Alycia Christine

Vivid Fiction, Epic Photography

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What Do You Do When The Monster Is Worth Saving?

Of_Kelpie_Lullabies_cover-1600x2400As many people, I am a huge lover of mythical creatures from lore and legend. The reason I love working with these strange and fantastic figures is because of the freedom they give me as an author. Using mythological creatures allows me the ability to explore different cultural archetypes and stereotypes without overtly offending anyone. Of the many stories I have written, “Of Kelpie Lullabies” is a perfect example of this technique. I created a deeply flawed heroine who longs for a normal life, but is cursed by corrupted magic to be a murdering monster. In the end, it is Keiranna’s choice to accept or reject love and forgiveness for her crimes that determines whether or not she can have that normal life that she so desperately craves.

The story itself may deal with sorcerers and magic, but I believe that most people can identify with its themes of grief, love, longing, despair, and forgiveness. How many of you reading this are cursed with the slavery known as drug addiction and alcohol addiction first hand? How many have become so angry that you have harmed someone with words, actions, or with your own fists? Who now hates yourself for the wrongness of you choices or the weakness of your habits?

Welcome to Keiranna’s hellish life.

How many of you know a drug addict or an alcoholic cursed with a need for a substance that is so powerful it controls every decision. Do you weep for them or are you beyond caring? What about those who hurt you? Do you write them off as a monster too loathsome to love or do you cry for them all the harder?

Welcome to Edwin’s predicament.

Edwin could have turned his back on the monster he saw destroying others from a distance, but he did not. He saw her, all of her. He saw Keiranna’s anger and her sadness. He saw her brutality and her fragility. In the end, he reached out to her because he understood that her pain matched his own.

Keiranna does not rely on her own strength to save herself nor does Edwin. Instead they make the choice to help each other and seek aid from a power far stronger than both of them to accomplish that goal.

Are you the monster or do you know the monster?

I ask you today, who is your Edwin and who is your Keiranna? What power do you rely on that is greater than yourself to remake your life and to remake the lives of others? I personally rely on Jesus Christ to help me love myself and love others—even the monsters. I know that many of my friends and acquaintances prefer to pray to other deities such as Allah or Buddha, but I prefer to worship Jesus because he is the only person I have ever known to prove his true love for me by dying in my stead. He took the penalty for my imperfections on himself to show me that, though I often make mistakes and do wrong toward others, I am still worth dying for. It is Jesus’s love, his sacrifice, and his defeat of death that I cling to daily because Jesus is the only person I have ever found whose loving faithfulness never wavers.

If you’re struggling with something that you can’t overcome on your own, I encourage you to ask Jesus for help. You’ll be amazed just how far his love and strength can shine in your darkness and your doubt.

Until we meet again, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia

P.S.-If you haven’t read the story, you can do so for free. It’s one of the stories in my Musings anthology which is given away on my Welcome Page.

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The SCRAWLS blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with enchanting fiction, deep love, and vivid art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

FREE STUFF

Books:
Skinshifter | Dreamdrifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

Write Where It Hurts

Blue_Undulations-AC4x6“Talented writers don’t write perfectly. They write courageously.” -Jeff Goins

It’s 6 a.m. and I’ve already been up for two hours. I’ve sent my husband off to work, finished a few house chores, and dressed for the day. Sitting in front of my computer with a steaming cup of tea and a half-eaten bowl of cereal by my side, I open a document and skim the last four pages of yesterday’s writing. I have a few precious hours of quiet in which to work before heading off to my regular job. I can’t waste them. Today starts me off in the middle of a scene in which one of my characters has been abducted and the other characters are still reeling from the shock of losing her. The tension couldn’t be higher—for them or for me.

After writing six books, you would think that book seven would be easy, but it isn’t. The newest novel has proven persnickety so far. Beginning a book in the right place is one of the trickier parts of writing for me. This means that I’ve written three different drafts of the Fireforger prologue before finally getting it right. I’ve been working on this manuscript for months now—living with it day in and day out. Dreamdrifter might be new to the eyes of the world, but it’s already 30,000 words behind me. I’ll sit at this desk for the next two hours refining and writing. I still have a lot of marketing to do today since Dreamdrifter just came out, but that will have to wait until I’m finished with my day job this evening. For now, I put aside all of the other worries and distractions. For now, I just write.

So far, life as a writer has been anything but easy or affluent. This is a full time job for me which pays less than minimum wage in exchange for long hours of emotionally-exhausting work. This may not be my only job or my easiest job, but it is my best occupation. Writing is the career that I feel called to do because it allows me to be a triumphant survivor by profession and to share my stories of encouragement with others.

I am a survivor and an adapter, and I always have been. I’ve dealt with three disabilities since early childhood to make it this far in life. In the past five years, I’ve buried three loved-ones, watched a fourth slip beyond sanity, and lost half of my belongings to fire, electronic failure, and financial downsizing.

As painful as life can sometimes be, there have been two constants to help me slog through all of the mess: my loved-ones and my writing. The blessings of true love and friendship have helped me overcome every obstacle—no matter how small or large. We cling to each other for support as we swim these turbulent seas. There are those I know who have endured lives far harsher than mine and I remember their stories as I write.

Like so many of us, my characters are all survivors of something—broken homes, broken hearts, broken hopes. Each has had his or her share of tragedy or catastrophe. Katja, the main character of Skinshifter, Dreamdrifter, and now Fireforger, lost her entire clan in a single bloody night. While she managed to survive the sudden massacre that destroyed her family, it took her much longer to relearn how to live. Her friends helped her find hope again just as my family and friends have helped me.

When I write, my yearning is to remind readers not to wade through this wonderful and terrible life by ourselves. Yes, sometimes the waves are gentle enough that we can make it a stroke or two on our own without drowning, but we don’t have to wade through it alone. We need each other to help celebrate each other’s successes and help to buoy each other up through all of the upsets.

My words help keep me swimming toward that new dawn peeking just over the dark shore, but they do no good for you or anyone else unless they are shared. I write not just to survive life, but to understand and overcome it. I write to hope. I write to thrive. My dearest hope is that my words help you thrive too.

Until we meet again, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia

(This article was originally published as a guest blog on Sarah Noffke’s website on 10/14/2016.)

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The SCRAWLS blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

FREE STUFF

Books:
Skinshifter | Dreamdrifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

Remembering 33 and the Birthday Bucket List

pansy_passion-4x6acI turned 34 this week. Hurrah! I survived on this planet one more year and I couldn’t be more grateful. While it has had its share of challenges, the year of 33 has been so much easier than the year of 32. The year of 32 saw a career change, lost job, house downsizing, 430-mile move, a devastating fire, hard drive crash, and a case of head lice. The year of 33 has happily been a little more mundane. We still endured life in a cramped apartment, more job hunting, tight finances, car transmission repairs, and a tornado scare, but we’ve also experienced so many blessings. My husband gained a new job working with good people. We found a good church home with people who care about us. We’ve made friends here in Dallas who are actually as quirky and nerdy as we are. I saw my sixth book published, started the Sylvan Scribes book reading club, was a guest speaker at a speculative fiction convention, met several amazing readers, walked the grounds of two arboretums, attended Major League baseball games, and toured world-class art museums. Even with all of that, walking into my neighborhood grocery store and seeing the sheer variety there compared to my small town’s store still makes me smile.

In the weeks prior to my birthday, people kept asking me what gifts I wanted and, quite frankly, I had no idea to tell any of them. Money? Clothes? A lamp to replace the broken one on my side of the bed? Nothing seemed right. Nothing seemed adequate because I have already been given so much.

As it turns out, what I really want for my birthday aren’t things that money can necessarily buy—although it can help. If I’m truly honest, what I most want for my birthday are things like: losing 20 pounds and being able to fit back into the sexy leather pants I wore in college, shooting photos of plants and wildlife in their native environment on some exotic island, seeing one or more of my books hit the USA Today bestseller list, replacing my sturdy but worn camera equipment, spending time with my closest family and friends, and being remembered on my birthday as someone who made a difference in others’ lives.

He didn’t know it, but my husband was the first to give me my best birthday present this week. As we both sluggishly crawled out of bed at 4 a.m. to get ready for work, he kissed me and wished me a simple happy birthday. Before anything else happened and before any other promptings, my husband took care of my first birthday wish: to have my birthday remembered by someone I love. My parents did the same about four hours later and my family and friends have kept the amazing wishes coming ever since. They all made me smile so much!

I haven’t celebrated my birthday yet, but I think I should tomorrow. Tomorrow morning, I think I’ll do some writing, finish a few house chores, get some of the junk cleared off of my desk, and go to church. In the afternoon, I’ll take the birthday money I have and go shop for a couple new pairs of jeans and maybe visit the zoo. After I’ve had my fun for the day, I’ll sit down and plan out the bucket list for what I hope to have happen by my next birthday. I think I’ll skip the exotic island trip this coming year in favor of a few more practical things.

Getting back in shape, helping other people, publishing more books, replacing the broken lamp and camera flash, seeing my favorite bands in concert, visiting more museums, and maybe hitting that bestseller list all seem like amazing goals. And the best part about each of them is that I won’t be working toward them alone. With a year’s worth of planning and several hundred people rallied to the cause, we might see all of this come together. So here’s what I’m asking for my birthday. If any of you had planned on spending any money on me, I’d ask that you would instead help me give gifts to someone else. Go online to your favorite bookstore, find a friend in need of a good book, and then give them one of mine. It’s a simple gesture and it won’t cost you more than what you would pay for a cup of coffee, but I guarantee you that it will make at least two people’s day a lot more fun. If we can each make someone else’s day happier, maybe we can all find our own smiles a little quicker.

Thank you all so much for my birthday wishes! Until we meet again, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia

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The SCRAWLS blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

FREE STUFF

Books:
Skinshifter | Dreamdrifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

The Imperfect Fit

VarianceDear Round Peg in a Square Hole,

It’s okay. I know that it seems like everyone in the world thinks that you should be something you’re not, but you don’t have to be what other people expect of you. It’s okay to be yourself. In fact, it’s best to be yourself. Even when you feel that you don’t fit in, there are very good reasons why God has made you the way He has and has placed you in the place where you are.

It’s okay to not quite fit.

If I’m honest, I have to admit that I have never fit in or truly belonged anywhere. I was child who was deemed “gifted and talented” by my teachers and yet I spent much of my school years enrolled in special education classes. Despite being a special ed student, I graduated high school with high honors in the top twelve percent of my class and had my pick of colleges. I chose to study Agricultural Journalism at Texas A&M University not because I was all that interested in ag, but because the degree meant that I could learn to shoot photography and write while being heavily involved in science and wildlife management. While at college, I discovered a love of fiction writing even though my degree was strictly nonfiction. I used my journalism degree during three different internships and a job before my husband and I moved to a small town for his work.

Once moved, I discovered that the only employment I could get with my formative photojournalism degree was work as a secretary to a chamber of commerce in a town with only one permanent tourist attraction. Eventually, I quit the job to start my own business selling art and commercial photography. Despite the enterprise being in a poor town, the business managed to turn a profit by its third year. Not much of a profit, mind you, but enough to be in the black. Finally, in spite of the fact that I’m still a horribly slow reader, I managed to published six books in four years.

The point of my explaining all of this is not to try to impress you. The point is to show you that you probably won’t find a more round peg in a square hole than me. And that is good thing. Being a round peg has taught me to roll with the waves that life sends me—to be somewhat flexible in how I fit in a place. I may never quite fit in the spaces I am placed, but the wiggle room allows me to learn new things and grow to meet new challenges in ways that other people can’t. This is a good thing.

Use your uniqueness to help redefine your parameters.

If I had studied for a regular journalism degree, I would never have had the opportunity to learn the science that I needed to know when I wrote research feature stories for two of my internships. If I didn’t have the background in wildlife management, I never would have been competent in handling animals for my job as a pet care specialist after college. If I had studied English as my major instead of ag journalism, I would never have understood the mechanics for the concise, clear writing that is so integral to popular and genre fiction. Finally, if I hadn’t taken that creative writing class as an elective, I wouldn’t have realized how much I love writing fiction until I was much older. As odd as each of these seemingly counterintuitive decisions have been, every one of them has helped shape me into the multitalented, creative individual that I am. Being odd has shaped me into an authentic kind of beautiful.

Use the discomfort to your advantage.

Let’s face it. The only way round pegs get to be perfectly round or square pegs get to be perfectly square is when all of our rough edges are whittled away and sanded down. That isn’t always comfortable work. As painful as it is though, it is necessary and good. After all, if God has a good plan for each of us, then it means that He has a fitting place for each of us.

Yes, sometimes our circumstances are mistakes, but they never God’s. God knows what He’s doing even when you and I don’t. If we are seeking His will and walking in His grace, then we needn’t worry. We can rest assured that we are following our true purposes even when those purposes push us into some very tight corners. God knows the plans He has for us—plans not to harm us, but to prosper us. God desires, above all else, to give us a future and a hope (ref. Jeremiah 29:11).

You don’t have to be what others expect. You just have to do what God asks.

If He wanted to, God could fix this broken world with a single spoken word, but instead He chooses to fix this world in smaller steps because He wants each of us to be involved in its healing. You and I were made with a purpose. We were each made in God’s image. Even when Satan tries to trip us up with his distractions and tries to mar your joy with his discouragement, you should know that God’s plans for you as his precious round peg are more inspired and impressive than anything this broken world can aspire for you to do. In fact, God’s plans for you are even bigger, better, and often even more daunting than the plans you have for yourself.

Yes, life will be difficult and others might not always understand. Even so, always remember that God knows you better than anyone else and He chose you. You and I might be a little oblong yet, but I have no doubt that God will whittle us into just the right place if we let Him. When He gets finished, what amazing sculptures we will be!

May we always remember together that God chooses us—His beautiful, useful round pegs—to fulfill His awesome purposes. Until we meet again, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia

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The SCRAWLS blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | Dreamdrifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Art & Decor:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

Dreamdrifter Release Day!

dreamdrifter_quote_beast_monster
I am so excited that my book Dreamdrifter is now available to purchase! For one last week, the ebook will be on sale for $0.99. After that, the price goes up to $3.99, so I highly encourage you to take advantage of the low price if you haven’t already.

Buy Dreamdrifter at:
Amazon | Apple | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

Read Dreamdrifter’s first three chapters free!

For those of you who are interested, a plan of epic proportions is being hatched to read Dreamdrifter together over in the Sylvan Scribes group on Facebook. The group had a wonderful time reading and discussing Skinshifter this month, so we’re going to continue the fun with Dreamdrifter beginning on October 10. I’ll be popping in and out of the group sharing different prizes, author insights, games, quotes, and other interesting tidbits along the way. The group link is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1695736057307543/. We’re open to all ages, so please join us!

For those of you who haven’t gotten into the Sylvan Cycle series yet, there is no better time to try it. I will hold the $0.99 prices for Skinshifter and Dreamdrifter for one more week, then we go back to the regular prices!

Buy Skinshifter at:
Print | Amazon Kindle | Apple | B&N Nook | Kobo | Smashwords

Read Skinshifter’s first three chapters free!

A final note for my intrepid crew of beta readers: you can now review Dreamdrifter and tell the world what you think. I can’t wait to read your comments! Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your hard work and dedication. I could not do this without you!

Review Dreamdrifter at:
Amazon | Apple | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

Again, thank you all! Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!
Alycia

The Skinshifter Reading Marathon is almost here!

Reading_Marathon_SkinshifterIn case you didn’t see my last note, we are about to start the awesome Skinshifter Reading Marathon over in the Sylvan Scribes Community on Facebook! We’re reading and discussing a chapter a day until we finish the book. All of the fun, fantasy, and freebies starts tomorrow, so contact me on Facebook if you want to join! I can’t wait to see you there!

Thanks,
Alycia

P.S.-Here is a excerpt from my upcoming book Dreamdrifter for your reading enjoyment.

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An Excerpt From Chapter I: Shade Shifting, Part 1

“Felan, Dayalan, do something!” Lauraisha said as she pulled on her waist-length auburn hair in agitation. The chemise-garbed human edged toward the group. “Katja’s gone mad!”

Felan just continued to stare. “I didn’t think it possible for her even to become a lioness—not yet, at least! She has never skinshifted into erdeling form so fully before. Until her mind gains control over her new bestial instincts, she’s very dangerous.”

“Really? We hadn’t noticed,” exclaimed Zahra. The dryad’s jade-hued lips curled with her sarcasm even as her fingers wrapped more firmly around her sunsilver sickle.

“I suggest we make a slow, steady retreat,” Dayalan murmured, nudging the two females protectively behind him as he raised his sunsilver staff into a defensive position.

Katja had begun to tear at the cumbersome clothing entrapping her transformed body, her curved claws and fangs shredding both linen and leather with uncanny ease. Malevolent eyes turned back toward the odd cluster of beings slowly retreating through the servants’ door as she kicked off the last offending rag. Tail thumping the floor in warning, she stalked the intruders.
She smelled their foul stench all around this strange den. How dare they invade her territory! The lioness focused on the pale elf with long black head-fur. Instinct demanded that she deal with the one called Dayalan first. The breeze from the room’s open window blowing the Erdeken pack’s scents more strongly toward her keen nose. Katja stopped in sudden confusion, testing the new aromas. Horse blood and wolf fur as well as vegetation tickled her awareness. The scents were familiar, almost comforting, but strange to associate with the beings standing before her.

“Lauraisha, now might be a good time to use that uncanny talent of yours,” said Felan. He was larger than the other male and smelled more of wolves than of humans.

How odd, the lioness thought.

“I tried!” Lauraisha whimpered.

Dayalan gripped his blood-scented staff harder even as he and the others retreated through the door. “Try again.”

Katja’s maw curled in a silent snarl at Dayalan’s challenge and then relaxed slightly in confusion as emotions not her own brushed the edge of her awareness. Thoughts of kinship and affection floated through her thoughts in contrast to her own raw rage and frustration. The skinshifted lioness’s mind dredged up a new well of memories more complex and intense than her bestial instincts could dominate.

Katja stared at Lauraisha and cocked her head, remembering the Tyglesean Princess smiling as she offered the skinshifter a fish, and then showing her the curious contraption of string and stick that she had used to catch it. She turned her gaze toward Zahra, and remembered her red hair looking almost aflame with the setting sun’s rays as she strode toward Katja in the royal linen garb of her odd feminine race. Of the tallest human saturated with wolf scents, she remembered another full moon’s night when Felan had comforted her after she had skinshifted beside an artificial water spring…a fountain, it was called. But the half-human who reeked of horse blood only brought forth memories of vile red eyes and crimson-streaked fangs. Flashes assaulted her mind of Dayalan’s face contorted in gleeful lust as he drank his fill of blood from a horse. The lioness crouched in sudden hate and fear, her guttural growl forming a single snarled word: “Víchí!”

She roared and launched herself at the vampire fiend before he could close the door against her.

“Katja! No!”

Princess Lauraisha flung herself in front of Dayalan, a hand raised against the lioness. A blast of scarlet flame burst from her delicate fingertips, searing the lioness’s golden fur. Katja felt the terrible heat even as her claws sliced skin.

“Lauraisha!” the Víchí and dryad screamed in unison.

“I’m bleeding…” the human fireforger murmured. She stared in dumb fascination at her tattered arm and chest before crumbling to the floor…

Pre-order Dreamdrifter:
Amazon | Apple | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords
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Check back next week for Part 2! Until we meet again, may we each rewrite our world for the better.

Alycia

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The SCRAWLS blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | Dreamdrifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

Dreamdrifter Pre-Orders are Here!

I hope this week finds you well and ready for some fun! I am pleased to announce that Dreamdrifter is now available for pre-order! For those of you who haven’t gotten into the Sylvan Cycle series yet, there is no better time to try it. The e-books of Dreamdrifter and Skinshifter (Dreamdrifter’s prequel) are both on sale right now for only $0.99.
Dreamdrifter_Cover_1-1600x2400

Buy Dreamdrifter at:
Amazon | Apple | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords
Buy Skinshifter at:
Amazon | Apple | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

Although reviews can’t be posted on Dreamdrifter’s official sales pages yet, but several beta readers have mentioned to me that they couldn’t put the book down.

Rather than just tell you about the book, I thought you might like to read some of it for yourself. Here is an excerpt from Dreamdrifter, Book Two of the Sylvan Cycle series:

Prologue

“Master Daeryn, I am sorry to keep you waiting,” King Kaylor’s personal envoy said, in what he hoped was an even tone of voice as they greeted each other with a bow. He was struck by how much of Marga’s visage was reflected in this handsome male’s appearance.

“With all due respect, Your Excellency, I had expected to meet with His Majesty this evening, not you,” Daeryn said.

The ghoul Curqak suppressed the tremor of fear that coursed through him at hearing something so close to Caleb’s voice after all these years. Instead the envoy affected an urbane smile—tight-lipped to hide his pointed, yellow teeth—and gestured for his guest to take a seat in a nearby chair. “Of course, my apologies, Good Sir, but I’m afraid no one sees King Kaylor without speaking with me first, as is the age-old custom of the Tyglesean court. Now, you did state that the matter in question was urgent, so shall we come to it at last?”

Daeryn narrowed his eyes, but sat nonetheless. As Curqak sat down opposite his guest, he felt sudden sweat bead up through the heavy makeup cloaking his ashen face and black-tipped ears. Would Daeryn be able to sense the decrepit state of his body underneath all the finery, just as Daeryn’s mother had? If Daeryn discerned him to be a deadwalker…but no, the male was now busying himself with repositioning a chair cushion and surely couldn’t smell the charnel scent masked by Curqak’s heavy perfume…

“Where is my mother?” Daeryn asked.

“I beg your pardon?”

“My mother Marga disappeared over a year ago. She was last seen in this kingdom, so where…precisely…is she?”

Daeryn leaned close into Curqak’s painted face and, in doing so, revealed that he too wore makeup to cover his pallid features, and had styled his long black hair to cover the black tips of his pointed ears. Could the rumors possibly be true? Was there more of the vampires’ lineage than either the elves or humans in this hybrid that should have never been able to be conceived?

Curqak gulped hard, but did not break gaze with Daeryn’s penetrating blue eyes. “She did of course come here to speak with the king and queen, My Sir, but it has been more than eleven months since she left our borders.”

“Going where?”

“The guards told me she and her entourage rode northeast. I presumed she would return home to your family once her task here was complete.”

“Why did she come here?”

Curqak feigned shock and dismay. “Well, of course to discuss ongoing negotiations between the Ring of Sorcerers and the king.”

Daeryn sat back heavily in his chair, rubbing the faint stubble on his chin with a gloved hand and frowning.

“I’m sorry I can’t be of more help, Master Daeryn,” Curqak said consolingly. “But that is all I know.”

They sat in silence as a servant placed a silver tray laden with mulled wine, mead, bread, cheese, and fruit on the table nearest them and then left the palace chamber. Curqak lazily watched her shut the large door and then turned to survey the food. Normally he made a good show of eating and drinking with guests, purging himself in privacy soon afterward. Today, however, he doubted such a show of normalcy was necessary. After all, if the rumors were true, then Daeryn likely consumed nothing but blood just as Curqak did and therefore would not touch this proffered fare.

Daeryn surprised him by walking to the table and pouring wine for himself and his host. “Forgive me, Excellency, but when did you say my mother left the country?”

“Oh, about ten or eleven months ago.”

“And she was traveling which direction at the time?” Daeryn said as he turned back toward Curqak. He handed the envoy a silver goblet even as he drank from his own.

After a sip, Curqak frowned down at the liquid; it was more acrid than usual, but it gave him a nice warm tingle inside his body. He smiled and took another swig. Of course he would have to rid his stomach of it soon, but the discomfort of retching later seemed a fair trade for the comforting feeling he was enjoying just now. I certainly must speak with the sommelier about procuring more of this particular vintage, he thought.

Daeryn cleared his throat. “Your Excellency?”

“Hmm?”

“You said that my mother traveled southeast out of the country?”

Curqak nodded after another greedy gulp.

“You lie.”

Curqak froze mid-swallow and stared at Daeryn over the rim of his cup. The hybrid had taken off his gloves and his gray cloak and kicked them out of his way as he seized the emissary by his embroidered doublet. Curqak’s goblet clattered to the limestone tile floor as Daeryn yanked him off of his feet. The envoy heard fabric tear and watched as two huge, pale dragon-like wings emerged from the hybrid’s back. Three flaps of those membrane pinions thrust the two of them high into the air and out of the open balcony doors. Curqak shrieked as they flew beyond Castle Summersted’s ramparts and on over the rolling sea.

“Scream if you wish, but none can rescue your worthless hide here, deadwalker.” Daeryn’s eyes were like smoldering embers. His lips parted to reveal a pair of growing white fangs as he clenched the trembling ghoul in one hand and kindled a fireforger’s yellow flame with the other.

“Please, please! Spare me, I beg of you!” Curqak shouted as the wind roared passed his black-tipped ears.

“Why should I?” Daeryn shouted back as he pumped his wings, pushing them still higher into the sky.

The ghoul could feel his face begin to warm. The makeup was the only reason that the delicate skin of his cheeks and ears had not yet blistered in the dreadful sunlight. “I will tell you anything you want to know!”

“Oh, that you certainly will. I have already seen to that by drugging the wine.”

“I will do anything you ask of me short of betraying my own master, which I will not do.”

“Then name yourself!”

“I am called Curqak both by my former master Calais and by my current master.”

“You were once my father’s servant? Before he was Redeemed?”

“Yes. I was given to your father as a gift by my current master, so that he could learn how to perfect the vampire’s bite of servitude. I became his first bitten and most loyal valet until our souls’ tie was broken by his Redemption.”

“Name your current master, ghoul.”

“The Víchí High Elder Luther.”

“And what assignment did Luther give to you?”

“First, to hunt down and bring to him the twelve Keystones of legend; second, to Turn or kill all suspected fulfillers of Third Age Prophesy.”

“And how did you get past the enchantments protecting the Sylvan Continent from entry?”

Curqak moaned as he realized they had flown past the shore and out over the waves of the accursed sea. He retched in spite of himself. “A Tyglesean traitor smuggled me here in the bowels of his ship. It was the worst torture I have yet experienced.”

“‘Yet’ being the operative word, ghoul.” Daeryn snarled. “After the tales I’ve heard of your achievements during the Second War of Ages, you deserve that torture and much more.” They were descending now, swooping toward a tiny island a mere league beyond the shore’s jagged gray cliffs. They landed smoothly amid the dunes and then Daeryn hauled a now trembling and whimpering Curqak to the edge of the lapping waves. Despite the power of the incoming waves, Daeryn stood firm as he held his victim over the water. Curqak winced as he felt the salty spray on his legs.

“Listen to me carefully, Curqak. You will tell me everything I want to know or I will burn your face with the weakest fireforger’s flame while setting your legs in the churning sea. Do you understand?”

Curqak gulped.

“Good,” Daeryn almost purred. “I found the ashes and bodies of Mother’s escorts and of deadwalkers not three leagues from Castle Caerwyn, but Marga’s remains were not among them. So what have you done with my mother?”

“She was taken to Luther’s stronghold on the Northern Continent for questioning.”

“Blaecthull? Why?”

Curqak grimaced. “She is the keeper of the Keystones, but she would not tell me where she had hidden them. Luther has better ways of loosening her tongue than I.”

“And he would risk the presence of a fireforger that powerful in his own fortress? He must be insane! She could lay waste to the entire keep and every deadwalker in it with ease!”

Curqak nodded. “Marga certainly tried. Fortunately, there is a water cave there, which is strong enough to subdue her. After all, she is not like you and has only fireforging magic at her beck and call.”

“And so she is Luther’s captive.” Anguish crept into Daeryn’s gaze then. “What will it take to free her?”

Curqak felt a glimmer of triumph deep within his foggy mind. Was it possible that he might ensnare this male, just as he had trapped his mother? “Master Luther will likely want a trade: either the twelve Keystones in place of Marga or another captive of equal importance.”

“Do you know the whereabouts of the Keystones?”

Curqak shook his head, his eyes squinted shut with the pain of the searing sun and the swirling sea. “I knew of one—the Firesprite’s Sapphire, which Marga had brought to the priesthood here to protect; she did not trust other members of the General Council of Mages. Before I could attain it, Queen Manasa’s youngest brat ran off with the jewel and I cannot find her!”

Daeryn frowned. “So it must be a trade of beings then.”

“Likely, but I’m uncertain who Master Luther would consider worthy of exchange.”

Daeryn pursed his lips over shrinking fangs as he extinguished the flame in his clawed left hand and pulled the dangling Curqak away from the water with his right. When the hybrid released the ghoul, the deadwalker fell trembling to his knees in the dry sand. Before Curqak could think to flee, however, Daeryn shoved him onto his back and pinned him flat under his own heavier bulk. Daeryn forced the ghoul’s mouth open and dripped a pearlescent liquid from one of his claws down the back of the deadwalker’s raw throat.

Heat shot through Curqak’s body and every muscle felt alive with warmth. How long had it been since he had truly felt warm or alive? When had he died? It must have been hundreds of winters ago, but now the ghoul could scarcely remember it. The full-powered serum made his mind fuzzy and his body limp, but he no longer cared as he reveled in this newfound comfort.

“Ask me anything, Master Daeryn,” he whispered.

Daeryn’s answering smile was cold. “Tell me exactly how my father successfully Turned you.”

~
Dreamdrifter officially releases on September 30, 2016!

As an added bonus for those of you interested in reading Skinshifter as a group before Dreamdrifter releases, several readers are doing a Skinshifter Reading Marathon over in the Sylvan Scribes Community Facebook group beginning September 1.

I’ll be popping in and out throughout the marathon with interesting quotes, facts, and giveaways. I’d love to have everyone join in for the fun and freebies. Email me or message me on Facebook if you’re interested and I’ll add you to the discussion!

I’ll be back soon with more news and excerpts as things progress. Until then, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Warm wishes,
Alycia

~

The SCRAWLS blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | Dreamdrifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

The Hard Climb to Success

Peak_Perspective-4x6ACDear Dreamer,

Did you forget that the hardest work in life is what you do to fulfill your dreams? I did. Earlier this week, I broke down and screamed to the heavens. In that moment, I believed the lie that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was so tired of fighting that all I wanted to do was lay down and give up. Instead I prayed. Finally, after all of that poisonous frustration had leaked out of my pores, I crawled off of the floor and started working anew. In performing that last resolute act, I remembered that it isn’t the talented who succeed in life. Success is seen only by those dedicated enough to persevere through the hardships.

To “strive for a goal” isn’t just a cute cliché, it’s the truth.

Fulfilled dreams are hard-fought and even harder-won things. Such dreams—if they’re worth attaining—don’t arrive in pretty little packages dropped conveniently on our doorsteps. Instead, they are revealed in the breathtaking sunrise views seen only on the summits of mountains. In order to experience them, we first must scramble bruised, bloody, and half-blind up the dark, ragged peaks of our life’s journey. In the end, it isn’t the attainment of the dream that gives us confidence; our confidence comes from knowing that we conquered the mountain.

Every morning when I get ready to write, I strap on a mental combat helmet because I know that I have to war against myself in order to attain that precious dream that I so desire. Even as I prepare to write yet another book’s rough draft, I am reminded that I have already succeeded in writing a book. In fact, I’ve written several of them. Yet, even after writing multiple books, I have come to realize that the process of writing itself doesn’t get any easier. I doubt that it ever will. Even so, the confidence I have because I have already climbed a mountain helps me persevere. My motivation to push through the grind and achieve another victory gets stronger with each word that I write and each sentence that I finish.

Small victories pave the way for big success.

I didn’t always have this confidence. Like every other human being on this planet, I began life illiterate. Unlike most others, I stayed that way far longer than I should have. Through no small sacrifice of time, money, and mentorship, my parents and teachers helped me learned to read and write. Through large amounts of effort, I learned—and am still learning—to write well. The thing about dreams is that they are not accomplished alone. It usually takes a dedicated militia armed with a puddle-full of miracles and an ocean’s worth of encouragement to help one person achieve her dreams. This is why it is so important that each of us dreamers also encourage and mentor other dreamers toward success. All of us can dream solo, but none of us can achieve solo.

If dream-fulfillment was easy, everyone would do it.

Of course, there is an alternative to dream-fulfillment. The more-level roads of Giving Up and Getting By snake around those rugged summits with seeming ease. It was on one of these roads that my gaze lingered upon a little too long this week. Such roads look far safer and far more tempting than the jagged height I’m currently scaling. But be warned: such winding roads are a trap.

These roads will distract you with false promises of safety, comfort, and convenience. They will try to lure you away from your God-given purpose with easy pleasures. Make no mistake, these pretty distractions are those colorful packages dropped on our doorsteps for our convenience. And, yes, they will satisfy for a time. Even so, their half-spoiled goods can never provide true fulfillment. In the end, they will only shrink your heart and sour your soul.

Even the narrow path up the mountainside will tear at your faith and trample your courage. The twisted roots and the sharp rocks you encounter along the way will try to trip you up with worries or bludgeon you with fears. Foul winds of discouragement will whip around you, whispering that you should just lie down and give in. You are not that valuable, and so your dreams are not that important. Don’t listen to the lies. Don’t ever forget that you are so valuable that God gave His own son’s life to save you. Push yourself off of your face and keep going. If you don’t have the strength to walk, then crawl.

Better to crawl up a mountain of adversity, than to stroll along a road of convenience.

Remember that all of those distractions and discouragements are Satan’s way of keeping you from finding and following your God-given purpose for living. God has a plan for you and it’s an even better plan than yours. Fighting for your dreams is part of that purpose because it strengthens you to be able to withstand the storms of life when they rage around you. If you stand on the easy road when the storms come, the floods of hardship will wash you away along with the rest of the frail and feeble. However, if you’re anchored to the rock of the mountain, you will endure and you will succeed.

You can do this and so can I. Together we rededicate our hearts and minds to the noble ascent—knowing as we push forward that we will not stop until we reach that magnificent, sunlit dream. Until we meet again, may we each rewrite our world for the better.

Alycia

~

The SCRAWLS blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | Dreamdrifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

Why I Lost My Way

"Stream Leaves" -  Tap to enlarge and create customized gifts.

“Stream Leaves” – Tap to enlarge and create customized gifts.

Let me apologize…

I’m sorry, but I’ve lost my way. For months, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with this blog. I’ve had little motivation to write it and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I know. I mistreated my creative subconscious and now it’s enacting its revenge.

The worse writer’s block that I ever have when writing a novel always happens when I make my characters do something out of character. When I put them in a situation where they act against their own natures, the half-oiled wheel that is my writing squeaks to a sudden, inexorable halt. I end up with my muse and my characters giving me the silent treatment—refusing to talk or to budge from their stilted position on the page until I fix the scene and solve the problem. I’m afraid the same thing has happened here on my blog.

Let me explain…

If we are all the main characters in our own lives, then I have acted out-of-character on this blog and I am sorry. I really haven’t been writing to my strengths and the creativity here has suffered for it.

For the past several months, I’ve been writing more and more frequently about the self-publishing process because it’s a very relative topic which many readers and writers find interesting. I’ve shared my expertise about the process of self-publishing as I’ve experienced it. But here is the problem: self-publishing isn’t really my passion and neither is teaching.

I chose to pursue self-publishing as a more direct and efficient way to interact with my readers, not because I necessarily prefer it over traditional publishing. Like anything else in life worth pursuing, indie publishing is very challenging. If I’m honest, I’ve developed a bit of a chip on my shoulder toward the publishing process (both traditional and independent) because it is such a difficult slog. There are no short cuts in this business, not even as an indie author. I am an indie author because I must be. At the end of the day, I am still the person most passionate about my own art and so I am the person most qualified to share my art with others.

So in the end, it is still my soft voice up against the roar of the world’s vast creative oceans. As much as I care about the work I’ve done, how can I ever hope to share it with others? How do I get my work distributed into the hands of my readers? My website blog and book distribution partners like Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords have certainly given me a toehold in the game—far more than what I ever had ten years ago. And yet I am still one small voice adrift in the sea. Albeit one with a raft.

The real problem is…

And then, just I was learning to steer that raft, I became convinced that such an endeavor was useless unless I also taught others how I do it. I believed the lie that my work was not as valuable in and of its own right unless I taught others the method I used to produce it. The problem with this is two-fold. First, it means that I lost confidence in my own unique work. Second, it means that I’ve tried to be something I’m not.

I’m not a teacher. I’m a mentor. I work best with one or two people under my wing at a time, not an entire lecture hall. I’m far more interested in why things happen, then how they occur. It’s just how I am—how God built me. Instead of trusting in my Father’s plan, I tried to push one discipline into the other and make it work. Shame on me. Believe me, I didn’t mean to undermine my own God-given strengths, but I did it anyway. That’s usually what happens when I let doubt gnaw at me.

So now that I’m too exhausted fighting against myself to keep up this charade, it’s time to return to my roots. I’m an artist, after all, so my energy and inspiration are renewed with each new creative discovery. Although I tend to be a deep-thinker, my natural artistic tendencies mean that I’m much better at portraying the flowers and the thorns of the world around us than I am actually teaching how they grow.

Let me make this promise to you…

All this is to say that I’m going to take this blog in a renewed direction. Instead of talking about the ins and outs of how writing, publishing, or photography work, let me instead show you the beauty of why they work and why I love them as I do. I want to do what I do best: take you along on a creative journey and share with you all of the adventures (and misadventures) along the way.

These scrawls of mine should not contain wasted ink. That just muddies the ocean of creativity more than it already is. Instead, I believe, that my scrawls should help you view the world from a new perspective and a wondrous heart.

Finally, let me also warn you…

I can’t say with certainty say how this new writing chapter will unfold in our lives together, but I’m willing to give it my best effort in the hope that I can do what I set out to do in the first place: rewrite the world for the better. Thank you for patiently sticking with me thus far. I hope you’ll continue to journey with me, even with the missteps. Hopefully, together, we will find more love and inspiration than we ever thought possible.

Sincerely,
Alycia

~

The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

Writing as a Business: The Myths of Self-Publishing, Part 3

A few weeks ago, I began a new mini-series on my Writing as a Business blog outlining a step-by-step guide on how to self-publish a book. Before we begin the main guide, however, I wanted to prepare by writing several posts dealing with some common self-publishing myths that can cause stumbling blocks for those new to the game. If you haven’t read the first or second self-publishing myths articles, I suggest you do that before tackling the article today. For those of you who are all caught up, let’s continue.

Writing Myth #6: Getting It Right on the First Draft

No matter the area of expertise, the difference between a professional and amateur is lots of practice. Consequently, you need to prove yourself as a professional by putting in the work required of you. In the case of writers, this means that the first draft of a manuscript is never good enough to publish no matter who you are or how long you have been writing. Professional writers know that publishable material only comes after several drafts of a manuscript are complete.

In my case, I finish a rough draft and let it “rest” for at least a couple of weeks. I come back to it with fresh eyes, and rewrite a second draft of the manuscript. If the second draft meets my expectations of quality then I’ll send it to my alpha readers. I write a third draft based on their suggestions, send the third draft to my copy editor, and write the fourth draft based on her critique. With four drafts under my belt, I should be done, right? Wrong! Instead, I’ll send the fourth draft to beta readers and write the fifth draft based on their comments. If all things turn out well, the fifth draft of the novel goes to the proofreader and the sixth draft is the one that sees final publication. However, before I click that publish button, I have to oversee the manuscript’s formatting for multiple book additions including three e-book formats and, at least, one print version of the work.

What about the streamlined version of the writing/publishing process?

Sorry but what you just read is my streamlined version of how to take a manuscript from rough draft to publishable form. If I find plot holes or other inconsistences in the book at any point during the second draft revision process, it will require additional rewrites for part or all of the manuscript. Skinshifter, for example, required about eight drafts before it ever even saw my editor. Dreamdrifter only took three.

If this all sounds like a lot of work to you, well it is. I know other writers—independent and traditional—who are far less picky in their revision process and, quite frankly, their lack of effort shows. They may call themselves professionals, but their writing still proves them as amateurs because they haven’t revised their manuscripts enough. To put it in simple terms, they haven’t put in the amount of practice required to write on a professional level.

So how much practice is needed?

That depends entirely on the writer. I’ve heard estimates of five to twenty years before a writer can be considered a master of the craft. I’ve also heard the 10,000-hour-rule applied to writing proficiency. One writer, the popular blogger and author Hugh Howey, recommends that the amount of practice a writer needs to be adept at his or her craft can be achieved by writing five hours a day, five days a week, for five years. If you do the math on that you get: 5 hours x 5 days x 52 weeks x 5 years = 6500 hours total. This is considerably less than the rule of 10,000 hours of practice that I’ve heard from other sources, but I suppose it’s possible to write on a professional level after five years if the practice is deep enough and the writer adept enough in skill. The truth, though, is that writers never really master our craft because there is always more to be learned.

For me, that journey of discovery and learning is part of the joy of the vocation. I love learning and so I try to discover something new about writing every day. I’m always reading to increase my general knowledge and to deepen my understanding of writing. As I read and as I practice the act of writing itself, I grow in my appreciation of this incredible craft as a means of shared communication and artistic expression.

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better.

Alycia

~

The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

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