Competition Guidelines

hand-writing-inscription-guidelines-marker-260nw-458919445.jpgTournaments and competitions… we all have our own opinions of them. Some people love to enter them, some people hate them and avoid them at all costs.

I used to dislike them. Why? I honestly don’t know. It wasn’t that I disliked the deadlines, that I had to have something done by a certain time at a certain day, but I DID dislike the guideline writing stereotype that the majority of them contained.

They would give you a story type to write, a certain amount of words, what had to be accomplished, the ending they were looking for, etc. And if you branched out, you instantly lost because you did something different. I didn’t like it.

In the Creative Wall blog, I mentioned the entrance story I had done to make my way into a story group. I liked how they were doing things a lot more than everyone else was. They let ME pick my character, they built an opponent that I had to overcome, and said write a battle with whatever ending you see to be appropriate for you character and the story.

That was the best competition style writing I have ever done.

I started the story, got into character, and just let my creativity flow and run wild.

It. Was. Amazing.

That feeling is one of the best feelings in the WORLD, when you just let everything go and just write without a care in the world. When I started, I was SO nervous about someone else reading my work that I just threw together in less than 15 minutes. And then I started running out of ideas for an ending… what could I possibly do?

The only option I had was doing exactly what I do best. Flipping the story on its head. Then I decided to do something I had never done before… And recreate/unveil this villain as the person I wanted it to be.

And I got into the group for the reasons being… what I was doing with the story was different from anything they had ever seen before, my writing style was incredibly unique and cool, and my escape of an ending was (to quote one of my friends that I made in the group) BOMB.

The reason they saw my writing as different was because I let loose, went crazy, and let myself become my character to make something like nothing I’d written before. Which is EXACTLY what we should be writing every time!

The reason they thought my writing style was unique and cool was because its me. Raw, 100% carefree, and completely me being me. And, fortunately for me, I’m unique. 🙂

The reason they thought my ending was “BOMB” was because I flipped the story and changed what they said and it still made 100% sense.

I broke the stereotypical “write this and you’ll make it.” I don’t like being told what I can and can’t write.

And if you’re looking for a competition to enter, and they give you guidelines like that… you don’t need to be a part of it. Anything that’s going to try to rein back your creativity is something you don’t need if you are working o your CREATIVE writing.

Never try to hold back your creativity. It only hurts you, and it can never last forever. That creativity is going to find some way to come out.

Let it.

-Lorryn Holt

Vomit Draft

48x41-the-scream-2012-blue-ocean-wave--signed-art-abstract-paintings-modern-wwwsplashyartistcom-robert-r-abstract-artA couple weeks ago, I mentioned a state of horror writing I call the Vomit Draft.
Sounds gross, yeah?

It will be. And, uh… That’s kind of the point.

The vomit draft is the first ever draft of your writing piece, and this is honestly my favorite part of writing. (I’m grinning and giggling so much while writing this, because my friend groans every time he sees anything to do with a vomit draft.) A vomit draft is where you pour everything out onto your paper or laptop and don’t worry about the results of editing till after your story, or essay, or piece, or whatever, is finished completely. We are going to talk about the second and third editing processes at a later time, but for now, let’s stick to first draft. The raw, cringy, HORRIFIC writing.

I absolutely love it. I’m serious! I love writing in creative bursts of energy where the words flow faster than I can think or process what I’ve just created, because its raw and real. Because that’s how I always write.

A vomit draft, for most people, is seen only as a total nightmare to edit. For me, I see it as a work of art. Its actually beautiful to me. All those errors, contradictory lines, complete failure of words… embrace them. I’ve looked at a mashed up word that was practically gibberish, and made a name out of it. (I actually do that a lot…)

It’s fascinating to me, what can come out of a mistake. We learn, we get better at what we do, and we build up beautiful masterpieces with every single flaw.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. That’s what makes your work unique and special! And we learn. Every sentence with flawed spelling, grammatical errors, and (sometimes) ZERO punctuation… its all a learning experience and you are becoming more and more skilling with every mistake you make. It’s so amazing, and it’s a beautiful process.

It’s no secret that writing is my baby, and I see every piece as incredible and imaginative in its own way. And though its mistake filled, that vomit draft is the core of your writing and it creates the pathway to an amazing journey for you and your characters.

The vomit draft is freedom.

Freedom to explore, freedom to create, freedom to let your imagination run wild and something AMAZING AND UNIQUE!

LET IT RUN WILD!

Let your characters make their own choices. Let them have their own way of speaking, their own catch phrases, and let them make mistakes too. They are as human as we are. (Well… I mean… unless they… you know… aren’t.)

The vomit draft, as cringy, flawed, gross, and horrifying as they can be, are learning experiences, and you can’t be afraid of making mistakes. Its going to happen. And from those ashes, you rise a stronger writer and your creativity can only blossom more. Don’t let the fear of making mistakes hurt you, and keep you from writing.

Embrace the mistakes.

You got this.

-Lorryn Holt

Escaping Miscommunication

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Vision is what builds your story, what makes you write, and what makes your writing so unique. But it’s hard to know if you’re actually getting your point across, and getting what you see in your mind out onto the paper. Let me give an example.

On Friday night, I went (with my big brother, his fiancé, and a friend) to an ESCAPE ROOM. My first ever. I was so scared and excited, and when I finally got there and watched the entrance clip, I was TERRIFIED. I had no idea what I was getting into. The man running it explained that there was nothing really scary about the room, there was no one in there to scare us, it was just really “intense”. So that relieved some of the worry, but it came back when I found out there was only a 10% escape rate and I was stuck in the hardest room (we were all separate and had to try to communicate through the walls.)

But I thought “It’s okay, it’ll be fine. I’m a writer. Difficult is my life. We can do this.”

Then he handed me my blindfold. My first reaction (because of the video, which this happened to be a room based off of The Purge) was “OH HECK NO.” But I put it on anyway, and he led me to *my doom* the room. Then he asked, “So which hand do you want to do this without?”

Um, I’m sorry… what?!?!

Turns out he just had to handcuff me to a person through a wall, and we were connected to each other through a hole in the wall, but still.

So he handcuffed my left hand *I’m still blindfolded* and left the room. Then I hear an alarm sound, and the purge introduction played over the speakers. Then I pulled off my blindfold. And I was totally calm.

Okay, no, I lied. I screamed.

There was blood writing on the wall saying “SOmE DO IT FOR FUN” (the lowercase ‘m’ came into play later, because all of us had this writing but a specific letter was different in each room spelling out MINE). There was a spray painted tic tac toe board on the floor with letters lining the columns, a big red box in the wall (which was locked, but I could see through a crack that there was a safe and a voice recorder inside), a small brown box (unlocked, with a small gold key and a piece of paper that made no sense) in the corner of the room, and a small tic tac toe board painted up in the corner of my room with two numbers and a symbol, and there was the sound of someone tapping on a pipe through the speakers. Oh, and creepy music.

I thought my writing notes were complicated. Pft. Yeah right. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to figure out. (And we didn’t even get close to getting out.)

There was one point in time that I just sat in the middle of the floor with my head in my hands while the others were yelling and trying to understand each other.

Once the timer finally went off and we were let out of our handcuffs, the guy walked us through each others rooms and explained the process. Looking at my three teammates rooms, I realized how it worked and what was supposed to happen. I could see the whole picture. But trying to piece together three rooms and trying to communicate what each other had was just about impossible.

It’s difficult to manage and be clear when telling a story. What details do you use, what do you cut, and are you actually communicating and getting your point across? Sometimes it’s hard to actually get what you see in your head out on paper. Just like it was hard for us to communicate what we were seeing in our rooms to solve the mystery of how to get out.

The best thing I’ve figured out how to do is draw a diagram and make NOTES. Note down exactly what you see, then piece it together in creative sentences and forms. Make it unique and make it fit your vision, but also makes sense.

Communication is key. And when you think you have everything figured out, look at it again from another angle.

You can get it across.

Just be creative, and let your light shine in a whole new area of storytelling. Because you are different and unique and no stories are like yours. Embrace its uniqueness, and don’t be afraid of doing things differently. You’re strong and you’re creative. You’re unique. You’re amazing.

Let that passion show and that fire burn, because that’s what makes a writer into a storyteller. You just have to embrace it, and communicate it 😉

-Lorryn Holt

Stressful Procrastination Struggle

 

tumblr_n39davc16M1qjyatno1_400Okie dokie. Time to talk about the horrors of stressful procrastination.

I’ve actually procrastinated about talking on it, but we have to if we are going to get anywhere with this series. This is gonna be a big one, so let’s just dive in, shall we?

If you are one of those fantastical freaks of nature that can procrastinate to the very last second and still turn out something absolutely incredible, by all means, please continue whatever miraculous thing you are doing and just ignore me. Go check out another one of my many blogs, if you want. But if you need help or want to examine any areas that you think you could improve upon, please join me in this and keep reading.

I personally don’t have much of a problem with procrastination. I just can’t do it. I write out everything at my earliest opportunity and then spend every spare moment I have to make things better (which usually brings up the problem of last week’s blog, but oh well). But I know a lot of people that struggle with procrastination. Whether it is a school report or project, working on something for a competition, or just writing in general, they tend to put it off till the last second then panic and write something quick that they can get by with. Which, in my opinion, is not a good idea.

You can suffer for it and your writing can too, for several reasons. 1) you get stressed out and it makes things way harder than it has to be. 2) you can miss things while writing and editing. 3) weak points.

The easy way to stop these problems is just “don’t procrastinate at all”, but I know that’s easier said than done, and some people don’t realize they are procrastinating until the deadline is staring you in the eye. (Been there done that… I don’t procrastinate much, but I do procrastinate sometimes haha) So for those of you who find yourselves in this position, here are some tips and ways to make things a little easier.

1. Let me just say, stress is not good for you. It pretty much halts the creative process, and its hard to focus on anything. It’s like it puts parts of your brain in hyper drive and just shuts down the rest. My tip for this is so simple it’s crazy. Just b r e a t h e. Find something that calms you down. You may see this as another form of procrastination, but hear me out. I get stressed out easily, and I had no idea how to deal with it until about three or four weeks ago. I started carrying around a sketchbook and pens with me everywhere. I love drawing intricate detailed stuff, like in adult coloring books. (Maybe the header picture makes sense to you now haha!) I have a particular obsession with drawing swirls, because there are no mistakes, it’s a great way to get creative, it calms me down and makes my brain slow down so I can focus and think things through easier. Maybe you’re different, and that is 100% okay! It’s all about finding what works for you, and building on it. For me, its drawing and music. Just find what works for you. Find something that makes you calm down, breathe, and relieves stress. Once your figure it out, don’t be afraid to turn to it as a way out for a few minutes to get away from the stress and pressure. It’s not procrastination, it’s help. Never be afraid to ask for help. Once you’ve calmed down, know what you’re doing, and know how you want to do things, you can return to your project. It will be easier to handle. Trust me.

2. Last week we talked about overthinking your editing process and being too harsh on yourself. For me, I find it nearly impossible to write and edit at the same time, and it only piles on more pressure and it’s hard to focus and finish it. You may find yourself focusing on one thing specifically and forgetting your other ideas once you try to continue, which can make you move from point to point too jerkily and miss major details. So just write it out, and don’t worry about editing till the end. And once you get to the editing point, please… BE CAREFUL WHILE EDITING. Last week I talked about being your own harshest critic while editing, and that is indeed a struggle, but don’t just let things go unedited either haha be careful when proofreading, and make sure to check your spelling and grammar (that’s mostly directed at my fellow highschoolers) and look at your piece from several different angles. When you think you’re done, read it again. Be sure it makes sense, and things tie together like they are supposed to. Be careful to edit carefully, but don’t be too hard on yourself either. Find the healthy medium.

3. This is basically the same thing as number two. Weak points happen when you are drifting from point to point and losing your basic idea. Some people find it easier to keep track of what you’re doing by using an outline, and it’s probably pretty smart to do that. Just note down your ideas before you start. And another thing you can do to ward against weak spots (if you are noticing that you struggle in one specific area) is practice. I used to struggle with writing battle scenes, and I still do sometimes. But I’ve found it makes things easier to explore different ways of writing them and learning what works for you. No writer is the same, so it’s all about finding your strong points, building on them, and making your weak spots stronger. And that’s where practicing really helps. I tend to pick two completely opposite types of characters (sometimes they aren’t my own characters, so it’s more like a fanfiction. Comment below if you would like me to share some of my best battles!) and writing out a battle between them. It has helped me figure out how to do some pretty awesome stuff.

Again, the easy way out is to just not procrastinate at all haha but I know some people just naturally find themselves doing so. There isn’t anything wrong with it, but it can make things harder than they should be.

I hope this helps!

And don’t forget to keep being creative. Don’t let these challenges stop you from being the amazing artist/storyteller/creative person you are. We are all creative in our own way, and even if you aren’t a writer or an artist, you are an amazingly creative you. 🙂

-Lorryn Holt

Being Your Own Harshest Critic

Dpe6SW2V4AA13PzOne of the worst dangers I’ve faced when writing (this started about a year and a half ago), is being too harsh on myself when it comes to critiquing my writing. And while critiquing your work is not a bad thing, overthinking and being harsh on yourself is.

Let me explain what I mean…

I’m a very outgoing, energetic, and bubbly person, and an extremely passionate writer.

But.

My confidence in my abilities and my stories’ quality averages from 1% to an occasional 0%. ZERO.

At this point, you’re probably sitting back in shock and saying “What?! But you’re a published author!”

My answer to that is, “Okay… and? What’s your point?”

I’m published, yes. But I’m fifteen years old. I’m a kid. I’m insecure with my work because I’m a tiny assisted-self published author in a world of huge successful authors. I’m not experienced. I’m not super smart. I’m lacking in most areas because I’m young and dumb, and I don’t have the advantages that an adult writer would have.

That made it extremely hard to get where I am, and even harder to get motivation to write now. It’s not easy to have the courage to put yourself out there in the form of writing, where pouring out your heart and soul into your work is going to happen no matter what path you take in expressing your creative self.

Being a small fish in a big ocean (it’s not a pond, it’s an ocean) makes you want to strive to get bigger. And to get bigger, you do what you have to do. When that’s the mindset obtained, it’s easy to convince yourself that have to have perfection.

You become harsher on yourself.

I did.

I suffered for it.

I stopped writing for about four months last year. I rarely posted blogs, or wrote on my stories, because I felt like I wasn’t turning out anything good enough for others to read. Nothing I did was ever enough; I could never make it good enough.

I pressured myself too much. And it took a near-collapse of my creative brain and a group of amazing writers, artists, and friends, to motivate me and show me that I could do incredible things if I would just let myself try. One specifically got on my tail and hammered into my brain that I couldn’t just stop writing, because that would stop the growth of my ideas and it would be far too easy to quit for good.

It’s okay to look at your writing and try to make it better. But you can’t be too harsh on yourself, or it’ll make things ten times worse and your writing can suffer as well as your mind. When you write, just take a deep breath, and let your creativity flow… without fear.

Soon we will be talking a little more about this, on the topic of writing and editing your Vomit Draft. (Don’t ask how we got the name…)

But until then, just let your creativity run wild. Amazing things can come from it.

Believe in yourself.

Don’t hold back.

Never forget to take courage.

-Lorryn Holt

Trapped inside the Stereotypical Box

IMG_20190318_111339_159.JPGThere is not a plot out there that hasn’t been used yet. We have decades, centuries even, of writers. But it’s how you take your plot and twist it, that makes it unique and YOURS. And when you see something that another writer does that works… do everything you can to AVOID IT.

Those big authors are now in what I call the Stereotypical Box. (My mom has just brought it to my attention that the name itself is a stereotype… oops.)

What they did might have been unique at one point in time, but now it’s already used! So try something new. We already know their style and story type works, so how can yours work and inspire? How can your ideas make them think differently about something, or stimulate a person’s mind to make them excited to turn the page and read on?

Knowing that a style works is great. But if we all write in that style and use the same types of stories, all books would wind up being the same. And that is not what we want.

Again, there isn’t a story type, plot, or headline that hasn’t already been used. But it’s all about how we write it, and what we do with our story.

Make your characters unique. Your story goal different. Your protagonist’s drive coming from a different angle. Twist your ending.

One of the best decisions I ever made was to twist a story.

It was for an entrance into a story group. I had to finish a battle. It was supposed to end with one of us being dead. But that’s not what I wanted to do.

They told me to choose a character. I chose Annabeth Chase, who is one of my favorite book characters ever. (If you don’t know who she is, she is one of the main characters in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I recommend it.) They gave me a starting point, gave a brief description of my opponent (created by them), and told me to finish the fight scene. If the guy who read it thought my work was good enough for me to be a part of their group, I was in. I thought it was going to be read by one person, and one person only. I already knew this guy, so I had no worries. But, NOPE! It wasn’t just him. There were a team of administrators reading my story. But I didn’t know that at the time. I was just writing the way I usually would, and loving the way this story was headed. The battle had my heart pounding and I was ready to actually fight someone.

But I felt like I had no ending. I couldn’t kill my opponent, because I felt like I was missing something. Then it clicked.

I realized that with a couple of unique twists, this was no longer just a short fanfiction battle I was writing. This was in my ballpark now. I could do what I wanted with this story. I was Annabeth Chase. I could fight the way she fights, use her memories to shape my ending, and use logic to not kill my opponent but ultimately defeat him. I could do this, even if it would mean my death in an average adventure.

I changed the story. I twisted, flipped, and broke out of the Stereotypical Box. And because I did, I got into that group unanimously after the admins read it.

You can do this too. Break out of that Stereotypical Box, don’t be confined to what ‘works’. Write creatively.

Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

-Lorryn Holt

Creator’s Wall

240_F_102786052_nKiHITs3tRMnzINk8uWvtvCdkRSS3eHh.jpgA lot of people tell me that they love writing and love creating stories… but they have so many ideas, and they struggle with what to write and how to get their many ideas out on paper.

So instead of pretending to have all the answers, I’m gonna rat myself out. I struggle there too, but I might have figured out a way to get past it.

Having so many ideas you don’t know what to do with is one of the biggest threats (yes, I call it a threat) to creative writing, besides writer’s block. I call it Creator’s Wall.

Creator’s Wall is when you have a bunch of fantastic ideas… but you can’t figure out how to write them all down at once, or which one to choose. And it’s hard to know how to climb over that challenge. It’s like a solid rock wall standing in your way.

Imagine, if you will, a this challenge you are trying to climb over IS a wall and you are a climber. You’ve been getting ready to do this all day. You’ve been stretching, training, and preparing yourself (brainstorming your ideas). You already have on your gear. Your helmet, your grips, your climbing shoes… you are ready to go. That gear is your ideas.

Then, there are three ropes hanging down from the wall. Those are your plot possibilities. These ropes look strong in the middle, but are frayed and look ready to snap at the top. Do you risk picking one and climbing? Just seeing what it could do?

Nah. Too easy of a way out, and it’s NOT safe. That single rope will break, probably before you are close enough to make it to safety. You can’t get over your wall that way.

But if you take those ropes, those possibilities, and braid them together to make a strong way out, a strong plot, you can climb over.

Never get rid of your ideas. Write them down. I don’t know how many times I’ve had two or three (sometimes even more!) weak plots that never would have made it on their own, but switched up and combined with others, make an amazing story. A full novel. A great adventure.

You can climb that Creator’s Wall.

There are a ton of these threats to creative writing, and we’ll be covering as many of them as we can over the year of 2019. So if you would like to see more writing tips, book news, and blogs, be sure to click that subscribe button! And if there are any particular threats you have heard of (or struggle with yourself) please comment down below what it is, and I’ll be sure to touch down on the subject and help as much as I possibly can.

-Lorryn Holt

News Story!

537619_camera-nikon-dslr-lens-macro-wallpapers_1920x1200_hHey everybody! Big news coming your way! Well, actually… the news was coming MY way!

On January 24th, I had a really big day! I was dying to tell you about it, but I wasn’t allowed to… Until now!

January 25th, a woman named Emily Stroud and a man named Brian Holt (funny, right? 😂) came to my house. Some of you may recognize Emily’s name. For those of you who don’t, let me explain…

Emily is a reporter for WBIR, which is a TV station. Channel 10 news. We had been in contact with her before, but this time we were taking a BIG step… by doing an story on me and my book!

Not gonna lie, I was freaking out. I’m STILL freaking out! I am sooo excited, and nervous, but you guys get to see the results of that interview this Wednesday!

My interview with Emily is going to air on Wednesday, February 6th, on the Live at Five at Four newscast. If you miss the showing but still want to see it, don’t worry! It will be on my Facebook page, WBIR’s page, my The Forest of Fayleen’s FB page, and the link may even be on my blog!!!

See ya Wednesday!

-Lorryn Holt

Ink-Blot Characters

 

2898503-VURUIBOE-6.jpgIf there is one thing I don’t like about the internet, it’s that it is too pure.

And before you leave this page, let me explain a little bit.

I can’t stand drawing on my tablet, because of the pure white “paper”. It’s too fake for me. However, I love writing on the pure white, because I am taking something perfectly drab and using black ink to make beautiful changes, even though those changes may be flawed. I am taking something blank and boring, and pouring out my creativity to make something… new. Different. Free.

And this topic also involves too perfect characters. Some people love writing with “pure white” characters. A character with “pure” problems, and a “perfect” life.

I hate it.

A good story character is a person who we should relate to. Who we laugh with, cry with, and care about. That’s why I love writing villains, and struggling protagonists. The villains, I both despise and love. I like writing someone with purpose. The reason they are the way they are. Same goes for struggling protagonists. I love diving into their back story, and giving them a reason for their fight.

But I can’t do that with a perfectly pure character in an amazingly bright world.

Life is not perfectly white. There are black ink blots all over it. All over us. Those are the character flaws. But those character flaws are what makes a character real.

We aren’t perfect, pure white characters. But those black blots are making a beautiful story.

Life is a story, that God has taken years to write. And he’s writing each of us as perfectly flawed characters. He’s taking great detail in every little aspect of us, our “back stories”, and how our lives are playing out.

The best part?

Our adventures are only just now beginning.

-Lorryn Holt

A Castle Christmas

IMG_20181212_091609_651.JPGLane sat on her bed and stared at the drawing in her diary. She ran a finger over the sketched faces of two elven teens and longed to feel the warm embrace of her best friends. She looked out her window and smiled at the snow falling outside. It’s Christmas Eve, already. Wow, I wish Willow and Josh could be here. I wish we were all together. Aren’t friends and family supposed to be together at Christmas? Her smile fell slightly.

She looked around her room for something entertain herself with while her grandparents were still out shopping for things for the Christmas dinner. Her eyes fell upon her clock… and then on her closet… and then on her boots beside the door. A grin began to spread from ear to ear.

Grandpa and Grandma won’t be back for a while….. Why can’t family and friends be together for Christmas?

Lane leaped off her bed and opened her closet. She grabbed a chair from her desk and dragged over. She stepped up on the wooden chair and tugged a large cardboard box off the top shelf of the closet. She set the box on her bed and opened it quickly. She slipped into her brown leather pants, her flowy green long sleeve tunic, and skillfully fishtail-braided her white blond hair down her shoulder to her hip. She strapped her belt and twin daggers around her waist and tightened it firmly. She grabbed her silver moonbeam pack and stuffed in an extra cloak, her sword, her diary- she emptied the entire box into the backpack. Until there was only one thing left. The most important. Her mother’s crystal necklace.

Lane clasped it behind her neck, and grabbed her big fuzzy cream-colored sherpa and cream toboggan. She pulled on a pair of warm socks, a pair of knit boot cuffs her grandma made, and then finally her brown riding boots.

Over the river and through the woods, Lane hummed as she hurried down the stairs and out the front door. To The Forest now I go.
****************************************************
Lane wove her way through trees, marveling at the snow and light shining through the trees. Icicles hung down off the bare limbs, making even the blandest part of the woods stand out with its unfathomable beauty. But when she reached the Tree that would take her to her friends, she stopped to gaped at it. It’s beauty overshadowed the woods as a whole! Its leaves never fell and were incased in a thin sheet of ice, preserving their evergreen teardrop-shaped leaves. The trunk was still its typical dark red-brown, but ice tendrils had spread throughout the tree and netted around the twisty wood and hung down from the limbs. Lane could have stared at it all day, but she decided she would simply draw it when she got back. For now, she had some friends to visit.

Lane stepped gingerly, careful not to break the fragile glass-like ice. She crossed through the archway, vanishing from one world and stepped out in the world she called her second home.

She froze for a moment, looking around her. With the immense time difference between the worlds, she didn’t think they could ever align! But apparently, she was wrong. Her eyes swept around the snow capped Evoron Hills, landing on the tree line of The Forest. Home.
****************************************************
Lane walked through the woods, recognizing certain landmarks. I should be close to- there are the flags! Lane beamed at the green flags with silver trees on them.

She walked up the gate and knocked on the cast iron grate, making a lot of racket. An elven boy in his late teens, dressed in hardened leather armor and the camouflage of The Forest, quickly ran across the wide stone wall to the gate. He did a move similar to a baseball slide while removing his bow from his back and an arrow from his quiver. He slid to a stop in a crouched position, his bow drawn and the notched arrow trained on Lane. His eyes widened when he saw who it was. “Lane?”

“Josh, why do you have to be such a show off?” Lane grinned at him.

“Can I enter your fort, please?”

“What’s the magic word?” He asked with his eyebrows raised. His eyes twinkled with mirth.

“Magic?”

“Nope.”

“Boom Shackalaka?”

“That’s not even a word.”

“Yolo?”

“Is that an American thing?”

“Oh! I know!” Lane reached in her bag out a box. “I have cookies.”

“Raise the gate!” Josh shouted.

Lane laughed as she walked through the now opened gate. She could have simply waved her hand and cut a path through the metal, but this way was more fun. Besides, she didn’t want people thinking that she was high and mighty.

Josh rushed forward and clasped her in a hug. “So,” he began after she broke away, “what brings you here? Is everything alright?”

“Does something have to be wrong for me to visit my friends in my favorite place in the world? It’s Christmas! I wanted to see everyone.”

“Christmas?” Josh’s eyebrows furrowed. “What’s Christmas?”

Lane laughed. “Very funny, Clearbrook.” But he wasn’t laughing. He looked very confused. Lane’s jaw dropped. “Either you are a really good actor, or… You really don’t know what Christmas is?”

He shook his head slowly. “I’m sorry, but no. Is it important?”

“Yeah, just a little bit,” Lane said in shock.

How could he not know what Christmas was? Did they not have Christmas? What other holidays were they missing? The kids here… they have never had a Christmas. She knew they celebrated their birthdays, she had attended Lea’s birthday party the last time she was here. But if they didn’t celebrate Christmas… how did they celebrate Christ’s birth? Or did they? Lane had brought several Bibles here, and she knew for a fact they were reading them. But perhaps they didn’t know that Christ’s birth was celebrated like that.

“Josh,” Lane touched his arm lightly, grabbing his attention. “You know the God I told you about?”

His eyes lit up. “Yes! Do you have more Bibles for us? They are becoming more and more wanted.”

“I’m glad, but that’s not why I asked. How far are you into it?”

“Almost to the end of Matthew,” he replied instantly. Lane knew that despite his masculine appearance and love for the outdoors (that often fooled people of the teddy bear he really was), he was an avid reader. All elves had a love for books, but Josh and Willow’s went far beyond the stereotype.

“So you have read some of the prophecies about a great birth?”

“Yes. Oh, I meant to ask you… what exactly do those mean?”

“Why don’t we go find Willow, and I’ll explain it to you both.”
****************************************************
Willow, Lane, and Josh were huddled around a leather bound book.
Willow leaned back a little. “So, the child in the story of the virgin birth was also the king that preformed miracles and then died for us later in life?”

Lane nodded.

“If he was a king, why was he born in a stable?” Josh asked.

“Humility. He was so amazing and inclusive that he wanted to show even the poorest people that he was just like them. It doesn’t matter your background. Anyone can be forgiven by him.”

“Wow,” Willow said in awe.

Josh pushed away from the table. “We must celebrate this man,” he said, determined.

“That’s what Christmas is.” Lane smiled at him.

“How do you celebrate it on Earth?”

“It’s the biggest holiday of all.” Lane grinned. Christmas was her forte, her favorite holiday. She was in Christmas mode now. “There are songs, the nativity scene, decorations, presents- oh! And Christmas dinner. It’s hard to forget that.”

“What do we need to do?” Willow asked her, on board immediately for this grand occasion.

“Well, we will need a lot of help to decorate the whole castle.” Lane said. She turned to Josh. “Do you have any blank paper that I can write on?”

“We have parchment and a feather quill.” Josh offered her the paper and ink well.

Lane shrugged. “Okay, that’ll have to do.” She began sketching as well as she could. It took a few minutes, but she eventually got the hang of it. She looked up at Josh and Willow. “So, something like this. If we moved the tables over here,” she drew the four stretching tables long ways down to the head of The Hall. “And put the Christmas tree here,” she drew a monstrous tree at the very front, where the throne usually was. “We could put the presents underneath,” she drew lots of little boxes, and began to draw garland, strung up lights, ornaments all over the tree, “and we could use decorations like this.”

Willow pointed to the garland, lights, and ornaments. “What are those?”

“Well, the thick stuff is called garland. Oh! We can string that around the walls too.” Lane quickly scribbled the lines around the walls of The Hall. “Anyway, the circles and stuff are ornaments. They are usually like glass balls, or figurines, or something like that. Since this is The Forest, we could paint pine cones or acorns and hang them up too.”

“And the tiny circles?” Josh asked, pointing.

“Lights.”

They both looked bewildered. Willow raised her hand meekly. “And those would be made of what, exactly? I don’t want to burn down the Castle.”

“Oh, no they aren’t like torches! They are…” Lane thought for a minute on how she could describe lights without freaking the pair out more. “Made with electricity.” They still looked confused. “But you don’t have electricity here.” She slapped a hand to her forehead. “Of course. I’m so stupid.” She thought about it more. “Well, what could we do for lights then?” she mused. She glanced down at her hands. A slow smile spread. She made two fists, and imagined pure energy in a ball. She opened her hands, and up floated two lightbulb-sized, golden, brightly glowing orbs. She grinned. “Actually, I think I got lights covered.”

Willow smiled and stroked a finger over one of the floating orbs, giggling as she felt the vibrating energy. “That’s so cool.” She turned back to Lane. “So I think you need to be in charge of decorations. I can send Josh to find a Christmas tree.” She looked at him sternly. “The biggest, fattest, Christmasiest tree you can find.” He saluted and walked out the door. She turned back to Lane with a smile threatening to overtake her face, “And if you can give me a list of things we need for the Christmas dinner, I can oversee that too.”

Lane nodded and began a list, along with directions, for Willow. This is going to be the best Christmas ever.
****************************************************
Lane hummed Silver Bells as she put the last bell ornament on the ginormous Christmas tree that nearly touched the seventy foot tall ceiling of The Hall. Josh had found the perfect tree, and he and his friend Luke were able to cut it down, but there was no way they could get it inside. Thankfully, Lane was now quite skilled with teleportation.

To decorate, Lane had to levitate herself, and her friends Lea and Kinzie, to reach the upper branches of the tree. It looked absolutely marvelous.

Lane and the girls stepped back to examine their work. Lea and Kinzie, who had helped her, began squealing in delight. But, Lane knew something was missing. She frowned.

Kinzie took notice. “Lane, what’s wrong? The tree is gorgeous!”

“It’s missing something.” Lane shook her head in confusion. What am I forgetting- “Oh! We don’t have a star for the top!” Lane cried.

The girls looked at her in horror. “A what?” Kinzie yelped.

“Not a literal star,” Lane calmed them. “It’s another type of ornament. It’s the focal point of the tree.” Her heart fell. What could they possibly use? She could make a star out of light, but they already had the balls of light spread around the tree.

Suddenly, it hit her. She closed her eyes and began to focus her magic in one area. She began shaping with her hands, making the shape of a four-pointed star. When she opened her eyes, the girls were all staring at her hands with dropped jaws and bright eyes.

Lane looked down and smiled. A light filled crystal star was awaiting the tree. Lane levitated herself up to the top of the tree, and planted it right in the center. It looked a too small… Lane put her palms together and began pulling them apart slowly. The crystal enlarged until it was the perfect size for the massive tree. She floated back down the ground and looked at her handiwork proudly. A small group of elven boys walked in the room, carrying flat wooden shapes. Josh followed them with a smile.

“Josh, what is this?” Lane squealed as she saw what they were setting up.

“When you explained the nativity to me, it only seemed proper to have Jesus as the real focus of the night.” Josh smiled and gave her a side hug as they watched the nativity be set up.

“Love the decorations, by the way,” Josh commented as he looked at the Hall in wonder. Garland was strung around the Hall, lights floated around the ceiling (adding to the warm glow of the Hall already provided by the torches.), small candles were placed on the tables, and each place setting had already been laid out.

“The only thing we are missing is the meal,” Lane said.

“And the people,” Josh added.

Horror worked its way across Lane’s face. “Josh, we forgot to invite people!” she cried.

Josh laughed. “You might have, but Willow made tons of invitations and sent them out already.”

“They won’t make it in time.” Lane shook her head.

“Never doubt magic, Laney. Especially not Christmas magic,” Josh scolded her playfully.

She nodded slightly, hoping he was right.

Quinn walked through the doors, about to ask Josh a question, when he saw that long, cornsilk blond hair and dancing blue eyes that he only knew one person to have. He froze. “Lane?” he said, dumbfounded.

“Quinn!” Lane practically jumped into his arms and gave him a huge hug, which he quickly returned after getting over his shock. They parted.

“You’ve gotten older,” she noticed. His hair was cut shorter, now only to his chin, his facial features were more defined, muscles more toned… but his eyes and smile still as bright and silly as always.

“You’ve stayed the same, “ he laughed lightly.

“How old are you now?”

“Thirteen.”

“Thirteen?! You’re as old as I am now! Not fair.”

He laughed. “What’s not fair is you’ll still be young when I’m a feeble old man. But somehow I don’t think you came to talk about how old I am. What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I’m introducing a thing to you guys called Christmas,” Lane announced proudly.

“Um… okay? What’s that?” he inquired.

Lane gave him the quick version, while wrapping an empty box.

“That’s incredible. And you just came here this morning?”

“That would be correct.”

So how did you make so many presents so fast? And how do you know what you got will go over well with the receiver?” Quinn asked her.

She grinned. “That part was easy.”

He raised his eyebrows. “How?”

“Just wait till tonight.” Lane winked and walked out of The Hall, ready to go sneak some samples from the kitchen.

Quinn and Josh both shook their heads as they watched her go.

“Girls.” Josh mumbled.

“They’re weird,” Quinn agreed.

“But we couldn’t live without them.”

“That’s true.”

“And I don’t think you could live without that one, especially.” Josh elbowed him, nodding at the disappearing Lane.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Josh shook his head again. “Nevermind.”

“Joshua Clearbrook, just because you my sergeant doesn’t mean that you can just stand there! Help me with this nativity, dork.” One of Josh’s best friends, Luke, shouted at him, causing laughter to erupt from around The Hall, even from the mystified Quinn.
****************************************************
Lane helped carry in the large platters of food. She giggled as she watched three girls try to carry the humongous turkey. Well, actually, it wasn’t a real turkey. It was some kind of bird that Willow called a nanua bird. A normal sized one was about ten times the size of a turkey, and this one was extra large.

Willow quickly told them to just set it down before they hurt themselves, then just used magic to carry it down the halls to The Hall.

As they approached The Hall’s doors, Lane began to hear loud laughing, cheering, and kids squealing. How many people did Willow invite?

As the doors opened, Lane’s jaw hit the floor. She saw several hundreds beaming at her. Quinn hurried forward and took the platter of biscuits from her shaking hands before she could drop it. “These people are so excited to meet you,” he whispered. “When the heard about Christmas and what it is about, they flooded in. They want to hear more, Lane. It’s a Christmas miracle.” He gave her a half hug before setting the platter down on one of the stretching tables. Quinn took her hand and led her down to the front where her other friends were sitting.

They sat just as Willow stood at the front of The Halls and raised her hands up to ask for silence. You could have heard a pin drop.

“Welcome everyone, to our first annual Christmas feast!” she declared with a grin, her voice magically heightened.

Everyone cheered and clapped loudly. Willow couldn’t resist the urge to laugh in ecstasy at their excitement.

“As most of you know, tonight is a night to celebrate our family, our friends, another blessed year, and of course, our Savior’s birth!”
More cheers.

“So please eat, drink, have fun, and have a very merry Christmas!”

Everyone dove in. Lane took the first bite of the nanua bird, and practically melted off the bench. It was incredible!

“Wow, this is so good!” Lane complimented as Willow sat down with them.

“Thank you! It was all your recipe.” Willow smiled, eating as well. Her eyes widened. “Oh wow, this really is good.”

“Yesh ith is!” Quinn exclaimed around a mouthful of food. They all laughed at him.
****************************************************
Willow stood again, and cheerfully announced “Everyone! Its time for presents!”

The kids all rushed forward and practically attacked the tree. All the adults laughed, and followed them.

Quinn nudged Lane’s arm. “Now will you tell me what you did?” he whispered.

Lane got up and walked off. She picked up a medium-sized box from under the tree and handed it to Quinn. He hesitantly took it, and jumped when it shrunk in his hands until it was a simple flat package the size of a book. Lane laughed.

“Open it!” she giggled.

He ripped the brown paper off of it, his eyes widened in wonder, and then looked up at Lane with a smile. “Thank you! So, so, so much. But I have to ask. Why this?” he asked her quietly.

“I put a charm on each of the presents. It changes to what you want the most.” Lane replied. “What is it?” she craned her neck.

He turned around the flat package. Lane’s heart skipped when she saw what it was. An exquisitely carved wood picture frame, with a picture of him, Lane, Josh, Willow, and Lea in The Forest. Lane was sitting on Quinn’s shoulders, his arms around her legs holding her securely. Both were hysterically laughing as Lea tried to climb onto Josh’s back, while he already held a ticklish Willow bridal-style.

Lane remembered sketching the picture (unmoving) into her own diary.

It was one of her favorites.

But she had one thing more to do to the picture. She held out her hands. “Can I see that for a second?”

He quickly gave it to her, waiting to see what she would do.
She knelt and set it on the marble floor next to her. She first duplicated the picture so she would have one of her own, and then waved her hands over both them, remembering exactly how that memory played out. When she opened her eyes, the two pictures were in motion, playing out the scene.

Quinn let out a small laugh of disbelief before picking up his picture off the floor and helping Lane up. He engulfed her in a tight hug. “Thank you,” he whispered.

“You’re very welcome.” She whispered back, a smile ghosting her face.

“Merry Christmas, Quinn.”

“Merry Christmas, Lane.”

When they broke apart, Lane shouted through The Hall “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

This Castle Christmas was truly unforgettable.