Monthly Archives: February 2015

How Much is Too Much or A Christian Author’s Obligations

Romance, sensuality, how much is too much, and Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8:9-13. All these things should be considered by Christian writers, whether they write secular or Christian fantasy, when it comes to writing romantic scenes. This is a topic that might step on some people’s toes but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and it’s been weighing heavily on my heart. My goal is not to attack anyone for what they write or read. My goal is just provoke thought and consideration of the obligation that authors have to their readers.

A trend among secular fantasies is to randomly toss in sex scenes because ‘that’s what sells’ even if it’s out of character and doesn’t contribute anything to the story itself except for adding to the page count. Over the years, I’ve noticed that Christian authors are starting to really push the envelope on sensuality. There are more detailed descriptions of women’s figures and the male characters lusting after them and barely closing the bedroom door in time, etc. and so forth. I have been thinking about this recently because I do write about married couples and I don’t mind premarital kissing and hugging but I always try to keep in mind what Paul wrote in Romans and 1 Corinthians about not being a stumbling block to believers who are weaker in their faith. The most intense encounter between a husband and wife I’ve written was from the wife’s POV and she talked about her husband’s kisses setting off her own personal fireworks right before I firmly closed the door on that scene. But I know other Christian authors might have gone a bit further if they’d been writing that scene and I ask myself about possible reasons for them taking the sensual aspects of the romance in their stories to a level that can seem racy to some of their readers.

My speculations have led to a few possibilities:

  1. They’re used to writing for a secular publisher and didn’t tone the scenes down because they were tame compared to what other secular writers were doing.
  2. They’re going for “realism” including in how men and women react to each other on a physical and romantic level.
  3. They’re married and reading about scenes with the same level of sensuality in books does not bother them and simply strikes them as passionate as opposed to borderline racy so they write what they like to read.
  4. These situations can often be combined, by the way. In all three scenarios, the writers don’t really consider how their writing might affect the readers who are more sensitive to sensuality in the romantic portions of their book. I don’t believe this is malicious or even intentional (well, some authors can be rather defiant about it when they receive negative feedback on it but they weren’t being malicious), it’s simply how things worked out.

I have seen the debates between Christian authors about vulgarity in books, which I consider a whole ‘nother can of worms although the basic principle underscoring my personal view on the matter draws from the same verses. However, when it comes to sensuality, that’s a tricky line to walk because every Christian has a different yardstick for measuring these things and it is true that you can’t please everyone. Something will always be too much or too little for someone. For example, some Christians object to any kissing or hugging between the characters before marriage. I understand and respect their objections even though as I said before it doesn’t bother me so long as the actions are chaste.

Let’s focus on the romances in fantasy where there are physical displays of affection before and after marriage. How much sensuality is too much? How do we, as Christian authors, measure what should and shouldn’t be included?

The secular world is saturated with sensuality to the point that television, movies, and books are preaching that closing the bedroom door is only for prudes. And it does influence Christian authors as well. Christian authors have the challenge of writing a story that feels true but they don’t want to be called preachy or prudish when it comes to the romances of their books. It doesn’t help that we can check the top selling fantasy books and there’s a series where the graphic sensuality is so woven into the plot that you can’t skip over it, which is my personal solution to secular books when they cross the line. Now, I personally had to stop reading the first book of that series because it bothered me but I know Christians who have no difficulty with the same series. I’ve also stopped reading a handful of Christian authors because they included too much sensuality for my personal tastes.

I believe that Christians should write books that are inherently different than those written by secular authors. There is such a thing as too much realism and too gritty. I believe that Christians who write secular fantasy still have a responsibility to decide whether they will reflect the darkness of the world or the pure hope of Christ’s redeemed world. From Christian authors writing Christian fantasy, I want to read books that provide relief from the darkness of the world. I want books that are a refuge from the ones that spend entirely too much time on the sensual.

In the past, I have felt tricked and even betrayed by fantasy books I picked up for the intriguing premise but the romances quickly turned into too much sensuality because the characters were either focused on bedding a love interest or kept staring at their undressed or partially undressed love interest, particularly when the man is staring at the woman. With secular books, I know it’s highly likely that I’ll have to skip pages. And sometimes a secular book will be a lost cause for me due to content. Nevertheless, for Christian books or clean reads written by Christian authors, I don’t want to run into that sort of scene. I am not married and I am trying not to dwell on the sensual side of romance so I try to avoid the books that take the focus off the adventure and intrigue of the fantasy world and focus on the romance to the extent that pushes the envelope on how much is too much. But, I don’t always succeed and it is incredibly frustrating when this happens with a Christian book when I had no idea it was a possibility.

But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idiols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

~ 1 Corinthians 8:9-13

Paul addressed the specific matter of Christians who were eating the meat that had been sacrificed to idols, which was causing the Gentile Christians to stumble because witnessing believers who were not avoiding all things associated with the idols would wound their conscience and possibly draw them back into their old life of idolatry. Christians are meant to set examples not only for the world but also for newer believers and believers who are struggling with temptations. The apostle Paul’s writings aren’t limited to dietary habits, but are a call for Christians to take into consideration how all their actions, including their writing, will be viewed. Christians are not and shall never be perfect in this life; we are only redeemed sinners who are yet on a journey to being perfected in Christ. We will all stumble in our walks with God, we will all mess up in our witness at least once if not more often, but the point is that we make the effort to mend our ways and to be more like Christ than the world even if we don’t always get it right. That’s not being a hypocrite, it’s called being human. I am thankful that our God is merciful and just that He will forgive me when I stumble in my own walk and confess my sin to Him. This Scripture passage also reminds me of the need to consider what I write and how I present it. Am I presenting it according to the world’s standards or according to Christ’s standards?

Now, there is nothing wrong with portraying a healthy romance, especially between a husband and wife. In fact, I think there should be more of those portrayals in Christian fiction, including fantasy, instead of ending the romance at the altar. I want to portray healthy and realistic romantic relationships whether the romance is a primary or secondary plot. I want to show that romance doesn’t end with marriage. But I always ask myself will this be uplifting or a stumbling block when I am writing romantic scenes for my fantasies. This is an important question and I believe it should be important to all Christian writers because we have an obligation to our readers.

Allow me to clarify what I mean by obligation. I am not saying that readers get to dictate what authors write. That would be impractical, stifling, and downright frustrating because authors will never be able to please every reader. I am saying that we are responsible for every word we write and every book we release. We are responsible for what we put out.

One argument I’ve heard in the debate over wholesomeness and how much is too much for sensuality is that “if you don’t like it, then you shouldn’t be reading X book or X author.” I disagree with this argument for a couple reasons. First, it implies that the author can write whatever and include whatever but should never be held accountable for what they write. Second, Christian authors who choose to include heavy sensuality often don’t give any warnings and more often than not the reviews don’t mention it either. I think it’s unfair to treat readers like they’re in the wrong when it comes to protesting heavy sensuality in a Christian book or stating that they found the level of sensuality uncomfortable because they went into the book with a certain set of expectations for content. Third, the reader is not forcing the author to write something they disagree with or that acts as a stumbling block to them. The author is the one who chooses the words, the descriptions and their level of detail, and the sensations conveyed by the scenes. As I said before, authors do bear responsibility for their choices.

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. ~ Romans 14:13

I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. ~ Romans 14:14-18

Just because something is not a stumbling block for us, it does not mean that we are absolved of all responsibility for our choices and how those choices affect others. Passionate? Racy? I tend to err on the side of caution in that debate. If I think a relatively harmless scene from my perspective seems too close to crossing a boundary and provoking overly sensual and lustful thoughts in my readers, then I will rewrite it. Sex and the romantic relationship between husband and wife is a wonderful thing and the Bible makes it clear that this is not a sin within the confines of marriage. However, the Bible and just honest evaluation also shows that the intimacy involved in a sensual relationship can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for Christians. Consider how often the Bible addresses the need for sexual purity outside of marriage and the examples of David, the man after God’s own heart, and the Corinthian church who prompted Paul’s teachings on love, marriage, and singlehood. Detailed descriptions of a romantic interlude can push the envelope and create a major stumbling block for readers.

I am not saying that Christian authors need to axe every single hint of sensuality in their romantic plots, even in fantasies. What I am asking is that authors take into consideration how much detail is being used and how it would have made them feel if they were struggling with the temptation to dwell on the sensual more than they should. Take into consideration the message being sent by your word choices and your description choices. You don’t have to show everything to be realistic. Actually, the more sensual side of romance is when it’s a good time to tell instead of show. I ask Christian authors to consider whether they want to reach readers by blending in with the world’s overly sensualized portrayals or by standing apart, by being different. I also ask Christian authors who feel that the level of sensuality included in their books is perfectly fine, even though they’ve received feedback that it might be too much for other Christians, to consider making a habit of posting notices in their book summaries that there is content best suited to a mature believer or something along those lines.

Most importantly, I call on Christian authors to carefully consider the apostle Paul’s words on the Christian obligation to weaker believers and how that should affect their choices in regards to romance and sensuality. Don’t just call the readers who take issue with the level of sensuality in a book “naïve” or “prudes” or say they’re in denial about reality. Some feedback will need to be taken with more salt than others but if there are legitimate and well-articulated concerns, then authors need to step back from the defensive and carefully consider whether the choices regarding the sensuality of the romance are celebrating marriage and love or are creating a stumbling block. It’s a hard thing to do but I believe this is something that Christian authors should do to set themselves apart from non-Christian authors, whether in Christian or secular fantasy. We will never be able to please everyone but we can decide how we portray ourselves, our books, and what goes into those books.

Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. ~ Romans 14:19-21

If you include a romantic plot in your fantasy, you will have to make choices on how to handle it. As Christian authors, we need to not only be able to stand before God unashamed of our work but we need to be conscientious of our target audience. Sensuality sells. But, how much sensuality can be included before it damages the testimony of a Christian? A wholesome and sweet romance sells too. Once you find your audience and you make a reputation for your writing style, there will always be an audience for the product. The first question is which audience are you writing for and is Christ in the audience? The second question is will you be mindful of your weaker brothers and sisters in Christ or will you throw up potential stumbling blocks and shrug off your obligations as an author and a Christian?

*All Scripture is in the NKJV.

Character Interview with Dentin from Honor

Today I’m very pleased to be part of the book launch blog tour for Rachel Rossano’s newest book, Honor, which was released on the 23rd. I have had the pleasure of already reading this book and so I am very happy to introduce you all to Dentin, the hero of Honor.

Welcome, Dentin. Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?

As fifteenth Earl of Dentin, I come from an ancient and well established family. I currently serve as Securer of the Realm, a position which consumes most of my time and effort. I was born a second son of three. But then, I lost my father in a hunting accident, and my older brother to the whims of a tyrannical king. My youngest brother still lives, I hope, but he fled into exile beyond Rhynan’s borders over a decade ago. Someday I hope to reunite with him, but for now I endeavor to prevent abuse of power like that which destroyed my family.

It’s said that you excel at being the Securer of the Realm. What exactly does that title mean? What do you do?

My reputation precedes me most places. As Securer of the Realm, I am responsible for seeking out corruption, sedition, and unrest and resolve the issues before they cause great harm to the nation. I am commander of the military, investigator of crimes, and bringer of justice. I endeavor to abide by the law in all I do, but my manner is often too direct for peoples’ sensibilities. There are those, many in fact, who don’t appreciate the interference in their lives that my position requires.

Can you tell us a little about Lady Elsa Reeve? What makes her stand out from the other women you know?

Most women find me rude or offensive. From the start, Elsa didn’t seem to be bothered by my bluntness. On the other hand, she was offended by my mission, my efforts to question her about her business with Merrill, and the fact I wouldn’t leave her alone. She stood her ground even when I backed her into a corner. I admire a woman willing to fight for what is right, even if she is as stubborn as she is lovely.

Her dark eyes don’t miss much for all their beauty. Despite her diminutive size, I would wager she would best any man she opposes. She wouldn’t overcome her opponent with physical prowess or manipulation, which is the tool of most of the women I have met. Instead, her quick mind and gentle heart would win most any day.

Though, I might be a biased witness.

Your story, Honor, is the sequel to Duty. Will we be seeing any familiar faces?

Part of Honor occurs in the home of my semi-nemesis, Sir Rathenridge. As I assume you recall, he and I nearly came to blows in Duty. The fact I am inserting myself into a wedding celebration is bound to cause some new fiction between us. Thankfully Tomas is also there with his lovely wife, Brielle, and their children. In fact there are a great many children running about in the beginning of the book. There are a few other familiar faces that appear and a whole host of new characters.

What do you think will surprise us the most about your story?

I am not as much of a jerk as I seem on the surface.

SeriesHonorCover

The Earl of Dentin excels in his position as Securer of the Realm. But the king’s order to pluck an orphaned child from a loving home unsettles Dentin. When a dark-eyed woman challenges his honor regarding the mission, Dentin finds himself unable to justify his actions or get her out of his mind. Something about her lack of fear intrigues him.

Lady Elsa Reeve attempts to avoid the marriage of convenience her brother and mother demand of her. She understands the need to pay off her brother’s massive debt. She only wants her family to consider her wishes in the process.

As Elsa becomes further entangled in a snare of her brother’s creating, only one man defends her. But can she trust Dentin, her unlikely champion, and his motives? With a murderer on the loose, Elsa’s fate in jeopardy, and a traitor plotting against the king, Dentin finds his priorities shifting in an unexpected direction.

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00S7IX63K
Kobo – https://store.kobobooks.com/…/honor-second-novel-of-rhynan
iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/…/honor-second…/id962179041

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/513502
Nook – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/…/honor-rachel…/1121133015

Rachel Rossano is a happily married mother of three children. She spends her days teaching, mothering, and keeping the chaos at bay. After the little ones are in bed, she immerses herself in the fantasy worlds of her books. Tales of romance, adventure, and virtue set in a medieval SquareProfile2A200fantasy world are her preference, but she also writes speculative fantasy and a bit of science fiction.

Published Works

Series

The Theodoric Saga

The Crown of Anavrea

The King of Anavrea

Novels of Rhynan

Duty

Honor

Stand Alone Novels/Novellas

Wren (A Romany Epistle Novel)

The Mercenary’s Marriage

Short Stories

Word and Deed

Exchange

Rachel Rossano loves to interact with readers.

Blog ~ http://rachel-rossano.blogspot.com/

 Twitter ~ http://twitter.com/RachelRossano

Facebook ~ http://www.facebook.com/RachelRossanoRambles

YouTube ~ http://www.youtube.com/anavrea

GoodReads ~ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1430209.Rachel_Rossano

 

Book Review Wednesday: The Crown of Anavrea

The Crown of Anavrea (The Theodoric Saga Book 1) by Rachel Rossano

Amazon Book Description:

In a time when castles were the strongest…in a place where combat was face to face…Labren was on the run. He hid his true name and he admitted it freely.

In a time when slavery was legal…in a place where kings were all-powerful…Eve, a slave, appeared in the right place at the right time.

Eve saved his life. In return, he offered her the opportunity of freedom. She did not know what would happen to her if she chose to accept his proposal, but she did know the consequences of rejecting it.

I originally picked this book up last summer after reading Rachel Rossano’s books Duty and Wren.

Plot – Grade A

I enjoyed the plot. It was a good mix of sweet romance as Labren and Eve try to turn their marriage of convenience into something more and adventure with Labren being on the run. I also enjoyed the fact that the motive behind Labren’s fleeing from his home and the ultimate solution reached did not feel contrived or clichéd. It was reasonable and, more importantly, it made sense with the main characters’ previous actions, attitudes, and beliefs. In spite of the short length (109 pages from the Kindle version), I didn’t feel that the plot suffered from receiving too many cuts. Of course, there were a few places involving the last leg of the plot journey that could have been expanded on had the book itself been longer but plot stands well on its own while leaving the door cracked for continuing stories.

Content – Grade A

This is a sweet romance. There are kisses and at one point you guess that the marriage has been consummated but it was handled so tastefully that there’s nothing you’d be embarrassed to allow a younger teen to read. The most direct reference is that children were now a possibility after the change in Labren and Eve’s relationship.

Early on in the book, Eve is threatened by being told she’s been sold to an innkeeper who keeps girls to “entertain” the guests. Later an unscrupulous character leers at her and is said to make a highly inappropriate suggestion to her but she is able to escape. There is also a reference to a man’s wife liking his friend more than she liked her husband. But each instance is handled with delicacy and takes care not to stray into gratuitous detail.

There is some violence but most of it takes place off-screen. The most we see are a few punches. Language also takes place off-screen with one exception: A slave owner is referred to as “bastard.” Personally, I could have lived without that name being written out since it was a reference to the man’s character and not his being illegitimate. However, the word, and its single use, may not bother other Christians at all.

Technical – Grade A-

This book was very well-edited. It only had one case of a homophone swap: “accept” being used when it should have been “except” and one instance where it appeared that two words had been dropped but the sentence still made sense. The pacing was good if quick due to the novella-length. There was also one instance where Eve said she and Labren had been running for a month but everywhere else referred to it as being two months. There were a couple places where the more modern “Is he okay?” was used, which didn’t quite mesh with the medieval-esque atmosphere of this fantasy. And one instance where a princess of the kingdom was referred to as “Her majesty” when it should have been “Her highness,” but that probably won’t bother most readers.

Final Grade – A or Five Stars

Overall, this is a quick, enjoyable read that tells the story of Labren and Eve in a manner that makes me wish it wasn’t over already.  I enjoyed the development of their story and how they supported each other and were concerned for each other even before their feelings became obvious. I am also glad to have the sequel ready for my reading pleasure as I look forward to exploring more of the world of Anavrea and getting to know certain secondary characters better. My sole complaint for this book is that I really wish it had been longer so I could spend more time with Labren and Eve. 🙂 I would recommend this book to people who are looking for a quick, clean Christian fantasy and who enjoy fantasy novels set in a medieval-esque world. Recommended for ages 15 and up.

The Crown of Anavrea is available through Kindle, iTunes, and paperback.

Next – The King of Anavrea (The Theodoric Saga Book 2) by Rachal Rossano

Serial Sunday: The Stolen Jewel – Episode One

The Stolen Jewel

An Episodic Medieval Fantasy Romance

by

Kimberly A. Rogers

The kingdom of Cymru is balanced on the edge of civil war. Tensions are high and cruel King Mauger intends to cement his rule with an heir but first he must take a wife, willing or no. Etain has no desire to wed the monster who wears the crown but when her father pledges her hand to him, she fears she is doomed to a life of misery. But raiders attack her wedding caravan and she is carried off by their masked leader. Duke Ronan’s boldness in spiriting away the tyrant’s intended seems half-mad to Etain, especially when they arrive at his keep to find a priest waiting to wed them. Ronan gives Etain a choice – she can wed him or he will send her back to her father . . . and the king.

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Chapter One

“Father, no!” Etain clasped her hands against her waist to keep from clinging to her father’s tunic or twisting her own heavy velvet skirts. Her father did not tower over her by even a head but she still had to raise her chin slightly to meet his piercing grey eyes, her own pleading for him to find a way to deliver her from the horrid fate now awaiting her.

But the man who had always protected her, always listened to her requests, even if he did not always indulge her, only set his bearded jaw in a determined line. Though Lugh, Count of Haderyn, was not a tall man, he was broad. His square build was now cloaked in a scarlet doublet that strained across his chest and shoulders and contrasted with his close-cropped silvered brown hair. The bejeweled hilt of his sword in the shape of a rampant hippogriff matched the family crest emblazoned in silver on the jet clasp of his black frieze cloak. His boots were still caked in drying mud and his hunting gloves were yet clutched in his right hand, testifying that the news he bore had first interrupted his hunt. Now, though there was a hint of regret in his grey gaze, her father shook his head. “You have no choice, lass. I have no choice.” His deep voice gentled as he offered, “Mauger’s offer is a great honor.”

A shudder ran down the length of her spine. Disgust made her tone sharper than intended as she snapped, “He is a monster!”

“He is the king!” Her father stepped forward, shoving his leather gloves in his belt before engulfing her hands between his, as he hissed, “And as king, Mauger may lay claim to any maid in the kingdom. Even if I tried to deny him now that his eye has alighted on you, Etain, he would still have you as wife.”

Etain shook her head, recalling all too clearly the tales of butchery, overindulgence, debauchery, and cruelties too ghastly to be named. Everything in her recoiled at the thought of wedding the Monster of Cymru. “Please.”

The word was little more than a whisper but still Lugh cast a furtive look over his shoulder as though Mauger’s great brute of an emissary might burst into her chamber at any moment. Then he turned back to her, his solemn gaze now tinged with pity, and touched her cheek for a moment before he shook his head. “There is nothing to be done. If you fled, your attempted rebellion would lead to my lands being razed, our people slaughtered, and you would be paraded in chains to his fortress instead of travelling safely in a caravan that will cater to the comforts of Mauger’s betrothed. With his reputation, you should know that any attempt on your part to escape will only make his hand fall heavier on you when you are brought to him.”

She shuddered again, feeling as cold as if the fire burning merrily in the hearth was but an illusion. Everyone knew what had happened to Mauger’s last mistress. The daughter of a wealthy silk merchant whose only crime had been to wish an escape from the gilded cage Mauger had placed her in. The poor girl had been burned at the stake for treason after she defied a degrading command from the king. In her heart of hearts, Etain knew that Mauger’s wife would fare little better. But to escape was impossible and would cause even greater harm to her father and their people. The realization made her sink down into the chair from which she had sprung upon hearing her father’s news. Betrothed. She drew a hitching breath then slowly looked up at her father. However, there was no hitch in her voice as Etain quietly asked, “When will the caravan leave?”

“Tomorrow. As soon as the morning fast has been broken.”

She nodded, but did not permit herself to react. “I will summon Tura so we can pack.”

“According to the king’s emissary, you need only bring travelling clothes. When you arrive at Carchar, Mauger will give you a wardrobe fit for a queen.” Her father’s wan attempt at a smile failed to conceal his unease over the implicit command that Etain bring nothing of her old home, of her old life, with her. She wanted to bristle at the thought of leaving her precious books and the loom where her mother had taught her to weave the same tapestries that now brightened her father’s hall. But if she brought them, especially the books, she would no doubt be forced to watch as they were destroyed before Mauger punished her.

No. No, it would be far wiser to leave them here. She nodded slowly and murmured, “Tura will be relieved.”

The elderly lady’s maid was far more likely to huff and grumble about uppity lordlings even if the ‘lordling’ in question was the king. Her father gave a curt nod then moved to leave but he paused with his hand on the door handle. His silvered head was bent and he spoke in a rumbling whisper, “I never thought I would regret that you survived the fever last spring.” Lugh cleared his throat then stated in a louder voice, “Perhaps Shaddai has a plan for you to help reach Mauger, lass. This could be His will.”

His will? How could the sham of a marriage that Mauger would force on her be Shaddai’s will? Surely, He would not ask so much of her. Could there not be some way for her to escape without bringing Mauger’s wrath down on her father and their people?

Etain was careful to keep her thoughts from showing as her father glanced back at her. She offered a faint smile of her own as she spoke what she did not believe, “Perhaps it is, Father.”

As she watched him slip out, a mere shadow of the proud warrior who had led the charge against an invasion of trolls in 845, and the despise she felt for the Monster of Cymru grew. Whirling about, Etain crossed the chamber to the large window seat. Pulling her skirts up slightly, she clambered onto the worn cushions then leaned her forehead against the cool pane of glass and sighed. Perhaps, just perhaps, there was a way to escape. She simply couldn’t flee from her father’s home. Yes, a smile curved her lips as she contemplated the mud and puddles left behind by the night’s storm, mud that would no doubt slow the caravan’s progress, I will wait until the caravan crosses the borders of our lands and then I can run without Father being suspected.

The heavy oaken door slammed open, crashing into the stone wall and making her jump. She twisted around to see Mauger’s brute of an emissary leering at her. Standing, she watched as the hulking brute loomed in the doorway before he stepped inside. His small, piggish eyes squinted against the caressing rays of sunlight for a moment before he surveyed the chamber—covetousness creeping into his gaze when it fell upon the rich tapestries and furnishings and when he dared to open her jewelry box and draw out her mother’s emeralds before carelessly tossing them back in, a sneer curling his lip as he eyed the seven books spread across her writing table although she rather doubted the thug could read, and, most disturbing of all, sheer avarice mixed with a hungry light as he impudently raked his gaze over her from the top of her head to the hem of her bliaut. Etain raised her chin defiantly even as she shuddered inside and wished that the spring day were cold enough to justify wearing a mantle over the close-fitting gown. Nevertheless, she only allowed a hint of frost in her voice, knowing that Mauger’s pet thug had a long leash and his master had yet to call to him to heel. “Why have you entered my chamber, Sir Grimbol? My lord father and the king would not approve of your presence here. A lady’s chamber is sacrosanct, after all.”

Sir Grimbol’s beefy face crumpled in confusion for only a heartbeat but then his already wine-flushed complexion mottled as anger overrode desire. His surprisingly high voice came out in a whine as he snarled, “King Mauger wants all of his betrothed’s comforts to be met and he has sent you a present of two slave girls.” A contemptuous light entered his piggish eyes as he added, “They will be swifter than that hag the old man claimed was your lady’s maid.”

Horror tumbled and churned its way through her. She had heard the furtive whispers amongst the servants and her father’s men-at-arms before Tura shooed her out of earshot, but never had she imagined that Mauger would grow bold enough to openly parade slaves, much less ‘gift’ them to anyone. It was a breach of the inter-kingdom charter to own sentient beings, human or no. The other five kingdoms would rise against Cymru if they learned Mauger was now bold enough to declare people ‘slaves.’ But . . . who would dare to tell them?

Only when the girls were brought in, cringing and timid, by two hulking guards did Etain register Tura’s squawked protestations echoing up the stairwell. Her eyes flew to where Sir Grimbol was looming over the girls. He noticed her attention and a triumphant sneer curled his lip just before he backhanded the younger of the girls as she made the mistake of reaching for one of the books with a coarse oath that blistered Etain’s ears. She stepped forward to intervene but Sir Grimbol gave her a warning look just before he yanked the stunned girl up, his beefy fingers digging into her arm with bruising force, and then shoved her toward the massive wardrobe, ignoring her muted cry of pain when she tumbled into an open chest. His warning was too clear to be ignored. Any attempt on Etain’s part to interfere would only bring greater harm to the poor girls.

Frustrated at her own helplessness, Etain returned to the window. She watched as a wild gryphon, its jet-black wings standing out against the blue sky, floated lazily on the updrafts. She imagined what it would be like to ride on one, to fly far from Cymru and out of Mauger’s clutches. Once she had flown with her father on his hippogriff stallion but that had been before her mother died after some fool of a hunter shot down her hippogriff. Her father had restricted her to land-bound horses after that incident.

Sir Grimbol’s high voice filled the air, “Set a watch on the lady’s chamber until morning and the slaves are to sleep in here. King’s orders. And tell the old man that a hippogriff shall be served for dinner.”

Etain did not turn from the window. Despite the high offense of requiring her father to not only kill one of their prize hippogriffs but to also eat the very symbol of their house, she did not turn and she did not allow herself to react. It was what he wanted. Sir Grimbol was the sort who delighted most in watching victims squirm and thrash in their attempts to escape his master’s traps. Still her gaze fell to what she could see of the courtyard and the soldiers clad in purple tabards with a blood-red basilisk emblazoned on their chests, a score and five in number, milling about the courtyard and the hall. Members of Mauger’s royal guard, loyal to the Monster of Cymru alone and all as soul dead as him if rumor was to be believed, who had come to ensure that his intended reached his side.

Raising her eyes to the heavens, Etain once more searched for the gryphon but the jet-black creature had vanished. Like her hopes of escape. She would be locked in a gilded cage for Mauger’s amusement. She raised her chin slightly and silently promised herself that though she would be imprisoned, she would not become a victim.

The Stolen Jewel Copyright © 2015 Kimberly A. Rogers and kimberlyrogerscfwriter.wordpress.com blog. All rights reserved. This story is a work of fiction and a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Illustration: “Stitching the Standard” by Edmund Leighton, 1911.

I Love It When . . .

I love it when a plan comes together. Or in this case, when a story comes together. I don’t know about the rest of you but the moment when a new character bursts into my imagination AND totes a nice plot with key point outline (deciding on major points is as detailed as this pantster gets lol) is simply magical.

The funny thing is that Baran, whose first story is in final edits, simply prowled out of the dark and mysterious forest intent on hunting the Fringe and keeping his people from being exposed to the outside world. He was also above providing me with more than his intense first chapter for several months. This from the general who holds honor as sacred. 😉 Characters are so fickle.

My latest hero is a bit of a scoundrel but he was the most considerate to the author, go figure. Of course, his story is already promising to be equal parts exasperating, charming, and nerve-wracking. The best part of his journey is that it promises to give me something other than edits to think about. Baran’s stories are ongoing and he too has his second full-length novel outlined but for ease of obtaining the necessary information for the story, the prize goes to Edmund. His story is certainly going to be different than that of Baran’s but I enjoy that about my heroes and the heroines as well. They’re not carbon copies placed in different settings. Each one comes with their own stories and motivations. Baran, whom you will meet first, is the stoic and honorable military man. I enjoy tormenting him with a girl who has absolutely no concept of proper military-appropriate rules and conducts herself with annoying flamboyancy (as Baran describes her). 😀

As for the other characters you are destined to meet as soon as I finish their stories . . .

Well, once you meet them, you’ll be able to see for yourselves just how unique they are.

What was the easiest story for you to come up with? Did the character bring you the whole kit and caboodle or did some parts come sooner than others? Any tips on how to coax stubborn characters into spilling the story?

Groundhog Day . . . Or When Writing Makes You Feel Like Bill Murray

It’s Groundhog Day. And yes, there will be six more weeks of winter. The perfect time to catch up on your writing and editing projects, right? Well, maybe.

But sometimes the writing process can bog you down enough that all you think about is “Will this part never end?” And suddenly you can empathize with Bill Murray’s character in the movie Groundhog Day a lot more. I must confess I’m in the middle of revision and editing for two books right now. One is my very ugly first draft of the NaNoWriMo novel, which is desperate need of fluffing and refining and just plain fixing, and the other is the final (I hope) round for Tiger’s Paw. Of course, it still has to visit the editor one more time before I can send out the beta copies. But the stage that never seems to end is editing. There is ALWAYS something wrong.

What is even more frustrating is when you send a piece to your beta reader and they see that something’s wrong with it. You know they’re right and you’re glad they caught it before you progressed further from the point of trouble, but then the trial and error of fixing begins. Sometimes it only takes one, maybe two rounds to fix the “that’s just not working” bit. Other times you will get stuck in the Groundhog Day cycle of “still not right, try again, and repeat” cycle. This is good for you and it WILL make your story better in the long run (this is where you stop and thank your beta reader for putting you through the Groundhog Day cycle), but when you are in the middle of the cycle, all you can think is “Will it never end?”

Editing is hard. It’s the place where nothing seems to get you closer to the end because there’s always more to be done. But, just like in the movie, the Groundhog Day cycle will eventually end. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re in the middle of shifting sentences and scenes and murdering your darlings but one day you will finally put down the red pen and leave the story in its finished and polished state. However, after a particular trying day of editing leaves you feeling wrung out and like you really know zip about writing, schedule a day where you recharge before going back to work on editing. Spend time with your family, watch a movie, read a book (that’s not in your book’s genre), take some time to be crafty, or do nothing at all. Just take the time to stop, rest, and recharge so you will be ready to take up editing again the next day and you won’t feel quite as trapped in the Groundhog Day cycle and you won’t spend hours sitting there wondering why on earth you ever thought you could write.

Just remember the Groundhog Day cycle makes your story and you better by the time you reach the end. Even the most painful moments.