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

The Adventure Cover Revealed!

The Adventure Front Cover

As I said in my last post, I couldn’t be happier with how this cover turned out! Thank you to Joseph Apolinar for all his hard work.

This image is from Moonrise Mountain, the first adventure story in the book. You’ll just have to read it to find out who the old man is =)

Blessings,

Jennifer

The Adventure Full Cover

(As I said in my first cover post, the cover, front, back and spine, are all created as one image. Here’s the full image for The Adventure)

The Adventure Cover Part 1

Creating a Cover…Yikes!The Adventure Cover Part 1

It sounds so straightforward. Make a picture to put on the cover of a book.

Except you have to choose font, color, back cover text, image, size of image…oh wait, that image has to fit inside the ‘live’ areas of the book without getting cut off in printing.

A cover isn’t just the 5×8 image you see as a thumbnail on Amazon.

When designing a cover, you design the front, spine, and back covers as one image, taking into account the fold of the spine so that you don’t cross the fold when the book’s printed. (there is a give and take too to where that fold happens). You also have to keep in mind the fact that the book is cut around the edges at the printer.

Then you have to make sure the image quality is good as well. If it’s not, you end up with a blurry image on paper instead of the beautiful picture you designed on the computer.

But with all of this, the end product it amazingly satisfying.

Joseph Apolinar did a great job on The Adventure’s cover. It’s cleared the review process on CreateSpace and the proof copy is in the mail. I’ll let you know if it all turns out in print as beautiful as it looks on the screen.

Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like seeing all that hard work pay off. I’m beyond excited to see it.

Maybe because I’m arbitrary, maybe because it’s fun, maybe because it’s exciting, here’s a piece of the cover… More to follow in the next posts =)

Can you guess which Adventure story this is from?

Blessings,

Jennifer M Zeiger

Artists, Amazing Artists

I’m a writer but expect me to draw a picture and you’ll get a stick figure.

Stories flow through my brain all the time, it’s a constant river of possibilities. I’m gifted this way.

But I am not gifted in drawing, in illustration, and the people who are gifted this way boggle my mind. They enrich the world in a way I cannot. Thank God for such people.

Adventure Stories are Illustrated

It never occurred to me not to illustrate The Adventure. In fact, this is the first time the possibility even crossed my mind. It’s a hideous thought. Strike it from the record.

Adventure stories are made for illustration!

So, part of figuring out publishing The Adventure has been finding someone to illustrate it. Umm. Again, I wasn’t sure who to reach out to. This was no small project with over 50 illustrations and a cover to produce.

In the end, I found two amazing artists to work with and the connections I have with them I would never have considered before this project.

The first artist, Joseph Apolinar, is a coworker of my husband’s.

He’s got a crazy busy schedule but, somehow, he managed to produce 2/3rds of the illustrations plus the cover. This is just as much of a learning process for him as it’s been for me but I love his work and it’s totally been worth it. I was looking for pencil sketch kind of artwork and I got exactly what I wanted with his work.

The cover will be revealed soon but here’s some of his work to whet your appetite.

Snow Storm Sketch from The Adventure Book

This is the Snowstorm from Moonrise Mountain for those of you familiar with the Adventure Story.

Figure Under Porch Sketch from The Adventure Book

This one is the porch that starts out The Tournament for those who have explored that Adventure story in the past.

The Second Artist, Justin Allen, is a childhood friend’s older brother.

(Talk about a distant connection!)

I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw Justin. But when I spoke about how much work I was asking of Joseph, my dad mentioned he still had contact with Justin Allen and he might be a good person to contact.

It was a shot in the dark that totally paid off. Justin’s got some experience in Illustration (I think) and was thrilled at the offer. There are three stories in The Adventure and Justin illustrated one of them, The Temple of Night and Wind. His work creates a beautiful contrast from Joseph’s, giving each story its own distinct feel. I couldn’t be happier with how his illustrations turned out.

Here’s a couple to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

Howling Maw Sketch from The Adventure Book

This one is the Howling Maw from The Temple of Night and Wind.

Prism Statue Sketch from The Adventure book

This is one of the many tunnels you might end up exploring.

Amazing artists!

Again, I love how these turned out and these, along with the 50 some other illustrations look even better in the book. I can’t wait for everyone to see!

Blessings,

Jennifer M Zeiger

Mental Shift

Mental Shift Blog Post

Writing’s a solitary activity. As Stephen King says, “Write with the door closed.”

That’s the initial process, at least. Close out the world and let the story reign. But then the book’s written and it either sits alone and unshared, or the writer must crack the door open.

With trembling fingers, she opens the door a bare inch and the feedback comes rolling in. Good, bad, ugly, tear worthy, but then, as before, the writer either sits on the feedback, letting it fester, or the writer continues forward, opening the door an inch wider.

On down the path the writer goes until she looks back and realizes, the door’s no longer on its hinges and the story can’t be shoved into the privacy of her room even if she wanted it to be.

This is the publishing process.

The scary, thrill filled process that takes a story from its initial secluded setting to something that can be enjoyed for years to come. Writing may be solitary, but publishing is not. And I’m coming to realize it shouldn’t be.

My stubborn side wants to resist, wants to insist that I, the writer, can do it all by my lonesome self. The world does not work that way, however. It’s an interconnected muddle of human activity that can be both intimidating and fulfilling.

As I’ve dug into the ins-and-outs of publishing so far, I’m coming to cherish the muddle. There are connections I didn’t even realize I had, connections that span more years than I care to calculate, that are now coming into play. People are insanely generous. They want to help, and my stubborn internal idiot needs to step aside, humble itself, and continue asking those people for their amazing talents.

In a nutshell, that’s how I’ve found my editor, both illustrators, the amazing woman who is working on my book trailer and so many other people.

Going from the solitary writer, drinking her coffee in her writing cave, to the socially connected Independant-publisher is a difficult shift, especially for a self proclaimed introvert. But as with all my dreams so far, I cannot achieve them on my own. And it’s wholly more satisfying to share the journey with others.

Share the journey, the adventure, no matter what your dreams are. What adventures have you experienced lately?

Blessings,

Jennifer

Join Me in the Adventure?

Join Me in the Adventure blog post

I’M BACK! Oops, sorry, didn’t mean to shout.

It’s crazy how fast time flies! Especially when you set yourself a goal that you really want to achieve.

To recap:

This year involves The Adventure to Achieve a Life-Long Dream. In other words, my goal is to publish a book. Thus, why I’ve not been posting. I’ve been figuring out why it TAKES SO LONG to produce a beautiful book. A traditionally published book can take 18 to 24 months to hit the shelves.

With self publishing, or Independant publishing, this can move a lot faster…but to do it well, you have to slow down to learn the ins and outs because there are a lot of details involved. (Once I learn all the shenanigans, things should run more smoothly). But to give you an idea of my process so far, I feel like a Jack Russell puppy chasing a group of squirrels.

Now…

It’s starting to come together to the point that I can see the finished product emerging from the flying fur. MY EXCITEMENT KNOWS NO BOUNDS! (Oops, sorry, there’s the shouting again.)

If you’d like to join me, I’d love to share this adventure with you. For progress details, check out The Adventure Page.

Otherwise, I’ll be posting stuff as I learn it in the coming days. Hope to see you around =)

Blessings,

Jennifer

(P.S. The book’s titled The Adventure.)