Forgotten Spirits of Halloween (Short Story)

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This story was written years ago, the prompt being “an unlikely character POV”. It was always one of my favorites and will eventually be part of a short story collection. Since the collection won’t be out until long after Halloween, I felt it necessary to share the story now. Enjoy!

Forgotten Spirits of Halloween

Halloween night, 7:30 PM.

I watch the parade of trouble makers filing past me in search of perfect sugary treats. Silently chuckling to myself at the sight of these little people dressed in odd clothing with several layers of make-up, I wonder how anyone could mistake them for real spirits. I know any self-respecting pumpkin such as myself would not. Silly humans, anyway. It’s like they don’t even try. As if this night is just a joke to them.

They also don’t even know it’s not late enough. The real spirits don’t appear to me for another few hours, once all the children have put themselves into sugar-induced comas and all their care-givers have retired to their beds. Once all is quiet on the street again, I know they’ll come.

When 11pm comes around, I see the first one. She is a beautiful flowing light, with smoke trailing her like a long transparent dress. Alone and looking distraught, I know she is lost.

“Hello there miss, need some direction?” I ask, hoping she can see my form in the dark. I only wish my creators would have left the candle inside burning. Although sometimes that scares them a bit when they are new, and I wonder if she may be.

“Who said that?” she whispers in tones only we can hear, even on Halloween night.

“Over here. The pumpkin. I’m here to help guide you.”

“You can hear me? See me?” She looks at me with a puzzled look, not quite understanding how a pumpkin could communicate with her when no one else can. Now I know she is a new spirit, having very little interaction with the others. She needs to be with her own.

“Yes, and yes. Have a seat beside me, and I’m sure others will arrive soon,” I would smile sweetly, but my face has been carved in a fixed evil grin. I assure her I am not evil, but rather created to look it. She accepts this information, still bound by her former knowledge of the forgotten holiday.

We sit and chat awhile, as I explain to her the ways of the ghostly world. I am not like her, and have never been human. Instead, I only exist around the holiday, fading in and out of existence. My only purpose is to guide, similar in the way the sun gives off heat.

It isn’t long before more travelers appear. An aged gentleman and younger woman, both standing similar to that of my new girl. I call out to them. “Hello travelers! Might you come here for a moment?” They look to me, seeing the new girl. The older man nods. He knows what favor I seek.

This newly deceased girl has been taken care of, but more come tonight. Resting on the front porch of the living, I wait in the darkness under the moon for more travelers to arrive.

NaNoWriMo 2014

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Usually this time of year is an exciting one for an author. Nature is changing, begging for new stories. Weather gets colder, forcing us inside to write. There is a distinct buzz in the air about the infamous “National Novel Writing Month”.

This year, however, it will be different. There will be no NaNoWriMo. At least, not for me.

Why No NaNoWriMo?

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of NaNo. I love that it kicks authors into gear and has the ability to crank out some wonderful fiction (and sometimes non-fiction) novels. I love the “do or die” writing that comes from being held accountable for so many words a day, week, and for the month.

What I don’t love is the drama and stress that it brings into my household. While my family has no problems with me writing (and a few even enjoy my stories), they do have problems with me being locked in a room for an entire month. Our family unit simply falls apart if my attention is solely devoted to writing. I have tried in the past to prepare them for my November disappearance, but it flat out doesn’t work.

So, with a heavy heart I have to decline participation in NaNo this year. Not because I don’t want to, or even because my family doesn’t want me to. But because there is only one of me, and this one has other obligations that prevent cranking out x-number of words per day. It stresses me out, but more importantly it stresses my family out. Badly.

Still Writing?

Even though I won’t be smack in the middle of the hype, I will still be writing. Just not 1,700+ words per day or 50,000 in a month. Maybe a few hundred, may none at all, but I WILL still be writing. I HAVE been writing, even if lately it’s been nothing but crap (we all have those days/months/years).

The beauty of skipping the challenge this year is that I will be able to work on multiple works instead of just one. I actually have several ideas in the making – a short story collection, a new fiction novel in a different genre than fantasy (not too different, just hopping over to paranormal for a moment!), and there’s even some ideas in the back of my head for a type of book rarely seen anymore. Make no mistakes – I AM WRITING! Just not for NaNoWriMo.

Not only will I still be writing, but I’ll be sitting on the sidelines cheering others who will be giving it a go. Seasoned vets and newbies, too, will have my total support. Just because I won’t be participating doesn’t mean I won’t be supporting others. Quite the opposite! Be sure to follow me on Twitter as I’ll be pushing you along in between writing, editing, and family obligations. 😉

My Tools for NaNoWriMo

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It use to be that I only had one computer. It wasn’t hard to store all my notes and story in one place, using my one central computer for all things writing. Looking  back, it probably wasn’t the smartest idea to store everything in a single place, especially when I’ve learned the lost data lesson more than once.

Last year I tried something different, mostly because I knew I might have to work on different computers. This year I KNOW I will be bouncing and writing in whatever room I happen to be in, so need the tools to allow me to write on a whim and sync across computers. There’s the plus side of having backups, as well.

My “Tools”

1. Evernote
Last year, I used Evernote to write my entire novel. I did run into an issue or two with syncing, though. I haven’t noticed those same problems lately, but to be on the safe side, I’m using it just for notes/outlines/inventory. I like the options it has for formatting and organization.

2. Dropbox
New this year is Dropbox. Since I have been bouncing around electronics so much, I found using a central folder synced online was the easiest way to keep all my projects together. I have a specific folder called “Writing” that will have my main word document for NaNoWriMo.

3. Google Chrome
To keep me organized, I log into Chrome on any computer I might be using. Just signing in presents me with my bookmarks and saved passwords. This is helpful when I need to quickly access Evernote, Thesaurus.com, NaNoWriMo.org, or Twitter. I even have different profiles for writing and non-writing, which helps cut down on the distractions from non-writing sources.

That’s it! You’ll notice the “sync” theme across the board. Evernote and Dropbox are also available on my Kindle, which can be extremely useful for notes when I’m nowhere near home.

Happy NaNoWriMo!

What’s the Story About?

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I don’t understand why the description of the story is so difficult. I wrote a complete novel, yet can’t write another 100 words summarizing the story? Weird. Honestly though, I don’t think I’m the only author that’s run into this issue. There wouldn’t be so many help articles out there if it was the easiest task for an author. 

This week I’ve taken a lot of time to draft several descriptions. After half a dozen sub-par descriptions, I think I’ve finally got the perfect one… 

Thrown in a world riddled with creatures of the Darkness, Kira finds her strength from her Taliesin friends, whom are ready to show her the new magical abilities she has as a Sade. Not just one of the regular folk anymore, Kira can now wield water energy and defeat the vicious, deadly foes that lurk outside city walls. There’s one problem though – she can’t remember her past life before becoming a Sade. Not only must Kira learn to control her spells, she must also find the missing memories of a shattered past, and put her family back together.

What do you think? Too long? Too short? Too wordy? Opinions, suggestions, thoughts, and hate mail welcome. Okay, maybe not the hate mail, but all other comments appreciated!

A Little History

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While this chapter appears much later in the story Kira’s Tale, it gives a good background history of the “Darkness” that is referenced often. This book is found inside a wizard library, and it reads …

Origins of Darkness
by Nixie Brightwell,
First Master Sade and Keeper of Jordan

To understand the Darkness, one must first understand the original citizens of Magic Island, a small piece of land off the coast of Urbania. It is where magic began, and where it should have stayed. At least, that is what the original leaders of Magic Island and the Kingdom of Urbania had agreed to, in days before the Darkness.

It was the glowing shard in the center of the island that first exposed the citizens to magic. The jagged rock pierced the earth, as if a god of the heavens implanted it. When touched, the gift of magic was intertwined with the soul, with unbridled control of power and knowledge.

The King of Urbania was a greedy man, and he sought to control all of the land.  He knew not to interfere with the inhabitants of Magic Island or attempt to control them, because their magic was greater than all of his swordsmen combined could face. Sending in his men to capture or kill the wizards would be sentencing them to death.

In attempts to create a more powerful army, the king sent the most skilled warrior he had to Magic Island to retrieve a piece of the rock. If just a small portion of the rock was in his control, he theorized, his men would have enough magic to counter the wizards’ spells.

The warrior traveled to Magic Island, with false promise he would be of great value to the king and rewarded handsomely. When he was presented in front of the great stone in the center of the island, he did not raise his palm in praise to the heavens for the gift. Instead, he drew a pickaxe that had been hidden inside his robes. Swinging with all of his might, he pierced the center of the magical shard.  

Four equal pieces of rock crumbled to the ground, and the warrior quickly scooped them up with gloved hands. Off to the docks he ran, glowing stones safely in his pocket, and a sailboat waiting to aid him. He escaped, delivering the precious fragments to his greedy king.

The wizards of Magic Island were furious, casting a spell to prevent regular citizens the ability to reach the island, and forbidding magicians from leaving. The stone had been attacked, the wizards believed, and thus it was a war between wizards and swordsmen.

Mere days after the attack, the stone began to act strangely. Before it had been radiant, shimmering from the sun no matter what the time of day, and glimmering in the bluish moonlight. After the attack, it was a sickly, dull and lifeless brown. Many of the elder wizards attempted to obtain more magic from it, as was the ritual on full moons, and failed. It seemed the stone had died.

It was here, where this powerful stone once stood, the Darkness was born. Within the pit of the perished rock, a black fog arose. Human-sized hands formed from the fog, many in numbers. It reached across Magic Island, strangling the livestock, wildlife, and wizards.

The citizens fled the island on boats, ships, and canoes. They left behind homes, belongings, and even children. The island was no longer safe, and thus the wizards were given no choice but to invade Urbania’s dock.

Hatred fueled from being forced from their homes, they ascended onto the city, seeking revenge from the king. The entire court was slaughtered, the sandstone walls disintegrated, and the king publically murdered in the town fountain. Few survived the massacre, with only a handful of swordsmen escaping. Among them was the warrior who had unleashed the Darkness.

He fled to the mines in the north, disappearing underground with the shards he had stolen from the king’s dead body. Through the tunnels he ran, with the magical rocks to light his way. At the deepest part of the mines, when there were no more paths to choose, the panic of being hopelessly lost set in. If he ever left the mines, the wizards would kill him immediately. Yet underground, he would surely die as well.

His only chance was to use the shards of the mysterious rock. With a shaking hand, he set them on the mineshaft floor. He pulled off one glove, and placed his palm over one of the stones. The stone’s energy began to turn as black as the sickness that had seeped from the streets of Magic Island. With the touch of the warrior’s unworthy hand, all four stones exploded, and the heat of the energy dissolved the man on impact.

The end of the mine caved in, sealing the stones and what remained of the warrior within the mountain side. The wizards believed this to be an act of the heavens, sent to punish the warrior and preserve the remaining magical shards.

Over this sacred location, what we now know as Mount Taliesin, the wizards set forth to preserve and control the magical process for future generations. The pure souls, not already touched by magic, no longer had the ability to simply touch the stones to gain its power. Instead, a ritual was required for others to gain magical abilities. With the aid of the wizards who survived the attack on Magic Island, magical abilities survived.

Despite the magic becoming weakened and spit into four elements, it was still a gift from the heavens. It allowed the people to fight for their homes and country side, for the Darkness had spread from island to mainland. It had been carried by field mice stowed away on ship, and by the children who were infected unknowingly by the black fog.

By these means, it spread quickly over the land, and the first wall was constructed around Mount Taliesin to serve as a safe haven. The city of Urbania was then reconstructed, complete with a wall like Mount Taliesin. Jordan would also construct a wall, built by the warriors who escaped the wizard’s wrath in Urbania. And with these successes, civilization was safe to thrive, at least in part, from the Darkness.

Still the Darkness lingers, haunting our woods and feeding nightmares. It steals our youth and restricts our travels, a cancer on the space we live in. We shall not give up that hope the Darkness can be erased from our lands, and we will fight on to the end. The gifts of magic have been passed down to us from the heavens, and we must use them for the good of our people. We must try our best to fix the mistakes of our ancestors and protect our future. 

First Novel Coming Soon

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I never know what to say on the all-important first post of a new blog. Odd, because I’m a writer by nature.  But I’m pretty sure you could care less about my background, credentials, how many kids I have (or don’t have), or any other detailed introductions you might have read in the past.

So, I’ll just start here….

Hi. I’m Dawn Juniper Stevens and I’m an author who likes writing fantasy novels. 

There. Now, let’s move on to what this blog post is really about… My very first published novel.

kira_cover

When Kira finds herself in a strange place with no idea who she is and new magical abilities, she sets out on a journey to find her place in a world engulfed in Darkness and magic. With two Taliesin friends as her guides, Kira must put back the pieces of her missing life. 

That, of course, is the short description of the story. It may or may not be it’s final description. Like everything we authors write, it’s subject to editing as we go along for this ride.

Feedback not only welcomed, but encouraged. 😉