Monthly Archives: February 2015

The King’s Scrolls Character Spotlight: Prince Daniel

I’m pleased to host Jaye L. Knight on my blog today, the author of the newly released fantasy, The King’s Scrolls! It’s the second book in the Ilyon Chronicles, and I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about both books! The character being spotlighted today is Prince Daniel. He sounds quite intriguing to me!

First, here’s a bit about the book itself:

The King's ScrollsFollowing the harrowing events that brought them to Landale Forest, Jace and Kyrin have settled comfortably into their new lives and the mission of protecting those under the emperor’s persecution. The fast approach of winter brings with it the anticipation of a quiet few months ahead. That is until the arrival of four mysterious, dragon-riding cretes who seek aid in a mission of great importance—not only to their own people, but to all followers of Elôm.

Hidden in the vast mining valley north of Valcré, a faithful crete has spent years sharing his knowledge with the destitute miners and their families and is known to possess what may be Arcacia’s last surviving copies of the King’s Scrolls—the Word of Elôm. Joining the cretes, those in Landale must find the crete teacher and bring him to safety, but it is a race against time. Should Daican’s men find him first, execution and the destruction of the Scrolls is certain.

When disaster strikes, all seems lost. Could Elôm have a plan even in the enemy’s triumph?

Available on Amazon!

Buy Now

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Character Spotlight – Prince Daniel

Appearance: Short dark hair, amber eyes, fit, 6’1” tall.

Age: 24

Race: Human

History: Daniel is the prince of Arcacia and Emperor Daican’s only son and heir. However, he does just about everything he can to voice his displeasure over it in hopes of getting disowned rather than be the future emperor his father wants him to be.

Author’s Notes: Daniel is an absolute delight to work with. He’s one of those characters where, as a writer, you get a little giddy as soon as they enter the scene because they completely take over. Seriously, I can’t believe some of the things that come out of his mouth. It’s awesome. From the moment he burst (literally) into the story, he’s been one of my favorite characters. The funny thing is, he’s only had about five scenes total so far. The King’s Scrolls is the first time readers will get to see things from his point-of-view. But despite only having a few scenes between the first two books of Ilyon Chronicles, he’s already made his mark. And don’t worry Daniel fans, his story is coming. It’ll just require a little patience (easier said than done, right?) to get to it.

I was just looking back at my early notes for any interesting tidbits on Daniel, but I really couldn’t find anything. I wish I remembered more about his creation process, but I think he was just one of those rare characters who came along so fully developed in my mind that I just didn’t need to keep many notes. I do remember, though, that I went through quite an interesting process when it came to “casting” him. I love having pictures of my characters to make them more complete and real in my mind, so I’m always on the lookout for just the right person to use as inspiration. Around the time I started writing Resistance was when I started using Pinterest. And, as I would be going through different boards, I kept coming across pictures of Henry Cavill. Every time I saw one, something whispered in my mind, “That’s Daniel.” But I was stubborn. I was like, “Nope. That’s not how I picture him.” I was determined to hang on to that initial image I had in my mind for his character. But I just kept coming across those pictures, and every time they would tug at me. This maybe went on for a month or two of determined stubbornness. And that’s when I found this particular picture of Henry Cavill. Immediately, I was like, “Oh my goodness, that’s Daniel!” Everything about it just screamed his character, especially that little smirk that would so infuriate his father. So, I released my stubbornness and fully embraced this image of Daniel. I don’t regret it at all. He’s so clear in my mind now that I don’t even remember what my initial image I was so determined to hang onto was anymore. Sometimes, regardless of how you think things should be, you just have to let your characters be who they want to be. Many times it turns out even better in the end.

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TOUR SCHEDULE

Don’t forget to visit the other places along the blog tour for The King’s Scrolls!

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SALE!

Haven’t begun the adventure into Ilyon? From February 17th – 23rd (today’s the last day!!) get Resistance , the award-winning first book of Ilyon Chronicles for your Kindle on sale for only 99 cents! Check it out on Amazon!

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GIVEAWAY!

Share in the excitement of the release and enter to win a themed Epic Winter giveaway! Prize pack includes an autographed copy of The King’s Scrolls, a CD by Future World Music (some of Jaye’s favorite writing music), a dragon bookmark, a stone hawk pendant (much like the ones mentioned in the book), and a few packages of Twining’s Winter Spice tea to sip while you read! (Giveaway is open to US residents only. Cannot be shipped internationally.)

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Jaye KnightJaye L. Knight is a homeschool graduated indie author with a passion for writing Christian fantasy and clean new adult fiction. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

You can connect with Jaye on her website, blog, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Etsy.

Why I Kissed Self-Esteem Goodbye

It’s a term you can’t avoid hearing in our culture: self-esteem. Think better of yourself. You deserve the best. Be confident in your abilities. If you believe you can do it, you can.

For years I bought into it, too. Finding myself. Finding my worth. Loving myself despite my faults and the “ugly” things about me, inside and out.

Image courtesy of stockimages at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages via freedigitalphotos.net

That’s what the world tells us to do, right?

But then God nudged me awake. And instead of slapping me on the face with the horrible truth as He could have done, He gently and gradually showed me the lie I was holding so dear. You see, the problem with self-esteem, and even self-confidence, is that, well, it’s all about … you guessed it…

Self.

As a Christian who was searching genuinely for the heart of God, truly wishing to make His desires my own, I couldn’t help but see it.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9-10)

What place does self-confidence have if we are to become weaker, so that God is able to become stronger within us? Shouldn’t it rather be called God-confidence?

What place does self-esteem have for someone who delights in weaknesses and insults? Wouldn’t it better be named God-esteem?

The world takes admirable virtues such as esteem and confidence and even love, and turns them inside out, makes them things of selfishness, small and warped, casting shadows into our souls. We let the world feed us these lies because we so ache to believe them.

But then, the best and most believable lies are always laced with a bit of truth, aren’t they? Because, in fact, we are of worth, we do deserve love and esteem. … But not in and of ourselves. Not because of anything we’ve done or ever will do or ever can do.

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Image courtesy of dan via freedigitalphotos.net

No, we deserve these things solely because of Jesus’ love. Jesus’ blood. God’s grace and overwhelming mercy.

Some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known have had no great physical beauty. God’s spirit filled them so completely that they shone with it. Their kindness was a glittering mantle. Their humility was a peaceful balm. The love that came from their eyes dazzled those around them with the undeniable awareness of God’s goodness.

When I think of it that way, my physical attributes seem so remote. My self-esteem and my self-worth fade to insignificance.

I won’t deceive you, it’s hard to do. But don’t ever think that it’s impossible, because it’s not. Just like any journey of the feet, a journey of the heart takes time. It’s painful and wearying … but oh so worth it in the end. Because it leads us closer to God, closer to who He intends us to become.

Self-esteem? I have no use for it. Not in the way the world wants me to, anyway. With my eyes firmly on God’s plan for me, with my desire for His will alone, my self slips into the place it was created to be…

Within Him.

Last Words

Characters die.

Sometimes they’re characters we don’t like. But sometimes they’re characters who mean so much to us that we mourn their deaths almost as a friend would do.

I’ve never liked killing off my own characters – even the truly evil ones. Yet sometimes an author must.

Recently I had to work on writing the death scene of a beloved character … a heartbreaking process, to say the least. To aid me (emotionally more than anything else), I refreshed myself on some famous last words, or “death speeches,” in literature.

As I read them, I had to wonder: What was going through each of the authors’ minds as they wrote their characters’ last words? Did their hearts break, even a little, as they composed the scenes that would mean the end of someone so close to them?

More so: What do last lines say about the characters themselves and their stories?

HONOR

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” (Sydney Carton, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)

BETRAYAL

“Et tu, Brute?” (Caesar, Julius Caesar by Shakespeare)

IRONY

“Bad form.” (Captain Hook, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie)

PASSION

“Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither romeo and julietcan be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!” (Captain Ahab, Moby Dick by Herman Melville)

“Precious, precious, precious! My Precious! O my Precious!” (Gollum, The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien)

“Yea noise? then I’ll be brief. O happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust and let me die.” (Juliet, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)

REMORSE

“Lord, forgive me everything.” (Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy)

“Farewell, Aragorn! Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed.” (Boromir, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien)

“The ultimate sacrifice for love: I kiss’d thee ere I kill’d thee: no way but this; Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.” (Othello, Othello by William Shakespeare)

FRIENDSHIP

“Cher ami …” (Hercule Poirot, Curtain by Agatha Christie)

“Harry … Potter …” (Dobby, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling)

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’sthorin a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” (Charlotte, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White)

“There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!” (Thorin Oakenshield, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Is there a character whose death broke your heart? Who was it? What were their last words?

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Yep, I finally got a newsletter. See the button for signup, over in my sidebar? Yeah, that’s it!

For those of you wondering: What’s the difference between signing up for a newsletter and following a blog? Well, there are several things that set newsletters apart.

My newsletters won’t be as … ahem, random … as my blog posts. Neither will they be as frequent. You can expect them something like once every other month. They will be focused on specifics, a few of which are:

1.) Book news. Release dates, exclusive content like as-yet-unseen chapters or excerpts, and any other important announcements regarding my books and stories.

2.) Opportunities. Newsletter followers will get first dibs on things like beta reading and reviewing opportunities.

3.) Condensed blog info. If you don’t fancy getting an email every single time I publish a blog post, my newsletter will give you a rundown of the most popular posts I’ve published recently (with links), and you can pick and choose (or not!) which ones you’d like to read. No clutter in your inbox … always a good thing!

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The Cost: A Retelling of Pandora’s Box

I wrote this short story last year for publication in the Timeless Tales fairy tale magazine and thought I’d share it on my blog for those of you who haven’t yet read it. I’ve always been fascinated by the way many Greek myths are so similar to stories from the Bible. So of course, being me, when I wrote my version of the story, I had another, deeper, meaning in mind.

If you’re unfamiliar with the original Pandora’s Box myth, you may want to refresh your memory at this link.

Hope you enjoy!

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The Cost

by Ashlee Willis

My father Zeus cast me from him – proof he was loveless. He locked tight the only gift he had ever given me – proof he was faithless. And he gave me in marriage to Theus – proof he held no respect for me.

Morning light slants across the tiny room and I lie awake, seeing things that aren’t there. Heaven, a silver crown to fit my head and golden streets beneath my feet. Things I should have had. Things I’ve never seen, yet somehow still yearn for. Things to make this life I’ve been dropped into seem as pale as a candle against the sun.

Theus stirs in the bed next to me, bringing me back from my bitter thoughts. When he opens his eyes, his first look is for me. Smiling, he puts a rough-skinned hand gently to my face.

“Dora.”

I try to smile back, but I’m not sure the muscles in my face obey.

A year ago I had never seen this man. I watch as his handsome face, now so familiar, falls slightly at my cold response. He turns from me to get out of bed, and I am close behind. For there’s breakfast to make, and cleaning to do, and errands to run. I’m a wife now, the daughter of a god no more.

“Husband, fetch down that spoon there – I can’t reach it.” In one arm I carry a pot, with the other I stoke the fire beneath the stove. But my mind is far away.

Theus holds out the ladle to me, but does not let go when I grasp it. I look at him.

“I’m happy to get this spoon, as I’m happy to do your bidding in all things. I love you, Pandora,” he says in a voice quiet as a lullaby, his blue eyes bent on my face.

“Obedient,” I mutter, jerking the spoon from him and turning back to the stove.

“What?”

“I said you are obedient, Theus.” My voice raises slightly, but I don’t look at him. “You were obedient to your parents when they bade you listen to Zeus. You were obedient to Zeus where he bade you marry his castoff daughter. And you are obedient to Pandora now when she bids you get her a spoon to stir your gruel. Ha.” My laugh is bitter. I can’t help it. “Look where obedience has brought you, husband.”

Now I glance over my shoulder and see something I have never seen on my husband’s face before. Anger. But only for a moment. Then it is gone, replaced with that hard-won patience he values so much. A pity, that – I had almost seen something in him to make me pay attention for once.

“Zeus commands many things,” says my husband. “But he cannot command love, not in me nor in any other man or woman alive. I love where I choose. And I love you.”

Most would think me a cold woman not to respond to those words. But most would simply not understand. In silence I spoon out the gruel into two wooden bowls and place them on the table, without once looking up at my husband.

A heavy hand falls on my shoulder. Theus pulls me around to look into his face, full of pain. “What is this about, truly, Dora? Is it the box again? I asked you not to speak of it. Zeus said we may not open it – not now or ever.”

The familiar feeling is in me again, at the mention of that infernal box. The feeling that nothing will ever be right in the world if I cannot have the gift that was meant for me – the gift that was only partially given.

Why do you keep it from me, I want to cry to my father, when you know it is meant to be mine?

Instead, I hiss, “It’s not the box. It’s only … it’s only …” My life? My freedom? My restless, hungry spirit, calling for more, more …

“I know what it is,” says Theus.

“You do?” I give him a look that says I don’t believe him.

“You long for more, Dora – you think I can’t see it? More than the life we have, more than what Zeus gave us.”

I’m shocked he’s hit at the very heart of it, but my face remains stony. “Then why don’t you do something about it?”

My voice is shot with venom, I can hear it. For a moment I think Theus will walk away from me. But then his strong arms are around me, and the wetness on my face tells me I must be crying.

“I try to give you more, Dora, I try, I try … if only you could see it.” His voice is a heartbreaking mixture of kindness and sorrow. His embrace surprises me with the comfort it gives. And it whispers of something just beyond my grasp – something that I can almost see … but not quite.

I shake my head and step away from him. “Thank you, Theus,” I say, wiping tears. And I mean it. I am thankful, in that moment, to have had the solace of his arms. I smile at him, willing him to leave. He smiles back, a smile full of love. A smile that tells me he believes in our future together.

How wrong he is. We have no future – not so long as that box glares at me every night. Not so long as my husband keeps the key to what is mine and mine alone.

After Theus is gone, I slam the cupboard door, wiping more angry tears from my face. The latch doesn’t catch, and it swings back open. So I slam it harder.

A clinking noise makes me freeze. It’s a noise only metal makes.

pandora's box4I am at the cupboard in half a heartbeat, scrabbling at the base of it like a dog digging for a bone. It is heavy, but I soon have it inched away from the wall with enough space for my slender arm to fit into. My fingers slide through a fine layer of dust and meet with the cold of brass.

And just like that, the key is in my hand. The key Theus tells me he has kept away out of love for me, when I know that if his love was true he would keep nothing from me.

Nor would my father have done.

This box is yours, Pandora, yours alone – but you must not open it.  My father’s thunderous voice swirls into memory. And Theus’ voice follows, more softly: Some gifts are meant to protect, not plunder.

“But you should have given me more,” I insist aloud to the empty room, not knowing if I talk to father or husband. “The daughter of a god deserves more than this. So much more.”

My hands shake almost too much to fit the key into the lock. But at last the key turns and the lock opens with a heavy scrape. I have longed to hear that sound for nearly a year, although something tells me it has been much longer than that, in truth.

Without another thought, I reach for the lid and throw it back.

The world comes to an end.

A thousand banshees scream past my ears, laden with the rank odor of death and sickness. Images, creatures, even people, rush from out of the box. It is impossible. They’re horrible, all of them, beyond compare. I want to push my face into my pillow and hide, but I cannot tear my eyes away. They sweep over me, tearing at my clothes, roaring in my ears, baring their bloody teeth in my face until I am weeping and screaming like I have lost my wits.

None of them stay … they fly round the house and out the windows, crashing the panes and splintering the wood as they go. They leave me crumpled on the bed. My body is unharmed, but I am aware of a horrid throbbing, deep within me, as if there is a part of me there that I never knew about – a part of me I should have held more precious.

That part of me is torn in shreds. It will never be whole again, I think.

“Pandora.” A voice is at my ear and I jump violently. It is my husband. His eyes are red-rimmed, as if he’s been weeping too, and his hand is bewilderingly gentle on my hair. His blue eyes hold no reproach. Even so, I’m filled with shame so deep I don’t think I can live beneath the weight of it.

He does not ask, “How could you?” He does not say, “You have loosed hell on earth.” Instead he sits next to me and takes the box from my lap, looking into its emptiness.

“You will find nothing there,” I whisper. “They’ve all gone, and it’s all my doing. Zeus will strike me down now, I know, and you will be rid of a wife who was never good to you anyway. Perhaps it’s for the best.”

Theus’ dark brows come together as he shakes his head. His blue eyes pierce me, and I see tears forming in them. He is fiercely angry, I can see, and I wonder if he will strike me, or perhaps force me to leave him. An hour ago I would not have cared. Now the thought of leaving him makes me grasp at my chest, for I think I can feel my heart cracking in half.

“Even now, Dora, you do not understand, do you?” Theus’ voice shakes with emotion. “Even now you can’t see what I have tried to offer you – the more that you have always wished for.”

I am nodding, grasping wildly at his hands. “I see it, I do see it now, Theus. I swear to you. It’s only that I’m afraid I’ve lost it forever. Please … please …”

My husband looks once again into the box’s depths, then sets it down and gathers me into his arms. He kisses my forehead, then my nose, then my lips. I sob with anguish and relief.

What a price to pay, I think as I kiss him back. What a cost, just to see something that was there all along.pandora's box wings2

Over my husband’s shoulder I see something tiny perched on the box’s rim. From its darkness has crawled a creature like I’ve never seen, winged and beautiful and fragile as a cobweb. It flies to me and its touch as it lands on my ear is light as the warmth of sunlight.

Then it is gone, its small wings propelling it out the shattered window, into the shattered world.

It will be crushed, I think anxiously. It will be destroyed by those other horrors. Killed even by breathing the same foul air that they do.

But then Theus looks at me, and I see the light of that bright, tiny creature within his eyes. And in joy, I laugh.

Copyright Ashlee Willis, 2014