Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Be Wary of Strangers, Part 6

Vampire: Loki/Thor x Reader
Part Six

 The next day—an agonizingly long handful of hours later, as neither of you were able to sleep after the visit with the vampire—you sit across from Loki. The both of you nurse mugs of tea. Silence stretches between you as you both look into your mugs, lost in thought. Somewhat afraid to break the silence, you clear your throat. Loki glances up sharply.
“So,” you begin. “Maybe we should go through the books again. Try to narrow it down somehow.”
Loki shakes his head slightly. “Do so if you wish. I will visit the one who turned him. Perhaps he will have answers.”
“Who?”
“He called himself Endymion.”
You sip at your tea. The name sounds familiar, though you can’t place it. “Hmm. Are you sure you can trust him?”
“As sure as I am that I can trust myself,” he says darkly.
You nod as if you understand. After a second that your mind stretches into a hazy, sleep-deprived minute, you ask, “Is that a yes…or a no?”
Loki’s grip on the mug tightens; his knuckles go white. The ceramic cracks.
“Loki—!” You hop from your chair as the mug shatters, and scramble for the nearest wash cloth. “Are you alright?”
Loki stares down at the shards embedded in his hands—blood begins to prick from beneath his skin—and laying across the tabletop.
Hesitantly, wondering why he isn’t moving, you swipe away the mess on the table. “Hey,” you say quietly. “Can…can you hear me?”
Loki glances at you. Without a word, he stands and goes over to the sink.
You watch, utterly baffled. Carefully, you walk to him and lay a hand on his shoulder. You fight a yawn as you talk to him. “Okay, you need to sleep before you do anything else. That…wasn’t normal.”
Loki’s expression makes it clear he doesn’t appreciate your demand. He finishes picking out bits of ceramic from his hands. “I’m leaving. I’m going to see Endymion. In the meantime, you can mull over what I didn’t want to tell you earlier.” Somewhat angrily, he flicks water from his hands and dries them on a towel. “My brother and I are from another world entirely. We’ve been in this land—wherever this is, it’s similar enough to the world I know—for a few months.”
You take a step back. A thought shudders through your mind. “How…how are you able to care for my sister?”
“The funds and influence I’ve garnered in this world are more than sufficient, never fear of that.” Loki seems to soften slightly. “Our bargain still stands.”
“If anything happens to her while I’m still around…” You trail off, clenching your fists and shaking a bit. You want to hurt Loki very badly. Him being a stranger with the funds to care for your sister was one thing. But if he was from another world, and whatever source of funding he had was depleted or destroyed…because, really, how much could he have made in a few months? How could he possibly have had the time to gather the influence to build a house like this, pay for labor and amenities, and then pay for life-support at the drop of a hat? Had he even been outside of this country?
Trying to calm yourself, you close your eyes. “We both need to rest before we start getting violent.” You follow your own advice and tromp upstairs.

After a wonderfully long nap, you search for Loki. It isn’t until you get to the kitchen that you find a note: I’ve done as I’ve said. Don’t go into the basement alone. Wait for me.
You do your best to keep occupied, and research vampire lore. Four days pass. On the fourth day, you successfully adjust to a nocturnal sleep schedule.
You’re reading in the library when a bone-shuddering howl begins. You jump, heart pounding, unable to tell if the sound is coming from inside or out.
Hastily, you go to the library window. A heavy fog lays over the land. Eyes blink in and out of existence, and large shadows move through the fog.
You dash downstairs and check the basement door. It seems as secure as before.
Another howl sounds, terrifyingly close. “Definitely the basement,” you gasp. As if in answer, raucous baying and the sound of splintering wood come from upstairs.
Shaking, and debating whether or not this is a good idea, you go upstairs to the living room. Canine jaws and claws snap at the bars of all visible windows. Judging by the sound, they surround the house. The front door shudders. Boom, thud, sccrraaape.
You snatch a butcher knife from the kitchen and hurry to your room. It seems to be a safe place at the moment.
Placing the knife on your bedside table, you hurry to the window. The shades are drawn back, showing the luminescent nightmare scene below.
A body thuds against the window, clawing and scratching. A heavy paw makes it past the intricate bars. With the sickening sound of cracking glass and bone, it’s gone, sliding down the side of the house. You jerk back. “Was that a wolf?!” you screech. “But I’m—second story—window—jump—!”
You yank the blinds over the window. Panicking, you do your best to shove a wardrobe in front of the window. You only make it halfway, but it’s better than nothing. You barricade the door with a chair and the bedside table.
Not knowing what else to do, you huddle in your bed. The braying and howling continue throughout the night. The sounds coming from the basement gradually grow more hoarse, and desperate.
You close your eyes, clutching the knife and waiting for the dawn.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Seven Magic Mirrors, Guest Post: But One Life

It is Day 6 of the Magic Mirrors Blog tour. Today, we have a guest post by author Wyn Estelle Owens on her story, "But One Life." It sounds like something I've been craving more of lately: short historical fiction.

---
But One Life, a retelling of Snow White set during the American Revolution, actually has a bit of complicated history behind it.
You see, I never even dreamed I’d ever write it. Or anything like it, really. Historical fiction was a genre I was notoriously picky about. When writing a story, 90% of the time I’ll write a fantasy. Historical fiction is not something I would have decided to write as a random project, it’s just not my style.
Waaaaaaay back in 2016, right as the Five Magic Spindles contest was wrapping up, I guessed that the next contest was most likely going to be Snow White, and started planning. I came up with a very interesting idea and spent the next year planning and plotting and worldbuilding.
Which, in the end, was that story’s undoing. The world I made and the story that belonged to it was too vast and complicated for me to stuff into 20,000 words and still make me feel as if I’d done it justice.
So there I was, in the first week of the 2017 July session of Camp Nano, with no story and VERY aware if I stalled much longer, I might not be able to participate at all. And I wanted very, very badly to participate in the contest.
It was then an idea formed. I was sitting there, bemoaning my fate to a friend, when a series of factors collided in my head.
I’d always loved the American Revolution, mostly from watching Liberty’s Kids when I was little. One of my favorite books, The Sherwood Ring (which is seriously amazing) is set during the revolution. And it just so happened that I had been reading some American Revolution themed stories recently and had been listening to a near-unholy amount of Hamilton the past few days.
So I opened my mouth and blurted, “Hey, what if I wrote Snow White in the American Revolution?”
My friend, being smart, immediately asked how I’d make it work, and we had a brief plotting session. The first solid part of the story was Ginny—though back then, she was named Gwendolyn (a month later I discovered that name wasn’t in use during the 1700s, so I had to change it). However, I immediately knew Ginny was going to be a spy. If she was a spy, there would be no risk of straying to close to the dreaded trap of the Passive Heroine, which is definitely Something To Be Avoided when rewriting fairytales with sleeping curses. There were a couple of things that came to be in that brief plotting session—Captain Ethan (my amazing ‘prince’ character), the climax, and my pride and joy: Ginny’s way of sneaking messages under prying, suspicious noses.  But that would be spoilers, so you’ll have to go and find out how she does it yourself 😉. (Plug, plug).
It’s kind of strange, almost, how this story came to be. Back when the contest officially started, in June last year, I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d spend the next 6 months writing a Historical Fiction tale. I especially wouldn’t have imagined that Historical Fiction retelling would go on to win an Honorable Mention.
And I never would have guessed I’d be here, publishing my first book. Which is not a fantasy.
Life sure is funny, sometimes, isn’t it?

---

Author Bio:

Wyn Estelle Owens is the penname of a young woman who’s still figuring out what this whole ‘adult’ thing is all about. She lives in a big, old house in Maryland by a Hundred Acre Wood (dubbed Neldoreth) with her parents, three occasionally obnoxious brothers, her dog Jackie, and her rabbit Joker. She is fond of reading, writing, drawing, speaking in dead or imaginary languages, playing videogames, quoting classic or obscure literature, being randomly dramatic, and generally making things out of yarn. Her dream is to write stories that inspire people to chase after the wonderful world of storytelling. Her favorite all-time authors are Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Christa Kinde, and above all, J.R.R. Tolkien, who first inspired her to pursuing novel writing when she read the Hobbit at the age of seven. Find her online at: Goodreads || Facebook
---
Ah, I can't wait to read this one!

Y'all know the drill by now: full tour schedule here, enter the awesome giveaway, check out today's posts. :D

October 30th

Knitted By God's Plan: 7 Reasons to Read
Light and Shadows: 5 Reasons to Read
The Language of Writing: Review
Ink Calamities: Review
I'm Charles Baker Harris (And I Can Read): Review
The Labyrinth: Guest Post
Resting Life: Guest Post

Monday, October 29, 2018

Seven Magic Mirrors, Character Spotlight: Taliyah

It's day 5 on the Seven Magic Mirrors blog tour, and today I have a character spotlight from "Overpowered"!

---




Snow (Taliyah)
 Snow (Taliyah)


Favorite proverb: Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened calf and hatred with it.
Backstory:  After Taliyah’s mother died, Taliyah took over the running of her father’s house.  Even her father’s remarriage to a demanding woman—his dead brother’s widow—could not destroy her joy. Yet after Taliyah’s father died she found herself suddenly unprotected. When she was threatened by her stepmother’s hard-eyed son she struck hard and fled, leaving him bleeding.  Now, dressed as a boy, she seeks shelter among the outlaws of the Yeshurni hills.  Yet she knows that the Avenger of Blood must be hard on her heels.
Appearance: Slender and smooth-skinned, with black hair and eyes.  Her face is delicate, but not so much so that it is impossible for her to pass for a boy.  Her hands are rough from many years of work.  Her hair has been cut messily to just above shoulder length, and her face is always covered in dirt.  She wears several layers of baggy tunics and a shapeless linen cap.  She is 17 but is passing as a 14-year-old boy.
Her Role in the Mercenary Band: Although she has no military skills, she makes herself useful by helping Fig to gather food, cooking, running messages, and assisting in the band’s non-military work (helping with harvests, shepherding, and so on).  Snow also takes on the role of peacemaker, trying to keep Thorn and Cedar from feuding.
Author’s Notes: I love the way that Snow’s story kept deepening as I wrote and rewrote Overpowered.  I love her courage, her integrity, and her horribly unsuccessful attempts to pass as a boy.  (Really, she’s terrible at it.  Two separate characters figure her out within five minutes of meeting her.)  Although she’s in a situation where it might be wise to be wary (band of murderers, anyone?) she quickly grows fond of her dangerous companions.  While this leaves her open to threats from some of them (one of whom she never even recognizes as a threat… I’m beginning to think that she’s a wee bit oblivious), the others become her trusted allies.

---
One thing that turns me off in fiction is a female pretending to be a male...and then absolutely no one notices.
Image result for mulan meme all he had to do was look down
I enjoyed the movie, but still...this. ^ XD

*cough* Anyways. *cough*
I'm glad to hear that "Overpowered" doesn't adhere to that trope. :D

Again, head over here for the full tour schedule. Don't forget to enter the awesome giveaway, and be sure to check out the other tour stops for today!

October 29th

Knitted By God's Plan: 7 Reasons to Read

Light and Shadows: 5 Reasons to Read
Dreams and Dragons: The Awesomeness of Biblical Retellings
Heather L.L. FitzGerald: Character Spotlight - Fig
The Labyrinth: Character Spotlight - Taliyah
Unicorn Quester: Character Spotlight - Yotham
Selina J. Eckert: Guest Post - Inspiration for Overpowered

Dragonpen Press: Guest Post - What is Overpowered?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Know the Novel: Reality of Devotion

Check out Christine at Musings of an Elf!

It's almost November!
I only ever got to participate in one of the Beautiful Books linkup, and was saddened that there wouldn't be any more forthcoming. So when I found out about this linkup, I leapt at it!

1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?
I think it might have been this song from Moana.


Don’t get me wrong, it was a great movie, but afterwards I was just so done (and am still slightly irked) with the “follow your heart” message that inundates everything Disney. Seriously, what if what’s in your heart isn’t sugar, spice, and everything nice? What if it’s…not-so-good? Or downright evil?
With that small question, a million little things started to stand out from a variety of sources.

2. Share a blurb!
This is a snippet from a scene that may or may not make it. The story outline has gone through several drafts since I wrote this, but it’s the only readable snippet I have at the moment.
---
“You say to help the needy,” Kallias snapped, no doubt reading the rising hostility in Michel’s eyes. “She is more needy than any; she has no choice but to practice the dark arts. All to help us.” Kallias stood between her and Michel.
Michel realized that his hostility had turned to a sour-tasting vehemence; Kallias had seen this before he’d even realized it. Michel held his breath, hoping to calm his racing heart. “She…” He choked on his dry throat. “…is our informant?”
Kallias nodded.
Michel ground out, “This…was not the right time.” Seeing red and feeling the press of the lemon in the folds of his cloak, he left.
---
I feel the need to explain that this lemon was very significant a few paragraphs before. It was a bit of fruit from the garden of a woman who had been very dear to Michel. A garden that said informant mostly incinerated. And a woman that said informant disposed of rather nastily. So yeah. There are going to be a handful of conflicts like this.

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting?
It takes place in a land that has yet to be named. Naming the people groups, characters, and cities kind of sucked everything out of me. It took me over a week and several drafts to sort out the language groups, mix different origin languages, organize the cultures…
It’s all going to be in English, and the languages in and of themselves probably aren’t going to play an obvious part, but I really wanted to get specific with origin languages and name meanings. Organizing the languages also helped me to narrow down cultural influences.
Oh, the chimera. Definitely. They’re kind of important to the story, and the people in the story don’t realize their significance, so I won’t give away too much. Just know that there are buraq, nian, and hedammu.
Edit: Silly me, I forgot to list the names of the nations. :P
Khorites--based in Grecian/Roman culture, and the Hellenic/Italic languages (the hedammu belong to this nation)
Merdochians--based in Ancient Egyptian/Persian culture, and Indo-Iranian/Armenian languages (buraq belong to this one)
Slavomir/Kresimir--mostly based in Medieval/European culture, and Celtic/Balto-Slavic languages (nian belong to this nation)
I didn't look terribly deep into the validity of these charts, but these are what I used to figure things like how difficult it would be for trade and whatnot to be established.
A sun chart.
A language tree. (The gal who made this chart makes an awesome webcomic, too. Stand Still, Stay Silent. 💖)
I also browsed the glossary at Behind the Name.

4. Tell us about your protagonist.
From my Nano page:
Michelakos Blago [Michel for short] is a man with a sea captain’s mettle and a poet’s heart. He’ll face the world to provide for his loved ones, but lately he’s been feeling as if the world wants him to let go. It's certainly doing its best to tear his estates from him. He’s currently a respected member of the community and a candidate for the Council of Limta—a rigorous event where the city-states’ laws are decided—but after a witch in training ravages the countryside, things change.

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?
Oh, goodness. Let’s see, the metaphysical antagonists are selfishness, greed, and other such offshoots. The physical antagonist is probably going to end up being Kallias.
Also from my Nano page:
Kallias is shrewd. He's always doing his best to protect his childhood companion, Delara—and asking her to procure valuable items from her mother, the witch Lilith. He wants to undermine the regime that made him a eunuch and drove his mother mad, but that’s hard to do when your only allies are a half-mad woman and a rich sea captain content to meddle only in home affairs. Matters become more complicated when his employer and distant cousin, Michelakos, buys a new slave--a slave who knows Kallias' secrets.

6. What excites you the most about this novel?
The character conflict. *steeples fingers together* *smiles*
Also, oddly enough, Kallias’ development. He’s technically not the protagonist (though he was originally going to be) because he doesn’t have as much to lose as Michel. I’m hoping that he’ll deviate from his original Negative Arc and come out with his heart intact.

7. Is this going to be a series? Standalone? Something else?
I was planning for it to be a standalone. But, who knows.

8. Are you plotting? Pantsing? Plansting?
Plantsing. If I try to pants, I fall on my face after two thousand-ish words. If I try to adhere too rigidly to an outline, everything chokes and dies.
I have the characters more or less figured out, all the major world-building is done, and I know a smattering of important scenes. Let’s hope this is enough to get me through November. :P

9. Name a few things that makes this story unique.
I’m never sure how to answer this kind of question/demand… XD
Um, the chimera and the way they’re linked to the people, I suppose. Also the lack of focus on the “follow your heart” motif. The more I think about it, the more it annoys me…

10. Share a fun “extra” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).
Here’s my Pinterest board. I’m hoping to find some inspiration pics for location, but for the moment it’s mostly quotes and a few character inspirations.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Be Wary of Strangers, Part 5

Sorry, only one post for this week. I didn't get to this as soon as I would have liked, and almost spaced on the blog tour. :P
I'll make it up by posting three parts next week.

---

Vampire: Loki/Thor x Reader
Part Five

When you wake, food is the first thing on your mind.
You head downstairs, noting the taut silence of the halls. So far as you can tell, you’re the only one in the place.
As you pass by the door that leads to the basement, you wince. What if Loki is still down there? What if he's…well, dead?
You force your thoughts down a different track and head into the kitchen. The entire place continues to hold to the Gothic theme. There are clawed paper towel holders, silverware styled to look like bone; even the refrigerator has an odd, monstrous skull design molded around the water and ice dispensers.
The food in the fridge and pantry distract you from the dark designs. Greens, raw meat, even herbs and spices that look freshly picked.
You’ve never been happier in a kitchen, and never been happier to eat something that isn’t cafeteria food.
Your mood dims slightly as you sit down to eat. Legends of vampires and the superstitions of the locals swim through your mind.
Nosferatu, Lilith, Philinnion. Methods of killing varied as much as the species of vampire. Some were invisible, some stole skills as one would steal money, and some didn’t drink blood at all. The local rumors were rife with tales of soil soaked in black magics, of forests trapped in a life-leeching mist, and of mountains inhabited by revenants. The mist, at least, she could discount from experience.
What would your caretaker duties entail, exactly?
You shovel food into your mouth and make a note to search for information in the library.
“Good morning.”
Your utensils clatter to the table and you stand partway out of your chair.
Loki tips his head slightly. He doesn’t look like he rested at all the night before. “My apologies.” He moves across the room to the pantry, gathering a few canned goods. “I would like to thank you again for your cooperation. It’s been difficult to find help. Everything has to be flown in, and the locals aren’t very…cooperative.”
You glace at him, then at the extra food you have on the counter. “Do you want any of this? I went a little overboard and made too much.”
The way he looks at you, you feel rather like you’d just offered leftovers to a haughty canine. Heat rushes to your face. “Or…not?”
Loki sighs and sits across from you. He has a plate of canned fruit, some fresh greens, and a cold slab of meat drenched in an odd-smelling sauce. “No, thank you. The food seems a tad too modern for my taste.”
You raise your eyebrows. “Are you a vampire, too?”
“No, I’m not.” Loki chuckles. He takes a few bites of his food. “Do you have any questions before I introduce you tonight?”
“I’d just like to know what I’m dealing with. What type of vampire is he? Is he physical, or the vaporous kind, what does he feed on…?” You trail off and make small circles with your utensil, unsure how to wrangle your questions into order.
Loki is silent for a few moments. “I’m not entirely sure myself,” he admits. He eyes you as if weighing his options. Slowly, he says, “Vampirism may be different here than it is where we came from.”
“It’s different all over the world. Where are you guys from?”
Loki is silent and has his head down for so long, you almost wonder if he’s nodded off. At last, he says, “Perhaps later. I would rather not scare you off just yet.” He gives a sardonic smile and continues eating.
“Okay, um…” Trying not to think about what could be more disturbing than your current situation, you rack your brain for other questions. “What am I supposed to do to take care of your brother?”
“Oh, the usual for household pets or an infirm elder,” he says with lackadaisical sarcasm. “Walk him, feed him, make sure he doesn’t get into trouble, douse him in water from time to time.”
“Feed him? With donated blood?” You ask this last hopefully.
“For the most part, yes.”
“So you want me to be a food source?”
Loki sighs again. “Yes, but that won’t happen until I’m certain he can control himself during the feeding. In which case, he wouldn’t be taking any more blood than you would donate at a blood drive.”
After a prolonged silence, you ask, “Why…why’d you do it?”
“That is another topic I would rather not discuss at this time.”
You growl in frustration. “Then what do you want me to ask?”
Loki jabs his fork into his unfinished food. “I shouldn’t have bothered you.” He stands. “I will introduce you tonight. If neither of us die, we shall see what the morning brings. Good day.” With a surprisingly regal grace, Loki takes his food and heads upstairs.
You spend the rest of the day exploring the house. Not only does the place reek of Gothic influence, but some strange items you come across and haphazardly arranged rooms give the impression of a mad scientist. Once you tire of exploring, you alternate between reading lore on vampires and pacing yourself on a treadmill.
You’re in the middle of trying to do both when Loki interrupts you. He knocks on the lintel of the mostly finished exercise room. “It’s time.”


Stone steps lead down into the basement. Loki holds a torch that does little more than accent the darkness. The mythological-looking door hisses shut behind you. As you reach a level area—the room itself, you suppose—the grind of dirt beneath your shoes sounds startlingly loud. You can’t seem to stop shivering.
Loki leads you through what appears to be a maze. All the while, you hear the teeth-aching scrape of metal, and your own ragged breath.
Before rounding a turn, Loki calls out, “Brother.” His voice is piercingly loud. You jump and wrap your arms about yourself.
You round the corner shortly after Loki does, and peer past him. The vampire stands beside a coffin bed sitting in a dim pool of light. His back is to you, but your attention is immediately drawn to his muscles.
“You trust me, Loki? With such a sweet-smelling lamb?” His voice sends a shiver through you. Not entirely sure if the odd sense of pleasure is genuine or not, you reach into your pocket and clutch the small silver crucifix you grabbed on the way down. The sensation slowly dissipates.
Loki sets the torch in a holder on one of the pillars. He introduces you by name. “This is Thor,” he says to you.
Thor turns. The light of the torch seems different—more real—than whatever light is above the coffin bed. Somehow his smile draws your attention away from the blood and wounds veiling his entire frame. “A charming name,” he says softly.
Somewhat unwillingly, you step out from behind Loki. You force your gaze to the wall behind Thor, fighting the urge to look him in the eyes. “H-hi.”
“What bargain did my brother strike with you? What lie did he use?” He inches forward. You see that the chains are attached to a floating stake, and glance at Loki.
“Magic,” Loki whispers. “Do not fear; it will drive into the ground and he will be immobilized before any harm comes to you.”
You face Thor and stiffen your chin. “I’m here to provide for my sister. I knew what you were before I came down here.”
Thor appears surprised. His visible eye seems to shift, becoming a lighter blue. “You have a sister?”
“Yes.” Having to fight whatever hold the vampire has on your emotions, combined with the rush of feeling for your sister, leaves you vulnerable to tears. You blink hard and swipe the tears away. Your heart thuds heavily against your chest.
Thor tilts his head and licks his lips. “I hunger.” When he opens his eye—you realize now that blood coats the other socket—it seems to have again changed color. His fangs are extended.
Loki acts before you even realize that Thor lunged at you. His arm thrusts forward, and a spark of gold flies from his fingers. With a sickening crack, the stake drives into the ground at an angle. Markings on Thor’s thick chains flare to life. Thor shrieks. Eye rolled into the back of his head, he collapses on the ground.
“What did you do?!” you cry. You start to move forward towards Thor. Before you take two steps, Loki slips a chain of garlic and something else over your neck. You stand there, panting.
“Do you still want to go near him?” Loki asks quietly.
Your emotions settle down into pity. “Y-yes, but just…just to help. He looks like he hasn’t been washed since…well, whenever he died.”
“Perhaps another day.” Laying a hand on your shoulder, Loki ushers you back into the maze. “The magic has weakened him, and I’m not entirely sure water won’t kill him.”
“Looks like we’ll have to spend a day holed up in the library to research.”
“Hmm.”
To your surprise, Loki doesn’t lead you back to the iron door. “Where are we going?”
“To the exit.” He looks confused. “I thought it was standard practice with revenants to never leave the same way you entered?”
You sigh. “This is going to be mostly trial and error, isn’t it?”
“With my luck? Most definitely.”

Friday, October 26, 2018

Seven Magic Mirrors, Review: Blood in the Snow


~~~
Her destiny is decided — but betrayal breaks even the best-laid plans. Baili, the princess of the Kingdom of Seven Rivers, has always known what her future holds. Declared the fairest of all by the fabled Dragonglass, she is destined to fulfill an ancient prophecy and unite her homeland with its long-time enemy, the Kingdom of Three Peaks. And in doing so, she may save her country from death and ruin. In order to fulfill her destiny, Baili must travel to the Kingdom of Three Peaks and marry its prince, Liu Xiang. But all Baili's plans and expectations are turned upside-down when her servants and soldiers, acting on her stepmother's orders, turn against her on the road. Baili narrowly escapes with her life, but she's left alone and adrift among strangers. Fortunately, Baili finds refuge in the home of seven animal keepers: servants and slaves to the emperor of Three Peaks. Yet time is running out. Her servants' rebellion was only a small part of a much larger plot. Within weeks, her stepmother plans to unite the two kingdoms, not by contract, but by conquest. Baili must reclaim her rightful place and unite not just two kingdoms but many peoples in order to stop the plan. And if she fails, two kingdoms will be plunged into ruin. Sure to delight lovers of fantasy and fairy tales, this rich and magical Asian-inspired adventure combines Snow White and The Goose Girl in a way you've never seen before.
~~~

                                                                                    
Author Bio:
Sarah Pennington has been writing stories since before she actually knew how to write, and she has no intention of stopping anytime soon. She is perpetually in the middle of writing at least one or two novels, most of which are in the fantasy and fairy tale retelling genres. Sarah's first published work, Blood in the Snow, received a perfect score and Special Unicorn status in Rooglewood Press's Five Poisoned Apples contest. When she isn't writing, she enjoys knitting, photography, and trying to conquer her massive to-be-read list.

Find her online atWebsite || Blog || Second Blog || Goodreads || Amazon




My review:

This was beautiful, and everything I didn't know I needed out of a Snow White retelling. 💗
Unfortunately, I couldn't think of a way to review this without spoilers. So, fair warning: spoilers ahead!
Can there really be such a thing as a spoiler for retellings, though? Since the plots are kind of similar? I digress...

Baili's fortitude is shown early on, and a little piece of it reflects in all of her actions. She faces traitors. She faces liars. She faces an entire castle set against her. With the help of the friends she makes along the way, she topples these obstacles. Note the word choice: she makes friends, she doesn't find them. Most of her companions begin as reluctant acquaintances, and even outright hostile. She finds ways to make friends out of all of them.

Chouko is a nice blend of spicy determination, biting criticism, a steady heart...basically everything one could want out of a mentor character. There is also Ganbaatar; the loud, brawny, quietly mysterious, and utterly lovable (from the reader's perspective, at least) one of the group. The others don't play nearly so large a part as these two, though they each add their own flavors. Ailin, an insightful female servant. Azuma, the quiet loner. The enthusiastic siblings, Renshu and Jialin.

The romance was slow and sweet. Oddly enough, Chouko is the one to initiate things. In her style, she "nearly kills" Baili by tripping her and sending her headlong into the water--right as Prince Xiang passes by. 😆
The prince is strong, and cares for his people. He's also quiet, willing to listen...essentially an excellent leader and perfect companion to Baili.

The names and use of protocol helped give the world its Asiatic flavor. The magic--oh, the magic. "Three drops of blood in the sky or river could summon breeze or current enough to propel a ship; three drops in the snow could wish a child into existence." The system is balanced, and wonderfully executed.

Highly recommended for lovers of fairy tale retellings!

Still not sure if this book is your style? Read the first chapter here!

Made up your mind? Buy it here!

Check here for the full tour schedule and a giveaway!

Other stops on the tour today:

October 26th

Knitted By God's Plan: 7 Reasons to Read
Light and Shadows: 5 Reasons to Read
Dreams and Dragons: Mega Spotlight
Heather L.L. FitzGerald: Guest Post - Snow White: A Story of Change
The Labyrinth: Review
Selina J. Eckert: Interview
Reality Reflected: Interview
Dragonpen Press: Interview

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Seven Magic Mirrors, Guest Post: Why Magic Mirrors?


Alright, the Seven Magic Mirrors blog tour has started! Check here for the full schedule and an opportunity to enter an awesome giveaway.
I had the opportunity to read "Blood in the Snow", and ah it was everything I wanted from a short retelling of Snow White! I'm going to stop there or I'll be gushing for a little while. More details on the story in a day or two. For now, a guest post from Kendra Ardnek, who arranged this whole thing. She also has some retellings herself, so be sure to check those out. :D

---

Why Magic Mirrors?

Once upon a time, way back in the dark ages, Anne Elizabeth Stengl announced something new and exciting - a writing contest with the prize being a coveted slot as one of five retellings of Cinderella in a collection known as Five Glass Slippers. And I had a Cinderella retelling that I was working on! It was called CinderEddy and was a genderswapped adventure story.  

I ... did not finish the story in time to enter it, but it was done in time for me to publish it on my own the same day that the collection did. Then Five Enchanted Roses happened, but that was back when I was still very meh about the fairy tale, so while two ideas occurred to me, I wasn't compelled to write either. And then Five Magic Spindles waltzed into my life and I wrote Poison Kiss, which was THE most fun retelling of Sleeping Beauty that I'd ever written - and my las retelling of Sleeping Beauty had been pretty fun, too. However, like with CinderEddy, I didn't finish my story in time to enter - indeed, I didn't even finish it in time to release it on the same day as the main collection.

Then I found out that my friend, Morgan Elizabeth Huneke, also had a Sleeping Beauty retelling from the contest that hadn't won, and my mother decided to write a Western retelling in an afternoon. (Or so. I don't remember exactly how long it took her to write the story, just that it wasn't very long) Naturally, we all decided to release together last August, during the Rooglewood drought that was that year. Since I wasn't very creative back then, I just used again the name Anne Elizabeth had given her collection - we were the Three Magic Spindles.

And then came along Poison Apples, which was to be the last of the Rooglewood collections - ah, sad day - for which I wrote not one but TWO stories for and managed to actually submit one of them!

Alas, but I didn't win, but I already had a backup plan. The Magic Mirrors. I took my two lovely retellings of Snow White, screamed from the top of a hill to see if anyone else would join me, managed to recruit five other authors ... 

And now we have Seven Magic Mirrors. Yes, it is awesome.

---

Author Bio:

Kendra E. Ardnek loves fairytales and twisting them in new and exciting ways. She's been or acting them on her dozen plus cousins and siblings for years. "Finish your story, Kendra," is frequently heard at family gatherings. Her sole life goal has always been to grow up and be an author of fantasy and children's tales that glorify God and His Word. Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Twitter || YouTube || Newsletter || Instagram || Amazon








---

Once again, here's the link to the full schedule and giveaway. Be sure to check out all the lovely retellings!
Before I forget: If you have a retelling of your own, Kendra's running The Arista Challenge. This particular one is for Rapunzel retellings (yes, I'm still working on mine, I just have yet to figure out a way to post things about it without posting the whole story).
Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Be Wary of Strangers, Part 4

Vampire: Loki/Thor x Reader
Part Four

As he opens the door, Loki feels a pang of guilt. “She’s just another mortal,” he mutters to himself. “I do not envy her task.”
Loki steps into the unlit room. Pillars and alcoves seem to make up the entirety, forming a loose sort of maze. He navigates it easily despite the bones—small, most likely having belonged to rodents—unlit candles, and shattered wood planks littering the floor. “Must you make such a mess, brother?” he calls to the shadows.
The sharp hiss of chains scraping against stone send chills up Loki’s spine. 
“I know you’re here.” His brother’s voice—unusually sinister and predatory—hums through the darkness. “I can smell blood. So warm, so sweet.” Silence drags as surely as the chains had.
“A real treat to eat?” Loki eventually says. He forces a small smile. “You sound almost on the verge of poetry.” He emerges from the odd maze to a raised platform. On the platform is a large coffin, re-purposed as a bed. It used to have four posts; they are missing, likely the result of an outburst of temper. 
He lights a sconce set into the wall above the bed. Twisted blue and red sheets cover it, and the pillows lay haphazardly about. Loki sighs.  “I have supper.” He tosses the small black case. It lands just inside the lantern light with a clatter. 
Another drag of chains, and Thor emerges from the shadows. His clothes are tattered and punctured. His nails are long and sharp, his mid-length hair scraggly and unkempt. Fresh wounds, as if from claws, ooze from his chest. Old blood crusts one of his eyes and numerous areas of his body. His good eye, normally a brilliant blue, is saturated with red from the iris outward.
“You’re looking better,” Loki says.
Thor’s mouth twists in something between a gasp and a smile. Without a word or a glance at his brother, he lunges towards the black case. He tears it open, and scrabbles with the metal lid to one of the canisters of blood.
Loki waits, knowing any help offered will be ignored or reviled. He tries to keep his breathing even, his face impassive, as he watches Thor.
Thor growls at the canister. He squeezes the glass, which begins to crack. The runes etched into Thor’s chains glow. With a weak whimper, Thor sinks to the ground.
Loki moves forward. He carefully unscrews several canisters, leaving them upright, then returns to the platform.
Thor blinks and slowly rises. When he spots the opened containers, he howls in joy and sets upon them.
Loki’s face twists in disgust at the bloody display. It twists still further at his thoughts: I’ve done this to him. This is my fault.
“Are you finished?” he asks.
Thor is leaning against one of the pillars, head lolling back in apparent ecstasy. “Hmm?” He blinks slowly and lifts his head. His single eyes loses some of its red and focuses on Loki. “Brother.” He sounds unsure if he should be saying it like a curse or an exclamation of joy. After looking down at the mess on him and the floor, he says it like a curse.
“Yes, hello,” Loki says with a sigh. He descends from the platform and stands beside Thor. “I’ve found a caretaker for you.” He begins to kneel.
Thor’s eye glows red, and he lunges at Loki’s neck. Instead of finding flesh, his teeth clack against an invisible shield. He shakes his head. “What…? Did I…”
Loki straightens and nods.
Thor slumps against the wall. “I’m sorry.”
“He said you could grow beyond the curse.”
“Who?”
“The one who turned you.”
Thor grimaces, and he laughs slightly. “And you would believe someone who could give such a curse.” He looks as if he’s remembering something. Sounding slightly panicked, he says, “The others. The others you brought before, you said they would be caretakers. They’re gone, aren’t they?”
“No, they’re fine. I managed to separate you before they were drained completely, and returned them to their villages.”
Thor observes him for a minute. “You’re lying.”
“Fine, don’t believe me.” Loki puts up his hands. “I thought that, perhaps, with both fresh and donated blood, you would do better.”
“They’re dead. I killed them. The blood of three innocents and who knows how many more—” Whatever composure Thor has breaks. He leaps to his feet gesticulates wildly as he speaks. “I would have given you a proper warrior’s funeral! A pyre, a boat, anything to—mother—father—” He breaks down and wails. Jerkily, he reaches out and grips Loki’s jacket, hefting him in the air. “Why did you do this to me?!”
Loki wraps his steady, clean hands around Thor’s shaking and blood-stained ones. “Because I need you!”
“But at what cost?!” Thor presses Loki against one of the pillars, still shaking. “I can feel it, this, this, thing inside. This curse. It’s eating me alive. Or, or is it dead? I’m dead, and it’s still eating me…” He trails off and his grip grows slack. Loki’s feet touch the floor.
Hurriedly, Loki pulls away. “It’s keeping you alive. You, apparently, want to stay dead.”
“Yes! That’s it. I died. Why couldn’t you leave me alone?” Thor stares gloomily at his untrimmed nails. “But I can’t give in. Not when this beast inside wishes to…oh.” He glances up, and for a moment almost all red is absent from his eye. “I wonder if this is how…what was his name? I’m having a hard time remembering things…”
“The vampire said mentioning past events would run you into a frenzy. I’d rather not.”
“But he might be able to help! Gah, I think this forgetfulness would drive me mad before the remembering!”
Loki puts a protective ward around himself and readies an offensive spell. “Are you certain?”
“Aye!”
Loki stares hard at his brother. “You’re positive?”
Exasperated, Thor growls, “Yes.”
“Banner.”
Thor’s eye flashes. He cries out in pain and collapses, holding his head. “K-keep go-going,” he gasps. “I shall best this…best this yet!” After another scream, he loses all semblance of sanity. Fangs bared, he launches himself at Loki.
Under his breath, Loki mutters, "This is going to be a long night."

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Reblog- Spec. Faith: Great Male Characters...

Who are some of your favorite male characters in fiction?
I have to say, though it changes from time to time, Janner and Pete the Sock Man from The Wingfeather Saga have held a top spot in my heart for a while. Their heroics and character development is amazing. <3 p="">(Psst, did you know there's, like, an episode for the beginning of The Wingfeather Saga?! I know it's been out for almost a year, but I'm still excited about it. :P)

Speculative Faith: Great Male Characters in Fantastic FictionE. Stephen Burnett asked five female friends to describe a favorite male character from fantastic fiction.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Be Wary of Strangers, Part 3

Sometime last week, I sat down and thought for a few minutes, and came up with a crazily simple solution for avoiding steamy scenes: write it from a different POV! So, while things may be insinuated at some point, they will not be shown. They may very well be nothing more than assumptions of whoever the POV character is at the time. :D
There isn't anything like that in this part; just letting y'all know ahead of time. The first "steamy" scene was going to be around Part 8 or 10. But no longer! The only "steam" in this serial is going to come from awkwardness/embarrassment in a non-erotic fashion, and/or hot water. The latter may be the result of an elemental fight further into the story; not sure if I'm going to keep that scene or not...we'll see.
Anyways. Enjoy!

---

Vampire: Loki/Thor x Reader
Part Three

You step from the carriage, clutching your pathetically small bag of belongings to your chest. Spitting rain and flashes of lightning cast the odd mansion and surrounding trees in leering shadows. It almost seems lopsided; the second and third floors have ceiling-to-floor windows, while the first story has regular sized ones. The half of the mansion hugging the mountainside has sick-green and red creepers crawling up it, while the half extending away from the mountain seems to be under construction.
Loki snaps open an umbrella over the two of you, the black case in his other hand. “You couldn’t have waited for me to escort you down?” he asks with a bemused expression. He puts his hand on your back and propels you to the door before you can answer.
You have just enough time to note that the roof seems odd as well, then you’re through the door. The dark wooden foyer is lit by a chandelier above. Black sconces set into the plain walls and candelabras set upon Gothic tables light the rest of the room. To the left, a flight of stairs leads up into darkness. To the right, two short steps lead to a living room. In the dim lighting, it’s difficult to tell, but you think the couch legs are fashioned like claws. And are those skulls in the fireplace?
Loki pointedly wipes his feet on the mat just inside the door. You hurriedly do the same. Loki hangs the umbrella on a rack near the flight of stairs and sets the black case beside it. “Come, I will give you a brief tour.”
He leads you into the living room. As you walk by a table, you curiously hover a finger over one of the candelabras. It’s not lit by flame. “Is the rest of this place outfitted with modern conveniences like electricity?” you ask.
“Of course. My brother never minded these things before. I doubt he will now.” He gestures around the room, pointing out various things like light switches and the controls to the fireplace.
You take in the intricately barred windows. Are they supposed to be snakes, or vines? In the wavering firelight, they seem to be moving.
He shows you the rest of the house that isn’t under construction. The kitchen, pantry, and dining room are all downstairs. Another staircase near the kitchen leads up to the sleeping quarters and library. He shows you the library first.
With a satisfied smile, he flings open the enormous polished doors. Ceiling-to-floor bookshelves line all the walls save the back one. The back wall is taken up by an unbarred window, and a window-seat with square compartments set in it.
Curious, you investigate. “Who owns scrolls anymore?” you ask.
“I’m more inclined to wonder why more people don’t own scrolls.” Loki pulls one out and unrolls it. You can’t decipher the strange symbols delicately painted upon the vellum. He goes on, comparing different writing styles and languages.
You chuckle at his enthusiasm. He continues his lecture until he leads you to your room. “Most all of your needs should be met here. There are several forms of entertainment, as well as clothing and a full bath.”
The room is styled much the same as the rest of the house. A giant four-poster bed, matching curtains around the bed and single window; even the television is set in a Gothic frame. “Thanks,” you say. You toss your meager bag of belongings atop a low dresser.
Rubbing your elbows, you clear your throat.
Loki cocks his head. “Yes?”
“Your brother…” You bite your lip. “He’s a vampire, isn’t he?”
“Aye. Might I add that I’m extremely grateful for your offer of aid?”
Your lips twist in a wry grimace. “I didn’t have much of a choice.”
“As has been told to me very often: you always have a choice.”
“In this case, my only other choice would be to let my sister die. And leave myself in the loving arms of a superstitious people.”
“That’s still a choice.” He matches your wry expression, then steps back into the hall. “Feel free to settle in. Or, if you wish, I can show you the place you are to never enter alone.”
With a sigh and a quick glance at the bathroom—a shower sounds wonderful—you say, “Let’s get this over with.”
Loki leads you back downstairs and retrieves the black case. Producing a small key, he unlocks a nearly invisible door set in the stairs. Once inside, he produces yet another key, and opens a trap door. Down a cold ladder you go.
At the bottom, a long dirt tunnel is lit by a single torch. Biting cold wafts through the tunnel. You expect to see the torch flicker in a draft of wind. It doesn’t.
Loki takes it and continues down the tunnel. You see other torches, unlit, lining the hall.
A solid iron door set in stone waits at the end. It, unlike the rest of the house, is relatively unadorned. The only markings on it are runes etched into the frame. Loki grinds the torch in the dirt. To your surprise, the door seems to glow; a dead glow that doesn’t light anything except itself.
“This is the entrance to the basement. Only enter if I accompany you. Even then…be wary.”
“Why did you put out the torch?”
“Do you want to suffocate?”
“Er—”
Loki pats your head as if you were a child. Or perhaps an untrained dog. “The light was mostly for your benefit. I will go in now. You, return to the house above. Should you need anything, knock.”
You nod, then point to the door. “What are the runes for?”
“Not here. My brother’s enhanced hearing will penetrate even this iron. He’s never been terribly clever—”
A low, stomach-churning growl sounds from behind the door. Loki ignores it. “—but I don’t want him to have more advantages than he already has.”
After a few more parting words, you return upstairs. Back in your room, you gaze out the window. You finger the intricate and thick iron-wrought lattice. This seems more like a prison than before. Outside, the seemingly ever-present storm rages.
You rifle through the dressers and wardrobes. There’s a mix of Victorian-era clothing and modern attire, more than one person could wear in a lifetime. As the wind bangs scraggly branches against your window, you wonder how many others have gone through this room. You wonder if they were as desperate as you.
You change into a pair of pajamas. As you slide into the bed, you tell yourself, “Brenna’s safe. She’s safe.” Fighting to keep your exhausted tears behind your eyes, you fall asleep.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Be Wary of Strangers, Part 2

I have nine parts outlined, and wrote this one in a couple of hours. I'm going to go ahead and write these, then put them on automatic posting. It'll last for a little while, as the more I think about it, the more struggles and moral dilemmas there are for the characters to face. :P
Since it's October, I'm going to try to do 2 a week. One on Saturday, and another on some other random day. Once October's over, I'm going to do one a week.
Also, I'm kicking around officially setting this in my pet project, Convoluted Chronicles. If I do, I'll likely go back through it and change Loki and Thor to fit more easily/naturally into that world. For the moment, I'm still considering this fanfiction.

---

Vampire: Loki/Thor x Reader
Part Two

The faint pulse of the heart monitor acts as an oddly comforting catalyst to wakefulness. For a moment—the moment that jolted you from a fitful doze—the heart monitor had paused three beats too long.
Your fingers gently stroke your sister’s limp hand. “Hang on, Brenna,” you whisper. “Please.” Of course, there’s no response. Since the car accident, she’s been comatose. Since infection set in, she’s been hooked to life support. Her hair is scraggly and lank, in spite of your attempts to care for it. In spite of the nutrients she is being force-fed, her face is skeletal and pale.
Terribly stiff, you stand to stretch. You hadn’t meant to fall asleep sitting up, but you had.
The doctor enters the room. You glance at him, pained hopefulness straining your expression.
“Three days,” he says quietly.
You feel as if you’ve been sucker-punched. “That’s all? Even with the extra payments?”
He nods. “You’ve considered cutting off the life support?”
You shake your head vehemently. “I’m not killing my big sister!” You mean for it to come out fierce and strong. Instead, you choke on the word, “killing” and the last three words come out faint. “Not after all we’ve been through,” you add through the lump in your throat.
The doctor lays a hand on your shoulder. “I understand. Just consider all your options.” With a sympathetic smile, he leaves.
Your options aren’t many. This small country you’re sojourning in isn’t wealthy. It’s a wonder the town’s one-story hospital even had life support equipment. Your funds are low—gone, once the three days are up. Since trekking into the “forbidden” forest, most of the locals have written you and your sister off as cursed. Since the car accident on the “haunted” mountain road, not even the launderer has spoken to you.
Craving sustenance, you shuffle from the room. The familiar coffee machine waits where it always has, and beside it are cellophane-wrapped pastries. You set the pot to brew. Hopelessness crashes against you.
For a horrid moment, you wonder if you should just…let Brenna go. Your mind quickly goes down another track:
You could sell more plasma, or marrow, as you’ve done in months past. Maybe even sell a kidney. Anything…
Tears drip down your face. Only-half aware of approaching footsteps, you reach for your coffee.
A hand lays on your shoulder. Startled, you jolt and turn. “I’m sorry, I, coffee—”
This man isn’t a native. He’s tall, with an aristocratic air about him. His odd clothing—a black leather vest over a green shirt, pants tucked into knee-high boots, a long black coat, a tasseled scarf—makes him stand out against the sharp white of the hospital. When you show no sign of saying anything, he raises an eyebrow and says, “I see you’re as desperate as I am.”
“I’m…” You blink, trying to process what he’s saying. “What? I mean, yes, but…what…” You can’t help but stare at him, unnerved by his gray-blue eyes. “What do you want?”
“I require a caretaker for my brother. You require funds for your sister.” He tilts his head to the side. “It seems we can help each other.”
Stammering uncertainly, you back away. The man sighs. “Wait, please. I apologize for my blunt entry. It…” He sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. “It has been difficult, lately.”
You realize his expression mirrors your own: haggard lines about the mouth, sleep-deprived eyes, a weary droop of the head. “My name is Loki,” he says. “Would you be willing to consider my offer?”
Again, your limited options flurry through your head. “What would I need to do?”
“My brother is sick,” he begins. Then, he hesitates. “It is a peculiar sickness.”
“One with no cure?”
“More or less, yes.”
With alarm bells going off in your head, you press for more specific answers. After the third question, Loki holds up a hand to stall you. “I realize that this is unconventional, and bordering on villainous, but I can give no specific answers. Suffice it to say that your sister will be cared for so long as you remain a caretaker.”
This doesn’t seem like a good idea. But at the moment, it’s your only option. You lick your lips nervously. “What if something happens to me?”
Loki nods, as if expecting the question. “Her needs will be met, however long she lasts, on or off life support.”
You put out a hand, shaking a bit. “It’s a deal.”
Loki looks amused.
You realize that you’re proffering the coffee. Before you can withdraw it, Loki sets down his case and pours himself a small bit of coffee. He tilts the paper cup in your direction. “To our agreement, then.”