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My Last Letter To Thom

Dear Thom,

Can you believe it? It has been over five years since we started–five years of telling and retelling, imagining and reimagining–and in a little over a month’s time, your story will finally be released to the world. It took us awhile, huh? Time sure flies. You’re even an adult now, and boy do we need to catch up!

So, how’s life in Daysprings? Is Daysprings still the warm and welcoming village I last remembered it to be? How’s Haratio and the girls? Tiger is all grown-up now–is she more like Seanna or Catry? How are the Eklaysians? Oh, and do you still write to Mika? Did you manage to find out who his uncle is? Even though we worked on the book last year, we never really talked about these things. I didn’t even ask about your love life! Yes, I should know. And if you don’t intend to tell me, I’ll just ask her instead. But, all these surface questions aside, how are you…really?

I’m fine–if you’re curious about me. Life in my world isn’t as magical or as adventurous as yours. I have a pretty interesting day job, which can get rather busy at times. As it eats most of my creativity, I’ve not spoken to Robb in months–he seems to be OK with that. I do plan to write the second installment of his story this year though–after your story reaches the masses. And that will be soon… very soon. Wow, isn’t that a little nerve-wrecking?

Honestly, I’m kind of nervous about what people will say about the work we’ve created. So far, the early reviewers have been kind. But… it seems not many are willing to give your tale a shot. It’s unconventional after all. Still, I think we can both agree that the number of books sold isn’t as important as the people who read your story. So let’s just hope that The Slave Prince touches lives instead. That is why we wrote it in the first place, right? And no matter what happens, we’ve done good.

With May 29th around the corner, it saddens me that our journey will soon come to an end. Even though we’ll still be friends, we won’t be seeing much of each other any longer. No more late night conversations. No more coffee breaks. We’ll part ways–recalling our history only when we gaze into a starry night sky. If it is possible, I don’t want us to be like that. But only time will tell if we can continue to work on your story. And until the unknown future comes to past, I wish you all the best in life.

May you go on more great adventures, Thom. May magic beckon you to live more heroic tales. May you never forget who you are. And may you always believe in the power within you. You’re a prince, Thom. A true prince–the Majestas Regia will always remind you of your story.

It has been a pleasure, meeting, knowing, and working with you, Thom. Let’s not forget what we’ve created together. And let’s continue to do great things until the very end.

Yours forever, Jeyna.

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Posted by on April 26, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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Read The Slave Prince For… FREE!

Yes, you read that right–you can read The Slave Prince for FREE and BEFORE EVERYONE ELSE!

The Slave Prince–my latest novel–is set to launch on May 29, 2018. It will be in online bookstores, as well as physical shelves in the US and Canada. But before it becomes accessible to the general public, I’m creating a platform for you, as my blog reader, to read the book first.

As a pre-launch campaign, I’ll be sending 100 readers the digital advance reader copy of the novel. A digital advance reader copy, aka an ARC, is what it says it is–you will get to see the maps and read the story before the rest of the world. But, how do you become one of the 100 chosen readers? It’s simple.

I’ve created a google form, for you to request for the ARC. The first 100 people to complete the form will find the ARC in their inbox. Just like that, you have a free book! However, there are a few things to note.

As some of you may know, I am an indie author–Inkshares is my crowd-funded publisher. The Slave Prince received a full publishing contract after winning the Geek & Sundry Fantasy Contest in 2016, where over 300 readers banded together to pre-order the book. This means, that even though I have a publisher, I still have to play a part in marketing the book. Hence, an ARC and the readers chosen to read it are very, very, very, very, very important. VERY IMPORTANT.

By requesting for an ARC, you are saying ‘yes’ to lending me a hand. You will be using your word–an extremely powerful tool–to help The Slave Prince succeed. You’re not just reading another fantasy book, but you’re believing in me and what I have to offer. That is why I require a few things from you when you request for the ARC. What are they?

#1 READ it! Some people request for free things without actually getting to it. This stops others, who are genuinely interested, from having the opportunity to read my book. So please, read it. It’s a kinda cool story.

#2 SHARE it on social media. You may think that tweeting and Facebook posting about the book does nothing, because your friends don’t read or are into science fiction. But, I want you to know, your word as a reader has an impact. It is powerful, valuable, and influential–converting on the fence readers when they stumble upon the book later on.

#3 REVIEW it either on your blog, Goodreads, or Amazon–all platforms if possible–by May 29th. You don’t have to give it 5-stars. In fact, I don’t want 5-stars if you don’t think it deserves 5-stars. What I want is your honest review–let me know what you think, because your thoughts are important to me. By reviewing the book, I learn where I’ve fallen short and where I’ve succeeded. You’ll also help others discover my book too! And that, my dear reader, will help my novel greatly.

#4 SPREAD the word! Tell your family and friends about my book. Double post about it on your social media platforms. Rave about it if you truly like it. And, if you want to own a physical copy, buy it! Gift it! Help this nobody, Malaysian author, become somebody to someone out there.

What I’m asking may or may not be a lot–depending on what you perceive as ‘a lot’–but it affects the outcome of my novel. It determines its success. So if you want to play a role in making this novel known, by simply reading and sharing it, then fill up the request form now–be a micro-influencer today!

REQUEST FOR THE SLAVE PRINCE ARC NOW!

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THE SLAVE PRINCE

Release Date: May 29, 2018
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
*Free worldwide delivery on Book Depository!

For fifteen years, Thom believed he was a prince of Alpenwhist. He had climbed the castle turrets to survey his kingdom, learned to duel with the sharpest blades, and stirred up palace intrigue in disguise. That is, until one day when his identity is suddenly shattered by the revelations of a blind woman: He learns that he isn’t a prince at all, but a wretched slave.

In a kingdom where ruthlessness is part of everyday life, Thom fears this new truth could be deadly. He takes flight, running from the life he knew and the one he despises, but the call to free his people beckons him home. Armed with a magic stone, which instructs him through surreal visions, he must topple his once beloved brother who has since become a tyrannical king.

A fantastical retelling of the story of Moses, Thom’s adventure forces him to question if he can succeed in his quest without truly understanding who he is. Because it seems he must unravel his past, present, and future before he can set his people free.

READ THE SLAVE PRINCE FOR FREE

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2018 in Others

 

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The Myth of Politicus and Zhen [12 Genre Months]

“I’m here to see Professor Lin. My name’s Rob Whelan–I made an appointment.”

The secretary–who looked like a student of the university itself–scrolled through a list on his tablet. When he found my name, squeezed between a Professor Doherty and Doctor Lyon, he rose from his seat and gestured at the oak door to my right.

“She’s expecting you,” he said.

Already late for the appointment, I thanked the young man and stalked into the mahogany-themed office–a uniform decor of the historical establishment.

“You’re late,” she stated.

Lin was seated behind a polished wooden table, surrounded by books stacked high on the carpeted floor–the bookshelves against the four walls offered no space for the newer editions.

“Sorry. Bad habit,” I replied.

“Have a seat,” she prompted.

Lin’s dark straight hair, deep set eyes, and thin lips were the same as how I remembered them to be. But on that sunny afternoon, Lin wasn’t in a pink, silk gown. She donned–what most educators in a place as such would–a dull, black and white suit.

“It’s been awhile. How’s your book doing?” she asked.

“Not good. My publisher wants another. Soon,” I admitted, planting myself on the velvet armchair across her desk.

“And… that’s why you’re here.”

“Partially.” I smirked.

Lin chuckled. “So, what do you want to pick my brain on?”

“The myth of Politicus and Zhen.”

“What about it?”

“I have a few ideas to run by you.”

“Something you could’ve done via email.”

“True. But I wanted to see you–it’s been awhile, like you said.”

Lin and I met when we were ten. She lived with my family for two years, while her parents had ‘some issues to sort out’. We kept in touch after she returned home. And, once in a few years, our families would get together for Christmas. But since she began teaching at the university, it was almost impossible to meet her–she was a fourteen-hour flight away and always working on the holidays.

“We can catch up later. Let’s get to work first,” she said.

“Right. So, Politicus and Zhen–do you think they could’ve actually existed?”

“The Empire of Chrysus isn’t in any historical records, neither is King Politicus and Queen Zhen. I would say their story is parallel to Greek mythology.”

“But, I did some reading online, and some people theorise that Queen Zhen was the youngest daughter of Emperor Gaozu.”

“None of Emperor Gaozu’s daughters left their country. That’s a fanboy theory, Rob. But, a good one to roll with. Is that your intended direction?”

“No. I just wanted to know what you think.”

“I don’t think they’re real.”

“I see. Personally though…” I hesitated.

“Personally what?”

“I believe otherwise,” I stated. Lin raised her eyebrows. But as her lips parted to question my belief, I continued, “Anyway, do you think it’s possible for Politicus to retain his memories after each life?”

“The original tale didn’t say he could. But since you’re writing fiction, anything goes.”

“Do you think, that with his memories, he can help Zhen remember their past?”

“How–with true love’s kiss?” Lin chuckled. “Wait, is this new book a romance novel?”

“A little romance doesn’t hurt.”

“The themes of this myth are greed and violence. The consequence of Politicus’ brutality was an eternal curse–witnessing the death of his lover in each life cycle, with no hope of happiness. You can toss in a little romance, but a happy ending will be far-fetch, not to mention, cliche.”

“He can break the curse.”

“By wakening Zhen’s memories?”

“That’s a good idea, isn’t it?”

“Not really. It doesn’t quite make sense.”

“Why?”

“Is your story set in the twenty-first century?”

“Yes.”

“Then first off, Politicus claiming to be Politicus will make him seem insane. Nobody will believe him, let alone Zhen. Secondly, Zhen recalling her memories won’t save her since thematically, the myth isn’t about love. What I logically foresee, is Zhen living in an endless loop, well aware she only has twenty-nine years each cycle. And, the idea that Politicus helped her remember–under the pretense of breaking the curse–paints Politicus as selfish as he was before. It won’t be a show of love. Making the love of your life aware of eternal damnation isn’t love. Love is Politicus suffering alone until he breaks the curse, which is unlikely to involve wakening Zhen’s memories.”

“Right.”

“But, that premise can make quite an adventure–Politicus and Zhen working together to free themselves from the curse.”

“It just… doesn’t make logical sense to you.”

“It doesn’t.”

I sighed. Why couldn’t I see it before? Still, I had to ask. “One more question,” I prompted. “If you were in Zhen’s shoes and Politicus awakened your memories-”

“I might grow to resent him,” she interrupted.

I nodded. “Well, I guess it’s safe to say romance isn’t my forte.”

Lin chuckled. “Stay away from romance, Rob. Stick to your action-adventure-treasure-hunting stuff. It’s what you’re great at. Honestly, I thought you were going to ask me about Politicus’ sword of vengeance. The sword makes a good set-up.”

I forced a smile. “It sure does.”

There was no need to ask about the sword–I knew a lot about it already. And she was right; the sword did make a good set-up. It brought upon a curse I could only blame myself for. But trust me, I’ve tried. No matter how far and wide I’ve searched–in this lifetime and the ones before–I’ve yet to find anything that will break this eternal damnation. But admittedly, I am selfish to wish I wasn’t alone. Is it wrong to desire recognition from the one I love? I’ve lived more than a thousand lives with her by my side, but not once has she looked at me the way she did when she first died. Even in this twenty first century life–a month and fifteen days before her death–there was no love in her gaze. And, if I didn’t want her to resent me, I will have to watch her die… again.

“Free for dinner tonight?” I asked.

“No questions about the sword?”

“None.”

“I should be free tonight.”

“Great. It’ll be awhile before we get to meet again.”

Lin chuckled. “That’s life, isn’t it?”

I nodded. “That’s… how it always seems to be.”

Perhaps in our next life, I’ll finally break the curse—ending this vicious cycle–and make what Zhen calls a cliche ending… our reality.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2018 in Original Works

 

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No ‘Proper’ Post This Week — It’s The New Year!

This post has been scheduled in advance, since I’m not around to physically hit publish–as this goes up, I’m likely at my aunt’s place for my yearly family reunion dinner. But wait, isn’t the New Year on January first? Well, yes and no.

If you live in Asia, you might find yourself an extra holiday around January or February. Schools will be on a short break, while most companies close for a few days. After all, it’s the Lunar New Year!

The Lunar New Year is a tradition for East Asians. If you’re not married, you’ll follow your parents back to their hometowns to visit your relatives. You’ll also receive red packets containing money. There’s a reunion dinner, house visitations, and… a lot of sitting around and snacking on festive treats. So, with the excuse of being away, I’ve not written a proper post for today.

For those who’re celebrating the Lunar New Year, I hope you have a great time with your family. For those who’re on holiday because of it, I hope you also have a great time with your family. And for those who wished they had a break but don’t live in Asia, I’ll be back next week with what I hope to be an exciting post (if my schedule goes as plan). So until then, have a great week ahead!

GET SOCIAL WITH ME!

Guess what? I’ll be posting excerpts of The Slave Prince on my Facebook and Twitter timeline leading up to its publication. If you’d like to sample what’s in store, follow me on these two platforms. But… if you’d like to get even more personal, I’m on Instagram! I don’t post much about writing on Instagram but focus more on my other two passions: travel and fitness.

FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2018 in Others

 

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Mapping My Universe ft. John Robin

One of the most enjoyable phases, during the production of The Slave Prince, was having two maps cartograph-ed by my author friend, John Robin. Now, if you’re an author, having your fictional world realised on paper is an amazing feeling. It takes the publishing experience to a whole new, fantastical level. It makes your work feel legit, as though it’s ready to play with the big boys! So truly, I am very grateful for the work John has done. And today, I’m giving him the spotlight.

Having worked with him, I believe John can give great insight on world building from a writer/cartographer standpoint. As a writer himself – authoring A Thousand Roads – he is able to approach this facet of ‘creation’ from a unique perspective. So whether you’re a writer, an artist, both, or neither, what he has to say will certainly make an interesting read. But… before we get to the Q&A, let’s take a look at what he has done for the realm of The Slave Prince.

FROM DOODLE TO ART
*Click image to enlarge*

CHATTING WITH JOHN ROBIN

Me: So John, let’s start with how you begin mapping a universe?

John: This is actually the hardest part for me. I always need a starting point. Usually, when it is my own world, I will begin one map by expanding another, or drawing beyond the boundaries of others where I have been curious about what lay beyond them. I just need a starting point, then my pen tells me where to go.

I find it much easier to draw someone else’s fantasy universe because I can always ask for a sketch. In your case, with The Slave Prince, the two sketches you provided me were excellent because I was able to begin translating your vision into something produced by my own hand.

Me: Do you incorporate your own imagination into the maps?

John: Absolutely. Most of the flourishes that end up in the final map are discoveries that happen in the process of doing. For instance, the forest south of Alpenwhist on the kingdom map wasn’t in the plan, but our work developing the world map beforehand reminded me there are woods south of Alpenwhist. So, I drew the woods. I didn’t expect there to be so many details in the forest, but the process of drawing revealed surprises, as it always does for me when trees are involved.

I cannot explain how this happens. It’s a bit like writing a book I suppose: one might see many plot points, but there are the surprises that come a few paragraphs from when you write them, and they radically change the story. Aragorn in Lord of the Rings was a character like this, apparently – just walked into the story, but what an important player to the whole trilogy! This is much like how I’d describe my imagination at play when I draw a map. Be it my universe or someone else’s, the map is a drawing and it has a life and a story, much like a book. The lines are the storytellers, and I am their obedient scribe.

Me: What do you find challenging in each project?

John: The hardest part for me is usually the final touches, especially the labeling. I prefer to write my own labels in a styled script by hand, but as I learned in our work together, these don’t translate well in a smaller map on page. I learned a lot about incorporating fonts and spaces in Photoshop after the drawing was complete. However, I do want to develop my own fonts based on my handwritten letters for future. It was liberating working on the second map (Alpenwhist kingdom map) knowing I could draw it without placing any labels. In the case of the world map, which I drew first, I wrote in all the labels by hand, then had to meticulously erase every one to replace them with a font. The advantage of this was that the space for the label was created. What this taught me was to leave space for labels on future maps, and hopefully begin my own carefully crafted letters for future use.

Me: What do you enjoy about cartography?

John: Drawing a map tells me the story of a world. Seeing how mountains span, rivers bend, forests arise, coast lines bend and shape, lakes appear on empty page, islands dot the seas – all these things tell me a story. Not just in the shapes. Often I will see a stand of trees and know it has an important history or should have a name. Or, I will label a territory and the story behind it comes to mind just in how the name sounds once I write it down. Drawing maps is what, for me, makes a fantasy world feel truly alive. In fact, when I go to the fantasy section and look for new fantasy books, it’s the maps that I turn to right away and tell me whether I want to enter this new world or not. It was, after all, the map of Wilderland in The Hobbit, on my grandmother’s bookshelf, that I would flip to many nights before I knew how to read, that eventually pulled me to fantasy and my own map-making.

Me: Does cartography help you in your own writing endeavours?

John: Yes! There is a storytelling that augments the narrative form I experience when writing. It sharpens world-building in ways that listing details alone would not do. In a way, drawing a map is a third level of engaging with a fantasy world beyond writing and world-building. A bit like M.C. Escher’s drawing hands, one feeds the other, and the other feeds it, and it circles on and on into deeper levels of imagination.

… 

What did I say – it takes someone who can channel both of his amazing gifts to be able to build worlds from a unique perspective. I’ve found myself trusting John in the decisions he has made for my world and I have no regrets. Thanks again John, for playing such an important role in the production of The Slave Prince! You the man!

I hope this post has given you some insight on cartography and how it can build a fantasy world. I’ve learned a lot from working with John, and I’ve learned some more just from this ‘interview’. If you’d like to know more about John and his works, take a peek below! I’ve included some extras for those who’d like to give this man and his talent a chance.

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MORE ON JOHN ROBIN

John runs a blog at TheEpicFantasyWriter. He’s also the senior editor of Story Perfect Editing Services and founder of Dreamscape Cover DesignsIf you’d like to get in-touch with John on social media, he’s on Twitter and Facebook!

A Thousand Roads 

Release Date: October 31, 2018 (eBook) / January 19, 2019 (Paperback)
Genre: Dark epic fantasy

Disclaimer: this novel is intended for adult readers. It contains sex, violence, coarse language, and dark subject matter.

Azzadul, the god-king, the Lord of Light revered by many. When the darkness corrupted him, he became the Dark Lord, feared the world over. His magic, once a gateway to immortality for his people, delved instead into horrors as he sought ever deeper levels of mastery. Children were stolen from their beds, coveted for his blood-rites. When he vanished, it all ended, and the people of the world tried to forget, to move on…

Jak Fuller has always wanted a home. An orphan born ten years after Azzadul’s disappearance, he has wandered far and wide, trying to forget the memory of a burning woman. When he comes to Fort Lasthall, on the outskirts of the Dark Lord’s former kingdom, he hopes to finally settle into a peaceful life. Instead, he finds himself unnaturally compelled by a dark, terrible voice, a voice that knows him, calls to him. A sense of destiny that fills him with fear.

New powers are rising in the dark places of the world. A master of fire-rites called Talamus the Red, arch-foe of Azzadul, seeks to enslave the world with a magic he has been developing for the many centuries of his life. Ready at last, there is only one weakness in his plan, an obstacle he is determined to destroy: a boy, bound to an old magic that just might resurrect the power of Azzadul.

The very power bound to Jak, before he was even born…

PRE-ORDER JOHN’S DEBUT NOVEL NOW!

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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Cave of Dreams [12 Genre Months]

It began with a curse, passed down from one generation onto the next–a curse many of his ancestors called a gift. Yet, in the mind of this boy king, he was condemned–condemned by the boy in the mirror. For unlike his father and the kings who ruled before him, he loathed his reflection.

What he saw, even in his human state, was a beast. His deep-set eyes hung tired from the fear of death. His youthful grin lost in the kingdoms he had conquered. His sword-wielding arm stained by the blood of his enemies. Never was he just a boy–always, he was a monster hungry for the next victory, the next throne, the next war. What a miracle it would be, if he stopped swinging blades for a day. And, a miracle it was.

“This will be my last battle,” he said.

Sheathing his double-edged sword, he strolled to his steed with his royal army behind him.

“This will ruin your empire,” his advisor replied. “This will ruin you, your majesty.”

“I’m already ruined.”

“You are more victorious than the kings before you. And, you can do so much more.”

“This isn’t me. Before I lose myself again, I must do this.”

During the battle at Vita, while his men pillaged the kingdom, he heard of the Cave of Dreams. Some of the citizens of Vita had braved the beast within in order to flee the war. Alas, no one knew what became of the courageous few. But as Vita crumbled to ashes, the folklore reached his ears–what seemed like a myth was hope.

“Your majesty-”

“I am a monster. I have no control over this body and what it becomes.”

“You are a warrior–a king–not a monster. What will our kingdom become if this beast takes your gift?”

“Gift?” He chuckled.

Arguing with any of the men in his royal court was a futile endeavour. They were the first to reap the harvest of war and would say anything to stop him. Deciding he had wasted enough time with the pointless debate, he excused his advisor and mounted his horse. Reining his stallion East, the journey began.

The Cave of Dreams nestled within the Eastern volcanic range, by the foot of the tallest mountain in the snow-capped massif. From the ruins of Vita, he rode through the pine-dense timberland, crossed pebble-shored rivers, edged around slippery cliffs, before reaching the valleys of the mounts. The tallest of the mounts rose at the head of the range–the colossal grey rock was both daunting and magnificent. But unlike its siblings lined behind it–all birthed from the same phenomenon–it homed the gift only bestowed upon the first born: the cave.

From above the valley, the cave was invisible to the human eye. But as the entourage descended into the first basin, stirring with a bone-chilling breeze, the cave made its presence known. Its mouth, as wide as his kingdom’s iron gate, opened to an unwelcoming darkness. No sound escaped its cracking lip. Nothing living grew within. If he was a common boy, who had never faced death, he would’ve rode by without hesitation. Unfortunately, he was a king–owning a list of enemies before he even became a man.

Dismounting his steed, he strode to the mouth of the cave. But as his men lit their torches, ready to go before him, he had the strangest thought. It wasn’t his own–or at least, it didn’t feel like his own.

Taking a blazing torch, he said, “I’m going alone.” The captain of his army parted his lips, but before the soldier could insist, he repeated, “I’m going alone.”

His men knew not to challenge him. Retreating to their horses–possibly wondering if his nine year-old brother could fill his shoes should he never return–he turned his back toward them. Then, with determination to break the curse, he pushed forward.

He had no fear. He had seen darkness far more consuming than the one before him. He had swam in silence far more lifeless than the hollow engulfing him. He lost his soul at the age of twelve, when the weight of the crown was placed upon his fragile shoulders. And though he had feared death for the past three years, he didn’t fear it anymore. With each step he took, he set his eyes on salvation. But, how many steps were there? The walk down the burrow felt like an endless journey. The entrance of the cave had long vanished–only blackness surrounded him. When he finally spoke, as a question to himself, he found the answer.

“When does this end?” he murmured.

“It ends… when you want it to end,” a deep voice echoed.

“Are you the beast?” he asked the disembodied voice.     

“I am… what you want me to be.”

“Then grant me a wish, as the people say you will do.”

“What do you wish for?”

“I wish to be human.”

“Human? You look human.”

“I am not. There’s a curse upon my family–the men who wear the crown become monsters on the battlefield.”

“Then… take off the crown.”

“I can’t–I will only be passing the curse to my brother.”

“I will grant your wish, if you take off the crown.”

“You will break the curse?”

“Yes.”

“Very well.”

Without contemplation, he lifted the gold, ruby-encrusted crown off his head and placed it on the uneven ground.

“Good. Now,” the voice said, “wake up.”

He opened his eyes. The bright light, streaming through the window of his doctor’s office, blinded him for a second.

“How do you feel?” his doctor asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied, blinking his eyes into focus. “Am I supposed to be a different person?”

“Hypnotherapy doesn’t reflect immediately after a session. Let’s see how your week goes before we give it another try.”

“Sure. I can do that.”

His doctor grinned, before swiftly scribbling on a page in a leather-bound book.

“What are you writing?” he asked.

“You said, you can do that.”

“Is that… odd?”

His doctor merely smiled. “I’ll see you next week. Same time?”

“Sure, doc. I can do that too.”

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2018 in Original Works

 

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Learn | Window | Brussels

One window remained. The only window un-shattered. Our last window to freedom.

“Are you sure we’re going the right way?” I asked, as skepticism settled.

“We’re almost there,” Marie answered – too confidently for someone without a map.

“I think we’re lost,” I stated.

“We’re not.”

Marie tapped on her compass, signalling we were still heading north. North was what we were told to follow – go north and you’ll find the castle. But after three hours of trekking the Hallerbos, my doubts could no longer be silence. What was I thinking? Could we be walking into a German trap? Should we turn back? I hesitated to suggest.

“Marie…”

Marie hissed. “Believe, Camille. We cannot lose hope now.”

Hope – hope started this mad venture. It had us believing the whispers of a butcher, whose family had successfully fled to the United Kingdom. He claimed that they escaped through a magical window of an ancient castle, nestled within the Halle Forest. But as fictitious as it sounded, many believed him. And to add truth to his fairy-tale, those who left for Hallerbos never returned.

The skeptics theorised that the Germans had caught those who attempted escape. But the believers clutched at the promise of freedom. As Marie and I hoped to flee the war, we believed the story too. So, we packed our bags and traveled from Brussels to Hallerbos.

To some of the older Belgian folks, Hallerbos was known as a mystical forest. During a specific time of the year, bluebell flowers would carpet the terrain. In such great numbers, the deep blue and purple flora was said to be magical – it could bring forth or shadow what lay on the forest ground. But before the seasonal bluebells could lead us to the castle, it brought us the soldiers.  

“Down,” I whispered, tugging Marie to her knees.

I couldn’t see the armed men in their field-grey uniforms, but I could hear them. Their foreign chatter traveled between the tall, scrawny trees. And as their voices rose in decibels, my heart pounded deafeningly in competition.

“Where are they?” Marie mouthed.

In reply to her question, I snapped my head in all cardinal directions. But in hope of glimpsing the enemy first, I saw no one – not even a silhouette. With the disembodied voices and the trudging of footsteps growing louder every second, I froze in fear. And then, as though they had heard my racing heart, the soldiers halted their conversations.

Instantly, I lay flat on my stomach. I cupped my hands over my mouth and lowered my head. I prayed to be unseen. I wished for peaceful silence. Unfortunately, the crunching of dry leaves and broken twigs persisted. They drew nearer until eventually, I could sense the enemy’s presence. I could feel their movement. And I knew, they would soon find me. But like a child, I believed that if I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me too. What a naive notion it was, until the encircling bluebells rustled.

The flowers shifted, as though someone was moving through them. Stiff as a log, the bluebells brushed against my body. At that moment, I expected a painful jab from the end of a rifle. But as I waited, nothing happened. Did they not see me? With courageous curiosity, I turned my head to peek. And to my surprise, there was no soldier hovering above me. Cautiously pushing myself into a seated position, while I scanned the dense timberland, I heard no voice and saw no man.

Still, something odd was occurring. The bluebells continued to rustle with the sound of heavy footsteps. The flora parted, creating multiple trails that slithered away from where I sat. Then, after what felt like an eternity of the strange phenomenon, silence cloaked the Hallerbos.

“Marie,” I whispered.

Marie remained on her stomach, stifling what sounded like sobs.

Marie,” I repeated.

As I moved in to comfort her, a peculiar shadow caught my eye. It had emerged up ahead, veiled by a ghostly fog. It didn’t outline a castle, but was large enough to be what we were looking for.

“Marie,” I said. “I think… we found it.”

Marie peered up – cheeks wet with tears. As I pointed toward the silhouette, she turned her head and gasped.

“We… we found it,” Marie chimed. “Let’s go – the window is on the first floor.”

Without hesitation, Marie rushed ahead. Staying on her tail, I kept the silhouette in sight. As the fog around the structure began to thin, I squinted my eyes in search of the window. How it could take us to safety was no longer a question. All I hoped for, was the sight of the window itself. For if I saw it – the only un-shattered window – I would learn that the story is true… and that my faith had finally saved me.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Learn, window, and Brussels were words given by iamvickiroberts. I chose to build this story around the location, because I don’t think I’ve done something like this before. I guess… it didn’t turn out so bad. And, I discovered the existence of Hallerbos – yes, it’s real, I didn’t make it up.

Now, it’s your turn. You have until the end of January to write a story of your own with the three words given. Oh, and if you’d like me to write a tale set in your country, leave 3 words (one of which being your country) in the comment section below!

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3 Words, 1 Story © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2018 in Original Works

 

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