Come Celebrate The Conflict Thesaurus Vol 2 Book Release (& Maybe Win Something Awesome!)

I always get a bit excited when a book I’m waiting for finally releases, so it’s great to finally share that The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggle (Vol. 2) is now out!

This SILVER EDITION is the twin of the GOLD EDITION and continues to explore all the ways we can better leverage the conflict in our story.

If you are new to these “thesaurus” books, each one is part writing guide, part brainstorming tool.

The first part of this book dives into how conflict powers your plot and is the golden thread that weaves your inner and outer stories together. It also digs into how to craft great villain clashes, character agency, how to maximize tension, what goes into a satisfying story climax, and more.

The second part of the guide is a mother lode of conflict scenarios (115 to be exact) built to get your imagination thrumming with ideas. You must see it to believe it.

I’m part of Angela & Becca’s Street Team, and I have news:

Writers Helping Writers is hosting a Writing Contest!

A book about conflict needs a FIGHT CLUB Story Contest, right? Exactly! So if you want to show Angela & Becca how good your conflict-writing skills are, check out this contest and see what you can win.


Angela and Becca are also hosting a must-enter giveaway. They’ve filled a vault full of their favorite writing books and are giving away some digital 5-packs, winner’s choice!  

So much fun. Make sure to head over and enter, and good luck!

Blog Takeover! Help, I’ve Been Hijacked by The Conflict Thesaurus!

Heads up, Writers! The Conflict Thesaurus Is Here!

Writers, Can You Survive Danger & Death in the Conflict Challenge?

I don’t know about you, but I get a little excited when a new writing guide comes along. Today I get to spill the news that The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles (Vol. 1) has hit the shelves.

This guide is about that killer ingredient our stories need: Conflict. It shows you exactly how to use conflict to raise tension, create a fresh story premise, and pull readers in. The guide also dives into over 100 conflict scenarios and how each can be endlessly adapted to challenge a character inside and out. Problems, Moral Dilemmas, Ticking Clocks, Obstacles, No-Win Scenarios…this book is plot brainstorming in overdrive!

I’m part of Angela & Becca’s Street Team for this release, and we have an important question to ask you:

Can You Survive Danger as Well as Your Favorite Protagonist?

Sure, it’s easy for you to use conflict to torture your characters and make them struggle, but what if it’s you in the hot seat instead? Will you make good decisions, or bad ones?

It’s time to find out by taking the Conflict Challenge! I dare you to become the protagonist in a special story Angela & Becca have created. And heads up, if you survive, you win some pretty cool stuff!


While you’re at Writers Helping Writers taking the Conflict Challenge, make sure to enter The Conflict Thesaurus celebratory giveaway, too. But hurry – it’s only on for a few days.

So, take the challenge…if you dare. And don’t forget to come back and let me know how you did against Camp Deadwood!

If you’d like to find out more about how The Conflict Thesaurus can help your character construction and story, these spectacular writers have put together some posts about conflict and its importance. Check them out with these links:

You can find links to purchase The Conflict Thesaurus and any of the other Writers Helping Writers thesauruses here: . Get yours TODAY! Your characters will thank you!

See you soon!

The Great Collection of the Elemental Families of Huphaea, anid 1830 #28

Hello Everyone! Welcome to September! It doesn’t seem possible that the year is three-quarters gone already. Kids are returning to school around here, school buses have returned to the morning traffic patterns. And now that I look at it, the red maple out my window is showing faint red and purple hues in the leaves. The heat and rain we have had may keep autumn’s arrival on a more normal schedule, but it will come nonetheless. It also should be brilliant! 🍁🍂 Stay safe and healthy!

So Elahna and Ivy finally reached Irillo and began making their way through the city in the last episode. We learned more about Ivy, too. Though she may be ‘nobility’ as we think of it, she did have an integrated upbringing. Despite being related to Regna Halesia and her mother being part of the Eanneadic Council, Ivy was a street tender and maintains her friendships from those summers spent competing for the Bronze Broom. But let’s get back into Irillo, shall we?~

The din of conversation increased, spilling from an opening on the other side of a tall, slender building of rough cream stucco with deep green timber accents. The sign that hung above the door was unusual; a central lime green lightning bolt pierced silver waves against a sky blue field. The green lightning was what drew my attention.

The sign of a Jival Orderly

“Ivy, what does that sign mean? Is there really green lightning?”

“That is the sign of a Jival orderly. They work by detecting irregularities in one’s life essence and restoring it to balance. The essence is shown as green because they often have abilities with animals and plants as well. House Bios has the element of air, but deals with living beings. Earth magic often colors their workings.”

“Oh, that does make sense. How would one know to go to them instead of the other orderly?”

“Well, generally when nothing else works. Or if there is a head injury or major trauma in the past. Emotional concerns too.”

“I see. That’s very interesting. I wonder if that’s who Fife really meant me to see the day they found me. Like I’d been knocked on the head, or something, talking about other worlds and such.”

“Most likely, though Cragbend’s orderly isn’t a Jival, he’s a Mendly. Not much he could have done for you, had you turned out to be touched. Good thing we all believed you.”

“Yes, good thing.” I said.

So that made me wonder if not everyone would believe me; that I was from another world. Someone could think me mad, after all. Then I’d have to go see a Jival orderly to ‘correct my irregularities.’ I wondered what they would find.

A young woman rounded the corner, entering the traffic flow, a large basket filled with vegetables over one arm and a squawking chicken clutched in the other. Her face reflected embarrassment and she tried tucking the noisy bird backward under her arm to quiet it, which only made it squawk louder.

*Image by NickyPe from Pixabay 

“Best put that one right in the pot, fla, else you’ll have no peace!” A passerby advised the flustered girl, which elicited guffaws and laughter from those around us.

The direction she had come from opened up into a broadly crescent-shaped space guarded by an obelisk of mottled white and gray marble. People were packing carts and hauling hand wagons toward the road, while others hefted bags or crates. Whatever had gone on there apparently had finished for the day.

“Each quarter of the city has its own market. Vendors and traders have specific days they attend on, so their customers know when to find them. Many rotate between quarters, but some only visit one or two. They figure out what works best for them. They are wrapping up for today.”

We were almost past the market entrance when a sound like water pattering on a crystal chandelier rang out. Ivy reined in abruptly. I followed suit a few paces on.

“Elements be, sir, how long until the rain?” Ivy asked an older man pulling a hand wagon.

The man’s gray hair stood out on end around the sides of his head beneath the flattened felt hat he wore. Long, slender, pointed ears fit through slots in the hat’s turned edge. When he gazed up at us, the copper rings piercing the points of his ears glinted in the setting sun. His face had deeply weathered lines around slate gray eyes. Numerous laugh lines framed the smile that blossomed across his lips. It was the kind of face that made me want to smile in return and I found myself doing just that.

“Elements be, she of the Arborea. The clock does say we have but half an *erdur until the land gets a bath. Are you heading far?”

“No, just to Forelore. My friend has never been to Irillo, however, so I didn’t want to dawdle too long. My thanks, stay dry yourself this evening.” Ivy nodded slightly, to which the smiling man bowed low.

“The clock tells the weather?” I asked, a bit in awe.

“Each face of the clock towers in the markets tells a different thing. One face tells time, one tells how long until and what the weather workers have scheduled. That was the rain chime you heard. Another face shows the *anar of the anek of the anos, and the last shows the current astro sign. They are wonders. Each clock and each face is different. Make sure you see them when you are out exploring.” Her eyes slid horizontally toward me. “And I know you will.”

“Why of course! As soon as I can!”

“Turn left at the next street, we’ll go the longer way. This way has a better view of Forelore and leads us right to the stables.” Ivy indicated the next fork in the road.

Before we left the South Road, I spied an ivory stone bridge arching over the silvery river. More black metal scrollwork intertwined with shining copper topped the span’s walls. The effect was stark yet still elegant and refined. Shrubs shorn into animal topiaries flanked the bridge end. One looked like it might be a fish of some sort, the other I couldn’t tell.

Forelore sat directly opposite us, on the far shore, its pale gray walls topped with what had looked to be one color of green from afar, but was actually roofs of several shades of green that blended to create the same serene backdrop as a forest canopy. Off to the right, the red I saw earlier resolved into the shape of an immense flame on top of another building. I craned my neck back to keep looking as we moved off to the left.

“Is that really a flame on that part of Forelore, off to the right?” I asked.

“Yes, the main part of the Flamel wing is crowned with a flame. It looks like its burning in the sunlight because it’s roofed with red crystal tiles. It’s one of the more extravagant aspects of Forelore. Trees make up parts of the Gaiist wing, but nothing like Rosewood Manor. The Aeros wing has more glass and crystal than stone. Each wing reflects the family it houses. You’ll see more when we get there. We’re on Rose Street at the moment, can you tell why?”

Looking around, I certainly could. Roses of every color in the rainbow adorned the fences along the road. To my dismay, there were even blue roses—a clear sky blue and a pale pastel blue that was almost white. One house had an arbor covered with grape-purple and snowy-white single-flower roses. And black. Densely petaled charcoal blooms dotted the vibrant palette. It was gaudy and breathtaking at the same time, not to mention fragrant.

*Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

I stifled a sneeze and blurted “Blue roses? You have blue roses?”

“Why, yes. Of course. Do you not?”

“No. We have blue flowers, but true blue is quite rare in Earth’s plant world. And no blue roses of any shade. Black also doesn’t really exist. Most flowers labeled black are actually very deep purple. I’ll have to revisit this stretch later—.”

My words trailed off as we approached another bridge over the Irilliscint.

The roses on Rose Street were truly amazing. The residents decreed among themselves that the only flowers allowed along the fences are roses. There can be other plants in beds or pots behind them in the front yard, but only roses along the fences. The homeowners employ individuals with herbaceous plant talents to keep them blooming as long as possible into the winter; indeed, there is a Yule Rose contest. Which speaks more to the ability of the Elemental than the resident. Nevertheless, reputations are made and lost, and relationships forged in this time. I learned about that later on but thought it was appropriate to tell you about here. I would have loved to participate in such a contest, if I had magic, of course.

*erdur = hour; anar= day; anek = week; anos = month

Can you picture Rose Street? The picture I used above gives a good idea of the effect, but the roses were their own colors, which made it so much more brilliant. The blue, black, and purple shades captivated me, I couldn’t get over them. I strolled Rose Street whenever I could, it was always changing, and always lifted my spirits. Imagine what other wonders Irillo holds! Let me know some of your ideas below 👇🏼

Want more from the land of Huphaea? Become a Nightingale! Use the form below to subscribe to Collata⚡ , The Collection of Huphaea newsletter. Can’t wait to see you there!👇🏼

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©2021 Eleanorah Starr and Red Leaf Word Services. All Rights Reserved.

ISWG September blog post — How Do You Define Success as a Writer?

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

 Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.   

 You ready?
Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

September 1 question – How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

The awesome co-hosts for the September 1 posting of the IWSG are Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie!

*Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay 

At this time in my life, my writing is a sideline venture; one I pursue because I want to. I’m not expecting it to float me financially, at any point, and any monetary gain I might make from it is a bonus—another revenue stream.

And because the time I have to write is sporadic. Building and running my freelance editing business is my main focus, as it should be. But writing my own book dovetails nicely with it.

I often think about this topic after I have finished reading or listening to a book. I do review books on Goodreads, Amazon, NetGalley, and occasionally here, which requires an evaluation of sorts. The first question I ask myself is: Was I entertained by this book?

Rarely do I answer no, because I wouldn’t have gotten that far if I didn’t find it entertaining. For me, then, that author was successful. They entertained me with their story and writing, fulfilling one of the most basic tenets of storytelling.

*Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay 

Books are my go-to time fill. I like my reading or audiobooks to take me to places and times I can’t go to on this physical plane. Or for non-fiction, to leave me with a lasting nugget of information I take and use to improve my life or career.

Success for me is about making an impression that lasts. Whether it is with my gardens and plants, my editing, or my writing, I will feel successful if I make an impression on others that lasts. If my clients contact me again when they need an edit, or a reader recalls the blog post about the alternate land of Huphaea at a future date when my book is out, I will have been successful.

©2021 Red Leaf Word Services. All Rights Reserved.

The Great Collection of the Elemental Families of Huphaea, anid 1830 #27

Hello Everyone! I hope you are enjoying the last remaining days of summer, or perhaps you are urging fall on? I admit to being conflicted this year myself. Usually I am dragged kicking and screaming to summer’s end, refusing to put on socks and shoes and long pants until my feet are freezing and the days top out at 60°F. But this year has been such an odd summer filled with soaring humidity and high heat, that I secretly (or not so anymore!) may be looking forward to fall. I feel like a blasphemer to my sun religion, but it just hasn’t been pleasant. Perhaps a move to the British Isles is in my future after all. 😆

Either way, enjoy the last of your season, wherever you may be, see you in September!

We left Elahna and Ivy in the last episode just as they were about to enter the capital city of Irillo. It was getting on in the evening, so they were making steady progress, but not taking it too quickly, for Elahna’s sake….~

Image by Babs Müller from Pixabay 

More of the same birches that housed the guard huts created an elegant allee over the South Road. Taverns, inns, hostels, and eateries resided under their airy canopies on the right side of the wide expanse, inviting travelers and locals in for refreshment, lodging, or trade. Lodgings Quarter catered to any and all tastes, apparently. Benches sat at various intervals for the weary. Posts and rails for hitching horses to became more ornate as we progressed into the city.

The Verdant Quarter, on the left side, showcased homes and shops, each one fronted by lush, manicured gardens. Some made use of large urns or containers of various materials to hold the colorful blooms and greenery, while others exhibited raised beds. But each property enclosed their display within a fence of some sort. It left an unending trail for the eye to follow.

*Image by congerdesign from Pixabay; Image by Matthias Böckel from Pixabay; Image by Petra Fuchs from Pixabay; Image by Catkin from Pixabay;  Image by ASSY from Pixabay  

Just before the arch, the road had become a cobbled thoroughfare in the myriad natural shades of river rock. Worn smooth and flat by traffic, not a weed grew in between the stones. The middle of the road was clearly reserved for horse and cart traffic, while those on foot stayed to the edges, a courtesy to all involved.

Image by Richard Revel from Pixabay 

Revel’s ears had pricked upright in attention as we passed under the arch, and now they swiveled constantly. This, however, was the only sign of agitation I noticed. The rest of his demeanor was calm and confident. He seemed to take the strange noises, scents, and traffic in close quarters in stride, like he’d done it before.

Every few houses, a child stood with a deep-sided pan that had a long handle and a finely toothed rake or broom. I puzzled about them to myself, until I saw one boy dart out after a mule cart passed and sweep up the dung the animal had dropped. Then he ran ahead to a three-sided stone bin about half the size of a cart, dumped his pan, and scampered back to his post. No wonder the streets were so clean.

Ivy caught me watching. “You’ll see street tenders on all of the main roads. It’s a way to instill pride in the city and a sense of responsibility for our surroundings and creations. At the harvest fair on the equinox, one tender team is awarded the Bronze Broom for keeping their street or road the cleanest, as voted by the citizens. There is fierce competition between the youngsters, especially those chosen for posts on the North and South Roads.”

*Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

I raised an eyebrow at her, somewhat in disbelief. “Really?” I asked.

“Yes. Each child is given a rake and a pan, but many actually make their own to try to keep their stretch of road as clean as possible. Oxen make a dreadful mess, as do drunkards. These children will be here just after dawn to clean up from the night before. It gets intense.”

“You speak as though from experience. You didn’t have to do that, did you?”

“I did! For dua summers, before my Choosing Day. Matris was did not want me excluded from things just because she sat on the Council and I lived in Forelore. That’s why I still have so many friends here in Irillo. I don’t regret una moment of it. And North Road won the Bronze Broom both those years.” She smiled widely, two elegant dimples appearing on her cheeks. She appeared wholly pleased with herself.

I couldn’t help but smile with her. I liked this land more and more each day.

Most of the buildings followed designs or styles I was familiar with; single or two story structures, sometimes three stories, of stone and wood. But here and there a slender, curved, or rounded one would sit between angular neighbors. These elven buildings were exotically beautiful, constructed of a flatly iridescent metal-like material that changed color depending on how you viewed it. With the sun setting off to the left, the shadowed sides appeared emerald green, while the sun-facing walls shone in coral and pink. Black iron woven in intricate patterns accented the windows, which were of any shape imaginable, and filled larger, blank wall spaces.

*Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay 

They were a perfect mixture of elegance, beauty, and persistence.

“Before you ask, not much is known about the ancient elven architecture. Otherwise we would have replicated it for sure.” Ivy said. “The material is a magically-enhanced mixture of crystal and aluminum, that much we know, but no one can decipher how to make it. The scholars think it was forged deep in the mountains using the underground vitae, though no methods or spells have ever been found that explain how to do it.”

“An entire city of that would be dazzling! How could our eyes stand it?” I remarked.

“Wait until you see Forelore, then. Be prepared!”

Since it was fully evening, we saw many empty carts or those filled with empty crates and baskets heading out of the city.

*Image by Momentmal from Pixabay 

People waved and called out to one another and mothers held onto small children when they were on the road. Faces of every shape, size, and color laughed, smiled, and scowled. Hair colors and styles ranged widely, from bright rainbow or pastel colors to silver, smoke gray, black, and honey gold. I focused on ears for a bit, trying not to be too obvious, and found those to vary as well.

If Irillo was any indication, this was a highly mixed populace. I would stick out for my pure humanness.

The South Road cut a wide swath through the city as it ambled toward a bridge and what I assumed must be the palace Forelore ahead. I glimpsed roofs of deep hunter green and bits of fiery red beyond them. Color could not be overused, evidently. I felt like I’d stepped onto a giant’s painter’s palette.

Maybe I wasn’t far off. There could be giants here, for all I knew.

*Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

Yes, you are right, it was evening and the color was still that vibrant. I was eager at that point to explore the Verdant Quarter just to see all of the plants, and I thoroughly enjoyed it when I did. My ramblings in Irillo always seemed to bring me there. I do wish I had a better depiction of the elven architecture, but I don’t. I’ll do my best to put it into words though. 😊 We’ll leave it here for today, see you next time!~

The birch allee at the beginning of the South Road was stunning. Huphaean paper birches get very large in girth, unlike many we see. It was impressive and elegant, and set the stage for an entrance into an ancient city. What were some of your impressions of Irillo at first glance? Let me know in the comments below 👇🏼❗

Want more from the land of Huphaea? Become a Nightingale! Use the form below to subscribe to Collata ⚡, The Collection of Huphaea newsletter. Can’t wait to see you there!👇🏼

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©2021 Eleanorah Starr and Red Leaf Word Services. All Rights Reserved.

The Great Collection of the Elemental Families of Huphaea, anid 1830 #26

Hello Everyone! You’ll never guess, but it’s raining again! A perfect morning to be putting together a story then, right? The amount of rain we have gotten lately has lessened, thankfully, so that our fields have become partially workable, and even planted some. Here’s hoping for a long New England fall.

So we are into August already, it’s amazing how fast time can go. And that’s when you’re here and not in a fantasy world like Elahna. My puppy Cedar turned one last weekend, but in truth, he hasn’t been a puppy for a while. He grew up quick. And yes, he is as cheeky as he appears here…

Cedar, on his birthday

But we should get back to the events underway with our two travelers, shall we?

In the last installment, Elahna and Ivy were on the approach to Irillo when a rather regal figure had appeared and all the surrounding animals had gone a bit nuts, Revel included. So we will pick it up there.~

I led Revel down to meet Ivy and remounted. An acrid tang of sour vinegar and ashes lingered like a fog in the air and Revel squealed again. That scent had to be what he reacted to.

Ivy grabbed his bridle to keep him from throwing me and trotted us away a bit. Felicity had returned to her calm demeanor.

“Who was that?” I asked, with more than a bit of exasperation. “What is the smell that’s driving the animals nuts?”

“That was Kai Torchere, the Regna’s Best. He oversees the implementation and enforcement of many of her rulings and all of the patrols and defensive activities. He’s also patris of her sontris, Alder. He would have escorted us with the returning patrol to Forelore, but I declined. It would have passed by too quickly, you wouldn’t have been able to take much in at that pace.” She smiled slightly at me with the last sentence.

“Thank you for that. I agree, I’d rather go a bit slower to see it all unfold. Is that a tattoo on his forehead?”

“Yes. Well, not really. Kai is also a Dragon Rider. That is a drop of dragon blood given by the dragon to seal their bond. He must have just come from being with Ixojil, that was the odor you smelled. Ash and vinegar, that’s the scent of dragons. And it often drives other animals wild, especially if they aren’t used to it.”

*Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

“That explains a lot. But why did Felicity suddenly stop reacting? She was fighting you one erd*, the next she was still.”

“Let’s keep going while there is a gap in the traffic.” Ivy said. We trotted back to the road and resumed our brisk pace in the space between groups, able to talk freely again. “Dragon Riders have mind magic. The dragon’s blood confers it upon them. That’s how dragons communicate, within the mind, not out loud with voices. Kai used his mind to ease Felicity’s fear and banish it. She won’t react to dragon scent any longer. Which is a relief!”

“Wow, I see. Lucky for you!”

“I know. Had you been with me, he would have done it for Revel, too. You’ll probably see Kai around Forelore. He resides in the Flamel wing when he’s here. He’s difficult to miss with that bright copper hair.”

“So he’s not a prince or something?”

She cocked her head at me. “What does that mean? A prince?”

“Um, it would mean the ruler’s sontris, or a very high ranking male of the ruling family.”

“Oh, no. He is not. Though his position is very important. And his sontris is Halesia’s eldest child.”

“How old is the boy?”

“Alder is seisla. You will see him around too, a lot. He is a busy boy, and wants to be part of everything. Halesia indulges him, even though he won’t inherit. She has a young dautris, Cyparis, so she will be next in line for the staff and scepter. But she is still in the nursery. You won’t mistake him, Alder has Kai’s bright hair.” She sounded almost fond of the boy.

“Does he have magic yet?”

“Yes, though I think the consensus among the scholars is that he is a paterif. It won’t be for certain until his Choosing Day, though. He has a habit of setting things on fire and running for help to put them out. Forelore gets very cross with him.”

*Image by b0red from Pixabay 

“Wait, Forelore is the palace, right? It is alive like Rosewood?”

She chuckled heartily and raised her brows in amusement. “Remember, I told you Forelore has a sense of humor? Don’t, for an erdin, underestimate the dwelling. Forelore is the oldest place of power in Eflary, and one of two in Huphaea, the other being Erstwen, the palace in Rusmaar. Both are often called the ‘power behind the Regnas’.”

“Yes, I do remember now. And I will try to behave.” I grinned wickedly at Ivy. She laughed in return.

To be honest, I was really looking forward to “meeting”(?) the palace of Forelore, perhaps even more than the Regna or anyone else. It sounded like a perfect match to my own humor, and to see some of these things played out would be hilarious. Though getting randomly soaked in a hallway or locked in a closet wouldn’t be fun, it would be crazy to know it came from the building itself, and not an inhabitant. It could be like a permanent babysitter!

The road began to close in with buildings and fences enclosing small plots or yards. Children scurried in and out of the street, dogs bouncing alongside them and chickens scattering in their wake. The scents of turned earth and baking bread filled the air. My stomach responded, but I was far too absorbed to acknowledge it.

I saw the sign of an orderly, a bakery, a confectioner, and various others that I tried to puzzle out. As we rounded a slight bend in the road, gleaming silver-colored gates arched over the road in front of us. They shone with a coral glow from the sunset that painted the horizon over the Gathering Downs.

“You can remember which road you are on by the gates.” Ivy said. “The South Road gates are platinum, the North Road are bronze. You will learn the bridges as well, they are all different and give you an indication of where you are in the city.”

“They look so delicate, yet up close, they certainly aren’t. They must be old, though?”

“The gates are part of the original elven city. Once there were high walls to enclose it, but they fell long ago. Some of the current buildings on their paths may have bits of them in their walls.”

My head swiveled with my attempts to take all the details in. Guard huts on either side of the gate appeared to be grown out of elegant white-barked birches, their pointed triangular leaves fluttering lightly in the breeze. Flags of pale green featuring a tree with a brown trunk and autumn red canopy in one half, and a twining vine with a bright green stem, kelly green leaves, and amethyst flowers in the other half waved atop each hut. From the center of the arch, a pennant-shaped banner with tertia symbols on it of the same tree and vine, a mountain crowned in red, and a rearing chestnut horse on a deep green field hung still. I could see a short allee of large trees just beyond the gate.

I gazed up in wonder as we rode under the arch into the capital city of Irillo.

**anek = week, anar = day, anos = month, anid = year, erdur = hour, erd = second, erdin = minute, seisla = six

Irillo was so much more than I can tell in one episode. Yes, I did get to explore it, but I didn’t see it all, I had planned to when we returned after The Collection. It was quite an amazing place, startlingly beautiful and somewhat otherworldly. Forelore sat in the center like a much-loved lord surrounded by its adoring people. And that is not really far from the truth. The city and the whole country loved the moody building. You’ll get more about it next time, but first we have to get there, and that is a trip in itself. See you in two weeks. Elements be!~

Finally! They made it to Irillo. What kind of image do you have of the city so far? And what about the scent of dragons, it fits, right? What do you imagine dragons smelling like? Let me know in the comments below, I know there are loads of dragon lovers out there. 👇🏼😉🐉

You can join Eleanorah’s tribe, the Nightingales, and get extras from Huphaea in her newsletter, Collata⚡! Fill out the form below ⬇ and then watch your inbox once a month, usually on the 21st, for the next issue. Come on, join the fun! ⬇

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©2021 Eleanorah Starr & Red Leaf Word Services. All Rights Reserved.

Character Discussions — 8 Steps to Side Characters by Sacha Black & “The Walking Stick” by Donald Maass @Writer Unboxed

Hard on the heels of finishing Sacha Black’s newest masterpiece 8 Steps To Side Characters, this article, “The Walking Stick” , appeared in my inbox. Sacha’s book left my mind reeling, digesting much of what I knew stated in a different way that added clarification and inspiration. Then I read Mr. Maass’s no-punches-pulled airing on the idea of ‘authentic’ characters and what authenticity really means.

Yep, mind-blown. 🤯

To keep your characters from falling flat, starting flat, or feeling flat, I highly recommend these two resources. Happy writing!~

Solid side character instruction with a slathering of singularly-Sacha humor. I recommend it highly!

The Walking Stick

August 4, 2021 By Donald Maass Leave a Comment

There’s a concept in storytelling that I’ve long tried to understand: “authentic”.  Mostly it’s invoked with respect to characters.  It’s important to know them.  It’s important that they act and speak in ways consistent with who they are, whether entering a room or rocketing to the stars.  It’s also important to know how they came to be who they are.  Back story wounds and burdens shape and define them and become the engines of change.

If writing is “authentic” then every gesture, action and utterance is “honest” and everything observed is rendered in a way both original and pinpoint accurate. “Authentic” means writing not to formula but as characters would actually behave, whatever the circumstances.  “Authentic” means they go about their business in their own ways, not the author’s.  Even when they are inspired by real people or reflect the author’s own experience, if characters are “authentic” then a story will always have internal logic and integrity.

It’s something like that.

What bothers me is, how does knowing characters and honoring their independent existence help you to write a story?  I mean, it’s nice if characters behave in ways that are lifelike—or which at least conforms to our understandings of them—then, so far, they can only display who they are.  A backstory-induced need is a good thing and can propel a character toward some sort of emotional resolution, but by doing what?  On top of that, when characters are strongly defined and consistent how can they surprise us? read more…

The Great Collection of the Elemental Families of Huphaea, anid 1830 #25

Hello Everyone! I’m writing to you today from my ark… We have been in the clutches of a rainy weather pattern for the past two weeks and it is beginning to take a toll. Our heavy clay soil holds water like a sponge, which makes farming very difficult in these conditions. Our corn is only half planted and it may be too late now to get the other half in the ground, if it ever dries out. 🌧🌧🌧😞😞

How is July treating you? Here’s one for you— I saw Halloween candy in the grocery store this morning. 😧 Seriously? Perhaps it should just become a permanent display, Halloween candy is out more than it’s not! There’s so much that needs to happen between now and Halloween, does it have to be rushed? (Can you tell this is one of my pet peeves?) Anyway, let’s hand it over to Eleanorah and continue the tale, shall we?

We left off with Elahna having gotten a bit of a talking to by Ivy, but not in a negative way. Ivy was patient with her narrow Earth mindsets, but gave Elahna something to think about as an alternative. Venrood Forest is now behind them and they are closer to the capital city, Irillo, than not. Let’s pick it up there.~

We stopped briefly to water the horses at a stream that ran alongside a vast pasture that appeared empty.

Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay 

On the other side of the road a similar expanse was dotted with round, brown cattle, their heads bent cropping the lush grasses.

Image by Steve Bidmead from Pixabay 

Half a mile further, we were brought to a halt by a large herd crossing the road. All grass-fattened steers to my experienced eye. Out of the blue, a cluster of the beasts broke ranks and surged toward us. Hooves and horns gouged the air in excitement.

“Oh, shit!” I shouted, wondering if that was a word here. I had heard similar words said with vehemence, I should remember to ask about them.

Ivy shrieked as well, and I felt my legs clamp around Revel’s sides in near-panic. He tossed his head and wheeled on his back hooves, enough to avoid the foremost steer, then skittered out of the road into the drainage ditch that ran alongside. I just managed to keep my seat on his back by seizing fistfuls of his mane when he reared and squeezing my legs to his shoulders.

Two red and white dogs streaked down the sides of the road, outpacing the cattle and setting up a boundary in front of them. Within minutes, the dogs had them turned around and trotting back to rejoin the rest of the herd.

Image by No-longer-here from Pixabay 

Revel’s ears stopped twitching, as did his shoulder under my knee when I relaxed and settled back on the blanket-saddle. I smoothed his rumpled mane and patted his neck, praising his quick feet and him for staying relatively calm. I spotted Ivy up ahead on the opposite side of the road. A cocoa-skinned man on an equally brown horse faced her.

I trotted up to them as their conversation continued, with Ivy clearly annoyed. “Ah, they know somewhat’s up. That one with the upturned horns has been on high alert since we grouped all the steers together a few aneks ago. I apologize again, Miss Ivy. You sure you’re all right?”

“Yes, I’m quite fine, just a bit janked,” She replied. The man winced slightly at her words. “Elahna, are you hurt? Where did you go!”

“Revel managed to avoid the initial rush and got us into the ditch out of the way. I managed to not fall off. We’re both fine, though. I hate it when cattle do that. All it takes is one with an idea.”

“Aye, that’s the truth. I’ll bring more dogs with me for the drive tomorrow. It’s off to the finishing fields at my fratris’ for this lot. I won’t hold you lasses any longer. Again, my apologies, and I’m thankful you’re all right. Safe travels.” He nodded and raised his hand in farewell.

“My thanks, best of luck tomorrow to you. Elements be.” Ivy spurred Felicity into a light canter to get us back on our way.

I was very thankful Revel was so nimble and that he reacted quickly. I’ve chased plenty of cattle and being in the path of many out on a tear is not advisable. Especially that lead steer the man mentioned, that one had something in mind…

When she slowed back to a trot about ten minutes later, an intersection was visible ahead. Traffic had picked up the last mile or so and now I could see why. The sounds of other travelers punctuated the air, voices, hooves, and the creaking of wooden wheels.

Photo by form PxHere

“Here we are, the Fulcrum Road,” Ivy said, throwing off her bristly air from the cattle encounter. “About dua erdur*, and we’ll be in Irillo. You’ll be able to see the city once we crest the rise over there.” She pointed to the left, the direction most of the traffic was coming from.

Then she reached up and withdrew an amulet from under her tunic, letting it rest on her chest. It was a replica of the spreading tree emblem I had seen many places at Rosewood Manor. A third of the tree was brown without leaves and the other two thirds were vibrant green with tiny, real leaves. It was enclosed in a circle of forest green and hung on a leather cord.

Scion Arborea sigil

“That amulet is lovely. I hadn’t noticed it before. But I saw that tree all over at Rosewood. That looks so real, though.”

“It’s a scion sigil. Each Seat member has one, we just don’t always display them. And it is real. These are pieces of Rosewood Manor itself, bestowed upon me on my Choosing Day.” She brushed the little leaves with her thumb in illustration. “Let’s go along, shall we?”

“Of course.”

Though our pace slowed some out of courtesy to the others on the road, we reached the top of the gentle rise within half an erdur. I gasped aloud at my first sight of the capital city of Irillo.

It wasn’t large like I am used to, but it was magnificent.

We were riding into the lowering sun, so the details fuzzed in my vision. Again I thought forlornly of my sunglasses. Glints of light sparkled off the spires Ivy mentioned and off the river in places. Two large complexes towered over the other buildings, one in the center and one further back and to the left. Domes and tall towers characterized these fixtures in a manner foreign to anything I knew or had seen yet in Huphaea. That must be the ancient elven architecture. It was stunning.

I didn’t have much time to gawk at the city because of the number of carts and travelers on the road with us. We folded into the flow down the the back side of the rise, which was quite a bit steeper than the front. I kept glancing at Ivy, wanting to talk about what I was seeing, but the noise made conversation challenging.

Just then, the thunderous roll of many hooves moving fast, accompanied by startled shouts and shrieks filled the air. Revel snorted and tossed his head wildly, his eyes rolling and showing white in fear.

Oh no, I thought, here comes his test.

I focused my attention on him and guided him further toward the edge of the road, if only to get out of the way. Like you do for an emergency vehicle with its sirens on. Others were doing the same and a lot of the animals behind us appeared spooked or downright terrified. I slipped off Revel and grabbed his bridle, tugging him well away and into the thin border of trees that lined this stretch of road. I turned us to face out and saw Ivy heading through the throng trying to get to us. Felicity appeared rattled as well.

A party of seisla mounted men in forest green vests and black trousers with green trappings on their horses cantered up the rise. Occasionally one of them barked an oath for someone to move, but it wasn’t cruel, just reinforcing. A copper-haired man rode at the front of the group, his bearing one of almost regality. His short cape was bisected with the same shade of green and burgundy.

He abruptly reined in, causing his striking silver bay horse to rear slightly and toss its head in annoyance. He nudged the horse in Ivy’s direction and hailed her.

I couldn’t hear the words exactly, but I did hear him address her by name. She had all she could do to hold onto Felicity, who was tossing her head and hop-skipping around Ivy in an attempt to pull her reins free. Something about him must be what frightens the horses so.

Then suddenly, Felicity fell quiet and stood placidly by Ivy’s side.

They finished their conversation and I barely made out his farewell and “I’ll let Zelkova know you will arrive shortly.” He trotted off, the riders following in his wake, but not before I glimpsed a blood red tear drop in the center of his forehead.

It had to be a tattoo, for the color was so vibrant it could only be ink of some sort. What an odd place for a tattoo. And an odd tattoo. It also must have really hurt.

He must be someone important, for the way his companions deferred to him. For that matter, the people on the road seemed in awe of him, too. A prince, maybe?

*anek = week, anar = day, anos = month, anid = year, erdur = hour, dua = two

I’ll leave it there for this time, bet I piqued your interest, huh? After being on the road alone, or relatively so, the increased traffic was different and I began to get a bit anxious. I was looking forward to exploring Irillo, though, even from this vantage point it was beautiful and interesting. Until next time, then, Elements be!~

Oooooh, a mysterious man! And why was he spooking the animals? We will find out next time. What do you think about the first glimpse of Irillo? Don’t worry, you will get plenty of description of the city when we get there, it’s truly one of my favorite places ever. Take your guesses about who the mystery man is or why he makes animals afraid below, I’d love to hear your ideas. 👇🏼🤓

You can join Eleanorah’s tribe, the Nightingales, and get extras from Huphaea in her newsletter, Collata⚡! Fill out the form below and then watch your inbox once a month, usually on the 21st, for the next issue. Come on, join the fun!⬇

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©2021 Eleanorah Starr & Red Leaf Word Services. All Rights Reserved.

Reblog — Can Writers Still Be Readers? — Writer Unboxed

This is a topic that comes up often in conversation among writers, and more importantly, among editors. Many who say they do all three activities grouse about how one has ruined some of the others for them. Perhaps I’m in a minority, but I haven’t had this happen. Yet.

It may be that my brain works in a different way, one that segments and separates easier than someone else. I have high Input, Strategic, and Learner Gallup Strengths, information intake is my specialty. It stands to reason that sorting it would be also. I can file away that poignant metaphor or plot twist for later musing and not let it dampen the story or ruin it.

Either way, I find it a fascinating topic that is as individual as the person expressing it. Here’s another opinion from Writer Unboxed.

What do you think? Does writing and/or editing affect your reading?~

image by Paul Bence

All writers begin as readers, right? We fell in love with other people’s stories—where they could take us, what they could do—and then, one day, decided to make a story ourselves. 546 more words

Can Writers Still Be Readers? — Writer Unboxed

The Great Collection of the Elemental Families of Huphaea, anid 1830 #24

Hello Everyone! It has been a while, I know, since I’ve put out an episode. I’ve been hard at work on three short stories set in Huphaea, which have taught me how all-encompassing writing within word counts is! They were all meant to be contest entries, but honestly, only two made it to submission. The third way over shot the word count and because I was happy with it, I didn’t feel the need to cut it down. Undoubtedly, it will appear as a perk for newsletter subscribers or in an anthology of Huphaea stories at some point. I actually have a bunch thanks to my weekly writing group. But anyway, I’m back to the time of Ivy and Elahna (anid 1830) instead of four hundred (which would be quardeccund in Huphaea) anid or more in the past and looking forward to recounting their journey once more.

I hope all has been well with you in the post-vaccine world. It’s nice to go places without masks again and see life taking on more familiar shapes. Personally, I’m just thrilled that I can visit my library and browse the shelves enveloped by the scents of paper and ink! Here’s what happened when I made my first visit in person…


Take care and enjoy the summer for those in the northern hemisphere.☀😎🏊🏼‍♀️ It’s good to be back!

In the last episode, way back in the spring, Elahna and Ivy were preparing to leave Cragbend and head on to Irillo. Ivy had just diagnosed the problems with the giant planetree and we had seen an air magician, or air weaver, as they are called. Ivy had given Lisssa her word that she would recommend Scosy for a stablehand at the palace in Irillo once she got there. Let’s get back to the story, shall we?~

Felicity and Revel pranced and quickstepped out onto the Shoe and toward the main road.

Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay 

We passed a bakery with a sign the reverse colors of Sweetnic’s back in Cragbend. Must be Rennay’s kinsman’s shop, I thought.

Cragbend confectioners

I still had the peach tarts wrapped in the spelled paper that kept them warm in my rucksack so I didn’t need to stop and replenish. Besides, there was bound to be confectioneries galore in Irillo, and we would be there that evening! Butterflies started rising in my stomach and I actually got a bit annoyed at myself. For a moment.

Why annoyed, you ask? Well, it’s not as if I hadn’t been in big cities before, I’d been to Boston, Dublin, San Francisco, even Moscow and Rome, and I knew Irillo wouldn’t be on that scale. There was just so much emotion and anticipation roiling around inside me that I just couldn’t deal with it. I don’t like being overly emotional about anything, really. So I drew in a deep breath of cool, pine-and-spruce-drenched air and relaxed into my blanket-saddle to enjoy the day.

Before the hour (erdur) was out, the edge of Venrood Forest was in sight. Sunshine blanketed the green fields that spread out as far as I could see. Here and there, in strategic locations I surmised, clumps of trees formed windbreaks, and as we passed, hedgerows appeared as boundaries.

Image by Jordan Stimpson from Pixabay 

“The fields are much larger on this side of the forest.” I mused aloud to Ivy, hoping to begin some conversation.

“Yes, well, they are within a day’s ride of Irillo, so production is important. Landholders a day’s ride out are the main suppliers of food for the city. Goods come down the Irilliscent too, but the surrounds are the largest source.”

“That makes sense. Is that a river, the Irilliscint?”

She nodded. “It runs through the middle of the city. We will cross the Irilliscint bridge just before entering Forelore. It flows in from the sea on the northwestern coast in the Foster lands, over an anek’s ride away. Out here, these homesteads are grain farms and hay farms mostly. Closer in you will find the animal farms and vegetable suppliers. They are close enough to leave home in the early morning hours and make it in to sell at the market or unload and be back in an anar. A long anar, but a profitable one.”

Image by Broin from Pixabay 

I turned to look back at the looming wall of the forest. I missed the relative shade of the trees already, but I really missed my sunglasses. I started mentally cataloging my pack contents in search of something I could use to shade my eyes. Ivy, however, appeared unaffected, which didn’t surprise me.

Revel seemed to be in his own zone, trotting easily in step with Felicity, so I loosened my grip on the reins and made to swing my rucksack off one arm and around to rummage through it. As the pack slid down toward my lap, its weight disrupted my balance so suddenly, I dropped to the ground on top of it. Revel shied, banging into Felicity and Ivy let out a startled yelp.

“Are you all right? What happened?”

Thankfully, Revel kept his wits and didn’t run, as my right foot was still caught up on his side in the stirrup. I twisted my ankle slightly and freed my foot. The stretch in my hip lessened and I sat up to make sure nothing else was injured. But all was well, just a bit of pride hurt.

“I was trying to get something out of my bag without having to stop, but I guess I stopped anyway.” Then I winced as I brushed off my shoulder. That would be colorful tomorrow, for sure.

Ivy snorted delicately. “I don’t mind stopping, just speak up if you need to.”

“I know, ah, never mind. I just need something to shield my eyes. The sunlight is much brighter here than on Earth. Otherwise, I’ll have a headache in no time.” I drew a shirt from yesterday out of my bag and wound it up on my head. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay 

“The sun would give you a headache? Strange, it always makes my head feel lighter and more clear when I am out of the forest. Maybe your eyes just have to adjust. Try taking all of the light in, not squinting to keep some out. It may help you.”

“I’m quite sure they do have to adjust, but I will try that.”

I remounted and we lapsed into a conversation about the geography of Irillo. The city is divided into four quadrants-Scholars, Verdant, Lodgings, and Merchants, with the palace, called Forelore, at its center. The Irriliscint runs along one side of the High Seat. She didn’t say it was for protection or anything like that, but my medieval-loving brain couldn’t project anything less than a walled castle. Ivy had mentioned something about old elven architecture, I recalled. I wondered what that meant.

She looked pensive at my query. “I’m not quite sure how to answer that. It is very distinct, you will have no trouble picking it out, even from the rise on the road when we approach the city. Perhaps curved where you expect straight lines, domed tops many times, but seamless in construction. And old. Forelore is said to be one of the first buildings on Huphaean soil. Or a part of it, at least. It’s an immense complex. You will see soon enough.” Her flawless face crinkled with knowing mischief. “So let’s return to the subject of judgments about whom one spends time with in your world. I’m truly interested to know why it is of such concern.”

I rolled my eyes away from her and groaned to myself. Of course, she wouldn’t forget. Here it comes…

The topic took us through the entire morning, noontime repast, and part of the afternoon. Much indignation and spluttering came from Ivy, but she continued asking questions and pointing out flaws in the norms of life on Earth. All I could do was nod, agree, or hold up my hands in unknowing.

Evidently, some of the prejudices and sentiments toward groups of people or races did exist elsewhere on Ereth, but not here in Huphaea. The Balance demands and provides for the acceptance of all who choose to live on the island continent, and it is a choice. Individuals are free to leave and not return, even those with Elemental blood and abilities, though any talents tend to wane outside of Huphaea. Vitae is present in other lands on the planet, but only in select places.

Outsiders could choose to settle in Huphaea as well, though it wasn’t terribly common. But enough so that the diversity of physical characteristics was woven through the people, in addition to the influence of the vitae.

“Some individuals’ abilities are such that they influence their physical appearance. Members of the Lunad and Fairmoon scions have ink-black skin in deference to their power being night active. Many air weavers, like Leverett this morning, are tall and slender, coming as close to the air they command as possible. There are myriad ways the vitae manifests itself.”

“Now that you mention it, I did notice that about him. But his presence still filled the space a larger person would occupy.”

“Exactly. That’s common with air weavers. Air is all-encompassing.”

“So the underlying message is that life is to be lived. As best you see fit. How does that fit into maintaining the Balance?”

A long pause ensued before Ivy answered. “I’m genuinely not sure how to answer this, as I’ve never had to think about it. In your terms, you would say it is one of the social givens, maybe? Being concerned for what another individual does takes energy away from your own anar, from what you do to fulfill your own wants, needs, and desires and contribution to the community. That would mean you would always be out of balance, giving out more energy than is necessary, perhaps more than you have.”

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay 

“There is no room on a balanced scale of the whole and the self for another pan.” She turned to regard me, genuine confusion reflected in a few tiny creases between her eyebrows and the set of her mouth.

“I can work with that. It’s a good starting place if I do end up having to stay here.”

We rode in silence for a while then. I certainly had much to think about. Perhaps the Earthly mindsets would just fall away after a while, like ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it.’

What was that? Oh, no, I didn’t regret taking those fellows up on their offer. (Recall the proposition at the foot of the stairs at the inn in Cragbend of episode #23) I just wasn’t surprised when such questions were asked the next time, lol.

*anek = week, anar = day, anos = month, anid = year

So far Huphaean society seems to be more simplistic than ours, but is it really? There was still a lot always going on, but their motivations and principles were very different. How about the idea of energy balancing per individual, could you do such a thing? Let me know below 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼

I think I could. It makes so much sense. It would only work if the majority of people did, though. That’s why it did work in Huphaea. Everyone did there. See you next time!~

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©2021 Eleanorah Starr and Red Leaf Word Services. All Rights Reserved.