Obnoxious Character Planning: INFERNO Character Personality Types

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So, I’ve been on a planning kick lately, showing the intimate details of how I prepare myself for a big project, like a book. I’m going to be honest, the way I prep myself changes each time, and this go around, I might have gone a little crazy with notes and etc.

But here’s a bit of my rationale. I’m working with a series. While I have limited myself to five books for Ria’s BLOOD PHOENIX saga, I do have a slew of other characters, books, and stories within this world, so I need to start keeping track of little things that will connect and manifest throughout.

Now, this is a little wild for planning purposes, but I thought it was so much fun to peg down each of my characters by personality type, so here’s my list:

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One of the interesting things I discovered from doing this is that Ria’s personality, although remaining the same amongst most of her previous lives, did change on a few. Even with reincarnation, culture and genetics played a role in how they behaved. Since Ria’s past lives impact Ria’s present quite dramatically, I hope can keep them separated enough to do them justice.

Another interesting note about personality types is that even with the same four-letter determinations, their personalities are not precisely the same. For instance, Ria, Mark, Colista, and Layla have the same categorization—INFP, but each of their descriptors are different: the Spunky Kid, the Lost Soul, the Waif, and the Nurturer, which comes not from the Myers-Briggs model but from the character archetypes of heroes, heroines, and villains, although honestly, none of these four are villains in the slightest.

But INFP clearly fits all four: poetic, kind, and altruistic people, always eager to help a good cause. They are the most idealistic, have strong personal values, seek order and peace, are creative, non-directive, and reserved with people.

Anyways, I could devolve into a rambling about personalities and the types of how each connects, but I’m not going to do that. I merely wanted to share how assigning base personality types helped me differentiate characters and keep them true to their original dispositions, even as they evolve as people.

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So, I want to know what kind of categorization, notes, and tools do you use to develop and/or maintain your characters? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Did You Know…About Snow White?

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Most know Snow White from the Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the nineteenth-century German fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm: a young, beautiful girl loses her mother. When her father remarries, the princess’s vain and wicked stepmother grows jealous of the sweet fairness of Snow White. There’s this crazy, magical mirror who reminds the aging queen that she is, indeed, aging. Eventually, the queen sends a hitman after the princess, she flees, is taken in by seven coal workers in the woods. They do the whole domestic thing until a witch comes and poisons her. No worries, Disney gives her a happy ending with the prince kissing her awake and whisking her off to the royal castle. The Grimm version makes the stepmother queen put on red-hot shoes and dance until she drops dead. Gives the story a bit more justified karma if you ask me.

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A lot of symbolism lies in the fairy tale, but interestingly enough, in 1994, Eckhard Sander, a German historian, uncovered a real woman who could have inspired the story: Margarete von Waldeck, a German countess who was forced to move to Burssels at sixteen by her stepmother, Katharina of Hatzfeld. There, the countess fell in love with a prince Phillip II who became king of several European countries, like Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, England, and Ireland—due to marriage. Margarete’s father and stepmother disapproved of their relationship because of its political inconvenience, and the young woman died at twenty-one, supposedly poisoned by Phillip II’s father, who also opposed to the romance.

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Still, the connections continue as the seven dwarfs seem to resemble the children employed by her father in his copper mines. Many of them died due to the poor conditions, but those who lived had stunted growth and malformed limbs from malnutrition and difficult physical labor.

And finally, the poisoned apple may have stemmed from German history as well, when an old man fed poisoned apples to children whom he thought were stealing his fruit.

However, another group of Bavarian scholars believe that Snow White was based on Maria Sophia von Erthal of Bavaria. The daughter of landowner, Prince Philipp Christoph von Erthal and his wife, Baroness con Bettendorff. When her mother died, Sophia’s father married the Countess of Reichenstein, who hated her stepchildren and lived in a castle with a talking mirror, an acoustical toy manufactured in 1720.

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The dwarves in Maria’s storied also linked to a mine in Bieber set amongst the seven mountains, which had tunnels so small that only very short miners that wore bright hoods as the dwarfs were depicted over the years.

Additionally, the glass coffin connected to the glass industry of the region, and the poisoned apple associated with the nightshade plants that grow abundantly in Lohr.

Other fictional variations of the story show the queen committing cannibalism, eating Snow White’s lungs and liver, and could be a connection to old Slavic tales of witches eating human hearts. This connects to the later versions where the queen requests her huntsman to return with Snow White’s heart.

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In another, Snow White is the villain and jealous of her biological mother. A version earlier than Grimm’s showed Snow White being sent out to collect flowers and being abandoned, both by the mother and a servant. Later, the story changed the villain to a stepmother to be more acceptable for children.

Other traditions outside of Europe create further variations, like Albania’s version showed Snow White living with forty dragons and a ring causing her slumber. However, the tale twists the initial conflict by having Snow White’s teacher urging her to murder the queen for her place of power. Others say her two jealous sisters try to kill her instead.

An epic Indian poem, “Padmavat,” depicts a stepmother queen asking her parrot who is the most beautiful with a disagreeable reply. The same happened in an Armenian story, where a mother asked the moon the same question, resulting in the plot to kill her daughter. And a Russian tale creates a similar story of Snow White but replaces the dwarfs with knights.

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Plenty of interpretations exist over the symbolism in the well-known tale: the seven-deadly sins and the seven dwarfs; the black, white, and red and their links to alchemy, Indian philosophy, and Egyptian culture; a metaphysical rebirth of Snow White’s reawakening; the poisoned apple links to Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, and etc. I could write a post all its own about these.

Another time.

Want to see more twists to the classic tale and others? Check out AFTER THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER, and read my version “She of Silken Scarves,” which mixes Snow White, Cinderella, and Mission Impossible with a slew of conspiracy theories.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/exploring-true-origins-snow-white-and-seven-dwarfs-004150

http://mythicspiral.blogspot.com/2012/07/snow-white-and-seven-dwarfs.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_White#Variations

Did You Know…About the Merfolk?

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Most are familiar with the Disney depiction of merfolk and Ariel’s struggle to find love on land, without her voice no less, a sanitized version of the Hans Christian Andersen’s tale where she does not have a happy ending, and spoiler, not only does she suffer with every step on land, she also dies a painful death.

This may be a reflection on mermaids’ association with misfortune and death, and the common merging of their mythology with that of sirens, luring sailors to their watery graves. But the mermen have also earned a severe reputation for summoning storms, sinking ships, and drowning sailors.

In any case, we see merfolk described as a half-human, half-fish hybrid creature, and we’ve had mythologies about these creatures for thousands of years, like Babylon’s Era and Oannes, the fish gods. Greek mythology tells of the god Triton, a messenger of the sea, and the Hindu and Candomblé still worship mer-goddesses.

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An interesting version from the Shetland Islands mixes the merfolk with selkies, telling of strikingly beautiful women whose appearance is a temporary effect of donning fish skin. And if they lose the skin, they will be stuck on land. In one tale, “The Mermaid Wife,” a man, Unst, walked along the beach, saw a group of merfolk dancing in the sand under the moonlight with skins strewn across the ground. Unst snatched one and concealed it. When he returned to that spot, he happened upon the fairest of the women, sad over the theft of her skin and her exile. Unst offered protection, married the damsel, and they produced several children. After some years, their children found the hidden skin and returned it to their mother. She hugged them goodbye and sped off towards the sea. Unst returned from a trip just in time to chase after her and witness her magnificent transformation. Before she disappeared under the water with her merfolk family, she called back her love to him, but that her first husband was her true love.

Also in Scotland, the Blue Men of the Minch, are a group of mermen, who have blue-tinted skin and gray beards. They challenge ship captains before sieging the ship. If a captain is quick witted, he may best the Blue Men and save his men. They’ve also been known to battle against the Vikings and their Norse king, which may coincide with when the Vikings landed, wearing blue, veiled clothes.

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The kappa from Japanese myth live in lakes, rivers, and on coasts, but they differ from the traditional merfolk by taking on a more child-like form with ape-like faces and tortoise shells on their backs. When they interact with humans, they, like the Blue Men of Minch, enjoy challenging humans to games of skill that come with a death penalty when lost. They also prefer to kill children or those silly enough to swim alone in secluded places; however, most prominently, they prefer fresh cucumbers, which might make a nice trade for one’s life.

The Ningyo, also from Japanese myth, have varying human characteristics, making them more monstrous and uglier with a deformed fish face, human torso, and long, bony fingers with sharp claws. These versions of the mermaids have a bonus: consuming their flesh grants immortality, but this comes with great risk as the Ningyo can place powerful curses on the humans who try to trap or wound them, linked with entire towns being swallowed by earthquakes and tsunamis.

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In Norway and the Orkney Islands, they have myths of the Finfolkaheem, or Finfolk, which may be one of the least traditional versions, considered sorcerous shapeshifters. They do maintain negative relationships with humans, often abducting them as spouses or making them servants because if Finfolk marry one another, the Finwife will lose her mystical charm and age increases her ugliness in seven-year increments until she becomes a hag, which is why they prefer to abduct human males as their mates. The best way to escape their entrapments is by tossing a silver coin away from oneself, as they have an affinity for the precious metal.

The earliest rendition of a mermaid-like entity came from ancient Syria and their goddess, Atargatis, who watched over the general well-being of her people and their fertility. Human above the waist and fish below, she was obviously associated with water and had the biggest, most stunning temple, which featured a pond full of sacred fish.

A common thread amongst these myths create an intriguing paradox: the beauty and the beast trapped within the same creature. Some are victims, others are predators, but all manifest magic that affects the humans they interact with. Most commonly to the humanity’s demise.

 

Sources:

https://www.wired.com/2014/10/fantastically-wrong-strange-murderous-sometimes-sexy-history-mermaid/

https://www.livescience.com/39882-mermaid.html

http://mentalfloss.com/article/75471/9-mermaid-legends-around-world

Plotting INFERNO: the Transition from Pantser to Plotter

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So, if you’ve had a chance to peek at my writing journal, you’ll know that I’ve recently invested more time on plotting elements of my novels and stories via plot embryos, the hero’s journey, and the three-act structure.

I have been a long-time pantser doing little planning other than major scenes that I knew I wanted somewhere relative to each other in a general arc, which is basically saying that I bullshitted my way through most of my writing.

Well, the last novel I wrote, THE GIRL WITH THE GLOWING HAIR, flowed out of me so much faster with a general guide for each of my chapters. I also developed them with a chart and the five-idea method from Rachael Stephen.

This worked so well that I implemented the plot embryos for my shorter works to gauge a general structure.

Then the year ended, and it was time to start my new BLOOD PHOENIX novel, INFERNO. And man, the embryo was a nice start, but I needed more to power through as many words as I really wanted to get through this year (~112,000 words), so I tried my hand at a three-act structure, and here’s what I came up with.

 

How I plotted BLOOD PHOENIX: INFERNO (some spoilers but no biggies).

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Here is where I used the traditional Harmon’s Plot Embryo, below is a comparison of the  my use of the tool. The blue bits are major spoilers.

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After I let that marinate for a little while, I created a list of all the plot points I could think of for each act, not worrying about an order. Like this:

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This is when I used the three-act structure in a stricter sense, putting those on my list into the act where they belong. At the bottom, I had notes that came from looking at the story arc again and again.

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Finally, I made the project its own notebook, listing each act’s plot points down the side before shifting them into appropriate chapters with other details to help me not get stuck between, which is where I typically struggle the most with writer’s block.

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So far, this method has allowed me to hammer out 16,000 words last month and another 4,000 this last week with the #100daychallenge or #100dayproject.

But this little book I’ve slapped together has some extras that help me remember character motivations, keep secondary threads going, plan out the past to understand how it affects the present, and after the halfway mark, I’ve started gathering notes for a Broken World guide after requests from readers to explain all of the connections and cross-overs and research that builds the series.

And that’s the process I’ve been using. I’ve found quite a spike in my productivity since I started plotting more and writing more consistently.

I hope you’ve found this helpful, and if you have any suggestions for plotting or writing research, leave them in the comments below so that I can add them to my list!

Also, join me on Instagram or my personal page as I document my journey writing 500 words a day for 100 days!

Breaking Down Satire: Paradox

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Paradox is a statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.

This is the definition I offer my students when we begin the satirical analysis paper—aka my favorite assignment to teach. And here are some of my favorite examples to help:

-“I can resist anything but temptation.” Oscar Wilde

-The more you try to impress others, the less they’ll be impressed.

-“It’s weird not to be weird.” John Lennon

-You must be cruel to be kind.

-It was the beginning of the end.

-“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

-“What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young.” – George Bernard Shaw

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These are all used for situational or rhetorical effect to reconcile a hidden or unexpected truth with the reader. We also often refer to them as dichotomies, where a sharp contrast is required to create drama, cause conflict, or add depth to a character or situation. Think:

-There can be no pleasure without pain.

-You can only hate someone you’ve once loved.

More complexly, let’s look at Mr. Darcy, whom I love to compare my character Gene to. Mr. Darcy holds several opposing characteristics: he’s arrogant but bashful, tactless but generous, proud but broken.

Okay, that last one may not exactly be opposing, but they’re close enough for my tastes, as that’s something inherently infused in Gene’s personality. He’s so highly strung because he’s sensitive, and he’s had to learn to hide it in order to protect himself.

Another paradox presents itself in most of my stories, especially the longer ones, and more honed in on Ria’s story in the BLOOD PHOENIX saga, and that’s:

Good people must accept that, sometimes, they will have to do bad things to bad people to protect the ones they love.

For her entire story arc, Ria fights to be what she deems as a good guy, struggles to keep her humanity because she doesn’t want to become like any of those corrupt women in charge. But she slowly learns that she must act like them to defeat them and is willing to sacrifice her humanity to keep other, innocent people safe.

But so long as she continues to struggle with the decisions she makes and whether or not she’s done the right thing, she’ll stay on camped across that good line.

You may be asking yourself, how is this satire? Well, it’s subtle. Paradox and dichotomies help us focus on our satirical intent and gives us new ways to exaggerate or understand or otherwise highlight our main message and its parts.

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What paradoxes are you a fan of? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

Quarterly Update: Reviewing Q1 and Planning Q2

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Hello, lovelies!

So, I’m trying something new. Well, mostly new. I’ve tried a quarterly review before and found them less than helpful, but I knew I needed to review the last three months in order to make all of that shit I’ve tracked mean something.

If you’d like to see my process more fully, watch me plan here:

 

Here’s my simplified attempt:

-What I overestimated

-What I underestimated

-My vision

-My current pain points

It was easy for me to break these categories down. I’ve always overestimated what I can accomplish, most notably my ability to multitask. This is a cycle I go through again and again. As an undergrad, I learned that multi-tasking isn’t actually a thing. We can only focus on one thing at a time in truth, so having Bob’s Burgers or Bones playing in the background is not just noise. It’s distracting me from getting my shit done.

I also learned that I’ve underestimated my ability to write and write consistently. This year, one of my main goals is to write every day. You know, minus a day or two given life happens. First, it was two-hundred-and-fifty words a day, which was hard for the first month. Come month two, my average increased daily. For March, I doubled it to five-hundred words a day. And guess what, the last two months made that rather easy. Most of the time, I reached six-hundred words or more. And man, did I learn something about practice and doing something every day consistently. Creativity became much easier to tap into with regular use.

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Next, I wanted to compare my current vision for my life and business with my vision at the beginning of the year, which was to grow my business, publish more, and improve my environment at home. This is where my word for April came from: realign. The major note within this is to simplify. Creativity always meant big and elaborate projects to me, but the more I’ve tried to accomplish this, the more I fell flat on my face. In recent years, I’ve noticed that the simpler a project, the better it came out because I could focus on the important bits rather than juggling all of these ideas at once. I plan to remember and implement this for the next quarter—and year. Actually, this helped quite a bit with my last project through Transmundane Press, and it meant a successful and fully-funded Kickstarter campaign!

Here’s hoping it brings me continued success.

These categories created my current pain points, which center on money, time, and focus. Honestly, the biggest pain point was taxes. Boy, do I loathe them, but I hope the struggle this year will mean that next year will be easier. Overall, these points generated my next quarter’s goals: research marketing and advertising to start small and expand, limiting distractions, power blocking—which changed my weeks when it came to posting blogs for the press—and keeping a balance sheet as the year goes rather than fumbling at the end of year for my taxes.

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Pretty simple, again, my overarching vision for this year and my life.

The list was helpful, but it spurred a letter-like list of notes to myself to reflect on why these things happened and real advice to keep me on track. If you can’t read my handwriting, it pretty much says what I have here with a little stronger language aimed at myself. Aka, do better damn it.

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So, here’s my next ninety days’ goals and project plans. I’ve had to include a “leftovers” section due to my procrastination issues, but with the semester ending, and two other projects ending along with it, I should be able to tackle these before the summer.

 

What are your goals this quarter? Did you get everything you wanted done last quarter? Tell me about them in the comments below!

Playing Matchmaker: a Maddy Mini

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In celebration of my upcoming novella, Little Red and the Surly Bear, I thought I’d explore a scene from the story from one of my supporting character’s point of view.

Enjoy!

 

Maddy pinched her son, swatting him out of the way as he pulled a fresh onion ring from the top of a patron’s plate. “You quit that before I serve you up to our customers instead.”

Theo grumbled and rolled his eyes, so she swatted him again.

A deep smoke-laced coffee scent inched through the kitchen window, narrowing Maddy’s eyes on the curls as Kalib walked to the table where Kaia sat. And neither of them told her they were coming? Oh no, sweets. That is not how she ran her social life or safehouses, and that vampire knew as much.

When she finished the fried catfish plate and served it to her customer at the bar, she detoured and slipped into the empty seat at their table. “Two of my favorite people show up at my place, and nobody warns me first. You’d better be planning me a surprise party, or I’m going to be offended.”

“Surprise.” Kalib smiled without fang, warmth and intimacy bled into it like a promise to make it up to her.

He’d better.

Maddy turned to Kaia, knowing her humanity and newness to paranormal persuasiveness, she didn’t hold it against her. Much.

“I sent you a message before I left.” Kaia’s green eyes blinked at her as is if to amplify her innocence.

A short shuffle with her phone, and there it was, just as her friend said, a heads-up text. Maybe Kaia was more of a match for this group than she thought. “Well, apparently you did. So, I’ll forgive you. You, on the other hand, are in the dog house.”

Maddy pointed at him to accentuate her point.

He played his part, dramatic in shock. “If this is what I get for surprising a friend, I will have to choose better friends, maus.”

Maybe he played that part too well, anxiety fluttered under her ribs for a heartbeat before she pushed it away. They’d been friends a long time. More than on a few occasions.

It carried her back to the kitchen.

Dev slipped in through the back—the real reason Kalib was at their establishment. Should have figured.

Her brother leaned in to give her a kiss on the cheek before tagging Javier for a brief chat.

Maddy shook it off, digging into her work: tasting, seasoning, stirring, scooping. Managing the pub’s kitchen and trying to ignore the guilt of having pushed Kalib away those centuries ago. Before she knew the kind of man he was. Before she’d had Theo.

She needed a fresh air break. Or maybe a cigarette and a glass of bourbon.

Hitting a lull in the line, Maddy did just that, sneaking off as Kalib grabbed her brother’s attention. As much as she brush him off, the concrete feeling of his attention caressed her spine.

The backdoor sealed the noise and stew of scents inside, and Maddy finally found some relief. She fished out the pack of cigarettes she kept for times like this from behind the dumpster and pulled the acrid smoke into her lungs with relish before the backdoor opened again, and Kalib stepped out.

“Tsk, tsk, maus. Do you not know how quickly those death sticks will kill you?” Unceremoniously close, he slipped the cigarette from her fingers and took his own drag, the smoke pluming thicker and darker on his exhale.

Sweeter.

Kalib leaned her back against the brick via proxy as he returned her nicotine. His proximity stirring old feelings with the new ones.

The temptation to draw him closer strangled her. Too close to mating season.

She glanced at the door between heartbeats.

“Afraid of being caught by your pious brother?”

That pulled a snort out of her. “My brother? Pious? I think you’ve had something a little heavier than tobacco.”

Those elegant fingers stopped her short, drawing her hair from her face and tucking it behind her ear.

Sanity said to push him away, but his smoke slipped into her mouth before he kissed her—intense like the first time but not fueled by the same childish neediness.

Still she could not control her ragged breath when he pulled back.

“Consider this my apology for showing up unannounced and playing matchmaker. The romantic in me can’t seem to help myself.”

 

 

Faerie Possession, a Loving Red Excerpt

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From Chapter Twenty-Five

Outside, the buzzing cicadas and chirping crickets, the occasional bleat from an oversized frog and the general whispering of the trees reached him. Besides his ache to be wrapped up with Kaia, peace fell over him. The dryad chose and secured a wonderful piece of land.

The Scarlet Queen bothered him, increasingly so as the sun lightened the blue of the sky and his mind grew crisp and fully awake. She didn’t use her powers on the two of them while she had opportunity to, unless she’d gone complacent through her power over others. And Severins himself was too low in the ranks for her to do the dirty work. Still, what he’d just learned about the pixie nagged him.

Scarlet had been rigid with her hands, placing them oddly on her thighs and at her sides, twitching ever so slightly, but she could have simply been eccentric. He’d met his share of odd fae over his lifetime. Without being aware of her normal behavior, Severins merely had assumptions—nothing concrete enough to plan around. The side of his head pounded in time with his heartbeat, and heat warmed the sky like his early mornings in Afghanistan with steel beach soaking up the sun and reflecting a steaming ninety degrees by breakfast.

Somehow, Afghanistan seemed easier than this. The routines, knowing the enemy, knowing the men he worked with. Severins sighed and stepped off the porch, pacing the brisk lawn as he searched for a signal on his cell. He found a spot by Kalib’s car where he maintained two bars and view of the trailer.

He dialed home.

His mother answered. “Who is this?”

“Maman.”

“Where have you been? Your leave started a week ago.” The worry in her voice weighed on his shoulders.

“I’ve fallen into something. I won’t make it unless it’s safe. Right now, it isn’t. And before you ask, I can’t tell you like this…I’m supposed to pick up Shawna, and since I can’t, I want you to. Be ready for anything.”

“Severins, you’re worrying me.”

He needed her worried, because a worried maman meant a protected pup.

“Just keep her safe for me until I get there, okay?”

“Yes, my son, I will protect her with my life.” She sounded resolved and very much like the warrior wolf she’d always been. “Give me some clue as to what I might prepare for.”

“The Scarlet Queen.” Bodies moved inside at both ends of the house. “I need to go. Je t’aime, Maman.”

She told him that she loved him, too, before he walked around the house. No signs of anyone on or near the property. But he clearly felt Kaia moving through the house.

She met him on the porch with a sleepy smile. “Hey there, Big Bad Wolf. You weren’t marking your territory on any of Eilon’s precious plants, were you?”

Severins eased her against him, running his fingers through her hair to release her scent into the air. Everything inside burned for her with such intensity that his senses sharpened. But the general cool touch of her fingertips blazed against his biceps. Bending to kiss her forehead, the same unnerving heat greeted him. “Are you feeling all right, beautiful? You’re burning up.”

“Hmm?” The strength of her surprised him as she squeezed him closer, pushing his torn shirt up his torso. “I feel fine.”

Rubbing her body against his sent a jolt of need through him. But when she lifted her face to him, the green of her eyes took on a reddish-brown ring as though the fields burned under the relentless, Oklahoma sun. She pulled at him again, but apprehension hit him instead of arousal. “Why don’t we find a soft bed of flowers to desecrate?”

Framing her face with his palms, he bent for a better look. The colors of her irises darkened along the rim, spreading like vines toward her pupils. Pliable magick wove between them, and sirens rang in Severins’ head. “Shit.”

Yanking her into his arms, he carried her inside, restraining her thrashes. “Oi,” he called in the doorway. “Little help.”

Kaia’s elbow connected with his nose, and the crunch of cartilage shot pain straight into his brain. But he held onto her until Kalib took her. Blood dripped onto his fingers as he tipped his head back until the dryad offered him a fresh towel with some ice.

The vampire struggled with Kaia in attempts of subduing her without harm. He succeeded in pinning her to the chair in which he’d slept. Bending to get a good look at her, he swore. Profanity cut short, Kaia pressed her mouth to his before she floated into the leather with a grin unbefitting of her gentle persona.

“Chai would never do that. You’re not her.”

The laugh that bellowed from her made the ivy quiver and retreat, pressing against its support in fear. She writhed in her seat, and the vampire used his hips to pin her knees together. Kaia purred at him.

Eilon sniffed at the southeast corner of his house, reaching behind him with a distracted gesture. “Bosex. Hawk. Resting in an oak a kilometer from here.”

Grown rigid, Eilon stomped his foot, his skin marbled, and ivy sprouted in place of his hair. “No. No! Nobody marks my trees. My trees!

“Hey, oak boy.”

Eilon whipped his head around, black eyes wide and terrifying. The knobs at his knuckles sprouted thick, sharp thorns.

“Got anything to keep her from hurting herself or us?”

Black gaze swung to Kaia and back, before he shifted, ordering Kalib to bring her closer. Eilon coaxed the vines on his wall, and as the vampire set her against them, ivy wrapped around her limbs, torso, and throat. Long stem-like fingers flicked at the last vine. “She needs to breathe.”

The vine unraveled from her throat and tangled itself around her waist. Kaia jerked forward after Eilon, laughing as more vines held her.

“You’ll never win. Just let them take me.” Her body rolled against her restraints. “We’ll all dance in blood as your bodies are butchered, your bones gnawed on, and we add you to the fire like kindling.”

The bleeding in Severins’ nose stopped, and he felt it for the break, shifting it into place as he shouted his rage. Those bastards infiltrated her mind. This wasn’t a power present during their capture, and he’d never heard of a bosex that could pull this stunt off, nor a vampire without eye contact.

“Can fae perform a trick like that?” Kalib asked Eilon; he must have come to the same conclusion.

Kaia began a low, eerie song in a language he didn’t understand—her voice sounded unlike her own. Eilon stood transfixed by it until Severins skirted him toward the door.

“I know of one. The Scarlet Queen’s apprentice—a babe stolen from a very powerful family. She can do more the closer she comes.” The dramatics seemed to lessen the more danger seeped into the little house and the louder Kaia’s voice became.

Each of them stood at the ready, so Severins took his role. He pointed at the vampire. “Keep the front door in sight. Stand between anything that wants to get inside to Kaia. And you,” he pointed at the dryad, “Head southeast. Distract them if you can’t take them. I’m searching for whoever’s causing this.”

Haunting giggles cascaded out of Kaia, twisting a knot in Severins’ gut. He took a long whiff of the magick as his nose cleared and healed. “I’ll go first.”

They each moved in the precise movements of trained men. Severins followed the faint traces of magick through the trees, but it turned him around and had him retracing his steps until his wolf senses overlapped and became his downfall. Fewer animals rustled around than he expected. The magick was stronger; he could taste it, but he’d gotten lost in the woods for the first time in over six hundred years.

Stopping, Severins listened.

The trees grew silent.

The air went still.

He braced himself for attack and waited.

And waited.

The whoosh came from his right.

Severins turned to meet it.

Sharp jabs greeted the muscles as his back met the tree behind him.

A familiar fist met his ribs, and he returned the favor, finding the hawk’s flesh. Sharp streams of light reflected off the golden hue of him.

Grabbing a hold of him, Severins gained ground, twisting Eric to the left.

The swift pressure in his side made him grunt, and he knew he’d been stabbed. He held back no restraint as he shoved the hawk back into the tree, aim intact; a sharp, broken branch pierced Eric’s middle. The wood produced a wound less threatening than his own, but it rewarded Severins the time to retreat.

At the porch, he pulled the blade out and fell to his knees. The vampire stood behind him in seconds. “Silver-plated. Cheap but enough.”

Plated silver meant serious damage to his internal organs, but it didn’t necessarily mean he couldn’t heal, but he didn’t have the time for this kind of wound. They wanted him down, that’s for sure. And they got him there.

Kalib pulled Severins up, maneuvered him inside, and gave him the shirt off his back. “Press this to it. I’ll find the nymph.”

And the vampire disappeared.

 

 

LR 1 Cover PossTall, blonde, and charming, a new adventure has blown into Miami.

When Sergeant Severins Bouvier’s wolf senses bring him to a tiny accountants’ office, he unknowingly steps in the middle of a manhunt.

Kaia doesn’t trust Sev, but she’ll have to rely on him once a rogue group of creatures catches her scent.

Now, they’re on the run together, and chasing after her ex is the only way of ending this nightmare.

If you like the dark and sexy plots of the Dark Hunters and paranormal twists of the Anita Blake Series, you’ll love the Loving Red saga.

Buy Loving Red to start this sweetly sadistic affair today.

Courting Her, a Layla Mini

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I dug into the earth behind my crumbling abode, cramming soil under my short fingernails as the weeds threatening to choke my garden came loose. The pile would be turned into mulch, chopped and left to rot with other scraps. Not that we had many of those.

All of my digging created two trips to the composting pile and a scant two carrots, two potatoes, and smattering of tomatoes that were mildly chewed up by bugs. I gathered them in my apron pockets and lugged my tools back to the house.

Sweat and grime swathed my face, neck, and chest, but most would have to stay until tonight’s scheduled bath, but I wiped some away from my eyes and mouth with a damp cloth and wished I’d done more when the exotic scents of vanilla and honey permeated the back entrance.

Patting loose strands of hair, I turned to find the young gentleman who liked to come read to me and my three little brats. The twinkle in his midnight eyes made my stomach flip-flop.

I curtsied a little at his entrance. “Mr. Sotir, what a pleasant surprise. Would you like some tea? I can set you up in the drawing room.”

“I would, but I am in no need of such special treatment. I can take it here with you.”

Why did his eyes sparkle that way when he looked at me? I shuffled around the kitchen, putting my haul beside the sink, filling the kettle for the stove, and pulling cups and tea leaves and a strainer.

“Did you bring a book to read to us today?”

“I did. If that pleases you. I brought ‘The Tale of Tsaritsa Dinara.’ It’s a Russian tale about a Christian queen who struggles against a Persian king due to her refusal to comply with his demands for a tribute. She galloped into battle against him armored on a white steed. I think you would like it very much.”

“A female hero?” I smiled to myself. “I think I would like that, but the kids are about their chores and lessons right now, and I’m afraid that they will be for the next few hours.”

The water whistled on the stove, and I poured the tea to serve, leaning against the counter to enjoy my own.

“Perhaps until they are finished, I can regale you with stories in the oral tradition as we walk.”

A blush burned my cheeks, hopefully hidden under the smeared soil. “What stories do you know so well to recite to me? Is it a means to parade your position over me for some kind of perversion of your own?”

He laughed silently and shook his head. “Nothing of the kind. I assure you.”

I nodded, and he extended his elbow to me as an escort.

Flutters exaggerated the flopping of my stomach, and I had a hard time following the obscure tale he wove.

When we circled back under the bridge to the muddied creek, he pulled me to a stop.

Thudding in my chest made my breath go wild as this man leaned in closer. Perhaps a perversion wouldn’t be quite so bad.

The pad of his thumb brushed dirt from my cheek.

“You are an awfully forward man, Mr. Sotir.”

“Eugene. I believe we are familiar enough for you to call me Eugene.”

The touch of his mouth replaced the sun with stars, and my fingers found his suit before he retreated.

“Forgive me,” he said against my lips. “I couldn’t seem to help myself. Perhaps, we should return to the house to keep me from overstepping my bounds again.”

Did You Know…About Druids Talking to Animals

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In the old days, tribes lived with their animals differently than most do now. Druids sought involvement in life rather than detachment and simply included animals in their lives: spending time, caring for, and conversing with them beyond the ordinary. Animals in the spirit and physical world guide, counsel, heal, or protect us.

Druids learnt about animals’ special qualities and gifts through experience. The Ovate, especially, study animals and trees who hold particular attributes that they can call upon to help themselves, seeing or relating to them in our inner worlds as well as the outer worlds, too.

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Tarbh-feis was a ritual where Druids cook a killed bull’s meat, go into a trance, and consume the sacred animal’s flesh to taste their magical powers. Imbas forosnai allowed the Druid to gain advice from these animals’ spirits. Many myths create links between speaking to animals with shapeshifting, which most ancient Druids believed were psychological transformations rather than physical ones.

In the “Tàin Bo Cuailgne,” two swinwherds with magical powers were the druidic keepers of the sacred animals. As the last rival Druids, they became two great magical bulls.

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The Celtic religion were considered unusual since they highly regarded pigs when most considered the animal filthy and unhygienic. Yet, myths tell of a series of characters being transformed into swine, like Gwydion and Gildaethwy who birthed a piglet whom a wizard turned into a boy, like Cilhwch and Hen Wen, too.

Deer also featured prominently with the deer hunt motif that engrossed the hunter so that the deer could lead them through the gates of the Otherworld without them noticing. A great number of Celtic deities were depicted with stag antlers.

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Magical horses were also common throughout the myths, some needing up to thirty women to satisfy their sexual lust, some rode easily over water, and some lured fools onto their backs and drowned the riders.

Swans imply a romantic context as they’re monogamous, used as the primary symbol of how love conquers all. In one of Ireland’s tragedies, a jealous stepmother turned Lir’s four children into swans for nine-hundred years, who could still speak to humans and make beautiful music.

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Finally, the salmon embody wisdom. They swim in a magical pool where hazel nuts fall from the nine trees surrounding it. Eating the nuts gives them the salmon the wisdom of the trees. Some Welsh myths claim salmon as the oldest of all creatures. Those who taste salmon absorb knowledge.

Many Druid tribes felt connections to specific animals and believed in animal ancestry. Either way, animals guided and guarded them.

 

 

Sources:

https://druidnetwork.org/what-is-druidry/learning-resources/polytheist/lesson-thirteen/

https://www.druidry.org/druid-way/teaching-and-practice/druid-animal-lore