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I want to inspire you today.

I hear this a lot: “Gosh, Morgan, is there anything you can’t do?”

And I cringe when I hear it, to be honest, because DEAR SWEET JESUS, YES THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS I CANNOT DO. Just the other night, I went to play Top Golf with my friends and, well, let’s just say I proved my ineptitude for anything remotely athletic. I’m a spaz, to be quite honest. While God may have gifted me in the artistic arena, he definitely did not see fit to bestow even an iota of coordination into my blood. Bless.

This is not a pity party. In fact, what I used to lament, I’ve come to be grateful for. Yes, in elementary school, it stung when the kids fought over who wouldn’t have to have me on their team that week.

“We had her last week! Y’all have to take her!”

Ouch.

(Yes, they actually said that.)

As an adult, I’ve come to be thankful for what I can do, and what I cannot. It’s okay to not be perfect at everything (my recovering inner perfectionist is currently shouting, “Yas, queen!”). It’s okay to only have a few talents. Find them. Then exploit them. As the great Dolly Parton once said, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”

Find out who you are and do it on purpose.

~Dolly Parton

A Light Came On

So I found out who I am. After a long time, and taking inventory of all I’ve done and all that makes me tick, I finally figured out that at my core, I’m a storyteller. A writer. Yes, I’m also a musician and artist. But all my songs tell a story. So does all of my art. And words. Words are my favorite. When I figured that out, it was as if a veil had been lifted. I had spent the better part of my twenties pursuing a career in music, being terrified of the outcome the entire time.

Yes, I wanted to be a rock star. No, I did NOT want to be famous. And I couldn’t figure out why until I figured out who I was. When I realized that writing was my thang (misspelling intentional, people), a veil was lifted. A burden was removed. A light came on. I realized that all that music in me was really a result of the words I so loved. All that songwriting was a symptom of a bigger calling—writing.

I Figured Out Who I Am

Writing is what I love. A writer is who I am at my very core.

I used to joke that the only reason I passed college was because of my impeccable ability to b.s. my way through a term paper. And it was, for all intents and purposes, precisely true. But I still didn’t realize I was a writer. And for the better part of my life, the thought of writing a novel made me want to barf.

So in 2014 when out of nowhere, I wrote 3 novels in 3 months, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I thought I had lost my mind, or gone mad, or something like that. I’ll never forget the night when, in the midst of a powerful spring thunderstorm, my husband sat me down under the tin roof of our deck and asked me if I was okay. I was writing practically twenty-four seven. I couldn’t stop. It consumed me in a way that I didn’t understand at the time. In the pounding rain and wicked lightning, my husband and I had to wrestle with what was going on. Looking back, I think that was really a result of ignoring that part of me for so long. I think all that prolific writing was the overflow of a lifetime of stories dancing in my mind, just waiting to erupt.

We All Have To Start Somewhere

But that didn’t mean they were any good.

In fact, they were horrible. (Yes, the title of this post had a purpose. Here it is. You’re welcome.)

The first three novels I wrote were horrible.

I don’t mean that lightly. I mean that with all sincerity, hand on the Bible, cross my heart and hope to die. THEY. WERE. DREADFUL.

My poor husband and best friend martyred themselves and read them anyway, all the while stroking my ego and telling me what a pretty girl I am (okay, that’s sarcasm, but you get the idea). It gave me the gumption to keep writing. Keep refining. Keep working at my craft.

I joke nowadays that those three novels are so bad, not even God himself is allowed to read them. But do you know what they did? They taught me. I learned. I began really honing the craft of storytelling—particularly novel writing. They were a gateway to what became The Chalam Færytales. And they were bad. But they taught me to be better.

So be inspired today. You have a gift. You just might need to find it. Don’t worry—I was over thirty when I figured mine out. And even when you find it, it might need some refining. That’s awesome! Refine it! Work at it! Keep going, keep pressing in to that thing that makes you tick. Don’t stop. Don’t let time or age or fear or lack of knowledge or anything else stop you. Go. Do it.

You’ve got it in you.

Because maybe, just maybe, the world is waiting for that thing you have to offer.

The Secret of the Wings

I know… you’ve been asking. WHAT THE HECK ARE THOSE MOTHS?

Well, you see here’s the deal. You can find out what those moths are that plague Ferryl day in and day out. You can find out what is the deal with those butterflies that swarm the mountainside in The Purloined Prophecy. Or that mysterious wolf/butterfly sculpture in Chesedelle Castle.

You can find out by reading the lost novel of The Chalam Færytales.

And you can only read the lost novel on Patreon.

But as a treat, I’ve made the first chapter public. That’s right—you can read the first chapter of the lost novel for FREE right now! 

And if it whets your appetite to find out more… well, I can’t be responsible for that.

Or maybe I can.

*mwahahahaha*

Read Chapter One of the lost novel today!

 

What I’ve learned, what I’m changing, and what to expect for 2019 »

When I look back on this year, I have to admit that it has been full of surprises—some good, some not so good. As most of you know, my first novel was released into the world in January of this year, with the second following in October. It has been a whirlwind of learning curves and exciting moments (like when book two became a number one new release on Amazon), but all in all, I have enjoyed every minute of my first year in publishing, and I’m looking forward to 2019.

What I’ve learned »

If you’ve followed my journey at all, then you know that when I started writing The Promised One back in 2015, it was never with the intention of publishing. It was nothing more than a labor of love (or quite possibly a psychotic breakdown… I haven’t decided). But somewhere along the way, I knew I needed to share the journey with the world. So in 2017, I decided to pursue publishing.

I was bent on getting traditionally published. I queried until I was cross-eyed. And eventually I got a couple of bites on the novel. When I was offered a publishing deal, it felt like I had “made it.” “Arrived.” But funny enough, the more I looked into the deal, the publisher, and the industry at the time, the more I realized that I might be better off publishing myself.

So I did.

I turned down a major-market publishing deal to go indie. And I haven’t regretted it for one minute. There have been ups and downs, for sure, but all in all, I am glad that I retain all the rights to my work, that I control the branding and marketing, and that I get to decide what story I want to tell the world. I would have given all of that up with a publishing deal, and apparently I’m too much of a control freak to do that. Not to mention the publisher was only interested in my book. They had no mechanism to also market my music and art, which is an integral part of who I am and what I do. I did not want strangers owning a third of my brand, so indie was the best choice for me.

Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it takes a lot of learning, a lot of discipline, a lot of patience, and a lot of pulling up your boot straps. But it has been worth it. And I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to publish.

I’ve learned that not everyone you meet can be trusted.

A foray into partnerships with fellow authors that turned sour taught me to keep up my guard and not take people at face value so easily. Yes, it’s a bit cynical, but the bottom line is, when you have nothing, it’s easy to know who your real friends are. But when you have something, or at least the perception that you’re on to something, people come out of the woodwork. And not all of those people can be trusted. Since then, I’ve been much more selective about who I let into my inner circle, and who I trust with this business that I’m working my tail off to build from the ground up. A difficult lesson? Yes. But one much needed.

I’ve learned that everyone has an opinion, and not all of them are right for you or me.

Google how to publish your book, join a Facebook group of authors, or do any basic research and you’ll see that there is a wealth of information out there. And information, at the end of the day, is really just opinions. Some opinions are worth checking into, learning, even implementing. But most? MOST are rubbish. And people with little to no experience, or a flash-in-the-pan’s worth of success are quick to tell you what you should be doing. The bottom line I’ve learned… follow your gut.

I had many “experts” tell me not to use my book cover for The Promised One, for example. One even said it looked too much like a traditionally published book. 🤣I’m so glad I ignored that advice because more often than not, people tell me they bought my book because of its cover. And even Joel Tippie, an AMAZING cover designer for Harper Collins said my cover was awesome. Check out his thoughts here: (FF to about 25:30)

Yeah, that was a good day. So I’m glad in the end I went with my gut and ignored all those well-meaning opinions. I highly recommend you do the same, in whatever you pursue.

I’ve learned that the best way to help my brand is to help others.

I used to be like a cat—I’d sit in the corner and wait. If you wanted to come pet me, I’d let you, but I would certainly not come to you. Animal analogies aside, the truth is I’ve learned to be more like a dog—to seek out people to help, to be kind to, to build up, to promote. Why? Because it’s reciprocal. Because the more I give, the more return I see. And the best part? What started off as a bit of a selfish motive has ended up being a huge reward. I love meeting new people in all my social arenas. I love hearing their stories, following their blogs, learning about their journeys. It inspires me, teaches me, challenges me. The more I support other authors and artists, the more I find support. It’s a sweet cycle that I’ve enjoyed discovering.

What I’m Looking Forward To »

As 2019 approaches, I am gearing up for some pretty interesting experiments, as I’m calling them. With ever-changing, enigmatic algorithms on the likes of Amazon and Facebook, coupled with a growing pool of millions and millions of books and art flooding the market, the reality is, it’s getting harder to be indie.

So I decided to try something potentially crazy.

For all of 2019, I am not going to buy ads. Not a single one. No Facebook ads, no Amazon ads, no Instagram ads, no YouTube ads, no Goodreads ads. None. Instead, I’m going to focus all of my efforts on grassroots marketing, expanding on the principle above of helping others. I’ve got some ideas up my sleeve on how I’m going to do that, which I’ll expound on in future posts. But I figure I’ve got nothing to lose. And maybe, just maybe, if I can find a way to expound on my success without ads, then when I’m ready to start buying them again, I’ll have an even more solid, larger foundation on which to build.

We’ll see.

Be sure to follow me here on the blog to see how the journey is going! (You can sign up for my newsletter and never miss another post!)

And if you haven’t yet, join my Fantasy-loving group over on Facebook. You’ll see what I’m talking about in this group—authors and readers working hand-in-hand. Plus you’ll get lots of recommendations for great new reads!

Book 3 of The Chalam Færytales »

So many of you ask me on a daily basis… “When is book 3 coming out?” Well, I am excited to say that as of now, book three is slated for a July 2019 release! I can’t give you many details on it yet, but sufficient to say… I AM LOSING MY MIND OVER THIS BOOK. (This is a good thing… I think.) Seriously, I am so proud of this story and where it’s going. And just a heads up, if you love Michael and Delaney now… just you wait, Henry Higgins. JUST. YOU. WAIT. *grins wickedly*

Well, that’s all for now. Be sure to sound off in the comments and tell me what you’re working on for 2019. I want to hear all about it!

As always, all my love,

Morgan

 

Shallow art does not equal good theology. Let me say that again.

Shallow art does not equal good theology.

If art isn’t authentic to the human experience, it’s not art.

There. I said it.

*breathes*

This topic can be…touchy, to say the least. For Christians, anyway.

I think we’re scared…

I’ve avoided it, to be honest. I thought to myself, “If someone brings it up, then talk about it. But don’t open that Pandora’s Box. It’s not worth it.” People have brought it up in my inner circle. But I can tell that they, like me, weren’t sure what to say about it. Perhaps they couldn’t make eye contact. Or perhaps they toed the sand and danced around the subject with shrugs and incoherent grunts. And I think maybe I know why…

We’re scared. Or maybe we’re chickens. But we’re afraid to say what we really think. For whatever reasons (which I am positive there are many, but that’s for another blog post), we think that if people knew how we really feel, they’d think less of us. Judge us. Run screaming from our heretical ways.

Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic, but I’m trying to make a point. Because I think the bottom line is, as a whole, Christians don’t make authentic art anymore. At least not in the mainstream. (Before you get your panties in a wad, let me clarify: I know this is not a universal rule of thumb. I am saying that it is generally true, with few exceptions.)

Hear me out.

What happened to us?

When I look at the Sistine Chapel, when I listen to Handel’s Messiah, when I read Lewis, or Spurgeon, or heck even Tolkien, I am forced to wonder what happened to modern art. I am forced to wonder how we traded The Screwtape Letters for some of the Christian fiction drivel you can pick up on Amazon.

I am Christian. I make no bones about that. But neither do I shove it down your throat. You’re free to have your own thoughts and beliefs, just as I am free to have mine. Just as I am free to infuse mine into my writing and art. Which I do. If you’ve read even a chapter of one of my books, you can tell that my faith is integral to who I am.

But I refuse—REFUSE—to let the ideals of what my faith should produce dictate the content of what my art conveys. Or to put it more bluntly: just because I’m a Christian does not mean I am going to write G-rated books. Just because I believe in a perfect God does not mean I am going to write perfect characters or idyllic stories.

Listen, I’ve read a lot of modern Christian fiction. It’s terrible. (Granted, there is some that is not, but it’s a SHORT list.) And I mean that in the most sincere way. It’s weak. Ineffective. Laughably shallow. It focuses on faith as if it were this thing to master. As if belief in the Almighty were a checklist for the day.

  • Bible reading? Check.
  • Kindness to a widow? Check.
  • Prayer at dinner? Check.
  • Church on Sunday? Check, check.

I think life is a little more nuanced than that, don’t you? And quite frankly, I think we–the humans God created–are a little more colorful than that.

We’re all flawed.

We’re flawed in profound ways. Profound. We’re addicts. We’re liars. We’re thieves. We’re miscreants. We’re whores. We’re oath breakers and failures. We’re cheaters and swindlers. We’re murderers and haters. We’re bigots and shunners. We’re people. In every flawed color. We’re people. Humans.

And I think it’s high time Christians stop pretending like we’re not.

Conversely, I read a lot of mainstream fiction that also conveys a lie. It purports this ideal that self is the ultimate prize. That if we can learn to love ourselves, we’ll have it figured out. That if we can find our inner strength, we’ll have arrived.

I don’t know about you, but my strength fails me on a continual basis. And the moment I start thinking I’ve got my sh*t together, it usually hits the fan. In that vein, I think the majority of modern mainstream art lies to us, too.

So what, then?

When I set out to write The Promised One, it was not with the intention of writing Christian fantasy, or even anything particularly meaningful. It was simply a færytale love story. It was honestly just a labor of love that morphed into something much deeper. It became an opening into another world–a world in need of redemption much like ours. As I wrote the love story I wanted to read, it hit me: love here on earth is meant to be a shadow and portrait of a greater Love. And it is often through our love stories that we learn, begin to understand, or even find the greater Love.

But as the characters came to life on those pages, I wondered what people would think of them. Of the seventeen year old girl who slept with her boyfriend and carried his child. Of the prince who was more interested in flirting with the ladies than living up to his responsibilities. Of the orphan who hated the idea of the divine. Of the mother who would stop at nothing to get her way, even at the expense of her family. Of the foul-mouthed brother whose temper flared at the drop of a hat.

But much more so, I wondered what my Christian friends would think of the language, violence, debauchery, murder, incest, betrayal, dark magic, and more in my books. I wondered what my non-Christian friends would think of writing a couple who waited until their wedding night to have sex. I wondered what my Christian friends would think of the protagonists who were sleeping around or ambiguous characters who murdered and lied and played a game for the sake of their own gain. I wondered what my non-Christian friends would think of the scenes with Providence himself showing up.

In other words, I wondered where my story fit.

A Square Peg…

Nowhere, really.

It’s too Christian to be mainstream, and much too mainstream to be Christian.

And when I first queried it to publishers, I wasn’t sure who would pick it up. I knew a Christian publisher wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole as long as the characters remained messy and foul-mouthed and *gasp* not virgins. And I knew a mainstream publisher would want to white-wash the more powerful moments with the Creator, and the general notion of monotheism as an ideal.

I was unwilling to compromise on either front. When I was offered a publishing deal from a mainstream publisher, I eventually turned it down for those very reasons.

The Adventure of the Blue Ocean

So I decided to venture out into unknown waters. I decided to put this book out there and see what would happen. I decided to try something different: to present people as they are, not as they should be. And to present the concept of God divorced from the box Christendom has put him in over the centuries. To write a book with authentically flawed characters who discover the need for a perfect Creator through those flaws, not in spite of them. I took the risk of offending my Christian friends with my very much NOT G-rated content, in the hopes that maybe they could identify with my characters. I took the risk of offending my non-Christian friends with a blatantly spiritual story of the need for redemption, in the hopes that they might identify with my characters.

Because that’s just it. I think it is precisely through our flaws–and the flaws of those around us–that we find out our need for something more. It is in the imperfections that we go in pursuit of perfection.

Authenticity Matters

I want to make something clear: by saying that shallow art does not good theology make, I am not implying that I have somehow found the formula for good art. I am not saying that my books are better, or deeper, or more profound by any means.

But I am saying that my books are authentic. You will not find characters who fit the bill of Christian idealism. Nor will you find characters who make good choices very often, if ever. But you will find characters who are searching for that ideal. Characters who are aware, even if only intrinsically, of their need for something more.

That’s the kind of art that doesn’t happen too often in this world.

Oh yes, there are those who make it. U2 comes to mind–raw music that explores the mystery of the divine from the flawed and inadequate human perspective. I think Crowder scratches that surface, too. (Listen to Praise the Lord by Crowder if you’re looking for some profoundly raw lyrics.)

I used to shake You like an 8-ball
I used to shoot You like a gun
I used to hold You like a hammer
Try to nail down everyone
I used to keep You in a steeple
Used to bind You in a Book
I used to take You like prescription
Without knowing what I took

~Praise the Lord, Crowder (American Prodigal)

As for authors, I will confess I haven’t read much modern Christian fiction like that. I’ve read more Christian non-fiction that ventures down that path. Blue Like Jazz comes to mind. Think what you will of his theology, Donald Miller at least explores the possibility that the god we’ve fashioned over the centuries just might be a tad bit bigger than the limitations we’ve put on him. I tend to agree. Wholeheartedly.

Exploring Authenticity in My Art

I think that’s why I wrote The Promised One, and the subsequent books. To explore the idea of the Creator outside the bounds of religion. Outside the bounds of preconceptions. Outside the bounds of limitation. To let imperfect people stumble upon him and then discover–as I think we all do on some level–a keen need for him.

I put this out there in the hope that maybe there are more of us. I think there are. I think perhaps there’s a whole coven of us, hidden in the caves, wishing that the bubble of modern Christian culture would burst. Wishing that we offered a little more steak and a little less breastmilk.

And at the same time, I think there’s a whole world out there wondering why self has let them down time and again. If there is something more. Something bigger. Deeper. Wider. Brighter. Better.

Hint: There is.

It’s here! The Purloined Prophecy, the second book in The Chalam Færytales series is officially available worldwide! I am so excited to share this book with you, which picks up the very next morning after The Promised One left off. Our beloved characters, Prince Ferryl and Elizabeth must find out the answer to the questions that loom before them: who cursed Ferryl and why? Who is Elizabeth and where does she come from? And what are they going to do about it all?

The first book was such a whirlwind of emotions for me, but to be honest, the story is only just beginning and to me, The Purloined Prophecy is where the magic really shines. One reviewer thought so, too:

I have to say that usually the second book in fantasy novels are quite disappointing but with this series it was actually MORE satisfying. This is a better book than the first! I enjoy this tale and can’t wait for the next one.

Amazon Reviewer

Another reviewer put it this way:

Where the first book was good, this one grabs you by the shirt and throws you right into it!

Goodreads Reviewer

So yeah, I think you’re going to like this one. Although I hope you’re not too mad at me for a few things that happen…. *grins innocently.* 

Pick up your copy of The Purloined Prophecy from your favorite retailer today!

And as always, happy reading, my friends!

~Morgan G Farris

Chapter III

Duchess Delaney Dupree stood before the edge of the gardens at Benalle Palace—before the edge of the world, it seemed—letting the ocean winds whip her hair around her face, letting the endless waters, the pounding waves soothe as the dawn approached. The cliff-side garden nestled in the heart of the bow-shaped castle had become a favorite retreat. To escape. To think. No one really visited it much either, which she didn’t understand, considering the breathtaking views and lush flora. But while she would never understand the ignorance of such beauty by the court at Benalle, nor did she complain as she stood alone on the cliff’s edge, watching the sky brighten from gray to purple, from purple to the palest pink. She closed her eyes, willing herself to breathe deeply, the briny tang of the air like a tonic to her churning stomach.

But whatever relief it offered from the insufferable nausea she had had for weeks, it did nothing to ease the twist in her gut from the conversation she had just had with her father.

“Get yourself together,” he had snapped, barging into her chambers this morning without so much as a preamble. “You’re acting aloof and disinterested. Your little performance last night was abominable. Leaving early from your wedding feast? You had better thank the gods that the prince left early too or else you would be hanging from the gallows this morning.”

“Father, I don’t feel well,” she tried to protest. For it was true. She had been sick to her stomach for almost two weeks. “I do apologize. I—”

“I don’t want to hear excuses. You’re marrying the crown prince of Navah. It’s about time you stop acting like a selfish, spoiled cow.”

Her father had turned on his heel and marched off without so much as a good day, and Delaney stood alone in the foyer of her chambers, wishing she had a different life. Wishing she had a different father, anyway. She hadn’t asked for this. It wasn’t in her plans to be shipped to this gods-forsaken kingdom to be married off like chattel.

But she had been shipped off anyway, forced to leave behind her life in Midvar and her beloved little sisters—the only piece of her mother she had left—without a second thought. It didn’t matter what she had wanted. It didn’t matter what she had thought. All that mattered was that she was of marrying age, eligible, and a prosperous match for both her kingdom and Navah.

Prosperous, indeed.

Never mind their kingdoms had been sworn enemies for a millennium. Never mind there was no chance in Sheol that this marriage would be anything more than a sham, if they even married at all.

For indeed, today was her wedding day. And while Ferryl had surprised her—no, shocked her, really—when he visited her chambers last night, when he poured himself onto her, touching, kissing, holding her with a need that had set her blood to boiling, the shock had been nothing compared to the moment he suddenly pulled away, a look in his eyes of devastation, of complete loss. For one moment she had thought he wanted her as much as she was beginning to think she wanted him.

And then he had just left.

No explanation, no apologies. The crown prince of Navah had just kissed her and disappeared. And she wasn’t sure if she could face him today.

Their wedding day.

She wrapped her arms around her waist and squeezed tightly, breathing deeply again, willing away the tears that were threatening to fall.

What about her life? What about what she wanted?

Apparently, it didn’t matter. Not only did it not matter to her father, or her uncle—His Insufferable Majesty King Derrick of Midvar—it apparently didn’t matter to Ferryl, either. Or Ravid.

Ravid, who had followed her here to Navah, who had schemed with her, made promises to her. Ravid who had loved her. Yes, for a little while, she would have sworn he loved her. But he had apparently forgotten all of that.

Like a phantom, Ravid came and went through her life as he pleased these days, visiting her chambers little, speaking with her even less. For every bit of fun and laughter they shared in their years in Midvar, they shared equal silence and avoidance now.

Maybe there was a time when she would have said she loved him. But now—now, she wasn’t so sure. While Ravid had always showered her with affection, he hadn’t exactly been a friend. But Ferryl had. Ferryl had been her friend, had been unexpectedly kind and warm. And the way he kissed her…

But she had been wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. Wrong about Ferryl. Wrong about Ravid. Wrong about too many things.

Despite herself, a tear slipped down her cheek. She quickly wiped it away, staring across the quiet waters, the endless void before her.

The sound of footsteps crunching in the gravel tore her from her thoughts, and she peered over her shoulder, the winds whipping her hair wildly about her face, to see Michael—the palace guard—strolling towards her with a careful grace, which could only mean one thing.

Of course.

She wondered what bad news the guard was harboring.

“Your Grace,” said Michael with a smile. And not an apologetic one, either. Despite the caution with which he had approached her, it was…it was delight in his eyes. “What are you doing up so early?”

The rising sun glinted on the pommel of his sword, his black and white uniform crisp and perfectly-tailored to what was surely a beautifully-sculpted form, if the broadness of his shoulders, the strong column of his neck, and girth of his arms were any indication. She tore her eyes from his body only to be transfixed by the shock of silver in his eyes, illuminated all the more by the piercing rays of the early morning sun…and the kindness she found there.

“Are you all right?” he smiled, and she realized with no small amount of horror that she had forgotten to answer his previous question. Whatever it had been.

“I’m fine,” she said, lying for the sake of sparing him the gory details of the stomach issues that wouldn’t end. Another wave of nausea swept over her, and she turned back towards those glorious ocean breezes.

Michael stepped closer—close enough that their shoulders almost brushed. Almost. She cut her eyes to him as he stood beside her, staring at the ocean before them. His glossy chestnut brown hair—like sunshine and earth and honey—tossed wildly in the winds. He looked much like the crown prince in many ways—that signature Navarian tan, those high cheekbones. But Michael had a ruggedness about him that no prince or nobleman she had ever known possessed. Forged. Like a blade. Like the steel silver of his piercing eyes.

Nausea ebbed at her again, waves lapping at her feet. She bit back a grimace.

“Are you sure?” he asked, and she wondered about his keen observation of her health and wellbeing. Then again, he was a palace guard. Paying attention to every detail was his job, not a kindness. She merely nodded.

Michael stood wordlessly by her side, his hands clasped behind his back as he, too took in the sunrise as it spilled over the ocean, staining the waters with violent shades of gold and pink, silver and red.

Why was he here?

“Are you on duty?” she asked, shattering the blessed silence.

“Hmm?” he asked, as if robbed from a daze. “Oh, no. I’m off rotation until tonight’s festivities.”

Until the wedding, he meant. She stifled the urge to make some baiting comment about the likelihood of said festivities—not after the way Ferryl had fled from her last night. “Do you ever not wear your uniform, then?”

He faced her, a grin threatening his mouth. “Do I offend, my lady?”

“My lady. Your Grace. Such formalities. I thought I asked you to call me by my name.” Gods, she was snappy this morning. And she didn’t mean to be, but—

He chuckled. “I’m sorry, Delaney. Old habits, and all of that.”

She wasn’t sure whether to laugh or roll her eyes. She opted to look back at the ocean instead. “You haven’t answered my question.”

“What question?” She could hear the mirth in his voice. Was something funny? She resisted the urge to bare her teeth at him for being so stupidly chipper at such an ungodly hour.

“I never see you in anything but that old thing,” she said, gesturing to his uniform. “You said you’re off duty. Don’t you have regular clothes?”

She felt more than saw his grin. “I do. I suppose I prefer to stay in uniform. Just in case.”

“In case of what?”

“In case I am needed.” Needed for his sword, he meant. Because if nothing else, Michael was loyal to his kingdom, even to a fault. She had observed his friendship with the crown prince in her time here—their quiet conversations in the corridors, their card-playing and wine-drinking into the wee hours of the morning. But she had also observed that Michael, perhaps above all other guards in the palace, was loyal. Dedicated. A servant to Crown and country. And he thrived on such loyalty.

Which begged the question… “What are you doing here?”

She immediately regretted the question, the way it sounded. She hadn’t meant to be so abrupt, but if the prince had sent the guard here to spy…

“I can leave if you want. I didn’t realize my presence would bother you.”

She might have told him good riddance, might have let him walk away if it weren’t for the hint of hurt she could have sworn she heard in his voice. As if…as if he had chosen to be here, to come stand by her. It was that thought alone that had her recklessly grabbing him by the elbow as he moved to walk away.

“It doesn’t bother me,” she said when he turned to face her. “I’m… I’m glad you’re here.” And she realized she was. In some strange way, Michael, of all people, had become something of a friend. Perhaps it was the fact that he had held her hair back as she had vomited her guts up a few weeks ago. Perhaps it was the fact that he always spoke to her with such kindness. Perhaps it was that wherever she was, he always seemed to be there, too.

Maybe…maybe the crown prince was having Michael keep an eye on her.

Or maybe Michael just wanted a friend, too.

He returned to her side, and she didn’t fail to notice that it was a little closer this time, their shoulders brushing. And her skin—gods, it was as if her skin came alive at that whisper of a touch. So she leaned slightly away, just because she was a stupid fool. Everything that had happened thus far only proved it. No need to drag another man into the idiocy that was her life. And certainly not Michael, even if it seemed like his offer of friendship might actually be genuine. No, she would not stand close enough to let her shoulder brush his, to let her stupid, foolish mind wander down paths it had no business going.

“Any word about tonight?” he asked. The question suddenly reminded her of last night. Of emerging into the ballroom for First Feast, observing the waiting crowd…and being taken aback by the look on Michael’s face as she stood on Ferryl’s arm.

Had it been disappointment?

And why?

Despite herself, she turned to see his face, to see if it held any of the same disappointment. But it was cool disinterest she found instead. She quickly faced the ocean when she sensed him turning to meet her stare. But then she registered the question he had asked. And the strangeness of it.

“What do you mean any word?”

“The prince. Has he said anything?”

Gods. Oh gods. Had Ferryl told Michael about their kiss? Or his disgust with it? Heat flooded her cheeks. And nausea. Oh gods, the nausea.

“Delaney,” Michael said, his hand suddenly at the small of her back. Warm. Steady. Calming. “Let me take you to Mary.”

“No. It’s fine, it’s…”

“I beg your pardon, but you’re not fine. You’ve been ill for a while. You should see the healer. Let her help you.”

She shook her head as she covered her mouth with her hand. “No, no. It’s fine. What did you mean about tonight? Has Ferryl told you something? Does he not wish to marry me?”

“He hasn’t spoken to you? I thought maybe that’s why you were out here so early,” Michael said, his hand still at her back. She resisted the urge to lean into his steady touch, instead shaking her head as she met his eyes once more. There it was again. Disappointment.

“Delaney, I—” His other hand found the back of his neck, and he looked to the ground as he fussed with his hair. She got the distinct sense that he wanted to tell her something. Something he had no right to tell her.

To her eternal shock, he told her anyway.

“It’s Elizabeth, Delaney. She…”

“Elizabeth? What about her?” she asked, her heart pounding in her throat.

He met her eyes again, and oh gods, that kindness. It was mixed with regret. And worry. She would have had half a mind to console him if she hadn’t suspected that he was about to deliver news that would require her own consolation.

“She’s back, Delaney. She returned in the middle of the night.”

Elizabeth. The woman Ferryl loved. The woman he had searched for, that he only stopped searching for once he thought she was dead. She apparently wasn’t dead. She was apparently very much alive. And back.

Which meant that the wedding—

“Are you all right, Delaney?”

“I’m fine,” she managed, holding her hands to her stomach as if somehow she could coax the nausea, the stupid, childish panic to subside. Breathe. It was becoming hard to breathe.

“Please, let me help you to Mary,” he said, turning her, resting his arm at her waist as he took her other elbow that he might guide her back through the gardens.

She attempted a lighthearted laugh, firmly planting herself in place. “I’m fine, Michael, truly.”

“Forgive me, but it is obvious you are not. You have been ill for some weeks now, haven’t you?”

She nodded despite herself, a cold sweat beading on her brow.

“Delaney,” he said, and she met his eyes at the way her name sounded coming from his mouth, taken aback by the concern in his voice. “I shouldn’t have told you. I—I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. Please…please just go and see her. I should like to take you to her now, if you will.”

“I’m fine, Michael. It’s just a bit of a stomach malady. Nothing to worry about.” Delaney tried to turn and walk away, for if she didn’t leave soon, she wasn’t sure if she could contain herself. Vomit. She was going to vomit. Was she nauseous because she was ill? Or because she was broken-hearted? And why should she be broken-hearted about a man who never loved her anyway? Another wave of nausea rose, this one burning her throat with bile. Michael caught her by the elbow, his grip firm but gentle as he stepped in front of her. He caught her by the chin and tilted her face to meet his.

“You’re going, Delaney. I won’t take no for an answer.”

Maybe it was the look on his face—the sweet concern, the kindness. Maybe it was the air of authority with which he spoke, the firm but gentle reprimand for daring to ignore his wishes. Or maybe it was just those silver eyes she couldn’t avoid. Whatever it was, she found herself nodding her head and letting him walk her to the infirmary, reminding herself that there was nothing wrong with leaning into his embrace. He was simply doing his duty, after all.

###

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I want to inspire you today.

I hear this a lot: “Gosh, Morgan, is there anything you can’t do?”

And I cringe when I hear it, to be honest, because DEAR SWEET JESUS, YES THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS I CANNOT DO. Just the other night, I went to play Top Golf with my friends and, well, let’s just say I proved my ineptitude for anything remotely athletic. I’m a spaz, to be quite honest. While God may have gifted me in the artistic arena, he definitely did not see fit to bestow even an iota of coordination into my blood. Bless.

This is not a pity party. In fact, what I used to lament, I’ve come to be grateful for. Yes, in elementary school, it stung when the kids fought over who wouldn’t have to have me on their team that week.

“We had her last week! Y’all have to take her!”

Ouch.

(Yes, they actually said that.)

As an adult, I’ve come to be thankful for what I can do, and what I cannot. It’s okay to not be perfect at everything (my recovering inner perfectionist is currently shouting, “Yas, queen!”). It’s okay to only have a few talents. Find them. Then exploit them. As the great Dolly Parton once said, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”

Find out who you are and do it on purpose.

~Dolly Parton

A Light Came On

So I found out who I am. After a long time, and taking inventory of all I’ve done and all that makes me tick, I finally figured out that at my core, I’m a storyteller. A writer. Yes, I’m also a musician and artist. But all my songs tell a story. So does all of my art. And words. Words are my favorite. When I figured that out, it was as if a veil had been lifted. I had spent the better part of my twenties pursuing a career in music, being terrified of the outcome the entire time.

Yes, I wanted to be a rock star. No, I did NOT want to be famous. And I couldn’t figure out why until I figured out who I was. When I realized that writing was my thang (misspelling intentional, people), a veil was lifted. A burden was removed. A light came on. I realized that all that music in me was really a result of the words I so loved. All that songwriting was a symptom of a bigger calling—writing.

I Figured Out Who I Am

Writing is what I love. A writer is who I am at my very core.

I used to joke that the only reason I passed college was because of my impeccable ability to b.s. my way through a term paper. And it was, for all intents and purposes, precisely true. But I still didn’t realize I was a writer. And for the better part of my life, the thought of writing a novel made me want to barf.

So in 2014 when out of nowhere, I wrote 3 novels in 3 months, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I thought I had lost my mind, or gone mad, or something like that. I’ll never forget the night when, in the midst of a powerful spring thunderstorm, my husband sat me down under the tin roof of our deck and asked me if I was okay. I was writing practically twenty-four seven. I couldn’t stop. It consumed me in a way that I didn’t understand at the time. In the pounding rain and wicked lightning, my husband and I had to wrestle with what was going on. Looking back, I think that was really a result of ignoring that part of me for so long. I think all that prolific writing was the overflow of a lifetime of stories dancing in my mind, just waiting to erupt.

We All Have To Start Somewhere

But that didn’t mean they were any good.

In fact, they were horrible. (Yes, the title of this post had a purpose. Here it is. You’re welcome.)

The first three novels I wrote were horrible.

I don’t mean that lightly. I mean that with all sincerity, hand on the Bible, cross my heart and hope to die. THEY. WERE. DREADFUL.

My poor husband and best friend martyred themselves and read them anyway, all the while stroking my ego and telling me what a pretty girl I am (okay, that’s sarcasm, but you get the idea). It gave me the gumption to keep writing. Keep refining. Keep working at my craft.

I joke nowadays that those three novels are so bad, not even God himself is allowed to read them. But do you know what they did? They taught me. I learned. I began really honing the craft of storytelling—particularly novel writing. They were a gateway to what became The Chalam Færytales. And they were bad. But they taught me to be better.

So be inspired today. You have a gift. You just might need to find it. Don’t worry—I was over thirty when I figured mine out. And even when you find it, it might need some refining. That’s awesome! Refine it! Work at it! Keep going, keep pressing in to that thing that makes you tick. Don’t stop. Don’t let time or age or fear or lack of knowledge or anything else stop you. Go. Do it.

You’ve got it in you.

Because maybe, just maybe, the world is waiting for that thing you have to offer.

The Secret of the Wings

I know… you’ve been asking. WHAT THE HECK ARE THOSE MOTHS?

Well, you see here’s the deal. You can find out what those moths are that plague Ferryl day in and day out. You can find out what is the deal with those butterflies that swarm the mountainside in The Purloined Prophecy. Or that mysterious wolf/butterfly sculpture in Chesedelle Castle.

You can find out by reading the lost novel of The Chalam Færytales.

And you can only read the lost novel on Patreon.

But as a treat, I’ve made the first chapter public. That’s right—you can read the first chapter of the lost novel for FREE right now! 

And if it whets your appetite to find out more… well, I can’t be responsible for that.

Or maybe I can.

*mwahahahaha*

Read Chapter One of the lost novel today!

 

What I’ve learned, what I’m changing, and what to expect for 2019 »

When I look back on this year, I have to admit that it has been full of surprises—some good, some not so good. As most of you know, my first novel was released into the world in January of this year, with the second following in October. It has been a whirlwind of learning curves and exciting moments (like when book two became a number one new release on Amazon), but all in all, I have enjoyed every minute of my first year in publishing, and I’m looking forward to 2019.

What I’ve learned »

If you’ve followed my journey at all, then you know that when I started writing The Promised One back in 2015, it was never with the intention of publishing. It was nothing more than a labor of love (or quite possibly a psychotic breakdown… I haven’t decided). But somewhere along the way, I knew I needed to share the journey with the world. So in 2017, I decided to pursue publishing.

I was bent on getting traditionally published. I queried until I was cross-eyed. And eventually I got a couple of bites on the novel. When I was offered a publishing deal, it felt like I had “made it.” “Arrived.” But funny enough, the more I looked into the deal, the publisher, and the industry at the time, the more I realized that I might be better off publishing myself.

So I did.

I turned down a major-market publishing deal to go indie. And I haven’t regretted it for one minute. There have been ups and downs, for sure, but all in all, I am glad that I retain all the rights to my work, that I control the branding and marketing, and that I get to decide what story I want to tell the world. I would have given all of that up with a publishing deal, and apparently I’m too much of a control freak to do that. Not to mention the publisher was only interested in my book. They had no mechanism to also market my music and art, which is an integral part of who I am and what I do. I did not want strangers owning a third of my brand, so indie was the best choice for me.

Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it takes a lot of learning, a lot of discipline, a lot of patience, and a lot of pulling up your boot straps. But it has been worth it. And I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to publish.

I’ve learned that not everyone you meet can be trusted.

A foray into partnerships with fellow authors that turned sour taught me to keep up my guard and not take people at face value so easily. Yes, it’s a bit cynical, but the bottom line is, when you have nothing, it’s easy to know who your real friends are. But when you have something, or at least the perception that you’re on to something, people come out of the woodwork. And not all of those people can be trusted. Since then, I’ve been much more selective about who I let into my inner circle, and who I trust with this business that I’m working my tail off to build from the ground up. A difficult lesson? Yes. But one much needed.

I’ve learned that everyone has an opinion, and not all of them are right for you or me.

Google how to publish your book, join a Facebook group of authors, or do any basic research and you’ll see that there is a wealth of information out there. And information, at the end of the day, is really just opinions. Some opinions are worth checking into, learning, even implementing. But most? MOST are rubbish. And people with little to no experience, or a flash-in-the-pan’s worth of success are quick to tell you what you should be doing. The bottom line I’ve learned… follow your gut.

I had many “experts” tell me not to use my book cover for The Promised One, for example. One even said it looked too much like a traditionally published book. 🤣I’m so glad I ignored that advice because more often than not, people tell me they bought my book because of its cover. And even Joel Tippie, an AMAZING cover designer for Harper Collins said my cover was awesome. Check out his thoughts here: (FF to about 25:30)

Yeah, that was a good day. So I’m glad in the end I went with my gut and ignored all those well-meaning opinions. I highly recommend you do the same, in whatever you pursue.

I’ve learned that the best way to help my brand is to help others.

I used to be like a cat—I’d sit in the corner and wait. If you wanted to come pet me, I’d let you, but I would certainly not come to you. Animal analogies aside, the truth is I’ve learned to be more like a dog—to seek out people to help, to be kind to, to build up, to promote. Why? Because it’s reciprocal. Because the more I give, the more return I see. And the best part? What started off as a bit of a selfish motive has ended up being a huge reward. I love meeting new people in all my social arenas. I love hearing their stories, following their blogs, learning about their journeys. It inspires me, teaches me, challenges me. The more I support other authors and artists, the more I find support. It’s a sweet cycle that I’ve enjoyed discovering.

What I’m Looking Forward To »

As 2019 approaches, I am gearing up for some pretty interesting experiments, as I’m calling them. With ever-changing, enigmatic algorithms on the likes of Amazon and Facebook, coupled with a growing pool of millions and millions of books and art flooding the market, the reality is, it’s getting harder to be indie.

So I decided to try something potentially crazy.

For all of 2019, I am not going to buy ads. Not a single one. No Facebook ads, no Amazon ads, no Instagram ads, no YouTube ads, no Goodreads ads. None. Instead, I’m going to focus all of my efforts on grassroots marketing, expanding on the principle above of helping others. I’ve got some ideas up my sleeve on how I’m going to do that, which I’ll expound on in future posts. But I figure I’ve got nothing to lose. And maybe, just maybe, if I can find a way to expound on my success without ads, then when I’m ready to start buying them again, I’ll have an even more solid, larger foundation on which to build.

We’ll see.

Be sure to follow me here on the blog to see how the journey is going! (You can sign up for my newsletter and never miss another post!)

And if you haven’t yet, join my Fantasy-loving group over on Facebook. You’ll see what I’m talking about in this group—authors and readers working hand-in-hand. Plus you’ll get lots of recommendations for great new reads!

Book 3 of The Chalam Færytales »

So many of you ask me on a daily basis… “When is book 3 coming out?” Well, I am excited to say that as of now, book three is slated for a July 2019 release! I can’t give you many details on it yet, but sufficient to say… I AM LOSING MY MIND OVER THIS BOOK. (This is a good thing… I think.) Seriously, I am so proud of this story and where it’s going. And just a heads up, if you love Michael and Delaney now… just you wait, Henry Higgins. JUST. YOU. WAIT. *grins wickedly*

Well, that’s all for now. Be sure to sound off in the comments and tell me what you’re working on for 2019. I want to hear all about it!

As always, all my love,

Morgan

 

Shallow art does not equal good theology. Let me say that again.

Shallow art does not equal good theology.

If art isn’t authentic to the human experience, it’s not art.

There. I said it.

*breathes*

This topic can be…touchy, to say the least. For Christians, anyway.

I think we’re scared…

I’ve avoided it, to be honest. I thought to myself, “If someone brings it up, then talk about it. But don’t open that Pandora’s Box. It’s not worth it.” People have brought it up in my inner circle. But I can tell that they, like me, weren’t sure what to say about it. Perhaps they couldn’t make eye contact. Or perhaps they toed the sand and danced around the subject with shrugs and incoherent grunts. And I think maybe I know why…

We’re scared. Or maybe we’re chickens. But we’re afraid to say what we really think. For whatever reasons (which I am positive there are many, but that’s for another blog post), we think that if people knew how we really feel, they’d think less of us. Judge us. Run screaming from our heretical ways.

Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic, but I’m trying to make a point. Because I think the bottom line is, as a whole, Christians don’t make authentic art anymore. At least not in the mainstream. (Before you get your panties in a wad, let me clarify: I know this is not a universal rule of thumb. I am saying that it is generally true, with few exceptions.)

Hear me out.

What happened to us?

When I look at the Sistine Chapel, when I listen to Handel’s Messiah, when I read Lewis, or Spurgeon, or heck even Tolkien, I am forced to wonder what happened to modern art. I am forced to wonder how we traded The Screwtape Letters for some of the Christian fiction drivel you can pick up on Amazon.

I am Christian. I make no bones about that. But neither do I shove it down your throat. You’re free to have your own thoughts and beliefs, just as I am free to have mine. Just as I am free to infuse mine into my writing and art. Which I do. If you’ve read even a chapter of one of my books, you can tell that my faith is integral to who I am.

But I refuse—REFUSE—to let the ideals of what my faith should produce dictate the content of what my art conveys. Or to put it more bluntly: just because I’m a Christian does not mean I am going to write G-rated books. Just because I believe in a perfect God does not mean I am going to write perfect characters or idyllic stories.

Listen, I’ve read a lot of modern Christian fiction. It’s terrible. (Granted, there is some that is not, but it’s a SHORT list.) And I mean that in the most sincere way. It’s weak. Ineffective. Laughably shallow. It focuses on faith as if it were this thing to master. As if belief in the Almighty were a checklist for the day.

  • Bible reading? Check.
  • Kindness to a widow? Check.
  • Prayer at dinner? Check.
  • Church on Sunday? Check, check.

I think life is a little more nuanced than that, don’t you? And quite frankly, I think we–the humans God created–are a little more colorful than that.

We’re all flawed.

We’re flawed in profound ways. Profound. We’re addicts. We’re liars. We’re thieves. We’re miscreants. We’re whores. We’re oath breakers and failures. We’re cheaters and swindlers. We’re murderers and haters. We’re bigots and shunners. We’re people. In every flawed color. We’re people. Humans.

And I think it’s high time Christians stop pretending like we’re not.

Conversely, I read a lot of mainstream fiction that also conveys a lie. It purports this ideal that self is the ultimate prize. That if we can learn to love ourselves, we’ll have it figured out. That if we can find our inner strength, we’ll have arrived.

I don’t know about you, but my strength fails me on a continual basis. And the moment I start thinking I’ve got my sh*t together, it usually hits the fan. In that vein, I think the majority of modern mainstream art lies to us, too.

So what, then?

When I set out to write The Promised One, it was not with the intention of writing Christian fantasy, or even anything particularly meaningful. It was simply a færytale love story. It was honestly just a labor of love that morphed into something much deeper. It became an opening into another world–a world in need of redemption much like ours. As I wrote the love story I wanted to read, it hit me: love here on earth is meant to be a shadow and portrait of a greater Love. And it is often through our love stories that we learn, begin to understand, or even find the greater Love.

But as the characters came to life on those pages, I wondered what people would think of them. Of the seventeen year old girl who slept with her boyfriend and carried his child. Of the prince who was more interested in flirting with the ladies than living up to his responsibilities. Of the orphan who hated the idea of the divine. Of the mother who would stop at nothing to get her way, even at the expense of her family. Of the foul-mouthed brother whose temper flared at the drop of a hat.

But much more so, I wondered what my Christian friends would think of the language, violence, debauchery, murder, incest, betrayal, dark magic, and more in my books. I wondered what my non-Christian friends would think of writing a couple who waited until their wedding night to have sex. I wondered what my Christian friends would think of the protagonists who were sleeping around or ambiguous characters who murdered and lied and played a game for the sake of their own gain. I wondered what my non-Christian friends would think of the scenes with Providence himself showing up.

In other words, I wondered where my story fit.

A Square Peg…

Nowhere, really.

It’s too Christian to be mainstream, and much too mainstream to be Christian.

And when I first queried it to publishers, I wasn’t sure who would pick it up. I knew a Christian publisher wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole as long as the characters remained messy and foul-mouthed and *gasp* not virgins. And I knew a mainstream publisher would want to white-wash the more powerful moments with the Creator, and the general notion of monotheism as an ideal.

I was unwilling to compromise on either front. When I was offered a publishing deal from a mainstream publisher, I eventually turned it down for those very reasons.

The Adventure of the Blue Ocean

So I decided to venture out into unknown waters. I decided to put this book out there and see what would happen. I decided to try something different: to present people as they are, not as they should be. And to present the concept of God divorced from the box Christendom has put him in over the centuries. To write a book with authentically flawed characters who discover the need for a perfect Creator through those flaws, not in spite of them. I took the risk of offending my Christian friends with my very much NOT G-rated content, in the hopes that maybe they could identify with my characters. I took the risk of offending my non-Christian friends with a blatantly spiritual story of the need for redemption, in the hopes that they might identify with my characters.

Because that’s just it. I think it is precisely through our flaws–and the flaws of those around us–that we find out our need for something more. It is in the imperfections that we go in pursuit of perfection.

Authenticity Matters

I want to make something clear: by saying that shallow art does not good theology make, I am not implying that I have somehow found the formula for good art. I am not saying that my books are better, or deeper, or more profound by any means.

But I am saying that my books are authentic. You will not find characters who fit the bill of Christian idealism. Nor will you find characters who make good choices very often, if ever. But you will find characters who are searching for that ideal. Characters who are aware, even if only intrinsically, of their need for something more.

That’s the kind of art that doesn’t happen too often in this world.

Oh yes, there are those who make it. U2 comes to mind–raw music that explores the mystery of the divine from the flawed and inadequate human perspective. I think Crowder scratches that surface, too. (Listen to Praise the Lord by Crowder if you’re looking for some profoundly raw lyrics.)

I used to shake You like an 8-ball
I used to shoot You like a gun
I used to hold You like a hammer
Try to nail down everyone
I used to keep You in a steeple
Used to bind You in a Book
I used to take You like prescription
Without knowing what I took

~Praise the Lord, Crowder (American Prodigal)

As for authors, I will confess I haven’t read much modern Christian fiction like that. I’ve read more Christian non-fiction that ventures down that path. Blue Like Jazz comes to mind. Think what you will of his theology, Donald Miller at least explores the possibility that the god we’ve fashioned over the centuries just might be a tad bit bigger than the limitations we’ve put on him. I tend to agree. Wholeheartedly.

Exploring Authenticity in My Art

I think that’s why I wrote The Promised One, and the subsequent books. To explore the idea of the Creator outside the bounds of religion. Outside the bounds of preconceptions. Outside the bounds of limitation. To let imperfect people stumble upon him and then discover–as I think we all do on some level–a keen need for him.

I put this out there in the hope that maybe there are more of us. I think there are. I think perhaps there’s a whole coven of us, hidden in the caves, wishing that the bubble of modern Christian culture would burst. Wishing that we offered a little more steak and a little less breastmilk.

And at the same time, I think there’s a whole world out there wondering why self has let them down time and again. If there is something more. Something bigger. Deeper. Wider. Brighter. Better.

Hint: There is.

It’s here! The Purloined Prophecy, the second book in The Chalam Færytales series is officially available worldwide! I am so excited to share this book with you, which picks up the very next morning after The Promised One left off. Our beloved characters, Prince Ferryl and Elizabeth must find out the answer to the questions that loom before them: who cursed Ferryl and why? Who is Elizabeth and where does she come from? And what are they going to do about it all?

The first book was such a whirlwind of emotions for me, but to be honest, the story is only just beginning and to me, The Purloined Prophecy is where the magic really shines. One reviewer thought so, too:

I have to say that usually the second book in fantasy novels are quite disappointing but with this series it was actually MORE satisfying. This is a better book than the first! I enjoy this tale and can’t wait for the next one.

Amazon Reviewer

Another reviewer put it this way:

Where the first book was good, this one grabs you by the shirt and throws you right into it!

Goodreads Reviewer

So yeah, I think you’re going to like this one. Although I hope you’re not too mad at me for a few things that happen…. *grins innocently.* 

Pick up your copy of The Purloined Prophecy from your favorite retailer today!

And as always, happy reading, my friends!

~Morgan G Farris

Chapter III

Duchess Delaney Dupree stood before the edge of the gardens at Benalle Palace—before the edge of the world, it seemed—letting the ocean winds whip her hair around her face, letting the endless waters, the pounding waves soothe as the dawn approached. The cliff-side garden nestled in the heart of the bow-shaped castle had become a favorite retreat. To escape. To think. No one really visited it much either, which she didn’t understand, considering the breathtaking views and lush flora. But while she would never understand the ignorance of such beauty by the court at Benalle, nor did she complain as she stood alone on the cliff’s edge, watching the sky brighten from gray to purple, from purple to the palest pink. She closed her eyes, willing herself to breathe deeply, the briny tang of the air like a tonic to her churning stomach.

But whatever relief it offered from the insufferable nausea she had had for weeks, it did nothing to ease the twist in her gut from the conversation she had just had with her father.

“Get yourself together,” he had snapped, barging into her chambers this morning without so much as a preamble. “You’re acting aloof and disinterested. Your little performance last night was abominable. Leaving early from your wedding feast? You had better thank the gods that the prince left early too or else you would be hanging from the gallows this morning.”

“Father, I don’t feel well,” she tried to protest. For it was true. She had been sick to her stomach for almost two weeks. “I do apologize. I—”

“I don’t want to hear excuses. You’re marrying the crown prince of Navah. It’s about time you stop acting like a selfish, spoiled cow.”

Her father had turned on his heel and marched off without so much as a good day, and Delaney stood alone in the foyer of her chambers, wishing she had a different life. Wishing she had a different father, anyway. She hadn’t asked for this. It wasn’t in her plans to be shipped to this gods-forsaken kingdom to be married off like chattel.

But she had been shipped off anyway, forced to leave behind her life in Midvar and her beloved little sisters—the only piece of her mother she had left—without a second thought. It didn’t matter what she had wanted. It didn’t matter what she had thought. All that mattered was that she was of marrying age, eligible, and a prosperous match for both her kingdom and Navah.

Prosperous, indeed.

Never mind their kingdoms had been sworn enemies for a millennium. Never mind there was no chance in Sheol that this marriage would be anything more than a sham, if they even married at all.

For indeed, today was her wedding day. And while Ferryl had surprised her—no, shocked her, really—when he visited her chambers last night, when he poured himself onto her, touching, kissing, holding her with a need that had set her blood to boiling, the shock had been nothing compared to the moment he suddenly pulled away, a look in his eyes of devastation, of complete loss. For one moment she had thought he wanted her as much as she was beginning to think she wanted him.

And then he had just left.

No explanation, no apologies. The crown prince of Navah had just kissed her and disappeared. And she wasn’t sure if she could face him today.

Their wedding day.

She wrapped her arms around her waist and squeezed tightly, breathing deeply again, willing away the tears that were threatening to fall.

What about her life? What about what she wanted?

Apparently, it didn’t matter. Not only did it not matter to her father, or her uncle—His Insufferable Majesty King Derrick of Midvar—it apparently didn’t matter to Ferryl, either. Or Ravid.

Ravid, who had followed her here to Navah, who had schemed with her, made promises to her. Ravid who had loved her. Yes, for a little while, she would have sworn he loved her. But he had apparently forgotten all of that.

Like a phantom, Ravid came and went through her life as he pleased these days, visiting her chambers little, speaking with her even less. For every bit of fun and laughter they shared in their years in Midvar, they shared equal silence and avoidance now.

Maybe there was a time when she would have said she loved him. But now—now, she wasn’t so sure. While Ravid had always showered her with affection, he hadn’t exactly been a friend. But Ferryl had. Ferryl had been her friend, had been unexpectedly kind and warm. And the way he kissed her…

But she had been wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. Wrong about Ferryl. Wrong about Ravid. Wrong about too many things.

Despite herself, a tear slipped down her cheek. She quickly wiped it away, staring across the quiet waters, the endless void before her.

The sound of footsteps crunching in the gravel tore her from her thoughts, and she peered over her shoulder, the winds whipping her hair wildly about her face, to see Michael—the palace guard—strolling towards her with a careful grace, which could only mean one thing.

Of course.

She wondered what bad news the guard was harboring.

“Your Grace,” said Michael with a smile. And not an apologetic one, either. Despite the caution with which he had approached her, it was…it was delight in his eyes. “What are you doing up so early?”

The rising sun glinted on the pommel of his sword, his black and white uniform crisp and perfectly-tailored to what was surely a beautifully-sculpted form, if the broadness of his shoulders, the strong column of his neck, and girth of his arms were any indication. She tore her eyes from his body only to be transfixed by the shock of silver in his eyes, illuminated all the more by the piercing rays of the early morning sun…and the kindness she found there.

“Are you all right?” he smiled, and she realized with no small amount of horror that she had forgotten to answer his previous question. Whatever it had been.

“I’m fine,” she said, lying for the sake of sparing him the gory details of the stomach issues that wouldn’t end. Another wave of nausea swept over her, and she turned back towards those glorious ocean breezes.

Michael stepped closer—close enough that their shoulders almost brushed. Almost. She cut her eyes to him as he stood beside her, staring at the ocean before them. His glossy chestnut brown hair—like sunshine and earth and honey—tossed wildly in the winds. He looked much like the crown prince in many ways—that signature Navarian tan, those high cheekbones. But Michael had a ruggedness about him that no prince or nobleman she had ever known possessed. Forged. Like a blade. Like the steel silver of his piercing eyes.

Nausea ebbed at her again, waves lapping at her feet. She bit back a grimace.

“Are you sure?” he asked, and she wondered about his keen observation of her health and wellbeing. Then again, he was a palace guard. Paying attention to every detail was his job, not a kindness. She merely nodded.

Michael stood wordlessly by her side, his hands clasped behind his back as he, too took in the sunrise as it spilled over the ocean, staining the waters with violent shades of gold and pink, silver and red.

Why was he here?

“Are you on duty?” she asked, shattering the blessed silence.

“Hmm?” he asked, as if robbed from a daze. “Oh, no. I’m off rotation until tonight’s festivities.”

Until the wedding, he meant. She stifled the urge to make some baiting comment about the likelihood of said festivities—not after the way Ferryl had fled from her last night. “Do you ever not wear your uniform, then?”

He faced her, a grin threatening his mouth. “Do I offend, my lady?”

“My lady. Your Grace. Such formalities. I thought I asked you to call me by my name.” Gods, she was snappy this morning. And she didn’t mean to be, but—

He chuckled. “I’m sorry, Delaney. Old habits, and all of that.”

She wasn’t sure whether to laugh or roll her eyes. She opted to look back at the ocean instead. “You haven’t answered my question.”

“What question?” She could hear the mirth in his voice. Was something funny? She resisted the urge to bare her teeth at him for being so stupidly chipper at such an ungodly hour.

“I never see you in anything but that old thing,” she said, gesturing to his uniform. “You said you’re off duty. Don’t you have regular clothes?”

She felt more than saw his grin. “I do. I suppose I prefer to stay in uniform. Just in case.”

“In case of what?”

“In case I am needed.” Needed for his sword, he meant. Because if nothing else, Michael was loyal to his kingdom, even to a fault. She had observed his friendship with the crown prince in her time here—their quiet conversations in the corridors, their card-playing and wine-drinking into the wee hours of the morning. But she had also observed that Michael, perhaps above all other guards in the palace, was loyal. Dedicated. A servant to Crown and country. And he thrived on such loyalty.

Which begged the question… “What are you doing here?”

She immediately regretted the question, the way it sounded. She hadn’t meant to be so abrupt, but if the prince had sent the guard here to spy…

“I can leave if you want. I didn’t realize my presence would bother you.”

She might have told him good riddance, might have let him walk away if it weren’t for the hint of hurt she could have sworn she heard in his voice. As if…as if he had chosen to be here, to come stand by her. It was that thought alone that had her recklessly grabbing him by the elbow as he moved to walk away.

“It doesn’t bother me,” she said when he turned to face her. “I’m… I’m glad you’re here.” And she realized she was. In some strange way, Michael, of all people, had become something of a friend. Perhaps it was the fact that he had held her hair back as she had vomited her guts up a few weeks ago. Perhaps it was the fact that he always spoke to her with such kindness. Perhaps it was that wherever she was, he always seemed to be there, too.

Maybe…maybe the crown prince was having Michael keep an eye on her.

Or maybe Michael just wanted a friend, too.

He returned to her side, and she didn’t fail to notice that it was a little closer this time, their shoulders brushing. And her skin—gods, it was as if her skin came alive at that whisper of a touch. So she leaned slightly away, just because she was a stupid fool. Everything that had happened thus far only proved it. No need to drag another man into the idiocy that was her life. And certainly not Michael, even if it seemed like his offer of friendship might actually be genuine. No, she would not stand close enough to let her shoulder brush his, to let her stupid, foolish mind wander down paths it had no business going.

“Any word about tonight?” he asked. The question suddenly reminded her of last night. Of emerging into the ballroom for First Feast, observing the waiting crowd…and being taken aback by the look on Michael’s face as she stood on Ferryl’s arm.

Had it been disappointment?

And why?

Despite herself, she turned to see his face, to see if it held any of the same disappointment. But it was cool disinterest she found instead. She quickly faced the ocean when she sensed him turning to meet her stare. But then she registered the question he had asked. And the strangeness of it.

“What do you mean any word?”

“The prince. Has he said anything?”

Gods. Oh gods. Had Ferryl told Michael about their kiss? Or his disgust with it? Heat flooded her cheeks. And nausea. Oh gods, the nausea.

“Delaney,” Michael said, his hand suddenly at the small of her back. Warm. Steady. Calming. “Let me take you to Mary.”

“No. It’s fine, it’s…”

“I beg your pardon, but you’re not fine. You’ve been ill for a while. You should see the healer. Let her help you.”

She shook her head as she covered her mouth with her hand. “No, no. It’s fine. What did you mean about tonight? Has Ferryl told you something? Does he not wish to marry me?”

“He hasn’t spoken to you? I thought maybe that’s why you were out here so early,” Michael said, his hand still at her back. She resisted the urge to lean into his steady touch, instead shaking her head as she met his eyes once more. There it was again. Disappointment.

“Delaney, I—” His other hand found the back of his neck, and he looked to the ground as he fussed with his hair. She got the distinct sense that he wanted to tell her something. Something he had no right to tell her.

To her eternal shock, he told her anyway.

“It’s Elizabeth, Delaney. She…”

“Elizabeth? What about her?” she asked, her heart pounding in her throat.

He met her eyes again, and oh gods, that kindness. It was mixed with regret. And worry. She would have had half a mind to console him if she hadn’t suspected that he was about to deliver news that would require her own consolation.

“She’s back, Delaney. She returned in the middle of the night.”

Elizabeth. The woman Ferryl loved. The woman he had searched for, that he only stopped searching for once he thought she was dead. She apparently wasn’t dead. She was apparently very much alive. And back.

Which meant that the wedding—

“Are you all right, Delaney?”

“I’m fine,” she managed, holding her hands to her stomach as if somehow she could coax the nausea, the stupid, childish panic to subside. Breathe. It was becoming hard to breathe.

“Please, let me help you to Mary,” he said, turning her, resting his arm at her waist as he took her other elbow that he might guide her back through the gardens.

She attempted a lighthearted laugh, firmly planting herself in place. “I’m fine, Michael, truly.”

“Forgive me, but it is obvious you are not. You have been ill for some weeks now, haven’t you?”

She nodded despite herself, a cold sweat beading on her brow.

“Delaney,” he said, and she met his eyes at the way her name sounded coming from his mouth, taken aback by the concern in his voice. “I shouldn’t have told you. I—I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. Please…please just go and see her. I should like to take you to her now, if you will.”

“I’m fine, Michael. It’s just a bit of a stomach malady. Nothing to worry about.” Delaney tried to turn and walk away, for if she didn’t leave soon, she wasn’t sure if she could contain herself. Vomit. She was going to vomit. Was she nauseous because she was ill? Or because she was broken-hearted? And why should she be broken-hearted about a man who never loved her anyway? Another wave of nausea rose, this one burning her throat with bile. Michael caught her by the elbow, his grip firm but gentle as he stepped in front of her. He caught her by the chin and tilted her face to meet his.

“You’re going, Delaney. I won’t take no for an answer.”

Maybe it was the look on his face—the sweet concern, the kindness. Maybe it was the air of authority with which he spoke, the firm but gentle reprimand for daring to ignore his wishes. Or maybe it was just those silver eyes she couldn’t avoid. Whatever it was, she found herself nodding her head and letting him walk her to the infirmary, reminding herself that there was nothing wrong with leaning into his embrace. He was simply doing his duty, after all.

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