em have it! :)

For those following the “300 x 2″ FREE book, here’s the next installment.

Chapter 2

Forged Friendship

Elabea darted away from her home, longing to escape her parents and more importantly, the shackles of the Oracles. She did not consider herself a rebel, or one brave enough to defy Ebon’s might. She simply hungered for two qualities her home and village could not provide.

Love and acceptance.

She glanced at the parchment clutched in her hand. The tingling sensation was gone, but the thought that it had been delivered from Claire sent goose bumps racing over her back. After all, she had been taught that Claire was destroyed in the Dark War, and that it was a land of death and deception. The parchment and the Moon King were proof otherwise.

As she ran, she took in the cottages of Hetherlinn. Constructed from planed boards, they were stained white while the windows, of which there were only two, were sealed with dark green shutters. Thatched roofs sloped off the quaint two story dwellings and nearly touched the ground. However, the most notable feature was the numbers above the unpainted doors. Black stain, sloppily brushed by Ebonite warriors, numbered each cottage.

Another requirement from the Oracles so Ebon can tally us like cows!

Hers was Number 17 and sat at the bottom of the crescent. She liked being far away from the others, especially when her father had had too much wildeberry wine.

Another glance. Another painted number.

Fourteen.

She recalled seeing a young boy, Phinnton, peering at her from his bedroom window. She would wave, but he was too shy, and would dart back into the shades.

At night, the sweet refrains sung by Phinnton’s mother floated like a dream into her bedroom. She would open her shutters and rest on her window frame, soaking up the musical serenade. Every now and then, when the wind was blowing her way, she would catch some of the lyrics.

The Singing Stones of Addoli, she reflected. How I wish I knew what that meant…

Several summers ago, the singing stopped. Elabea assumed the boy was older and grew tired of bedtime lullabies. A rumor spread that she had been whisked away one night by the Ebonites for violating an Oracle. From that day forth, Phinnton and his father became hermits.


I’ve Been Duped!

“Its Beauty is its Deception!”

Have you ever wanted something SO BADLY simply because it was attractive?

Maybe a new car? A relationship? The dream job?  And let’s say you get it only to discover that the car still breaks down, the relationship comes with baggage, or the perfect job is managed by crazy people?

Well, I have! As a writer, I draw upon these experiences to craft my stories. Sometimes I regurgitate it unfiltered through a character and let them deal with the consequences. Now THAT’S fun! Other times I become the magician, getting you to focus on the shiny, red scarf in my left hand while my right hand is preparing to WOW you with a rabbit. Well, not a real rabbit, unless of course that’s part of the plot, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make right now…or is it? :)

(For those following the “FREE Book” posts, here’s the conclusion to Chapter 01, Tears of Min Brock.)

Quinn lifted his throbbing head and glared at the women. “Why must you two be so loud?” he thundered.

Elabea remembered a time many summers ago when his eyes sparkled with life, but that was before he went off to fight in the Dark War. Now they were opaque and lifeless. Spying the parchment in the fire, he asked Elabea, “Where did you get that?”

His eyes became icy.

Backing away, she meekly answered, “It was attached to an arrow stuck in our door. What is it?”

It is from the land of lies!” he slurled.

Claire!” Elabea whispered, noting that despite the flames, the parchment was not burning.

“Don’t say the word!” Areall yelled, her placid expression now like churning rapids. Turning her fury on Quinn, she shouted, “Your night of drink is making you talk too much!”

“I’ll talk when and how I like!” he yelled back.

While they argued, Elabea knew this was her chance. Darting to the fireplace, she grabbed a small stick on the hearth and plunged it into the coals.

“Stop!” Quinn roared as he struggled to rise from his chair. “Leave it!” Becoming dizzy, he slumped back down.

“Amazing,” Elabea muttered as she dragged it onto the cool hearth. “It’s not burnt and is even free of soot. It’s so…beautiful.”

“Beautiful?” Areall replied derisively. She crept toward the parchment as if an evil spirit possessed it. “Its beauty is its deception!” she snarled. Unwilling to get any closer, she whispered,“Burn it! Destroy it or you will curse us. The Cauldron will know and see. They will come!”

Elabea calmly picked it up. “They’ve never come before! Besides, how can something so beautiful be evil?”

Areall reached for her but Elabea was too quick. She raced out the door.


Curse or Blessing?

Continuation of Tears of Min Brock

As a teen, have you ever questioned your parent’s way of life? Or wondered if rebellion would be your curse or your blessing? Read on to find out what our heroine, Elabea, decides. Need to catch up? Check out “Past Posts.”

The shaft was clear and glistened like dew while the fletchings were unique colors: the cock feather was yellow while the hen feathers were orange.

This isn’t an Ebonite arrow, she noted. Their shafts are wooden and the feathers black and white. More proof that the Moon King isn’t from Ebon.

Before her thoughts could fade, his mystical face flashed in her imagination. I never saw him shoot this, but who else could have done so?

The rustling paper stirred her curiosity.

Of course, if I take it, I risk violating the Oracles, but this wouldn’t be the first time.

Elabea glanced pensively back at her parents.

Besides, I’ve been going to the oak for most of my life. Nothing has ever happened to us, even when Galadin and I dared to ask to hear a whisper.

Stepping outside, she shut the door and stretched her fingers toward the shimmering shaft. Flesh touched parchment. Tingles raced up her arm. Startled, she jerked her hand away.

The Cauldron’s never known about us at the oak. How will it know now? What harm could come?

She yanked the arrow free.

Nothing happened.

She untied the leather and unrolled the parchment. Even as a simple girl from Allsbruth, she knew that the paper’s thickness and weight were proof it was an expensive quality. Exquisite black etchings were on one side, except for six that were gold.

I wish I could read! she bemoaned.

Drawn to the golden letters, she ran her finger across the marks. Suddenly, a whisper pierced the winds.

“Elabea!”

She shuddered and withdrew her finger.

“Galadin?” she demanded, looking this way and that for her best friend, who was noted for playing practical jokes. Only the wind answered.

Regaining her senses, she went back inside and closed the door.

“I told you I saw something last night!” Elabea boasted as she held the parchment and arrow high.

Areall’s eyes widened as if seeing a specter. She sprang and snatched them from Elabea’s hands.

“What have you done?” Areall scolded as she raced to the door. “What have you done!”

She heaved the arrow outside and slammed the door shut. “Your curiosity will bring death to us!” She darted to the fireplace.

Startled by her mother’s erratic behavior, Elabea asked, “What are you doing?”

“This is a curse!” she yelled as she crumpled the parchment. “It goes against the teachings of the Oracles!” She tossed it into the flames. “I must destroy it before…”

She let her sentence fade, as if satisfied that the fire would quell any uprising their daughter had instigated. Areall returned to her chores as if nothing had happened.


Night Mystery…more Free “Tears”

Here is today’s portion of Chapter 1, The Moon King from Tears of Min Brock…

Elabea rolled her eyes and began banging her bowl again. Areall gently stopped her drumming, and with a patronizing smile, returned to her chores.

The conversation was over.

After a moment of silence, Areall asked, “Would you like to continue learning how to knit?”

Elabea let out a dramatic sigh. “You know I hate to knit! And why aren’t you willing to discuss this? Why do you pretend all is well?   Do you really like the night raids and wearing this?”

Elabea yanked at her tunic.

Areall flashed her another belittling smile just as Elabea’s father, Quinn, stumbled out of the bedroom. Bumping his forehead against the low threshold, he muttered something unintelligible. Rubbing his sore head and mumbling angrily, he staggered toward the fireplace. There, he fell into a wooden chair to begin another day, sitting and staring into the glowing embers that held no answers to his misery. Like the days prior, Quinn would slip further into despair, an occasional grunt about Min Brock shattering the silence.

“Father,” Elabea said, knowing when he was hungover it was better to leave, “I’m going to the meadow.”

Like the other parents of Hetherlinn, Quinn and Areall had banned her from visiting or climbing the oak. Despite their threats and even subsequent punishment, Elabea continued to visit. Overcome with their own personal pains, they resigned themselves to defeat, hoping against hope that the Cauldron would not discover their wayward daughter.

Quinn waved a rubbery arm while Areall huffed disapprovingly.

Elabea threw the door open. The cold breeze took her breath away; she pulled her shawl closer. A rustling sound near her ear made her turn to inspect. Embedded in the door’s rough plank was an arrow. Wrapped about its shaft and secured with a leather strip was a parchment. It was twitching in the breeze.

The THUD I heard last night must have come from this arrow!


Oracles! A Rebel’s Heart! More Free “Tears”

Here is the next installment of Chapter 1, The Moon King, from Tears of Min Brock

“The vapors from the Cauldron of Ebon travel far and hear much!” Areall whispered. “You should respect the Oracles, my daughter!”

Areall did not remove her hand until she was convinced Elabea would humble her tongue. Finally, she dropped her hand and returned nonchalantly to her chores.

Elabea stared at her mother. “Aren’t you the least bit curious?”

“No,” she curtly replied.

“Well–I am,” Elabea snipped, her curiosity piqued. “Nothing happens in Hetherlinn, or all of Allsbruth for that matter.”

Areall spun around. Her eyes narrowed. “‘Nothing’ is good, Elabea. ‘Nothing’ means no more war. ‘Nothing’ is a blessing to life.”

“If this is life,” Elabea said while thumping her spoon, “then life stinks!”

Areall sighed and decided upon a different tactic. Pulling up a chair, she sat across from Elabea, hoping a calm discussion would end this battle of wills.

“Do you remember the stories of your youth?” Areall gently asked.

“Yes!” she bemoaned as her spoon beat a rhythmic cadence on her bowl.

“Then you remember that the Dark War ended the tyranny of the King of Claire. Since that day, the Ebonites and the Cauldron have guarded and guided us. The Cauldron’s drone is a gracious reminder of all we’ve been blessed with.”

Elabea stopped thumping her spoon and listened. She had become so accustomed to the drone’s perpetual nature that she no longer heard it. As she listened, she realized that it was always there, just like the air that she breathed, day and night, winter and spring. Its tone reminded her of the wind howling through the hollow of a dead tree, low in pitch, monotonous. Ominous.

“That’s why,” Areall continued, “we must try our best to obey the Oracles of the Cauldron.”

“And what about their night raids?” Elabea huffed. “What have we done to deserve those?”

“It’s for our own protection. They simply need to tally us to make sure no one has—”

“Listen to you!” Elabea interrupted. “Can’t you see that we’re prisoners in our own village?”

“Oh, Elabea,” her mother answered with a sigh. “I only wish you could see life through my eyes.”

“And I wish you could see through mine!”

Silence.

“I suppose,” Areall added, “we’ve lost some liberties, but those are but inconveniences compared to the peace and prosperity we now have.”

“Peace and prosperity?” she huffed. “The Oracles decree we can only travel five arrow shots from our village. The Oracles determines what we can talk about. The Oracles forbid you to teach us how to read! The Oracles demand–”

“Enough,” Areall interrupted, her voice almost a whisper. “Such curiosity can lead to a rebellious heart.”


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