Wonder Woman: The Pure Hero

Wonder Woman is topping the movie charts and breaking records, but better yet, she’s winning the hearts of a new generation of girls and boys. And she deserves their admiration because she is a hero with pure motives.
I’ve mentioned that I’m NOT a comic book reader. My eyes get too distracted by what’s going on to read everything in order. I tried (with Peanuts and Archie) but my brain is wired for words and a single picture (maybe, if it isn’t too distracting).
The things I say about Wonder Woman in this blog post are one-hundred percent from the cinematic DC universe. I have no idea what her superpowers were in the comics or where she came from.
Maybe she doesn’t resemble the Gal (Gadot) millions loved on the big screen. If not, that’s sad. Those filmmakers made a pretty decent story.
                        >Rambling over<
Wonder Woman is a hero with a pure heart and pristine motivation. As much as I love Captain America, he does have a prejudice that colors his thinking.

What’s not to love about this guy?

Our Gal Wonder Woman does not.

Backstory Baggage

Most fictional characters have a backstory that shapes who they are and what they want. And for the average Joe or Jane Fiction, that’s important.
But those things act like a chain on a superhero.


For example, Superman has a savior complex because his father had high expectations for him to “carry on” their extinct alien race.
Captain America despises the Nazis and Hydra and all the evil they represent and perpetuate in the world. This means he must stop them at any cost. It was the sole reason he was given Stark’s serum in the first place.
We could continue through some of the (mostly Marvel) comic book heroes I’m familiar with, but I think the point has been made.
Diana Prince has none of this backstory baggage. She was raised to believe that her race was created for a single purpose: to protect humanity from destroying itself.


She doesn’t cop a savior-complex or become a crusader. Instead, she walks on the battlefield and changes the things she has power to change. One little step at a time.

Personal Issues

Everyone has personal issues: secret or well-known. Making those have high stakes is what good fiction is all about.
But a superhero with personal issues can cause big problems.
Most of the time, if the issues are too big, the hero turns to the dark side (thinking of Mr. Freeze here) and becomes enemy number one for the good guys.
Why are these such a problem for heroes? Because they have the power to take matters into their hands and SOLVE that issue with resounding finality.
Spiderman is going to stop all the criminals because he didn’t stop the murder of his uncle. Batman is going to clean up Gotham because it’s what his murdered parents would want.
But dispelling their own ghosts isn’t a pure motive for superheroes. Their great power gives them great responsibility. And the responsibility is to those weaker than them.
Our Gal Wonder Woman faces her personal issues—being misinformed or misled—before she tries to save the world. Because the uncertainty Ares gave her by exposing her to his brand of “truth” paralyzed her.
She could have blown up everyone around her in order to get a little peace and think things over. Instead, she took in the truths around her, weighed them with what she’d seen firsthand and what she’d learned as a child, and took a stand.

Relationship Hangups

Even though I was a little disappointed that Diana and Steve Trevor didn’t get a little “happy for now” time together, his death freed her from one of the biggest snares for superheroes. They have relationship hangups that keep them from going after the greater good.
I’ve said Captain America doesn’t have these, but others say his friendship with Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier) is his relationship Achilles heel. Pick your side. It doesn’t matter now because I’ve found my new “best superhero.”
Superman has to save Lois Lane rather than the world. Professor X won’t end Magneto because of their friendship. Spiderman and Iron Man are manipulated when the bad guys take their lady loves hostage.
Wonder Woman wanted to save Steve, but it was too late for him. Would she have done it? Not at the price of letting Ares go free.
She was raised to be a warrior in a culture of warriors. They trusted each other, watched each other’s back, but every warrior understands that there is an ultimate price. By putting on the uniform, you accept that risk. (Which is why I think Steve Rogers could have a relationship with Agent Sharon Carter because she can take care of herself and is willing to accept the risk if she can’t.)
Steve made his own choice, and Diana respected his choice. Even though it broke her heart.
Her motivation for protecting humanity? Duty maybe. Revenge, not at all. In her own words: love.

If you want to see how another viewer saw God’s view of women depicted in the film, click on over and check out this post by Marilette Sanchez titled “WONDER WOMAN might be the most accurate on-screen depiction of biblical womanhood.” 
Do you think Wonder Woman is the pure hero? Are there other things that keep superheroes from having pure hearts and just motives?

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Writing on a Whim

More poetry from my vaults today. Hopefully, my writing whims aren’t spotlighting the whimsy within me.

(Yes, I do love my alliteration.)

Today’s offering is quite whimsical. I played with the words and penned them on the page.

Background: On this day, I had been brooding about the lack of new ideas and inspiration I’d been feeling. In the wake of National Novel Writing Month, I often find my creative soul a little parched. But I read a few turns of phrase in Proverbs 30 and an idea for a superhero-quest story spilled from nowhere.

Or somewhere. But us writerly types can never really pinpoint the exact source or motivation.

This untitled poem was only written a couple of months ago, December 30, 2016.

Ideas
spin through my pen
spurred by a word
inspired by a title
Wind in his Fists
Not the first time it called to me.

Notes
scribbled in dribbles
scattered by tatters
indulging a whim
Water in Garments
Superhero meet Elemental: A Trilogy

Heroes
stutter what they utter
strange what they arrange
involved with others
End of Earth
A quest against an unknown enemy.

Since this time, I’ve figured out who the villain is for these books. I know what he wants and why. Which means this could be a project that eventually comes front and center during my writing office hours.

All those pages of scribbles might find their way into a story after all.

Do you like to make notes in long hand? How do you get your best ideas? What process do you use to refine your ideas?

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Everyday heroes stand for their beliefs

What do you believe in? An equal education for everyone? Well, that’s been something people have been fighting for as long as their were people to fight. Everyday heroes stand up for what they believe in. No matter the cost.

Below is a story shared on www.amightygirl.com. Even though I’m familiar with many desegregation stories from the 50s and 60s, I hadn’t known all of these details.

If you’re only six years of age and can stand up for what you believe is right, you are a hero in my eyes.

Read on about Ruby Bridges.

As a six-year-old, Ruby Bridges famously became the first African American child to desegregate an all-white elementary school in the South. When the first grader walked to William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans on November 14, 1960 surrounded by a team of U.S. Marshals, she was met by a vicious mob shouting and throwing objects at her.

ruby-bridges

One of the federal marshals, Charles Burks, who served on her escort team, recalls Bridges’ courage in the face of such hatred: “For a little girl six years old going into a strange school with four strange deputy marshals, a place she had never been before, she showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn’t whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier. We were all very proud of her.”

She just marched along like a little soldier.

Once Ruby entered the school, she discovered that it was devoid of children because they had all been removed by their parents due to her presence. The only teacher willing to have Ruby as a student was Barbara Henry, who had recently moved from Boston. Ruby was taught by herself for her first year at the school due to the white parents’ refusal to have their children share a classroom with a black child.

Despite daily harassment, which required the federal marshals to continue escorting her to school for months; threats towards her family; and her father’s job loss due to his family’s role in school integration, Ruby persisted in attending school.

The following year, when she returned for second grade, the mobs were gone and more African American students joined her at the school. The pioneering school integration effort was a success due to Ruby Bridges’ inspiring courage, perseverance, and resilience.

I admire people who stand firm on their beliefs. I don’t agree with what they believe? That still doesn’t change my respect for them.

It takes a true hero to inspire other people to persevere and be courageous.

What do you believe in? Will you stand for it? Even if it means standing against a mob?

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Wonder Woman in Vegas

Wait a minute! Didn’t I just post about how Wonder Woman despises Las Vegas? I mean so much so that she wouldn’t even join me for a few moments by the pool.

Yep. I haven’t changed my story.

No matter what it sounds like according to the headline.

She wouldn’t set foot on the melty-hot pavement of The Strip. She did enjoy a few flyovers of the well-lit city after the sun went down.

They can see that place from outer space.

Actual Image from NASA

The last evening of our trip while my husband and I were walking off the excess chicken alfredo penini dinner we’d enjoyed, I ran smack dab into our gal Wonder Woman.

And laughed.

Because I knew the chances of her stepping inside this casino were astronomically high. Even if she needed to apprehend a criminal.

Because everyone knows once you step inside a casino you’re stuck like a rat in a maze.

No need for her to swoop in and save the day.

Let casino security handle it.

So what did I see that made me laugh? This:

A Wonder Woman Slot Machine
A Wonder Woman Slot Machine

 

When we walked by, there was a couple playing at one of the four stations. I had to stop because they were playing video clips from the Lynda Carter television series.

One of them involved the quick-change twirl and flash that transforms plain Diana into Wonder Woman. I could watch this all day long.

But look at the board and what you’re trying to match up?

This Machine is gold for sure
This Machine is gold for sure

Not that I know anything about slot machines (or gambling in general), but I got a kick out of this little Wonder Woman island in the middle of a great big casino.

A casino she would never enter.

So of course I snapped a photo (or four). I couldn’t wait to post proof that she had indeed landed in Vegas. Inside the casino at the Luxor.

Do you think she laughed when she saw the photos?

I’m pretty sure she called her lawyer or her press agent or someone like that.

Sold out to a slot machine. Those were the words she used.

Wonder Woman Wild? I don't think they want to see that
Wonder Woman Wild? I don’t think they want to see that

Whoops. Maybe I shouldn’t have laughed about that.

Or taken pictures.

Or posted them online.

Whoops.

It doesn’t mean anything. Our gal Wonder Woman despises Sin City. And someone is going to pay for using her face and name without permission.

Sure wouldn’t want to be that guy.

Do Good Girls make lousy Superheroes?

I’ve been watching Arrow for many months now. It’s the “thing” my husband and I do on Sunday evenings. We’ve finished the third season now and WOW, talk about tying things in a pretty bow. All this to say: I’ve come to the conclusion that nice girls (and guys) make lousy superheroes.

Wait! What?

Isn’t Captain America the ultimate nice guy? *nods head*

Image from Marvel-movies
Image from Marvel-movies

Hasn’t this writer said he is her favorite superhero-right on this blog? *nods again and shares link*

So am I going back on everything I’ve said before. Nope. Well, maybe. You’ll get to decide once you read my thoughts.

Vigilante or Superhero?

I talked about this issue before in a post about Captain America: Civil War. I don’t want to rehash all those details. If you want, you can read them here.

The Arrow and his alter ego Oliver Queen aren’t your run-of-the-mill nice guys. In fact, when I first met Mr. Queen I didn’t really like him.

Hero or Vigilante?
Hero or Vigilante?

But if a guy wants to go outside the law to make his hometown a better place, and uses skills attained during five years of hell, he grows on you. Or he did me. The guy has so many demons – most of which come back to haunt him on a daily basis – that it’s hard not to feel for him.

In the end of season three, the Arrow is destroyed by carefully constructed plans of the League of Assassins. Bodies pile up – most of them blamed on the Arrow, who has spent two of his three years in the green hood NOT killing anyone.

There are twists galore in every episode of this season. A few of them made me roll my eyes. Others were threaded in so seamlessly that my jaw dropped. I may even have screamed a little, scaring my cat away from his cuddling spot.

Depending on who you ask, the Arrow is a vigilante. Or a superhero. And it seems like the line between them is blurred beyond visibility.

A vigilante is NOT a nice guy. Even if he helps the good guys-namely the police-to apprehend the really bad guys. There are laws in place. He’s breaking them by shooting arrows at people and leaving them strung up for the police to book into the system.

Who Decides the Bar for “Nice”?

So, is the Arrow a vigilante or a superhero?

Once upon a time, Captain Lance was persuaded from his vigilante stance because the Arrow saved his life. And his own daughter Sara teamed up with the vigilante to clean up the streets after a huge infrastructure breakdown.

So really, Lance only accepted the Arrow because of Sara.

This is totally evident when he turns on not only the Arrow but his other daughter once he discovers that Sara’s death has been kept from him. Because that’s a totally unforgivable lie. *rolls eyes*

What would it have changed if he knew?

Apparently, his view on vigilantism.

Because even though Laurel is trying to step into the Black Canary leathers, her siding with the vigilante doesn’t carry the same weight as it did for Sara. Huh? This is one of many weak links in this reasoning on the TV series.

Does the law decide the standard for nice? If you keep the law, you’re a good person.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve met plenty of folks who keep most laws but I don’t consider them nice and wouldn’t want to be their friend.

If not the law, then does the media decide who’s good or bad? If you read this earlier post, you know my thoughts on the media. They only care about what will make the biggest story: truth is optional.

So it’s the general public who determines what makes someone nice?

D203

And let me tell you, every person’s definition and ideal is as different as a unicorn and an elephant.

Being a Good Girl who doesn’t finish Last

Good girls finish last.

Have you found this old adage to be true in your life?

For me, it depends on what/who determines the finish line.

If the finish line is wealth, I’ll gladly claim I’m too nice and that’s why I’m not rich. But if someone thinks having a comfortable lifestyle is the finish line, then I’ve suddenly become not at all a good girl.

Just like being “nice” and “good” is subjective and depends on who you ask, so is the finish line for this idiom.

Perhaps this saying means that if you’re good, you’ll finish last in EVERY race you enter in life. Your career will find you at the bottom of the pay scale. Your friends will wipe their feet on your loyalty. And your family will take advantage of your good nature at every turn.

Last place-again.

But that’s not true. Because this idiom is a generalization based on ONE set of standards. I believe the saying was created for the competitive world of business and adapted for use on the dating scene.

I can be nice and come in first. My win didn’t cost me integrity. I played fair and won the day.

Is the same true for a superhero? If a hero is always good and nice, will they be able to beat the villains?

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One more day and July is gone

July, a month meant to be the dog days of summer. Going, going, gone.

The same can be said for another week.

Counting time week by week makes it whirl away at quite the clip. Maybe posting these memes wasn’t the best idea I ever had. *touches the gray hair at her temples*

Day after day, there’s so much to be thankful for. I’m having no trouble filling my calendar with #365DaysofGratitude. What about you?

What makes my gratitude sing this week?

Sunday

D206

Most of the time I get my scoops in a dish because an ice cream cone on a hot day is a big mess.

Monday

D207

My husband actually had one with RAT BAT written on it in bold, Sharpie letters.

Tuesday

D208

I love a good hike, but take my advice and don’t don new boots for the trail. Inner strength never gets old.

Wednesday

D209

In my (imaginary) mountain cabin, I have a pet bobcat. Even the wolves are too smart to mess with him.

Thursday

D210

Another Wonder Woman Thursday. I hope my actions can inspire others to heroics.

Friday

D211

Now that brings back memories from my short stint with college co-ed softball. The bruise on my left shoulder took on every hue in the dead-blood-cell rainbow.

Blink twice and August will be here. No matter how fast it flies, I’m so grateful to take the time to count my blessings.

How were you blessed this week?

Everyday Heroes – or Wonder Woman goes ninja

Heroes are everywhere. They might not have super powers, but they do amazing things.

With the advent of my new log-line, I’ve decided that I want to feature everyday heroes on my site. The trouble is, I spend most of my hours behind a desk and computer working on manuscripts.

Yes, I just said I don’t get out much.

So I need your help.

Have you heard of an amazing everyday hero? The kid who stood up to the neighborhood bully and got a black and bloody nose for his trouble. Pet heroes work. If there was a cat who brewed and delivered mochas, I’d consider that pretty blog-worthy.

Check out my first feature along these lines.

Today, I’m going to share this cool video. Mostly it’s because I’m enamored with anything Wonder Woman these days.

These amazing sparkly shoes prove the point
These amazing sparkly shoes prove the point

Ninja

My husband watches this show on occasion. I’ve glimpsed a few runs when I looked up from whatever book I’m reading at the moment.

I would have loved to see this Wonder Woman complete this course.

Very few women can do it. The fact she put on the costume and ran the gamut says more than words alone.

Working out to be Fit

These obstacle courses are like parkour for marathon athletes. I don’t mean runners. I mean people who would do Iron Man in Hawaii and then go surfing to unwind.

I’m all about working out to stay in shape. (Also it allows me to eat chocolate without exchanging my jeans for a larger size.) I don’t know what compels people to train to complete something like these courses.

Life is enough of an obstacle course with out signing up for one voluntarily.

What do you think? Do you watch American Ninja Warriors? What do you think about being fit to live versus living to workout in the extreme?

Happy Birthday America! And What’s new on my Blog

God bless America! The “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

It all began on this day in 1776. A bunch of revolutionaries wrote up a fancy document and sent it off to the King of England, who ruled them at the time.

I’m talking about the Declaration of Independence. But independence isn’t so easily won as that. Winning freedom from oppression takes more than a piece of paper.

This document started our nation on it’s Freedom March

It would be a few more years before the U.S. Constitution was drafted and the United States of America became an independent nation.

So, happy birthday, Miss America. I’m still proud to be an American even if I shudder at some of the problems in America.

Light off an extra fire cracker for me.

The NEW Me

Logo - New Color

Look at the pretty red to pink header on my page. Doesn’t it scream for attention?

And did you notice the new tag-line for my site? Maybe you even voted for it when I was polling my Facebook friends.

Holding out for a Hero.

Has an excellent ring doesn’t it? Makes you think of anything? If I say I write romance or fantasy or inspirational fiction, the line still makes sense. It’s all-inclusive.

And since you’ve been seeing plenty of posts about Captain America and the idea of being a superhero, it makes everything clearer.

I hope.

I’m trying to streamline my author brand. By choosing colors and a tag-line that speaks to the heart of my message, I’m hoping to find my niche, make a connection or just settle in with an audience.

Special Blog Series

Beginning this week, I’m going to start a series of posts to fit the theme “What Would Wonder Woman Do?” I got this idea from a discarded tag-line during the process of honing in on the perfect fit.

Since I’m trying to make all my posts have something to do with heroes, this seems perfect.

Look for this meme on Thursdays, and you’ll know my take on something from Wonder Woman’s worldview is about to follow.

WWDT

Another series inspired by rejected tag-lines is “Between the Lines.” I’m not sure when I’ll begin posts with that theme but they will be the midweek post once Wonder Woman is exhausted.

Does Wonder Woman ever need a break? This one does.

Your Input

Beginning this month, if you follow via email, you’ll notice that I’m returning to posting three days per week. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep that up.

Mondays will be my regular posts. Thursdays will be my What Would Wonder Woman Do series (until I deplete my creative brain on that topic). On Friday or Saturday, I’ll post “The Week In Gratitude” or something like that. It will be the gratitude memes for the week.

How does all this sound?

I don’t hear much from the readers of my blog. I tell myself it’s because you’re delighted with the content I’m providing. If it’s because you’re bored or aren’t reading it, I hope this change will inspire renewed interest.

If you have ideas for series themes, let me know. If there are other topics you wish I’d address, feel free to tell me about it. The comments on this post is the perfect place for that. Or use the contact form from the “Author Info” page.

So What Would Wonder Woman do if she were you?

Captain America: Vigilante or Hero?

On May 6, 2016, the newest Captain America film hit local theaters. People were challenged to choose a side in this Superhero Civil War. Would you be #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan?

If you read my post after I watched the second Captain America movie, you recall that I dubbed Captain America the perfect superhero. I will be quoting that post here.

After Marvel’s movie makers changed the terms of being a hero, do I still believe Cap is a model superhero? Did the signing of some UN treaty suddenly make following his own moral compass illegal?

Being a Hero

Image from Marvel-movies
Image from Marvel-movies

In my earlier post, I claimed Captain America was a hero because of these three things:

  1. He fights for justice for everyone
  2. He doesn’t use his power for selfish reasons
  3. He won’t compromise his personal integrity for anyone

However, if the governments of 117 countries decide that he doesn’t have the right to do these things, is he bound to follow them because they are suddenly the majority?

That’s what this movie is all about. Once again, it challenges the idea that a person can be loyal to two people who are at odds with each other. What if they are both right? Whose side do you stand on?

At one point, Iron Man asked Black Widow if she could bring the Hulk in on their team. Her reply, “How do you know he’d choose your side?”

Cap didn’t want his friends to be divided, but they chose to stand with him because they’re friends. This meant friends faced off with friends. Isn’t this something that happens in real life? You side with one friend for whatever reason – and it isn’t just because they’re your friend.

What reason would a hero have for standing against his friends? See number one and three above. He believed it was the just thing and his integrity is not for sale to the highest bidder.

Being a Vigilante

Hero or Vigilante?
Hero or Vigilante?

I’m in the middle of watching the third season of The Arrow on Netflix. The police call him the vigilante. Except for one man – a (police)man who has been rescued by him.

So what does it mean to be a vigilante?

Dictionary.com says a vigilante is “any person who takes the law into his or her own hands, as by avenging a crime.” So a person who seeks their own brand of justice. They take an eye for an eye.

Because sometimes the legal system fails. There is no such thing as a perfect government with only fair laws that are always enforced.

Does that give a person the “right” to take things into their own hands?

Instead of giving you my answer, let me offer up examples. Comic book examples: Batman, Spiderman, Superman and many others. More movies have been made on this topic than almost any other.

In a fallen world, I don’t think fallen people should seek their own brand of justice. I ascribe to this principle “avenge not yourselves, but give place to wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

However, notice that this says to avenge not yourselves.

Captain America did not decide to selfishly help one friend while annoying all of his other friends. Cap saw injustice. He had the power to stop it. So he did.

He minimizes the collateral damage of death to innocents in every way he can. Isn’t that what policemen, and military, and others whose “job” it is to protect the rights of all citizens do?

This is the reason he wouldn’t sign the accord. If he did, suddenly he became subject to a governing authority. Because, let’s face it, those with superpowers are above the average law. We can only hope they’re going to fight on the side of right, because who can stop them?

(More on this issue in my next post.)

No longer without Personal Entanglements

One of my author friends told me that Cap would always put friendship first and that wasn’t always in the best interest of the wider scope of world problems.

And yet…I believe Cap chose only to endanger himself when he went after Bucky. He gave Sam the chance to opt out. When they headed to the final battle, it was only Cap and Bucky facing their foe.

I don’t want to give away anything for those who haven’t seen the movie, so you should stop reading now if that is you. SPOILER AHEAD!

Cap_IronMan_CivilWar
Image credit: technobuffalo

Cap admitted to Wanda that his concern for Bucky compromised the team. He took full responsibility for the collateral damage on the mission where this happened.

Further, he stepped beyond his “no romantic attachments” barrier by kissing Sharon Carter. Whether or not that makes her his Lois Lane, I don’t know. She certainly isn’t a helpless wallflower. After all, she’s a CIA agent with obvious skills. With an aunt like the amazing Agent Peggy Carter, she can probably hold her own against the bad guys who might abduct her to get to Cap.

Still, Cap no longer meets my third qualification. I said heroes with love interests were “forced to choose between their love and the wider world.” When Cap was forced into that situation in Civil War, I don’t think it had to do with his personal feelings. As I said in my earlier post: “he will never compromise his principles and favors no individual as more redeemable than another.”

I don’t believe he favored Bucky above Iron Man in the newest film. They were equally his friend.

However, Bucky needed help because he was being used as a pawn by someone with vile intentions. In this case, what looked like favoritism toward a friend was actually Captain Rogers protecting the underdog.

Because that’s what true heroes do.

**Original image for header on this post can be found here. All credit goes to those artists.

What do you think? Is Cap a vigilante now? Or is he still a hero? Can he be both?

Cover Reveal: In the Shadow of the Dragon King

 I am thrilled, excited, overjoyed, ecstatic and delighted to show you the cover of J. Keller Ford’s debut novel, IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING.

In fact, I was pulled away from my review copy to put this post on my blog. It’s true. I’ll be posting a full review here when the book releases in May.

Ms. Ford is one of my writing associates. If not for her, I don’t know if I would have published my short stories or found the courage to rewrite DOOMSDAY DRAGONS. She is a huge inspiration in my world.

So without further delay, I’ll give you the amazing cover and intriguing sample chapter of this young adult fantasy novel.

Today J. Keller Ford and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING! Book 1 in the Chronicles of Fallhallow Series releases May 31,  2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

Here’s a short intro from the author!

Hi there! I’m so excited to share this cover with you. I love the stunning blue background with the silver accents, and the dragon medallion totally captures the personality of the book. I knew I wanted the cover to be classic, timeless, yet dark and enchanting, and boy, did the designers deliver! I couldn’t be more thrilled. Thanks so much for stopping by!

 On to the reveal! 

Title: IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING (The Chronicles of Fallhallow #1)
Author: J. Keller Ford
Pub. Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N| TBD| BAM| Kobo| GooglePlay Books | iBooks|Goodreads

 Seventeen-year-old, Eric, is a kick-butt squire to the most revered knight in Fallhollow. Well he would be if Sir Trogsdill allowed him to do anything even remotely awesome. Determined to prove his worth, Eric sets out to find the mythical paladin summoned to protect the
realm from the evil lurking nearby.
Sixteen-year-old, David, spends his days collecting school honors, winning archery tournaments, and trying not to fall in love with his scrappy best friend, Charlotte.
Right when things start to get interesting, he is whisked away to the magical realm of Fallhollow where everyone thinks he’s some sort of paladin destined to fulfill a two-hundred-year-old prophecy. He’s supposed to help kill a dragon with some sort of magic key. The same key that happens to adorn the neck of an annoying squire who’s too wrapped up in proving himself to be much help to anyone.
With egos as big as the dragon they need to destroy, Eric and David must get over themselves, or watch everything they know and love, burn.
Excerpt

“War is a necessary evil. There is not a day or time when each of us does not battle some sort of enemy either within or around us. The true test of our character lies in the instant when we choose to either ignore or defeat that which seeks to destroy us. It is the same in our kingdom. Hirth has seen its share of battles and this great province has ridden the wings of freedom for many an age; however, there will come a day when an evil so immense will seek to threaten our very existence. It is then the knights of Gyllen Castle will rise to the aid of Hirth and defend all that is dear – our families, our land, and our right to survive. When such a time comes, I will fight with honor and for glory and give my life, if my forfeiture of it will allow Hirth the chance to endure in peace. And while I know that the enemy may prevail and my life be extinguished from this body, my death will not be in vain for what is more honorable than giving one’s life for love of family, country…and freedom.”Sir Trogsdill Domnall.

Chapter 1

If Eric had known what the daylight would bring after the nightmares ended, he would have remained in bed, the covers pulled over his head.

Instead, he waded through the puddles of the castle’s upper courtyard, each gong from the clock tower further coiling his stomach into knots. Sloshing along beside him, down the aisle of topiaries and statues, was his best friend, a devilish lad with unkempt hair the color of dirt and a cock-eyed grin.

“I don’t know why you’re in such a hurry,” Sestian said, polishing an apple on his sleeve. “Weapons class began fifteen minutes ago. Master Mafi won’t allow us in.” The apple crunched in his teeth.

“You don’t understand, Ses. I have to try.” Eric swatted at the spindly arms of a willow tree. “This will be the third day in a row I missed. If I don’t go, word will get back to Trog and he’ll flog me. You know how he gets.”

“You worry too much. He’d never physically hurt you, however, I do have to admit, he is quite an odd fellow. I saw him make another midnight trek to the fountain last night. He sat there all hunched over like he’d lost his best friend, then he stood, dropped a rose in the water, and left.”

Eric’s muscles bunched under his light shirt, his brow pinched. “That is bizarre, even for him.”

“Want to hear something even more bizarre?” Sestian paused, took another bite of the apple and buried the core in a potted plant. “I overheard Trog and my own headache of a master talking this morning. I believe the exact words out of Farnsworth’s mouth were, ‘Fallhollow is under attack’.”

Eric came to a stop, his eyes wide. “Attack? From who?”

Sestian shrugged. “Don’t know, but members of the Senate and the Mage’s High Council arrived an hour ago, including the Supreme Master himself. They’re meeting with the Order as we speak.”

“What?” Eric’s pulse quickened. “Jared’s here? You saw him?”

The grand mage of all magical beings never involved himself in the affairs of men. Ever.

“No, but I plan to change that.” An impish twinkle glistened in Sestian’s eyes. “Are you game?”

“What? You want to—you mean—you’re joking, right?”

The puckish grin on Sestian’s face answered his question.

Eric shook his head. “Oh, no. There is no way you’re going to get me to eavesdrop on a secret council meeting. I’d rather get hit by lightning than suffer the punishment from anyone sitting in that room.”

“Aww, come on, Eric. Must you always be so dull? Aren’t you the least bit curious?”

“That sort of curiosity will land us in the pillory at best.” Eric pushed past his friend through the carved citadel doors. Sestian darted in front of him and stopped.

“Your point?”

“My point is that I value my life.”

“And what of Fallhollow? Don’t you value our home?”

“Of course I do, but—”

“Then what are you waiting for?” Sestian punched Eric’s arm. “Let’s go.”

“Ses, no!” Eric’s protest fell on empty ears. His friend was gone.

Eric brushed past the lapis columns of the marble vestibule into the Great Hall, a wide-open space topped by a domed ceiling so high its ornate detail was almost lost in the darkness. Nobles and servants milled about, coming and going out of the many rooms, laughter echoing off the walls speckled with massive tapestries and oiled paintings. A flock of girls dressed in aristocratic finery stood upon the majestic staircase, twittering like excited canaries. One of them, Lady Emelia, a startling girl with red hair and striking features, waved at him and winked. Eric rolled his eyes and scurried down the hall past the stairs. The last thing he wanted or needed was a flighty girl choking his freedom.

He passed several lavish rooms before spotting his friend at the far end of the music room, leaning on a harp.

“What took you so long?” Sestian grinned, then pushed aside a wall tapestry and vanished through a secret door.

“Drat you, Ses. How do you find these things?” Eric glanced over his shoulder and followed.

Inside, Sestian struck a wooden match against the stone wall and lit a torch he plucked from an iron sconce. They climbed a set of narrow steps. The guttering flame of Sestian’s torch cast shadows on the walls. More than once the passageway twisted and turned as they ascended.

“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” Eric asked.

Sestian laughed. “We’re in the heart of the castle and you’re going to ask that question now?”

They continued upward. After what seemed an eternity, the steps emptied onto the landing of a dark corridor filled with cobwebs. Sestian stopped and thrust the torch at Eric. “Hold this.” He spun a wall sconce in a combination of left and right turns until a latch popped, and a hidden door opened inward, exposing a small room filled with wooden crates.

“What the—?” Eric stepped inside, his mouth open.

Sestian placed his finger to his lips and motioned to a jagged hole the size of a man’s fist in the wall.

Curious, Eric squatted and peered through a banner of delicate silk.

“Dragon’s breath,” he whispered. “That’s the king’s arbitration room!” He flicked a sideways glance at Sestian. “How did you find this?”

“I don’t sleep much, remember?”

“Good heavens, you are crazy.”

A chair scraped across the wood floor below. Four mages, recognizable by their golden skin, turquoise eyes, and sapphire–blue garments, sat on one side of an immense oval table. Four senators clad in similar garments of purple and gold sat across from them. At one head of the table sat Trog and Farnsworth. At the other, a sojourner shrouded in black with silver rings upon his fingers and tattoos etched upon his hands. And at one of the five arched windows stood the sorceress, Slavandria, her thick lavender hair plaited in a single braid to the floor.

“Jared,” Eric said under his breath.

“Yep,” Sestian said. “That’d be my guess.”

Below, Trog leaned forward, his massive hands clasped together, and addressed the cloaked figure opposite him. “We will heed your warnings, Master Jared, and dispatch a legion to His Majesty’s entourage. I also think it wise to notify our neighbors to the north of the encroaching threat. If this enemy’s intentions are to see Hirth fall, he will attack our allies first to render our kingdom helpless.”

“Agreed.” Jared’s voice resonated deep within the chambers, and into Eric’s core. “Master Camden, see to it the kingdoms of Trent and Banning are informed of the possible threat. Also, instruct the shime to dispatch regiments and secure the borders of Hirth.”

“Do you feel that necessary?” replied the bald man clad in blue. “There is no proof the kingdom of Hirth or the realm of Fallhollow, for that matter, is under attack. There have only been a few isolated incidents of bloodshed, nothing that could be construed as acts of war.”

“Master Camden,” Jared said, “several families of barbegazis, nine unicorns, and over a hundred humans are dead all in the course of four days. This morning, patrols rescued a herd of pixies from a crow’s cage in the Elmwithian Marsh. They were swathed in dragon’s blood. Might I remind you a single act of brutality, especially one steeped in black magic as these incidences are, is one violation too many. Our job is to protect this world, and more so this kingdom, from any dark sorcery that may threaten it. If this directive is in any way unclear, I will be more than happy to personally instruct you in the importance of upholding your defensive role.”

A chill crept up Eric’s spine.

“Oh, come on. Instruct him,” Sestian said, a grin stretched across his face.

A palpable silence fell over the room. Master Camden shifted in his seat and wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead. “Personal instruction is not necessary, Supreme Master.”

“I find that to be a wise decision.”

Eric exhaled. “Yes, so do I.”

Jared stood and pulled the hood of his cloak forward. “Since we are in agreement, I believe we can dismiss. Sir Trogsdill, if I may, I’d like to speak with my daughter alone.”

“Of course,” Trog said, standing. “The rest of you, follow me to the dining hall where you can feast before your journey home.”

“I don’t believe this, Sestian whispered as Trog ushered the last of the visitors out and closed the door behind him.

“Shh,” Eric said.

Down below, Slavandria, said “What is on your mind, Father?”

Jared strolled past her, his hands tucked into his voluminous sleeves. “I have given this a great deal of thought and I have reached a decision. Considering all that has happened, I am left with no other choice. As queen of the Southern Forest and protector of this realm, you must summon the paladin.”

Her gasp could have ripped leaves from their stems.

“Father, no! I can’t! The paladin is only to be summoned in the direst of circumstances. While these attacks are horrid, they are far from extreme.”

“Daughter—”

“Father, please. The ramifications will be devastating to all those involved. Together with the shime, we’ll find this enemy and bring him into the light. I beg you. Please do not do this.”

“If that were true, they would have done so by now. As such, your arguing is futile. My decision is made. By sunset within three days, you must fulfill your duties. I will have the document drawn and sealed. Have Mangus deliver it. So it is said?”

Slavandria’s jaw tightened. “You’re being unreasonable.”

“And you are bordering the line of punishment.”

Eric shuddered at the menacing tone.

“Do I have your word?” Jared said.

Slavandria straightened her back and steadied her voice. “Yes, Father. So it is said. So it shall be done, but don’t think for one-minute I won’t improvise when the time presents itself.”

“You have always been my challenge child. I would expect nothing less from you. Now, if you will forgive me, I must go.”

“Where this time?”

“Home, to Felindil for a day. Afterwards, I will be in seclusion, communing with the heavens before taking to the sea.”

“What? And leave me here to set the world right once the paladin arrives?”

Jared’s full-bodied laughter filled the room. “You sound as if the demon of the underworld will rise, spewing fire and ash.”

“And how do you know he won’t?” She paused, her fingers steepled to her lips before continuing. “Father, please. All I ask is for once, in your long, stubborn life, you listen to me. The people of this kingdom and all of Fallhollow are innocent. They need our protection. I fear what the paladin’s presence will do. You can’t bring such devastation upon Fallhollow and then leave me to salvage whatever is left.”

“I bring nothing upon this realm; therefore, I leave you with nothing to clean up. The course of the world is set. Events will unfold as they will. The paladin will not change that which is set in motion.”

“You’re wrong, Father.” Slavandria brushed past him.

“Disagree if you must. You always do. For now, go home. Wait for my summoning papers and prepare the traveler. I will come to you in Chalisdawn three days hence.”

Jared snapped his fingers. White shards of light crackled and zapped around him, and he was gone.

Slavandria shook her head. “You have no idea what you’ve done, Father.” She gathered her cloak from the back of a chair and incanted some strange words. A swift pale-blue mist rose from the floor, swirling, engulfing her in a vortex. The air sizzled and splintered, and she, too, disappeared.

“Whoa,” Sestian said. “This is worse than bad.”

“No kidding,” Eric stood and brushed the dust from his breeches, “and I have a feeling it’s going to get a lot worse.”

Sestian withdrew the torch as they left the room and shut the door. “You do realize we’re going to have to find out who this paladin is, right?”

Eric walked down the steps. “Why is that?”

“Come on. Are you that daft? How else are we going to prove to Trog and Farnsworth that we’re deserving of becoming knights? Right now they think we’re nothing but a pair of imbeciles worthy of nothing more than polishing armor and performing duties of a valet.”

“We’re squires, Ses. That’s what we do.”

“And it’s all we’ll ever do if we don’t prove ourselves. Don’t you get it? When was the last time Gyllen Castle or Hirth saw battle, hmm?”

“You sound as if you want war.”

“No, but I haven’t trained all my life to become a knight only to end up as a fat, lazy, well-paid manservant.”

Eric turned a corner and continued downward, his voice hollow in the muted dark. “I don’t think you’ll ever be fat or lazy.”

“Eric, come on. Why must you be so difficult? Without a skirmish or two, acts of heroism for us are limited to rescuing girls from over-zealous drunkards and protecting the royal dinner from the palace dogs. I want more than that. When I die, I don’t want to be remembered for how well I polished a sword, but for something grand and heroic. Don’t you want the same?”

“Of course I do, but I don’t sit around thinking about what legacy I want to leave behind when I die.”

“Liar. All you ever talk about is how much you want to be a knight like Trog.” Sestian shoved past Eric and blocked his descent. “Think about it. You know as well as I we’ll be relegated to the stables to saddle horses and pack rations and bedrolls if there is the slightest hint of a conflict. They won’t let us anywhere near a battlefield, especially you. It’s like you’re some kind of poster boy for squire school.”

“I know, but—”

“No, there are no buts. Don’t you see? Now is our chance to show our mettle. If we team up with this paladin, we have a chance to prove ourselves. Trog and Farnsworth will have to take notice.”

“Yeah, after they flog, tar and feather us. Besides, what makes you think this paladin will want us, huh? He’s probably some powerful sorcerer like Jared.”

“No one is as powerful as Jared, but I’ll bet you a rooster against a duck this savior dabbles not only in white, but black magic, too. That’s why Jared needs him.”

“Which is all the more reason for us to keep our distance.”

“No! It’s all the more reason for us to find him. He’ll need guides to help him maneuver through our lands. We’ll be heroes for saving Fallhollow from a murderous foe. King Gildore will praise us. Songs will be written about us.”

Eric rolled his eyes.

Sestian snorted. “Don’t think I can’t hear your eyes flipping around in their sockets. You know I’m right. We know every crack in the earth Fallhollow possesses. We’ve been trained by the very best knights in the world. On top of that, I have a knack for getting us in and out of places unseen. You’re extraordinary with a blade. Together, we’re dangerous. We can be his eyes and ears. And when we defeat whatever is out there, Trog and Farnsworth will have no choice but to admit our accomplishments and recommend us for knighthood.”

Sestian’s stance and the set of his eyes conveyed an intensity Eric admired and feared. He sighed aloud. “All right. You win, but we say nothing. If Trog and Farnsworth found out, they’d roll us in dragon dung and set us on fire.”

Sestian punched Eric playfully on the arm and smiled, wide. “Ha! I knew I could break you.”

They hurried from the music room and fell in with other students leaving classrooms. In the sunlit courtyard, Eric stopped short. Sestian plowed into him from behind.

“What’s wrong?”

Eric gritted his teeth. “Do you not see who is standing in front of us?”

Sestian turned his gaze to their masters leaning against the balustrade, their arms folded to their chests, waiting. “Great. Let me handle this.”

Trog stood upright and adjusted the sword on his hip, flexing the intersecting scars on his arms—reminders of dozens of battles fought. He took a step forward, and a gust of wind blew his dark hair back from his weathered, sun-darkened face, exposing a high forehead, square jaw, and intense peridot eyes. Eric gulped as a childhood tale about a sly mouse captured by a blind owl scampered through his brain.

“You’re late,” Trog said, tossing Eric a suede satchel weighed down with sheathed knives. “Where have you been?” He spoke softly, but his voice reverberated through the crisp morning air.

“Listening to Magister Timan’s lecture on ceremonial magic,” Sestian replied. “Did you know there are magical portals that allow us to travel between realms?”

“Did you know I have a magical foot that can disappear up your backside if you don’t get down to the stables right now?” Farnsworth asked. His brow furrowed beneath a curtain of wavy straw-colored hair. He walked toward Sestian, the seams of his green tunic strained over his wide shoulders, his eyes as brown and penetrating as a wolf’s.

“So I’ve heard. Several times.” Sestian grinned and tapped Eric on the arm. “We’ll get together later and go over what we learned today, eh?”

Eric nodded and shuffled his feet under the weight of Trog’s stare. He waited for Sestian and Farnsworth to get far enough away before lifting his head and meeting Trog’s gaze. The knight lifted a brow.

“Are you going to tell me where you really were, or are you going to hold to your story that you were listening to a lecture that ended this time yesterday?”

“Which one will get me in the least amount of trouble?”

Trog placed his hand on Eric’s back and edged him down the stone steps to the lower courtyard. “The truth, Eric. Always the truth.”

“What if I promised not to tell?”

“Secrets are grave burdens to bear.”

“I can’t betray his confidence, sir. I promised.”

Trog nodded. “Then you’ll sleep in the stables tonight as punishment.”

“What? How is that fair?”

“You know the rules as my squire, and you still choose to withhold the truth. Therefore, you shall be punished accordingly.”

“But the rules of knighthood require I not reveal confidences or secrets under any circumstance to anyone at any time, even under pain of death.”

“Nice try, lad, but the last time I looked, you have not been captured nor are you under pain of death.” Trog placed a heavy hand on Eric’s shoulder. “I’m going to give you one more chance. What will it be?”

Eric clenched and unclenched his fists at his sides. “With all due respect, sir, I cannot and will not betray my friend.”

Trog removed his hand. “I commend you on your loyalty, son, but you have made your choice. Therefore, you will suffer the consequences of it. Now go on and get busy with your chores. I want each of those blades in your hand sharpened and polished by morning—”

“But, sir—”

“And for protesting when you should not, you will also sharpen and polish Sir Farnsworth’s blades. I’ll see to it they are dropped off.” Eric opened his mouth to speak, but changed his mind when Trog dipped his brow in warning. “Would you like me to add Sir Gowran’s and Sir Crohn’s weapons to your load?”

Eric bit back the irritation boiling below the surface. “No, sir.”

“Very well. Bring the blades to the farrier’s stall in the morning around eight. It will be a dual-fold meeting as you can visit your father at the same time.”

Trog paused for a moment, his expression thoughtful, then turned and strolled across the courtyard. He hoisted a young page from a game of marbles and lectured him on the pitfalls of wasting time. Eric snorted at the boy’s bewildered expression and the speed at which he ran once set down upon his feet. Been there, boy. He cursed beneath his breath. What am I talking about? I’m still there.

Eric’s boots clicked on the cobblestones as he plodded toward Crafter’s Row. He passed beneath the archway connecting the cathedral to the knights’ quarters and turned left down the tree-shaded lane toward the royal stables. After informing the stablemaster of his upcoming sleeping arrangements, Eric returned the way he came. At the crossroad, he turned and made his way toward the smithy. Horses clomped and wagons rattled over the pavers while thick clouds gathered overhead, suffocating the sun. A light drizzle set in as he entered a stone building marked by a metal plate engraved with a hammer and anvil. The blacksmith wiped the sweat from his brow and motioned Eric to a table set with vials of oils, and various whetstones.

Eric sighed. Lovely.

He settled into the monotonous task of sharpening and polishing, taking on Farnsworth’s load a few hours later. He finished his arduous task just after dusk. Cursing his sore muscles, he packed up the satchels and shuffled to the stables where a plate of bread, cheese and a pint of goat’s milk waited for him.

Great. Is he trying to starve me, too?

He ate what was given and settled into the hayloft, his stomach a knot of protests. He sighed. Who was this paladin, and from who or what was he destined to save the realm? There was only one way to find out. Tomorrow he and Sestian would devise a plan, and it would be worthy of a knight’s tale. When all was said and done, Trog would have no other choice than to see him as a worthy knight instead of an incompetent fool. An image of Trog groveling for forgiveness appeared in his mind. Eric snuggled into a bed of hay and fell into a blissful dream, a wide grin on his face.

 

About J. Keller Ford: 
J. (Jenny) Keller Ford grew up as an Army brat, traveling the world and wandering the halls of some of Germany’s
most extraordinary castles. From the time she was old enough to hold a crayon, she wove fantasy tales of dragons, warriors, and princesses.  A former paralegal, she’s the author of several short stories including The Amulet of Ormisez, Dragon Flight, and The

Passing of Millie Hudson.  When not at 
her keyboard breathing new life into fantasy worlds, Jenny spends time
overloading on coffee, collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, riding roller coasters and talking plot-lines with anyone who will listen.  She lives on the west coast of Florida with her husband, two sons, two dogs, and a pretentious orange cat.  Her two daughters and grand-daughter make their homes in Seattle, WA.
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