A Wish Made of Glass

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The end of 2016 saw me reading a lot of shorter fantasy stories, novellas, really. Which was fun, and allowed me to actually finish some of the books that had been piling up on my TBR (to be read) stack. As an added bonus, all of them were also extremely enjoyable, and A Wish Made of Glass by Ashlee Willis was no exception.

I had been interested in this story since reading The Word Changers, the author’s debut novel, and even more intrigued once I saw the cover, which I thought was both beautiful and mysterious. Somehow I missed that this was a Cinderella-retelling, so that was kind of a fun thing to discover once I picked up the book and started reading. Isn’t that cover pretty? I love it.

While the story does indeed follow the basic outline of the Cinderella tale, this little book is a very different take on the classic fairy tale. Told from the first-person perspective of the “Cinderella” character, the story progresses much as you would expect, with the addition of the “fey folk” at the beginning. The MC dances with these ethereal beings as a child and is entranced by the shimmering glass slippers they wear upon their feet. Her mother tells her that the fey folk carry their hearts: their dreams and hopes and lives themselves, within those slippers.

From there, grief and tragedy follow, and the story progresses much as any good Cinderella retelling ought to, with some major twists on various characters and themes. There is no “evil stepmother.” No, “vicious and vain stepsister” for our MC to contend with. Instead, she must deal with her own grief and eventual jealousy throughout the story – and they are the main villains.

The story is told in such a way that I hovered on the brink of indecision as to whether I ought to despise the main character or feel sorry for her. Her thoughts and actions often drove me crazy, but her instant contrition and repentance when it became apparent that she was in the wrong endeared her to me, even as she continued to make the same mistakes and jump to the wrong conclusions over and over. In the end, I think sympathy won the day, but probably only because the story was so short and clipped along at a speedy pace so that I didn’t have to spend too much time revisiting old mistakes made again and again.

Despite my inability to make a decision about the main character for most of the book, I really did enjoy this story. It is a very well-done retelling of a beloved classic, and I loved the twists that pulled out new themes I would not have normally expected in a Cinderella story. If you enjoy fairy tale retellings in general (or the Cinderella story in particular), and want a sweet, clean, short read, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of this. I’d also recommend reading it in winter, as that season features quite a bit in the story, so it makes for a nice cozy read as well.

5 Dragon Eggs

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~ jenelle

Fantasy Inspires

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As I was thinking about all the things I could post about the Fantasy Genre and the reasons I love it, the one thing that always comes back to me is how much fantasy inspires me. Earlier in the month, I talked about some of the life lessons that fantasy stories have taught me, and I wanted to expound on that a bit more here.

Not everyone loves fantasy (*gasp!*) and that’s okay. Even I branch out of my beloved favorite genre here and there to read things like… sci-fi, classics, meta-fiction, biographies, historical fiction, dog stories, and various other genres. But the thing that draws me back to fantasy over and over again is that it never ceases to inspire me in so many different ways. I return again and again, not as an escape from my everyday life, but so that I can glean a few more much-needed nuggets of wisdom or courage or perseverance or steadfastness to help me along the way in the mundane of the everyday.

The characters in fantasy books are often not your typical blockbuster hero-types. They generally start out rather humbly. Orphans, small folk who prefer simple lives, humble apprentices, random children, squires, bumbling caretakers… these are just a handful of the types of backgrounds you might find in a character destined for a heroic character arc in a fantasy novel. Of course, there are princes and princesses, too, but they often have major hardships to overcome: christenings gone wrong, cursed at birth, their kingdom stolen before they came of age, the 12th in a long line of older siblings with no chance to take the throne, distasteful arranged marriages, etc. etc. etc. Most fantasy novels feature a character who is in some way the underdog… and shows how they can overcome massive obstacles. And I must admit that I do have a soft spot for underdogs.

But despite their humble origins, fantasy characters also inspire greatness. Because they must overcome these enormous obstacles, their strength is often not measured in the size of their muscles, but rather in the size of their hearts. They possess a grit and determination to keep going, to put one foot in front of the other no matter what their circumstances. They are not fearless, but they are courageous. They keep going, keep holding on, keep trudging, keep fighting, keep believing… even when they are terrified, even when they have lost all hope. We were singing the song “It Is Well (With My Soul)” at church a few Sundays ago and it struck me that characters in fantasy often display exactly what that song is talking about:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

“Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.”

As a Christian, this is to be my mantra. No matter what the circumstances around me… it is well with my soul. No matter what fears I face, what trials I must endure… it is well with my soul.

I got some very discouraging and somewhat unnerving news a few weeks ago, that could easily have sent me into a tailspin of depression and moodiness. I could have pouted and sulked (and I’ll admit, I did spend a few minutes there throwing myself a colossal-sized pity-party) but the words of this song and the picture it had painted in my head relating back to some of my favorite characters helped me turn from my own paltry strength to Christ’s. I was reminded of what has already been done for me at the cross, and that anything I face in life… though it may be something I don’t like and it may be scary, and I may need to ask for help because I can’t do it on my own… is fleeting in comparison to the gift I have received through the Cross. If Frodo can cross Mordor, if Lucy can follow Aslan even when her siblings don’t believe her, if Meg Wallace can stand firm in the face of IT and shout that she LOVES her brother, if Brant and Kamarie and Oraeyn can stand together in the face of an invading army… well, then I can handle my much smaller battles and perhaps even have a good attitude about them.

~ jenelle

First Lines

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Is there anything more exciting than picking up your pen and writing the first line of a new book? Is there anything more enchanting than opening the cover of a book and reading that first line? First lines are oftentimes the words upon which we judge the entire reading experience. They draw us in or compel us to return the book to the shelf in search of something else. First lines may not make or break a story, but their importance cannot be denied.

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My good buddy Tracey @ Adventure Awaits recently did a post about the first lines of her stories, and I enjoyed it immensely. So I thought I’d compile a list of my own here… and since I mostly only write fantasy, it also works with the monthly theme! Also, forgive me, some of these are a bit longer than just the first line… obviously we’ve got some flexibility when it comes to “RULES” around here! (I like to think of them as more “guidelines than actual rules”) *grin*

Have you written a Fantasy post yet? Make sure you add the URL to the linky list HERE so that we can all stop by and read it!

I’ll start with the ones you’re pretty familiar with already and go on from there…

***

Graldon, King of the dragons, mighty lord of the skies over Aom-igh, handed the golden sword to the mere man who stood before him. “This one thing will I give thee.” 

(King’s Warrior/published)

***

The young apprentice peered up at the sky, a puzzled look in his bright eyes.“But what does it mean, Master? I don’t understand.”

(Second Son/published)

***

Oraeyn sat on the shore and gazed up at the stars. The heat of the day had long since fled though the air and the sand beneath him still held a certain warmth. A cool breeze wafted pleasantly across his face, whispering promises of adventure and rest in equal strength. The gentle rustle of the waves washed up to meet the shore in a steady rhythm. On the horizon, the Toreth rose: a large, silver disc that hovered over the water like a glimmering beacon. It beckoned him though he knew not where it might lead. His head ached, though he had removed his crown before leaving the palace to wander along the shores of his kingdom.

(Yorien’s Hand/published)

***

It was dawn when my brothers and I awoke for the first time. Brightness assailed my vision as I stared about, blinking in confusion and curiosity. I was aware of others around me, but my attention was drawn to a single presence that filled me with joy and awe. I glanced from side to side, exercising my new eyesight. A blinding light slashed across my vision and I immediately covered my eyes. I lifted my wings to my face. I was astonished to find that I possessed wings.

(Minstrel’s Call/in production/editing)

***

The long stone hallways of Thorndale castle stood empty and silent. On this overcast afternoon only gray light fell through the high windows to bathe the castle in gloom. Once-brilliant tapestries, their colors now muted by dust, lined the walls and deadened the sound of Karyna’s footsteps as she made her way to Princess Bellenya’s vacant chambers.

(Stone Curse/published)

***

Firelight flickered across the old man’s face, shadows making his wrinkles seem deep, deeper than they were. The room was small and nearly empty, bare of decoration. There was a small rug, woven in threads of blue and gray, in front of the hearth and the wooden chair in which the old man sat staring into the dying fire. Three walls of the small garrett were lined with bookshelves and every shelf was filled with large, ancient, hard-bound books, dusty from disuse. In the middle of the room was a small, square table with two mismatched chairs. Against the fourth wall, which boasted no shelves, was a small, polished wood counter with a sink that allowed running water, an odd luxury for so poor a dwelling. A cabinet held a few pieces of pottery, presumably for holding food, and further down the wall rested an old cot with a straw mattress.

(The Orb and the Airship: Turrim Archive book 1/drafted)

***

A roaring fire blazed merrily in the hearth of the large room. Its light mingled with those of the torches that hung in elaborate, black iron sconces on the walls, and the tall candelabras that adorned the massive, wooden table. The table was covered with a cloth of fine, white linen, and set with crystal chalices and dishes that were rimmed with gold. The feast laid out could have fed an entire village for several days. Fruit of every variety, an entire pig, as well as large slabs of mutton and beef, and enormous loaves of bread filled the surface of the table, along with various other delicacies and trifles.

(Turrim Archive book 2/rough draft halfway complete)

***

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess. All the land loved her. But one day, a dragon came and kidnapped the princess. He stole her away and kept her locked in a tall tower…

“Ella! Get your shoes on, it’s time to go to the market!”

Ella dropped the book she had been reading and scrambled about, getting her stockings and her shoes and pulling them on hurriedly. Her mother was waiting at the front door.

“Ready?”

(Cinderella retelling/drafted)

***

I believe that all this nonsense started with my christening, although some might argue that I was doomed from the day of my birth. I was the youngest child and only daughter of the Chieftain of Alagonia. I had three elder brothers, the youngest of which was fully ten years my senior, and they all doted on me from a young age and probably did their best to spoil me. Had I been any more inclined towards vanity, I probably would have soaked up their attention and been quite intolerable. As it was, I took their regard for granted, but never allowed it to go to my head.

(Glass Hill fairy tale retelling/rough draft begun)

***

The warm breeze wafting off the island caressed my nostrils with the scent of blossoming fruit trees. Flowery, citrusy, sweet, tangy: the smells of fruit both familiar and unidentifiable filled the air, surrounding our small vessel with an embrace of welcome. We threw ropes to the men working on the dock and they pulled us in to shore.

She was standing on the shore, just a step or two off the pearl-white dock. The gentle zephyr that brought the smells from unseen orchards to our noses ruffled her pale blue dress and played with her sable hair, making it float gently around her face. We disembarked and made our way towards her. She greeted us in a voice that was both kind and yet stern. Her voice whisperedin each of our ears as though she spoke to each one of us alone.

(unnamed short story related to Turrim Archive/rough draft finished)

***

The whole world looked muffled.  If you’ve ever lived within a University dormitory and had to put your head under your pillow to try and get sleep or if you’ve ever heard a conversation through a wall you would know the feeling.  However, Devlin blinking hard at the hazy surroundings, noted that the world did not sound muffled, it looked muffled.

(The Mirror/barely begun)

***

“Thanks, Billy. That’s all I needed to know.”

Logan planted his phone back in its receiver and grinned fiercely. “I’ve got you now, Mister Jordane, and I’m coming.”

He gazed at the open folder spread out before him on his large, battered, mahogany desk and bit the inside of his cheek. This was not what he had been hired to find out, but it would put Jordane away for a good long while. He shook his head. Most of his clients found out more than they wanted to, the things he discovered should not surprise him anymore. Glancing at his watch, Logan closed the folder and stuffed it inside a large manilla envelope. The thick folder hit the bottom of the envelope with a satisfying ‘thunk.’

(Oriole/rough draft partially begun)

***

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And that’s all I’ve got right now. Any favorites from the ones I’ve shared? What sorts of opening lines/paragraphs tend to catch your attention? What kinds of opening hooks do you like to start your own writing with? I’d love to hear from you!

~ jenelle