Fantasy Art Wednesday

Get inspired with this week’s Fantasy Art Wednesday, where fun fantasy artwork is combined with a writing prompt to get your creative juices flowing.


This is the kind of image fairy tales and fantasy stories are made of. The magic of the forest comes out at the heart of its depths, when there is no one around to see. Does the Green Man emerge every day, or is this a rare occurrence that only happens on special days, or when certain conditions are met? He is conversing with a mossy figure rising up from the water.  Wouldn’t you give anything to know what they are saying? I’ll bet if you listen closely enough you can find out.

“The Green Man Awakens” by Phil McDarby

 

Love’s Promise by Melissa Storm

Love’s Promise by Melissa Storm is available starting today, and will be on sale for 99 cents through Sunday, March 12.  Her dream is to hit the USA Today bestseller list, and since I understand what it’s like to strive each day to make my own writing dreams come true, I’m happy to help Melissa out with hers!  Enjoy an excerpt from the book (below).


Love’s Promise

lovespromiseShe’s waiting for her prince to come … but was he right beside her all the time? Kristina Rose Maher wants to know why fairy tales never happen for fat girls. Certain that diner cook Jeff, handsome and fit, will never want her as more than a friend, she stuffs down her attraction to him. But when she finds herself facing a life-altering weight loss surgery, she discovers she’s willing to do whatever it takes to embrace life—and love—to the fullest. Jeffrey Berkley can’t bear the thought of losing the friend he’s only just beginning to realize matters so much to him… no matter what size she is. But he is also terrified that helping her reach for her dreams will also mean finally reaching for his own—and letting down his family’s legacy in the process. Both Kristina Rose and Jeffrey must learn to love themselves before they can find a way to make a promise to each other. Will they finally be able to lay their heavy burdens at the Lord’s feet, and trust him to bring the happily-ever-after they both crave?

Don’t miss this sweet tale of faith, love, and gastric bypass–get your copy of Love’s Promise today from any of the following retailers: Amazon | Barnes & Noble  | Kobo


 

Love’s Promise:  Excerpt from Chapter 13

Kristina clapped as her friend took the pulpit. She had never seen Elise in front of her youth group. Even though they were best friends, Kristina hadn’t been back to youth group since she’d graduated to the big church. A few times per year, Pastor Bernie would take a Sunday off and ask Elise or one of the elders to deliver the week’s sermon, but the teen members of the congregation understandably required a different message and a different style when it came to their own church services and events.

All around her, the kids settled onto their blankets with plates of fried chicken, potato salad, and other fatty picnic fare. Peggy, a girl who worked at the diner sometimes on nights and weekends, joined Kristina on her blanket. “Hi,” she whispered with a grin as Elise flipped on the microphone and shouted, “Boo!”

Kristina jumped back, unprepared for the loud noise that shot through the auditorium. Nervous laughter erupted around them, but Elise stood stock still with a serious expression on her face.

“Halloween was last month!” Peggy called to Elise.

More laughter.

Still Elise didn’t speak, didn’t wear her signature smile, didn’t do anything.

The laughter quieted, and everyone sat waiting to see what their youth pastor would say or do next.

“Fear,” Elise said, enunciating the word slowly, taking time with each sound. “What is it?”

Answers rose up from all around the room.

“Not feeling safe.”

“Being worried.”

“Spiders!” Peggy added.

“Not knowing how things will work out,” Kristina said through the laughter.

“And were you afraid just now when I shouted boo right here out of the blue?”

A chorus of Nos rippled through the room.

Elise pouted and stalked forward on the stage. “But it was unexpected. You didn’t know what would happen next. A lot of people find shocks like that scary. Why didn’t you?”

“Because you’re not scary.”

“We know you.”

“You’d never hurt us.”

“You’d never hurt anyone,” Kristina added.

Elise perked up, her eyes wide and voice booming. “Ahh, so I failed in my attempt to scare you because you know me, because you trust me to take care of you?”

Everyone nodded and murmured their agreement.

“You know who else is there to take care of you? God.” Elise bobbed her head and traced her way back to the pulpit. “God’s gotcha. 100% of the time, He is there and He’s got your back. So then why do we continue to live in fear? If I couldn’t scare you, then why does life scare you when you know God is just around the corner rooting for you, ready to catch you if you fall?”

Nobody said anything. They all waited to see what their youth pastor would say next, Kristina Rose most of all.

“Easy in theory, right? But hard in practice,” Elise continued. “They say practice makes perfect, but no one is perfect outside of Jesus. Practice can make better. Practice can make easier, but none of us are perfect. It’s kind of why we need God in the first place. It’s why we need to trust Him with our fears rather than trying to figure everything out for ourselves.”

Oh, now she understood why Elise had dragged her here. She saw Kristina’s fear loud and clear. It was in everything she did, no matter how hard she tried to act otherwise. Elise did love to showboat, but she may have also chose this method of delivering her message so that the kids would be there to back her up, so it would feel less like a personal lecture and more like something Elise was sharing with all of them.

“It’s a lesson we’ve all learned since Sunday School. God’s got you. So then why do so many of us forget as we grow up? As we face new challenges? Why do we think we can do it all ourselves? Why don’t we depend on God for help?”

Some of the teens ventured answers, but Kristina honestly didn’t know what to say. Elise was right, of course. Kristina had been trying to do it all on her own rather than trusting in God—and in her friends—to take care of her. She’d been trying to do it all on her own and still didn’t even fully trust herself. No wonder she was failing so miserably.

Elise reached under the pulpit and pulled out a small black gun. She closed one eye, and stuck her arm straight out toward Kristina Rose.

Nervous laughter broke through the sanctuary once again.

“You’re laughing. Why are you laughing? I have a gun. A gun! Shouldn’t you be afraid?”

“We know that’s not a real gun, Elise,” Peggy said, making a pistol gesture with her thumb and index finger and pointing it back at Elise.

“Are you sure about that? What makes you think it’s not real? It’s the right color, right size, right shape.” She widened her stance and turned the gun to its side, setting up for a kill shot. “Are you scared now?” she asked, her voice flat, menacing.

“No, I’m not,” Kristina answered. “I know you’d never actually shoot me with a real gun.”

“How sure are you? Would you bet your life?” She took two steps forward, unwavering in her aim.

Kristina nodded. “I trust you not to hurt me.”

Elise pulled the trigger and a stream of water hit Kristina on the leg.

The audience laughed some more. It seemed they did a lot of that whenever Elise took the stage. “Told ya! We knew it wasn’t real,” they shouted.

Elise returned the gun to the pulpit and banged on her chest with the mic. “Did you see that? Did you see that? Kristina Rose trusted me to shoot her—to shoot her!—because I’m her best friend and she knows I won’t hurt her. But that’s all I am, a best friend. God is our father. Of course He wants what’s best for us. Of course He would never hurt us without a reason.”

She gave that a minute to set in before jumping off the stage and pumping her arms as she walked animatedly between the blankets. “Here we are, going about our business, and—whoa—a new danger appears.” Elise jerked forward and threw a banana peel she’d been hiding onto the ground in front of her.

This time Kristina found herself laughing along, too.

“Don’t laugh!” Elise warned, spinning around to look at everyone in turn. “This is dangerous. I could slip and fall! How can I keep walking forward when there’s this huge dangerous thing just waiting to knock me off my feet?”

“Step around it!”

“Walk over it!”

“Just avoid it.”

Elise did as instructed with a skip. “Pfffhew, I’m safe!” she cried.

Kristina Rose loved watching her friend in action. She had no idea her sermons involved so much physical comedy, but it all made perfect sense. This is just who Elise was—passionate, energetic, the star of the show. They made a great pair, Elise and Kristina, because while one craved attention, the other was all too happy to let somebody else take center stage. Had they been enabling each other all this time?

Elise winked at Kristina Rose, then rolled her eyes and jogged back up to the stage. “Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. I know this is all fairly ridiculous. Who slips on a banana peel other than maybe a cartoon character? But here’s the thing: in hindsight, many of our problems seem equally absurd. Why didn’t I just tell her how I feel, or why didn’t I just take the plunge? Well, I’m here to tell you today, God doesn’t give us problems we can’t handle. You know what Kelly Clarkson says: ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Well, I want to be strong. Don’t you?”

Peggy started humming the pop song quietly beside Kristina.

“I want to be strong,” Kristina said.

Others murmured in agreement.

“Well, guess what. So do I, but you know what else? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Say it with me this time…”

Everyone shouted in unison, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

“Yes, you can.” Elise stooped down to pick up the banana peel, curled it into a ball, and then made a free shot at the trash basket.

Some muted applause followed the swish straight into the bin.

Elise tapped her heart and pointed toward Heaven. “Now when we break into group, I want us to share our fears, share our problems, and then place them at the Lord’s feet. Trusting in God doesn’t mean that you give up trying. It just means that you know you’re going to win in the end. It brushes aside the worry, makes the task of living a much more enjoyable—much easier—thing to do. How would your life change if you stopped being afraid and started trusting in God to lead you to the place you need to be?” Elise locked eyes with Kristina Rose as she asked this.

Kristina had no idea whether she was meant to answer, but luckily she didn’t have to. A series of beeps and whirls sounded from beside her, and all eyes zoomed toward the blanket where she sat with Peggy.

“Oops! Sorry!” Peggy leaped up and waved her phone by way of explanation. “I forgot to silence it, but it’s my boss. I have to take this.” She rushed out in the hall, leaving Kristina to wonder why Mabel would be calling on a day she knew Peggy would be taking off to attend the retreat.

“Let’s all clean up our plates and move our blankets into a circle,” Elise said, striding over to help Kristina Rose adjust hers.

“Was that for me?” Kristina asked quietly while the kids laughed and joked with one another.

“It was for everyone, but, yes, inspired by you. I love you, you know, and I want you to know that you’ve got this, that God’s—”

“God’s got me?” Kristina finished for her friend. “I know. Thank you so much for the reminder.”


About the author

melissa-stormMelissa Storm is a mother first, and everything else second. She used to write under a pseudonym, but finally had the confidence to come out as herself to the world. Her fiction is highly personal and often based on true stories. Writing is Melissa’s way of showing her daughter just how beautiful life can be, when you pay attention to the everyday wonders that surround us.

Melissa loves books so much, she married fellow author Falcon Storm. Between the two of them, there are always plenty of imaginative, awe-inspiring stories to share. Melissa and Falcon also run the business Novel Publicity together, where she works as publisher, marketer, web designer, and all-around business mogul. When she’s not reading, writing, or child-rearing, Melissa spends time relaxing at home in the company of her four dogs, four parrots, and rescue cat. She never misses an episode of The Bachelor, because priorities.

Learn more at www.MelStorm.com.

Medieval Monday: The Labors of March

plowingWarmer March weather meant it was time to finally put most indoor tasks aside and get out into the fields. There weren’t a great variety of tasks associated with March, mainly because preparing the fields for plowing and planting was such an onerous chore that began at dawn and ended at dusk.  Getting the spring grain into the ground was one of the most important tasks of the season.

Medieval farmers generally had a three field system, where each season one of the fields was left unplanted. But leaving it fallow didn’t mean there wasn’t any work involved. The fallow field would have to be plowed several times during the year to keep the weeds under control and at the same time enrich the earth with organic matter. Every time the field was plowed, new weeds would grow, and livestock would be sent out to graze on it, with the added benefit that they would fertilize it with manure as they went.

plowing-and-pruning-in-marchPruning vines and trees continued in March, as did calving. By the end of March, some of the calves were ready to be weaned, which meant milk became available once again. Cows whose calves had been weaned were milked twice per day. The same was true of sheep. Another important food source which returned to the medieval diet in March was eggs. Hens require at least 12 hours of daylight to produce, which meant they began laying around the spring equinox at the end of March, and ceased production around the autumn equinox at the end of September.

This week you can also enjoy another episode of “Tales from the Green Valley” which focuses on what daily life would have been like during the month of March. As I watched, I was reminded that even though certain jobs took priority in specific seasons, many of them happened to some degree all year round. In this video, you will see in action some of the tasks that have been mentioned in past Medieval Monday posts, such as threshing and winnowing, milling wheat into flour, sending pigs out to forage, playing games, and brewing ale and beer for every day drinking. You’ll get to see some period recipes being made as well (like what they did with all that dried, salted fish saved up for winter). Again, it’s worth setting aside half an hour to watch this BBC production. It makes for excellent research and really sends you back in time!



Use the Medieval Monday Index to discover more topics relating to daily life in the Middle Ages.

 

Fantasy Art Wednesday

Get inspired with this week’s Fantasy Art Wednesday, where fun fantasy artwork is combined with a writing prompt to get your creative juices flowing.


The sun has risen upon a cool, quiet morning. Ancient trees arch overhead, their roots bulging out of the ground as if the earth isn’t  enough to contain them. Their branches have almost finished shedding for the season, leaving behind a wet, papery blanket that clings to your feet as you shuffle along the path.

The smell of damp soil and decaying leaves tickles your nose, forcing your still-sleepy senses to awaken. Through the mist, your destination gradually comes into focus, and with it your mind does as well. The sight of the twisted iron gate brings on a rush of emotion. At least you’re not alone–someone else ahead of you on the path is making the journey with you. What awaits you on the other side?

Automne by PE Travers

Automne by PE Travers

The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues by Kristen Lamb

If you’ve read my Wind Rider Chronicles series, you know I’m guilty of prologues. Hopefully I am using them well, and not committing any of the deadly sins mentioned in this article.  How about you? Are you generally for or against them? Do you always read the prologue, or do you skip right past it?


We writers have a vast array of tools at our disposal to craft stories readers will love. But like any tool, it helps if we know how to use it properly. Theme is wonderful. It can keep us plunging a story’s depths for years when used correctly. Applied incorrectly? It just makes a story annoying and preachy.

Description! Love me some description! But pile on too much and we can render a story unreadable.

The same can be said of prologues. Now, before we get into this, I want to make it clear that certain genres lend themselves to prologues. But even then, we are wise to make sure the prologue is serving the story.

So, to prologue or not to prologue? That is the question.

The problem with the prologue is it has kind of gotten a bad rap over the years, especially with agents. They generally hate them. Why? In my opinion, it is because far too many writers don’t use prologues properly and that, in itself, has created its own problem.

Because of the steady misuse of prologues, many readers skip them. Thus, the question of whether or not the prologue is even considered the beginning of your novel can become a gray area if the reader just thumbs pages until she sees Chapter One.

So without further ado…

The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues—What Doesn’t Work and What Does

 

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Dark Clouds are Gathering. Can you Weather the Storm?

Some pretty ugly weather rolled across the U.S. yesterday and overnight. We caught some of it where I live, though other parts of the country fared much worse. Bright flashes of lighting filled our living room, and great cracks and booms shook the house. You couldn’t see the rain in the pitch dark outside, but you could hear it beating against the siding and roof. The weather alerts were sounding from my phone every 5 minutes, sending my anxiety levels up a few notches each time, and my 6-year-old was squeezing the life out of my arm as we sat on the couch together. We live in a modern, sturdy house—something book characters don’t always have, particularly those living in a medieval or other historical-type era where the weather’s benevolence is crucial to survival.

As I sat there in a comfortable well-lit room, with the lull of the T.V. to distract me from the tempest outside, I was reminded how weather can play a significant role in a story, or even become a character in itself.  It can set the mood for a single scene, or shape the entire plot.  Weather can grow crops, or destroy them, it can fill sails or sink ships, level homes, and flood streets.  Its temperature extremes are sometimes deadly.  Long periods of unchanging weather can affect the mental states of those subject to its effects. For those characters out on the road, the weather can give them an easy-going, pleasant journey or an uncomfortable, and even dangerous one. If a fictional society is largely agrarian, bad weather has the power to completely destroy it—no armies needed—by bringing about starvation and sickness.  In a time before radar and weather apps, sudden changes in weather would no doubt have been mysterious and alarming to the average person. By the time they knew bad weather was coming, there wasn’t much time to prepare.

Do you have a favorite book in which weather plays a significant role? If you’re a writer, how do you handle weather in your own stories? Is it something that just lurks in the background, rarely seen, or are your characters keenly aware of its impact on daily life? Have you ever written a story in which the weather actually took on the role of a character?

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Writing Tracking Scenes: Happens More Often than One Expects, by Charles Yallowitz

Ironically enough, just yesterday I was working out my outline for a chapter in which one character is tracking another. This article brings up some good points as to how to effectively handle this sometimes tedious task, and also how to keep it interesting for readers.


We’ve all been there.  Stalking an enemy until we find the perfect chance to strike or discover their hideout.  Then the author falls asleep or gets bored and throws the entire scene into chaos.

Having one character follow another can be tedious, especially if it lasts for a chapter.  I’ve seen it done different ways too.  Some authors only have villains do tracking, so it’s in the background.  Others have the trackers so far away that they can talk and the physical act is secondary.  Then there’s avoiding such scenes entirely.  I like having some tracking scenes since Luke is a forest tracker.  Pointless to give him the skills and never have him use them.  I tend to fall into that second category, but there are ways to make it interesting…

Source: Writing Tracking Scenes: Happens More Often than One Expects