Behold the Ishness! {Feb-March 2018}

Oh, look, the last time I did an Ishness was for January; it’s high time to let y’all know about the ishnesses going on in my life these last two months!

Let’s see what I was up to in the blur that was February and March . . .

WRITING

(via pixabay.com)

I wrote a grand total of 1.5K words in these past two months.

I know. So amazing.

Ahem. XD

Basically, I’ve been in a little bit of a writing slump this year. 😛 I’m hoping Camp NaNo will help with that.

BUT! I am very pleased with those 1500 words, so that’s a good thing, yes?

I finished a particularly tricky chapter of The Secret of Kedran’s Wood. This work-in-progress is now 75K words long, so far. (Yikes!)

(via fellowshipoffantasy.com)

I wrote We Otter Do It, which, although it was small, I really enjoyed writing. Having such a tight wordcount limit was a fascinating puzzle, and I kind of loved it. 😀

I’ve also been doing some plotting for The Other Half of Everything and some other stories.

READING

In reverse-chronological order (recentest reads at the top), here’s a screen-shot of my March and February reads taken from my Goodreads challenge.

(via goodreads.com)

(If you are curious what I thought of any of the books/stories pictured, just ask!)

So much reading! Actually, a lot of those are short stories and novellas and random things, so it’s not as many as it looks like. XD I’ve been including everything on my reading challenge, not just novels, so . . . yeah.

I’ve enjoyed most of these, but highlights were DEFINITELY:

 

  • Lady Moon by Rachel Starr Thomson — With a subtitle like A Tale of Love & Magic & Other Improbable, Unpredictable Things of COURSE I love this book! I have no words for this other than it’s one of my new top favorite books and I loved it SO MUCH that I read it twice in February. You know: that short month? TWICE, I say. I read it in a single day and then the next week I turned around and read the whole thing aloud to my younger siblings because I just could NOT resist re-reading it at once. Everyone should read this if you like whimsical fantasy. It’s DELIGHTFUL and Tomas is my favorite. ❤ (Thanks to Mary Horton for the recommendation!)
  • Masque by W. R. Gingell — I adored this book and I can’t wait to try more by this author. It was brilliant and hilarious, a Beauty and the Beast magical murder mystery which felt rather like a magical Georgette Heyer novel. I LOVED IT. There were a couple very gruesome scenes (because magical murder mystery) which I could have done without, but otherwise it was PERFECT. Everyone go read it, right now. (Thanks to Suzannah Rowntree for bringing this delightful novel to my attention.)
  • Minstrel’s Call by Jenelle Leanne SchmidtReviewed this one; I absolutely loved it! Brilliant conclusion to one of my favorite fantasy series! ^_^ Gaah. Brant! KIERNAN KANE! (Thanks to Jenelle for my review ARC. <3)
  • Sage by Jamie Foley — Let’s just say the same thing about this as about Minstrel’s Call. XD Because it was an awesome conclusion to another favorite fantasy series! (Look at me, actually finishing series I’ve been reading. #SoProud) Read my review here. ALSO JET IS STILL MY FAVE. ❤ (Thanks to Jamie for my gorgeous copy. <3)

(Look at how pretty the series is together! ❤ )

WATCHING

Er… not much? A little more Once Upon a Time (I think I still enjoyed Season One more? But still enjoying it somewhat and we’ll see how it goes), some old Batman movies which were weird, Alex Rider which was kinda fun.

Oh! And I started watching White Collar, a show about a con man who works with an FBI agent to solve crimes. I’ve only seen the first half of Season 1, so I don’t know how it goes on from there, but I LOVE it so far! XD It’s like Leverage meets Castle, and the characters are great. 😀

(via giphy.com)

BLOGGING

I’m also working on my “official” website, which reminds me I need to finish that . . .

(And I passed 1000 followers here, which — JUST. GUYS. ❤ *flails* I know some of those are my social media numbers, BUT STILL. THANK YOU SO MUCH, EVERYONE.)

LIFE

I had a birthday and got the One Ring for it. Which means it was my birthday present, Preciousss . . . Yes, I made all the jokes. XD

I also had my bjournal anniversary. I’ve kept a bullet journal for over a year now! *gasp* I’m on my fourth one, and I’m not as organized with it as I should be, but it’s still helpful.

A few writer workshops happened, which I attended, and they were interesting. I always learn SOMETHING new, even if it’s just a couple little tricks or a new perspective, but it’s also getting to the point where I seem to already know 80% of the information presented. That makes me feel weird, because I’m not a published author, but I’ve been learning so much about all of this for so many years that I’ve accumulated quite a bit of knowledge. People I meet seem to assume I don’t know much because I’m younger than they are. It’s kind of funny. XD

I’ve also been kicking off my editing freelancing, which I’m really excited about! Shoutout to fabulous author Kyle Robert Shultz, whose book I’m currently editing. 🙂

(via realmmakers.com)

And, most exciting of all, I signed up for Realm Makers! I’m going to the 2018 Realm Makers conference in July! Which means I’m trying to prepare for that, which means work, and trying to get my website and other things done, and starting my costume, etc. But I’m SO excited about going and getting to hopefully meet so many good online friends, and see a few I’ve met before, and just — I’M EXCITED.

APRIL PLANS

(via campnanowrimo.org)

I’m doing Camp NaNo! Which . . . well . . . as usual, I have no business doing, because BUSY, but at the same time it’s my excuse to make myself write again. So that makes me happy. 🙂 I’m working on plotting/outlining/draft-zero/writing The Siren and the Skyship, with slight forays into trying to wrangle the plots of the two sequels in this Sky Voyages series. I’m doing a 10 hour goal, so we’ll see how that goes!

(via Bethany Jennings @simmeringmind on Twitter.com)

I’m allegedly doing #WIPjoy with The Siren and the Skyship over on my Twitter and Facebook, although . . . I haven’t been keeping up very well. XD

I’m also participating in a couple of bookclub readalongs, which are fun so far! The three short stories I’ve read so far in the Mythical Doorways anthology have been delightful, and Trial by Song (a modern-day Jack-and-the-Beanstalk novel with scary Fae) has been quite creepy but otherwise fascinating. I can’t wait to see how both books finish up! (The FB book club group links for both are here and here.)

Mostly, I’m trying to keep up with whatever busyness life throws at me, and wondering how on earth it’s April already . . . (Because SERIOUSLY, THOUGH??)

So that’s what’s new with me! 🙂 How about you? What are you up to? I hope you enjoyed this glimpse at the goings-on around here. ^_^ Thanks for reading, and have a lovely April! ❤

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Ishness! (First of 2018!)

Iiiit’s time for… ISHNESS!

Because the last time I shared one was the beginning of December, at the end of NaNo season! So it’s high time for another one. 😉

Here are some of my ishnesses from December and the first month of 2018!

December 2017 Highlights

A lovely day in December: editing a short story, with cozy new slippers and my lovely Jayne-from-Firefly hat and bullet-journal, when it had just snowed outside, with my Tolkien collection at my feet.

  • Went on semi-hiatus post-NaNo but wrote 900 words scattered across half a dozen different stories, and had plotbunny explosions (of course; this is why I shouldn’t go on break).
  • The Siren and the Skyship decided it was a trilogy, so now I have two sequels to write as well as finish it. They’re all going to be retellings (the other two might be two each?) and I’M EXCITED.
  • A couple of my older ideas gained new titles and awesomeness (also retellings) and it’s going to be glorious. I have so many back-burner novel ideas that want my attention, but at the moment they must wait…
  • Edited and posted Tare and the Puppies! ^_^
  • I FINALLY read the much-hyped first book of the Wingfeather Saga, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, and really enjoyed it! SO FUN. I also saw the mini film episode thing online AND IT IS THE MOST ADORABLE THING. Seriously, go watch it if you haven’t!
  • I also read The Stroke of Eleven and alskdjfldkj MY FEELS. I need more Beaumont and Beasley! And I read a few other books, some of them actually Christmassy! (Look at me being all season-appropriate!)
  • Speaking of seasons: THERE WAS SNOW. It only came down for like ten minutes and none of it stayed, but it was sooo pretty! ^_^
  • Watched the second half of Once Upon a Time’s first season, and started the second season. Muchly enjoyable. SO MANY THINGS.
  • Re-watched the BBC Pride and Prejudice, which was lovely. I love both film versions, but hadn’t seen this one in ages, so that was fun. (I still love the book best; sorry! XD) This was one of the three rewards I promised to myself if I finished NaNo. I still haven’t gotten to the other two. *cough*
  • And, naturally, had Christmas, which was quiet and lovely. ^_^

JANUARY

And now on to more recent history: the beginning of 2018!

life

  • Started new journals! Always a highlight of the start of a new year. XD 9th writing journal (yay!). My new bjournal (which is my Nordic-ish abbreviation for bullet journal) is blue and fuzzy and I love it SO MUCH.
  • In December I won a gorgeous mythological creature coloring book, and this year I’ve started coloring for twenty minutes most days for relaxation. It’s wonderful and I love it. I’m trying new productivity techniques, which include some exercise and actually taking care of myself. (I know; shocking, right?)

  • Won a little dragon and his name is Benedict Pendragon and he’s SO ADORABLE and I love him.
  • Went out to see the Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse Thingamy, but apparently got out like 2 minutes too late because it went behind clouds and I didn’t get to see it at all. XD
  • Was cold. (It got down to 8 degrees at one point and just — no. I live in Texas for a reason and that does not include being this cold thank you very much.)

writing

Added 3K words to The Secret of Kedran’s Wood. A little slow but it’s the first real writing I’ve done since NaNo, so I’m just happy to be starting up again! 🙂 And I’d been stuck on this chapter FOREVER. It had dibs and dabs of snippets out of order throughout it, so I finally went through and added to it and filled in the “holes” with “draft zero” writing, and basically have a completed chapter of a patchwork of snippets/draft-zero, so I just need to smooth/turn it into a first draft. But I’ve been stuck on it for a long time, so this makes me happy to have it sewn together! *wonders if any of this makes sense to anyone besides me*

This writing was largely due to my Writing Day. Each year on the 20th of January I write something; it’s a tradition I’ve kept up since 2010. So that got me to sit down and work on SOMETHING, and I’m very pleased. 🙂

Also, The Secret of Kedran’s Wood is officially growing alarmingly large. I’m trying not to worry about that, and just writing, buuut… you know. XD

I also did some plotting on a few stories (including my old NaNo 2013 story, Underground Rainbow, which this month decided to chop itself up as a trilogy, effectively meaning that book one is basically done and book two started; so I accidentally more-or-less “finished” a novel without writing anything. XD).

Other Writerly Things

  • Did #WIPjoy for OHE.
  • Started my new writing journal, which now has 10 pages in it.
  • Blogged a fair amount.
  • And I did some more business-y things like a bit of freelance editing and making some plans. 🙂

Not a huge amount done, but coming out of a month of hiatus, with NaNo before that, I’m slowly easing back into the writing world, and happy with what I did accomplish!

reading

I read 15 things in January! I’m counting short stories on my Goodreads reading challenge this year, so it’s not as many as it sounds, but still. XD

Re-reads, short stories, non-fiction, new novels… quite the collection. I’m also getting back into my Tolkien hobby and this makes me marvelously happy.

Highlights of the month are DEFINITELY The Last Motley, which I got for review and is my favorite thing I’ve read this year (releasing tomorrow!) — simply STELLAR fantasy; and the first Ranger’s Apprentice book, which is precious and I love Halt. 😀

watching highlights

  • Once Upon a Time: Season 2 — Just a few episodes of this. Still enjoying it. I think I liked the first season better, but it’s definitely still intriguing. 😉
  • Persuasion (1971) — I’d seen two film versions previously, but this one was much longer, and I really enjoyed it! I enjoyed them all, actually, and can’t pick a favorite. 😛 This might be my least-favorite version of Captain Wentworth, but it was my favorite version of Anne, so…? Anyway, ’twas enjoyable. ^_^ Anyone else seen this one?
  • Re-watched some The Deputy episodes (one of my favorite buddy-stories!) and re-watched Zorro (1975) which is my FAVORITE Zorro thing of all time, I think… though I love pretty much all Zorro things to bits. ❤

listening

  • Brittany Jean’s new album, Wander with Me, has been one of my main listening things lately. I got it for review and it’s lovely! Review to come. ^_^
  • Kyle Robert Shultz started a podcast for writers, and while I’m very bad at keeping up with podcasts, I did make sure to listen to the first 3 episodes, and enjoyed them very much. Some great advice. 🙂
  • And in general I’ve been listening to beautiful calming music while coloring/exercising in the morning; it’s been splendid and so relaxing.

Upcoming Plans

Awesome things going on in the next couple of months are February Fantasy Month and March Magics just around the corner… I hope to take part in both to celebrate fantasy and Diana Wynne Jones, two of my favorites!

There are reviews and other posts coming up on the blogs… I’m also doing a couple of hashtag games on Twitter this month: Jenelle’s #FantasyMonth and also #StoryWarriors.

I still have many projects I’m in the process of working on, including some of my writer dreams I shared last month, so we’ll see how those go.

I need to pick a WIP to focus on, but keep thinking about Kedran’s Wood, The Other Half of Everthing, and the (untitled) Siren and the Skyship trilogy, as well as being vaguely aware I have some short stories to write, and other stories popping in to my attention from time to time as well. I just can’t seem to settle on ONE!

Life looks like it’s going to be very busy for the next few weeks (isn’t it always), so I’m mostly just hoping to get through that and still focus on some of my creative pursuits and keep up with my oh-so-many online commitments too! A little overwhelmed right now; wish me luck. XD

So there you have my ishness of late! How about you? How was your January, what have you been up to, and what are your February plans? Can you believe we’re already a month into 2018?? Talk to me! Thanks for reading. ^_^

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

Of Writing and …Stags? #TheWritersTag

I saw this tag on Mirriam Neal’s blog and decided to steal it.

Ahem. Borrow.

*scours entire internet to find gif of Captain Jack Sparrow saying “Borrowed. Borrowed without permission” and discovers that one does not apparently exist and is now sad*

Except there was permission, because Mirri left it open for people to consider themselves tagged. So I am doing so.

What’s with the stag, then, you ask?

Well, for one thing, they’re awesome and we should always have stags. *nods seriously*

What do they have to do with this post? Ohhhh, that’s what you meant…

Well, as I remarked over on Mirri’s blog: I first read “TheWritersTag” as “TheWriterStag” and now have images of an antlered author somewhere in a green wood living incognito as the White Stag and granting wishes to writers who are seeking release from the curse of Writer’s Block.

The Writer Stag is now a thing. We should all go questing for it together.

Aaaanyhoo… I’m doing this tag thing, so enjoy.

#TheWritersTag

1. What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?

Genres: Let’s just call it Speculative Fiction; for the most part Fantasy. Mostly epic fantasy, contemporary fantasy, or fairytale retellings. I occaaasionally dabble in steampunk, sci-fi, etc. All bets are off on my short stories, which are all different and weird. XD

Styles? I have no idea. But I hope they’re kind of funny? I try to adapt the styles for the “feel” of each book.

Topics… yeesh. I don’t put topics in on purpose, I just write the story that wants telling. If it wants to have specific topics, I won’t complain, but it probably wasn’t on purpose.

2. How long have you been writing?

It’s been 10 years since I decided to officially finish a book and be a writer (though I had been writing for a few years before that, even). Basically, it’s been awhile.

I started out with the first few pages of my (now) epic fantasy series (in a pink notebook); and a rather-obvious re-imagining of Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three (with magical chickens instead of a magical pig); and continuing from The Magician’s Nephew, the story of the first king and queen of Narnia (I got about a page of this done, which consisted almost entirely of a long list of what they were planting in their gardens. Yeah.).

Not actually sure which of those were first, second, or third, and I remember some other scribbles as well, but I barely remember a time when I wasn’t writing something.

3. Why do you write?

I’m going to commandeer Mirri’s answer to this one:

“Because I need to. Next question.”

(Because yes. Yes exactly.)

4. When is the best time to write?

Definitely the nighttime, when I’ve finished with the day and it’s dark and quiet and I have no distractions or things I need to do, and will not be interrupted.

Unfortunately, this makes for a very night-owl-ish writer.

I wish I wan’t a night owl because I know I should actually, you know, get up early and be on a good schedule, but night seems to be when my creativity awakes, so a night owl writer I be.

5. Parts of writing you love vs. parts you hate?

Um. It really depends. Sometimes I love the actual writing, other times I… don’t. But that’s usually a lack of writing, and hating having to start?

So, I’d say I love most the actual writing, when it’s flowing well. I also love the feeling of finishing a story. The best thing ever. ❤

I have occasional quarrels with editing, and dislike having to start, usually, because it’s hard, guys. Starting is the absolute worst part. Don’t try to tell me otherwise.

6. How do you overcome writers block?

I will… get back to you on that.

7. Are you working on something at the moment?

Sort of? It depends how recent/active qualifies as “at the moment.” XD

I also occasionally work on The Secret of Kedran’s Wood (because Tare and the Chess Club are always doing something in my head), and The Other Half of Everything (because my absentminded author character Teague loves to banter with his opinionated housekeeper Meridian).

I have a couple of short stories I’ve been writing and/or hoping to write this month for Camp NaNo, although there’s only a week left, so I suspect I won’t get anything else done.

But since I already wrote 11K this month and my goal was 5K, that’s probably all right…

8. Writing goals this year?

These are vague, nebulous and ever-changing, but at the moment:

  • Write a couple of short stories (I have a list…)
  • Finish the first chapter of The Other Half of Everything (I WILL do this someday, I WILL)
  • Write Part 2 of The Secret of Kedran’s Wood a.k.a. all of it that I have plotted at the moment (lofty goals, y’all. o.o)
  • Mayyybe finish The Library in the Stars (Camp NaNo round 2, do I hear you calling meeeee?)
  • Write something for NaNoWriMo. Current candidates to choose from: The Quest of Kedran’s Wood, Once Upon a November, or The Siren and the Skyship, or some rebel mix of several WIPs. No idea which of the four (or something else) it might be. But that’s very far out, so don’t quote me on this.

Likelihood of these things all happening this year?

I’ve been very timidly creeping back into the world of writing after a long year+ of burn-out.

So I have no delusions about getting all these goals done this year.

Oh wait. I do.

How foolish of me. >.>

So there you have #TheWritersTag or #TheWriterStag or whatever.

Feel free to consider yourself tagged if you want to do it!

What do you think? Was this a post about writing? Or about stags?

Or just an excuse to throw lots of Captain Jack Sparrow and Han Solo gifs at you?

…Probably.

If you need me, I’ll be on a quest in search of the Writer Stag to help me with my lofty writerly goals.

Gifs via Giphy.com, Stag images via Pixabay.com