Second Place in our Flash Fiction Contest: Sunchaser by Caroline Madison

Another awesome entry that snagged second place in our ‘Stories of the Stars’ contest: Sunchaser by Caroline Madison.  We hope you enjoy the vivid imagery and lush descriptions.


Sunchaser by Caroline Madison

I am Abrihet Beyene, born Eddel Beyene, but my people allowed me a new name when they told me I would be a Sunchaser.

It means “she brings light.”

The Daystar himself whispered the name to me when I was small.

Don’t look at him, my daughter. He will scorch your eyes, and then how will you see anything beautiful?

But the Daystar has always been a part of me. I think he dimmed his glory so I could find him.

Now, here I stand, twenty years later, the sixty-seventh Sunchaser.

Ancient sands shift beneath my feet as the surf foams over them. It fills me with a warmth that shoots up my legs to my core, because even the waves know that tonight, the existence of our world rests on my shoulders.

It is my task to meet the Daystar at the horizon and lead him back to his place of beginning so he can rise again.

No boat follows. If I succeed, I won’t need one; if I fail, drowning is a mercy. The rest of the world will slowly freeze to death.

You must be afraid, the young ones say, to run with nothing but black water beneath your feet.

They do not understand that I am Abrihet, child of the light, and the Daystar calls me.

“Habibti…”

My father’s gentle voice draws me back to the celebration on the beach behind: voices chanting, bells ringing, feet stamping rhythmically in dance. The beating heart of what it means to chase the light.

I turn, responding to the pressure of his hands on my shoulders. “It is almost time, Abee.”

“But not yet,” he says with a smile and nudges my cheek with one finger. Then he sweeps an arm out across the beach, the gesture provoking a chorus of shouts joined almost at once by his rich laughter.

I close my eyes as my father’s voice swells like music.

“Do you smell what the wind carries you? The gift she brings?”

The sweet scent of fruit drifts down from the mountain groves, mingling with salt tossed up each time the ocean collides with nearby rocks.

“Hear the drums…”

Vibrations thrum through the bones in my feet, up my legs to my chest. “They reach the earth’s heart, and she gives us her music.”

Hands press lightly on my head and shoulders as my tribe gathers around me with prayers for speed and surefootedness.

But every other touch fades away when my father’s hands cradle my face and he presses his forehead to mine.  

“May our love embrace and protect you. The Lady of the Night tries to come between you and the Daystar. But tonight, Habibti, you have wings on your feet.”

The pounding surf stills and a chant rises.

Not my name: the pulse of this task is not me or even the Daystar. It can’t be.

It is Life itself, and so my people cry “Haya!…Life!”

The crowd parts for me, clearing my path to the water where the Daystar stretches his golden beams across an ocean holding its breath for my arrival.

Run, Abrihet. Faster than you ever have before…Sunchaser by Caroline Madison.pngI launch forward, the balls of my feet springing off of sand that no longer sinks beneath my weight. When I reach the water, it holds as well, a path more certain than any land-bound road because the Daystar forges it for me.

I love you, Abee. Holding my father’s kind, aged face in my mind gives me more strength than I thought possible. He is my heart, and so the heart of all that lives.

The rhythm of it pounds in my ears with each desperate push of my legs, a deep throb that shouts for my success as loudly as my people do.

Ahead, the path of light stretches to the horizon where the Daystar hovers just above it: a brilliant orb of heat and flame, usually unchallenged.

But tonight is different. A shadow creeps between us, chiseling away at his right edge. The light path narrows slightly. Only then does my breath catch as fear squeezes my lungs like fingers constricting around them.

Tonight, Habibti, you have wings on your feet.

Setting my gaze on the Daystar, I ignore the darkness eroding his radiance. I will reach him in time and conquer this usurper, as others have before me.

Faster, faster, I can no longer feel the water beneath my feet. Now, Abee, I am flying.

With every stride, the Daystar grows bigger, brighter, until he fills my vision entirely, a third of his brilliance shrouded by the Lady of the Night. Then half. That darkness whittles away at my path until it is barely wide enough for my feet.

Only ten more strides…nine…eight

My legs do not shake, nor do my lungs burn as though unequal to the task. I am equal. This is the purpose of my first breath, and every breath after. Laughter bubbles up and spills from my mouth.

Then my foot plunges into dark water.

“Abee!” My cry is strangled by the ocean rushing up my nose and down my throat.

After several seconds of struggling, I break through the surface, choking and sucking in lungfuls of air. Air far colder than it had been a moment ago.

The brilliant pinks and purples have faded to the blue of twilight, and the Daystar is now a black circle ringed with a sliver of light.

I failed.

Tears spring to my eyes as I watch the Daystar slip beneath the horizon…alone.

Fear rushes back, colder than anything I have felt before.

Not for me. For my people waiting on the beach. Their celebration will continue long into the night, because they believe I will bring them another day. Abee will stand at the crest of a dune, waiting to gather me in his arms. But the day will not come, and neither will I.


 

Did you miss our first place flash fiction story? Check out The Birth of Gemini.


Jebraun-Clifford-LR-3

Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives in a gorgeous town smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island filled with thermal activity,
stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

Have you signed up for my newsletter? I give away an e-book in each one!

Barnyard Bullies & Biting Mustangs: Behind-the-Scene Feature with Author T.J. Akers

I’m part of T.J. Akers blog tour celebrating his release, The Final Paladin with a great behind-the-scene feature.

Get ready for a fun story about bullies and life lessons with a mustang named Weeja!


I was eleven when something really big happened. Of course, it was a good thing now that I look back on it, but at the time, things didn’t look very rosy. I had this crazy horse named Weeja, and he did his level best to make my life interesting. I was a bullied kid and my dad was an alcoholic, so I wasn’t all that interested in making things more interesting, but something happened one day that changed how I viewed bullies and Weeja.

Weeja was an official mustang.

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We boarded our horses at a stable not far from where we lived in Portland, Oregon, also not far from where I went to school.

There is one thing I learned about bullies: they’re everywhere.

We all have our quirks, and like any other person, Weeja had quite a few. There was one in particular that was annoying. He hated anyone standing around his head while he ate. If you stood at Weeja’s one o’clock position (next to his head) at the manger, or at his eleven o’clock on the other side while he ate, he would bare his teeth and lunge at you with an open mouth. He never bit us, or anyone, but it was his way of wanting you to leave him alone while he ate. We respected that and gave him his space. I could leave the stall door open and clean it, brush him, and play the tuba if I wanted. While he ate, he didn’t budge from the manger unless you entered his safe zones.

This was Weeja after I’d had him for a while.

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We didn’t tell a lot of people because we didn’t want Weeja labeled as dangerous or have to board him at another place. Besides, a horse bite makes a grievous wound.

Enter mean girl Sasha (not going to use her real name). Sasha was the youngest of five sisters who were often called The Skinny *itches behind their backs, and they were essentially barnyard bullies. I couldn’t call them by that name, and I got in trouble if Mom caught me using it. Mom, my sister, and my sister’s friend, Carol, used that term all the time if they thought I wasn’t paying attention.

One Saturday afternoon, Weeja and I were down at the barn. Sasha had been left to her own devices, which meant her roaming the barns and tormenting the people she could. Her older sisters often mistreated her, and that probably made Sasha the Omega of her pack.

The stall door was open, Weeja was eating, and I was brushing him and cleaning out the stall. Sasha came to join in the fun.

Without notice, the mean girl loosed an ocean tide of insults about Weeja, me, my mom, my sister, and a lot of other people. While Sasha annoyed me, she moved in and out of Weeja’s trouble positions just outside the stall and in front of his manger.

“Sasha?” I asked. “Please don’t stand there. Would you mind stepping back a few paces?”

An outpouring of nasty expletives poured out of her mouth.

“I guess that means no?”

Sasha’s monologue of meanness flooded out of her mouth and filled the air.

My sister’s friend, Carol, joined us. She knew all about Weeja’s quirks.

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“Hey, Sasha,” Carol said, winking at me. “I dare you to stand next to that horse’s head and not move for ten minutes.”

I shook my head at Carol, but she just winked and grinned. Then Carol loosed her own storm of insults on Sasha. All this time, Weeja stood there swishing his tail and eating with his anger on a slow boil.

Munch, munch, munch. His ears flattened as he shook his nose at Sasha.

Sasha held her position, chin out, eyes blazing with fire and cursing back at Carol.

I turned to try to get Sasha out of the way, but Carol gave me a look that could freeze water. With Carol encouraging Sasha’s bad behavior, I resigned myself to this thing ending badly. Out of desperation to get Sasha to move, I launched a dried horse turd at her, and it bounced off her shoulder.

“Hey! How dare you!” she declared. “You short, fat, piece of—”

She didn’t get to finish. Weeja let out a bellow and darted out the stall door. I stepped back against the stall wall as the odd little farce shifted into slow motion before my eyes.

Weeja flattened his ears and lunged at Sasha, like some great cobra striking its prey. Horrified, I watched Weeja’s teeth head straight for Sasha as she sprinted for the doorway and out the barn. All the time, his teeth aimed for the soft places of her backside. Always, he just missed her, but barely.

Once out the door, Sasha headed for her own area, and Weeja set out after her. He could have easily outrun her, but with his head and neck outstretched, he kept an alarmingly close and consistent distance between his teeth and her butt. Carol practically rolled on the ground laughing.

I remember thinking, no wonder people laugh at me down here, as I watched Weeja and his teeth follow Sasha out of the barn door. A minute or two later, he trotted back into our barn area and into his stall, where he resumed his meal. I didn’t see blood around Cujo’s (the rabid St. Bernard from a Stephen King novel) mouth, so I figured Sasha was okay.

weeja4

I shut the stall door and latched it. Then asked Carol, “What were you thinking? She’s going to tell her sisters, they’ll go to their mom, and Weej’ll get kicked out!”

“No,” waived Carol as tears rolled from her eyes. “It’s our word against hers. Go back to work.”

I always knew Weeja was a sociopath, but at least he was my sociopath. We didn’t really do to well in the teamwork area, and he could be a major pain.

True to my worst fears, within thirty minutes, Sasha had organized a lynching party. It consisted of the barn manager, the stable owner, her sisters, and a few Looky-Loos bringing up the end.

“Tim? Is your mom around?” asked the barn owner.

“No,” I responded, “She’ll be picking me up later.”

“Sasha has some disturbing information, is it true?”

“What information?” I asked, playing dumb.

“She said your horse attacked her. Did he?”

“No,” I lied as I fought the urge to fall to my knees and beg for his life. All I could see were scenes of Weeja being labeled dangerous and having to find another stable, maybe even getting put down for being vicious.

“Well, Sasha seems very emphatic.”

“I don’t know what to say.” That wasn’t a lie.

Carol spoke up, “Are there any marks? Usually if someone is attacked, there are marks.”

I watched the owner turn and look at Sasha. The girl looked down at the ground and patted herself.

“Well—no,” Sasha replied. “I was too fast.”

“Come on,” Carol chided. “Besides, if a horse gets out of its stall, it runs away, especially this one.”

“Tim, would you open the stall door, please?” the owner asked.

I felt trapped—Weeja was still eating.

“O-Okay,” I replied.

Going to the door, I opened it. A terrible heaviness nagged me. Twinges that felt strangely like worry, and concern, and—caring. The thought of losing Weeja bothered me.

weeja5

The owner walked into Weeja’s one o’clock. I knew he was going to lunge at the old woman. He stopped eating and looked up at her with his big, chocolate-brown eyes.

“I don’t know what the fuss is,” the owner stated.

Weeja took a bite and gazed into the owner’s eyes as he chewed. He nickered softly, set his head level to the owner’s short stature, swallowed, and put his nose against her cheek. Then he nuzzled her cheek with his lips and some serous muzzle action.

My respect for the insidious nature of this animal grew to new heights. The owner patted him on the cheek, as he turned those chocolate eyes on the mob and had them oohing and aahing.

Had I not seen the assault on Sasha, I would have doubted this horse was guilty of anything.

“Sasha,” said the owner. “I think I need to have a conversation with your folks. Apparently, you don’t get enough supervision from your sisters. You should probably stay in your own area from now on and not bother Tim and Weeja.”

“Tim should get an apology, shouldn’t he?” asked Carol.

“I agree,” said the owner.

The lynch mob nodded too.

“Sasha? Please make it a good one,” the owner said.

For the next minute, one of the Barnyard Bullies apologized to me. Weeja had bested one of the worst people I’d ever known, and he did it without bloodshed. My relationship with Weeja felt Born Again, as the possibilities of further irritating Sasha and company brought a smile to my face and a new resolve to work with this very smart horse.

Sasha mumbled an apology, but the owner didn’t let her get away with it. Sasha did it better the second time. After the act of atonement was complete, the mob moved on. When I looked at Carol, she was smiling. Once the last of the Looky-Loos disappeared, she burst out laughing. Not just a giggle, but a laugh hard and long, until she had to sit down on a hay bale.

“Oh My God,” she cried, holding her sides as tears ran down her cheeks. “I have never seen anything like him. He’s a demon! I have to pee; I can’t stand it anymore. My sides hurt.”

I found myself at his eleven o’clock. He snaked his ears back at me. “All right, I’m moving.”

He snorted and shifted his weight to block my path. His ears went up, and he pushed his nose toward my cheek and brushed my face with his nose.

“All right,” I said. “Let’s not get all mushy.”

weeja6


T.J. Akers desires to be a multimillionaire when he grows up and give his wealth to his
favorite causes: churches, schools, and animal shelters. Since the millions have been slow in coming, he’s settled for working as a computer technician for a state university and volunteering at his church and local animal shelter. Whenever possible, he indulges his love of writing stories to entertain people, especially younger readers. Akers holds a Masters of English from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and can often be found roaming the university’s library, especially the children’s and young adult sections. Librarians have always been his heroes. He lives with his beloved wife of thirty years, his dog, and two cats. The dog is an excellent writing companion, but the cats have proven to be rather critical.

Learn more at

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Goodreads | Pinterest


Life for Peg Bowman is rough in the infamous slums of Five Points, New York, but her
brother’s murder changes everything.

Thrust into incredible worlds beyond any story she’s ever heard, Peg meets Sir Godfrey, an eleven-hundred-year-old knight from Charlemagne’s court, trainer of Paladins. He reveals to Peg her family’s ancient obligation to protect the Key of Apollyon, a relic of immense power. She is the last descendant of the Paladins and his only hope for keeping it safe.

When Godfrey confides her brother was murdered because of the Key, Peg rejects her
calling and demands revenge, a luxury she can ill afford as otherworldly creatures seek her death to claim the Key’s power for themselves.

Can Godfrey and his faithful retinue—Chim the Hobgoblin, Rebecca the Jewish Maven and healer, and Jack the sometimes human and sometimes seven-foot Black Dog—keep her safe and convince her that her calling is worth pursuing? Or will she succumb to the Key’s lure and wield it for revenge?

Purchase it now!

And don’t forget the Facebook Party. There will be heaps of giveaways and a chance to chat with the author!

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Follow the blog tour!

 


Jebraun-Clifford-LR-3Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives in a gorgeous town smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

Have you signed up for my newsletter? I give away an e-book in each one!

Getting to Know Author Kimberly McNeil

Interviewing authors is always fun. You get a behind-the-scenes peek at a creative brain at work.

I sat down (virtually, of course. Oh, the Internet. Bless) with Amy Williams, who writes under the pen name Kimberly McNeil, about her Young Adult Fantasy, Meg Mitchell & the Secret of the Journal, for a leg of her blog tour celebrating this new release.

Meg Mitchell Blog Tour Banner.jpg

Jebraun: Hi Amy…erm…Kimberly…erm…

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Kimberly: People usually give me really funny looks when I promote Meg Mitchell & The Secret of the Journal. They look at the cover and then at me and say, “But your name isn’t Kimberly McNeil!” No, it’s not. But Kimberly McNeil is the name I use for writing the Lightkeepers series.

J: Then I’ll stick with Kimberly, okay? Let’s jump right in, shall we? What’s your favourite though often under-appreciated novel?

K: I love Ishmael by Barbara Hambly. It’s an old original-series Star Trek novel where Spock travels back in time and forgets who he is, and he has to fit in with humans in 1800s era Seattle. It’s absolutely brilliant storytelling, but it’s often sidelined because it’s just “a Star Trek” book. But those kinds of genre stories are what first introduced me to writing and made me love the art of storytelling.

J: I love it! I remember as a teenager devouring a novel based on the screenplay of The Empire Strikes Back, and I was thoroughly entertained.

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A good story is a good story, amiright? You’re a storyteller. What’s the best thing you’ve found to overcome writer’s block?

K: Taking a walk and talking to myself. Well, technically, I’m taking a walk and talking to my characters. Whenever I hit a wall in my writing, generally it’s because I’m trying to force my characters to do something they don’t want to do. So I step away from my work and ask them why they’re behaving like stubborn children, and most of the them I get an answer back. Then, I redesign the scene or—this just happened recently—completely start over and let them tell me what they want to do. I know that sounds insane, but that’s my process.

J: No, actually it makes a lot of sense. Our characters sure can have a mind of their own. So, if you could visit any imaginary literary world, which one would it be?

K: Maybe I should pick someone else’s literary world (like Hogwarts or Camp Half-Blood), but if I had to choose an imaginary world to visit, I’d absolutely want to visit my own. The Andarian Dimension from the Lightkeepers series is the one place I’m not sure I’d ever want to leave. The pure natural beauty, the quirky cultures who live there, the ancient history and ruins? Golly, it would be the most awesome adventure ever, as long as you stay away from the Centaurs.

J: Ooooh…ruins are always adventurous to explore. I like your loyalty to your world. And I’ll keep your warning about Centaurs in mind as I read. You’ve got quite the cast of characters which can be tricky to give them all unique personalities. Any real-life quirky habits or traits (yours or someone you know) that you’ve given a character?

K: I started writing the Legend of the Lightkeepers series when I was 11 years old, and without really meaning to, I actually wrote in characters based on people I knew. It wasn’t intentional. I think as a child I just saw qualities and characteristics in the people around me that I liked, and I used those things when I created some of my favorite characters.

The best example is probably Jim Taylor, the brilliant nerdy teenage detective who can’t walk three steps without tripping over his own feet. He’s scary smart, super clumsy, and really protective of his big sister Barb, even though he really can’t do anything to protect her. Without really meaning to, I based Jim on my little brother Andy. A friend actually had to point it out to me because I didn’t even realize it, but Andy and Jim are basically the same person. So whenever I am at a loss for what Jim would do in a scene, I just think about how my brother would act or what my brother would do. It’s really handy.

J: Eleven year old? Wow! So this has been a dream for a long time. And now it’s out in print. Very exciting. Every author would love to see their story on the big screen. Who’s your ‘dream cast’ for a few of your characters from Meg Mitchell & the Secret of the Journal if it were made into a movie?

K: Oh my goodness, there are so many. The trouble, though, with choosing a dream cast for a series that’s this old? Well, most of the original people I picked to represent my characters are now way too old for the roles, so I’ve had to go back and pick some new ones.

The best actress I have ever found to represent Meg Mitchell is Ayla Kell. She has the look and face shape and the general bearing I’ve always seen for Meg.

AylaKell-MegMitchell

The best choice in my mind for Barb Taylor is Katherine McNamara. Again, she’s got the face shape and attitude I’ve always attributed to Barb.

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That being said, the original actress I used to represent Barb was Annie Wersching, and to this day, I still think she’s the best choice. So maybe in future books, I could use her as an adult Barb?

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And, just because he’s so important, the actor I have always seen playing Ronnie Akkard is a guy named Thomas Dekker. Obviously, he doesn’t have blue hair and silver eyes like Ronnie does, but he’s got the punk feel down.

ThomasDekker-RonnieAkkard

I have tons of others. Folders and folders and folders full of reference images. Someday soon I’ll be doing character profiles on my website, and I’ll put them all up for people to see.

J: I love your choices. It’s fun to see who you think your characters look like! Okay, time to move away from the novel and ask a really personal question. Fill in the blank: I could eat *favourite food* every day.

K: Here’s the deal. I love food. The only food item I don’t love is turnips. I could eat pizza every day. I could eat tacos every day. I could eat Indian food every day. Sushi too. And ice cream. And chocolate. I love ethnic cuisine and love trying new things. So as long as it doesn’t have turnips in it, I’m game. (Just kidding. I’ll even try turnips again. Maybe. If you pay me.)

J: Okay. Now I’m hungry! Think I’ll grab a snack before we finish this up…

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And I don’t think I’ve ever eaten turnips. They are a funny looking vegetable, aren’t they? Thanks so much, Kimberly, for chatting with me. Best of luck with your new book!

If your interest is piqued, here’s a little blurb about Meg Mitchell & the Secret of the Journal. Plus an intriguing cover that reminds me how much I love the Golden Gate Bridge.

Stories never end. They just get bigger.

You only have to turn the page.

MegMitchell_Journal

Meg Mitchell lives in a castle, but she’s no wilting princess. Raised in an alien world by adoptive parents, she spends her time fighting Centaurs, training as an Andai warrior, and chilling in her favorite willow tree.

But when Meg uncovers her birth father’s journal, she discovers a cousin she didn’t know existed. Meg and her little brother and sister travel through an inter-dimensional rip to San Francisco to search for their cousin, setting off a chain of events no one could have foreseen.

When her sister is kidnapped, Meg enlists the help of teenage detective Barb Taylor and her genius little brother Jim. Following clues dropped by a mysterious benefactor, they embark on a cross-country adventure to rescue her sister and find Meg’s cousin.

Family is everything to Meg, but not all is as it seems. In her quest to reunite her family, she may lose more than she ever imagined.


You can find Meg Mitchell & the Secret of the Journal at:

AmazonBarnes & Noble, or at Crosshair Press

Check out the reviews on Goodreads.


A.C. WilliamsAmy Williams is a novelist, freelance writer, founding member of Crosshair Press LLC, and professional nerd. You can find most of her work under the name A.C. Williams, but she also writes young adult fantasy (The Legend of the Lightkeepers) under the pen name Kimberly McNeil. Amy is single and lives in her family’s 100-year-old farmhouse on five acres in the middle of the Kansas prairie. She loves cats and drinks far too much coffee.

Connect with Amy!

Website |Facebook |Twitter|Instagram|Google Plus

Want to dive into a new world? Enter to win an e-copy of Kimberly McNeil’s Meg Mitchell & The Secret of the Journal as well as get a preview of her upcoming short story Stan Hawthorne & The Broken Sword. (Open internationally.

Don’t miss the rest of the blog tour!

Wednesday, November 1st   

Thursday, November 2nd  

Friday, November 3rd  

Saturday, November 4th  

Monday, November 6th  

Tuesday, November 7th    

Wednesday, November 8th

Thursday, November 9th

Friday, November 10th


Jebraun-Clifford-LR-3Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives in a gorgeous town smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island filled with thermal activity,
stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

Have you signed up for my newsletter? I give away an e-book in every one!

First Place in our Flash Fiction Contest: The Birth of Gemini by C.S. Johnson

Sherri Yutzy and I had a lot of fun reading all the entries from our ‘Stories of the Stars’ contest. It was a hard decision, but we both loved C.S. Johnson’s flash fiction story, The Birth of Gemini. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!


 

THE BIRTH OF GEMINI

C.S. Johnson

http://csjohnson.me

From a new, upcoming science fiction adventure series, Signs of the Stars

°☼°

The moment his tiny, newborn son grasped onto his forefinger, he felt the galaxy around him shift along with the vulnerability inside his heart.

The cool, steel walls of the operation room dimmed; the sounds of the medical staff in the background became muffled. His breath suddenly came in stilted, uneven gulps.

“Micheel.” His wife’s voice was a shaking whisper behind him.

It hardly seemed real that he was standing on the Nebulous, one of the many medical starships owned by Mercy Interplanetary Alliance. He had been with the company for over ten years, working faithfully port to port, planet to planet, all across the Nova Galaxy.

It hardly seemed real that he was holding his son, Callox, his hours-old, ruddy-faced offspring, whose sparse ruffle of black hair and already darkening eyes served as a reminder of his own.

“Micheel … Pasher’s arm … ”

Micheel felt the whisper of the still, small voice of God as it passed through his premonition.

Burning dots abruptly appeared just beneath Callox’s shoulder. They twinkled in a forbidden pattern.

Micheel finally dared to look at his beloved wife. In her arms, another small, sleeping bundle glowed with identical markings.

The constellation branded on their bodies served as a marker, one indicating his twins carried the hidden code Earth’s last generation had engineered into human DNA.

“It’s not just Pasher, Nabelle. Callox has it, too,” Micheel finally said. He traced his finger along the new constellation on Callox’s shoulder, his heart filled with simultaneous fear and wonder, awed by mystic beauty and floundered by harsh reality. “The Sign of Gemini. More than appropriate, in this case.”

 

He traced his finger along the new constellation on Callox’s shoulder, his heart filled with simultaneous fear and wonder, awed by mystic beauty and floundered by harsh reality. (1).png

“We need to leave. Now. Before the Collectors come,” Nabelle whimpered.

“Gemini is the Sign of Order. It’s not a threat.”

“To my family, it is,” Nabelle reminded him. “It means a change in leadership will take place. A new human order is beginning. Pasher and Callox are its forerunners. The Collectors will not let them live.”

“But change is not necessarily dangerous—”

“Anyone embedded with a Sign is dangerous. That’s why if the Collectors find them—”

“—they’ll kill them,” Micheel finished.

“They know when the Signs appear and how to track them.”

“That’s how they killed Esta,” Micheel murmured, remembering stories of the warrior queen who bore the mark of Orion, the Sign of War, who had lived over five hundred years before.

“We will have to separate the twins,” Nabelle whispered. “If we want to save them.”

No. Micheel felt his breath rush out of his body. Fifteen years he had waited for his family, only to have them torn apart after barely five hours.

Before he could argue with Nabelle, the monitor by the operation room entrance beeped.

“Doctor Reshi.” The familiar voice of his intern, Zara, crackled with static. “Count Lux of the Pyrian System has arrived. He has requested an audience with you.”

“Lux is here? Already?” Nabelle’s topaz eyes widened with sudden fear and fury. “I doubt he’s here to congratulate us.”

Sudden, unpleasant resolve ran through Micheel. “Rest, ya kamar. You just gave us our twins. Lux might be your cousin, but he doesn’t know you’re here.”

Nabelle shuddered. “Collectors don’t forget, Micheel. Why do you think he wants to see you, of all people?”

“I am a surgeon.” Micheel gestured toward the robotic controls and surgical tools behind him. “Maybe he needs surgery.”

“I would laugh if I wasn’t so scared,” Nabelle muttered.

“There’s no need to be scared. I can protect us.”

“How?”

Micheel pressed the button on the intercom. “Zara?”

“Yes, Doctor?”

“Tell His Grace I’m in surgery,” he ordered. “I’ll be with him in a few hours.”

“Yes, Doctor.”

“How long to do you think you’ll be able to get away with that?” Nabelle shuddered.

“Long enough for you and Pasher to be transported out of here.”

“What?” Nabelle gaped at him.

“Here. Take these rejuvenation meds,” Micheel said, placing a med patch onto her shoulder. “They’ll give you a day of pain-free movement. Don’t overexert yourself.”

“Micheel—”

Micheel pressed another button. “Zara, I have a patient here for emergency transport,” he called. “I’m sending the transport module down now.”

“No!” As Nabelle struggled against him, Micheel marveled at her, at how the light subtlety of his skin colors clashed so beautifully against her bronze strength. He would miss her desperately, he knew.

“Listen,” he ordered. “Once Lux is gone, I’ll find a way to get Callox out of here and meet up with you.” Before Nabelle could object, he held Pasher to his heart, gently kissing his baby’s forehead. “I love you,” he whispered. “Remember me, until we meet again.”

“This is not a good plan, Micheel.”

“Don’t I know it.” He drew her close, letting his lips hover just above hers for a long moment, before kissing her deeply. “But I can’t lose my family.”

The guardrails around Nabelle’s bed shifted, and a small, darkened glass top came down over the bed, sealing them off.

“What about Callox?” Nabelle asked.

“I pray you will forgive me, and refrain from asking me to answer that.” Micheel knew she would never forgive him if he told her his plan. “Go and return to the place where we first met, all those years ago, ya kamar. I’ll be waiting for you.”

A portal opened up behind the bed, and Nabelle and Pashar disappeared through it, heading toward their emergency transport. Micheel knew they would be safe, but as soon as they were gone, he felt as though he was gone, too.

Callox started crying, and Micheel longed for the freedom to weep with his son.

“Now I must save you,” he told his son. “And unfortunately, that means there are many more tears ahead of us.” He carefully placed Callox on the operating table and reached for his scalpel, calling in the required information for the coming surgery.

“I’m so sorry for this, Callox, but Daddy has to amputate that arm.”


Wasn’t that amazing? For more flash fiction, check out our second place story, Sunchaser.


Jebraun-Clifford-LR-3

Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives in a gorgeous town smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island filled with thermal activity,
stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

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The Power of Story

Here’s a sneak peek from my guest post at International Christian Fiction Writers

I had the privilege of being the speaker at a holiday camp last weekend, though at first I admit I was a little terrified apprehensive at the prospect. While I regularly teach Sunday school, I have, on average, only fifteen kids in my class who I know and whose parents I know. The kids are used to me, and we always have a good time. Plus I keep my pockets stuffed with lollies to bribe them for good behaviour.

But how would a room full of fifty-five 8-12 year olds react to a stranger? That age group is notoriously challenging. Not to mention wriggly and easily distracted. Could I be engaging enough? Funny enough?

And how on earth was I going to fit the whole gospel message (without being too preachy) in two half-hour evening sessions and one breakfast devotion?

It turned out better than I expected in that wonderfully chaotic way only God can orchestrate.

Read the rest of this post here


Jebraun-Clifford-LR-3Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives in a gorgeous town smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island filled with thermal activity,
stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest, and her flash fiction ‘The Stone Veil’ is published in the July 2017 issue of Havok. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.


Have you signed up for my newsletter? I give away an e-book in each one!

3 Reasons Why I Cherish My Wonderful Writing Community

For the most part, writing is a solitary pursuit. Writers think of an idea (alone), madly type away on their computers (alone), and wrestle with themselves to make it better (alone). This task of getting words to paper can be frustrating, heartbreaking, and full of discouragement.

If you’re a writer, you know what I mean.

Sometimes, you open another rejection letter and think, ‘I can’t keep doing this.’ Sometimes, you stare at the words on your screen and wonder how on earth you can come up with a story that’s fresh and original. Especially if you’ve written yourself into a corner! Sometimes, on those rare occasions when you have broken through writer’s block or come up with a great plot twist or have a short story accepted into an anthology, you want someone to celebrate with.

That’s when surrounding yourself with a fabulous writing community becomes essential.

I’ve been blessed to find myself smack-dab in the middle of a supportive group of fellow writers who commemorate and cheer on every achievement (no matter how minor), reassure me when things go woefully pear-shaped, and provide much-needed critiques to keep my writing at its very best.

This didn’t happen by accident…

Check out the rest of this post on Quills & Inkblotts


Jebraun-Clifford-LR-3Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives in a gorgeous town smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island filled with thermal activity,
stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

Sign up for my newsletter.

I give away an e-book in each one!

I’m Giving Away a Copy of Bellanok!

I love sharing awesome books I’ve read with other people. And what better way to do that than to give one away!

My latest book-crush is the fantasy Bellanok by Ralene Burke.

Here’s a little blurb to whet your appetite:

A haven for myths and legends . . . until evil discovers a way in.

With evil darkening the mountains to the north, the fairy queen, Fauna, must journey from the island realm of Bellanok to the modern world to find the man the Creator appointed to save their kingdom. A man she has been dreaming of her whole life.

Brian is a down-on-his-luck pastor on the verge of giving up on God. He’s tired and frustrated–a failure. No sooner does he make a decision that jeopardizes his career than an unusual blonde woman shows up and tries to convince him he is some kind of savior.

Fauna must open Brian’s eyes to a different reality, and Brian needs to embrace the haven’s secrets. If neither of them succeeds, Bellanok will succumb to evil and the world will lose all trace of innocence.

Believe me, the storytelling is as good as the premise!

If you’re intrigued and want to be in the draw for a Kindle copy of Bellanok, all ya gotta do is sign-up for my newsletter which goes out TONIGHT (midnight NZ time), and the giveaway (via the awesome and amazing Rafflecopter) will be waiting inside the newsletter for you to enter.

My newsletter goes out every few months, and I find some delicious book to give away in each one. Plus, you get all my writer-ly news about my journey toward publication.

–> –> Yes, please! Sign me up! <– <–


Jebraun-Clifford-LR-3Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives in a gorgeous town smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island filled with thermal activity,
stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.