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The Summoning

She ran the stone one last time along the edge of her sword, restoring its former sharpened perfection. It’d been a single year’s passing since it had been used.  From such a distance it was of little use to her, hence the blade had become blunted.  In the mountains that she left, there had been intrusions, events that had come to pass that were far from her control.  The will that she could not bend darkened the forest even more than she thought possible.  Her sons, who stayed behind, had seen a side of human nature that no child should ever see.  It was time to stop the madness.  Her youngest son, in particular, needed protection that she could not provide from that distance.

She stood, testing the strength in her arm. That, too, had become soft, but the memory of how to rule her kingdom was etched in her fibers, ready to be summoned at will.  And now that time had come.  He was coming home.

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Image by alphacoders.com

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Had it only been one year?  He scrubbed his hand over his face.  So much had happened in that time, most of which he’d rather forget.  They’d be safe, she told them, until she prepared the way and summoned them, but no sooner had she left, than the shadow awoke.  Without his mother’s protective energy, the darkness filled the crevices of the forest, threatening to steal his soul.  The landscape had changed in a few short weeks after she had left.  No longer were there stable paths lined with hope and promises of a beautiful tomorrow.  The footing had become unpredictable, with no clear vision of what the next moment might hold.

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Image by alphacoders.com

If it were not for the quiet hum of her lingering energy pulsating beneath his feet, he would have fallen many moons ago.  Oftentimes he would press his cheek to the ground and weep, struggling to drink in the light that she had left behind.

The shadow had raised its head time and time again, lashing out at him, crying out for her.  Their savior, their strength.  So far away.

The villagers converged and surrounded him, took him away, and offered protection when she could not.  Though kind and generous, ‘twas not enough. He missed the connection, however frayed and blackened the threads were, for it was all he knew.  Little by little he found his way back to the forest edge.  But nothing had changed.  The never-ending pulsating force still beat strong. Too many nights he sat, watching from afar as the shadow sat alone, tipping his head back, letting loose a soul-crushing howl, so full of sorrow, pain, and loneliness.

“It is not what we once knew,” his older brother said one night.

He clung to his brother, his only ally in the unrecognizable terrain. Though not much older, he still exuded stability and comfort.

“The forest is deceiving,” he continued to say. “The shadow hides well within the darkness.  No, little brother.  It is beyond repair now, and I would have you stay with me.”

So his brother led him away that very night.

“I miss her,” he said, blinking back the pain in his heart.

“As do I, but we will be as one, until we unite with her again.”

Displaced from the home they knew, they ventured out, and took to honing their skills of survival.  Left to fend for themselves, their minds and shoulders broadened with seeking the truth and wielding their swords.  No longer thin and timid, together they became a force to behold.

At long last, the summoning arrived.  Settled now into his routine, he looked around.  Could he truly leave everything and everyone behind?  It had become a place he so desperately wished to escape, yet so desperately wanted to remain.  He was strong now.  He had proved that to himself.  He could stay.  But there was no choice.  She had made that decision for him.

With heavy feet and saddened hearts, they walked together to the portal that would take him home.

“You’ve always been there for me,” he said.

“And will always be there for you.”

They clasped forearms and stood awkwardly for a few moments before pulling each other into an embrace.

“You behave yourself, little brother.  Do not give her trouble.”

He swiped his sleeve across his eyes.  “When will you join us?”

“As soon as I can,” his brother said, ruffling his hair. “I promise.”

He nodded.  A shuddering breath and quivering lip betrayed his confidence.

“Go.  She is waiting.”

Grasping the hilt of his sword, he was ready to face the adventure before him.  There he would learn of different clans, different languages, a new way of life, completely leaving behind all that he has known.

The portal shimmered before him.  His mother, the pillar in his life, stood on the other side, her image steadfast through the wavering fabric of worlds.  A smile that promised a different path for him encouraged him onward.  A smile that reminded him of her comfort, her strength, and that he would not be fighting battles alone.

Her arms extended into a welcoming gesture, beckoning him to join her.  His shoulders squared in response, for though he was eager to see her, he was too old, too changed for such emotional release.  Taking one step forward, he stoically reined in the feelings that unexpectedly bubbled to the surface.  A sense of urgency swirled in his legs and feet and the corners of his mouth lifted against his will.  The burden of the past, the nights of burning tears melted away into a lightness he had not known since he was a child.

He turned to his brother and removed his scabbard from his waist.  “I won’t need this anymore,” he said, handing his sword to his brother.  “I’m going home.”

He stepped through the portal and quickened his footsteps until he found himself surrounded by his mother’s arms.

She looked to the portal and held out her hand, a question forming on her lips.

Her oldest smiled through simmering eyes and shook his head.

“Soon, Mama.  Soon.”

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Image by alphacoders.com

 

 

 

 

 

SOULSTICE – Cover Reveal

Photo session with Wrenee for the cover of Soulstice

Photo session with Wrenee for the cover of Soulstice

I’ve been busy, busy, busy putting the final touches on my latest project, Soulstice, the companion novella to Souled.  This novella puts a spotlight on Alyx,  who, in Alyx’s own words, is the “dark, totally misunderstood, totally underestimated, misfit” of Sandpoint High School.

I adore Alyx – her strength, courage, and her mysterious background.  What makes her qualified to stand up to Seth in his dark hours?  What was her path that brought her to be who she is?

Although she will have floor time in the upcoming sequel, I wanted to satisfy the curiosity of many of the readers who’ve asked me, “Who exactly is Alyx?”

I’m fortunate and eternally grateful that my friend, and outstanding author, Fabio Bueno (his novel Wicked Sense is definitely one of my favorite reads), has taken it upon himself to give me a shout out on his blog and share with you the cover of Soulstice.

In continuing the theme of “keeping it local,” the beauty on the cover is Wrenee, a student here in Sandpoint, Idaho.  Once again, Sandpoint produces a teen professional enough to step up and handle something as important as the cover of a book.  Add to that the makeup expertise of Kimberlee Langford, creative cover design by Crystalyn Abercrombie (my tattoo artist), and photographer, Victoria Melendez.

Curious yet???

Then please head on over to Fabio’s site to check out the cover and to learn a bit more about what the story is all about!

CRAZY S**T MY BOYS OBSESS ABOUT – THE SLENDERMAN

Truth – for the most part we use our internal radar to weed out falsehoods from fact.  We could have hard-core facts (pro or con) shoved in our face about something, but whether a particular subject resonates with us or not determines if it becomes a belief.  If a belief somehow serves us, we’ll fight to hold onto it.

Two years ago my oldest called me over to his computer, totally freaking out.

The second of the original Slender Man images, by Victor Surge – alastairstephens.com – Do you see him under the trees?

J:  “Mom!  Look at this!  The Slenderman!”

Me:  What is that?

J:  The Slenderman!  Oh, my God, Mom.  You have to see this picture of him!  He’s real!

Me:  Seriously?

J:  Yeah!  If you look at him, you’ll die!

Me:  So they guy who took this picture is now dead?

J:  Probably!  But not everyone can see him so those are the ones who are  safe.

*eye roll*

For those of you who don’t know about the Slenderman, here is an explanation from ufosearchonline.com:

“Slender Man (or Slenderman, depending on how you spell it’s name) is described as wearing a black suit strikingly similar to the visage of the notorious Men In Black, and as the name suggests, appears very thin and able to stretch his limbs and torso to inhuman lengths in order to induce fear and ensnare his prey. Once his arms are outstretched, Slender Man’s victims are put into something of a hypnotized state, where they are utterly helpless to stop themselves from walking into them. Slender Man is also able to create tendrils from his fingers and back that he uses to walk. Whether Slender Man absorbs, kills, or merely takes his victims to an undisclosed location or dimension is also unknown as there are never any body’s or evidence left behind in his wake to deduce a definite conclusion.  Slender Man is most often seen as a tall, extremely thin man with long, strange arms, and a face that no two people see the same way (if they see any face at all). Where he comes from is as much a mystery as what he wants.” 

*Big sigh*  How could it be that my son had so readily accepted, albeit with a fit of tears, that the Easter Bunny wasn’t real when I broke the news to him? (Yeah, yeah, yeah.  In my defense I thought he already knew and was just going along to make me happy.)  My son had eventually figured out that I was Santa Claus and took that with relative grace when I confirmed his suspicions.   The bottom line – he trusted me enough to accept my truth.

But in the case of Slenderman… no dice.  Nothing I said would convince him.  The fact that this mythical creature existed obviously resonated with him.  I can’t possibly begin to understand that one, but until we moved out of our house on five forested acres, he refused to go outside after dark, swearing to me that one night he saw the Slenderman peek around the corner at him while he waited for the dog to come back inside.  And now that we’ve moved into town?  My son is always out after dark.  Apparently the Slenderman doesn’t like to hang around the lake or Starbuck’s after dark.   But in the heavily treed areas…

Look… over my shoulder… Um.  Yeah.

There’s only so much we can do to protect our children from beliefs that freeze them up or make their imaginations go wild.  At this point, this is one of those things I have to file in the “Let It Go” folder.  He’ll figure it out… I hope.

If you really like stories that make you wonder… what if,  check out Souled, a novel about what happens when a high school wrestler invites another soul to inhabit his body.  You can purchase it for $2.99 on Amazon.  Just click and download.  Easy.

Do You Judge A Book By Its Cover?

Image: Secretsof7scribes.wordpress.com

I don’t know about you, but I DO judge a book by its cover – literally.  When at a bookstore or library, I look at the books displayed predominantly and I’ll always pick up a book because I like the look of its cover.  Whether or not I walk out the door with it, is a different story, but I will spend some time admiring the cover.  I often wonder about the thought process behind each one.  Whose vision was it?  Was it true to the story line?  Was it true to the author’s vision?  How much time was put into it?  What was truly vested in its creation?

When I began writing my upcoming novel, Souled, I knew what I wanted on the cover, but I’m art-challenged and what happens in my head short circuits on its way to my hands.  I did make an attempt, though, albeit pathetic, and I just wasn’t happy with it.

One day, after I had gotten my quill tattoo, I really started thinking about it (well, not really because there was never a question in my mind after the seed was planted) and decided who I would ask to design the book cover.  I had walked into Crystalyn Abercrombie’s tattoo studio and asked if she would be interested in taking on the project.  I don’t think I actually got the words out before she said yes.  The connection was made.  We both knew the Universe ignited.  Yeah, it was that awesome.

The result?  Perfection.  Exactly what I had envisioned.  She nailed it.  In fact, it’s my next tattoo.

So what did she do to make me her #1 fan?  I put some questions to her and now I share them with you…..

Crystalyn Abercrombie – Damn! This girl knows her stuff!

1.         Tell us a little bit about your background in art. 

I’ve enjoyed drawing for as long as I can remember. My Uncle Nick is an artist as well and would always send me drawing materials for birthdays or holidays. In 5th grade a local artist came into class and taught us how to duplicate photographs with graphite pencils. My mom signed me up for lessons with that artist, and that’s when I started to take art seriously. I fell in love with drawing the human body and portraits of people and animals. Since then I entered every art contest I could. I would always place in the top three and have my art picked by the class to be featured in projects like yearbooks or choir t-shirts. I took various art classes that were offered in high school and some in Spokane, and worked with different mediums like acrylic paints, wire, clay, found objects, stained glass and tile for mosaics, photography, calligraphy & graphic art.

2.         What is your preferred medium and why?

That’s a tough question! I really enjoy making mixed media art, using a little of this and a little of that, usually involving some sort of natural element and acrylic paint. I like to create art with dimension. Currently in my spare time I like  to string and paint native American style hand-held drums with pagan inspired goddess images.

3.         When did you begin to draw?  What was one of the first things you drew?  What makes it memorable?
I’ve pretty much had a crayon in my hand since day one! We never had a lot of money growing up, but we could afford paper and crayons, so art was always my favorite form of entertainment. In first grade my dad was a construction worker, and addicted to yard sales, so he would pick up oil paints from garage sales for me, and I would paint flowers with butterflies and big yellow suns on his scrap pieces of 2 x 4’s I’d find around the yard. I can also remember doing a pencil and crayon drawing of a family portrait. Memorable because I had put a heart polka-dot pattern on my mom’s shirt, and my parents smirked at the two hearts that were drawn right where nipples should go.  I have been censored on my human figure drawings several times in middle and high school, and it makes me laugh to remember it started way back in first grade!

4.         What is the process you went through to create the cover for Souled?

Step 1:  Consulting with the author, Diana Murdock.  She told me she wanted a symbol to represent the Egyptian clan that some of the book’s characters were involved with.

Step 2:  Reading the novel to completely understand where she was coming from, and get the artwork to really resonate with it.

Step 3:  Hitting my symbol books to learn more about what symbols Egyptians typically used and what meanings they associated with them.  From there I gathered symbols I felt appropriately represented aspects of the novel from the Egyptian and old world cultures.

Step 4:  Putting together a rough draft of my idea along with pages of symbol explanations for Diana to look at.  This way she was able to see why I chose to draw the symbol as I had.  I gave her time to think it over and decide on any changes she wanted me to make.  This step went back and forth only twice with the actual symbol before we nailed it down, and then once more for the style of the novel’s cover as a whole. We seemed to be on the same page at every step of the way.

Step 5:  Sketching a rough layout, deciding on what medium would be best, and gather what supplies were needed.  Of course I chose to do a mixed medium piece, and photograph it when finished so it would look as realistic as possible.  I purchased a brown piece of scrapbooking paper as a base to give it the old bound leather book feeling, some antiquing silver stuff to give the look of old metal embellishments, and a red rhinestone for the snake’s eye because drawing or painting it on wouldn’t have achieved the effect I wanted.

Step 6:  Printing my layout onto my scrapbook paper.

Step 7:  Using graphite pencils to draw in the snake completely

Step 8:  Metal embellishments with the silver antiquing liquid.

Step 9:  Using graphite pencils to draw details onto the metallic areas, and around the cover to give it some depth and shadows for a more realistic sort of feel.

Step 10:  Another consultation to make sure Diana was happy with the results.

Step 11:  Photographing the final piece with the rhinestone eye in place.

Step 12:  Computer graphics stuff which involves uploading the photograph into my graphic design program, having a consultation with Diana to choose font type and where she wanted to see the title and her name, saving that project as a high resolution JPEG file, and voila! Diana received it in her email’s inbox.

5.         Did you read the novel before creating the artwork? 

Of course. It was really the only way for me to feel like I could understand what my art needed to represent. I’ve always loved anything paranormal and magical so I was all over it! Being from the same town as in the book and having gone to high school here really made it fun to read as well, I felt like I was right there with the characters at every turn. I really loved it, and I can’t wait for the sequel!

6.         Where did the inspiration come from? 

The passages from the sorceress and the element manipulation magic.  There’s a line early on about flames twisting together like snakes in the hands of one character, that is what sparked inspiration initially.

7.         The symbol is very Egyptian.  Do you typically lean in this style in your artistic work or was this a special direction for this book?

This is actually my first ever Egyptian style piece. I knew we wanted to represent an old world magic clan and I initially thought Celtic or Pagan because that is what I lean toward heavily in my personal symbolic art, but Diana mentioned Egyptian so I had to hit my symbols books in order to pick out the right symbols to resonate with the novel.

8.         Where else has your work been published?

Down There, The Wise Woman’s Way by Susan Weed in 2011

9.         Have you ever designed any artwork for an author?

This cover is the first author I have worked with during the design process. My other published illustrations were submitted into an open illustration call, so I designed them completely and sent them off to New York to compete against whoever else had submitted illustrations as well.  As a tattoo artist I’m constantly designing various things for clients.  Sometimes it’s fitting multiple images into one design or creating something from scratch.

10.       Would you be interested in designing more book covers?  If so, do you have a favorite genre you’d like to design for?
I would absolutely love to do this again! Fantasy and Paranormal are probably my favorite to read, but as far as what I like designing for best, I have yet to find out.  I’d love to try everything and see if I can eventually answer that, so bring on your ideas!

11.       Besides this book cover, where do you gather most of the inspiration for your tattoo designs and artwork?
My personal inspiration comes from the beauty of nature and my spirituality.  I resonate with aspects of Paganism, Wiccanism, and some Native American cultures.  I love to involve symbolism, balance and simplicity in my personal designs, but when designing for clients I really try to understand where their inspirations are coming from, so my art will vary greatly from piece to piece.

12.       Where can others reach you if they are interested in commissioning you for their projects?
ouchiemamatattooandpiercing@gmail.com, 208-610-6527.

13.       Where we can view your work?

My biggest portfolio is on my Ouchie Mama Tattoo & Piercing page on Facebook.  Unfortunately it’s all tattoo work at the moment, but a lot of it is my own design work.  Now that I know people might be interested in seeing more of my work, I will start adding some different stuff to it.

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Thank you so much, Crystalyn, for taking the time to share this process.  I’m thrilled we connected and I look forward to having you on board for other projects!

Please be on the lookout for the release of Souled this spring!