ARC Contest

Posted: December 17th, 2013 under ARC.

The good news is that I heard from Editor that ARCs are on their way.   That’s right, plural.   We will have a contest & drawing for two ARCs of Crown of Renewal.    Here’s your challenge for this year…

You are in someone’s home–fairly large, enough for a goodly number of people to live there.   It is Midwinter, after sundown: all fires have been extinguished and all hearths swept bare.   Light has faded from the windows as from the sky.   The wood for the new fire is waiting.   The house is chilling down, though the hearthstone still holds a little warmth from the fire earlier.     You know those with whom you’ll spend Midwinter–you’re not a stranger here.

So…tell us where you are: what land, what city or country place, what home or shop or other gathering place.   Who is with you?    Are you imagining yourself as the lord or lady of the place?   The grandmother?  The steward?  The cook?   The bookkeeper?   One of the children?    Who’s sitting next to you?  Mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, another of the family?   One of the staff?   Are you Marshal of a grange keeping the Midwinter vigil with your yeoman marshal(s) and a few of your yeomen who live alone?   Are you a military commander?  Are you holding your first child close, to keep it warm?

You can people the place with anyone who fits into Paksworld   (the extras in their breakroom love to help out, and the main characters, now lounging in their own greenroom, have long since eaten up their refreshments in the long gap between the last working meal and the banquet when the book comes out–you can invite them in. )

And what part will you play in the night-long vigil?   Will you be chosen to speak one of the family parts?   Which of the dead will you call by name when Torre’s Necklace stands highest at the turn of night?  What tales will you tell of courage and endurance and hope in those coldest hours before the dawn?    Who will stand in the cold dawn to announce the first arrow of the sun that strikes…what?  A tower?  A tree near the place?  A mountain peak?   Or straight through an open front door or window?

And do remember not to quarrel or call for judgment or make careless promises…the judgments and decisions and oaths of Midwinter night cannot be set aside: “All doubts die with the sun.”

EDIT a few minutes later:   I forgot the deadline for this (DUH) and Christmas, which some of us are busy with, comes in the midst thereof.   So, the deadline is midnight my time (Central Standard Time in the US–like Chicago or Dallas on world maps)  on the Sunday after Christmas, December 29.  Given holiday mails, I don’t know if the ARCs will arrive, but it brackets Midwinter itself nicely that way and gives your creativity time to play.


  • Comment by Genko — December 28, 2013 @ 2:47 pm


    Wow, no way could I come up to the standard set here. Maybe I’ll try my hand tomorrow. I see myself as a widowed aunt knitting in the corner, listening to the stories and the chanting. Oh, I can’t knit if I can’t see, or can I? Of course I can.

    Well, maybe I’ll try to flesh it out tonight or tomorrow.

    Am enjoying these very much. And thanks to the person who said she was copying these into a document — I’ve decided to do that as well, so they are easy to enjoy again.

  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — December 28, 2013 @ 8:27 pm


    Richard, I have a spare “hand-ker-sniff” [family term] to which you are welcome. 🙂

  • Comment by pjm — December 28, 2013 @ 11:23 pm


    Foolish, foolish man I am! At last an end is in sight and I may be able to fulfil my oath.

    Rashly, foolishly and drunkenly I swore five midwinters ago – and I a Marshal, who should know better. I swore that I would speak of Gird to people who had never heard of him, nor of Falk, nor of Torre. But now perhaps Gird, who may have wrestled with drink himself, has seen fit to help another drinker.

    For the first three years I travelled through Aarenis and the eight kingdoms and found none who would meet the conditions of my vow. Then I joined a caravan headed to Khartazh and Kaelifet in the far west. Still, while most knew nothing of Gird, and many knew nothing of Falk, all knew of Torre. At last I met a man in Kaelifet, who came from a land in the deep South, and suggested I accompany him.

    Tomorrow we expect to arrive at our destination. From Kaelifet we came overland to the sea and we have sailed and sailed since then. Often the ship has not put in to land at night, but has anchored off shore. They have not told me why, but I have sensed their fear of something. We have now come south so far that even now in midwinter the sun is almost overhead. I would guess that we have come south even of old Aare.

    For the ship’s captain and crew the ship is their home. They do not celebrate midwinter, but I have celebrated with them their festival of rains, with energetic dances and songs and with heartfelt prayers for protection from storms and floods. They have agreed to celebrate with me this night of midwinter, and the captain has given me an earthenware bowl in which I may light a small fire.

    At last the sun set over the sea in the west. We sat on the deck under the stars, and I began to speak of those dear to me, whom I have not seen for much too long, and of those I can never see again in this world. The captain and crew joined in with tales of those they had known. I felt them draw near us when I realised how many of them had been buried at sea, and I silently thanked the High Lord for a much safer voyage than many others had been.

    As midnight approached Torre’s necklace could be seen far in the north, and we began the ritual speeches. I felt the familiarity of the rite comfort me as I took the Grange marshall’s part, and as the captain began the words of the yeoman-marshall. With a final “the light returns” we ended the formalities and began to tell stories to keep ourselves awake until the dawn.

    After the rest had finished I began the tale of Gird. Usually this will be interrupted by the coming of dawn, but this night I came to the very end. A brief silence fell, then the youngest of the crew cried “the light returns” and we saw the beginning of sunlight on the top of the mast. . I quickly took out my flint and steel, and as soon as I struck a spark the firewood blazed with white light, which met the sunlight descending the mast in a flash of glory. When our eyes cleared the fire was gone and it was full daylight.

  • Comment by Catmadknitter — December 29, 2013 @ 8:54 am


    If I am 8 hours late ignore this.

    It is a warm night in the South. She wraps herself in a fairly light shawl. Her family has moved southerly by generation, seeking opportunity but not giving over their old ways. Her husband is a good man and encourages her ways. His family, though kind, could care less, so it is just her in the dark, watching the stars rise.

    Such a year. Laboring hard in his family’s work, taking up the slack left by coworkers. His grandmother’s continuing illness finally got much worse and after three long months carried her off. Then straight away her own father suddenly died. after that mother sickened but recovered. She helped her mother as she could, but the work never seemed to stop. The work always grinds on, never stopping.

    Outside she stared up at the stars, in the quiet while his family ignored the dark with a party. “Is this what I want?” she spread her hands, burn marks and the beginnings of misshapen knuckles told the tale of her labor, her joints stiffening at this early age. “I wear my body down so that I can have a few nitis for me, and many natas for his family? Is this worth?” She thought of the stories she grew up on, stories of Gird, Falk, Tyr, paladins? Tales of that new paladin, Paks, were trickling down here. Would these people work here safe and comfortable? Of course not, They got up and did for others. “Can I find the courage? Do I have a choice? When I work, I work hard, I give much. It hardly seems worth it to give it all so one man may be rich. I know my husband could handle it if I went back to my family’s work. I want to go back to all my work meaning something bigger, building other people. If one woman can find the courage to face Liart on her feet, surely I can make my way doing what I love and still be able to make time to help my mother.”

    She watched the night though, making plans…

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 29, 2013 @ 3:02 pm


    Catmadknitter: You’re in plenty of time, and with another good Midwinter’s Tale.

    Linda: I’m not seeing your original story in the list, though I’m seeing your 12/20 comment that you were taking out the moon. Did you delete and resubmit it? If so it’s not in the moderation stack or here…or it was coming in with a different name. I don’t want you to miss out.

    Gareth: I missed seeing your December 13 comment about the rotational direction, sorry. The sun rises in the East and sets in the West, so the orientation of the northern and southern hemispheres is like ours. But the locals usually use “sunrising/sunsetting” for E/W, and the old humans and horse nomades use “summerwards/winterwards” for S/N; the elves and magelord descended use south and north.

    Genko: I hope you come up with something.

    Ken Baker: I hope your sinus infection has let up enough for you to think of something.

  • Comment by Linda — December 29, 2013 @ 4:48 pm


    I have hesitated to post this, it seems presumptuous, but I don’t want to waste it and all the revisions … and I would love an ARC.

    Estil’s Story: In Darkness

    I sit in the darkness and think. Midwinter is still one of my favorite celebrations, although my experience of it has changed over more than 60 years. This year it is dominated by a lifetime’s memories, both sweet and bitter. Once more Aliam is away in the North with his troops, this time guarding the re-building going on at Riverwash . I miss his sturdy presence next to me, while I rejoice that he still lives.

    The family members not away serving the King have gathered once again. With the people of the Steading, we nearly fill the Hall. Slowly it is becoming colder, the fire having been smothered several hours ago. The youngest children have just left to go to bed.

    Although the night is cold, and the buildings dark, through the small window starlight is reflected by the snow. The snow itself is a rich indigo, the surrounding trees black. Kieri came to us in early winter.

    My thoughts return to that scrawny boy, his face pale and haunted, with gray eyes which seemed too large, his red hair thin and unhealthy, and I marvel. It was a long while before we discovered the extent of his scars, and even longer before we got more than bits of the story from him. So unlike an elf, we never could quite see that part of his heritage until much later. Our world has changed so much since he came to us. Thank Falk for giving us a job we could do. I never would have believed that my quiet life here on the steading could make a difference outside this place.

    As the sounds of the little ones die away and their mothers and fathers quietly retake their places, my mind returns to thoughts of Aliam and then Kieri and Arien. Isn’t it wonderful that the High Lord has made our hearts grow so that we have room to love so many. Come spring the King and Queen will add a young prince and princess into the circle of love. The more we love it would seem, the stronger we ourselves grow, that love giving us strength to face a world of difficulties.

    Across the room one of my daughters in law, with another child growing beneath her heart, begins to sing a lullaby. With the first hours of rituals complete, pleasantly tired after the circle dance in the dark, soothed by the music, I drift deeper into a meditative state. Remembering my fears for Aliam a year and bit more ago, I feel blessed that we both have regained our balance. The daskdaurigs destroyed our beloved home, the explosion and fire ruined the barns. But all is as well as can be, the buildings replaced, the people and horses brought through safely. Old Halveric’s skull keeps watch.

    Who would have believed how many times that once battered child would save us, Aliam, Cal, our home and family. Every action we take has consequences, so many of them unanticipated. The sweetness of being once again sheltered from the winter with family around contrasts starkly with those days of bitter fear.

    Estilla comes to sit next to me for a while, already inches taller than when she made that grueling ride to bring more Rangers to our aid. For all of Lyonya’s history, until the Lady died, we believed that She and the Elvenhome would always protect us from invasion. It no longer does so, but thanks to Kieri the Elvenhome flourishes once more, even if like our home, it is different. Kieri’s power and vision are different than the Lady’s, but at least the Elves once more have a home and I sense Taig is healthy and settled.

    Something moves me to speak, to tell a story about change and unforeseen consequences, the possibility that what we do may begin a cascade of events which seem impossible. However, the King’s story is private, so I will tell another story of courage, of change, and of light.

    I repeat the words of the Midwinter ritual:

    “In darkness, in cold, in the midst of winter,
    where nothing walks the world but death and fear,
    let the brave rejoice: I call the light.”

    “I call the light” echo the others.

    “Out of the darkness, light.
    Out of the silence, song.
    Out of the sun’s death, the birth of each year.
    Out of cold, fire.
    Out of death, life.
    Out of fear, courage to see the day.
    In the darker night, brighter stars.
    In greater fear, greater courage.
    In the midst of winter, the world’s birth.
    Praise to the High Lord.”

    “On this darkest of nights I will tell you what I know of the story of Paksenarrion, how she became a Paladin in the service of the High Lord, and how her light and courage saved our King and our country and can guide us in the New Year.”

  • Comment by Susan — December 29, 2013 @ 7:07 pm


    Linda, that’s beautiful. I’ve always felt that Aliam and Estil were the almost unsung heroes of this story. Not only did they save and nurture Kieri, but much of the honor and goodness that Kieri modeled and taught to those in his command (who then spread it outward) he learned from them.

  • Comment by LARRY LENNHOFF — December 29, 2013 @ 8:13 pm


    Midwinter’s night is nearly over, and I eagerly awaited the dawn to come. This was the first year I had stayed up the entire night, listening to the tales told by my extended family – parents, aunts, uncles, cousins. It seemed like most of the village was related to us, and on midwinter we all gathered together. The ritual recital was done, the stories had been told, and the family had gathered together in a big comforting mass to keep warm. Next year, I knew, I would be expected to tell a story. Most people told other’s tales, but I resolved that I would live this year so as to produce a tale worth telling.

  • Comment by John McDonald — December 29, 2013 @ 10:55 pm


    Jori stood still in the shadows, listening and watching. Listening to the chill wind blow down the dark streets of Liren, swirling the light dusting of snow, for on this Midwinter’s night all was dark, even the lamps on the main streets unlit. Watching the ears of Brix, the large dog who sat at his side, for he knew the dog would be aware of anyone moving about long before his fur clad ears would hear anything.
    He like working as the night watch corporal, especially on Midwinter when all the taverns were closed and the usual burglars, thieves and troublemakers stayed home. No sense them going out on the one night when every household was awake the whole night through. Harel, the watch commander, had chided him him,”Who are you going to tell your tales of heroes and courage? The dog?”
    “He at least listens, without trying to out tell me” Jori replied. “Unlike some I know”, Looking over at Seli and Derrik, the pair who would be patrolling the closed Night Market.

    Jori had just stepped into the street when he heard a door slam down the alley to his right, running footsteps coming towards him. Dog was instantly alert, ears forward, head down. A small figure burst from the alley, but immediately stopped as Brix stepped forward, a low growl coming from his throat. “Hold” cried Jori, stepping forward. “What are you doing running about on Midwinter Night?”

    “Go- going for the mid-wife, sir.” replied a small, high pitched voice. Jori looked down at the lad, who couldn’t be more than six winters old.
    “She says I need to hurry sir, her water’s broke and the baby’s coming now” the lad continued.

    Jori saw the lad was barefoot, with just a short cape on over his nightshirt. “Come along then lad. We will go together. Do you know where the midwife lives?”
    “Yes sir, just down Cotton lane”, the lad replied, edging nervously around the dog and then taking off at a run. Brix looked up at Jori. “Follow” Jori said, jogging down the street after the boy.

    After fetching the midwife and escorting her and the boy home, Jori and Brix continued on their rounds. It was a quiet watch, and the only others they saw were other guards, patrolling the quiet city. Jori found himself moving back to the street where they had encountered the boy. Just as the sky began to lighten, he was going down the alley the boy had burst from. He heard a wail, the high pitched “waaaa” a newborn makes, coming from a closed door.

    “Ah Brix, what courage to be born on Midwinter morn, and to have an older brother willing to go out on Midwinter night, in the snow and cold, barefoot, to fetch help!” Brix growled low in his throat as an assent.

    Jori loved working the night watch on Midwinter.

  • Comment by mette — December 30, 2013 @ 2:21 am


    I love love love this arc contest! The amount of creativity in here is inspiring! Almost sorry its over soon.

    Loved the last ones!

  • Comment by pjm — December 30, 2013 @ 3:17 am


    It is a marvellous thing to have a whole wold to play in!

    Thanks Elizabeth. The last time I can remember putting pen to paper (fingers to keys) to write fiction I was in high school! It wasn’t fun then, but this was.

    Blessings for a happy 2014.


  • Comment by Gareth — December 30, 2013 @ 8:40 am


    Peter – me too – I write a lot of technical white papers and presentations but hadn’t committed any fiction to paper since school – must be over 40 years ago – I’ve day-dreamed and thought a lot though.

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