Shape Changer Option A: Tower

Welcome back!

To recap, last week you were hired to track down the Westbrook boy, who was probably kidnapped by the Eastbrooks. The man who hired you wants the boy back before the Princes’ birthday, which gives you three days. Since you’re familiar with the Eastbrook castle, you debated whether they would hold the boy in the dungeons or the tower. Now you’ve decided to search the tower first.

Let’s see what happens next:

Shape Changer Option A: Tower

TowerAlthough the Eastbrooks are haughty, they rarely disrespect a person’s station. It would be beneath them to throw the Westbrook boy in a dungeon and forget about him.

Settled on checking the tower first, you shoulder your pack and hug your cloak tight against your sides. This pulls your pack, with all its weapons and tools, snug against the hollow of your spine.

Wind howls, swirling around you, and the night closes in until even the bellow of the wind is only a muffled murmur in your ears.

The change happens in an instant. To an outside person you blur and emit soft light and then, with no clear outline until the change is complete, the shift gives you feathers and talons in place of your human flesh from a moment before.

To you, it’s fire that melts from your head slowly down your body until it reaches your toes. When it’s finished, you give a screech and launch into the air.

The wind catches under your hawk-like wings and lifts you high.

HawkMost shape changers such as yourself work as assassins or spies. You decided long ago you weren’t thrilled with those two options and so you created a third. You retrieve things for people. Usually stolen items but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes people just drop an item in a lake or over a cliff and, although you’ve never killed someone in your work, the stigma of what you are still frightens people. They only come to you when the situation is dire.

Which works in your favor because by then, they’re usually willing to pay well for whatever item they’ve misplaced.

The usual day trek to the Eastbrook castle is quickly done within a few hours. You circle over the tower as the light of dawn starts to turn the shadows into gray sketches. There are no lights burning in the tower but at this time of day, that doesn’t mean anything.

Finally satisfied that everything is quiet, you land on the windowsill of the highest window in the tower. Bars cover the window, spaced too close together for your hawk’s body to slide between. You peek inside. The room is a small circle with a wedge cut out of the floor for the stairs down. Other than dust, there’s nothing else inside.

You fold your wings tight against your sides and fire melts from your head to your tail feathers.

MouseNow a mouse, you slip between the window’s bars and scamper across the empty room to the stairs. Little puffs of dust, kicked up by your tiny feet, tickle your nose and you pause to give a petite sneeze.

From beyond the door at the bottom of the stairs comes a yowl of interest. There’s a scratching as a cat paws at the door.

You squeak and scamper back up the stairs just as the door down below creaks open.

“What do you hear, Longtail?” asks a deep voice.

You’ve only moments before the cat shoots up the stairs. Changing into a dog would not be a good option. Most dogs don’t sneak into strange rooms to be found later. A cat might, however, have wandered up here for a good nap. Or a smaller bird might have flown through the bars into the room by accident.

Aa: Cat?

or

Ab: Bird?

Vote in the comments for whichever option you’d like to explore. Next Thursday we’ll see where the popular choice leads you. =)

Blessings,

Jennifer

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Shape Changer

Trees and snowChill wind howls through the mountain peaks and tall pines, calling in the cold like a shrill old woman. Darkness fell barely an hour ago but the warmth of the day is now long gone.

You huddle against the rock wall at your back and extend your fingers toward the warm fire before you. Its heat radiates off the stone, helping to stave off the chill.

Your contact is late. You’re expecting a grizzled old man who boasts bright red hair sprinkled with a healthy serving of white. Although you’ve never met the man, Vincent’s descriptions are usually exact, his attention to detail rarely failing.

It’s unusual for a contact to be late. You shift slightly sideways to let the fire warm your leg. If someone hires your services, it means they’re desperate and desperate people don’t tend to want to insult you by making you wait.

You shift to the other side and reach for the clay mug that sits on a stone next to the fire. A groan of appreciation escapes you as you sip the strong coffee. Half an hour longer, you decide, and then you’ll leave, just long enough to finish your coffee.

Trees and Night SkyYou’re swallowing the last of the coffee dregs when the snap of someone stepping on a dead branch echoes off the rock wall. Not long after, there’s a sniffle, probably from the person’s nose being cold.

A few seconds more and the expected, grizzled man steps from the dark line of trees.

He pauses, taking in your fire, your pack that sits beside you, and the weapons along with it, and finally yourself. He fidgets with the edge of his coat.

“Join me,” you say with a gesture at the other side of your small fire.

He bobs a nervous bow and sits. Like the warmth overrides all caution, he slides his hands free of his gloves and stretches them toward the flames. An ‘ah’ of relief sighs from between his lips.

“Quite the meeting place you picked,” you comment.

“Had to keep it remote.” He glances over his shoulder as though, even this far out, he’s nervous about being watched.

Not one to waste time, you ask, “What is the item you need retrieved?”

“Not what,” he says and leans closer, “but who.”

You give a questioning look.

“Arion Westfall was kidnapped a week ago by the Eastbrooks.”

You lean back against the stone wall and eye the man. You saw Westfall at the Winter Festival two nights ago. Is he playing you for some reason?

As though he notices your reaction, he continues speaking, “So far we’ve been able to keep the kidnapping quiet. We’ve used his double, the boy we have stand in at large speeches and such, to make general appearances. But Westfall’s supposed to attend the Princess’ birthday in three days and she’ll know it’s not him. If the princess finds out, she’ll name him an incompetent and choose another champion. The Westfall’s will be ruined.”

“The families kidnap each other all the time and, through ransoms, regain their children on a regular basis. What’s different this time?” you ask.

“No ransom’s been asked. In fact, no one’s claimed responsibility.”

“Then how do you know it was the Eastbrooks?”

He looks away and fiddles with the edge of his coat again. You simply wait for an answer. You’re good at waiting.

Finally he admits, “The Eastbrook boy boasted at the Winter Festival that he’d be the new Champion soon.”

“That’s your proof?”

He nods.

“Three days? That’s my time frame?” you ask.

He nods again.

“Deal,” you say.

Relief washes from his face, into his shoulders as they droop, and then down the rest of his body.

“Payment’s been delivered already?”

Fire

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots

“At the Morrowtown Inn,” he confirms, “Vincent was specific on the details.” During the conversation he’d relaxed, leaning closer to the small fire. Now, he backs up a step as though this last comment reminds him of exactly who he’s dealing with.

You grin and shove your mug into your pack. He takes this as the dismissal that it is and starts to back away. At the tree line he pauses.

“You can do it, right?” he asks.

Your grin grows wider, almost feral, “we shall see.”

He gulps and turns away.

You finish snuffing out the fire while you consider the options. The Eastbrook castle is familiar to you as it’s not the first time you’ve retrieved something from it, but the grizzled man didn’t have a lot for you to go on. The Eastbrook’s could be keeping Westfall in their tower because of his status or in their dungeons because they want him to disappear.

Depending on those locations, your infiltration method will be different. Do you decide to check the Tower or the Dungeon first?

A. Tower?

or

B. Dungeon?

Post in the comments which option you’d like to try. Next Thursday I’ll post the next part to the adventure and we’ll see where it takes us!

Blessings,

Jennifer

Working Out the Brain

The human brain is a marvelous thing.

Muscles

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

Just like a muscle, it can be worked out until doing certain activities becomes easier. Memory can be improved by memorizing (imagine that). Reading can be improved by reading and writing. Sight reading sheet music can be improved by practicing piano. I could go on.

But similarly, if the brain’s not used in a certain activity often, it atrophies in that activity. It will struggle to perform at an efficient level.

All that said means, I haven’t written stories in a while and it’s showing. Last year I focused on editing, formatting, and promoting The Adventure, and I’m not complaining, but my ability to sit down and write a cohesive adventure story has atrophied.

I fully intended to post an adventure in January. Don’t look at the calendar, it’s embarrassing. There was a time I could fully write an adventure in three days. All eight endings written out, done, complete. That time is not now.

I can’t do the eighteen pull-ups I used to crank out either.

But, just like I’m getting back into my workout schedule, I’m sluggishly getting back into my writing schedule. My lesson has been learned, a little bit of story writing on a regular basis goes a long way in keeping my brain fit, as it were.

So, a little late, welcome to 2018. Thank you for your patience with me.

Thursday will see the start to this year’s first adventure story.

Hope to see you then.

Blessings,

Jennifer

At the Door of December

It’s that time of year again…already. I’ve no idea where 2017 went, but it’s interesting to look back for a second and contemplate.

Last year this time I hoped to self publish one of the adventures in 2017. It was my next big project. I hoped you could, “hold a hard copy of an adventure and explore all the different endings at your leisure.” I’m a bit surprised and pleased to be able to say this goal was accomplished. In fact, you can explore three of the adventure stories at your leisure! (Check out The Adventure on Amazon.)

Now it’s time to breath for a bit. Every December I step back from writing to focus on family and friends, to breath and relax.

This time also allows my brain to ruminate on what, exactly, the next year’s goals should be. Nothing will be decided until January, but this is the time to start those fires burning in my brain.

In other words, I won’t be posting again until January. If you’ve read this far into this post, thanks. =) With everything that demands your attention, I appreciate your support of this blog and my writing.

I promise to return in January with two things.

  • One, some goals for 2018 and
  • Two, a whole new adventure story to explore. It’s been quite some time since I’ve written a new adventure for the blog. It’s about time to get back to it.

What did you achieve this year? What will next year hold for you?

Blessings,

Jennifer

P.S. If you’re wondering about the Kickstarter rewards, I’ll be posting updates about those on my Facebook page. Be assured, I’m still working on the Hardcover. It’ll be ready soon. =)

Savoring the Moment

The Adventure Amazon Page

The Adventure is up on Amazon!

There was a point I wasn’t sure this would actually happen…actually, there were a lot of points. There’s a proverb that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)

I’ve felt that heartsick feeling. Now I can say the flip side of the proverb is also very true.

I’m savoring the moment.

Blessings,

Jennifer

P.S. Here’s the link to The Adventure’s Amazon Page. Check it out!

Hiccups

As The Adventure’s launch date arrives this weeks, my well laid plans screech into the finish line with the back end swerving out of control.

As the saying goes, “We plan, God laughs.” This may be true. I don’t think the laugh is maniacal or cruel, I think it’s just amused because God knows the disparity between what we imagine and what reality will bring.

CreateSpace Proofing

Online proofing tool in CreateSpace

My ‘well laid plan’ said that the book would launch on the 30th of November. Set, specific, easy to remember launch date. Throw in the reality of how CreateSpace does things. Their verbiage goes something like this, “Once you proof your book, hit approve to finish the set up process.”

This led me to believe there was a bit more to making the book available on Amazon beyond proofing the book. Maybe I just assumed that’s what they meant.

I hit approve. Next message reads something like, “This book will become available in 3-5 business days.” Done. I have lost control of when the book goes live.

Ummm… guess that’s that. So I can say The Adventure will be available this week. I can’t say the exact date. Oh well. Guess I can laugh with God and be happy over the success of finishing the process.

Next step: Figuring out the hardcover edition. This hiccup came about as I was informed that CreateSpace does not offer even the author a hardcover book. They used to, now they don’t. I’m digging into other options now. I’ll let you know how that goes =)

Until then, Blessings,

Jennifer

Defining Success

Sleep

Writing Sidekick sleeping…he’ll sleep anywhere.

My husband and I have this routine we follow almost every night before we drift into dream land. No planning went into this routine, no preconceived notion forms how it’s followed but over the years it’s developed into a habit.

As we lay there about to drift off, we let everything from the day come spilling out in conversation. Logic would say dinner would be a better time for this and my sleep habit would agree, but reality doesn’t usually agree with logic.

So the other night, my husband and I were discussing the deep matters of the world, workout schedules, work grievances, body aches and pains, you know, the really pressing stuff, when we stumbled onto the topic of success.

I’m a worrier. As you can imagine, my worry level is up to the red when it comes to The Adventure, which launches on Amazon the end of this month. As we discussed this, Nate commented, “Define what success is for you. People will tell you all sorts of things but if you know what you want, then you know if you’ve accomplished what you desired no matter what others say.”

This stuck in my brain like a fly in honey. It wriggled around until it became fully immersed in my thoughts.

Regular, traditional publishing says you have to sell thousands of copies before a book is a success. Some say you have to make a living off of your writing and then you’re a success. Others gauge it on whether or not they’re familiar with your name, or if they’ve heard of your book before. Some point to Amazon reviews and press releases, interviews and book signings.

By many of these, I’ve a long way to go before I’ve achieved success and if I let these things define what I’m striving for, I may never reach the point where I’m satisfied with my accomplishments. Ouch.

But Success, as according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as:
  • A: degree or measure of succeeding
  • B: favorable or desired outcome; also :the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence
  • C: one that succeeds

Interesting…only one part of the definition deals with ‘wealth, favor, or eminence,’ and even those have varying degrees. A and C both rely heavily on what success is defined as in the first place. So really, the ‘favorable or desired outcome’ is where we each need to focus.

What, to each one of us, is the favorable or desired outcome that defines success?

The Adventure Kickstarter ImageFor The Adventure, I think achieving my goal for the year, as I outlined in my last post, The Trap in Dreaming, defines success.

That goal, specifically stated, was: Publish The Adventure and break even on the cost by the end of 2017.

Thanks to the amazing backers of The Adventure Kickstarter, that goal will be accomplished November 30th. Thus, this year has been a success. Period. Dot. Done. =)

What to you is success in your own life? Don’t let others define it for you.

Blessings,

Jennifer