With failing strength, Senna managed to clear the cabin’s doorway. She braced her feet on either side of the opening, preparing for one final push upwards. Carson’s body was now limp in her arms and she feared the worst, but she refused to let him go. Pushing against the doorway with all her might, Senna shot upwards, finally free from the sinking boat’s pull.
Senna felt herself slipping into unconsciousness as she floated upward in a vast sea of darkness. She had done her best, but she couldn’t gauge how far she was from the surface. She didn’t have the willpower to go any further. The last vestiges of strength drained from her body. Although she'd stopped kicking her legs, she still floated upwards. The water was gradually warming up as she neared the surface but still, Senna was too far away to make it. As her surroundings blurred, everything moving in slow motion, Senna noted with detached interest the approach of dark figures in the water, swimming towards her gracefully. She felt Carson being pulled from her arms just before oblivion claimed her.
The sound of waves gently lapping upon the shore somewhere nearby was the first thing Senna heard as she drifted in and out of consciousness. Her last waking memory had been of her weightless body suspended in shimmering black nothingness, holding on to the tiny, limp form of Carson. Vague images of dark figures swarming around her flitted through her mind. Had they been her rescuers or were they angels of death, sent to carry her to the unknown shores beyond the confines of mortal life?
A cool breeze washed over Senna, toying with her hair and tickling her nose. When Senna attempted to move, all notions that she was dead fled from her mind. Dead people didn’t feel excruciating pain when they tried moving their arms and legs, did they? Her muscles screamed in agony as they fired to life after being deprived of oxygen for so long. Senna groaned, her eyes fluttering open to see the metal gray sky overhead. To Senna, it didn’t look as angry as it had in the moments before the ferry sank. Perhaps its malevolent force had been satisfied by the offering of the ferry and the souls on board.
“Hey, there’s someone laying over here! I can’t tell if they’re alive or not.” A male voice exclaimed.
Senna looked in the direction of the rapidly approaching footsteps, her head pounding to the cadence of her heartbeat. She didn’t recognize the two men who knelt beside her. “She's alive." The man called over his shoulder, relief in his voice. "You’re the newspaper reporter. Miss Norwood, right?” He helped her into a sitting position.
“That’s me.” Senna managed to whisper before vomiting lake water in the kindly man’s lap. Embarrassment burned her cheeks as she wiped the vomit from her mouth with the back of her hand, but the man didn’t seem fazed. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize that would happen.”
“It’s fine, Miss. You swallowed a lot of water. It’s gotta come up somehow. Here,” The man produced a tissue from his pocket, offering it to Senna. “That should help.”
Senna’s gaze scoured the beach around her, searching for any sign of other survivors. “Carson! Where is he? I was holding onto him right before I passed out. Please tell me you found him. He's a little guy. Five years old. Blonde hair.”
The men didn’t answer right away. A dark look passed between them and Senna knew. Carson hadn’t made it. “Miss Norwood, you’re the only person that has been found. There’s no sign of the other passengers and we can only assume that they’re still in the boat. There’s divers heading down there right now but quite frankly, there’s no way they could be alive after all this time in the water.” The older man said, his voice solemn. “Honestly, it’s a miracle that you made it out alive. You must have some pretty powerful guardian angels looking out for you.”
Suddenly, Senna felt very tired. As more people joined the two men, gathering around her in hushed whispers, grief threatened to overwhelm her. Seen and unseen alike, Senna felt the weight of their gazes. Pity. Astonishment. Gratitude.
How was it that life just kept dishing out these impossible circumstances upon her? Surely, Senna had already endured more than the average person could fathom in a lifetime. Just like that, the old wounds from five years ago had reopened and the past came rushing up to meet her before she could escape.
As Senna was being assisted to her feet, unconsciousness claimed her once more. This time, she happily gave in to the oblivion.
** Blog picture was taken on my afternoon cruise across Loch Ness, right outside of Fort Augustus, Scotland.
“Don’t worry, Miss. This boat was meant for rough waters.” The captain said, patting Senna on the shoulder as she clung to the slippery metal rail of the small ferry boat. While she appreciated the sentiment, it did nothing to ease her churning stomach. She eyed the metal grey storm clouds overhead, not missing the greenish glow that emanated from them. Most people assumed that meant hail, but Senna knew better. She had seen that greenish glow before.
The dark waters of Fallhaven Lake, so placid moments ago, whipped about malevolently as the clouds bore down on them. A family of four near Senna watched the scene unfolding, smiling and cheering with each flash of lightening and crash of thunder. Clearly, they didn’t realize the peril they were in. “Momma, my tummy tickles every time the boat drops.” A chubby blonde boy clung to his mother, his eyes sparkling with delight.
Her first assignment as lead reporter for the Ravenswood Chronicle had been to cover the grand opening of Ravencrest Island Resort and Restaurant, a project that had been five years in the making. To celebrate the grand opening, the owner of the resort had sent out a select number of guests on his ferry to tour the small island’s rugged shores and towering cliffs. Senna had spent the past hour interviewing potential guests and staff members alike, oblivious to the storm brewing overhead.
At that moment, the rain began to fall in earnest, hundreds of sharp needles driven into Senna’s skin by the wind gusts. Senna ran for the small cabin in the center of the boat, nearly slipping on the wet deck in the process. Inside, two dozen people were crammed into the confined space. The scent of sweat mingled with lake water did nothing to help ease Senna’s queasiness.
“Captain, should we put on the life jackets now?” An elderly lady near Senna questioned. It was the first sign of alarm Senna had observed amongst any of the guests.
“Well, I don’t foresee us needing them; but, if it will make you feel better, go ahead and put one on. They are hanging right here over the…” The captain’s voice trailed off. “They were right there over the window moments before.”
Senna looked up to see the empty hooks where the life jackets had been moments ago. Clearly, someone was playing a cruel prank on them. “Alright, guys, this isn’t funny. We need life jackets on now. This storm is just getting worse.” Senna shouted over the din of wind, rain, and voices.
At that moment, lightening struck the metal railing just outside the window, blinding the inhabitants of the boat’s cabin. A deafening crash of thunder washed over them just as the boat seemed to tip on its side. A mass of bodies came tumbling down on top of her, pressing Senna painfully into the large picture window. Her bottom lip cracked as it hit the glass, warm blood filling her mouth and trickling down the window pane.
As the boat hung suspended between the sky and water below, someone next to Senna shouted. “There’s lights in the water! Look! Something is glowing underneath us.”
Senna caught a glimpse of what looked to be greenish orbs of light right below the surface of the water just as the boat righted itself, sending everyone sprawling to the floor. “I’ve been on this lake hundreds of times in the past thirty years and I’ve never seen a storm this ferocious hit these waters.” The elderly lady next to Senna muttered, grasping Senna’s wrist with surprising strength as she pulled herself to her feet.
Time seemed to move in slow motion as Senna held on to the side of the cabin, bracing herself for the next wave that was to hit the boat. The little boy from the deck lost grasp of his mother and found Senna’s legs instead, clinging to them for dear life. His luminous blue eyes gazed up at Senna pleadingly and she couldn’t help but mourn the loss of innocence he would surely face before their boat ride was over. If he only knew what real perils waited in the world beyond; perils beyond his imagination. Senna’s attempts at burying the truth of these perils had been fruitless and it seemed the past had finally caught up with her, after all these years. She was reminded of Jonah in the Bible fleeing his true calling as prophet to the people of Nineveh, only to be hunted down by a giant sea creature and swallowed for all his efforts. She shuddered at the thought of what lurked beneath the waters, waiting for her. She may not have been running from a divine calling, but she was running from the truth.
For a moment, the waters seemed to calm. A collective sigh of relief washed over the cabin. The shore was in view, a mere 70 feet away, with a host of people waiting at the top of the boat ramp to usher the water-weary travelers in. Standing off to the side of the group on the shore, a hooded figure caught Senna’s attention. It stood erect and unmoving and although she couldn’t make out its face, she knew it was looking right at her. She had seen this person before, nearly five years ago.
“Miss, do you see my momma?” The little boy asked, tugging at the hem of Senna’s soaked sundress. Senna tore her eyes from the distant figure on the shore to search for the petite blonde woman she’d seen the boy with out on the deck. There, over by the captain, eyes frantically searching the crowd for her little boy. Senna smiled down at him, taking his pudgy hand in her own. “She’s right over here. What’s your name?” She asked.
“Carson. Carson John Elwell. I’m almost five years old.” He stated proudly, the perilous boat ride momentarily forgotten. There was an “New Englander twange” to his little voice, which Senna found endearing. She had missed that familiar accent during her tenure at the University of Colorado. It was funny how little things like that caught her attention after all this time.
Senna had no time to prepare for the impact. One moment, the waters were calmer, and she was escorting Carson to his mother, the next moment, the boat slammed into something. A metallic ripping noise filled the cabin, sounding like a thousand nails scratching across a vast chalkboard. Immediately, water bubbled up through the holes in the floor, filling the cabin with water faster than anyone had time to react. Panic broke out among the cabin’s occupants and one phrase Senna heard repeated over and over were “Where are the life jackets?”
Senna’s first inclination was to save little Carson, who was screaming and crying hysterically as the water was nearly over his head now. She picked him up and wrapped his little arms around her neck, making her way for the cabin’s exit. Everyone else had the same idea and there was a moment of pandemonium as everyone crammed into the narrow doorway, stuck in place as the boat sank beneath the blackish-blue waters of the lake.
Senna was plunged into a world of icy cold blackness. Arms and legs flailed around her as they were submerged in the water. Muffled screams reached her ears as the pull of the sinking boat took the passengers down with it. Senna maintained her hold on Carson for as long as she could, one arm clinging to his rigid body and the other attempting to pull them through the opening of the cabin. Her lungs were on fire and pin pricks of light gathered around the edges of her vision, but Senna fought valiantly against the water’s malevolent force. She couldn’t allow herself to die this way. Not now, when there was still so much left unresolved in her life.
Stay tuned to find out what happens next...
As a writer, I am always looking for inspiration. Sometimes, the simplest and most unassuming of things will inspire a character, a scene in the story, or a subplot. These inspirations come to me when I am least expecting them, which is why I always have a little notebook ready in my purse. One of the beautiful things about the writing process is how these inspirations come to me - it could be a dream, a conversation with a friend or family member, a town I drive through on a road trip, or even a story I see in the news headlines. The world is filled with ideas for the aspiring writer and all it takes is a bit of imagination, creativity, and attentiveness to one's surroundings to find these inspirations in every day life.
One question I get asked time and time again is how I create my characters. Long before the first draft takes place, when the story is merely an idea floating around in my mind, the characters begin to take shape. I know what I want them to look like and how I want them to act. Still, it helps me tremendously to have visuals to base these characters on and they usually come to me while I am watching TV or browsing hairstyles on Pinterest. It sounds silly and simple, I know, but it works!
So without further ado, I will introduce you to four central characters in The Ravenswood Chronicles. Readers will be introduced to these four characters fairly soon in the story line, with Senna Norwood being the main character of the first book. I knew from the start that Senna would be a fiery, petite, red-head - full of spunk and always curious, which gets her into trouble right away. I didn't have a particular person in mind when I created Senna, but once I saw Madelaine Petsch (Cheryl Blossom in "Riverdale") in action, she immediately became my Senna.
Olivia's inception is nothing quite so extraordinary. I was looking for hair color ideas on Pinterest when I stumbled across my inspiration for this character. Cavan, on the other hand, was inspired by none other than Jensen Ackles, which you will be well acquainted with if you're a fan of "Supernatural". Faine, which has been the most interesting character for me to create and write about in the storyline, takes his inspiration from Tom Hiddleston. I think you will agree when you read his introductory scene!
To my fellow writers, How do you gain your inspiration? To my readers, do you prefer visuals of characters or would you rather create your own visual image as you read the story?
Time and again, I have been asked "Why have you chosen to write fantasy? Why not mystery or historical fiction?" Ah, if only the answer were simple.
Growing up, I loved to read anything and everything I could get my hands on. I read more historical fiction and Christian romance than you could shake a stick at. Furthermore, I always knew I wanted to be a writer. But I didn't feel "inspired" or "driven" to write (you know, the kind of inspiration that drives you mad until you do it) until I began reading speculative fiction. Books by Robin Parish like "Nightmare" and "Offworld," books by Travis Thrasher, Brandon Sanderson, Anne Elizabeth Stengl, and Frank Peretti - these are the books that are responsible for getting my writing off the ground. I always knew I was a writer at heart, but I did not find my true calling until I began to read fantasy.
Even when I give that explanation, people are still baffled by my choice. Sure, the genre is gaining popularity every day, but still, why fantasy? Isn't it frivolous and unrealistic? Absolutely and positively NOT! The beauty of fantasy is that it has been around since the beginning of time. We see it in the myths and legends told around our world. The very hero's journey and the concept of archetypes are straight from the annals of mythology, which could also be considered fantasy. With that said, I find fantasy to be very pertinent in the 21st century. Fantasy wields the power of untainted metaphor, free from personal bias, and delivers powerful messages without modern-day issues attached. Fantasy gives readers hope that there is so much more to life than meets the eye and fantasy allows us to escape, if only for a while, from the confines of the real world.
Fantasy stories are important. They set our brains on fire and open us up to endless possibilities. Dr. Pamela B. Rutledge sums it up best when she states:
"Stories are how we think. They are how we make meaning of life. Call them schemas, scripts, cognitive maps, mental models, metaphors, or narratives. Stories are how we explain how things work, how we make decisions, how we justify our decisions, how we persuade others, how we understand our place in the world, create our identities, and define and teach social values."
In closing, fantasy allows me to explore the impossible with my readers. Fantasy makes the world a little darker, a little scarier, and a little more fantastic. Fantasy allows us to visit new and wondrous places, to reside, if just for a little while, in worlds that are not governed by the same laws as our own. Fantasy allows us to explore themes of love, loss, self-discovery, betrayal, salvation, and death from unique and different perspectives. Finally, fantasy allows us to uncover important spiritual truths and to dig deeper into spiritual warfare.
With all that said, why would I not want to write fantasy?
~ Christina Welbourne