Jules and the Unicorn (Part 1)

Jules and the Unicorn

A Faerie Story from the Worlds before the Door

By Abby Jones

 

Perfect. Gleaming. The unicorn filly danced just beyond the end of Jules’ reaching fingers. Jules smiled and made a clicking noise with her tongue. The young unicorn’s ears twitched. Hesitantly, she stepped closer. A cool breeze stirred her rainbow mane. The wind frolicked through the orange and red leaves of the forest, lifting, tickling, teasing. It sent shadows dancing over the filly’s dappled fur, and over the girl with out-stretched fingers. The young unicorn gazed at Jules with her dark, wise eyes.

With a small, gilded step, the filly came closer.

She extended her nose and slipped its velvet softness into Jules’ cupped palm.

Jules giggled with delight.

The unicorn danced back, but returned more quickly. She nuzzled the pocket of Jules’ pale pink dress, smelling golden apples. Jules stroked the unicorn’s neck, watching her rainbow mane slip through her fingers. The smart thing sniffed out an apple and ate it whole with noise chomps. Jules giggled again. The filly gave her a gentle nudge with her head. Butterflies fluttered around them. They settled in their hair, like living, bright bows.

With sudden swift destruction, a gun sounded.

Butterflies fluttered away.

The forest stilled.

A net darted through branches and leaves.

The unicorn squeal.

Jules threw her arms around the filly’s neck.

The net settled in a heavy rush across the girl and the unicorn. The unicorn quivered, her eyes wide and rolling. Jules held her close.

Out of the trees bounded three men, who all looked at least half troll or goblin. Wait. One of the three was a particularly hideous women. She bent down eye to eye with Jules. The unicorn tried to prance back, but the net held her fast. Jules clenched her teeth and met the woman’s gaze. Fear flutter all up and down Jules’ spine, but she tried to keep her face brave.

“Ha!” the ugly woman barked a laugh. “Works every time. Use a little girl to catch a ‘corn. Every time.” She straightened. “Come on, boys. Tie ‘em up ‘fore their parents come a-hunting.”

“Yeah…” the uglier of the two men said, picking his nose, “I don’t want nothing to do with no grown ‘corn.”

“‘Urry up then.”

The men reached under the net with manacles for wrist and hoof. Cold iron touched Jules’ skin.

“Don’t you dare take us anywhere!” Jules stamped her foot, fire in her eyes. “My Daddy’s scarier than all three of you. You don’t want him angry with you.”

“Shut it, girl,” said the other man. Mean scars covered his face. His eyes were cold and dark.

Jules clamped her mouth shut. They pulled the net back, rolling it tight. As soon as the weight left her back, the young unicorn shot off for the trees. The manacle pulled her up short, jerking her legs out from under her. She bleated, a frightened animal noise. The forest seemed to lean back from her. Leaves and dirt flew in the air as the unicorn kicked and fought to regain her footing.

“Hold onto her, Toog, you idiot. We don’t want her damaged.”

Toog growled, “I am holding her.”

The woman glared at him and started off into the woods. Toog followed with the filly, who trembled under his rough hands. The mean man grabbed Jules’ free hand. Jules kicked him in the shin. He didn’t flinch, he just slipped another manacle over her wrist. Jules hissed like an angry cat, but the mean man dragged her off into the trees after the others just the same.

Jules’ heart raced. The filly had trusted her, and these people had used that. These people were coming into the forest and taking magical beings and things from it. They were taking Jules away from the magical forest.

“No,” Jules whispered.

The mean man gave the chains a yank.

“No!” Jules planted her feet and stopped. The man tugged the chains again. Jules stumbled. She grabbed a young oak tree and wrapped her arms and legs around it.

“No!”

“Knave,” the woman called from up a ways, “don’t get separated.”

Knave jerked Jules. “Come on, girl.”

Jules pressed her face to the tree, ignoring the sharp pain in her wrists and arms as Knave snapped the manacles. When Jules didn’t let go, Knave came closer. His dull eyes lit up. He raised his hand.

Jules shrank back.

The tree she clung to suddenly batted Knave away like he was nothing more than a pesky fly. Knave flew through the air, crunched against the trunk of a mighty pine, and crumpled to the ground. The forest floor curled up over him, and he disappeared from view.

Butterflies fluttered back down into Jules’ hair.

Mouth agape, Jules stared at the tree. The dryad—who lived in the tree, that lived in the forest, that lived in the world—bent down, cupped Jules’ face in rough hands, kissed her forehead, and said, with a voice like wind in the leaves, “Root and water. Save the young unicorn, save the forest. We will all help you.” The dryad faded back into the tree with a wink.

Jules frowned. Who would help her?

“Hello love.” A tiny man, with a fiery mane, dropped down from the tree. He hovered in front of Jules on flickering wings. “Young Oak here,” he patted the trunk of the tree, “said—”

“Old really,” a voice rumbled from the ground under Jules’ feet. She stepped back, the manacles clanking. Another tiny man, formed from dirt and seemingly always in danger of dribbling away, flew up beside the first.

“Yes, well, Old Oak here,” the fiery man patted the tree again, “says you need help.”

“Of course she does, Fire,” the dirt man said. “Look at them there chains on her pretty little wrists.”

“Right you are, right you are, Earth my love.”

Earth hid his mouth with his hand and whispered loudly to Fire, “Do you think you can work with that iron, Fire?”

Fire also hid his mouth with his hand and loudly whispered, “Well, my dear, I think I can—”

“Please!” Jules interrupted. “We can’t save the unicorn if we just stand here.”

“Rude.” Fire stuck out his tongue at Jules.

Earth scratched at his bald, dirty head. “But not wrong.”

Fire put his hands on his hips, rose in the air, and huffed.

“Don’t mind him,” Earth said to Jules. “He’s melodramatic, he is.”

The dryad reappeared with a sigh. He reached out with two great roots, broke the manacles from Jules’ wrists, and disappeared back into the tree. She rubbed her red skin. The cold, heavy iron had made her wrists ache.

“Thank you.” Jules pressed her hand to the bark of the tree.

It warmed under her fingers. “Root and water.”

Jules nodded and hurried away after the unicorn, sending the butterfly tumbling through the air.

“Come on, Fire! An adventure!”

“Tally ho!” yelled Fire, and the two fey followed after Jules.

Part Two Coming Soon!

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Cora and the Nurse Dragon by H. L. Burke

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http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01ACV79BO/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B01ACV79BO&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=LVUSVAG2P6YMRVD7

(Click on the link to pre-order this book for $0.99. The book comes out January 31st!)

(I was given an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

I love this story. I read it about a month ago and I’m still delighted with it. I think the main reason for my enjoyment is the connection I felt to the main character, Cora. If you put her in a modern setting and gave her a love for horses instead of dragons, she’d be me.

This book had a special kind of magic. From the opening paragraph on, I loved every minute of it. Cora loves dragons and dreams of being a dragon jockey when she grows up. She saves her money up to hatch eggs but generally just gets short-lived mayflies . . . until one day! And her adventures begin.

The other reason I thought this story was super fun was the ‘80/’90’s save-the-animal feeling. You know those movies where a kid finds a wild animal, raises it, falls in love with it, and then tearfully has to . . . well I don’t want to spoil it, but there were tears! Like those fun kid movies, this book wasn’t too heavy handed or preachy about animal rights. It was more about treating animals kindly than denouncing evil humanity. (Sarcasm.)

This makes the book a perfect opening to talk to your kids about how we treat animals, and what is right and wrong about that. Another talking point this book provides is business. Cora and her best friend start their own company and there is some great moments of them trying to figure out how to cover their costs and still make a profit and what to do with that profit.

In summary, this book is a clean, fun adventure that has a few dark moments, but ends well with the added bonus of providing some great opportunities for conversation between readers.

I can’t wait to share this book with my two twelve-year-old nieces!

Rated: PG: I only say this because there are mistreated animals and the kids get tangled up with some bad people. There is no language, sex, or gratuitous violence. Again, think Dumbo Drop or something like that.

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Courtesy of Google.

Writing Lesson: Teaching old Dogs New Tricks

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I’ve been writing since about 2000. (That’s 15 years!) I host a monthly writing group, a monthly writing class, and do beta and alpha reads for other authors. I know a lot of writing rules and tricks. I can even judge when to break them most of the time. Why? I have experience. Been there, done that, learned to do better. But, a little over a year ago, I changed what I write and have had to learn some new rules.

Writing for children is different than writing for adults. In some ways, it’s easier. I feel released because there are things I can skip and not worry about explaining. But, in some ways, it’s much harder because it’s new to me. I’m the new kid on the block. 😉

One of the writing rules I teach my class is repetitive words. Never be accidentally repetitive. You can be repetitive on purpose, but not on accident. When you repeat words beyond AND or THE it catches the readers eye and draws them out of the book. It makes them stop flowing in their reading and start reading every word specifically. Now they are doing a vocabulary study, not reading your story.

There is one exception to this word. The word ‘said’. You can repeat ‘said’ as many times as you like. Over and over. Sentence after sentence. Why? Because the human mind stops reading it. They read the dialogue and then the name of the speaker never once reading the word said. This is in fact why writers are encouraged to not use other words like asked, exclaimed, and growled to describe a character talking. When they use a more descriptive word it breaks the flow of reading. The reader has to stop the flow of the words in their mind and make sure they read the dialogue correctly.

Did I read that line with a growl?

Did I understand that the character was exclaiming?

In the best-case scenario, the reader should be able to tell by your word choice and vocabulary the emotion of the situation without saying anything beyond ‘said’.

This is a rule I have honored, taught, and experienced. I have stood by this rule for years.

Then my younger brother broke it for me.

My younger brother is married and has two of the cutest little girls in the world. He works for Halliburton and has spent time all over the world on oilrigs. I don’t get to see him very often, so we started a Christmas tradition of going shopping together before the holidays. He gets gifts for the girls and his lovely wife and I finish up everything I haven’t gotten done yet. Between stops, we talk about what we haven’t covered via text or email, and some things we have but we wish to rehash. We talk about books, movies, philosophy, Tolkien, vampires, my writing, his girls, and just life in general. It is one of the many things I love about the Christmas season.

This year, as we drove from Target to World Market, we talked about my Texas Cousins Adventure stories. They are very popular with my nieces and nephews and I hope to get them published some day. My brother told me how much he enjoyed them but wanted to offer one word of critique: the word ‘said’ is used too much.

What??

You can’t use ‘said’ too much!!

It’s a rule!

But wait . . .

Children’s stories are not the same as novels. They are short and meant to be read aloud by parents to little people who can’t read yet. Eureka! Lightbulb!

They are meant to be read aloud.

Few of us read novels aloud. We read them silently in our heads. But a children’s story is meant to be gathered around and enjoyed by several little people while someone reads each word. Why yes! In that case, you would never want to repeat the word said because it would get old and annoying. In a novel, your mind and eye skip it. But when you’re reading it aloud, you’re reading it over and over and over and over and over.

Oh my.

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In that one little moment, I realized that I need to look at Texas Cousins Adventure stories as something read verbally and heard with the ears. I need to read it aloud before sharing it so that I can make sure it works well with the human mouth and not just the human eyes. I need to used words like exclaimed, asked, growled, grunted, and any other fun descriptive word I can come up with for the way someone talks.

I was thankful for his honest and gentle critique. It’s important as a writer to have friends who are willing to tell you where you’re going wrong. It’s tough to take, but worth it.

Now, on to better writing!

(Our current debate is about genres. Are they good, bad, a necessary evil? We’re still discussing it over text and emails, so I’ll keep you posted. Also, I’m listening to some audio books to see how they handle this situation. Do they skip said if they’re doing distinct voices or do they say it and we start to ignore it? Thoughts?)

Me and my younger brother!

Me and my younger brother!

You’re Help Needed

I probably need this more than you do.  Every once in a while I need to remind myself of my goals, my dreams, my hopes.  I need to keep them before my eyes or I might lose my way.  I might get lost in the fog of possibility and never complete a project.  I might never grow beyond where I am today.  Being a writer means having other people living in your head.  They queue up to have their story written, but they don’t know how to stand in line.  They push, shove, cut, and get in fistfights.  One moment, I’m all pumped about finding the opening lines for a new story.  The next, I finally figure out how to re-write a scene that’s just had a temper-tantrum.  Then, this blog needs a new article and I’m off to find a 1000 interesting words.  Soon, my nieces and nephews do something adorable that must be captured on my computer.  But wait, my pesky fairytale pushes ahead of it all demanding my attention.  See how maddening it can be to be a writer!  (Yes, you literally feel crazy sometimes.)

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There are four writing goals at the forefront of my life:

1. Children’s Stories:  Capitalizing on my growing number of nieces and nephews, I’m working on a handful of children’s stories featuring their many adventures.  My goal is to have a handful of whimsical stories and a handful of moralistic stories to present to a Christian publisher.  Right now, I have two moralistic ones dealing with the differences between boys and girls, and two whimsical ones.  I envision watercolor illustrations, but I’m flexible on that point.  I hope to publish with a traditional publisher and market them towards homeschoolers.

2. FairyTale:  When I think back to the stories I read as a teen, I find many of today’s YA stories lack true adventure.  Oh sure, they have vampires and witches, but they don’t have innocents or strength.  Most of them are based entirely around romance, too easy to read, and self-focused.  They too quickly cave to raging hormones to gain readers and don’t remember that someday these people need to be able to deal with real life.  My goal is to write a Fairy Tale series featuring both grownups and teens captured in the flow of history.  They will face darkness, but light will win in the end.  Friendship will be the focus and theme.  This series will take me many years to finish, but I hope to have book one’s rough draft done around this time next year.  I don’t have any specific publishing plans yet, as the book is still in the rough draft stage.  I am sharing it with my writing group and have gotten rave reviews.

3. Blog:  I plan to continue to feature two to three articles on my blog each week.  The articles will cover sanctification type posts, movie and book reviews, writing articles, guest posts, and interviews.  My goal is to expand my readership base (followers) so that when I’m ready to publish I can prove I have an engaged and active platform.

4. Finish my two series:  When I made the switch from Urban Fantasy to Children’s Stories and YA, I left two intense series unfinished.  They may never see the light of day, but for my own sanity, they need to be finished.  If I don’t finish them, questions will haunt the back of my mind forever.  This is my hobby/vacation project.  I don’t plan on working on these stories on any sort of regular schedule.

These are my writing goals.  I don’t plan to spend more time on them than I currently do.  Writing is not my career.  My church, husband, home, and family are my careers.  But, part of the service I can offer is writing these stories.  I want to serve my church and my family through my writing.

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How can you help?  Well, that’s easy!  First, read my blog.  Read and comment.  Let me know you were here.  I check my stats page to see how many people viewed my blog each day, how many looked at different articles when they came, what articles and subjects are the most popular.  When you read the blog, comment, and share, I know!  Please, share my blog with your friends and family if you’ve enjoyed it.  If you like the children’s stories, read them to the little people in your life and let me know what they thought.  If the writing articles helped you, tell me and share it with other writers.  If you were encouraged by the more spiritual articles, maybe someone else will be too.  Read, comment, share.  Last, follow me on Facebook.  Facebook is an easy way for me to let you know how my writing is going on a daily basis.  It gives you insight into the mind of a writer and who doesn’t want that??  It’s also a convenient way for you to share me with all your friends and family when you’ve enjoyed something I’ve written.

A writer is only worth their salt if they have readers.  I am so encouraged by the number of you who regularly read my ramblings, like my posts, and even stop me at church to tell me you’ve enjoyed my stories.  I can’t tell you how much it means to me.  To all you Moms who’ve told me about reading my stories to your kids, two words: DAY MADE!!!  All writers feed on their readers.  You’re what drives us to keep going.  You’re what keeps us going when we feel like that was the biggest, garbbled pile of green ooze ever written.  Thanks for reading my musings.  Thanks for supporting me in my change of direction.  I love all of you!