Here is a fun little elf sketch from my high school sketchbook! I drew this in conjunction with a short story I wrote around the same time, “Celestial Balance.” The elf in the story has curly hair, but there was no way I was going to be able to draw that!
Keep reading for the story!
Ahh the narrow streets of Europe. Many were definitely not built for cars, or for tourists for that matter. But they have so much character!
Isn’t it amazing to find a surprise, like the cathedral of Barcelona above, waiting for you at the end of one of these old streets?
Once, in Toledo, Spain, my friends and I didn’t even bother picking up a map just so we could wander around all the twisted little old streets. (Don’t worry, we didn’t get lost; Toledo is not a very big city.)
You never know what you will find down one of these tiny alleys between buildings, like this one in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Even Venice, a city without many streets, has narrow, convoluted pathways–they are just canals instead!
You can find more narrow things at the original Lens-Artist challenge.
If you are looking for a cute, warm, fluffy read this Valentine’s Day, check out Valentine’s Day at Glosser’s by Robert Jeschonek. It’s like a Hallmark Channel movie in book form (and believe me, I’ve seen almost every Hallmark Channel movie).
The story is part of a series that revolves around the Glosser Brothers department store chain from western Pennsylvania. In this installment, the store is holding a Valentine’s poetry contest, which brings together the two store “mascots,” nicknamed Miss Gee Bee and Glossy, to act as judges. Their journey together to find the best writer takes them through several ice cream sundaes, a lot of bad poetry, and one important secret.
I actually listened to the audiobook version of this because the narrator is a relative of mine. I thought she did a great job, especially with the distinct voices of several minor characters. It was a great way to pass my commute, starting off my day with a smile. It’s a quick little story, so you could also read it in a evening curled up on the couch with some chocolate.
What are you guys reading for Valentine’s Day?
It’s a small detail in this photo, but you can see the Pride flags waving proudly above the Liffey in Dublin, Ireland. It was the weekend of the Pride festival when we visited, and the country had recently approved gay marriage via referendum. In addition, while we were there we heard the news that the U.S. Supreme Court had also guaranteed the right of same-sex couples to marry with their landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. It felt like a significant moment, like a look into a brighter future.
A visit to the Sagrada Família in Barcelona also requires a look into the future. The masterwork of architect Antoni Gaudí, the church was begun in 1882 and is scheduled to be finished in 2026. It was amazing even under construction, so I look forward to returning to see the completed building in the future.
You can find more from the future at the original Lens-Artist challenge.
I’m back with further recommendations from Tasmanian indie author W.R. Gingell. I’ve already raved about her urban fantasy series, but if you prefer good old classic fantasy with elves and magic, check out her Shards of a Broken Sword trilogy.
This entertaining series of short novels has a lot to recommend itself. It’s a very solid fantasy series, with a good system of magic and worldbuilding. You’ll see some fairy tale tropes mixed in, but the stories give them some twists so that it feels more like original fantasy than a retelling. In addition to fantasy, each has a bit of mystery/intrigue and romance. To break down each book a little further…
Twelve Days of Faery
To start the series, an enchantress agrees to help a king stop the deadly curse that is being laid on any lady who catches his son’s eye. Her reward will be the prince’s hand, but is that what she really wants? This book sets the stage for the trilogy by establishing some conflict between humans and fae, and uncovering the first shard of the titular broken sword. It’s also an engaging mystery with charming characters.
Fire in the Blood
Next, a prince and his dragon must solve level after level of puzzles to free a princess from her imprisonment in a tower…but not all is quite as it seems at first. This one is my personal favorite, mostly because I loved all the puzzles in getting through the tower. I also really liked how the dragons were done, as well as the subtle Asian/Middle Eastern influence. And I adored the princess’s crazy family and would love more stories about them.
First Chill of Autumn
An epic conclusion that brings together characters from the first two novels, as a young woman tries to save her kingdom from a Fae invasion. This one is the most complex, and the ending is bittersweet. For that reason I didn’t like it quite as much, though I think it is probably a stronger story for it.
As you may have inferred, each of the first two books can be read as a stand-alone, while the third one brings together themes and characters from each of the first two. The characters are so engaging you will definitely want more of them. You can get the books individually or buy the whole series together (plus a short story) on Smashwords for $6.99. There’s even a paperback version available on Amazon (but it’s expensive😢).