10 Years of a Writer’s Journal

10 years ago today, I started keeping a writer’s journal — it’s a series of notebooks I call A Forest of Thought (FT for short) and I’m on my 9th volume.

It’s where I keep random ideas, names, and dialog, as well as plotting about my various books, and musings about the writing life. There’s something magical about writing out thoughts by hand with real ink, even when typing is faster (and more searchable) these days.

The first couple of years I was very sporadic with it, but I slowly developed the habit of writing down things that came to mind, before I could forget them. (Because you know you will, even if you tell yourself you’ll remember it!)

It took three years to fill the first volume, but these days I start a new journal each January 1st.

Now, I write something in it — even if it’s just a name I don’t want to forget or a line of random dialog or a quick jot about my writing status — every week, and have kept up that streak for two or three years now; not because I feel I have to, but because it’s a habit.

So, it just goes to show, even if it takes eight or ten years, you CAN develop habits and they CAN change your life — writing-related or otherwise.

It’s been an invaluable resource and a beautiful journey so far. They’ve been with me through so much and recorded so many thoughts from the forest of my mind as I travel the road of a writer.

Happy birthday, my FT journals! We’ve come through a whole decade together, and you’ve helped my writing in ways you could never know.

Onward to new horizons! ❤

(P.S. NaNo is going well and I hope to have an update post on that soon!)

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Tare & Steampunk Little Merman: In Which I Go Rebel For NaNo 2018 (Know the Novel Intro Linkup)

(Just to clarify on that silly post title: Tare and the Steampunk Little Merman are not in the SAME story. XD)

Today I’m joining in on Christine Smith’s fun new noveling linkup to share about my 2018 NaNo project!

But first, a little about my plans.

I’m officially going all-out Rebel for NaNo this year.

There, I said it. 😛

Fun facts in list form (because lists!):

  • We’ll see if it goes according to plan, but I’m currently hoping to work on two different books I’ve started before.
  • So I’m… like… a double Rebel. XD (Since you’re “supposed to” start a new work and only write one thing.)
  • This will be my 9th NaNo. (Whaaat?? Where did time go?)
  • PLUS, this is really my first purposeful time of going Rebel for NaNo!
  • I’ve rebelled two other times, but both were by accident. 😛
  • One year I got halfway into the month and totally scrapped the book, realizing I’d need to rewrite it, and so worked on two other things.
  • And then last year I wrote a short story as well as starting a new novel but that was kind of a last-minute decision.

At the moment my goal is to FINISH (or at least get quite close to their endings) TWO novels I’ve been working on:

1) The Siren and the Skyship (steampunk-fantasy YA Little Mermaid — I mean Merman — retelling) — I started this for NaNo last year, got 40-some thousand words written (because of said short story which filled in the rest of the 50K) and have been working on it all year since. It’s now up to 73K and I’m hoping that I can finish it next month.

2) The Secret of Kedran’s Wood (YA contemporary fantasy, book 2 in a series, featuring Tare — my favorite character. Shh, don’t tell anyone else. …Eh, never mind. They know already. 😛 ) — I’ve been writing this since… erm… 2014. *cough* It’s currently a monstrous mess of about 86K words, including snippets and bits all over the place and I really want to get those sewn together and the book finished up finally.

I have in my mind about how long I’d like them both to be, and to fill that up for each would be a combined total of about 50K. (I’m 10000% aware that my novels love to laugh in my face and be way longer than I planned. But at least I can make SOME progress??)

SO YEAH. No exciting new novel to announce this year — sorry! Just continuing on two old favorites of mine. Which, honestly, has me super excited because I love them. ^_^

Usually, I spend NaNo starting new books and not finishing them, so this year I figured I’d try something new.

But also, endings are scary and hard and whyamIdoingthistomyselfhalp, so… wish me luck. *bites nails*

SO. I’m going to do Christine Smith’s exciting new novel linkup, Know the Novel, to talk a little about both of these! I know I’ve rambled about both books before, but I’m excited about these questions so I’m going to talk more about my precious book brainchilds — so there. 😛 Hopefully y’all won’t mind. 😉


Giveaway Winner

OH! And last week I shared some NaNo writing tips and ran a giveaway for a copy of “No Plot? No Problem!” by NaNo founder Chris Baty, and today I’m excited to announce that the winner is…

Lilian S.!

Congrats, Lilian! I’ll be contacting you shortly. 🙂

Thanks so much for entering, everyone! ^_^


Now, onward to the Official Linkup Questions!

If you want to know more Tare things or stuff about my steampunk Little Mermaid book (including NEW AND IMPROVED BLURBS — YAY! — for both books), then read on!

Know the Novel, a writers linkup by Christine @ Musings of an Elf! Image from her post.

(Abbreviations: The Secret of Kedran’s Wood = KW2. The Siren and the Skyship: S&S.)

1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?

S&S: The idea of a Little Mermaid retelling in the sky instead of in the sea, with a wind/cloud siren instead of a merperson — and the siren being a guy, while the heroine is a princess and a skyship captain… because steampunk. >:D So yeah.

KW2: After writing the first book (which was supposed to be a standalone — hahahaHAHAHA — ahem), I still had adventures to explore with Tare and the Chess Club. I loved them too much to stop writing them. Originally there was going to be one sequel (which is now book 3) but then I had an idea for a fun little wintry/Christmassy short story or novella between the two, since I had some fun winter scenes in mind. So I started writing that. Then it became book 2 and is currently a monstrously long novel. Figures. 😉

2. Share a blurb!

The Siren and the Skyship (Sky Voyages Ever After, #1)

Searching for his father’s killer, Prince Auren the Cloud Siren needs to be more substantial than a wind spirit. But to become human he must make a trade. Who needs a voice, anyway?

Princess Tasmania Peckham-Archley of the Royal Skynavy finds her life thrown into chaos when assassins strike. She’ll do anything to stop a war from erupting between the sky city states and tearing apart what’s left of her family.

Fighting to forge a new life for himself in the skynavy after everything he holds dear is ripped away, Stirling Rook holds the most dangerous secret of all—one the Sorcerer of the Mist will be happy to take off his hands.

Assassins prowl cloud city rooftops, the pirate king terrorizes the skies, unknown death lurks down the misty ravines where no one goes, and the Sorcerer of the Mist keeps collecting things that don’t belong to him . . .

Tasmania, Auren, and the Star Dreamer’s crew may soar through the clouds on skyships and clockwork dragons, but have they traded away the only thing that can defeat the darkness?

One thing’s for sure: they’ll need all the magic, tea, and true love they can find.

***

The Secret of Kedran’s Wood (Kedran’s Wood, #2)

All that monster stuff the Chess Club of Kedran’s Wood went through in the summer is absolutely and completely over. Totally. Isn’t it?

There are mysteries afoot in the town by Kedran’s Wood. Mr. Larch’s sister is visiting, but the rest of the Chess Club haven’t actually seen her. What is the connection between the Wildlings and the new guy around town and his goons? And why are they looking for Tare?

Speaking of which . . . the resident leather-clad stranger (no longer so strange) returns from his absence one snowy December day. Tare does some investigating of his own into the people looking for him, but he’s haunted by nightmares and the approach of a night that might make his worst fears a reality.

Harold Starrford and his step-father aren’t going to stop until they know the information Tare possesses, and they don’t care who gets caught in the crossfire. Tare’s not going to have that — not in his town. Throw in a mysterious dog that keeps popping up around town, and a legend of a dark faerie (which might not be so legendary), and it’s business as usual around Kedran’s Wood for the Chess Club and Tare these days.

And, oh yeah, Christmas is coming. How is the Chess Club going to find time for gingerbread house making contests? And what on earth are they going to do for Tare for Christmas? If all of them can make it that long, that is . . .

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting?

S&S: IN THE SKY in a fantasy world. I absolutely love having floating cities, skyships soaring through clouds (and clockwork dragons to ride instead of boats/shuttles/helicopters/whatever), and mysterious pillars of rock all over the place hiding in the mist that skyships have to sail through. Plus creepy ravines nobody goes down because you… kinda die if you go down there. *cough* And I also love the steampunk-flavored touch to this fantasy world, with cool old-fashioned clothes and coats and ball dances and clocks and gears and steam-rifles and the occasional magical gadgetry and especially skyships. The skyships are my favorite. 😀

KW2: In a small town in modern-day America, next to a wood. Kedran’s Wood itself has to be my favorite part of the setting (it’s kind of mysterious and just so neat), but I’m also partial to using abandoned warehouses etc. for the villains to lurk in. And Tare lives in the deserted side of town in his own cozy “lair” as the Chess Club have named it. I kind of want to live there…

4. Tell us about your protagonist.

S&S: *nervous laughter* Which one? XD I kind of have three. 😛

Auren is a cloud-siren prince (okay, so he’s the seventh son, so not that important) which means he’s an insubstantial air spirit. Or, he was. Now he’s human, and he’s not at all used to it. XD He’s got white hair and he’s seventeen and super cool. I actually need to rewrite his entire plotline, and his personality also just changed, so I’m going to move to somebody else here. (But it’s his story, pretty much. He’s the “little mermaid” er… merman… er… siren. I mean, he’s neither little, nor mer, nor a maid, but it’s still a Little Mermaid retelling, I promise. *cough*)

Princess/Captain Tasmania is the princess of a city in the clouds, but since she has two older brothers in line for the throne (twins, actually; one the crown prince, one in charge of the sky navy — they’re awesome, by the way), she’s free to captain her own beloved skyship, the Star Dreamer, in the Royal Sky Navy. She flies around with her motley crew she’s put together (including Auren and Rook now… bwahaha), doing various missions. And she’s like seventeen too, and has curly red hair.

If I tell you about Rook I’ll be here all day because he’s my favorite and keeps stealing the show, but he’s in the Royal Sky Navy and is really cool, and if you ask him he’ll let you know that his author is super mean. *cough*

(Me: Stop stealing the spotlight in this book already, won’t you? I already promised you a sequel!

Rook: And then you made it book 3 instead of book 2. I’m only saying.

Me: Blame Keller! He’s a sky pirate! Of course he stole your book!)

KW2:

The Chess Club are kind of the protagonists, but, again, it would take awhile to introduce them all… Briefly, there’s shy Lavender, rambunctious Baz (the pun-master), fiery Ivy, confident Adrian (who clashes with Tare sometimes), and the siblings, solid Marie and cautious Jake. There’s also wry Mr. Larch (the only one who’s not a teen), and Small Occasion the little fluffy white dog. 😉

Tare is honestly the real protagonist, though. He’s my favorite character I’ve ever written, so… I can’t really sum him up in a paragraph. *cough* I can start, though. He’s 19 (ish… it’s complicated), has black hair and always wears a black leather jacket (usually carting a fair number of weapons in it to deal with any… situations that might arise, though his fists would work just as well). He’s a little mysterious and shady-seeming, with a dark past (like… Khazad-dum dark… Don’t even think of going there.) but honestly he has a heart of gold and you want him on your side in a pinch. Just don’t expect him to be social.

I will direct you to previous interviews and such if you would like more of a glimpse at what Tare is like. XD Here, here, and here to start with.

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?

S&S: The Sorcerer of the Mist, who’s… kind of like the stand-in for the Sea Witch of the original tale, but is actually a tall, thin man in a long coat who’s kind of elegant and totally creepy. He’s the main antagonist, but there are also sky pirates and assassins and a traitor sky navy captain (who is a total jerk, ugh) and some danger lurking down the misty ravines which makes no one ever return… There’s a lot of antagonistic forces in this one. I like to keep things interesting for my characters. *cough*

KW2: There’s more than one antagonist in this as well, and… er… awkwardly, one of them is Harold “Mr. Perfect-Teeth” Starrford (the nickname is what the Chess Club called him before learning his name. XD), the guy who’s dating Mr. Larch’s sister Robin. So yeah. But the other one is Harold’s kinda-shady/ominous secretary-slash-step-father, Greg Nobody-really-remembers-his-last-name. (Aaand there may be an evil faerie involved. I’m just sayin’.)

6. What excites you the most about this novel?

S&S: ALL THE THINGS. Literally. The characters (I love them all so much, okay?), the world, the complicated plot now spilling into three books, the fairytale retelling aspect, the steampunkery and fantasyness… I LOVE IT ALL. I’m absurdly in love with all of the things in this book. And writing this blog post is making me even MORE excited! Like… can it be NaNo already? (I’m not ready, honest, but still.)

KW2: My favorite character, Tare, being awesome… as well as getting to meet A NEW CHARACTER I’m rather excited about. But really I love continuing this series. And at the moment, I’m just really ready for this second book to be DONE! (…So that I can hasten onward and write book 3 which has been attacking my brain lately. Not that I’ll complain. ;))

7. Is this going to be a series? Standalone? Something else?

They were both SUPPOSED to be standalones and are now series. XD Go figure.

S&S: This is the first in a fairytale retelling trilogy. Originally they were going to be standalones, just with a few recurring characters… but now they’re an awesome tangled mess of plot threads following all my favorite characters and being all interconnected and I’m so excited. Currently book 2 is a Jack and the Beanstalk/Snow White/Rapunzel book about a sky pirate by the name of Keller. Book 3 is about my fave character Rook (YAS!) and will feature The Snow Queen… and possibly Beauty and the Beast or East of the Sun, West of the Moon? I’m not sure yet. It’s being stubborn. They’re a bit more “inspired by” fairytales than straight-up retellings, but still fun. (Oh, and book 2 and 3 recently swapped places so MY BRAIN IS CONFUSED but don’t mind me.)

KW2: This is book 2 in a contemporary fantasy trilogy… with extras on the side. I’ve written book 1. Book 3 is going to feature the Chess Club and Tare on summer vacation, and scary agents and new characters and more secrets about Tare’s past and stuff. I’m excited. Then I have a smattering of short stories and novellas with the same characters, so yeah. Lots to write with this one! But it’s so much fun, I have no complaints. 😛 (There’s also the fact that Tare and another side character in the series recently teamed up in my head with some other side characters from two other books of mine to make me promise I’ll write a crossover Urban Fantasy heisty novel about all of them together. So there’s that. *cough*)

8. Are you plotting? Pantsing? Plansting?

Er… some of both, for both. I have a lot of scenes in my head, and a fair amount of notes, but I’m not nearly as plotted as I’d like to be for an actual NaNo month. I do have a rough idea of where things are going, though. And I technically have a list of the rest of the scenes in each, all divided up into 30 days of writing, so in THEORY I should be okay… until it all falls apart. XD I’m just hoping both of them will listen to me and let me get to the end. *sound of both books laughing at me in the background* (Me: Stop it, guys.)

9. Name a few things that makes this story unique.

S&S: Hopefully it’s a unique take on The Little Mermaid, and I like to think the setting is unique too. 🙂

KW2: This one’s unique because it’s about modern teenagers but WITHOUT THE TEENAGED DRAMA/ANGST/LOVE-TRIANGLES yay! XD Um. I’m sure there’s other unique things too. *cough*

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!).

Well, for both, here’s a handy pinboard I always set up for NaNo, with various inspiration and stuff.

S&S: Drop by my Pinterest board for a look at the sort of “feel” of it! 🙂

And imagine a kind of Lindsey Stirling esque soundtrack going on. XD

KW2: And then I also have an inspiration board for this one.


SO. There you have a look at the two stories I’ll hopefully be immersed in for the following month!

And thanks to the ever-awesome Christine for the splendid linkup with the great questions! I’m extra looking forward to NaNo now, ready or not. 😀

Talk to me! What do you think about my NaNo plan? Learn anything new about my WIPs? Are YOU doing NaNo this year? (I’m HERE if you’d like to be buddies!) If you’re not NaNo-ing, I half-envy your sanity and hope you won’t mind a smidge of NaNo flailing going on this time of year — sorry. *cough* How is NaNo almost HERE?? :O HALP. #cuepanic

NaNoWriMo Writing Tips & Giveaway!

And creeping up, November came…
We readied, all, our hands and wrists;
Sat down before that pale white screen —
Lost in a Nanowrimo mist.

We’re just over a WEEK away from NaNoWriMo 2018 and I’m panicking eeever so slightly.

Because, well, when you’re going to write 50,000 words of fiction in the 30 days of November and you’re super busy and hardly ready at all . . . a little panic is probably healthy. *cough*

BUT I’m also excited because there’s nothing like National Novel Writing Month’s slight craziness to get the words flowing and to get swept away on an awesome writing adventure and basically live and breathe story for a whole month. 😉

For those who’ve noticed I haven’t been around much since the end of the Silmaril Awards… that’s because I just got back from a two-week roadtrip vacation, and I’m a little scattered right now (hopefully I can bring a new Ishness to y’all soon!).

But since it’s time to get excited (and scared… and prepared…) for NaNo, this post is here, and next week I’ll share what I am writing this NaNo season! I can’t wait to tell you guys. 😀

Anyway, I’ve done a few NaNo tip posts in the past, so I thought I’d revisit a couple of those, and share 3 current writing tips — and if you stick around to the end of the post, you can enter to win a copy of “No Plot? No Problem!” by NaNo founder Chris Baty.

3 Writing Tips

  1. Wordsprints with friends — Seriously, these are magic. I don’t always manage them, due to inconsistent internet in the room I usually write in, but this year during Camp NaNo I re-discovered how amazing they are. I always re-discover it, seemingly, so hopefully this time it will stay discovered. XD With or without someone to write with, the NaNo wordsprint tool is my favorite thing on the site and I use it all the time. ❤
  2. Find what works for you — I’ve discovered that I write out of order, that I write in draft zero bits, that I write to fast music, that I do well with wordsprints, and that I absolutely adore using Scrivener, and my new-found love, the companion plotting-software Scapple (by the same people). But something else may work for you. Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter or a mix (*raises hand*), whether you write best by hand or laptop, whatever software you use… with music or without… Try all different ways and figure out what works best for you and then stick to it.
  3. Go to a write-in — Okay, so if you’re doing NaNo, chances are you’re in a region on the NaNo site. And while there are not write-ins everywhere, there are certainly oodles of them all across the states and the world. I may be biased as an ML (Municipal Liaison, organizer of local events/forums for NaNo), but write-ins are a lot of fun. They help you meet fellow writers so you realize that you’re not the only person on this crazy adventure, and they set aside a time and a place simply for you to focus on your writing. You’d be surprised how helpful a room full of typing writers is to inspire you to keep typing yourself! (And if there isn’t a write-in scheduled in your area… set one up yourself. Just go to a library, bookstore, or coffee-ish place, set up your laptop, and write. You can even post about it in your local forum in case other writers want to join you.)

Below are a few prep posts from my past! If you haven’t read them before, go give them a click — or if you have, refresh your memory if you need some ideas/inspiration. 🙂

NaNo Prep Checklist

Firstly, here’s my by-far-most-popular-ever post:

(And the actual checklist. ;))

Sherlock Holmes + NaNo = Fun

Secondly, if you need some humor, it’s just the right time to dig up my NaNo-as-told-by-Sherlock post.

Draft Zero

Thirdly, check out my Draft Zero solution to just getting the story down on the page — particularly useful during NaNo.

NaNo Survival Tips

4th… check out 10 NaNoWriMo Survival Tips:

Secret Weapons

And, finally, there’s also My (Not-So-)Secret Weapons for Surviving NaNo:

Giveaway

I’m giving away a copy of “No Plot? No Problem!” by NaNo founder Chris Baty to one lucky winner! (There may be a NaNo bookmark and sticker involved. ;))

(I think it’s not the most recent edition of the book but it’s the one I’ve read and I happened to have an extra copy so thought I’d share the love.)

The giveaway runs from October 23 (Tuesday) to October 28 (Sunday), 2018 (closes midnight Central), and is open to USA addresses only (sorry, international peeps! I love you too, but shipping!).

You can enter via the Rafflecopter link, HERE.

The winner will be chosen at random, contacted by email, and announced here in my next NaNo-ish post when I reveal what I’m writing for NaNo this year. Bwahaha.


Talk to me! 🙂

Well, are you doing NaNo? What are your favorite writing tips?

Thanks for reading, and may the NaNo prep be ever in your favor!

Midnight Fear: A Flash Fiction Spooky Story

Hey everyone!

I’m back from vacation (did ya miss me? :P) and I’ll be doing some NaNo-ish posts soon (eek!) but today I’m doing something… different. XD

Jenelle Schmidt has a Spooky Story Challenge again this year (check it out!), flash-fiction edition, aaand I decided to join in.

I’ve been kind of enjoying writing flash fiction — works one thousand words long or less — lately (like We Otter Do It and Mentor Problems). Only problem is, spooky/scary stories are NOT my thing at all. XD

But I did have a flash-fiction piece around that I wrote a few years back and recently rewrote, based on a nightmare I had. I kind of wrote it as “therapy” and after I got it down “on paper,” it didn’t scare me anymore — but I wasn’t really planning on posting it lest it scare other people! 😉

So be warned, if that’s not your thing.

But I decided to share it anyway.

Enjoy!

Midnight Fear

by

Deborah O’Carroll

Night shrouds the world. Black as ink, the dark sky hangs overhead—the roof of a giant safe or vault, locking me into this world of nightmare. A car screeches somewhere. The city block stretches before me, with but a few yellow street-lamps to shine small patches of imagined safety onto the pavement—bits of light, small, pitiful, feebly trying to push back the night.

The wind is on the move. It drives grey rags of clouds across icy stars, slips cold fingers of air down my collar, shrieks relentlessly through the branches of a tree I walk beneath. The twigs chatter together like teeth. I shiver and hasten my pace, casting glances this way and that. I should have been home long ago.

Someone runs up the road—whisks past, a shadow under a street-lamp. He calls back from behind me in a hoarse whisper: “It’s coming!”

I don’t need to ask what “it” is.

I break into a panicked run, clutching my skirt, my shoes pounding a war-drum’s call, my heart a fluttering bird trapped between metal bars. The street stretches on forever. I must reach home before it finds me.

My house appears in the darkness. Relief floods me. But as I near my yard, I freeze. Terror grips me in an iron vice. At the crossroads where my street meets the next, a shadow moves.

Round the corner with slow deliberation pads the embodiment of midnight fear.

The black panther.

It’s twice as big as I had heard. It stops in the midst of the crossroads, shadowy head swinging slowly as if deciding which street to take. Not my street. Not— Motionless save for the twitch of its tail, its gleaming eyes full of quiet malice fix on me.

I stand transfixed as we stare at each other for a short eternity. Then, with slow, measured steps, it pads up the street toward me. Panic breaks me free of my terror-induced paralysis. I tear across the road, stumble up my sidewalk and front steps to my house. Safety lies in wait for me behind the door. I claw frantically in my pocket for the key. Not there. It has to be there—

The key is gone. I can’t get in.

Nowhere to hide. I must find somewhere . . . I dart a glance over my shoulder. The beast still pads slowly up the street. I run across the porch, down the steps, and heave myself over the side of the bed of the pickup truck. I hunker down low with my head down, breath coming in ragged gasps, heart running a marathon. Perhaps the panther will pass by, continue down the street . . . Perhaps it will not find me.

All is quiet. I wait forever. Silence. I dare a quick glimpse over the side of the pickup bed. My heart trips and falls and skips a beat.

I had heard no sound. Yet the panther pads toward me across my grassy lawn, as silent and graceful as any of its smaller kin. In horrified fascination I watch its dark bulk make its slow, sinister way toward me, a deeper black beneath the tree shadows cast by the moon. Instead of leaping, the creature circles the truck. A long wooden plank forms a ramp from the ground up to the tailgate of the pickup’s bed. A path straight to me. The panther sets a fore-paw on the plank and begins its slow relentless ascent, fixing near-hypnotic eyes on me.

I seize the end of the ramp with frantic prying fingers, trying to flip it over. It doesn’t budge. The panther takes another step.

I scrabble desperately about in the dark in the back of the pickup. My hand touches an object. A hammer. I fling it with all my strength.

It strikes the beast between its gold street-lamp eyes.

I hold my breath. The panther pauses, shakes its head once, then comes on. Its teeth glitter under the moon. Its paws tread softly pad-pad-pad up the plank.

In a final surge of mind-numbing panic, I grab the next object my hand finds—a large heavy mallet—and fling that too. Then another—a length of pipe—and another and another, I know not what, flinging them in quick succession. I shut my eyes against the terror and only hope one of them will make it stop coming. Just make it stop coming toward me. I am out of things to throw. Dark despair seizes me, but no claws. I open my eyes.

The panther still stands on the plank. It does not move. Then it sways.

And

The shape of terror hits the ground with a thud. It lies still.

Relief tears a gasp from my lungs as I remember to breathe again. I collapse in the bed of the pickup truck.

***

Time follows in a blur. They come at last to find the beast, and find it dead. I climb shakily down into my lawn. People surround me, despite the midnight hour, praising me and my non-existent bravery for the death of the terror. Voices roll around me, talking of taking me to dinner, of celebration. I don’t listen to them. I can only stand beneath the trees, swaying like their branches, staring down at the panther. It lies on the grass, a sleek pile of black fur, motionless. Dead. But without losing its menace.

Unthinking dread still fills me, and I can’t look away, despite knowing that it’s dead from the heavy metal things I had thrown at it. I wish I’d thrown heavier ones.

I keep staring, half expecting the panther to move.

It does.

Wisest Counselor Presentation Ceremony (Silmaril Awards 2018)

The White City of Gondor is packed.

Everyone has gathered in Minas Tirith, from all across Middle-earth and other lands far beyond, for the third annual presentation of the Wisest Counselor Silmaril Award.

The sable curtains, bearing the image of the white tree of Gondor, part and draw back. I stand in the center of the stage and wave at the expectant audience.

“Welcome, everyone!” I call. “Thank you for coming to the Award Ceremony to present the winner of the 2018 Silmaril Award for Wisest Counselor!”

The crowd cheers, and some hobbit near the back, who is a little confused about what the reason for the gathering is, raises a mug and calls, “Happy birthday!”

There is laughter.

I smile and carry on. “In previous years, as winners of this award, we’ve had Aslan himself from Narnia—not sure where he is today; not a tame lion, you understand—as well as Professor Hamilton from Dragons in Our Midst, who is visiting.” I wave toward the back of the stage where the grey-haired professor stands, smiling.

The audience applauds.

“And now, to present this year’s nominees and the winner, I’d like to welcome Gandalf onto the stage. Mithrandir, as some of you know him, is one of the wisest counselors in all of Middle-earth—even in all of Arda—and therefore highly qualified to present this award. Friends, I give you . . . Gandalf!”

I gesture to the right of the stage. Nothing happens. I wait several long, awkward moments, and laugh nervously. “Sorry, folks, looks like Gandalf is a little late this evening.”

“A wizard is never late, my dear blogger,” says a voice. The crowd laughs and applauds as Gandalf himself steps onto the stage, sweeping across it in his long grey robes and silver scarf and grey pointy hat. “I arrived precisely when I meant to.”

“Of course, of course. Well, I’m sure you were busy with something important, as always.”

Gandalf furrows his bushy eyebrows and looks mysterious, but I suspect he’s hiding a smile in his long grey beard.

“Thanks for coming, Gandalf. I’ll turn things over to you.” I nod to him and slip off the stage, finding a place in the front row where the applause for Professor Hamilton had been loudest, between a teenage boy and a girl with—wings? I spin back to look at her again—oh, she’s only wearing a backpack. Must have been my imagination . . .

I settle in with the rest of the excited audience to watch the following proceedings on stage.

The Nominees

“Welcome, Elves, Men, Hobbits, Dwarves, and . . . others,” Gandalf says. “Allow me to present the nominees of this year’s award.”

The audience’s murmur hushes in anticipation, and then they applaud as each name is announced.

Rayad of Arcacia from the land of Ilyon.”

A somewhat grizzled man in a simple tunic steps onto the stage, bows, and then smiles and nods toward two members of the crowd near the end of the front row—a teenage girl holding hands with a young man whose black hair falls over his ears, a black wolf lying at their feet. The young man nods back to Rayad, quiet and unobtrusive but proud.

Professor Digory Kirke of Narnia, come all the way from England via wardrobe.” Gandalf glances toward the ornate wooden wardrobe near the back of the stage.

An old man with shaggy white hair and equally shaggy beard comes into view and waves at the audience. There are cheers—particularly from the very middle of the front row, where four children—two boys and two girls, one of whom is a familiar face from last year—sit together and are heard to say things like “Hurrah for the Professor!” and “Good old Prof!”

Puddleglum of Narnia.”

A tall, thin Marshwiggle steps forward on webbed feet, shaking his head with the pointy hat rather like Gandalf’s, and muttering, “I don’t see why I’m always being called to these things. A mistake, through and through, I shouldn’t wonder . . .” A girl and a boy in the front row, between a fair-haired prince and a large white owl perched on an empty chair, applaud and grin, shaking their heads.

“Ranger Halt,” Gandalf continues, before pausing and looking around.

The audience scans the stage in search of Halt, and for a moment nobody sees him.

“Wizards may not be late, but perhaps Rangers are—though not a certain other Ranger I know,” Gandalf mutters.

But just then, a shadow moves away from the dark curtain, revealing Halt himself, camouflaged in his long grey mottled cloak. “I’ve been here all along,” he says dryly, stepping forward.

“A fellow grey wanderer. I can approve.” Gandalf nods.

A rather small but wiry boy in the audience applauds loudest, between a girl and a hulking young knight-to-be. There’s a sturdy pony next to them where a chair used to be. I’ve no idea how they got it inside . . . Stealthy Rangers.

“And Prince Aethelbald of Farthestshore,” Gandalf finishes, ending the list of nominees.

An unassuming young man with a quiet, thoughtful face and deep, kind eyes, wearing fine clothes and a simple golden circlet, bows from the stage. A young woman in a white gown seated in the front row—with a smug-looking fluffy orange cat on her lap—smiles.

And the Winner Is . . .

“And now,” Gandalf says, “here at last, on this stage in Minas Tirith, comes an end to the voting and anticipation. May I present the winner of this award, a very remarkable man, and one whom I am glad to call a friend . . . Professor Digory Kirke!”

Cheering fills the air. A massive silver firework explodes overhead (no doubt why Gandalf was . . . erm . . . that is . . . not late). There are gasps and laughs of surprise, and a few more cheers. Gandalf chuckles.

Professor Kirke joins Gandalf in the center of the stage. “How did you manage to set that off while you were on stage?” the Professor asks. “Logically, somebody must have . . .”

“I may have had an assistant,” Gandalf says noncommittally.

“I love Minas Tirith!” yells a small, rather sooty hobbit figure before disappearing into the crowd.

Everyone laughs and I shake my head.

So does Gandalf, muttering, “Fool of a Took.” He clears his throat and turns to Prof. Kirke. “In recognition of your wisdom and guidance of certain young charges, Professor, I present you with this Silmaril.” Gandalf holds up a glowing golden sphere on a ribbon.

A hush falls across everyone as the gem shines out like the sun—or like an echo of the glimmer of the golden tree Laurelin from the land beyond the western seas many an age past.

Gandalf drapes it around Professor Kirke’s neck. “Bear it well, my friend.”

“Thank you, Gandalf, and thank you, everyone.” He turns to the crowd. “I’m quite at your disposal, I’m sure, and I’m honored that in your very careful consideration you should think me worthy of such an award.”

The Professor bows to the audience, to the sound of thunderous applause. Then he turns and steps past Gandalf to where last year’s winner, Professor Hamilton, stands. The two shake hands and smile.

Professor Kirke glances beyond him to where a great golden Lion, who was not there a minute before, sits quiet but majestic in one corner of the stage, his golden eyes laughing but wise—the ultimate Wise Counselor and the winner of the award two years past. A look passes between them, and Professor Kirke, feeling more like a young boy named Digory every moment, bows to the lion—who the next moment is no longer there.

“One last announcement,” Gandalf calls. “To the feast! There are a few hobbits here, who can be quite fearsome eaters in a pinch—or, well, at any time. If you want anything to eat, you had better get going before they eat everything—even though it is the finest feast King Aragorn could provide.”

There is laughter as everybody follows Gandalf toward the feast hall and its delicious aromas.

Well, almost everybody.

Halt and Rayad are on their way down the street toward a tavern to chat over mugs of ale.

Puddleglum is already planning on going back to fishing, muttering about coming rain.

Aslan is still nowhere to be seen (well, he’s not a tame lion), and nobody knows where the Prince of Farthestshore has gotten to.

Professor Kirke and Professor Hamilton are headed off in another direction for a quiet cup of tea, deep in conversation—discussing their adventures, their young charges, and (probably) logic.

“Yes, and after all of that, with the dragon slayer and everything, I was quite done with teaching there,” Professor Hamilton is saying.

And Professor Kirke’s voice floats back as they walk out of sight together: “My dear chap, of course you were. Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?”

Fin

Thanks for joining us for the awards presentation ceremony of the Wisest Counselor Silmaril Award!

You can find the rest of the winners here (some are still to be announced in the coming days).

For those curious, here are the final results:

  1. Professor Digory Kirke (The Chronicles of Narnia) 86 votes / 43%
  2. Halt (The Ranger’s Apprentice series) 39 votes / 20%
  3. Puddleglum (The Silver Chair) 30 votes / 15%
  4. Rayad (The Ilyon Chronicles) 22 votes / 11%
  5. Prince Aethelbald (Tales of Goldstone Wood) 21 votes / 11%

As always, thanks for being a part of this fun fantasy character awards! What did you think of the ceremony? Who were you hoping would win? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for coming! ❤