Tag Archives: story

Writing Hub -Books, Writing, Tips & more…


writing-hub

Writing:

My current flu has made concentration rather difficult so my creativity has suffered this past week.I think it is struggling against a ‘fuzzy’ head that has made creation arduous.

What illness / situation has made your creativity stall?

However, I was able to begin beta-reading two manuscripts for author friends, one is a thriller and the other a memoir. Both are intriguing in their own way. I am reading each one at separate times of the day so that I am ‘clear’ of one story line before reading the next one. I have shared a list of tips on beta-reading for those of you interested.

Books:

I continue to enjoy Beyond the Precipice by Eva Blaskovic. The writing is creative and the interwoven music elements make the story unique.With my other reading projects it is nice to let the story embrace me and lead me forward.

beyond-the-precipice

Do you tend to read one book at a time or many?

Do you lean towards fiction or factual?

I still have this novella on my pile too:

the-outcasts

https://www.amazon.com/Outcasts-Maddison-Lily-Fox-Andrews/dp/1908128720

Writing Tip:

beta

If you are unsure of how to beta-read try these steps – I found them at http://jamigold.com/2014/08/introducing-the-beta-reading-worksheet/

Opening Scene:

Does the story begin with an interesting hook, creating a desire to read more?
Does the manuscript begin in the right place?

Characterization & Motivation:

Are the characters compelling, sympathetic, or someone you can root for?
Do the characters feel real and three-dimensional, with distinct voices, flaws, and virtues?
Are their goals clear and proactive enough to influence the plot (not passive)?
Do their motivations seem believable, with well-drawn and appropriate emotion?
Are the secondary characters well-rounded and enhance the story rather than overwhelming the story or seeming like they should be cut?
Are the relationships between the characters believable and not contrived?

Plot & Conflict:

Are the internal and external conflicts well defined for each main character?
Are the internal and external conflicts organic and believable, i.e. arising out of characterization and circumstance rather than feeling contrived or forced?
Are there enough stakes and/or tension throughout to make it a “page turner”?
Does the premise avoid cliché and/or bring a fresh perspective to an old idea?
Are the plot twists believable yet unexpected?
Do the characters act or react to events in a plausible, realistic, or believable way?

Pacing:
Do scenes progress in a realistic, compelling manner and flow with effective transitions?
Does every scene add to and seem important to the story?
Does the story move along at an appropriate pace, without rushing or dragging?
Is there a hook at the end of each chapter or scene that makes you want to read more?
Is the story free from information dumps or backstory that slow the pace of the story?

Setting & Worldbuilding:
Are descriptions vivid and give a clear sense of time and place?
Do the details enhance rather than distract from the story?

Dialogue:
Is the dialogue natural and appropriate for the story, not stilted or overly narrative?
Does dialogue move the story forward and reveal the characters?
Are characters’ voices consistent and distinct from one another?
Is there an appropriate mix of dialogue and narrative?

Craft:
Does the writing “show” the scene with the senses, using “telling” only as appropriate?
Does the writing quality allow the story to shine through and draw the reader in, or are flaws jarring or intrusive?
Is the tone appropriate and consistent for the story?
Is the point of view (and any changes) handled appropriately and consistently?

Overall Impression:
Is the voice unique, fresh, or interesting?
Does the story deliver on the promise of its premise and opening scenes?
From a reader’s point of view, did you enjoy reading this story?

Additional Questions for Comment:
Are there any confusing sections that should be made clearer? (Mark in the manuscript)
Do any sections take you out of the story? (Mark in the manuscript)
Is the story a good fit for the stated genre, and if not, why not?
Who are your favorite—and least favorite—characters and why?
What aspects are especially likable or unlikable about the protagonist(s)?
What three things worked best for you?
What three things worked least for you?

Writing Prompt Contest – Hot Air Balloon Ride…


hot-air-balloon

Using this image as a story starter – tell a story or write a poem. Is it a delightful ride or a problematic one?

Enjoy this prompt and leave your response in the comments. 1000 words maximum for a short story. Poems can be any length.

A quarterly prize will be given for the most voted for response.

Guest blog – Dorothy M Place…


dorothymplace

The literary fiction novel, The Heart to Kill, is a story of a horrible crime, an enduring friendship, and personal illumination. Sarah, a student at Northwestern University Law School, returns to her apartment to find two telephone messages. The first is that she has not been chosen for a coveted internship for which her father had arranged an interview; the second is that Sarah’s best friend in high school, JoBeth Ruland, has murdered her two children. To mislead her father about her failure to obtain the internship, Sarah decides to secure a position on JoBeth’s defense team and, against his wishes, returns to her family home in Eight Mile Junction, South Carolina. She sets out to become a vital member of her friend’s defense team and to regain favor with her father, but is not well-prepared for working in a community rife with chauvinism, malice, duplicity, and betrayal. Her efforts are met with the benevolent amusement of the senior law partner, the resentment of the expert trial attorney, the rush to judgement by the folks of Eight Mile Junction, and discovery of the role of several individuals in the degradation of JoBeth. Please visit the author’s website, http://www.dorothymplace.com, where you can read more about the novel, how it came to written, and take a virtual tour of Eight Mile Junction.

heart-to-kill

www.dorothymplace.com

I love the virtual tour map on Dorothy’s website – take a look.

Print

Bio:

Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Dorothy M. Place now lives and writes in Davis, California. A principle investigator of a research group at Sacramento State College, she began creative writing, first as a hobby then as a second career, ten years ago. Since 2005, ten of her short stories have been published in literary journals and magazines, two of which were selected for prizes. At present, she is putting together her first collection of short stories, Living on the Edge, and working on her second novel, The Search for Yetta.

Writing Prompt Contest – Toadstool Path…


13718510_10153776417918297_2551591778139316667_n

Taking your inspiration from this image, write the story of where the toadstools lead.

Enjoy this prompt and leave your response in the comments. 1000 words maximum for a short story. Poems can be any length.

A quarterly prize will be given for the most voted for response.

Writing Prompt Contest – Invisible…


Invisable

Taking your inspiration from this image, write the story of how she became invisible or how she copes with life.

Enjoy this prompt and leave your response in the comments. 1000 words maximum for a short story. Poems can be any length.

A quarterly prize will be given for the most voted for response.

Writing Prompt Contest…


peculiar

Write a story about this town or one of its inhabitants.

Join in and enter for the quarterly prize for the top voted response to these weekly prompts – so make sure you comment below to enter the contest. 1000 word maximum.

Also I need your help with this: We have three entries that require your votes: Stone Car Prompt

The concrete holds me to the road
As I take the curve into the rain
It’s not the destination but the mode
Let go the nerves and go again.

Can our stories written deep in stone
Change despite apparent plan?
All life’s paths go same direction
Can’t change the fates – no one can. by Wildhorse

***

What difference does perception make?
Parked here, alone but not beside
the road. Enfolded in leaves and green.
Can I be heard?

I shouldn’t be. Let me be clear:
I’m a car made from stones, scraps of metal, used tires.
That’s no metaphor. That’s what I am.
Literally.

And yet—there’s a consciousness in things
Inanimate. Like the other day.
A boy came out to this place in the woods.
He sat down across from me.

I can’t move, of course.
But he can and he came out to me.
And in his mind, a story formed
Of how I came to be—stuck here

By some unseen hand.
Is that not existence? A man made me.
And this boy saw me. Does it matter that
I can’t see him, feel him, hear him?

What difference does perception make? By Eric James-Olson

***

“I don’t know about this, man.”

“Trust me, Benny. The cops will never spot it this way. We’ll just leave the loot in the car. Give it a couple of days and we can dig it out and drive into the night.” By ColdhandBoyack

Please vote so I can allot a prize for the winner! Thank you

Clickety Click Excerpt #10 – The End…


monster claw

Alice’s excitement kept her awake until the early hours but she was still wide eyed in anticipation of her new role. The elders welcomed her into their cavern and huddled around her as she explained the cloth storybook. It took many months of carefully note taking to ensure the whole Griffian history was compiled. Another several months were taken to make sure it was in chronological order and then the sewing begun. During this time, Alice’s task became the talk of the underground world. Many Griffian’s would nod to her as she walked the many corridors. Alice increasingly felt at home in the rock caverns and corridors and became accustomed to her new form.

Alice and Totoran would escape into the night sky when the moon was hidden by clouds or was just a sliver of light. She flew over her Aunt and Uncle’s old home on occasion but it was just a forgotten place now. After their rescue her guardians settled into the under ground world in the mountain range and were always pleased when she visited them. The story of her parentage was no longer a secret and Alice knew she was where she belonged for the time being – a Griffian new world would be found eventually and a new chapter written in their history.

I hope you enjoyed my ‘short’ story! It just grew and grew.

With several larger projects requiring my time, I thought it best to end this story.

thank you

Writing Projects and Inspiration…


new idea

Our creativity can be inspired from the smallest word, picture or even a globally known news worthy article. Some of you will have read my short story – The Keys. (Oct 17th) The photo inspired the story.

What obscure stimulus has sparked an idea for you? 

As many of you know I am a free flow writer so apart from a vague idea where I want the story to go, it is a mystery to me. That is the thrill for me. It is an adventure I willingly travel with my characters. They lead and I follow with frantic typing. ‘Listening’ to my Muse enables me to create freely.

How do you approach new ideas? Frantic notes? Plot arc? Character descriptions?

No matter what system we use, an idea can grow exponentially once it takes hold. This is wonderful, of course, the only downfall being if we already have a bucketful of ideas already. I thought I was doing well submitting my western romance, Willow Tree Tears to a publisher and a short story, The Toymaker for a contest. However, my suspense novel nagged me to plunge back in and begin a fresh round of editing. So now I am embroiled with a protagonist on the run, hiding in the forest for The Giving Thief. After some months away from the story, I am enjoying getting to know this character again and enhancing his story.

editing

How long do you leave your writing before beginning revisions and edits?

Although, my plan for 2015 was to re-visit two previous projects and re-write, edit and revise them. Now I have this other story demanding to be written and it is impossible to resist. Added to that an idea for a children’s book formulated from a dream a month or so ago, which will require some foundation work. I have drawn one character, named a couple and know their environment.

Have you experienced a story unwilling to stay quiet?

Obviously, I will have to reschedule my plans and go with the flow. My older projects will have to wait a little longer but I am determined to get back to them.

author at work

What are your writing plans for the rest of 2015?

Clickety Click – Excerpt #8


monster claw

Too hesitant to ask what the King meant by his remark, Alice nodded and smiled. Totoran took Alice’s hand and led her away, calling back to his parents that they would join them later for supper. Escorting Alice along another passageway he turned into a splendid chamber decorated with several battleaxes, a large cloth covering depicting a battle scene and a long low bench. Alice was amazed at the intricate details in the fabric although the scene was rather gory.

“What is this, Totoran?”

“This tapestry was made by my great, great, great grandmother. It is the final battle on our planet before we escaped. It is a reminder of our home and the courageous Griffian’s who tried to defend it. The weapons you see are the only remaining pieces from that battle. We fashion new weapons in their likeness although we use earthly materials, such as iron and steel.”

“So this room is a war room?”

Totoran smiled and shook his head.

“Not exactly – it is a place of reflection and a reminder of our history.”

“I’m not sure I could be peaceful and reflect with these images, Totoran. The scenes are violent and graphic.”

“Well, yes I can understand that. You are young in your transformation and the collective memoirs have not invaded your mind yet.”

Alice turned from inspecting the tapestry with wide-eyed shock.

“Collective memoirs? What are you saying, Totoran? Will I see this battle somehow?”

“Alice I did not mean to alarm you. I’m so sorry. The images will come gradually just like dreams. You will not be assaulted all at once with the history of our kind. It is a way of passing down our world and accomplishments, generation to generation.”

“Will the dreams be so graphic, horrid? I’m not sure I would call them dreams more like nightmares.”

Totoran rubbed at his chin, deep in thought. When he looked up again, he was smiling.

“I think I know a way of making this history less frightening for you, Alice. Come with me.”

Puzzled at his words but thankful she would have less horrific images to deal with; Alice followed the prince along a corridor which steeply dipped into the mountain. Totoran took her hand as they descended for what felt like a long time, guiding her and ensuring she did not slip on the wet rock surface. Alice guessed after some time that an archway encircled with torches ahead of them was their destination.

“We are now as deep as it is possible to dig, Alice. Here we keep our most precious treasures.”

“Treasurers? How will treasurers help me learn your history with being scared?”

“You will soon see. Come this way.”

Totoran turned to one side and brushed away a heavy cloth from a hidden wooden door. It’s surface was framed and crisscrossed with heavy metal bars.

“Not much could get through this door!”

“That is why it was made, Alice.”

Totoran took a large key from his belt and turned it in the lock. The heavy mechanism’s clanking echoed along the corridor behind them. As Totoran pushed the door, Alice could see it was over a foot thick and the hinges creaked loudly. She had to blink several times for her eyes to get used to the bright light within the chamber ahead. As her eyes focused she saw several hunched figures sitting around a table lit with dozens of candles and there were even more torches hung on the rock face around them.

“May I introduce you to our most precious treasurers, Alice. These are the elders. They are writing their life stories in intricate detail for future generations.”

Alice was stunned into silence. The Griffians before her were hunched, pale and withered. She whispered.

“How old are they?”

“Well in human terms several hundred years but Griffian’s live a lot longer than humans. Why don’t you sit, Alice? We shall talk a while.”

Alice followed Totoran’s lead and bowed to the elders one after the other, then sat on a nearby bench beside him.

“We ask your help, great elders. Alice is fearful of the history transfer and its images. Can you relate the past for her?”

The elders turned as one to face the two young Griffians, nodding slowly. One Griffian with steel grey tufts along his back spoke in a low gruff voice. It sounded like pebbles rolling down a wall to Alice.

“Young ones, we have many, many stories of our planet before the destruction. Generations of Griffians enjoyed happy times and abundance on our home world. The battle was but a second in time and not to be dwelled upon for long. We must learn from our mistakes and ensure our kind continue far into the future. What did you wish to know?”

Totoran nodded his encouragement to Alice. Her mind froze. What should she ask first? Gripping her hand gently, Totoran spoke.

“Our young guest has recently transformed and is trying to make sense of her new form. Please forgive her.”

The elders smiled and nodded in unison. The grey tufted one, held his claw out towards Alice.

“We have many stories to tell, my young one. We only want to help. Do not be afraid we are old and harmless.”

“I didn’t mean you to think I was afraid of you, I just have no idea what questions to ask. The tapestry so horrified me and when the prince told me I would have dreams of the battle, I was scared.”

“It is understandable, Alice. Why not ask about something other than the battle?”

Alice’s shoulders dropped showing her relief at the elders offer. After a moment she began to talk. Three hours later, with their stomachs grumbling for food, Totoran and Alice left the elder’s chamber, happy and filled with momentous stories to recite at the supper table.

Clickety Click Excerpt #7…


monster claw

Alice walked in Totoran’s shadow feeling nervous and picking at a loose scale on her claw. She wished she had been left with the other Griffians, the deference they’d shown when Totoran mentioned his father increased her unease. How fearful is the King? Will he crush me underfoot? Dismiss me as a nothing? Her increasing panic slowed her pace until Totoran glanced backwards to find her lagging several feet behind him.

“Alice, please keep up. My father despises tardiness.”

Oh no another thing he doesn’t like. Can I do this right? Alice scuttled to walk close to Totoran’s back taking advantage of his bulk and it’s shadow to hide her. The undulating corridor floor became smooth and torches ahead illuminated a large rock face. Alice frowned as the dead-end of the corridor but then remembered their previous entrance. Totoran will push the rock to open it in a moment. What will the inner sanctuary look like, I wonder?

            “Alice, stand beside me and as soon as we are through the entrance lower your head. Do not look up unless you are asked to. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Totoran.”

The grating sound of rock against rock echoed along the corridor, as the Prince pushed the solid rock face open. A gust of fresh air flowed past them and bright flickering light bathed the companions. Alice moved forward and slightly to the right of Totoran keeping her head bowed to the floor but curious to look around she glanced quickly left and right. The cavern’s walls were smooth and glistening with crystals. Fabric hung from steel rods showing emblems of rich burgundy and emerald green. She was trying to make out the shapes on the wall hangings when Totoran’s whisper made her jump.

“Keep your head down, Alice. I will show you around the sanctuary once my father has gone. Remember to bow your head and only speak if spoken to.”

Alice nodded her head and concentrated on her clawed feet.

“My son, come to me. It is a great relief to see you unharmed.”

The voice was deep and gruff but the words were kind. Alice was exposed as Totoran left her side to greet his father. Unable to move for fear of doing something wrong she stood perfectly still resisting the urge to look up and see the King.

“Father, we have managed to block the upper corridors and the great cavern but the humans are blasting explosives. It may be some time before we can regain our home.”

“You have done well, Totoran in keeping our subjects safe. Your escape plan worked flawlessly. We own you a debt for that.”

“Thank you, Father but without the assistance of a great number of brave Griffian’s it would not have been so successful. If we work together we are stronger.”

“Exactly why I know you will be an exceptional leader when your time comes, my son. Now shall we feast?”

“Before we do, may I present someone to you, Father?”

Alice’s heart leapt in her chest. Oh no don’t make this any more uncomfortable for me, please Totoran. Let me disappear into the shadows.

“You have found your one, Totoran?”

“I truly believe so, Father but as tradition states you have the final say in her suitability.”

Alice felt the blood drain from her upper body. What are you saying Totoran? Her vision began to shimmer she could feel her body sway and adjusted her position to prevent herself falling.

“Alice please come forward and meet my father.”

Placing her clawed feet slowly one after the other she approached father and son, trepidation coursed through her body. If I mess this up what will he do to me? Can Totoran save me?

Once she was level with Totoran, Alice lower her head even further and remained quiet.

“Father, this is Alice. She has shown me she is brave and loyal in the time I have known her. Her guardians were taken and she has no one to protect her. I have found she is fearless in her flying and is willing to fight for her new family.”

“Well that is quite the recommendation, young Griffian. Alice you may look upon me.”

Alice raised her head slowly. Her eyes flowed upward revealing the towering bulk of the largest Griffian she had ever seen. Totoran was large but beside this Griffian he seemed small in comparison. The King leaned forward slightly to greet her face to face. His green eyes shone and his nostrils flared. Determined not to show fear, Alice matched his gaze even though inside her stomach rolled over and over.

“You are a strong character, Alice. Many young Griffians have fled from my sight in fear. Welcome to my sanctuary.”

“Thank you, Majesty. It is an honor to meet you.”

“Well, I can see why my son has chosen you. Shall we feast and get to know each other?”

Alice nodded and bowed her head again. The King turned and walked toward a corridor to the left of the cavern. Totoran clasped a claw around her arm to steady her as Alice stood up.

“You faced him, Alice, that was awe inspiring. Many have indeed run once my Father peers down upon them. I will let you into a secret he is not as fierce as he makes out.”

“I certainly hope not. At one point I thought I was going to pass out! We best hurry if he detests tardiness.”

Totoran led Alice down the same corridor his father had taken. Torches lit their way to a smaller but luxurious cavern, festooned with more fabric hangings and ebony furniture elaborately carved with Griffian images. Alice could now make out the images on the wall decorations. They were life size representations of magnificent Griffians, all holding specters of various designs.

“You are admiring my family heritage, Alice. These are my forefathers.”

Alice turned to face the King and immediately bowed her head.

“Majesty, every one of them is splendid. Do you have one?”

“Not as yet, I’m glad to say. The seamstresses make them during the ‘death month’ to honor the passing of their King. It is laid over the body for the last ritual and then hung on the wall.”

Alice covered her mouth in shock and hoped the King would not find her disrespectful.

“Apologies, Majesty, I did not know. Forgive me.”

“Of course, Alice. You have much to learn and I am sure Totoran will teach you well. Come and sit beside me, we shall talk.”

Alice glanced at Totoran who smiled and led her to the long ebony table in the center of the room. Once she was seated he sat on her left and squeezed her claw gently. His whispered comment eased her mind.

“My father is obviously taken with you. It is a privilege to be seated beside him.”

Alice watched as multiple plates of food were laid on the table in front of them. This is far too much for three of us. She was startled when both the King and Totoran suddenly stood up and bowed. She followed suit as fast as she could wondering what had happened. There had been no noise or shouting prior to their sudden action. As Alice raised her head she saw a beautiful slender woman walk into the cavern. She curtsied and approached the King. He held out his claw and kissed her hand, which looked tiny within his large claw.

“Do you wish us to transform, my love?”

The woman smiled at the King and Totoran and gave Alice a slight nod.

“Only if it pleases you, my dear, I would prefer it remain in this form but will of course change if you wish. I thought it would be more comfortable for the young one.”

“You are right as usual, Serina. Let us transform and eat in a more civilized manner for our guest.”

I’m a guest? Totoran never said. I hope I can change as quickly as them. I would hate them to see me struggle. Alice took a deep breath and tensed her muscles as her body began to contort she could see the King and Totoran do the same. The woman sat patiently on the seat beside the King until they were in human form.

“I believe we should be introduced now, Totoran.”

Totoran stood and guided Alice to her feet.

“Mother, this is Alice. She was the ward of guardians, who unfortunately were captured. A rescue mission is under way. As we speak. I brought her to safety.”

Alice could not stop her surprised comment.

“You are rescuing my aunt and uncle?”

“Yes, Alice but it is something we can discuss later. Please acknowledge my mother.”

Alice felt her cheeks grow red. Trying to remain calm, she bowed her head and smiled at the lady beside the King. The queen, she is so beautiful.

“Your Majesty, my sincere apologies, I was unaware of the mission, Totoran is speaking of. I was shocked. Please forgive me. It is an honour to meet you.”

“Well, I am sure I would have reacted the same way, Alice. I hear you fly exceptionally well for a young Griffian. Totoran has spoken of you fondly.”

Alice’s cheeks flared red again at the compliment and the implication’s of it. Could Totoran be interested in me as more than a friend? She glanced at the young man beside her and saw his smile.

“Let us eat, Serina, let the poor girl adjust to all this new information. I am famished and wish to discuss the concealment and rescue plans with Totoran once we have finished.”

The King placed a hand on his queen’s hand and then began selecting items of food from the copious spread before them. Once Alice saw the queen pick up several items, she chose some pieces for herself. Alice was relieved there was ‘human’ as well as ‘griffian’ food on the table. Her palate was getting used to the new tastes but hunger made her chose recognizable items. For several moments the table guests were quiet as they ate. It was Totoran who broke the silence.

“I must apologize, Alice for not mentioning our rescue mission to you before. Believe me, when I say I did mean to let you know but the invasion attempts took my focus elsewhere. We have several Griffians infiltrated into the police force near your old home. They will bring your aunt and uncle here as soon as they are able.”

“I completely understand, Totoran. The safety of the majority comes first but I’m glad there is a rescue plan. Uncle Gregor and Aunt Catterine are special to me and my only family as far as I know.”

Alice missed the knowing glance between the king and queen as she picked out several pieces of fruit to eat.

“So, Alice had your aunt and uncle looked after you for a long time?”

“Yes, your Majesty, since my parents died in a car accident when I was three years old. I was unaware of my other form until several months ago.”

The queen smiled and nodded before saying.

“Was it the clickety click that heralded the change?”

Alice was surprised but delighted the queen knew of the clickety click noise she had experienced.

“Why yes it was that sound…how did you know?”

“It is the known sign of every Griffian’s transition time. We all experienced the click sound prior to changing, my dear. Be assured we shall do our utmost to bring your guardians to safety as quickly as possible.”

“Thank you, Majesty. I am more than happy to take part in the search.”

“That will not be necessary, Alice we have many experienced soldiers within the search party. Come we shall walk a while together.”

The queen stood and gestured for Alice to follow her down a corridor. Alice smiled at Totoran, who nodded as she left the large cavern. Alice could not mimic the queen’s elegant stride so walked as upright as she could, pushing her shoulders back and her chin upward. The corridor was lined with flaming torches and revealed large gouge marks on the rock face.

“I think you will enjoy my surprise, Alice. It is my favorite place in the mountain range.”

As they turned a corner, Alice’s mouth gaped as she was confronted with a vast cavern full of sunlight, trees, flowers and birdsong. As she looked upward she made out a fissure in the rocks above, where sunlight poured in bathing the cavern with light.

“How is it possible, your Majesty?”

“It is not of our making, Alice. A natural break in the mountain’s formation allows the light to come in. However, the garden you see before you began with my great-great grandmother’s wish to have a flower garden. Over the decades it has grown…”

“It is magnificent. My apologies I should not interrupt.”

“I find it delightful that you obviously love my garden as much as I do, Alice. Shall we walk through?”

“Oh, yes please.”

As they walked down the winding paths, Alice asked for the names of flowers and shrubs and expressed how much she loved the scent of the many blooms. It was not until the light dimmed that they realized how much time had passed.

“We must get back to the throne cavern, Alice. There will be reports of the rescue and invasion, I am sure. It is so easy to forget when surround by such beauty.”

“Of course, Majesty, but am I allowed back? I would enjoy working in your garden. I’m a quick learner and follow instructions well.”

“I would enjoy that too, Alice.”

With a last look at the magnificent garden, Alice and the queen returned into the dimness and hard surfaces of the corridors. When they returned to the luxurious cavern, Tortoran and the King were huddled with a dozen large Griffians. Queen Serina took Alice’s hand and guided her to the far side of the cavern and sat beside her on a long stone bench.

“We will wait until their business is finished. Do you require any refreshments?”

“If I may have some water, please. Thank you.”

The queen raised her hand and a servant was at her side instantaneously and bowed deeply.

“Sweet spring water for us both please, Mari.”

Mari disappeared into an alcove then returned with a tray holding two large goblets. Alice sipped the water; which was crystal clear, cold and sweet. So unlike the tap water she was used to.

“This is the best water I have ever drunk.”

“It comes from a mountain spring higher up the range, Alice.”

With their goblets almost empty, they saw the sturdy Griffian soldiers rise from the table, bow before the King and leave the cavern. Totoran stood and walked toward his mother.

“Good news, Mother. The invasive army has retreated and did not expose any entrances with their explosives. The guards will remain vigilent for another few days to ensure there are no hidden exposives or spying devices before we can assure normal life again.”

“This is good news, Totoran.”

“I also have news for you, Alice. Your uncle and aunt’s location has been found and their escape is imminent. With a good trip they should be with us in a day.”

“Thank you, Totoran. It is such a relief to know they are going to be safe soon.”

“Where did you both go while we talked, Mother?”

“I showed Alice my garden and she is keen to help maintain it.”

“The garden is wonderful, Totoran, I could live there all the time.”

“That’s exactly what my mother says.”

Their combined laughter caught the attention of the King, who was pondering over large maps on the table. He strode over to join them.

“What is so funny?”

“Alice wants to live in the garden just like mother.”

“Well that’s another similarity we have discovered…”

Alice frowned at the look her companions shared. Is there something they are not telling me? What could it be?