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

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Tare and the Puppies (or) The Dragon of Kedran’s Wood {A Short Story}

The Dragon of Kedran’s Wood

Otherwise Entitled

Tare and the Puppies

by Deborah O’Carroll


Autumn leaves fell around Tare and the Chess Club and crunched underfoot as they set out on a hike through Kedran’s Wood. A cold wind swept through their hair and rattled the mostly-barren branches overhead. Beyond the branches, dark clouds lurked as the little group made its way through the trees: Lavender and Baz hand in hand, as were Ivy and Adrian, and wandering in and out were siblings Marie and Jake. These six were the Chess Club proper, merely missing Mr. Larch; he wasn’t a teenager like they were, so he didn’t always count. A damp Fall scent filled the air and made them want to go off on adventures.

“It’s a Tookish thing,” Marie said.

This particular excursion was a vague Chess Club scheme to get out and tell spooky stories while clambering around near the minor set of cliffs looming deep within Kedran’s Wood. Tare, who was not officially a member, but often lurked around, had come along for some reason.

“Keep you from breaking your necks,” he had said—though he didn’t actually need such an excuse. If he was going to be honest, he rather enjoyed their company, even if he never told them this. They were glad to have him along (though Baz protested that necks were far more difficult to break than, say, wrists, and that he didn’t intend to break anything).

“You should know better than to hike around in the woods the evening before November first,” Tare said comfortably, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his black leather jacket. “The night of Samhain, the Celtic New Year, when the veils between worlds are thin and you might run into a Faerie . . . or something less pleasant.”

“Like Kedran?” Adrian asked, referring to the legend of the Faerie after whom the wood had allegedly been named. Adrian helped his girlfriend Ivy hop over a crevice in the rock at their feet. “Or are we talking about something else?”

“Ghost stories!” Baz said happily, clambering around a large boulder on the rocky path.

“Faerie stories,” Tare corrected. “Much more interesting—and, I might add, more accurate.”

“But ghost stories are creepier,” Baz pouted. “And that’s the point of spooky stories on hiking or camping trips, especially on Halloween. I defy you to come up with something scarier than a ghost story.”

“Don’t!” Lavender said hastily, wide-eyed. She was just here for the sweater-weather and the leaves and the company. Spookiness was not her favorite thing, and she definitely didn’t want Baz daring Tare like that—both because she didn’t know how Tare would take it, and for fear that Tare might rise to the challenge and come up with something scary.

Jake, too, looked uncertain, but more undecided than specifically against the idea. The youngest teen in the group, he was cautious, but also liked a thrill at times.

Marie and Ivy, as well as Adrian—who was nearly as old as Tare—were made of tougher stuff and didn’t care either way.

Tare knew far scarier things than ghost stories, but wasn’t about to bring those up. Some memories were best left undisturbed. “I read a legend about a dragon in these woods, back in Kedran’s day. It’s a scary story if you want one,” he said casually.

“Dragons are awesome, not scary,” Baz said.

“They can be both,” Marie put in firmly.

“Well, I bet this one isn’t as scary as my ghost story,” Baz went on, skipping further up the path in a blur of blue jacket. “It’s about a— YAAHH!” Baz’s sentence—and Baz himself—disappeared abruptly, leaving only his startled yell and a swirl of leaves.

“Baz!” shouted several voices in alarm as the Chess Club rushed toward the hole he had disappeared into. Tare was there almost instantly, before any of the others, peering down into the dark.

“I’m okay!” Baz’s voice echoed up out of the rocky hole. “I think.” He coughed, and added, “I’ve found a secret cave! I wonder if it’s haunted . . .”

The Chess Club laughed in relief.

Tare grunted, muttering about priorities, and swung down into the hole, landing lightly in a crouch at the bottom and glancing around.

It wasn’t a very far drop, easy to climb back out of, and Lavender, Adrian, Ivy, and the Valerian siblings clambered down after Tare.

“I didn’t even break my wrist,” Baz remarked, on his feet and dusting himself off. He was dirty but unharmed. “Oh, look, there’s a passage,” he added excitedly, clearly having forgotten his ghost story. “Let’s explore it.”

“Mmm.” Tare eyed the shadowy opening in one wall of the cave. Despite knowing the wood and cliffs quite well, he had never been in here before, but caves had certain unpleasant connotations in his mind from an incident in his past. Some instinct suggested an edge of danger involved, which made him want to get the Chess Club out and safe first, and investigate it by himself, before they could go rushing into harm’s way.

The Chess Club, however, were chattering cheerfully, getting out flashlights and preparing to explore.

Tare stepped in before them, leading the procession. If they were going to go about this whole thing, as least he could be there to keep them from—well, from breaking their necks, or getting lost, or any other shenanigans they might get up to.

It was the Chess Club: there was sure to be something.

They weren’t accident-prone in particular, but things tended to happen around this wood nowadays, and Tare was normally there to get them out of one scrape or another—often when they poked their noses where they shouldn’t have. Like in Tare’s business. Or when they thought they were “helping” him. For all that, he wouldn’t trade them for anything—he just never said so aloud . . .

Rough brownish stone with uneven floor, walls, and ceiling, formed the tunnel they crept along. Shadows clung to the edges despite the flashlight beams Adrian and Jake shone in front of them. It was very dusty.

“I wonder if anyone’s ever been in here before,” Ivy said, ducking to avoid brushing her red hair against a cobwebby low spot in the ceiling.

“Maybe— Whoa,” Adrian began, and broke off, shining his light around as they stepped into a more open underground chamber, and stared around with many oohs and aahs.

The stone room yawned hugely, with an even floor, and was roughly circular—no, exactly circular, Tare noticed. He narrowed his eyes as they pierced the shadows, not needing the light from the flashlights since he had excellent night vision. Nature didn’t, on the whole, produce perfect circles, which meant someone had made this place. And something about it bothered him.

“Wait,” Tare said sharply, lurking by the wall as the six others wandered into the open space.

They stopped near the center, training their flashlights on him. “What?”

“There’s something . . .” Tare trusted his instincts—they’d kept him alive this long against some pretty extreme odds—and right now they were acting up something fierce. “I can’t explain. Just stay put a minute. Don’t move.” He padded carefully around the chamber.

“But—”

Tare half spun and sent a Look over his shoulder. “Stay.”

“Just as if we were a lot of puppies,” Baz muttered.

“The thought has crossed my mind,” Tare said dryly as he continued letting his gaze wander around, looking for—something.

“Now I’m just imagining us all as little puppies,” Baz said.

Adrian grinned. “We’d be adorable.”

Lavender and Ivy laughed. Jake and Marie grinned too.

“Yapping and being annoying,” Ivy said, smirking. “Is that how you think of us, Tare?”

More or less, but he didn’t say so.

“I can just imagine us all running around as puppies in here,” Marie said, sticking her hands in her pockets and looking around.

“Or we could wag our little tails, sitting in a circle,” Baz said, “right here—” They had unconsciously been moving around a little, despite Tare’s directive, and were gathered near the center. Of course, a perfectly round room would have an exact center . . .

Something clicked in Tare’s mind and he instantly spun toward them. “Don’t—!” he began.

But just at that moment, Baz and the others had all stepped right into a faintly-etched circle on the floor, directly in the middle of the circular room. Tare dived toward them, but too late. There was a clicking sound as the circle of stone indented slightly, and a sort of POOF. A cloud of purplish-grey smoke instantly appeared, enveloping the little ring of six people standing in the circle. A moment later, it cleared away, and . . .

Tare’s gaze moved downward.

Six pairs of eyes looked up at him from much nearer to the ground than they had been a moment before . . . as six puppies sat on the circular stone in the floor and blinked. All of them were thinking one collective thought, which somehow Tare heard from six startled minds at once:

Oops.

Tare stared down at them and blinked twice. “You have got to be kidding me.”

* * *

It was a very interesting thing, being suddenly turned into a small dog. Yet another interesting thing was the fact that, while they could not exactly speak, they seemed to be able to hear each other’s rapid thoughts in their minds. And Tare, being in the room and somehow connected, despite being still in his natural form (thank goodness), could hear their thoughts too.

Instantaneous puppy-transformation and telepathy. Well then.

Adrian seemed to be a golden retriever puppy, very yellow and furry. Ivy had become a little red setter—no wonder, with her hair. Jake was a young black lab, like a bundle of fluffy-silky adorable midnight. Marie was a poof of grey and white as a Siberian husky puppy who could have killed with her cuteness. Baz was a chocolate lab puppy, all big paws and velvet ears. Lavender seemed to be some sort of white puppy, with bristly fluffy fur and a little trembling black nose.

They were all aggressively adorable.

Their reactions were something like this:

Adrian: I’m a dog! I love dogs and I’m a dog now! Whoa. This could be cool. (Examining paws.) Granted, a very small one. (With some disappointment.) It was rather odd going from being an eighteen-year-old to a small puppy. (Pause.) I’M A DOG! Followed by excited panting and attempts to get his new tail under control.

Lavender: Oh my goodness! What just happened? Where are my hands?

Ivy: Oh, great. What am I going to tell mom?

Marie: Hmm. This is interesting. I wonder if I can smell— Yes, I can smell everyone and they have distinct scents. Fascinating.

Jake: Halp! I’m a dog! This is weird. And creepy. And . . . kind of awesome.

Baz: COOOOOL.

Non-dog-Tare: (Mentally face-palming.) What did I do to deserve this.

All the puppies paused in their frisking about, to glance up at Tare.

Oh, hey, I can hear what Tare’s thinking—awesome! was a collective sort of general thought from them all.

Tare blinked and instantly closed off his mind so they could no longer hear his thoughts, while he could still hear theirs. His experience with mind-communication in another world made him able to do this, while the Chess Club had no such abilities.

It was like slamming a mental door in their faces, and affected the Chess Club puppies acutely. All six of them sat right down, staring mournfully up at Tare with tragic eyes, ears drooping.

It was absolutely devastating.

Tare blinked down at them. But he didn’t let them back into his mind. He cleared his throat. “Now, what am I supposed to do with you all?”

A confusing mixture of responses followed this, jumbled up in the mental pathways like a traffic pile-up, so that it was difficult to discern who was thinking what. And some of it had nothing to do with his question.

Play?

Oh, wait, how about we figure out how to turn us back.

Being a puppy could be fun!

I’m so short.

Fix it, Tare!

It’s scary and dark in here.

Where’s the flashlight? Oh, over there on the floor . . . but I guess I can see better as a dog.

Ooh, I wonder what Tare’s boot lace tastes like . . .

How do I work this tail thing?

My paws are cold. Wait, what? Must focus! I’m a person.

Maybe we could change back if we go back in the circle?

This is too weird.

Make it stop!

Tare, help!

This last was repeated several times by different Chess Club puppies.

“Okay, hold it—hold it!” Tare held out his hands, and the thoughts quieted down. “You’re going to have to be more organized. We’ll figure something out. And stop panicking.”

You’d panic too if you were suddenly a dog, Lavender thought, tail wagging worriedly in little jerking motions.

“I like to think I wouldn’t. Now calm down, and we’ll—” Tare broke off as an eerie sound of booming laughter echoed through the cave. He glanced around, instinctively in a fighting stance.

The puppies whimpered, tails and ears down, and crept to crouch near Tare’s feet where it felt safer.

“Who’s there?” Tare said warily, ready to reach for a gun or knife hidden away in his leather jacket—weapons he still kept handy, despite the lack of monsters of late. There were friends—well, puppies—to defend.

No one answered, but the laughter went on and seemed to be moving overhead and toward the entrance to the passage they had come through. An indistinct shadowy cloud—left from when the puppies had appeared—lurked there, concealing . . . something. Whoever—or whatever—was laughing, exited through there, and the voice faded away.

Okay, I’m scared now, puppy-Baz announced to their minds.

I was already scared before the creepy laughter, Lavender thought.

Can we go home now? Jake asked.

What? We can’t go home like this! Ivy spluttered.

Yeah, my dogs might not like me . . . Adrian mused.

We need to change back first, somehow, Marie thought.

They all looked hopefully up at Tare, shiny button-black noses quivering.

Tare sighed. “Look, I don’t know how to fix this right now. Let’s get out of here to start with, while we can get out.”

A short while later, Tare climbed out of the hole in the cliff with six little puppies clambering after him on clumsy paws too big for them, and down a little stony path to the autumnal forest floor of Kedran’s Wood.

The change was instantaneous.

A thousand sights and scents—from the trees, underbrush, leaf-strewn ground, and wildlife—kaleidescoped in a crescendo of new experiences for the heightened puppy-senses of the erstwhile Chess Club members. Everything smelled new and different and exciting, in desperate need of being investigated at once. They shot off into the wood, scampering about on overgrown paws, sniffing everything and yapping happily, their thoughts running as wild as their furry bodies, in a confusion of excited curiosity mixed with the half-obscured thoughts from their human selves, buried deep, who kind of knew better.

Tare put a hand over his face, muttering, “Why. Why did I get saddled with Chess Club puppies.”

We’re sorry, it’s just—

It’s so exciting, and there are all these smells—!

“I don’t want to know.” Tare made a half-hearted move to go after them, made difficult by the way they were scattering. “Now would you get back here?”

There followed a somewhat chaotic scene in which Tare attempted to herd them back together where he could keep an eye on them. There were also some awkward moments where they wanted him to throw sticks for them. He didn’t. They needed to get together and talk about this, but it was like their attention spans (already rather short, to Tare’s mind) had suddenly gone extinct. It was basically hopeless.

Tare finally gave up other methods and instead sent a stern mental message to the effect of “You. Back here. Now.

It worked.

They instantly transformed into meek, obedient puppies, and trooped angelically back toward him, a little sheepish.

Sorry . . .

Tare shut his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Don’t—even apologize.” Then he drew back and leaned against a tree, looking down at the small dogs. “All right. We need to figure out how to turn you back into . . . yourselves. Which means we have some questions to answer. Like how, and why, you got turned into a bunch of dogs.”

Puppy faces turned to look at each other in conference.

We were just imagining being dogs—talking about it—and suddenly we were, Ivy thought.

And we stepped into that circle in the middle, Marie added.

“Ye-es . . .” Tare drew out the word meaningfully. “And?”

And you told us not to? Lavender asked, with a guilty tilt of her ear.

Which means you guessed something was up, thought Adrian.

“It was just a bad feeling.” Tare folded his arms. “I’m no more certain about the cause than you are, though I do have a couple of hunches.”

Baz went on, Then there was that creepy laughter . . .

I didn’t like that. Jake shook his fur. It made my paws cold and my hackles go up. . . . Sorry, too doggy.

Tare quirked a wry eyebrow. “If dog instincts are all you’ve got, that’s better than nothing.” He straightened. “I was wondering how far you could get. So far, I’d gotten that stepping in the circle set off something—a transformational trap, if you will—and it had to do with what you’re thinking about at the moment. No one else was in the cave before that, so it also seems to have released someone, or something—whatever was laughing—which seems to have left and is presumably at large now. I bet it came through from somewhere else when you set it off—because the Faerie world’s veil between our own is thinner around now, like I said.”

Are you saying it’s a faerie, or just from Faerie?

“I’m saying I don’t know what it is, but I have suspicions. And whatever it is, it probably shouldn’t be wandering around in our world. What we—I—need to find out is where it is, what it is, how to stop it, and how to get you turned back. Because I’m not going to dog-sit you lot forever, or explain this to all your families,” Tare added forcefully.

Their little pink tongues lolled out as they sat and panted, grinning puppy grins up at him.

But we’re so adorable.

Don’t you just want to pet us and keep us forever?

Tare rubbed a hand over his mouth to cover a grimace—or some other facial expression.

Anyway, we can help—with our noses, and our detective skills.

Tare snorted.

Several puppies looked hurt. (Never underestimate the amount of devastating that six sad puppies can pull off.)

We’re not doing too bad . . .

Tare conceded this for the sake of getting anything done. “You’re not doing too bad. At least your brains aren’t totally gone.”

Ivy bristled, annoyance clear in every line of her fur. Well, thanks for—squirrel!

The gaze of five other puppies shot in the direction her nose pointed. A second later they were off again, crashing through the underbrush and dead leaves, yapping and panting, delighted with the chase.

Tare rubbed a hand down his forehead and over his eyes and left it there. “This is going to be a long day.”

* * *

In the end, it was the rain that allowed Tare to herd them together this time. The overcast clouds which had been threatening rain up beyond the looming, clutching, half-bare autumn branches, at last made good on their threats, and the rain started coming down.

All at once there were several alarmed puppies who hated being wet and didn’t like thunder at all looking for shelter—the nearest of which seemed to be Tare. They scampered back to him and he suddenly found himself with six damp puppies all trying to somehow hide by his boots under the partial shelter of him and his leather jacket.

Tare sighed. “Come on, let’s find somewhere dry.” He marched grimly off through the trees, while the puppies tried to stay as close to him as possible. It was likely only his fighter’s grace that kept him from tripping over six little round canine bodies all pressed against his legs—certainly anyone else would have ended up flat on their face on the forest floor a few times before they reached their destination.

It was not far: an old abandoned house in the woods. They stopped just under the eaves of the building, not quite out of the rain, before the door, looking up at it.

Because coming to the haunted house on Halloween is a great idea . . .

Oh, be quiet—it’s dry in there. Adrian reared up against the old wooden door, scrabbling at the tarnished doorknob, which didn’t help. Okay, hands are useful. He turned and blinked liquid brown eyes up at Tare. I hate to ask this, but—

Let us in—let us in—let us in! One of the puppies—who shall remain nameless—bounded up and put eager front paws against Tare’s leg, leaving large amounts of extremely wet mud on his black jeans.

Tare’s eyebrows were as formidable as the sad-puppy looks were devastating. “Down.

The unrepentant puppy frisked out of reach. The others hunched in the rain, looking wet and miserable.

“Fine.” Tare relented and opened the door.

The puppies bounded up and rushed inside, joyously, paws pattering across the unsteady floorboards, which creaked hollowly as Tare stepped in after the erstwhile Chess Club.

What now? asked several thoughts, as blunt claws clicked on boards (leaving muddy pawprints all over) and curious noses sniffed and pointed cautiously toward different shadowy corners.

“We wait out the rain. Unless you want to stay here while I see what I can figure out.”

There was alarmed yapping and several of them jumped up against Tare with their front paws. Don’t leave us alone in the creepy house in the rain!

“Mm-hmm. Didn’t think so. Now what did I say about down.

He didn’t seem about to leave, so they complied.

Tare lowered himself to sit cross-legged on the floor in the open doorway, looking out at the rain.

At least it’s dry in here . . . Still cold though. And we’re so wet Adrian planted his four paws firmly on the floor and—

“Don’t do it,” Tare said.

All six puppies briskly shook themselves, sending rainwater everywhere. (Hint: everywhere included Tare.)

Tare sat grimly where he was, wordlessly wiping water from his face. The six little furry critters came up to lie down to either side, leaning against him—more or less in his lap, but not quite. Tare remained unmoved, and in a few moments they were all cozily situated close to him. They smelled like wet dog, but they were cute—and also impossible. Tare wasn’t sure quite what to do about them.

Especially when a few of them started spontaneously licking his face as if they couldn’t help themselves.

Tare recoiled. “Don’t even—!” He pushed their soft furry heads back down, hands petting slightly-damp velvety ears in the process.

Purely by accident.

Of course.

Tare pulled his hands back and quickly folded his arms.

Sorry. It just happened. They didn’t sound sorry at all.

Tare gave a wordless noncommittal grunt.

You said you’ve thought of us as puppies before, Tare. Admit it, this is far worse.

“This,” Tare conceded evenly, “is far worse.”

With contented little puppy sighs, they settled down in the shelter of the old house next to Tare, and stared out at the falling rain along with him.

The peace did not last long.

A sudden roaring sound came in a rush of air through the rainy trees, with a cracking of branches. There was a kind of crashing, groaning noise, shaking the floor and walls as if a large thing had just landed on top of the “haunted house.”

What was that?

Tare had gotten enough of a glimpse as it passed overheard to know what it was. He was on his feet instantly. “That was a dragon, and we need to get out of here now.”

What?!

And why would we leave shelter to run around in the open?

“Because it already knows we’re here and will just burn the house down around our ears and pick us out of it like a buffet if we don’t get out.”

Tare jumped down from the threshold into the rainy forest again, with the puppies scrambling at his heels, hoping this was some sort of joke to scare them—

Nope.

They spied a large scaly green dragon perched on top of the “haunted house,” bat-like wings half spread, peering down at them through the rain.

Hello, my fluffy little succulent morsels, the dragon thought to them.

Okay, Tare, your dragon story is scarier than my ghost story, Baz thought, all the puppies shrinking away to hide behind Tare’s legs while they peeked out at the dragon.

“It’s not my dragon story,” Tare murmured. Then, louder, to the dragon, he said, “What do you want?”

Lunch. Being stuck in a Faerie cave for a few centuries until some careless people let you out is a hungry business. These little things look like just the thing as a small appetizer before exploring the neighboring villages for a few dozen people for lunch. You look a little tough for my palate, so I have no quarrel with you, if you’ll just step aside.

Tare stood his ground in the rain. “No.”

The dragon’s tail swished across the roof, carelessly, rather like a cat’s. Its red-gold eyes narrowed and a tiny wisp of grey smoke drifted up from its nostrils. Is that so?

Tare watched the creature evenly, and kept his mind closed off against the dragon, but opened it to the Chess Club and sent them a mental message. I need you to run. Run as fast as you can and make it back to cliffs. Find some small cave too small for a dragon, and too far in to get burned if it found you. I’ll handle this.

The puppies, although almost radiating fear, were not so easily persuaded.

No!

We’re not leaving you here to face that thing by yourself.

Tare kept his gaze fixed on the dragon—not looking directly into its eyes—but a muscle in his set jaw twitched. Don’t be difficult. What are you going to do? You’re puppies. Now get somewhere safe. Don’t worry. I won’t let you get hurt.

The Chess Club puppies stood their ground too—they could be nearly as stubborn as Tare sometimes, and that hadn’t changed in their smaller, fluffier forms when faced with something like this.

We’re sticking with you!

The dragon heard them, though it seemed not to have heard Tare.

How touching. But ultimately misguided. You should have run while you could. The dragon laughed as it pushed off from the roof and floated lightly down on its wings to land heavily on the ground in front of Tare among the trees. It was not as huge as they’d thought at first—of course, it must have been slender enough to make it through the passage they had come out of—but still loomed a few feet taller than Tare, curling its wings in to get them out of the way of the branches. It moved sinuously forward, serpent-like, tail curled around a nearby tree. The wet ground hissed with steam where it touched. Now I only have to get through this one, and you’ll be mine. It spoke to the Chess Club puppies, but watched Tare with its sinister gaze.

Tare faced the dragon and was unmoved. “Why don’t you pick on someone closer to your size? Like me.” He pulled a handgun from inside his jacket, leveled it at the dragon’s head, and fired.

The bullet struck the dragon’s forehead. It blinked, then shook its scaly head. The bullet fell to the ground, leaving a slight dent between the dragon’s eyes, like dented armor, without bothering it. The dragon blinked balefully at Tare.

“Didn’t think that would work, but it was worth a shot,” Tare remarked.

Literally, thought Baz.

“Don’t go punny on me.” Tare holstered the gun, pulled out two long knives, and charged at the dragon, yelling over his shoulder, “Get out of here!”

The large creature breathed fire at him. Tare rolled neatly out of the way, and then he was beneath the dragon, slashing and stabbing. Sparks flew from blades and scales, but the knives couldn’t pierce its natural armor. Then the fight was on in earnest with a mixture of flames—which Tare dodged—and slashing claws and tail and knives, whirring about with startling speed. The rain fell on them, hissing on the hot dragon and the patches of flames where the forest floor caught on fire.

I SAID— Tare’s thought reminded them.

The puppies looked at each other, formed a collective Chess Club agreement—which Tare and the dragon were far too occupied fighting to listen to—and made their decision.

Over here! they chorused at once, in the equivalent of a mind-shout. Come get your lunch! And they scampered off into the woods as fast as their paws could carry them.

Roaring (not laughing now) the dragon took to its wings, crashing through the trees, which hampered its movements. It broke off large branches as it went. Tare ran after it, attacking, distracting, while the Chess Club puppies drew it on toward the cliffs and caves.

In here, you ugly scaly thing! the Chess Club puppies taunted, and dived down into the hole leading into the passage and cave where everything had started.

The dragon hissed in rage and dived in after them. Tare grabbed its tail and yanked it back, burning his hands. That gained them a moment. Then it shook itself loose, tossing him against a tree, and disappeared after the sound of the Chess Club’s taunts echoing inside the cave.

“Idiots,” Tare muttered, rolling to his feet and ignoring his bruises. He sprinted down the passage after them. But he suspected what they might be doing, luring the dragon back here in case they could get it trapped again, and it was something he’d considered trying himself—with the Chess Club safely out of danger’s way, of course. But they never knew when not to get involved. How he ever kept them alive was a mystery to him.

He dashed into the cave and attacked the dragon before it could crisp the puppies, which were on the other side of the large circular cavern. The dragon roared in rage and batted Tare away with its tail again, sending him sliding into the middle of the room.

NOW! the Chess Club puppies thought loudly, as if they had been counting down to something which Tare had been too busy to attend to. Groaning and trying to roll over and get up, Tare vaguely heard them thinking very specifically of dragons. Black dragons. Dragons—

What? Tare suddenly found himself enveloped in smoke, and figured he was probably dead—except the smoke hadn’t come from the green dragon . . . Oh.

Tare rose to his feet—all four of them—and spread his wings and lashed his tail, staring the dragon down with eyes now as fiery as its own. He had landed in the middle of the circle in the center of the room, and the Chess Club had been thinking very hard about him being a dragon—and consequently he was vaguely thinking it too—just like they had been thinking of puppies, which had turned them into their current furry shapes.

Tare was a dragon.

He was smaller and more lithe than the green dragon, and his scales gleamed black with an almost purple-ish glint. But he was a dragon, and that was what counted.

Don’t mess with my Chess Club! Tare roared, blasting fire at the green dragon and attacking it.

The puppies sent up mental cheers and then stayed crouched out of the way while the two dragons fought like a whirlwind of furious . . . well . . . dragons.

They rolled around over and over on top of each other, clawing, biting, breathing fire. The stone chamber echoed around them and lit up in sporadic red flashes of light. Smaller and more agile than his enemy, Dragon-Tare managed to wrestle the green dragon over and shove it directly into the circle in the middle of the floor.

The green dragon gave a roar of thwarted anger and vanished in a flash of light and smoke.

Sudden silence fell.

Tare spun to be sure the Chess Club were all right—they were still puppies, but alive and well. Tare breathed out a long breath.

Then he looked down at himself.

Still a dragon.

He looked back at them—a large black dragon towering above six small puppies who ought to be afraid in the presence of such a creature, but instead radiated content, relief, and a feeling of safety, along with some mental cheers.

They clearly weren’t thinking about the fact that they were still puppies and that Tare was now transformed too.

Now look what you’ve done, Tare thought to them.

You’re a dragon—that’s awesome!

Dragon-Tare growled.

The puppies wilted very slightly.

Sorry, but getting you turned into a dragon was all we could think of so you could defeat it without—you know—dying? they thought uncertainly, and tilted their little soft ears, as though wondering if they were in trouble or not.

Tare’s dragon shoulders slumped. He sighed and slid down to lie on the floor, front claws folded, great head resting on them, and black wings furled tight against his scaly back, tail curling around his side.

The puppies hesitantly approached, and they tentatively put their paws on his tail. Tare didn’t mind. They climbed up him and curled up on his back together in a little pile of fluff.

Sorry you’re a dragon, Lavender thought. But you do make a nice one.

I could get used to it, Tare grunted. I’m just not sure I want to.

At least you’re not freaking out like we were, Baz quipped.

How do we change back? Marie asked.

I don’t want to be a puppy forever, Jake mourned.

Don’t worry, you’ll grow into a big dog someday, Ivy thought dryly.

That’s not what I meant! Jake wailed.

Adrian licked Jake’s head. It’s okay. We’ll figure it out.

We’re getting more dog-like all the time . . . Baz thought.

I know. It would be awesome if it wasn’t so ominous, Adrian answered.

Wait, are you going to start getting more dragon-y? Lavender asked Tare in alarm.

Yeah, like hoarding gold and wanting to eat small puppies and getting super smart and cunning and living in a lair by yourself? Baz contributed.

He’s already super smart and living in a lair . . . replied several thoughts.

Right. My bad.

Tare grunted and heaved himself to his feet, with the puppies still on his back. Thanks. I think. And no, I’m not going to eat you, and hoarding gold is not on my list of things to do in the near future; who has time for that. Besides, I don’t plan to stay a dragon long enough to get any more dragon-y than (you claim) I already am.

I wish I was me again, Baz thought forlornly. It was fun at first, but I’m with Jake.

Me too, thought the others, ears drooping as they lay flopped sadly in their pile on Tare’s back while he prowled across the room. I wish I was me again. I wish I was me again . . . they repeated in their minds.

And Dragon-Tare stepped into the center of the circle, and merely thought: I am Tare.

POOF.

The next instant, Tare, Adrian, Lavender, Ivy, Baz, Marie, and Jake all tumbled in a tangled heap on the floor—in their own human forms again. There was no sign of a repeat performance of a dragon returning.

“Whoa,” Adrian said, getting quickly to his feet and pulling his backup keychain flashlight out of his pocket for a little light. “I can’t believe that worked!”

Several of the others laughed in relief, trying to get untangled.

“I’m me again!”

“I have hands!”

“Yesss, no tail!”

“I’m kind of a person again.”

“You’re kind of on top of me,” Tare grunted.

The others hastily stood and stepped away, a little awkwardly.

Tare climbed to his feet, stretched his limbs a little stiffly, and rotated his neck. “Dragon-fight aftermath,” he explained when they looked at him anxiously. “I’m fine, though.”

“Oh.”

“Good.”

“Um. Thanks for, you know, saving us from being eaten.”

Tare straightened his leather jacket, possibly shrugging in the process. “It’s an occupation. Thanks for being nuisances and helping out.”

They laughed. “Any time.”

“But wow, puppies and dragons,” Jake said, wide-eyed

“Won’t we have something to talk about,” Baz laughed.

Tare cleared his throat. “We never speak of this again.”

The Chess Club looked at each other and grinned.

Then Lavender sighed and said, “Let’s go home.”

* * *

It was still raining—which fortunately had put out the small fires the dragon had started—but they made it through the woods back to Mr. Larch’s house, where they usually gathered for meetings. It was light and warm inside, a welcome change to the cold, wet, somehow currently spooky-feeling woods.

“Ahh, I have hands again,” Adrian said as he opened the door.

“Yeah, let’s put them to use—anyone for chess?” Marie asked.

“Hi, everyone,” Mr. Larch called from the kitchen.

“Hey,” the Chess Club chorused.

Yapping barks met them. Small Occasion came barreling over to greet them enthusiastically—he was their actual puppy, fluffy and white, and they found themselves laughing, realizing they’d never look at puppies quite the same again . . .

It was also a little weird to switch from communicating mentally to not hearing each other’s thoughts, but they were pretty good at understanding each other without that, like they always had, so it was all right. (They never knew what Tare was thinking, but that wasn’t new; and they hadn’t much while they were puppies, anyway.) It was also nice to be tall again and be, well, people. They left wet coats and muddy boots by the back door and ambled into the living room.

Small was catching some odd smells about them, and didn’t know what to do with these. Puzzled, he followed them over to the couches, where they collapsed comfortably, tired from all their adventures. They started setting up a couple of chess boards on the coffee table.

“Staying?” Ivy asked Tare.

He shrugged, draping his leather jacket on the back of a chair. “For a bit. ’Til the rain lets up.” He dropped into the chair, stretching out his long legs.

“So how was your day?” Mr. Larch asked them, sitting in the easy chair at the head of the room, and letting Small hop up onto his lap.

“Fine,” Tare said noncommittally.

The rest looked at each other over the chess pieces. “It was . . . interesting.”

Baz grinned innocently. “Nothing happened. Nothing at all.”

Tare quirked an eyebrow and sent him a resigned “Really? That’s how subtle you’re being?” look. But he didn’t seem to really mind.

Mr. Larch smiled while Small Occasion tried to lick his owner’s long nose. “Sounds like there might be a story here . . .”

* * *

The next day, there was a piece of news on TV.

There has been a report of the aftermath of a small forest fire in the woods just outside of town. The fire took place sometime on October 31st. Locals found several fallen burnt branches and patches of burnt ground, near an abandoned house. It appears to have been started by lightning, although there are no eye-witness accounts. Fortunately, the rainstorm seems to have contained the fire and kept the damage from spreading. There were no injuries.”

“Weren’t you out hiking in the woods yesterday with your friends?” Lavender’s dad asked her as she passed through the living room.

Lavender paused on her way to her room. “Yes, why?”

He nodded at the TV and repeated what the reporter had said. “I guess it must have been somewhere else in the woods, or at a different time.”

“Mm,” Lavender said.

“How terrible!” Lavender’s mom said. “At least no one was hurt. I’m so glad you were safe.”

Lavender smiled. “Me too.”

Humming, she went upstairs to her room, dropped her school backpack on her bed, and pulled her window curtain aside to look out at the woods just beyond her back yard. Was it her imagination or was there a faint wisp of smoke rising, left over from a fire in the woods?

As she looked, a dark patch of movement caught her eye. Tare came into view, walking past within the fringe of trees at the edge of Kedran’s wood. A dog from the neighbors’ house bounded up to him. Tare picked up a stick and threw it off into the trees for the dog, who chased after it. Tare stuck his hands back in the pockets of his black leather jacket and walked on.

Lavender let the curtain fall back over the window, and she smiled.


Note: I’m posting this (extremely late) in honor of Jenelle Schmidt’s #Drachtober story challenge. “The Dragon of Kedran’s Wood or Tare and the Puppies” belongs to my contemporary fantasy series work-in-progress Kedran’s Wood, which (if for some reason you are new to my blog or live under a rock and have never noticed me talk about–JUST KIDDING) you can read more about here. Thanks for reading—I hope you enjoyed. 🙂

Hoarding Plot-Reveal-Secrets Syndrome

Friends, I have a problem.

It’s called Hoarding Plot-Reveal-Secrets Syndrome.

Okay, so this is a name I made up. But whatever it is, I HAVE IT.

Let me explain.

When I’m writing a story, I have to set things up in the story before I can get to the major plot points.

Then the beginning gets longer than I planned, because I’m a disaster longwinded.

And I also have this strange thing where I ALWAYS HOARD SECRETS.

  • If there’s a big reveal about a certain character? = Hoard it.
  • If there’s a plot twist? = Hoard it.
  • If there’s a villain doing things THAT WE SHOULD KNOW STRAIGHT OFF but it’s “too early” to reveal? = Hoard it.

This results in the unfortunate tendency for nothing interesting to happen in the novel for huuuge stretches of time, as I throw in tiny hints toward said hoarded plot-reveal secrets but don’t actually put any of them in until way later in the book.

BECAUSE… SECRETS.

Because I’m saving them for later. *cough*

But this means that I DON’T INTRODUCE VITAL PLOT PIECES EARLY ON BECAUSE THEY’RE TOO “SPECIAL” TO PUT IN YET.

I don’t even know, guys. I’m a mess.

(It doesn’t help that sometimes, if I’m discovering a story as I go, and don’t have it all plotted when I start, I don’t even know the big plot points until I discover them when the heroes do…)

It’s not just one book, or anything. I’ve noticed this multiple times in my writing. It adds up to a repeated problem.

Enter Hoarding Plot-Reveal-Secrets Syndrome.

(Thank you, Doctor. No, really. You’re a huge help. -_-)

It would be like if in The Lord of the Rings, they don’t find out what the One Ring is actually for until, like, Lothlorien.

It kills me that I can’t offer specifics about my own stories to help explain this, because… spoilers. But let me be vague for you and pick one story as an example…

I’m currently writing KW2, The Secret of Kedran’s Wood. (Oh, great, there’s a secret in the TITLE. And guess what, it doesn’t get revealed until HALFWAY INTO PART THREE. I’m not even there yet. I’m even hoarding plot points from myself. Joy.)

I’m currently writing Part 2 (I always split my novels into three parts — no idea why, it just works that way so I can have bite-sized pieces).

Unfortunately, the “setup” on this novel has taken so long, that Part 1 is currently 63,522 words.

THAT’S RIGHT, THE FIRST “THIRD” OF THIS BOOK IS CURRENTLY THE SIZE OF SOME NOVELS.

I need help.

There’s a character I’m going to introduce who’s going to be hugely important to the plot, and may even steal the show from Tare (*universe stands still while audience squints and asks “IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?”*) and I keep putting off introducing said character. And I keep having the villains beat about the bush instead of doing THINGS. And the heroes are always trying to figure out the mysteries but they keep juuuust eluding them.

One of the problems with this… er… problem is that if the PLOT doesn’t start until halfway through the book or later, then… what is going on to start with? It’s kind of like the description on the back of a book, making you interested without “giving things away”.

While we’re on the subject, what is my summary for this book going to look like? O_O

The Secret of Kedran’s Wood by Yours Truly

In which Tare and the Chess Club do things and discover SHOCKING, EXCITING THINGS (No, really. They’re awesome.) but those are in the final third sooo we’re not going to talk about them here on the back of the book because #secrets and BECAUSE YOU NEED TO READ 100K WORDS OF RAMBLING FIRST THANKS.

Not to mention, it’s awkward when you can’t tell anybody the reason why your story is cool. Because it’s spoilers.

Or is it?

HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT YOU CAN TELL PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR STORY WITHOUT RUINING THE SURPRISE.

Ahem.

Y’know, I should just accept that the Kedran’s Wood series is getting longwinded and episodic and should just become a serialized book-equivalent of a TV show. Yeah. Let’s do that…

But that doesn’t solve the plot-reveal-hoarding issue for my other works.

Basically, IT’S STARTING TO BE A PROBLEM. And I have NaNo coming up and don’t want to do this to… whatever it is that I’m going to write for NaNo. (Which, incidentally, I haven’t decided yet. I’m doing it, but picking a novel? SO HARD. *cough*)

So, does anyone else have this hoarding-plot-reveal-secrets problem?

And, more importantly, WHAT IS THE CURE? O_O

I don’t want the stories to be drawn out and lack plot-reveals until the final few chapters, but howww do I sprinkle them in?

How do I stop feeling like I’m “spoiling” the story by actually, you know, revealing what’s going on every now and then?

How do I stop hoarding the juiciest bits and cackling about how I’ll get to reveal them …someday?

How do I know what I can and can’t reveal about the plot or the sequels or whatever?

HALP.

Do you suffer from Hoarding Plot-Reveal-Secrets Syndrome? Any condolences or tips for me? XD

Tare Turns 5 Years Old

(Kedran’s Wood collage I made. Some images belong to me, others were found on Pinterest, here.)

Some of you are probably squinting at the title of this post, going: “…Wait, what??”

(Especially since, as those three or so people reading this who have beta-read some of the books would know, Tare’s actual age is so confusing in the story itself that he doesn’t need any more confusingness added on.)

(For anyone who is further confused due to not knowing: Tare is the name of my favorite character I’ve ever written [sorry, all you other characters] and he inhabits the contemporary fantasy series I’m writing.)

Let me set you straight.

No, it’s not actually Tare’s birthday (which is in January).

No, this post is not actually about an adorable Tare when he was a small boy (apologies).

But a week ago, on April 5, 2017, it was in fact the 5-year anniversary of the day I first started writing the book in which I first met Tare, the first book in the Kedran’s Wood series, The Owl of Kedran’s Wood!

Yes indeed, it’s KW1’s book birthday!

Here, have a cupcake to celebrate:

Today’s post is a conglomeration of random things about the series, including the first book, and basically just A CELEBRATION OF ALL THINGS KEDRAN’S-WOOD-ISH!

How it Began

It began with the forging of the great rings…

…Whoops, wrong story. How about this?

In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.

Wait, wrong one again. How about this one:

In an abandoned apartment down a dark alley there lived a Tare?

Closer.

Ahem.

Anyways, it actually began in early 2012 when I “randomly” started writing what I thought would be a fun standalone novella or short novel called The Owl of Kedran’s Wood. I wanted to try a little modern fantasy story and just… started writing. I knew a few things about the story, but for the most part, I was as in the dark as my main characters, the Chess Club. It was a first for me in many ways. I hadn’t done a lot of “pantsing” stories before, and it was also my first modern story.

I never thought I would write a modern story. Contemporary books were never my thing, and I think it’s because I don’t enjoy the kinds of things that modern books can rarely seem to resist including, like school and its petty backstabbing and bullying and drama (ugh), annoying teen characters who don’t get along and have family life problems, and love-triangles… etc., and just general ick. Many modern books just seemed petty to me and I always enjoyed fantasy worlds instead.

So the idea that I would write a fantasy book in *gasp* modern times? Unheard of!

But it happened.

I started writing a modern fantasy book, and ended up writing it (unintentionally) in direct opposition to all the problems I’d had with other modern fiction. I made it a book that I wouldn’t mind reading myself. On the way, I completely fell in love with this cast of characters — the Chess Club became more than friends, they became MY friends, and Tare became my favorite character I’ve written (so far). It also turned out to be 100K words. So much for “short.” XD

From being a one-time random story I thought I would finish and move on from, it wrapped itself around my heart and turned into a series which, five years later, I’m still working on writing, and foresee being happily involved in scribbling for many more years to come. ^_^

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about this particular book in the series (since it’s been awhile since I finished it) so, in celebration of its birthday, let me direct you to a handy new summary I wrote for it recently.

The Owl of Kedran’s Wood (Kedran’s Wood, Book 1)
by Deborah O’Carroll

Welcome to the town by Kedran’s Wood

  • Where teenaged best friends (but not, y’know, the angsty kind) don’t need to backstab each other (though they might the recent outbreak of monsters).
  • Where it’s not about life in highschool (because who wants to spend more time there than necessary?) but about life outside it.
  • And where the local chess club (see best friends) does more than just play chess . . .

Meet shy Lavender, rambunctious Baz, fiery Ivy, confident Adrian, and wry Mr. Larch. Oh, and Small Occasion (who is tiny, white, and fluffy, and barks like a tree).

This book is about how they play (badly) at being over-reacting amateur detectives more often than at chess; fight monsters (with some—okay, lots of—help from the resident leather-clad stranger); and still find time for friendships old and new, and small occasions like summer lemonade and puns (yes, that last one is always Baz’s fault).

But mostly it’s about the mysterious young man called Tare (see resident leather-clad stranger), how the Chess Club meets him (though whether that’s a terrific or terrible thing is part of the question—Baz would say both, if only for the puns), and how just at the edge of an ordinary small modern town, lies Kedran’s Wood . . .

And that’s where the pieces are beginning to move for a game that’s far from a friendly match of chess.

Books in the Kedran’s Wood Series

and a little bit about them

Novels

  • 1 The Owl of Kedran’s Wood — the summer when Tare and the Chess Club meet, featuring cake-baking disasters and the (almost) end of the world (#awkward). Status: draft written.
  • 2 The Secret of Kedran’s Wood — wintry novel, current work in progress, featuring mysterious villains and (possibly) an evil faerie. Status: 1/3 done? Hopefully more?
  • 3 The Shadow of Kedran’s Wood — featuring summer vacation, more about Tare, and of course secret agents. Status: snippets.

Novellas (to write)

  • 1.5 Son of Kedran’s Wood — in which Tare does stuff between 1 &2, + prequel about his past (yay!)
  • 2.5 Mixup at Kedran’s Wood — in which Tare and Adrian accidentally switch minds/bodies (because that won’t be confusing at all…)
  • 3.5 Celebrations at Kedran’s Wood — in which there is a birthday party and a wedding (no, I’m not telling you whose)

Bonus Novel (to write)

  • The Quest of Kedran’s Wood — in which Marie undertakes something NaNo-ish and writes an epic fantasy book starring the chess club and Tare in medieval roles. And reads it aloud to them. (What could possibly go wrong?)

Number of KW words written so far

According to one calculation:

190,780 words

  • (105K book 1 current finished draft)
  • (65K book 2 current + 10K snippets out of order later in book 2)
  • (10K snippets total from book 3, 1.5, 2.5, and bonus)

That averages out to approximately 104 words of Kedran’s Wood writing per day for 5 years. XD (Not counting previous versions or plotting, of course.)

#WIPjoy

In celebration of my Kedran’s Wood series turning 5 years old, and in an effort to get myself immersed again in the writing of KW2, I’m doing #WIPjoy on Twitter all this month, featuring The Secret of Kedran’s Wood!

For those who don’t know #WIPjoy is to celebrate and answer questions about your work-in-progress (WIP), with a different question for every day of the month.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, check it out! …For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter, where have you been?? (Just kidding. 😉 I will excuse you if you don’t have Twitter. XD Ahem.)

It’s been a blast so far!

Tare is an INTJ (surprise)

Yes, I took the MBTI test as Tare (or rather, as Tare IS, not how he would answer, because I’m 99% sure he wouldn’t want a random test knowing things about him so he’d likely be less than truthful in that case) and he came out as INTJ, which is the category most villains and awesome dark people like Mr. Darcy and Batman and Sherlock tend to fit into. Yes, I was monstrously pleased at this. XD It’s creepy how well he fits it, too…

(He’s not shy but he’s definitely not a people person. I love that he’s 80% introverted. XD)

Tare is the only character I’ve taken the test for, since he’s the only one I know well enough.

Some posts about the series

This seemed like a fun time to highlight some favorite posts in the past about the Kedran’s Wood series or (usually) Tare.

And there you have it!

This concludes my reminiscing about this unlikely but beloved series of mine. (Now to just finish writing it and get it published, amIright?? Ahem. That may be far down the road, but it’s an eventual goal. ;))

What most intrigues you about this series, or what was your favorite part of this post? Thank you so much for putting up with me flailing about this stuff (and reading this post), and celebrating with me the 5-year birthday of this series! ^_^

My Year in Writing {2016}

2016writingpost

2017.

A new year.

2017 always sounded like one of those far-away numbers, you know? Just fancy it being here now!

Time, my roadlings. Time is mysterious.

This last year of 2016 was in many ways a tough year for me, but filled with good things too. 🙂

If you’d like to see my Top 12 Books I Read in 2016 and other miscellaneous info about my reading life this last year, you can check out my post on my book blog! You know, in case you’re curious. 😉

This post, however, is all about my year of writing! (I know, I know, you would never have guessed from the title…)

2016 Writing

I wrote 71,854 words in 2016. Which… is less than my usual 100K, but I will be thankful for it. 😉

Since 51K of that was NaNo, my non-NaNo writing amounted to 20,720 words… which is why I feel like it was a slow year. Most months I was writing 2K in a month, which… well, let’s just say I won’t get my enormous 100K+ monster books written in a hurry at this rate. But all the same, I’m very pleased with the writing I DID get done, and I think I needed a slower, casual year of writing anyway. We’ll just go with that.

WRITING THAT I DID…

lscover

I started The Library in the Stars and wrote 51,000 words of that — huzzah! (Now I just need to write the ending. *cough*)

OHEcover

I “officially” started The Other Half of Everything, wrote part of the first chapter, and proceeded to keep writing it out of order later on in the book in snippets. Oops? 6,000 words this year.

KW2coverP

Filled in holes in The Secret of Kedran’s Wood and did editing on a few chapters and officially finished the first draft of Part 1! *celebration* I also started the next chapter, wrote a bit of that… and proceeded to keep writing it out of order later on in the book in snippets. Oops? (Wait, did I just say that earlier? *cough* Apparently it’s a trend.)

I wrote 6,800 words of KW2 this year.

On that note, I’m convinced Tare ambushed me and made me write an extra thousand words post-NaNo solely to be able to show Teague that KW is still ahead of OHE in the word department this year. Nicely played, Tare.

And we will NOT talk about the fact that I’m over 63,000 words into it and only a third done the story. AHEM.

IMcover3

And I wrote over 3,000 words of The Invisible Mask, and hit 20K, which was very exciting! I consider the “opening” done, so I’m kind of thrilled about this.

MidnightFearIMG

Rewrote an old short story, Midnight Fear, which used to be just over 1,000 words, and now is just under that. Very pleased with the rewrite.

silmarillion-awards-facebook

I also wrote that Silmarillion Awards Strangest Character presentation post poem, featuring Tom Bombadil and Puddleglum, which was 800 words.

Other than that, I wrote another 1000-ish words on random things like my New Year’s poem, short story Hairdo Havoc, The Silver Forest, and other Kedran’s Wood series jots, including Book 4… even though I’m still on Book 2. Yeah, don’t ask. #TareAndChessClubProblems

PLOTTING THAT I DID…

I did various plotting on various books, including The Silver Forest and The Invisible Mask, but mostly for The Other Half of Everything and the Kedran’s Wood series (mostly KW2), and for The Library in the Stars.

The biggest news was The Library in the Stars exploding into being, out of a bunch of different previous ideas, and being plotted and started.

I also had some exciting “clicking” moments for Once Upon a November, The Siren and the Skyship, and my short story Hairdo Havoc.

And new ideas happened too, of course. My Fairy Godmother Muse has been quite busy.

I suppose I should be grateful I only have half a dozen new “official” ones, if I include The Library in the Stars? (Which did actually combine some ideas, so maybe I’m at about the same number? I don’t know, my Fairy Godmother Muse confuses me so much these days.)

  • Painting Rainbows (Underground Rainbow spinoff involving heists & the painter artist Kevin Johnson)
  • From That Shadowy Land (inspired by various ballads and featuring Faeries)
  • The Treasure of A Distant Storm (futuristic London short story)
  • Wintertale (I don’t even know. Thankfully, it’s a short story)
  • (And an untitled novel to be written sometime farrr in the future, involving fantasy tropes)

#FairyGodmotherMuseProblems #PlotBunnyProblems

OTHER RANDOM WRITING FACTS…

  • Best writing day: 7,589 words (Nov 27.)
  • Completed my 7th NaNo!
  • Was an ML on my own for the first time
  • Was interviewed!
  • Got Scrivener (a.k.a. the Preciousss <3)
  • Started a book review blog and managed to write 61 posts on that during the year!
  • Additionally*, I wrote 76 posts on this blog
  • Yes, that is 137 posts total this last year
  • Somebody save me from myself

*I typed that as “addictionally” the first time. Oh the irony.


And that’s about it! Overall, not a bad year (Fairy Godmother Muse and her antics notwithstanding). ^_^

I don’t know what this new year of 2017 will hold for me in the writing arena (and I’m avoiding making plans, since historically plans and I do not mix well together — they tend to laugh at me, attack, knock me out, steal my everything, and leave me looking very foolish) but I’m looking forward to finding out! 🙂

How was your year of writing in 2016? Do you have problems with a Fairy Godmother Muse of your own? Any exciting writerly pursuits in the last year? Tell me all!

P.S. I’m thinking of going on a blog/internet break for two or three weeks… so I may disappear for a bit and come back around the end of January, give or take. Just a heads-up. Have a great month, everyone! ❤