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!

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 Irresistible World Blog Hop

It is with great excitement that I get to share about a fabulous writing resource. Usually, the blog tours I participate in are about fiction stories with amazing worlds and fantastic characters.

Well. This book  is about HOW to get those amazing worlds that leap off the page and delight the reader with their uniqueness.

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The author, Janeen Ippolito, created this guide to help writers get into their worlds and understand them from the inside out. When she asked for writers to use the book for their own stories and then write about the process, you can bet I put my hand up quickly.

I adore writing speculative stories–fantasy, science fiction, anything imaginary–and the project I used to show off Irresistible World Building is my short story, a science fiction piece called “Past the Stars, Beyond the Moons.”

Janeen sent me a list of questions, and I’m going to answer them using my short story:

Name your spec fic subgenre!

This is a science fiction story. But it’s not heavy with scientific details and explanations, so I suppose the proper subgenre is space opera.

Why this subgenre? What makes it awesome?

I love exploring characters’ relationships. In space. Haha, seriously, there’s something about being out in the stars or on another planet that grips my excitement. I’m definitely dating myself, but Star Wars (the original one!) was one of the first movies I saw in the theatres so it’s made a HUUUUGE impact on me.

What are your favorite books in your subgenre?

I love Ursula Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness. I took a science fiction lit class in college and remember reading some obscure, out-of-print book called The Stars My Destination which was fascinating. I really must find a copy of it somehow.

What universal feelings do you explore in your world building—and why?

I explore the longing for connection that we all have. Because it’s a universal experience!

What are the three coolest things about your world building?

I love that it mostly takes place on a derelict moon base. I didn’t want to have a host of characters, so the isolation really makes Astrid and Milos forced to rely on one another. I also like that there’s an initial connection between the two of them that goes beyond verbal communication. Milos ‘calls’ to her as he’s trapped there, and she ‘hears’ him. Finally, I love that a gift that Astrid’s father gave her, a knife made with a freshum crystal, helps Astrid when she’s really stuck.

What about your world building messes up your main character’s life?

Well. When the evil sorceress wakes up, the world literally starts to fall apart. So there’s that.

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What was the first thing that inspired your world building?

I knew I wanted to retell the Norwegian folk tale of “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” and I knew I wanted to set it in space. I suddenly pictured a young woman drifting through the stars in an escape pod (there’s that Star Wars influence!) and the rest of the story fell into place.

What is your favorite made-up creature from your world?

This was honestly my favourite part! I was having so much fun with this one! I made up a little critter called a hundar. Her name is Spark and she’s a little like a dog but she has needle-like retractable teeth and a feathery tail. Her intuition drives my main character, Astrid, to some important decision making.

Share a short excerpt from your story that shows off really cool world building

I would love to!!

I peer through the window again, cupping my hands around my face to block out the interior lights. We’ve floated closer to the pock-marked moon. I catch a glimpse of a structure tucked into a crater—a vast prismed dome, its panels reflecting the two primary stars in this system.

“I was right! That’s a base.” What’s left of one—it looks a bit battered. And familiar. Have I been here before?

The pod shudders and moves toward the moon.

My triumph evaporates. I grab the closest handhold. “What’s happening?”

And finally, I’ll give you a little graphic I put together to inspire me as I wrote this story.

Beyond the Stars, Past the Moon

If you’d like to stay in the loop about this story or the others I’m writing, find my Facebook page, subscribe to my newsletter, or join my Facebook group/street team for more updates from my writing journey. I host regular giveaways and love connecting with other readers and writers. 😀

I found this resource to be invaluable and am looking forward to referring to it for my next stories. So if you want your world to be thorough and imaginative and irresistible, pick up a copy of Janeen Ippolito’s Irresistible World Building for Unforgettable Stories.

Irresistible World Building Cover

You can find it on Amazon or read other reviews on Goodreads

Author Photo

Janeen Ippolito is two authors for the price of one! She creates writing resources and writes urban fantasy and steampunk. She’s also an experienced teacher, editor, author coach, and the editor in chief of Uncommon Universes Press. In her spare time, she enjoys sword-fighting, reading, food, and making brownie batter. She believes that words transform worlds and that everyone has the ability to tell their story. Two of her goals are eating fried tarantulas and traveling to Antarctica. This extroverted writer loves getting connected, so find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and at her website: janeenippolito.com where you can sign up for her newsletter.


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.

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

 

 

What Do You Think of my Website’s Awesome Makeover? (and do you want some chocolate?)

A year ago I did an overhaul of my website. Got my own domain name and decided it was time to devote the site entirely to my writing.

I had fun playing around with a theme and coming up with the tagline dream.write.repeat.

I continued to share about my writing journey, featured new releases and debut authors, and threw myself into social media. I started a newsletter. Published some flash fiction.

But something still didn’t feel…right.

A tagline should give readers an idea of what they can expect from my stories. And while dream.write.repeat. sounds kinda cool, it’s what I do, not what I write.

So I hired a professional.

Some of you may remember reading my post about goals for 2018 that I wrote earlier this year over at Quills & Inkblotts. In it, I mentioned I worked with Janeen Ippolito from Creative Breakthroughs in Speculative Fiction and Beyond to develop a new tagline.

Jebraun Clifford and Janeen Ippolito

We brainstormed for thirty minutes (and had entirely too much fun!), and she asked me all kinds of questions about why I wrote and what I wrote. Then she read some of her ideas back to me. As soon as I heard the right one…I knew it was me!

I changed up my website header, played around on Canva.com, and voilà!

Fearless Words in Fantasy Worlds jebraunclifford.com

Fearless Words in Fantasy Worlds. 

I love the alliteration. I love the concepts. I love the imagination.

This is me! This is what I write!

I also added a page for the stories I write, tidied some links, and even started formulating a plan for my street team.

To celebrate my gawgeous new look, I’m giving away chocolate. That’s right. New Zealand has the best chocolate ever (totally my opinion, feel free to disagree, and be wrong 😉 ).

And I’ve got two bars of Whittaker’s chocolate to give away to anyone in the world. All you have to do is go to my Rafflecopter page (link below) and tell me if you prefer dark or white chocolate (or either, who are we kidding!), and you’ll be in the draw to win a Whittaker’s Marlborough Sea Salt and Caramel Brittle with Saffron in dark chocolate OR Whittaker’s West Coast Buttermilk Caramelised white chocolate with Gingerbread Biscuit.

Stop drooling and enter by clicking the photo below!

A chocolate giveaway

BONUS: you’ll get 5 extra entries if you sign up for my quarterly newsletter.

And for those of you who already are on my newsletter list, you will be having your own chance to win some chocolate and a fabulous e-book (by a certain author whose initials are Mary Weber) in the middle of next month.

Thanks for sharing the adventure with me!

come say hi at jebraunclifford.com

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, enjoys and 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 an e-book in every one!