Friday, December 18, 2009

The Gift

In keeping with the spirit of the season, I've collected some short stories from several writing friends. I will be posting them through out the next two weeks. They range from funny to touching. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have.

My guest today is Rand Phares. I've read many of his stories and love them. I want to share one he wrote last year entitled:

The Gift.

Abbot Timothy and Brother Samuel stood just inside the main doors of the monastery, swirling snow filling the dark night around them.

Samuel adjusted his hood and leaned closer to the abbot. "Are you sure you don't want me to wait for you?"

The abbot shook his head. "No, Samuel. I have one last chore before I can leave. I'll be along shortly, before the town road becomes impassable. You go on ahead before they've run out of room at the inn."

Samuel frowned and peered across the courtyard at the monastery's church, its windows lit with a wavering glow. "A pity it's come to this, after all our years of service."

The abbot laid a hand on Samuel's chest. "Though the abbeys are being dissolved and we're being evicted, you can always hold to your faith and continue that service here, in your heart." He turned to the doors, slid aside a wooden bar, and—with Samuel's help—tugged the doors open.

Samuel adjusted his robe. "You're sure you won't come with me?”

The abbot nodded. "Go."

Samuel went through the doorway, hesitated for a moment, then continued on, his dark form melting into the storm. A moment later, drifting snow covered his footprints and it was as if he'd never been there.

The abbot shook his head. The king's decree had arrived a week ago: The Order was dissolved, its members to renounce their ways and leave the monastery no later than Christmas Eve. Tonight. The monastery, its grounds, and its treasures would revert to the people. Even now, two of the king's men were in the counting room, reviewing the monastery's records.

One by one, the monasteries of the land were being dissolved, taken over by local governments, monies and lands distributed to those in power. Monks had been expelled, left to fend for themselves, which meant hardship and death more often than not. Friendship toward fellow man seemed to have dissolved in the face of hard times and the king's decree.

As abbot, he would be the last to leave. How had the others fared? Emanuel, the infirmarian? Ethan, the sacrist? What of the troubled brothers, especially James, gifted with a lyre, but unable to form a single sentence?

Where would he himself go? He had no family, no friends outside the monastery. Would he simply starve, sharing the same fate as the others? After all this time surrounded by these walls, he did not look forward to leaving. The king's decree guaranteed a lonely, destitute, and painful end beyond the monastery.

He shut and barred the doors, then turned and looked at the church, at the rise of its steeple. Was its symbolic gesture toward heaven still meaningful in these times? Across the length of the roof sat the silent bell tower, oddly enough even taller than the steeple. He knew it spoke of a long-ago time when the monastery—sitting atop a two-hundred foot cliff overlooking a great road—had served as a lookout against enemy hordes sweeping in from the north.

He stared at the bell tower until his eyes stung.

So lonely . . .

So high . . .
So . . .

Painful? Perhaps not.

The tower stared down at him.

Will you follow the path the king has set down for you? Or is there another?

He blinked, rubbed his eyes with icy fingers, and looked back at the barred doors.

The king's path lay beyond.

He stared at the doors for a long moment. Then, his mind made up, he crossed himself, turned away, and trudged off through the snow toward the church.

Snow had piled against the great door leading into the church, and the door complained as the abbot struggled to open it. He stepped into the front nave, escaping the storm, but not the bone-wearying cold.

With the door shut behind him, he made his way toward the choir at the back of the church, eyes adjusting to the thin light of candles burning in side chapels. A statue of the Saviour seemed to shift slightly in the flickering light as he neared. He crossed himself and started off toward the dark door near the east transept; the door that led to the bell tower.

He reached for the door's latch, but a coughing sound stopped him. He turned and found a robed figure sitting in the choir pews. Why had he not noticed? Wasn't everyone supposed to be gone by now? This was certainly not one of the king's tallymen, with their fine purple tunics.

"Can I help you?" the abbot asked.

The figure stood and tossed back his hood. A thin young man, dark hair, bearded, but not someone the abbot recognized.

"Are you Abbot Timothy?" the man asked.

"Yes. And you are . . . ?"

"Forgive me, abbot. I'm Sebastian. Innkeeper Thomas sent me with a sack of food for your journey." He held up a dark bag. "Some mutton, cheese, a small flask of wine."

The abbot looked at the bag. "That's quite kind of Thomas. And kind of you, of course, for bringing it here in this storm. Tell me, how did you get in? We keep the main gate locked."

"I slipped in when one of the brothers was leaving."

"I see." The abbot gestured toward the bag. "Well, thank Thomas for me."

He put a hand on the latch beside him. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to extinguish the chapel candles before I leave. You'd better let yourself out and return to the inn before you become stranded."

"The snow is blowing very hard. You've no fear of being stranded yourself?"

The abbot glanced at the latch in his hand, then back at Sebastion. "I won't be long. You'd best not wait."

"That door leads to the bell tower?"


"Are there many candles in the tower?"

The abbot frowned. He opened his mouth to reply, but Sebastian waved a hand. "Forgive my impertinence, abbot."

He looked around at the statuary and tapestries. "It's a pity the church is being stripped of its treasures. But isn't it a greater travesty that the countryside is being stripped of its faith?"

The abbot sighed. Would this young man not leave? "Yes, it's true, what you say about the country. But when I step outside these walls, the king says I'm no longer a man of God. So my days of worrying about the country's faith are over."

"That may be, but what about your vow of service to Our Lord? True faith is difficult to drive from a man's heart, even in the face of kingly decrees."

Sebastian nodded at the tower door. "Are you like the countryside, abbot? Have you been stripped of your faith?"

  • The abbot blinked. Had he?

Sebastian laid a hand above his heart. "In spite of what the king says, you can always hold to your faith and continue that service in your heart."

The abbot stared at Sebastian. How did he . . . ?

Sebastian set the bag on a pew and looked up at the window. "It seems the snow has finally stopped. That should make your journey easier."

He looked back at the abbot. "One last word of advice, though." He smiled and nodded at the tower door. "Be careful putting the candles out up in the belfry. It's sure to be slippery up there, and I hear it's a long drop to the road below."

With that, Sebastian turned and walked up the nave, pausing only to cross himself at the statue of the Saviour. A moment later the shadows of the front nave swallowed him. In the snow-encased quiet of the church, the great door was particularly loud when it closed.

The abbot's gaze returned to the statue.

A thin bearded face, arms outstretched, a crown of thorns. From this angle, the candlelight made it look as if the statue stared back at him.


Abbot Timothy pushed open the great church door and took in the courtyard and the far shadow of the main gate. The young man had left the church after the storm died, but a silent mantle of white lay unbroken in all directions. And the air was still, wind no longer blowing snow across any newly laid footprints.

What was the hour? Was it Christmas yet?

He lifted the bag. Mutton, cheese, wine. A Christmas gift, perhaps?

He stared out at the night, and thought of the young man's words.

All of them.

And decided those had been the real gift this night.

Then, with a last glance back across the nave at the distant bell tower door, he shouldered the bag and walked out of the church. Heading toward the gate, the abbot was secure in the feeling that wherever the young man had gone, he was following.



Rand Phares's first foray into writing was at an early age, on a neighborhood "newspaper" he published with his brother. After a successful career in software engineering, he now focuses on psychological thrillers, and is within nanoseconds of completing his first novel, The Feast. Rand lives in NC with his family.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kathryne Kennedy Interview

I had the opportunity to chat a bit with Kathryne Kennedy, author of Relics of Merlin, My Unfair Lady, which I reviewed recently and loved, and a new series I’m looking forward to reading, The Elven Lords.

I like books that linger in my mind long after I finish them. Stories that I can periodically pull out and again *visit* the world and characters. If I can recall the plot and characters and their names two weeks, two months later, then the author has truly written a good book. There are a few authors that do that for me and Kathryne is one of them. These are the books that go on my keeper shelf, much to my husband’s dismay, since we’ve been hauling my *keeper shelves* around all our married life. :-)

Kathryne, I’m so glad you could visit with us a bit today. At the risk of sounding all fan girlish, I have to tell you, I love your books. Your characters and world are so well crafted I feel if I could just find the door to the past, I’d be able to go and visit.

You’ve published, what a dozen books, now? Do you have a favorite?

  • Err, no. I’m not that prolific. :} I’m happy to write a book a year…although I’m going for two, right now. My favorite book is always the one I’ve just finished writing, which just recently is The Fire Lord’s Lover. I’m still wrapped up with the characters and their story and it’s always sad to leave them behind. Until I start my next book. Then that one will be my favorite.

In My Unfair Lady, there aren’t any of the “magical” elements that marked many of your other historicals. What made you decided to “play it straight”, so to speak?

  • I wrote My Unfair Lady prior to the Relics of Merlin (Enchanting the Lady, Double Enchantment, Enchanting the Beast) series. I have always loved historicals, and wanted to try my hand at writing one. Yet, the whole time I was writing it, I kept thinking…what if? It didn’t seem fair that only the males inherited the titles, yet, titles were originally gained by right-of-arms. So what if I could even the odds up a bit? What if there was another power besides the sword, that of magic, which a woman could wield as easily as a man. And if there was magic, how did it get there? And wouldn’t titles be based on how much magical power one wielded? And so when I finished My Unfair Lady, I had the basis for an entirely new magical world.

What was the most fun about writing this story?

  • Oh, gosh, I had so much fun writing My Unfair Lady that it’s hard to find what was the most fun! Maybe Summer’s best friend Maria, teaching the monkey how to ‘eavesdrop’ properly. Or Summer’s little Chihuahua hiding under skirts and chewing the Duke’s shoes. Or Summer herself, with her outrageous honesty and unfailing courage. Or when the monkey jumped in the freezing pond and the look he gave Summer? Or the Duke and his shocked expressions…and his thing with boots?

What's special about your hero? What makes him different?

  • Byron, the Duke of Monchester, is just so very guarded that he’s difficult to get to know. He is too sensitive, and because of this, he’s built up solid walls. Only someone like Summer, who is so compassionate and honest, could chip away those defenses to reveal the true man beneath that suave arrogance and sophistication. I think that I honestly grew to know Byron through Summer, and I’m sort of unsure if I would have done so without her.

Which scene in My Unfair Lady did you love writing and why?

  • It actually teared me up a bit, but the one in which the little fox she rescued doesn’t survive, and the Duke helps her bury it, and despite his protestations to firmly deny it if Summer ever tells anyone of it, says a prayer over the little grave. Despite Byron’s demeanor, that one scene defined him as a man, and revealed Summer’s reliance on his love…whether she realized it at the time or not.

  • And then--okay, sorry, there’s two--the scene at the end of the book where they are each trying to seduce the other without knowing it. Now, that was such a joy to write!

Like many of us, you’ve had a rough year. How are you able to continue writing when under stress? What does your writing bring to your life?

  • I don’t know what happened this year. It was just one horrible thing after another. It was almost as if God said, “Let’s see how much she can take before she cracks.” The major reason I made it through the year was having my writing to focus on. There were times when it was difficult to write, of course. But most of the time, I could bury myself in my magical world and leave all the trauma of my real life behind me. My writing brings me such joy, along with all the readers who are kind enough to share it with me, that I don’t know how I could manage to continue without it.

I can relate that whole one thing after another...

What can we expect from you next? Can you discuss your new series at all?

  • Absolutely! I am so very excited about The Elven Lords…and very much infatuated with the heroes these wicked elven have created in this new world.

Fighting for control of a Georgian England that is split into seven domains, elven warlords use their human slaves to breed an endless supply of soldiers for their armies.

Dominic Raikes, the half-blood son of the Elven Lord himself, is one such warrior. Betrothed to Lady Cassandra, who has been raised in a convent to keep her pure, he little suspects that she’s been secretly trained as an assassin to murder his father.

Dominic and Cassandra soon discover that each one is not what they seem, but the price of trust may be their very lives, and the destruction of the magical realm each is desperately trying to save…

This sounds like a fabulous story. I can’t wait to read it. I’ve noticed your paranormals are mainly “magical” in content and set in the past. What draws you to writing your magical stories set in Georgian, Regency, and Victorian periods?

  • I love all of those eras, of course. :} I love tweaking history and imagining a different world changed by magic. I can experience all of the pageantry, drama, and glorious richness of the past and take it even one step further with magic.

This Series will be released when?

  • Book one, The Fire Lord’s Lover, is scheduled for release July 2010. And although they don’t have the cover up yet (you’re previewing it here), it’s already available for pre-order on Amazon. Very cool. :}

Wow, pre-order already? Very cool, indeed.

Finally, anything special you’re doing for the holidays? Do you guys have any special traditions?

  • We do…we did…but I’m not sure how things will be this year. I can tell you that I have personally resolved to cherish every person in my family from this point onward. And all of my friends. Because life is ever changing and these times may not come again.

Kathryne, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be here and answer my questions.

  • My absolute pleasure, Sia. You are one of those persons I cherish. :}

Thank you, Kathryne, what a lovely thing to hear. Here's to 2010. May it be a great year for us both! :-)

  • Question: What makes a book magical enough for you so you put it on your *keeper shelf*?

Kathryne will be giving away a copy of her book to a commenter today.


Kathryne Kennedy is a college graduate and business owner, and is a multipublished, award-winning author of magical romances. She’s lived in Guam, Okinawa, and several states in the U.S., and currently lives in Arizona with her wonderful family—which includes two very tiny Chihuahuas.

She welcomes readers to visit her website where she has ongoing contests at:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Stress and the Writer

My guest today, is Romantic Suspense Author, Gina Robinson. Her books are engaging, dialog and characters usually make me laugh. She also builds good suspense. Gina's books are always a fun read.

I like Gina's topic today. Life brings us much stress to begin with, doesn't it? We all need time to de-stress and catch our balance again. If you're a writer, stress can even be harder to deal with, especially as you are now writing to deadlines. I like Gina's take on December and de-stressing. I think I'm going to borrow it. :-)

Just nine more days until Christmas! Has the holiday stress hit you yet? Have you finished your shopping? Done your baking? Mailed your Christmas cards? Put up the tree and the outdoor lights? And, oh, yeah, have you written anything lately?

Whoa! You can stress yourself silly worrying about balancing life, the holidays, and your writing. Here’s how I deal with the added holiday pressure:

First, I’ve accepted that December simply isn’t as productive a month for me as the other eleven, page count-wise, at least. I no longer beat myself up over it. Instead, I embrace it. Knowing I’ll struggle to make my normal daily outputs, I lower my December page count goals and figure them into my yearly writing plan. Be realistic and set reasonable December goals. If you don’t, the guilt will creep back in. And who needs that?

Second, I realize writing can be done anywhere, including in my head. So while I’m not at my computer as much as usual, I’m thinking, plotting, and daydreaming as my mom calls it. From time to time I’ll jot down an idea I don’t want to forget. When January rolls around and I hit the writing full force again, the story should flow right out of my head through my fingers and onto the page. That’s the plan, anyway.

Third, I use holiday activities to hone my skills and recharge. I love the Christmas season. To me, it has a special magic and meaning. The short hours of daylight where I live, the pleasant slant of the low set sun when it shines, and the joy of the season fill me again with childlike hope and wonder. I try to forget reality and let myself dream, really dream big about all the things I’d like to happen with my writing and my life. Just like I used to when I was a kid dreaming about what Santa would bring. This dreaming nourishes my positivity and can-do spirit, which will be so necessary as the new year and reality sets in. So use the magic of the season to recharge yourself, which will help your artistic self thrive.

I love attending holiday parties and gatherings where I connect with family, friends, colleagues—many of whom I don’t see on a regular basis or as often as I’d like. I meet interesting new people I wouldn’t get to know under ordinary circumstances. Hearing about others’ experiences, listening to the way they speak, and observing their mannerisms sharpens my characterization skills. What is it that makes this person so likeable? How has this person managed to survive all that life’s thrown at them this past year? What is it about the way this guy tells a story that makes him the life of the party? So you see, attending parties and social events is writing, too, in a December way.

Fourth, I express my artistic nature in other ways. I love to bake, but most of the year I’m pressed for time. Plus I have a sweet tooth and can’t afford to eat the fruit of my labors like I used to. But this time of year, I indulge in my love of baking. Working in a different medium feeds all parts of the creative spirit.

Finally, I watch all my favorite Christmas movies and there are a ton of them. Every year I think about what makes these stories classics, at least for me. How did the authors of these stories move me? What about these stories makes me want to watch them year after year? Again, I’m honing my craft while enjoying myself.

This season, enjoy yourself rather than beat yourself up. Refill your well for the new year ahead.

  • Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

  • How do you refill your creativity? Do you use the holidays to unwind and recapture your child like wonder of things, so you're fresh for the New year?


Gina Robinson is a native Pacific Northwesterner. She lives in the Greater Seattle area with her husband and children. Gina believes that laughter heals and a sense of humor makes life richer. She brings that philosophy to the way she writes her novels.

4 Stars! Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine"Robinson delivers an entertaining story of stalking, spying, secret identities and hidden agendas."

Susan Mobely, Romantic Times BOOKreviews
  • Back Cover Blurb:

Sleepless In Seattle

Reilly Peterson’s been many things in her thirty-two years: an athlete, a model, a sportswear executive. Her ex-boyfriend, however, has done a good job of making Reilly something she’s never been—scared. Now Reilly’s ready to protect herself with more than her sharp tongue. Fantasy Spy Camp’s Seattle-based Urban Ops division will train her to survive using everything from her bare hands to a submachine gun. But when she gets an eyeful of fellow camper Van Keller, all Reilly wants is to chill out, partner up and go deep undercover...

Gina's Website She loves visitors and you can read an excerpt of the book on this site.