Thanks, Norwescon!

It was great to meet and talk to so many of you at Norwescon. I’m looking forward to hearing from those of you who are considering finishing your manuscripts and publishing your novels. Keep us posted on your progress. It’s so inspiring to hear how many writers have stories ready to get out to readers in the near future. We’ll be glad to offer support and share our experience with you. Feel free to contact us with questions or to announce your releases.

I also enjoyed learning from other writers at panels and by talking at our table. And we’re excited so many of you exchanged cards with us and took an interest in looking up our books to read soon. It was a fun, friendly, art-filled time. Thanks! Here are some fun pictures from Sunday at Con…       -Kennedy J. Quinn

Halo of the Heavens

breathing-space-6-18-13He was startled to see the sun had fallen even lower toward the plain.  It was extraordinary. The sky was changing too—no longer only blue.  A wide band carried the whole spectrum of colors, and the red end began to overtake the blue.  He was spellbound watching it and was suddenly aware the light had nearly faded away.  A deep terror gripped him. The sun was dying.  Perhaps this was the cause of the seamless darkness that he could feel, as much as remember, from before—when he was Under.  He was filled with dread.  He had an urge to bow his head and wail but could not break his gaze from the sun’s demise.

As he absorbed the end of light in helpless resignation, a pinpoint of white light appeared in the darkest part of the sky.  Soon there was another—and another.  There were holes in the darkness.  Or, no, these seemed to be on the sky—or in it, like the sun.  He witnessed the stars as a new creation.  Wonder replaced his fear.  This was not the darkness he once had known.

He rose to his feet and began to turn about, whirling under the beautiful heavens.  Becoming dizzy and falling to the ground, he rolled to his back.  He lay there full of excitement, grinning in pure joy.  Even the memory of Majeska did not interrupt his enchantment.

After a time he sat up again and, filled with new strength, looked toward the mountains.  Their shadowy figures were outlined against the mass of stars.  He marveled at their grandeur as his eye followed the horizon away from the place where the sun had disappeared into the land.  He noticed a strong glow of light near the earth opposite the sun’s resting place.  It was white, like the starlight, but wide and misty. He watched as the halo got wider and brighter.  And then, like a shot through him, an arch of intensely bright light broke over the edge of the plain.  He stood dumbstruck as it grew and grew.  Then his breath caught as the vibrant orb tore free of the horizon and floated—free among the stars.

by Sheri J. Kennedy a.k.a. Kennedy J. Quinn   Unpublished excerpt from draft of UNDERNEATH, book one of SECRET ORDER OF THE OVERWORLD  Published with Permission  Image credit: Sheri J.Kennedy

Note from the Author: After long agonizing, I cut this favorite excerpt from my first epic fantasy novel manuscript, UNDERNEATH, because it didn’t move the story forward. While writing for NaNoWriMo today several of us were discussing how tough it can be to cut scenes you love during edit. I still think of the images in this vignette often, and I’m pleased to have a chance to share it as a flash fiction piece. -SJK

The Exile Returns

Casimund is the exiled elf high-prince of the Golden City, sent away for treason and love. To return he must do away with the one who exiled him.

 

“The only way out is the way you came in.”

Casimund, elf high-prince of the Golden City and exile these three years from family and throne, sharpened his knifeblade. The edge sparked in the flame of the marsin-bowl lamp, light glinting on the glassy cave-walls. The faint crash of distant waves were an echo of his trial.

“Lord Casimund, you are guilty of treason for your union with humankind. Your doom is exile in the Far Islands.” The judge snapped the black stick of doom into Casimund’s hand. The sentence was final, his own anger fixed. Casimund had snapped that doomstick himself, sending foes to death or exile. No doomstick would mete the judge; Casimund was cold with fury.

The two pieces were behind him now, in the store-spot. Mercy on Gladre was slow starvation; judgment was death by unquenched hope.

He drew a heliogram with the broken doomstick, lit the tallow candle, and chanted.burning-candle-clip-art

Abromax appeared as green lines in the darkness. “My lord Casimund. What has summoned me?”

“As ever, the maiden Allesand, who beckons me in dreams to home and child. Tell me, in your night wanderings, have you seen the Council’s eyes? Will they allow my return?”

“My vision is not to the future. That is hidden from all save the Great One. We content ourselves with power over sky and water only.”

“Was I right to woo and wed?”

“Acts completed judge and cannot be broken. But the heart rules with power will itself cannot break.” The mage faded.

Casimund erased the heliogram, snuffed the candle, and took up his rough bow. He would hunt today again for the cold season ahead.

Fish and fowl were in abundance, and island freshwater streams eased thirst. But none would see or praise his deeds or gain his wrath. Another notch the morrow in exile, thinking of Allesand and their half-breed manchild and elven-son, and of the judge who sundered them.

Unbidden Abromax appeared. “My lord Casimund, news. A sea-boat from the Golden City drifts in the swampy marge. There is naught but sand and shells within; mayhap it means your returning. We must leave at once. Carry knife and candle and doomstick. Follow, my lord, to the marges.”

The day’s journey through thicket, waste, and forest brought him to gray marge-land. The light of Twen, moon of Gladre, opened the path before him.

“We are close now. Let patience guide you.”

In the distance lay a white boat on the sand.

Abromax spoke. “Ahead is danger far beyond the trap of mud and slash of thorns. Hold your knife close and your nerves closer. One final gift and way from exile: a termagant stone. Near your heart it will guide your unerring way home. Lose it and in the Far Islands dwell until doom is done.”

The stone was warm. A bird on wing in a dark sky; flecks of gold were stars and a white stone was the moon Twen.

The boat held shells and sand, but unsaid by Abromax was a bundle of linen and rope.

He took loosened the bonds, then opened the linen to reveal a body curled in slumber.

He looked in. His father’s sleeping face caught the blue light of Twen.

The last sight of his father came upon him: the last words, exile; the last act, the doomstick’s thunder.

His own knife warmed his hand, the moonlight glimmering the edge.

“Where am I?”

Casimund drew back. “In loneliness. What brought you here, stranger?”

“I know not. I fell asleep by wife and hearth. Now I find myself in the night. What are you, fellow?”

“I am no one.”

“Your voice–it is familiar. Do I–did I–know you?”

“No. I am an exile.”

“Your voice is of someone lost to me. He was no one, a betrayer. None mourn his passing.”

The waves washed the silence of the rocky beach.

“His end?”

The familiar roar of his father’s voice rose. “The doomstick for his betrayal!”

“You are with me, stranger, now in exile until you die of despair. Your doom without doomstick.”

There was silence, then a sob. “Kill me now. I cannot bear to be apart from all who love me. I have lost everything, even one I cannot name.”

The termagant stone burned against his heart. His father lay helpless before him.

The knife came down in a quick slash.

“You are free of all bonds. Free of despair and danger. Return in peace to your family.”

He took his father’s hand, opened it, and placed the termagant stone in the palm. “Go now, stranger. The stone will guide you.”

His father’s head rose up. The light of Twen lit his doomed son.

“Casimund!”

Casimund pushed the boat into the sea and stood in the waves to watch him go into the night and darkness.

He awoke from his slumber on the beach. The broken doomstick was in his hand.

“My lord Casimund, fair morning to you.”

“Fair travels to you, Abromax. He who pronounced my doom has called my name. What madness is this? Is my exile over?”

“No. Your exile lies within you, high elf and wanderer. Your doom and end are your own choosing.”

“How?”

“Doomsticks broken can be restored. A judge may pardon. A son can forgive. You must return as son and high prince and father. Thrust the doomstick into the candle.”

Abromax began to chant:

Say the words of doom’s unraveling,

Fortune’s lost and home’s returning,

King and elf and child restoring

Father, son, and kingdom gathering.

 

Fog and sand swirled around. Choked by dust, he cried out and fell as darkness overcame him.

The fair Allesand greeted him. “Welcome, husband and high prince!”

He shook his head to clear the fog. “Allesand!”

Laughter of a young boy stopped him. In the doorway Nurse held the hand of their half-breed heir.

Over the doorway were the words in elvish script: “The only way out is the way you came in.”

by Stephen J. Matlock, Featured Author  Published with permission

This is a flash fiction short story written for the NYCMidnight contest. We get a prompt and must write 1000 words in 48 hours, and we must fit the story to the genre, location, and necessary prop. For this story, the genre was fantasy, the location was a deserted island, and the prop was a candle. -SJM

Turn to Stone

Here’s the first story submitted in response to our photo prompt by Jean-Daniel PhotographyThere’s still time to send yours by Sept. 5th to FreeValleyPublishing@gmail.com

w23At the back of the scaffolding the stone crackled. A face appeared, for just a moment, it grimaced and it called. But the boy leaning against the pillar couldn’t hear. He was standing in a portal, where flesh turned to stone, turned to plaster or bronze or any other substance that transformed the animate into frozen inanimate.

A sign nearby read;

‘Take a moment to pause, to look at the world,

To ponder your place in it. Or, take a step down from here,

Walk away and forget to learn anything.

Or stay and wonder, what does it all mean, Forever.’

The boy couldn’t see the sign either. He was teasing for the camera, making a pose. Perhaps it would be alright. Young people have a hard time holding themselves truly still. They fidget, and posing, grin just a little bit.

The face at the back of the scaffolding ached. The boy was frozen, for just an instant, and that encouraged action to be taken by the wrong agent. And once again the face was caught too. Not in the solid, hidden world it preferred, but in the impervious deplorable snapshot. The animate became the inanimate. The boy, along with the face and the bronze man leaning against the other pillar, was stilled for all time in the photograph.

by Victoria Bastedo – winneyb at SnoValleyHobbit