Where Dreams Grow

The kids and I are back on the farm this week.

It’s raining. Tornado watches have been in effect for hours, but not even the rain can damper the joy of this view.

 

rainy drive way

See between those trees? That’s the field where I once rode my horses around the outer edges with cousins so many times I’ve lost count. We talked about boys, horse shows, dreams, and life.

The field is still there. Here, I can hear the rain. I like the rain. It helps things to grow.

Especially dreams.

It can also plant seeds–the type that grow inside us.

There is just something about being home. The longing that arises, the dreams that stir anew, the absorption of peace and joy of your surroundings….

There is nothing better to get the creative juices flowing again then to fertilize a dream with a little farming, fishing, and troll hunting. Yep, troll hunting. Over the next few weeks, you’ll understand what I mean. I’ve already contacted the locals to let them know if they see a strange woman stumbling down the old trails of her youth that it’s me, hunting for signs of trolls.

I think I’ll start with the out skirts of the fields, if dreams can grow there, trolls can, too, right?

 

 

 

 

Have We All Strayed From Reality?

I recently read that as we mature our brains become more able to separate what is real from what is fantasy. The information I found also said that it takes a community or an environment to help train our brains to recognize the difference.

When I was a tween, I remembered watching a Conan the Barbarian movie, you know the one where the bad guy’s head gets cut off and rolls down the stairs, and it gave me nightmares for weeks.

credit via entertainmenteveryday

So of course, my parents wouldn’t let me watch any more movies like that for quite some time. But they and my brother also did something else, they explained to me that everything I’d seen on that television was made-up, pretend, it wasn’t real.

Then came the Highlander series and by that time, I had no problem watching movies with people getting their heads cut off. There wasn’t any blood, and I knew by then this was all made up for entertainment purposes. I not only watched all the Highlander movies, but sat and watched the series on TV with my brother. It was cool.

credit via weapons-universe.com

Back then, what we saw on television was fictional. What was real came in the form of news and talk shows. Even then, most of the sitcoms we watched were created to promote family values. Anyone remember the Cosby’s? How about Family Ties or Home Improvement or Third Rock from the Sun? (I know I just further aged myself here.)
Where have all those shows gone?

Now, what we see on television is more reality than fantasy. We see television shows about cake contest and climbing the corporate ladder, but we also see crime scenes, cops and violence, and many sit coms filled with vulgarity and dysfunctional families.

Then a few days ago, I came across the horrific story of the two students that stabbed a fellow student and blamed it on a fictional character named Slender Man. I’m not sure what distressed me more, this violent act, or not knowing this character existed and my kids did.

The questions that arose from this was: Can you blame a fictional character for your actions? Whose fault is it – the media or the parents?

To which I’ve had some time to think on this. You may agree or disagree, but this my personal thoughts on this subject.

All of the above is to blame. Not one of these factors is individually responsible for the actions our youth take when influenced by what they have been exposed to at home, at school, or in our communities (internet communities included).

No matter what your role is to the youth in our community, we are all responsible to help those youth learn to differentiate reality vs fantasy and wrong vs right. A parent’s role in mentoring their child is much greater.
Parents, you are the defender of your child, the one with the sword and the shield, and the one with the wisdom to guide them on their journey from birth to adulthood. When the quest becomes difficult, you can enlist the help of family, friends, and other experienced elders in your community.

Youth, you are the ones on the journey. Living in a world all of your own is a great escape. Your quest today is much more difficult than those who have come before you. Oh, the tangled vines that have woven behind us that you must face.

What do you find most scary about our real world?

I Once Was A Troll

If you search the internet for the word ‘troll’ you will find lots of sites that talk about internet trolls, who stalk other people. I was not that kind of troll.

If you play World of WarCraft, one of the characters you will face is a hideous troll. I was not that kind of troll either.

I was a troll that lived under a bridge.

Photo credit: Doug Wildman via Flickr CC

Shortly after getting married, my husband and I moved to Michigan. If you look at the state of Michigan on a map, you will quickly see that Michigan is shaped like a mitten. What many people don’t realize is that there is a second part of Michigan that sits horizontally above the mitten.

The second part is referred to as the Upper Peninsula. People that live in the Upper Peninsula are known as UPers (pronounced “you-pers”).

Between the mitten and the Upper Peninsula Michigan is connected by the Mackinac Bridge – the fifth longest suspension bridge in the world.

People who live in the Upper Peninsula called us, the people who lived in the lower peninsula, trolls, because we lived below the Mackinac Bridge.

So that my friends is how I once was a troll.

Have you ever been given a nickname based on your situation in life? Please share about your experiences in the comments below! I’d love to read them.

 

More on Realm Makers 2014

I know you were expecting another fiction excerpt today, I apologize for this unscheduled interruption in that story feed today.

As I promised more photos and updates on the Realm Makers Conference I just attended, I wanted to get these photos and share this experience with you. I originally had planned to post this on Sunday, but I was so tired and after driving home and having the kiddos needing my attention, I didn’t get it done. Forgive me, I’m a busy mom who gets tired and sometimes forgetful.

steam punk galsAs you can see, Friday night was a bunch of fun at the awards ceremony. Its not every day we authors get to dress up in a fun way and celebrate speculative fiction. I’m looking forward to seeing what new awards and new entertainment is created in the coming years as Realm Makers continues.

Ben Wolf Realm Makers Splickety Magazine Avilian at Realm MakersBoth Ben and Avily from Splickety and Havoc Magazine had a try of my time warp goggles that were a part of my steam punk costume. What do you think, do they look better on Ben or Avily?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see there was a lot of interesting characters / authors attending Friday night’s awards.

Jeff GerkeRealm Makers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Realm Makers

Realm Makers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Ben, Avily, and even Author and Director of Realm Makers, Rebecca Minor and her husband Scott, we were well entertained and had many a laugh through the night.

During Saturday night’s author signing, I caught up with the sci-fi author who helped me fix my flat tire only five minutes from the college to reach Realm Makers– Kerry Nietz.

Amish Vampires in Space

While, I’m not big on vampires, I picked up several interesting books by many of the authors, including Havah, by Tosca Lee – this year’s keynote speaker for Realm Makers. Tosca was kind enough to sign my copy. I, too, was able to catch a photo opportunity with Tosca and will share it in a future post.

I received some great feed back on my WIP Troll Hunter and it looks like editing will have to wait, as I know the revisions I’m about to go back and make are going to make this novel even more awesome than I thought it could be before thanks to the advice of a couple of editors.

Well, I’m off to celebrate being 29 again. One of these days my kiddos will do the math and catch on, but hopefully not today. Not until at least I’ve gotten my birthday cake and been able to eat it, too.

There are two things I enjoy getting for my birthday: 1. being able to share it with my family. 2. a birthday cake. (it’s just not a celebration without a cake.)

How about you? How do you celebrate your birthday?

 

 

 

Realm Makers 2014 Day One

Realm Makers is still in full swing today, but as I’m heading off to enjoy the day with fellow speculative fiction authors, I thought I’d give you all a recap of yesterday’s events.

So when I got up this morning, I was just wanting to escape our dorm. It was soooo cold last night! So much for not packing a blanket. Next time, I’ll know to bring my winter pj’s if we end up back here again.

I had breakfast with some new friends and they even had an omelet station! Which of course, totally made up for freezing all night… okay… maybe.. almost.

Then it was off to help set up the book store.

One of my critique partners set up a table to sell her latest release Perfect Blood, Innocent Blood. You can find it on Amazon.com here.

Cindy Emmet Smith

Keynote Tosca Lee kicked started our day at Realm Makers with a great talk on different elements of speculative fiction.

Tosca LeeI sat in on a workshop on writing villains with author L. B. Graham.

Then off to sit in with Torry Martin on learning the power of networking. He’s a bit ADHD, too. Totally got the bunny trails he took us on during his talk and was a great morning filled with a ton of useful information and meeting new people.

If you’ve been keeping up on Facebook and Twitter, then you may have saw I arrived Thursday night with a flat tire. Totally my fault. I got to close to a curb and hit my tire. So, I skipped lunch and missed the next workshop and two scheduled appoints to take my vehicle to a nearby tire shop and get a new tire. Yes, a new tire. My other one wasn’t repairable.  So maybe I bumped that curb a little harder than I thought.

A lesson learned long ago, pay attention to road, not road signs. LOL.. or college signs to find dorms while driving.

When I got back, I was just in time for Jeff Gerke’s talk on writing rules. Then I had a chance to sit down with Jeff for fifteen minutes and grab some wisdom and insight-fulness from him as I’m working out a few kinks in my work in progress Troll Hunter. I plan to send it off this weekend for editing.

After Jeff’s talk, came a wonderful workshop with Lisa Walker England on Steam punk. As you may have read Thursday’s post, I decided on a steam punk costume for this year’s award ceremony for Realm Makers.

She gave all who took her workshop this special delivery. No, I haven’t opened it yet. I love the packaging, don’t want to take it apart. I know there is a book in there from her and I’ll open it when I get home. For now I’ll enjoy looking at the packaging.

steam punk package

Then I had the pleasure of listing to author Kat Heckenbach talk about Young Adult writing. Very interesting workshop. Lots of good information and meeting people today.

I know you’re all sitting on pins and needles wanting to see photos from last night’s awards ceremony. Hold your horses, they’re coming. I’ll post them tomorrow for you to enjoy as I’m driving home from Philadelphia.  A prayer or two for safe travels would be appreciated, especially after Thursday’s flat tire episode.

Thanks to the director Becky Minor and author Kerry Nietz (Amish Vampires in Space), we got a spare tire on the van and I was able to get to the dorm and as you read above, my vehicle now has a new tire.

If you’re following me on Twitter and/ or Facebook, I’ll be posting updates and photos throughout the day as I did yesterday of the conference. I’ll also be adding an photo album on my Facebook page with additional photos that aren’t here on the blog or tweeted, so be sure to like me on Facebook and check out all the authors and happenings this weekend.

 

 

 

All Dressed Up and Some Place To Go: Realm Makers 2014

In just a few hours I’ll be on my way to Villanova, PA for the 2014 Realm Makers Writers’ Conference. This is my first year attending this conference. The second year for this conference to be held, and I’m totally excited to go. I’ve been trying to figure out my costume for weeks now.

How often do we writers get a chance to drape ourselves in fantasy and sci-fi attire for an evening?

steam punk susan

Here is the inspiration behind my new look found over at steam punk fashions on favimages.net:

But I’m not done yet, a new package just came in the mail last night that may be the corset I ordered weeks ago and could change my outfit.

Well, I’ve got to get going.

I’ve got my camera so I’ll post pictures soon and you all can let me know if I got this new steam punk look down.

 

 

Is Your Marraige just an Illusion?

If I could go back in time and give my lovesick, desperate to leave home, twenty year-old self a reality check, it would be this: “And they lived Happily Ever After” is best kept for the movies and books.

Even then, I stuck my nose into romance novels that always had happy endings. Who wants to read a love story that doesn’t end well? Every romance I’ve ever read promises a future for the couple. It’s all bliss after you get over the obstacles that kept them from thinking they could be together.

Now the reality check.

Obstacles are like pot holes in the road to marriage.

You can’t avoid them.

I have been married for fourteen years now. I’ve met a lot of married couples of all ages. Some of them are very happy. Many of them are miserable. Yes, misery does love company in the worst sort of way.

If I asked couples who are still together what keeps them together, they’d tell me many different words of wisdom. Those little gems that have made marriages work when most don’t.

And the number one reason that most marriages don’t work is because people change.

Over time we are influenced by other people, places we live, and the circumstances we live in. We’re living breathing beings and so for the most part we adapt. Sometimes, however, those changes are not for the better. We become people we don’t know and our spouse doesn’t recognize anymore.

When we change, our dreams, hopes, and expectations can change, too.

It’s hard to face the mirror and look at ourselves and see people we don’t want to acknowledge. It’s so much easier to look at our significant others and point the finger.

The man I married fourteen years ago isn’t the man I’m married to today. Nor am I the woman he married back then, either. I have dreams and more so I came to our marriage with expectations.

Those expectations came from twenty-years of living with my parents. Watching my sisters get married and raise families of their own. Just being part of a family opens a window of role models to what a marriage should look like.

In the past fourteen years, I’ve had three children. I’ve stayed up nights with sick babies, changed diapers, stayed strong through my oldest child’s surgeries; learn what it is to have a child who requires a little more attention, and to live with someone whose personality doesn’t always get along well with others.

Marriage is like a full time job with no overtime pay.

I wish I could go back and tell myself that getting married doesn’t mean you’ll never be alone.

I would also remind the unmarried me that some days you’ll have to put on the pants in the family and step up where the person you’re depending on to do things can’t do them.

There will always be those outside the walls of your home who don’t understand the roles you take, the broken expectations that you carry, or the motives behind your actions. They look through rose-tinted windows and compare their misery to your illusion of marriage.

It’s deceiving and exhausting.

Most of the women I know are lonely. In fact, many of these women would trade a new car for a husband who comes home every night and is willing to mow the grass or fix the leaky faucet so they don’t have to deal with one more item on their to-do list.

To be loved and accepted is the one thing most of us all want. So why is it no one can give us that?

Why can’t a husband cancel a commitment and attend a family gathering or take his wife out on a date? Why can’t a wife leave the house without a child in tow?

Why can’t married people respect each other and nurture each other to help each other grow?

Ah, but that is the key that locks the door and keeps divorce at bay.

If I saw my younger self getting pulled down, exhausted, lonely, and feeling like she can’t hold a marriage together anymore, I’d tell her this: It takes two to make a marriage grow. (tweet this)

Nurture your marriage, not your illusion of what it should be.

All the things you’re trying to do outside your marriage are nothing more than weeds. Yank them out. Soon, you’ll see each other more. You’ll grow closer in your marriage. Then you can truly be one.

Don’t wish for a different life, or a different life partner. Don’t live your life regretting the decisions you made or the lack of pursuits you should have followed.

Marriage is more than a license to get a deduction on your taxes every year.

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. Fourteen years. I spent it here, in front of my computer like any other ordinary day.

Yet it wasn’t an ordinary day. It’s a day to celebrate.

Most couples exchange gifts, go out to dinner, or at the very least receive a card or flowers.

There is a downside to being married. Sometimes our spouses screw up and hurt our feelings. Eventually, we forgive them. Holding grudges and hurt feelings inside will waste your energy and exhaust you emotionally.

Today, I’m preparing for the Realm Maker’s conference. I’ve treated myself to a new pair of boots. While I’m off putting together the last pieces of my costume for conference, tell me: What is one illusion you had going into marriage that nearly broke your relationship?

 

Fiction Teaser Tuesday: Mira – To Choose a Child

Greecia frowned. “She is with Doris in the servant’s chamber. I believe her time has come.”

“Seek out all the horses you can find, if I am not at the well by the high moon then head deep into the jungle toward the mountain,” Mira said. She took the jade handled knife and slid it in her belt. She ran for the servant’s quarters. Glancing back over her shoulder, Mira saw the court yard filled with battle. The echo of grunts and metal clanging filled the night.

On the far end of the castle, Mira shoved the door open to Etta’s room. Doris, an elder servant of the royal family stood weeping. Etta laid still—her skin a parlor of white. Doris nodded to the woven basket at the end of the bed. Mira wrapped her arm around the empress’s child and moved closer to the bed.

“Is it true? Have the Telpurians come?” Doris asked. She wrung her hands in her bloodied apron.

“Telpur has declared all Etherian females five cycles and under are to be executed.”

Doris gasped.

“The guards have entered the city center. We don’t have much time. Can Etta be moved?”

Large tears fell from Doris’s eyes. She stifled a sob. Mira looked over at her younger sister’s ghostly white flesh. She took hold of the hand upon her sister’s abdomen and knew before she felt the cold flesh, her sister was dead.

“She is lost to us now. But the babe still lives.” Doris walked over and pulled a blanket down from over the basket.

Mira stood and gazed inside. If she were forced to choose between the two babies….

“He’s so quiet. Don’t even fuss. Was afraid he might not make it.”

Mira turned away. She blinked back the tears threatening to spill. She clutched the infant princess. “Take him to Queen Analyda. Perhaps he will bring her comfort during this time of separation.”

“The Telpurians…” Doris cried.

“The prophecy for tells the coming of a female. They will not harm this child nor the Queen.” Mira felt the tremble of the earth beneath the stone. Telpurian horsemen were close. They rode in herds by the hundred.

“Go, take the boy to Queen Analyda.”

Doris grabbed the baby and fled.

Mira stood beside the head of Etta’s bed. She pressed a kiss to her fingertips and pressed it to Etta’s forehead. She looked so peaceful as if in slumber. “I will see you once again dear sister.” Slowly, she took the soiled sheet at Etta’s feet and covered her.

Mira spotted Etta’s brown chemise. It was much larger than Mira wore and quickly she shed her cloak and sword. She downed the chemise and put her cloak back on and secured her belt and sword that she may look like a portly woman.
She pulled on the neckline, making sure the infant she carried beneath the cloth could breathe, and slipped out of the chamber and down the corridors of the castle once more.

“Well, what do we have here?” A Telpurian solider come up behind Mira. She spun around about to grab for her sword and clutched her cloak about her instead. She prayed the infant would remain asleep, tightly swaddled against the warmth of her body.

“I am a servant to the Queen. You will let me pass.” Mira tilted up her chin.

“We’ll let you pass, as soon as you hand over that there baby.” A dark clad solider whose breast plate was dented sauntered toward her.

“I say we slash it right out of her,” the other sneered.

“Have you been in battle so long that it has blinded you that you cannot tell the difference between a fat woman and a pregnant one?” Mira asked, her hand inching toward the sword under her cloak.

The solider with the dented breast plate scowled and pointed his sword at her. The tip wavered beneath her chin. She clutched the infant with both hands, praying to Elohim that this child be spared.

“Open your cloak and let’s have a feel, shall we?”

Mira glanced down at the sharp tip of the blade against her tanned skin. The second solider approached her, his hand reaching for the infant princess. From the corner of her eye, Mira spotted a lighted torch on the wall. Quickly, she spun and snatched it. The soldier’s blade sliced through the chemise to the leather and metal skirt she wore beneath. From beneath the cloak the babe cried.

Mira flung the flaming torch back in his face. The fire singed his hair and side of his face. Screaming he fell to the stone walk and rolled. Stunned, the second solider hesitated, and Mira kicked him square in the chest. He stumbled back between the stone arches of the open corridor and fell down the tiered layers of the castle’s foundation.

She clutched the wailing baby and slipped into the darkness.

(A Novel Excerpt by Susan Lower, copyright Susan Lower 2014)

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Why Having Too Much Stuff Can Become a Hazard

Last week it rained. Normally, I like the rain. I just don’t like storms. A rainy day enables me to read a book, work on my latest story, or play video games with my kiddos.

But this week, the rain brought none of those options. Instead, it seeped through the wall of basement and made the floor wet. I’ve had to tear up the matting on the floor of our playroom. Now, for several days we’ve been drying out the basement.

wet basement

Then it rained again, yesterday.

Don’t worry, the first thing the kiddos saved was the Nintendo Wii system and they’re Wii games.

However, my stacks of designer papers for my book binding habit had to be relocated throughout the house.

We now have a narrow path to navigate through rooms, but I saved the paper.

And, the books, toys, and furniture have all been relocated. Nothing is where it belongs.

This past week, I’ve come to realize two things:

  1. How much of an inconvenience it is to work when all your tools, including your laptop, are disburse in multiple areas.
  2. We have entirely too much stuff!

So…

What better way to eliminate stuff then when it’s all out of place?

This is where it gets rough.

It doesn’t all have to go back where it came from – Just the important stuff.

Each book, each sheet of paper, the rocking chair where I sat and nursed my babies these mere years ago… How does one choose what to let go?

Is it any easier to think of what to keep?

Do you have Disney’s Frozen’s song, “Let it go” playing in your head, too?

http://youtu.be/moSFlvxnbgk

We have a few rules in our house when it comes to stuff:

  1. If it doesn’t’ have a place, get rid of it.
  2. Something new in, something old out
  3. If you don’t love it, you don’t need it.

Somewhere along the way we lost track of #3. Like a chain reaction #2 also went missing, mostly likely because we’ve always managed to find a place for things.

Until last week.

Now, we’ve got too many things in too little space.

I’m attached to my paper as my hubby is attached to his books. Our kiddos are very attached to their video games. (Okay, so is my hubby, too.)

Downsizing doesn’t feel very fair at all.

Because it isn’t.

Because it forces us to make choices.

What if we get rid of it and later we need it? Or maybe it’s irreplaceable.

Two years ago, my laptop died on the last day of the Saint Davids Christian Writers’ Conference. I ended up getting a new laptop. I miss my old laptop. But, my new laptop doesn’t weigh as much. The keyboard is smoother, and it’s blue instead of black. It’s simple without all the bells and whistles my old laptop had.

I haven’t needed them, either.

Over half the books we own haven’t been read in years. Many of them are academic texts that belong to my hubby. Those we do read have gathered on a ‘favored shelf’ near the kitchen.

My paper is not so easily consolidated. I have papers of all kinds for making hand bound books. Lots of scraps the kiddos make art with.

The scraps I can part with, the odd design ones that wouldn’t make good books, I usually give away.

That old rocking chair gets stuck mid-rock thanks to kiddo’s rocking too hard in it. So it goes.

Let it go…

Breathe.

Another replacement is on its way.

Now, to make a path through the kiddo’s room. If you don’t hear from me soon, you’ll know where I am. Don’t try to find me, you may get lost, too!

Fiction Teaser Tuesday: Mira – The Invasion

 

Dark clouds hid the stars. Harsh winds howled with rage across the sea. Mira stood, her chin tilted up and her hands clasped in front of her. Analyda, Empress of Etheria, turned away from the small rectangular window of her palace suite.

Through the vat darkness a spot of moon shone like a mere star through the opening of the window.

“They’ve come, Mistress.”

A wave crashed against the rocks below and carried up the palace walls. A vile tainted odor came from the turbulent sea, wafting around them.

“Does anyone else know?” Mistress asked.

Mira pulled back her shoulders and her hand rested on the hilt of the broadsword at her hip.

Sounds of palace stone groaning against harsh winds wakened the baby nestled in a basket on the large four post bed.

“They’ve raided Vertmist and Morness. Many of the citizens have fled here.”

Analyda crossed the distance to her bed, and picked up the babe swaddled in rich silk. Cradling it close to her heart, the babe dozed again. “It was only a matter of time.”

Analyda turned away, humming and swaying.

Mira stiffed her back. She wished there were words she could speak to take the Empress’s distress away. “We cannot stay here unprotected.”

Analyda turned back to Mira. “The king’s guard still stand and I have my sisters with swords, do I not?”

Mira nodded. “That is so, but we are few in their large numbers.”

Analyda pulled back the swaddling and gazed down at her babe. “I have already lost one beloved. I shall not lose another.”

Shouts filled the corridors. Mira stepped out the doorway. From here, through the open corridor she could see most of her empire’s capital city of Alba.  Her blood chilled. Telpurian rebels scaled the slopes.

Mira turned back to Analyda. The empresses complexion paled. “If what the scribe has foretold and Telpurs Horde truly believe it, then not one single female child shall survive to see morning.”

“They seek only one,” Mira said.

“But which one? What harm could an innocent child do?” Analyda kissed the top of her baby’s head. She turned and laid the child back into the basket. “Mira?”

“Yes, Mistress?” Mira kept watch at the threshold of the chamber. Outside the fervent calls of shouting increased.

“What I am about to ask of you is most difficult,” Analyda said.

Mira’s heart beat wildly in her chest. Her gaze locked on Analyda’s face. She could see the brim of tears beneath her empress’s lashes.

“She is a blessing, is she not?” Analyda tucked the babe in and pulled from her own gold engraved belt, a small dagger with a jade handle. “It isn’t fair that one child be spared when all the others have been brutally taken from us.”

Analyda skirts swirled behind her as she turned with the basket in her arms and handed it to Mira.

Lost for words, Mira watched as Analyda caressed the babe’s check with her finger. “Tis the will of Elohiem, I suppose.” Analyda gazed down upon the sleeping baby, then into Mira’s eyes. “That is why you must gather every young females and their mothers. Take them deep into the jungle to the cave of Gilhar. They will be safe there.”

“Would this journey not be best for another, that I may stay and see to your protection?” Mira gripped the child.

“Scyleia shall stand in your place. This journey is most important and I would have no one but you see to its fulfillment.” Tears streaked down Analyda’s face. “You have been a most trusted and loyal friend. Go now. Protect her as you have protected me.”

“I can not leave you.” Mira’s knees locked. She took an oath to protect Mistress, she could not allow anything but death to break it.

“They are not after me. Now, please… go.”

It was this child that brought danger to Mistress. By taking the child she would protect both from harm. Mira glanced down at the sleeping infant. “As you wish.”

She turned on her heel to leave.

“Mira,” Analyda said. “I believe the fate of our lives is now in your hands. Protect it always.”

Mira rushed through the castle, her fellow sisters with swords gathered in the court yard. Mira spotted Scyleia.

“Mir? What treachery is this?” Scyleia asked, several other sisters enclosed upon Mira. They all wore their hooded cloaks, hiding from view their broadswords and bows and quivers.

“Mistress awaits you in her chambers, Scyleia. The rest of you, spread yourselves throughout the city. Call to every woman with a young daughter to come with you. We will meet south of the city by the scared well.”

From inside the basket, the baby wailed.

“Is that our princess?” Scyleia glared at Mira and made a reach for it.

“Mistress placed this child under my protection. In my absence, you will protect our empress.” Mira yanked the basket out of Scyleia’s grasp.

Several Telpurian rebels rushed into the courtyard. Three sisters pushed back their hoods and met the men with metal clashing metal.

“We must hurry. Empress Analyda is unprotected. Go to her now,” Mira set down the basket. She pulled the crying baby from within. Greecia, a young woman with hair the color of a raven, stepped forward. Greecia unclasped Mira’s cloak and helped Mira fashion a carrier for the baby, holding her close to Mira’s bosom. The others took off through the court yard.

“Where is Etta?”

( A Novel Excerpt by Susan Lower, Copyright Susan Lower, 2014)