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Welcome! Books, movies, music, original stories, interviews, writing, libraries, literacy, humor –all with the YA reader in mind, are just a few of the topics you’ll find here. New to the blog? Say hi! Like it? Follow away! Thanks for visiting.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Cheryl Rainfield; more than just an author

by J. R. Wagner

 I've been blessed to have developed a relationship with Cheryl Rainfield during my short writing career. Cheryl is an incredibly hard worker -but that doesn't make her special, all writers who have any desire to 'make it' in this industry work their tails off. What makes Cheryl special is her dedication to a cause beyond writing, her positive attitude and her obvious love and appreciation of her readers.

I could quote her website, which is loaded with information about Cheryl, her past, her motivation to write and all of the wonderful resources she provides to anyone seeking help (with a focus on teenage girls), guidance or just an outlet, but I won't. Visit her website -It's all there.

I will say this; I have two daughters and the strength, courage and determination (all tucked neatly beneath an uber-friendly and charming exterior) she displays will inspire them for years to come.  Not because they've ever met Cheryl but because of her writing. One of Cheryl's greatest strengths in her writing is her ability to take what others would perceive as a weakness and turn it into a source of power for that character.

Cheryl is fearless in her addressing of issues most writers shy away from. Sexuality, self-harm, rape, race and on the list goes -all beautifully interwoven in her stories. It's never forced, never seems as if she's putting it in there just to put it in.  Each issue is dealt with carefully and responsibly. It is clear that she puts plenty of thought into how she wants to present these issues.  The mailable teenage mind always appears to be taken into consideration so, when you're reading her work the issues most of us are afraid to talk to our children about are slowly exposed like the pulling away of petals on a delicate flower.

So why all the hub-bub?

I recently had the pleasure of reading Cheryl's latest release, Parallel Visions and was once again struck by the ease with which Cheryl immerses the reader into the life of the main character. From page one, you fall deep into the mind of Kate (main character) and don't come up for air until the end.(check out my Goodreads review HERE)

I was recently on Cheryl's Create Space page for Parallel Visions and noticed a quote of hers in the header that sums up all of Chery's writing.

"I write the books I needed as a teen and couldn't find."

Cheryl has been gracious enough to grant me an interview, (stoked!)  which will post in a few days.  Keep your eyes peeled!

Cheryl's other works include:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Funniest book cover...ever

by J.R. Wagner

I was in the bookstore today and I spotted this book cover and couldn't stop laughing.  I don't know anything about the book (the premise sounds kinda cool, actually) and mean no disrespect to the author, Frank Bedor. It's just...funny.

If you're a Star Wars fan, you'll totally understand where I'm coming from.

Okay, here is the cover...

Remember the cover....



Wait. There's more....

Okay, cover again...

It looks like the droids from Star Wars mated with Jar Jar Binks to create a cross-breed of the two most annoying characters in the history of film.


 Jar Jar

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Thoughts: Life of Pi

by J.R. Wagner

Click on cover to visit illustrator's blog -very cool!

This is Not a review! Well...if you twist your head slightly while reading this post you may think it is a review...but it's not!

And for the record, I finished this book well before the release of the movie (at least three weeks) so I am not a bandwagon rider...or am I? It was originally published in September 2001 so I suppose I am behind on the reading curve.

From my friends at Wikipedia:

Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist, Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, an Indian boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
Richard Parker (from the movie)

Life of Pi is a beautifully written novel. I imagine many readers picked up this book, started reading and after several dozen pages are wondering; 'When is the shipwreck going to happen? Where is the tiger?' And maybe when they got to page fifty and there was still no sign of a sinking ship or a Bengal tiger they decided to put it down and move on to something else.

The shipwreck/tiger sequence doesn't begin until page 97. As a teen reader I would have either skipped ahead to this part or simply gave the book 'the boot'. As an adult, the first 97 pages are some of the most beautifully written insights I've seen in any book.  Martel delves fearlessly into spirituality and religion giving his main character,  Pi, an insatiable curiosity about the subjects.

If you're rolling your eyes right about now and considering not reading this book because of what I've just written, bear with me. I'm going to attempt to convince you otherwise.

One of my favorite lines Martel wrote on the subject:

To chose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation. [p28]

Martel wrote this great scene where, after sampling three religions. Pi was walking with his parents when he spotted his Hindu, Christian and Muslim mentors heading in his direction (each of whom he had been seeing and practicing in secret)

When I saw the first, I smiled; by the time I had laid eyes on the third, my smile had frozen into a mask of horror. When it was clear that all three were converging on us, my heart jumped before sinking very low.

Christian priest
The scene moves forward, each introduces themselves to Pi's parents and then the akward silence came until it was broken by the christian priest.

"Piscine is a good Christian boy.  I hope to see him join our choir soon."

And then the conversation digresses into a humorous back and forth between the priest, the imam and the pandit.

Muslim imam
"You must be mistaken. He's a good Muslim boy. He comes without fail to Friday prayer, and his knowledge of the Holy Qur'an is coming along so nicely." So said the imam.

Hindu pandit
The Pandit spoke. "You're both wrong. He is a good Hindu boy.  I see him all the time at the temple coming for darshan and performing puja."

My parents, the imam and the priest look astounded.

I understand that this situation may not intrigue everyone and may very likely offend others.  But that's the beauty of the entire sequence. Teenagers are curious about religion. Rather than being pigeonholed into a single religion at an early age, Pi took it upon himself to explore all that was out there.  There are lessons to be learned here about how we educate our children about religion.

Anyway, I found the first 96 pages if Life of Pi, where we learn about his childhood in India, his curiosity about religion and much, much more -all of it relateable to his behavior further along in the story, highly entertaining.

Now, on page 97 we get to the shipwreck and survival story.  Don't worry, I won't blow anything about what happens here.  Having not seen the movie, only the trailers and reviews, it appears as though Ang Lee has softened this entire sequence to get a PG rating.

In the book, the sinking and the aftermath that follows for the next few days is, well horrifying.  It is violent and bloody and scary.  It is far from violence for violence's sake and, as you find out in the end of the book, this sequence (which appears to have been cut out of the movie, although I am not certain) plays a major role.

The book was written for adults. The movie was made for children.  I find it difficult if not impossible to gap that bridge while still holding true to the book.  If anyone can do it, Ang Lee can.  I really hope he hasn't bitten off more than he can chew. (pun intended).

When I see the film, I hope to be able to share Lee's success with everyone! Oh, and I put the movie trailer below for anyone interested.

BTW, the soundtrack by Mychael Danna is excellent! (if you like movie soundtracks...I always listen to them when writing)

Click to have a listen!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Research: Writing with an authentic voice

by J.R. Wagner

Trinity Library, Dublin Ireland (been there, such a cool place!)

I've been asked on numerous occasions how much research goes into writing.  Many people believe because I write fiction, I can simply make it up as I go.  This couldn't be further from the truth.

Just because the story isn't true, the characters aren't real or the setting is a place from my imagination doesn't mean I can simply wing the entire writing process.

I'll give you my most recent example:

I just completed a novella set in the mid 1800's. The first thing I researched was the geography of the setting at that time.  Where there any towns in that area?  What was the landscape like? What was the population of the town?  How did they get around? (horseback, cars, bicycles)

The story took place in a country estate. What were the buildings like in that time period? What were the grounds like? What were the indigenous species of plant-life in the gardens? What was the layout of the house?  Where was each room located and what was it called? (we don't have sculleries and larders in our homes today) What about the furniture? How did they dress? What type of money did they use? What books were popular?

Why is any of this important?  It gives the narrative authenticity. If you want to immerse your readers into a particular time period, they have to believe, down to the last detail that they are in that time period.

Be careful not to detract from what drives all great stories -the characters and the plot.  Allow the characters and plot to move the story forward through this authentic world you've created.  Do not allow your overly authentic world to slow the progression of the story just to show off the fact that you've done your research. Plot and character progression always come first.

Some writers will research before they ever put pen to paper.  I am the opposite. I'll write my first draft and include notes to myself to go back and look something up. I let the plot and characters take charge and follow with a second pass to do the research.

For example: Billy made his way to his bedroom (check)  fussing with his jacket (check)  (type of chair?)before slumping in the fireside chair and picking up a copy of Harry Potter. (check)

Turns into: Billy made his way to his bedchamber fussing with his waistcoat before slumping in the the Regency Giltwood armchair and picking up his copy of Emma.

Bedrooms were called bedchambers during that time period.

English manor house bedchamber

 The attire of the day for a man
included a waistcoat.
The Regency Giltwood armchair was a popular piece of furniture in both time and place
Regency Giltwood Armchairs

Emma, the popular novel by Jane Austen was first published in 1815 in the United Kingdom

Where did I find all this information?  Did I google it?  Wikipedia?

I typically use google and Wikipedia to help narrow my search for better information.  Through those searches I discovered a treasure trove of books on the topics I required.

Here are a few:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Panacea -Chapter 2 (Formerly: Enhancing and destroying memories through nanotechnology...really.)

by J.R. Wagner

If you haven't read Chapter one, I highly recommend doing so before
reading part 2.  Read it HERE

From the UC Davis Human Memory Lab

Nothing is ever as easy as it first appears. Remember that.  Remind me if my memory gets screwed up sometime in the near future.  The beauty of blogging is that by the time this posts, it will be the near future.  You see, I've scheduled all of my posts out into the future in the event that my 'friend' decides I no longer require specific memories -those about his illicit activities to be precise.

I decided to take the high road and see if I could 'talk him down' from the nonsense.  My first conundrum was where to meet him.  His lab? No way! If he already has my memory channels mapped walking into his lab would be like wearing an overcoat made of stitched together ribeyes and strolling into a tiger cage.

His home isn't exactly a great choice either.  God only knows what he's got lying around in that place.  I needed somewhere public to have this conversation so I decided on visiting him at his other job -the one that actually brings in the money.  I'd go to the hospital. Foolproof, right?  Public, safe, nothing terrible could happen there.

I made my way to his office on the seventh floor. He's got one of those huge offices overlooking the entire city with mahogany everything.  In short, he's a big-wig. Don't be fooled by stereotypes. Big-wig's can be idiots too.  I took the stairs to avoid prying eyes as well as the possibility of running into my 'friend' on his terms rather than my own.

I'll be the first to admit I have a bit of a weight problem. It isn't a weight problem in the sense that most people think -don't get me wrong, I'm a chubby guy for sure, it's just that because I'm short (5'5") and have a small frame (If I didn't have a weight problem I'd probably tip the scales at around 130 lbs) and my small frame coupled with a few dozen extra pounds makes climbing seven flights of stairs quite a challenge.  I thought I was going to have to pull the bright orange CODE lever on the landing of floors five and six. I seriously need to start exercising or something.

By the time I reached seven I could hear the blood whooshing by my ears as my heart attempted to force blood to my lungs, brain and lower extremities through ever-narrowing arteries (I like fast food) and was pretty sure I was going to barf.  In fact, I did barf.  The closest receptacle I could find was a potted plant just past the entrance to the stairs.  Hopefully someone will notice before the entire hall starts to reek.

I found the bathroom, splashed some cold water on my face, straightened my hair and looked myself in the mirror.  I seriously need to start exercising. And I need to shave. And a haircut wouldn't hurt either.  I'm a slob, what can I say?  Onward.

When I reached Dr. Insane-o's office it was empty.  Perfect. I sat in his chair and, after finally catching my breath, began rifling through his desk (of course I checked his computer but it was password protected and despite being a video gaming god (I'm theorizing this may have something to do with my current state of health) I am not a hacker.

Nothing of interest in his desk except a handful of what look like tire-pressure gauges.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Panacea -Chapter 1 (Formerly: Enhancing and destroying memories through nanotechnology...really.)

by J.R. Wagner

My 'friend' is a doctor.  A Neurologist to be precise.  In his day job he deals with traumatic brain injury patients. On the side he runs a research program studying the implementation of a nanotechnology based medicine into stimulating brain function.

Friday, November 16, 2012

An Unusual Day for Herbert Crump -guest post by Carlie MA Cullen

by Carlie M A Cullen

“What’s this? Don’t remember seeing this ‘ere before?” Herbert scratched his head.
Herbert was a poacher. He didn’t have much money and meat was too expensive to buy. His cottage was adjacent to huge woods which teemed with wildlife. ‘Rich pickings’ he called it and he was a master bowman.

He was in the East woods as dusk began to fall; he hadn’t been that way for a while hence his surprise at what he found. He crouched down to examine the perfect circle of unfamiliar toadstools; these were bright red and seemed to glow. His Ma told him of fairy rings in the woods, but he never believed her. “Never tread in a fairy ring, you never know where you’ll end up” she warned him.

“Load of tosh!” he said derisively and stepped right into the centre. He chuckled as nothing happened then with a whooshing noise the ground opened beneath him and he shot downwards, landing on a pile of straw.

As he gawped around the huge cavern his eyes widened and jaw dropped, for everywhere he looked huge sparkling emeralds stuck out of the walls. Now this really is rich pickings, he thought wandering to the nearest wall. He pulled on one and found it easy to dislodge. Soon he’d filled all his pockets.

He needed to find an exit and looked up to find the entrance completely closed. The cavern had three passages, but which one to choose? After deliberating for a minute, he decided to take the one which led in the direction of his cottage and set off.

Laden down by the emeralds’ weight he made slow progress, but after a while, he heard noises from ahead. He continued cautiously, pressing himself closer to the wall, stopping near a large open space containing ugly little men and women with pointed ears and squashed faces the colour of toads; a strange mixture of green and brown as if an artist hadn’t mixed the colours properly on his pallet. They’d been eating and calling to each other when abruptly a deafening silence settled over the area.

“We’ve a thief among us,” a voice cried out. Herbert peeped into the area and spotted someone wearing a crown pointing in Herbert’s direction. He tried to make his escape, but lady luck wasn’t on his side. Within a heartbeat he was surrounded with spears pointed at him. They weren’t big, but didn’t want to find out how sharp they were. Herbert was forced into the cave and made to kneel before the King.

“Why are you stealing from us, stranger?”

Herbert was quaking in his worn down boots. “I-I’m a poor man without money to eat proper. I dunno ‘ow I got ‘ere, but when I saw the emeralds I thought it’d give me enough money to live in comfort.” He said honestly, his voice quivering with fright.

“But you’re greedy. You’ve taken more jewels than you need so you must face a challenge. If you defeat the beast, you may keep all the jewels and we’ll send you home. If not . . . well it depends on whether you survive. The gems disappeared from his pockets filling a basket beside him.

“Take him down,” the King ordered.

At the end of another passage, Herbert’s eyes nearly exploded outwards at the most peculiar creature he’d ever seen; part saber-tooth tiger and part lizard. The fangs on the beast were huge, the tips black. He was left without weapons and the Goblins backed away.

I’m its next meal, he thought, petrified. The beast prowled toward him, sniffed the air then its paw lashed out. Herbert jumped back out of reach. I need to use my brains here. He began to circle the beast watching his every move, a paw lashed out again; Herbert wasn’t so lucky – it ripped into his arm and blood began to seep from the furrowed wounds. The tiger paused to lick the meat and blood from his paw giving Herbert an opening; he dashed forward and leapt onto its back clasping both hands around its neck, pulling back and squeezing with every bit of strength he possessed.

The beast roared, twisted, bucked and shook its body. It twirled, jumped, rolled and thrashed in every direction, but still Herbert desperately clung on. Eventually it sank to the floor closing his eyes. Herbert climbed off, shaking, his arms throbbing from the effort. The Goblins escorted him back and regaled the King with an account of the battle. Staring at Herbert he pronounced,
“You’ve done well, thief, but you haven’t won as you’re injured, nor have you lost. We’ll send you home, but heed my warning - never come here again!”

Herbert was taken back to the hay bale and with a whooshing sound, he found himself back in the fairy ring. He jumped out, running home in fright, not daring to look back.

When he arrived, he wearily removed his jacket and placed it on a chair. Going to the sink to bathe his throbbing wounds, he found they’d disappeared entirely and the pain slowly subsided. He stared in disbelief examining every part of his arm, but nothing remained.

Deciding to go to bed, he grabbed his jacket intending to hang it up when he thought he heard a clunking noise coming from a pocket. He put his hand in and pulled out 4 large emeralds, more than enough to give him comfort for the rest of his days.

 Carlie M A Cullen is the author of newly released novel Heart Search, blogger extraordinaire and loyal friend to many -both human and mythical.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Front Row Lit Exiled spread and the value of a good publicist

by J.R. Wagner

So my publicist emailed me and said Front Row Lit did a spread on Exiled (Thank you, Grace!)

Check it out HERE

Front Row Lit is an affiliate website of Front Row Monthly

What is Front Row Monthly?

From their site:

FRM is an exclusively online magazine. The goal of the founders of Front Row Monthly is to offer readers a unique experience by providing a modern blend of fashion, art, music and news. FRM is, in itself, a style— contemporary, fresh and visually stimulating, FRM offers readers a front row ticket to the most relevant happenings in fashion, entertainment and social issues.

Front Row Lit is an affiliate website of Front Row Monthly, Inc., the parent company to Front Row Monthly Magazine, (www.frontrowmonthly.com) Front Row Lit is committed to promoting published authors and offering aspiring writers a free platform on which to promote their art to a new audience.

It is nice to see all the hard work my publicist has done trickle through.  For those of you who aren't 'in the game', marketing for books is like building a house with one hand.  Lots of hard work up front that doesn't usually reap immediate rewards.  What you do today can impact exposure days, weeks, months or sometimes years down the road.  In this world of instant gratification, this process sits at the other end of the spectrum and takes a special group of people to not only be diligent with the initial house building, but patient and organized enough to confirm that the seeds sewn months prior take root. Follow-through. Persistence.

It isn't an easy business especially when most customers want immediate action/return analysis. Show me how what you did last week will sell my books this week. Sorry, dude, it isn't that simple.  If you think it is you're probably better off spending your marketing budget renting a van and selling door-to-door.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Star Wars 7; stop the nonsense

by J.R. Wagner

I thought I was done.

I thought my whining and complaining and frustration had finally reached an ending point.

I thought the prequels marked the end of a three movie abomination.

I was wrong...mabye.

For those of you who don't know, I'm a Star Wars fanatic (the originals, not the three most recent disasters associated with the originals *cough* prequels).

Also for those of you who don't know, Disney has purchased Lucasfilm for some obscene amount of money (something like 4.3 Billion) and almost synchronously announced the release of a new film in 2015.

I knew I would have to address it at some point (and have been thinking about it ever since the Disney purchase was publicized) I just didn't think it would be so soon.

Today I read several articles that, if seen to fruition would spell the end of the franchise (although, after the prequels, I'm not sure it could get worse).

Here they are:

Harrison Ford "open" to reprising Han Solo in new Star Wars film

 No! No Harrison Ford! Sorry, dude, but you just don't belong.

'Star Wars' Episode 7 Sparks Interest from Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Will They Return to the Series? 

 Seriously?  Of course Hamill and Fisher are interested. What else are they doing? No. No. No!!!

What? I love Damon Lindelof's stuff but, with all due respect, I think he's got this one dead wrong. In the article he says:

As far as casting, my feeling is that they have to bring back the original actors. How can you express that these movies take place after the original trilogy unless some of those characters are in it?

What? Really? Because introducing C3P0 and R2D2 into the prequels wasn't irritating enough? Now we should take actors who, for the most part (although it could have been the directing...maybe) weren't great to begin with, add 30 years and throw them back into the same ridiculous costumes? No, Damon, No! This isn't Star Trek. Star Wars didn't originate from a TV series with limitless possibilities to entice generations of eager fans.

My advice; if you really want to 're-load' Star Wars you need to start fresh. None of the same characters, peripheral mention of the goings on in the original films and NO mention of the prequels simply out of spite (just kidding...sorta). The timeline should be at minimum one generation after Jedi, maybe two.

Fresh start. Fresh characters. Same world, different conflict- it is high time to move past the whole Jedi versus Sith thing and get to something interesting!

More to come!

To purchase Exiled, bid on the movie rights, hire me as a writer for the next Blade Runner film, the next Star Wars film...for videos, fan art, contests and more, visit my website!

In bookstores now



Why Ridley Scott should let me direct Blade Runner 2 (part 2)

By J.R. Wagner

I know..It's about time, right?!

30th anniversary Blu-Ray combo pack!

For those not following from the beginning, there are two previous posts that should help clarify where I am coming from.

1. Prometheus from the Alien super-fan's perspective
2. Why Ridley Scott MUST let me direct Blade Runner 2

To quickly summarize, I've determined that I am not the best choice to direct the project however I am more than qualified to join the writing team. So, moving forward...

Have you watched the original Blade Runner lately?

I have.

I noticed something right away. Despite being the holy grail of sci-fi films, the pace of Blade Runner is slow.  Very slow. Almost to the point of being intolerable. Certainly to the point that younger audiences would probably change the channel after about five minutes. Yes, it is that slow.

While it may seem like I've been dragging my butt to write this post (this is partly true), in my defense, I've been brainstorming between posts.  Do I write a new, fresh screenplay with the same plot, characters and premise OR do I delve into the prequel/sequel arena.

Being fully aware of how terribly wrong prequels based on films not originally written with a prequel in mind (Prometheus, Star Wars -need I say more) I tend to shy away from the prequel.

But...but...there is mention of a storyline that would make great prequel fodder. AND the film is based on a book, which gives depth where a screenplay generally lacks. So against my better judgement, I believe a film set chronologically before Blade Runner (I'd actually like to over-lap just a tad) will be successful.

The storyline I speak of? 

This is the opening title sequence from Blade Runner:

Opening crawl from the movie:

Early in the 21st Century, THE TYRELL CORPORATION advanced Robot evolution into the NEXUS phase -- a being virtually identical to a human -- known as a replicant. The NEXUS 6 Replicants were superior in strength and agility, and at least equal in intelligence, to the genetic engineers who created them. Replicants were used Off-world as slave labor, in the hazardous exploration and colonization of other planets. After a bloody mutiny by a NEXUS 6 combat team in an Off-world colony, Replicants were declared illegal on earth -- under penalty of death. Special police squads -- BLADE RUNNER UNITS -- had orders to shoot to kill, upon detection, any trespassing Replicants.

Notice the bold type?  THAT is where we go.

The opening sequence looks something like this: 

We are going to interchange shots of the 'birth' of the NEXUS-6 combat team with shots of the very same androids turning on their human overseers.  So from the gate, we set a fast pace, gain some perspective on the characters and  introduce a new look for the film. None of this Prometheus/Alien crap where we attempt to cross over set design, costumes etc...none of that nonsense.

We will first focus on Roy Batty, the main bad ass android played by Rutger Hauer in the original.

Rutger Hauer as 'Roy'

Chris Hemsworth
 I think it is important -nigh essential to cast someone completely different than Rutger Hauer in this role. Since I recently watched The Avengers, I've got Chris Hemsworth on my brain. I know he can act beyond a super-hero (see the opening sequence from the new Star Trek film) so...congratulations, Chris, you've just been cast as Roy Batty in the new Blade Runner film written by J.R. Wagner (because writers so often have a say in the casting). Welcome aboard, Chris!

I realize this shot is eye-candy for some of y'all, however understand the NEXUS-6 are androids and therefore physically perfect.
Here. More clothes.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

October Writing Contest Second Place

The October writing contest has finally been scored!

Details regarding the rules can be found at my website

 Prompt: Write your version of what happened BEFORE the first chapter of Exiled.  I want to see your version if there were a chapter BEFORE chapter one.

The second place entry was written by Samuel


August 1898, Canada
James, age sixteen.

It was a cold morning. The sun did little to warm the clearing in which James was. A whole forest surrounded him, the distant howling of wolves forced him to wake up, and take in the scenery around him: birds were chirping and taking off towards the sun from the trees, squirrels leaped from tree to tree and a nearby river rushed into a waterfall, creating a breathtaking harmony that seemed to complement perfectly the eerie feeling of the morning. The most beautiful thing he had ever witnessed.

Since he was already awake, he decided to make a fire to warm himself, at least a little, so he gathered some firewood and placed it in the center of the clearing next to the rock he had used a bed of sorts, and lit the fire. He did not like to use magic for so mundane tasks; instead he used a pair of stones. Once the fire was large enough, James sat on the rock next to it, and approached his hands to warm himself.

Something unsettling happened next: the air began to feel even colder, but the fire remained alive. The last thing James saw was a flash of white light, before everything went black. As soon as it stared, it ended. He was in the clearing, but not sitting, he was standing in front of a dissipating column of purple smoke. None of that made any sense whatsoever.

Perplexed by this, James decided to leave the forest. He had already forgotten the reason that had drawn him there; he turned and began to walk in the direction he had come. It was roughly half a day’s walk back to the town on the edge of the forest, where he had left his horse. He decided to leave as soon as he had eaten something.

He arrived to the town by midday, and made his way to the stables where he had left Xander. He thanked and paid the stableman, mounted Xander, and headed out of town. He went south, to his home. Many times during his travel, James thought of telling his Master, Ammoncourt, about the events in the forest, but decided it was better if he first figured out what had happened, and then tell him. Nothing serious had happened anyway.

When he arrived home, he spent the remaining of the afternoon and all night trying to remember what had happened between the flash of light and the purple smoke, but he only recalled blackness. James ended up so frustrated, he shattered all windows and mirrors in his house the moment he shouted out of desperation. He remembered Ammoncourt mentioning this once:

“You have incredible and maybe unlimited power within you.” His Master had said while they were walking along the countryside. “The better you learn to control your emotions and, as a result, your emotions, the more Alvaro will fear you. Remember that, he fears you more, than you should fear him, even if he does not want to admit it.”

“But, are you certain about that, Master?” James asked

“Certain about what, my child?”

“About me being the one… the Anointed One.”

“Every day I become more and more certain.” Ammoncourt assured.

As he remembered that conversation, he reminded himself to calm down before he brought the whole house crumbling down. James sat down on an armchair near the front door window. He was beginning to fall asleep, when he heard a horse-drawn chariot, which was odd given that no one ever came this far out into the country. The chariot stopped in front of the house, and a man came out. The man approached wearily the house and rang the doorbell. James answered the door, and the man handed him a letter with a shaking hand. He received the letter, and watched as the chariot sped away from the house.

James looked down to the letter, and recognized Grand Master Elder Alvaro’s seal. Curious as always, James opened the letter and began to read:

James Lochlan Stuart IV:

Yesterday, word reached the Council that Akil Karanis, has not reached nor contacted anyone since the before yesterday’s afternoon. The Council has reason to suspect he has been abducted or killed. The circumstances of such an event however, remain a mystery.

Since you were one of the closest to Akil Karanis, the Council would like you to come to South America in two weeks’ time to present your testimony on your whereabouts at the time of said incident.

Grand Master Elder Alvaro

Of this letter, two things concerned James: the most important, Akil had gone missing; he who was the closest thing he had to father; and two, he knew Grand Master Alvaro despised enough as to write a letter with that much kindness. With this swamp of ideas in his mind, he raced out his house to find his Master.

“Ammoncourt will know what to do!” He told himself as he left his house, not knowing it was probably the last time he would set foot inside it again.


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