Bones of Cobalt Blue by Catherine Hinkle

Stories of the Stars contest third place winner:

She landed with the practiced ease of centuries, blue talons gripping the cliff’s edge. Wind whistled through the granite crags, and small stones scrabbled beneath her feet. With a low growl, she dove from the cliff. Unfurling her wings, she soared high in the currents, where stars whispered of hope. Gliding down to the last of her hunting grounds, she crept into her den to sleep, alone on the spine of the world.

Altogether alone.

With a shuddering sigh, she rested her chin on a floor polished smooth by centuries of use, and slept.

The scent and sound of man woke her while the afternoon’s light fell through the pines, and her ridges stiffened. His horse waited at the tree line. She heard it shake its head, its tack rattling. The horse’s sharp scent was overlaid by his. He smelled of wood smoke, of leather and salted meat.

She snaked her long neck to watch him.

The man rubbed his neck, staring down the mountain side. Thick shafts of sunlight reached through the branches to touch his face.

Then, for no discernible reason save the golden light and the dust motes, he smiled and laughed. She crawled closer to the mouth of her cave. His laughter faded, and the music stopped.

The man lowered himself onto a fallen log, head in his hands. He drew a deep breath, and rolled his shoulders. His jaw clenched, and he returned to his horse.

She waited before easing herself out of the cave. With practiced stealth, she followed him to his camp, her blue wings tucked close, and through the forest the next day. He sang to himself and to his horse, scratching behind its ear until it closed its eyes and chomped. His slow gentle chuckle and the way his horse leaned into him in the evening drew her in.

She flew far to hunt without frightening the horse and crept into a dark cluster of pines to rest during the next day, intending to find him after she had rested. The crack of a branch woke her.

He froze, the smell of terror filling the shadows. His hand drifted to his insignificant knife. Her amused snort blew the bracken away from him, and his face paled. He staggered backwards.

No. He could not leave. She could not be alone.

So she sang. A deep rumble, with the counterpoint above, through her secondary chords. She hummed in a rumbling bass the song he had sung to his horse, and he stopped. His eyes narrowed, and he backed away. That night, she found him again, and they sang together. Their songs became a habit until he reached the town. She watched him leave with a shake of his head.

She returned to the mountains and keened the songs to the stars, who whispered them back.

Summer came and went, and the stillness ate at her. She had to find him, to sing again, and there, in a clearing reminiscent of the ones in the mountains, she found his scent. He had been there recently, and the knowledge comforted her. She curled up in the shadows and slept. Sunlight filtered through autumn leaves, and familiar footsteps woke her.

She arched her back, cat-like, and unfurled her cobalt blue wings. He stood at the trees’ edge, and with a growing smile, he began to sing. He crossed the open space and reached out to her.

“Oh, my friend, how I’ve missed you,” he said, and she hummed in response.

That evening, he headed down back to town.

She followed his scent to the stone town. He sat alone at his window holding his head in his hands. She landed softly on the slate roof and rumbled to him. A smile like sunrise and moonrise together lit his face. He swung out the window and clambered up the roof, but his smile faded. He glanced around and touched her neck.

“You shouldn’t’ve come.”

She nuzzled his arm, and he sighed and settled back against her shoulder until the sky lightened in the east, and the stars faded. She flew to the forest to wait, and by midmorning, he returned. She hummed a greeting. When he reached out his hand to the soft aquamarine of her jaw, she nudged his arm, and he leaned his forehead against her cheek. They stood there until dusk gathered.

He sighed. When he left, the silence was tangible.

She was alone.

She growled and lashed her tail, knocking a boulder into a stand of russet maple.

Perhaps she need not be alone?

Grinding her teeth against the coming pain, she reached into her bones and peeled away the magic. She sang it from within and poured it into her wings until they grew so heavy she could no longer stand. Magic tore through her. With a resonating crack, her left wing fell, followed by the right. They hit the ground, the membranes withering until all that remained were long curving bones of cobalt blue.

The night forest was very still. She raised her head to look on the silent stars with new eyes. She stumbled, then took careful steps across her clearing, gaining confidence and agility until she laughed as she spun on new limbs in the moonlight.

When he returned in the morning, she sat on the fallen log near the curving bones and smiled up at him.

“I have been waiting for you,” she said.

He stopped, stunned, then stepped close and smoothed her cobalt hair away from her face. A smile like the joy of soaring above the clouds lit his face, and a laugh like music broke free. He swept her up in his arms and spun her in a circle.

“How?”

She smiled, an unfamiliar movement, and set her hand on his chest. “I sang.”

He touched her cheek with gentle fingertips. “You will stay?”

“Always,” she said.

Taking his hand, she walked away from the cobalt blue bones, and together, they went home.


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Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, Jebraun lives smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in a town filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. She writes about discovering identity, living without fear, and enjoys creating fantastic worlds. 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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I give away New Zealand chocolate and an e-book in every one!

Armor of Aletheia: Interview with Ralene Burke

I’m excited to host author Ralene Burke today as part of the blog tour for her new fantasy novel, Armor of Aletheia.

Ralene and I caught up, and I got to pelt her with questions about life, writing, and everything in between.

Jebraun: Yay! I’m so happy you’re here. First of all, the cover is stunning. The gate! The mountains! The purple!!

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Now. I want to hear about your journey with this new story. There are so many steps to writing (and publishing!) a novel from the thrill of the first draft to the joy of seeing your book on a bookshop shelf. What are some highlights from a few of the steps of Armor of Aletheia?

Ralene: Armor of Aletheia was a long project for me. We had a lot of personal things going on throughout the writing/editing process, so it took a long time. So finishing each step was a huge accomplishment, a reason for celebration. It was also the story that snagged both my agent and my first publisher. Woot! Which then turned this into my first traditionally published novel. The best part so far has been the reader’s reactions. It has been such a blessing to me to see how the readers are relating to the characters, to their situations, and that the story is staying with them. That’s all I want with these stories that live in my heart.

J: That has to be so satisfying for you. Let’s dig into the story. Any settings or characters based on real places or people?

R: No, not really. Well, except Karina, the main character, is a lot like me and her journey echoes mine. I wanted people to know my journey, to see my discoveries, and maybe that would help them in their own lives, with their own journey.

J: I love this! This is why we write, isn’t it? So good to hear that your story is touching those who read it. What about some of the deeper points about Armor of Aletheia. What themes really resonate in this story?

R: Embracing who you are. We were all created for a purpose, something that only we can fulfill. But oftentimes, we resist that calling for one reason or another. Maybe we’re scared, maybe we don’t feel worthy, maybe there’s something standing in our way like finances, education, obligations, etc. But it’s important that we find and embrace who we were meant to be. That’s when and where we will shine the brightest!

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J: Yes! So good. Learning lessons like these are challenging though it’s satisfying to pass them on. Obviously, this knowledge has been hard-earned. But you managed to capture it and put it down on paper. I’d like to hear about what inspires you. What feeds your soul? How do you refresh yourself creatively?

R: Reading good books, watching great TV shows/movies, listening to amazing music. I’m really influenced by other people’s art. It inspires me.

J: I’m right there with you. What about sustenance for your body, haha. What’s your favourite snacks or drinks whilst writing?

R: Dark chocolate M&Ms and a big glass of iced tea. That’s how I accomplish those crazy 10k days!

J: Mmmm. Sounds perfect. To end here, do you have any wise words of advice for a newbie writer?

R: It’s important that you learn your craft. Be sure to study the art of writing from many sources. But don’t forget to write, write, write. And then write some more.

J: Thanks for joining me today, Ralene. Godspeed and best of luck as your story  gets out there in the world!

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You’re invited to celebrate with Ralene at her book launch for Armor of Aletheia on Facebook. Chat with her and other authors, and there will be prizes! RSVP here.

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Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a social media wand, or a freelance editor’s sword, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help everyone SHINE BEYOND their circumstances! Her novels, Bellanok and Armor of Aletheia are available on Amazon.

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .

Connect with Ralene on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or at her website.


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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 smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in a town filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. She writes about discovering identity, living without fear, and enjoys creating fantastic worlds. 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 and fabulous New Zealand chocolate in every one.

Looking for the clue? Here it is!

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The Awesome Adventure of Kill the Beast ~ and a giveaway!

You know those stories that keep you up late at night reading? The ones with fantastic heroines, lush descriptions, and exciting adventures?

If you’re in the mood for such a story, look no further.

Michele Israel Harper has done it again!

In Kill the Beast, an imaginative retelling of familiar fairy tales, Michele weaves a wonderful world of monsters, mademoiselles, castles, and crossbows.

Set in a long-ago France, this book captures some of the best elements of Beauty and the Beast (the enchantment! The food! The rose!) as well as manages to turn Little Red Riding Hood into a kick-butt heroine who is anything but a damsel in distress.

Want more? Of course you do!

Ro remembers the castle before. Before the gates closed. Before silence overtook the kingdom. Before the castle disappeared. Now it shimmers to life one night a year, seen by her alone.

Once a lady, now a huntress, Ro does what it takes to survive—just like the rest of the kingdom plunged into despair never before known. But a beast has overtaken the castle. A beast that killed the prince and holds the castle and kingdom captive in his cruel power. A beast Ro has been hired to kill. Thankful the mystery of the prince’s disappearance has been solved, furious the magical creature has killed her hero, Ro eagerly accepts the job to end him. But things are not as they seem.

Trapped in the castle, a prisoner alongside the beast, Ro wonders what she should fear most: the beast, the magic that holds them both captive, or the one who hired her to kill the beast.

Doesn’t that sound intriguing? Now check out this cover:

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What I liked about this tale was the smattering of French phrases scattered here and there to lend authenticity, the mouth-watering descriptions of the food, the detailed world-building which made me picture the Beast’s castle and surrounding countryside, the backstory that left me begging for more, and the unexpected twist at the end.

But most of all, I loved the heroine, Ro. She is feisty and fierce yet somehow vulnerable at the same time. I loved her loyalty to her family, especially her sister, and how she would do anything to protect her.

I enjoyed it soooo much, I’ve giving you a chance to own your very own copy! I’ve got a prize pack for one lucky reader including a paperback version of Kill the Beast, some yummy chocolate all the way from New Zealand, and a book cozy featuring a forest scene complete with foxes, hedgehogs, and rabbits.

*Giveaway Closed*

Go through the magic portal to enter (erm, actually, it’s a link to Rafflecopter).

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You’ve got a week to enter. Sorry, only open to residents in the United States.

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You also don’t want to miss the Facebook party on Thursday, September 27, 2018 8-10pm EST.

Michele-Israel-Harper-HeadshotMichele Israel Harper spends her days as a work-at-home mom and her nights typing away furiously on her laptop. Sleep? Sometimes… She has her Bachelor of Arts in history, is slightly obsessed with all things French—including Jeanne d’Arc and La Belle et la Bête and loves curling up with a good book more than just about anything else. Author of Wisdom & Folly: Sisters, Zombie Takeover, Beast Hunter, and Kill the Beast, Michele prays her involvement in writing, editing, and publishing will touch many lives in the years to come.

Connect with Michele on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or her website.

You can also purchase Kill the Beast on L2L2 Publishing’s website!

Thanks for joining me!

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 smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in a town filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. She writes about discovering identity, living without fear, and enjoys creating fantastic worlds. 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 chocolate and an e-book in every one!
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Do You Love Flash Fiction? Enter Our Contest!

Yes! It’s that time of the year again.

Fellow speculative fiction fan, Sheri Yutzy, and I are hosting a flash fiction contest and this time Laura L. Zimmerman is joining us!

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We’re so excited to see the amazing flash fiction work YOU come up with.

We’ve got some great prizes lined up to feed your flash fiction soul.

1st place:

2nd place:

3rd place:

Submission instructions:

Deadline: Friday, October 5, 2018

Submit to: storiesofthestarscontest@gmail.com

Length: 700-1000 words

Genre: Speculative fiction

Theme: Stars—your story must mention stars in some way.

Submit your story as a separate document. Please include the title of your piece, your name, and contact information in the heading of your document. If your story does not fall within the speculative fiction genre, it will be disqualified.

  • No excessive violence or language
  • No erotica

Winners will be announced October 19, 2018. So what are you waiting for? Get writing! And if you need any help or advice about writing flash fiction, check out this great ‘how to’ post by Laura over on Quills & Inkblotts. You can also check out last year’s winning entry and the second-place story for inspiration.

Good luck!

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 smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in a town filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. She writes about discovering identity, living without fear, and enjoys creating fantastic worlds. 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 and chocolate in every one!

The Amazing Aesthetics of Renegade Skyfarer

Today author RJ Metcalf celebrates the release of her brand new book, Renegade Skyfarer.

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She’s got a heap of beautiful aesthetics for us to ogle, so let’s jump in, shall we? Take it away RJ!


It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and a dear friend of mine recently got me into the whole aesthetics thing, and I’m afraid to say, I am hooked. So, it may be considered cheating to some, but I’m going to share a bit of my characters via aesthetics, because, really now, who doesn’t love them? And with that, I must also note that I am not skilled in such gorgeous graphics, and these were all made by the lovely LoriAnn Weldon of Magpie Designs, Ltd. ^_^

Ben

Meet Ben Dubray, an amnesiac who gets rescued by the crew of the airship, the Sapphire. He can’t remember anything beyond his name that’s listed on his metal necklace, but throughout Renegade Skyfarer, bits and pieces of memory will flash into mind, and he’ll start piecing the puzzle together. During all that, the Sapphire mechanic and daughter of the airship captain, Jade Stohner, befriends him and does what she can to encourage him in this strange new world.

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Spunky and passionate about life, Jade doesn’t know that life is about to drastically change once her father reveals a secret he’s been keeping all her life. Caught between her own plans for her life and her father’s ideas for her life, she’s going to have to find a dark corner of the Sapphire to figure out what she’s going to do. But what she and her childhood best friend, Krista, plan, may not match up to what Jade’s father, Slate, wants.

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Slate, the captain that carries the world on his shoulders. Burdened by choices he made in his youth, burdened with secrets, burdened with the knowledge that if he fails in his quest to restore the barrier, all he holds dear could die, Slate is a man on a mission. He doesn’t always handle the stress well–in fact, he often doesn’t–but he owes up to what he needs to do, and he’s the man to see it done. Whether it be pompous lords, bandits, or even a crazed berserker, Slate will give it everything he’s got to right his wrongs.

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Not all appearances are as they seem when it comes to a berserker. Blade has his own mission and his own goals, and he will do all he can to bring Slate’s world crashing around him, in flames and blood and death, as only Slate deserves.

The adventure won’t end until at least one person fulfills their goal–while the other worlds burn.


And how about a little teaser to give us a better idea of the storyline?

The airship crew saved Ben’s life from a dragon, of all things.

When Ben wakes up, he has no memory of his family, his home, or how he got to this strange world. All he knows is what his new crew members tell him: the magical Barrier that protects their land is weakening. Unless they find the artifact that can repair it, all of Terrene will be destroyed and enslaved by the enemies beyond.

But when Ben suspects that danger may lurk closer than dragons or sky pirates, he has to decide: stay and fight with the airship crew, or focus on regaining his lost memory? If he leaves, he risks losing his newfound friends–but if he stays, he might never return home.

Welcome to Terrene–where dragons exist, the past haunts, and magic is no myth.

Welcome aboard the Sapphire.

Renegade Skyfarer FB Party Banner

Calling all book readers! Join author RJ Metcalf as we chat about her fantasy novel RENEGADE SKYFARER on July 6th from 8 PM to 10 PM EST (7 PM CST and 5 PM PST).

Grab your favorite drink and snack and be prepared for a fun time of chatting with RJ, games, and giveaways. Special guests S D Grimm and Jamie Foley, Author will also be sharing their books and joining in the fun. RSVP here.

Giveaway!

Want to dive into a new world or in need of a good book? Enter to win a signed print copy of Renegade Skyfarer, a Stones of Terrene notepad and pen, Notebook of Writing, and bracelet! (US only.)

About the author:

RJ Metcalf

During the day, Becky is a stay at home mom of two active little boys. When she has ‘free time’, she enjoys reading, writing, baking and sewing. After many years of creative writing classes, writing fanfiction drabbles and daydreaming, it was high time to start writing her husband Mike’s story. She dove into the world of Terrene and hasn’t looked back—except for when she runs out of dark chocolate. Any free time not spent in Terrene is typically expended on hosting dinner and game nights, running amok with the two little monkeys or watching nerdy movies with Mike.

Connect with Becky

Website | FacebookTwitterInstagramAmazon Author Page


Thanks for joining me!

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 smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in a town filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. She writes about discovering identity, living without fear, and enjoys creating fantastic worlds. 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 chocolate and e-books in every one!