Winter In Words

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All month long I’m going to be hosting the posts of other people as part of my 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends beyond my blog as well, and I will do my best to link to each external post from the here and share them on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

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Winter in Words

A Guest Post by Doug Blakeslee

I wrote a novella, Fire and Frost, featuring a character associated with winter and related elements. I’ll admit have a character that embodies Fire and one associated with Cold is a cliché. In my defense, the story started with a superhero theme and changed along the way. Alexia grew from a background character to being a strong partner of the main character over the four or five revisions that I made to the story. She’s appeared in a couple of short stories, plays a major role in my current novel project, and mentioned in passing in related stories. Scenes have been rewritten to include her or shift to her point of view. She’s one of my top picks if I’m writing urban fantasy and the story requires female voice.

Alexia is the daughter of Yellusia [a Fae] and Alfonso [a mortal occultist]. They made a bargain, which resulted in a child whom the mother left in care of the father. She’s smart and well-educated thanks to her father’s teaching. Her looks and strong ties to winter come from her mother. I wanted her to be an equal to the main character of the novella. Truth be told, it took the last two revisions to bring her to that point. Alexia does get kidnapped, but she’s not the quiet prisoner, assists in her own escape, and takes control of situations when her expertise is required. She’s not a bystander and will not allow herself to be shunted to the side.

Her mother’s domain is, as one might guess, referred to as the Winter Realm. Vast plains of ice and snow with frozen rivers running through them. Stands of evergreens dot the landscape and provide shelter from the near constant wind that whistle down from the mountains. Rare is the day where snow doesn’t fall. Alp-like peaks surround the realm to form an impervious barrier to the other realms. The Winter Queen likes her privacy. Her fortress sits in the middle of the realm, rising out a frozen lake with minarets of ice. The blue-skinned elves that serve as her army aren’t the cheery kind that makes toys and there’s no jolly fat man in a red suit. Snow faeries, yeti, ogres, along with wolves, rabbits, and reindeer inhabit the “wilds” of the realm. Yellusia’s rule is lax for one of the Fae, owing to her association to mortals for the past few centuries.

My short story, Winter’s Daughter, is set in a “remote” area of the realm. It seems obvious now, but the connection wasn’t intentional as I wrote. This does mean I can use the two protagonists as they’re now connected to my fictional world. The realm also features in my current novel where I fill out more details of the realm, Alexia, and her mother. Winter’s going to remain a theme in my stories for the near future. I might even try to work in Santa, Krampus, and an animated snowman in future stories.

Here are a couple excerpts from stories featuring Alexia:

This is from my novella, ”Fire and Frost”. Theo and Alexia along with allies are trying to stop a minor incursion of Fae into the real world.

The noise rose as the surface tension of the large bubbling mass broke. Three, frog-like heads bobbed in the air on long necks that rose from a tank-like body. A toad, grown to twice the size of a killer whale. It waddle-hopped on all fours, letting out a thunderous croak, spitting out a mass of water and slime that drenched the first of the invaders and the priest. He shouted something unintelligible in the din of noise.

“That’s a big-ass frog,” Squire Greene said.

“Hydra,” I replied. Gold and white lettering traced down the gun barrel. Enchanted pistols, another trick for the modern age. The fairy tales tell of magical swords and daggers. They give weight to the legends and that means power. Modern times require modern methods.

“One of them anyways,” added Alexia. Her training shown through. She spoke and wrote in a dozen languages and carried an encyclopedic range of magical lore in her sharp mind. Poised and precise, a voice of reason and deliberate thought to my impulsive nature. My uptown girl.

“One of them?” His voice rose a bit.

“Welcome to Mythology 101. Don’t always believe popular fiction. They miss on many of the details. That’s why Theo keeps me around.” She gave me a smirk and a wink.

This is from “Here There Be Dragons”, a short story. Theo and Alexia are taking a room at an inn.

“Ye youngin’s heading towards the market? It is to be a grand thing.” Her tread on the stairs reminded me of bowling balls slammed together.

“We are,” I said. She led us up two flights of stairs and down a tiled hallway. “How long does the coach ride take?”

“A month of Sundays and an hour,” she said, pulling out a ring of keys, then pushed open a door. “Room with a bath. No sharing of facilities for ye kids.”

The chamber’s interior resembled the finest suite of a four star hotel. Wall to wall carpeting, king sized bed, and a bathroom complete with a hot-tub. Theo whistled at the sight.

“Leave the clothing on the hamper for the house elves, a complementary service. No room service, but meals are always available. We have our own grandmother in the kitchen.”

“It’s wonderful. Please, take your pick of a gift for the hospitality of this fine inn.” I fished out a leather cloth from the pack and unrolled it on the side table.

Her eyes narrowed at the array of objects. A silver hand mirror sans the reflective surface. Dreamcatcher of silk, gossamer, and the hair of a madman. Three strands of uncooked spaghetti wrapped by black thread, sealed with a drop of red wax, then wrapped around a spindle. The diary of a young girl, pierced by a paring knife. A vial of boiling sand. Her hand fell upon the last item.

This will suffice. A pleasure to do business with those that respect the traditional way.”

“We’ll be down shortly for a meal,” I said.

She winked at Theo, then closed the door.

“I don’t remember you packing those.” He dumped the pack on the floor and began to strip.

I paused to watch, admiring the toned body. He worked hard to keep fit and it paid dividends in eye candy. “They don’t take credit cards or cash here. You were too busy with the guns and camping gear.”

This is from “Strings of the Dead”, a short story. Alexia is investigating a cursed lyre and its connection to a murder.

Small rooms lined the hallway, large enough for a bed and nightstand. At the end of the hallway, two shared bathrooms with iron tubs and stand-alone sinks. Relics of the time when the saloon was first built. Alexia opened the door to room six and took a step back. Screams of ethereal energy infused the room, spewing forth to twirl and spiral across the walls and ceiling. Colored ribbons writhed as they danced to a tune that only they could hear. The source lay on the bed; a lyre of oak and vines resting on a velvet lining inside an open instrument case.

She felt a cool touch run across her neck, the light brushing of ethereal fingertips. “Spirit, please show yourself.”

Her breath fogged in the air as a swirling mass drifted down the hallway and coalesced into the hazy figure of a thin man. His eyes reflected a great fear, his mouth turned down in profound sadness.

“Go. Flee,” he whispered.

“Explain,” Alexia said.

“It hates you.” The spirit’s eye morphed between bright points of light and deep wells of darkness.

“Me?”

“You threaten it and the shade that follows. They’ll be your doom,” the ghost whispered, “a revenant of misfortune and greed and hubris.”

“Thank you, spirit,” she said.

“Run, girl. Run.” The old man’s face melted, ectoplasm streaming away in wisps, fading to nothing.

Alexia whirled around, taking the stairs two at the time, and skidded to a halt half way across the ground floor. Beyond the storefront window, an ethereal scarecrow-like figure stood on the sidewalk. A featureless face stared at her, radiating streams of envy and hatred. A void opened where the things mouth should have been and a soul-rending scream echoed up and down the street.

She pressed against a nearby column, seeking cover behind the wooden beam as the windows shattered, spraying shards of glass inwards. A piece lacerated her arm, sending a thin stream of blood splattering onto the floor. She dug into the side pocket of the courier bag, ignoring the stinging pain. Her fingers wrapped around a copper disk.

“Signs of old, strength of old. Ward and guard, bend and mold.” The patina on the copper disk flaked away, exposing the bare metal and the intricate engravings along the edge. Glamour pulsed out with her words, a white tinged flow of energy.

She heard another wail, laced with fear from behind her, then the rustle of cloth. Silence. Alexia glanced around the corner of the post. Car alarms whooped and wailed on the street. No sign of the malevolent spirit.

*  *  *

In real life, Doug buys games for a living and eat. His free time is spent writing to get the voices out of his head and playing RPGs. He’s managed to sell a number of short stories and working on his first novel. He can be found on Facebook, Blogspot [The Simms Project], and Twitter [@simms_doug].

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