art,

Perler Bead Gift Tutorial: Doctor Who Newbies and Disney Fans

12/30/2016 Laura Watkins 0 Comments

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Aimee's picture of her Perler mini bead ornaments
A few weeks ago, I saw that two of my friends from church were watching Doctor Who for the first time but were having trouble getting into Series 1. Those of us who are fans were encouraging them on Facebook to keep watching and suggesting episode orders, etc. I'm sure you've all seen that same conversation a million times. Well, they stuck with it, even through the more ridiculous episodes, and got to the good stuff. They are now official Doctor Who fans.

As a badge of honor, and since it was Christmastime, I made them each some of my Doctor Who Perler Mini beadsprite ornaments: The Ninth Doctor (since he will always be their first Doctor), Rose Tyler, and a Tardis. 

My delivery of these didn't quite go as planned. I was late to deliver Aimee's ornaments (yes, I know how shocked you are at my lack of punctuality) and she was Live on Facebook. So, my ornaments made a short appearance in her video! 

You might have noticed that she was a bit thrown by the unexpected surprise and combined my name and my husband's name (Laura and Erik), and called me "Erika". Hahaha!
My other Perler bead gift was to a friend who is a HUGE Disney fan that loves Hawaii. Naturally, I decided she needed a Hawaiian Disney themed Perler bead gift (in this case, wall art).

Here's how I made it:
Image source
I started by finding something similar to what I wanted. I did a quick Google search of "Mickey Mouse Hawaiian Perler Bead" and it came up with this pattern. Not quite what I wanted, but close enough to for me to adapt into my own vision. I knew decided to put Mickey Mouse of the surf board, but to add my own rainbow and flowers.
Image Source
Image Source
I started with a basic idea of what Mickey Mouse looks like, then what he might look like in Perler beads.
It was a bit tricky because I had to keep Mickey Mouse small enough to keep the pattern I'd already decided on, but large enough to show some detail. (You'll notice in the original pattern, the guy's head/hair is only 3 beads.)
Then, I altered it to fit my Hawaiian surfing scene, replacing the surfer dude with my Mickey Mouse, which was a bit larger than the original pattern, but I thought I could make it work.
Image Source
Next, was the hibiscus flower, a renown icon for Hawaii. I loved these ones from Madam Fandom, but they were much too big for my little pattern.
As you can see, I added two flowers instead of just one, and moved the rainbow to the left corner and behind the text. I also re-centered and adjusted the word "Hawaii" to fit in front of the rainbow and behind Mickey Mouse, made a few more small adjustments, then, I added a row of dark blue and two rows of dark grey for a perler bead frame for our wall art.

I hope she likes it!

How to get started with Perler Beads, ideas, tips, tutorials, videos, and more here!

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    Arabesque,

    Arabesque Chapter 10

    12/28/2016 Laura Watkins 0 Comments

    We've moved! Read this post and more on my new website.

















































































    I will be sharing parts of my writing every week (alternating between Arabesque and Persephone) as I write them (with the exception of some parts of Arabesque, which were written previously), so please be patient with any errors you may find, as these are a first drafts.

    About the book


    Tatania is tired of living in her sister's shadow but doesn't know about Princess Anna's dark secret. Bound by a sacred oath, Anna's struggles to live a double life that can never be her own. 
    Described as "Sense and Sensibility meets Ever After with ninjas," Arabesque is full of action, romance, intrigue, and betrayal.

    Since I've always been super paranoid, Arabesque was officially copyrighted in 2009. Duplication or use of this work in any other form is prohibited by law.


    Chapter 10
    Tatania


    As liaison, I had to make myself available to Sir Gerald's family whenever they asked for me, so I didn't get to leave the palace walls unless they were with me. That in itself would have been irritating enough, but it also kept me from seeing Dorian. We hardly ever got to sneak away, so when he showed up with a picnic basket and that gorgeous smile of his, nothing was going to keep me away.

    Barely containing giggles, we crept through the halls, hand in hand. Footsteps sounded before us and we ducked into a dark alcove. Dorian grinned wickedly at our closeness and stole a kiss. I probably would have stood there frozen and giddy if he hadn't pulled me away.

    We sat beneath the shade of a great oak tree, our picnic spread before us. Although we'd been sitting, my heart still raced. It was amazing how quickly barriers melted away after a few kisses. Before I knew it, Dorian's head laid on my lap as we shared sweet, red strawberries.

    We talked as though we'd always been best friends. Laughing and joking, we told each other ridiculous stories, each of us trying to top the last. At times, I could barely talk through the laughter.

    I stroked his blonde hair while he told me about pranks he'd pulled on his brothers.

    "I can't believe some of the stuff you get away with!" I giggled. "I may have to borrow a few of those ideas. Do you mind?"

    "No, but you must tell me who you intent to torment, you naughty thing." He kissed my hand.

    "That should be obvious."

    "Oh yes, Genevieve. I take it then that burying her in an avalanche of snow was not enough to sate your bloodlust?"

    "Hardly, if I could, I would hang her up by her toe nails every Tuesday. Oh I'd love to hear her screams as she dangled from the ramparts...it would be such sweet music."

    "I doubt even the daughter of the king could pull that one off."

    "Oh, I know, but I can dream," I sighed, running my fingers along the smooth skin of his face.

    "That is what I love about you." He sat up and touched my cheek. The kiss that followed left me breathless. "So what do you have planned for our dear, sweet Genevieve?"

    "I thought, perhaps, something to add to her beauty. Maybe slip her a tonic and give her some nice big warts."

    He chuckled darkly and pulled my face to his. "Oh, you wicked little devil."

    "Ahem!"

    The sound came from behind us. I pulled my lips away and we leapt to our feet. Well, he leapt, I stepped on my skirt and nearly fell flat on my face. Dorian gave me a hand up. My eyes widened. Alec!

    "I was just, uh," Dorian stammered. "I thank you for the honor of this meal, my lady, it was most kind of you, but now I must beg my leave." And he was gone.

    It took a moment to realize that I still held my hand toward the way Dorian had left. I folded my arms, glaring at Alec.

    "You will forgive me, Lady Tatania, but my father requires your aid in a matter he deems to be of the utmost importance." He bowed and retreated to the palace.

    I seethed, taking in the remains of our ruined day. So much for time with Dorian... This had better be important, I thought.

    It really wasn't. Gerald's idea of "important" would be most people's exact definition of "trivial". But since I was supposed to cater to his every whim, I was stuck listening to his bellowing complaints for hours before I managed to escape.

    I knew exactly where to hide. I rushed to the stables and was riding away before anyone could stop me.

    I loved to go there to think. Rich, green meadow stretched on in every direction. My retreat was hardly noticeable from the palace. The large willow tree's overgrown branches swept the ground, its green leaves hung lazily from the protective dome.

    I didn't always even think really. I just stared up at the sky and watched the patterns the sun marked as it shined through the leaves.
    I closed my eyes. Bella grazed nearby. I could hear him munching happily on clover clumps, periodically sighing in contentment. A gentle breeze rustled leaves and grasses as it slowly feathered my dark hair. The scent of leaves and heather mixed with grasses made my body feel weighted. The air was wonderfully sweet.

    I succumbed and softly laid my head on a pillow of ferns. Afraid of drifting to sleep, I reluctantly forced my eyes open. The willow's boughs hid me well, the sun could barely reach me there. Sparkling slivers of light glistened through the viney branches as they softly danced their whispered ballet.

    The protective canopy that surrounded me was impregnable. No worldly care could penetrate it, no earthly imperfection could taint its sanctuary. Secure in my comfort, I slowly closed my eyes...

    I dreamt of satin caressing my hand. The smooth, cool, fabric gently glided across my finger and forearm.

    Satin turned to warm velvet, smoothly caressing my cheek. It radiated glowing warmth that permeated my skin. Tingling blood rushed to my face. The velvet facade burned away as blazing fire consumed my lips. Of their own accord, my hands rushed to greet the flames.

    My eyelids shot open as my fingers betrayed the dream, contacting flesh instead of molten fire.

    Holy crud! What does he think he's doing! A string of murderous thoughts rushed through my head as I jumped to my feet. I almost fell right back down as my head spun in nauseating circles. Firm arms steadied me, but I pulled away.

    "Woah, are you alright?"

    Of course I wasn't alright! Alec had just walked into my private space and kissed me while I slept! Again, my body acted on its own.

    "Ouch! Hey, you punched me!"

    "Of course I punched you, you moron! You kissed me!" My hand, still balled into a fist, throbbed at my side. His stomach was harder than I'd thought it would be. Dang, I wanted to do some real damage, but he barely even flinched! Maybe that perfect nose was more vulnerable. . . .

    I swung my arm back again, coiled and ready to snap. This might turn out to be a fun experience after all.

    Alec's arms reacted quickly and wrapped around me in a vice grip. Trapped, with my back to him, I instantly regretted giving up the wrestling matches that the stable boys and I were so often punished for years ago. Why did I ever agree to behave more lady-like? Now I couldn't break free of what was starting to feel like an embrace.

    Fury rushed through me as I blindly tried to jab with my elbows, and stomp on his feet. "Let go of me!" I screamed as I flailed in every direction possible.

    "Calm down, would you!"

    His warm breath prickled the back on my neck. "Let me go!"

    "Stop trying to hit me!"

    I struggled even harder, knocking us to the ground. He had me pinned before I could blink. Dang he was fast! Honestly, if I didn't want to kill him right now I might have actually admired his agility.

    "Get off me! What are you doing?!" I managed to gasp as his weight crushed me. "I can't breathe, you idiot!"

    He eyed me warily. "If I let you up, will you promise to stop trying to beat me to a pulp?"

    "Yes!" I bellowed. My face twisted into a scowl.

    He raised one eyebrow suspiciously. Grr! Another reason to hate him, I've never been able to do that! He cautiously backed away, resting on one knee, ready to jump on me again if I didn't keep my word.

    I gasped, relieved by the ability to once again inhale. As I coughed and sputtered, I slowly raised myself to sitting. Able to breathe more normally, I started to remember why I wanted to dismember this man.

    My murderous glare made him jump, and he started laughing at me! I tell you, a girl can only take so much before she completely snaps! I reached down, searching, then jumped to my feet, ready to throw the rock in my hand. I hoped it would at least take out an eye.

    "Hey, you promised to stop!" He hurried to his feet, hands ready to block the incoming missile.

    "I never promised 'no rocks!'" I pelted him as hard as I could, grabbing stone after stone off the ground, wishing they were bigger than mere pebbles. He pushed his way forward, protecting his face, until the space between us, and my limited supply of ammunition were both gone. He grabbed my hands as I frantically searched for more ammo, then he jerked me back to my feet.

    "Can you please behave for a moment so that I can apologize?"

    The intensity of his eyes and the strength of his tone dazed me for a moment. He couldn't really be sorry, could he? . . . I rigidly held my body still and waited. "Well? . . ." No answer. "Are you going to tell me you're sorry for assaulting me or not?"

    "Assaulting you? It was one little kiss!"

    "I never asked you to kiss me! What are you doing here anyway?"

    He looked at the ground for a second, slowly shifting his weight from side to side. Dang it! Was he ever going to let my hands go? He really wasn't hurting me or anything, it was just a bit . . . . uncomfortable. I had no desire for him to touch me.

    "Well? . . . Are you going to answer me, or do I have to beat it out of you? . . ." He smirked then looked into my eyes again. "Actually, you know what? Keep your mouth shut, I think I'd prefer to beat you up!"

    He held me tighter. I started to pull my hands free. My eyes scoured the ground again. I wanted to inflict as much pain as possible. Maybe aim for a more delicate area this time. . . He pulled my hand up along with his, under my chin raising my face to look at him. "I saw your horse wandering alone and was worried about you."

    My mouth must have fallen open because his hand, still at my chin, gently closed it for me. Grinning he continued, "I searched for a few minutes, then I found you sleeping under this tree. . . I'd never seen you look so. . . peaceful, it intrigued me. Could this harpy have a soft side? Is she under a sinister spell? I wonder if she talks in her sleep." The daggers I shot through my eyes only made his smile bigger.

    "I do not talk in my sleep!"

    "After I figured that out I tried to make you talk. I wanted to see why you looked so happy. Was there someone you were thinking of? Some puppy you maimed or cat you kicked, that made you so content? Simply holding your hand and stroking your arm and face didn't work. So, I kissed you, purely in the interest of science, you understand. My experiment went downhill from there. You know, I've seen starving dragons keep their temper longer than you!"

    "Harpy?! Science? Why you....." My insults were muffled as he put his hand over my mouth.

    "Not the nicest language for a lady. Yes, I know that you hate me, your actions have made that quite clear. I will let you go and leave you alone to scream your profanities. I hope your horse wasn't spooked when you unleashed that banshee wail. Although, I'm sure he's used to it by now. I will see you again soon, my lady. Please don't rouse any hibernating dragons before I see you again. I'd hate to miss out on any more chances to rescue you again. Although, perhaps it would be the dragon would need to be saved."

    Before I had the chance to recover from his tirade, he quickly kissed my hand. In one swift movement, he mounted his horse and was gone.





    "Sir Alec kissed you, and he's still breathing? Goodness, you must like him after all. Ouch! Tatania, that really does hurt!"

    I released Anna's ivory hair, the half formed braid unraveled. "No! I do not like him! Anna, how could you say that! After all these weeks you've seen how awful he is, how irritating, annoying, self-centered, stupid. . ."

    "He really is not as bad as you say. I've never heard a harsh word from him, except when he's arguing with you, of course. It seems to be only you who has trouble with him, everyone else finds him exceptionally charming. Have you considered that perhaps he is not the source of the true conflict, just the manifestation? You don't always control your temper very well after all. . . ."

    Normally I might have agreed with her. I did have trouble with a few certain people, but I hardly lost it unless I was well provoked. "You can't really mean that. Haven't you seen the way he swaggers aground like he owns the place? And he can't stop talking about how great he is! It's sickening! Someone needs to pop that big head of his! It will never deflate on its own, you know."

    Anna stood and I moved to take her place at my dressing table. "What is this?" I asked, noticing the letter that sat on there. Decorated with ribbons and gold leaf, it addressed to "The Lady Tatania Lianora Ballendin di Vaudrey." My full formal name, this was bad.

    I hesitantly opened it. It dropped to the floor before I had read more than a few key words: ball, costume, and masquerade.

    Anna giggled, "Tat, it's not a spider; it doesn't have the plague!"

    I grimaced as she handed the invitation back to me. I read through the formalities. This ball was going to be insane! The listed guidelines for attendance were quite specific. I was to completely disguise myself. To accomplish this, I was to disguise my voice and paint all skin that was even remotely visible! I would be wearing a hooded cloak along with a mask and a gown that I would probably hate. Not only would I be required to dance, but I would be dressed in an elaborate gown, masked, painted, and hooded? All that extra baggage plus no peripheral vision...yeah, great...guaranteed disaster. Even if I was disguised, everyone would know who I was after I started tripping all over the place!

    My head shot up, and I nearly shouted, "Wait! Anna, you knew about this? How? You didn't tell me?"

    Anna laughed lightly, her deft hands plaiting my hair. "Honestly, you have a rare talent for suppressing unwanted news. This ball was the talk for weeks before we left Lichthaven Park! The house was in an uproar waiting to receive their invitations from town." Anna stopped smiling. Her shoulders dropped slightly as she pinched her delicate eyebrows together. "You truly do not remember?"

    "No, I mean, I'd heard everyone talking about dancing...and costumes, but I thought they were going on about preparations for the next winter solstice, and ignored them as I usually do when they're being completely ridiculous...which is most of the time, now that I think of it..."

    "The winter solstice?"

    "Yes...Preparations for the winter solstice...just ten months early?...I'm completely ridiculous! There's really no way I can get out of this?"

    "Surely it will not be all that terrible..."

    "Um, let's see here...tripping, breaking someone's foot, public humiliation, having to put on a good façade for all the diplomats' kids who will more than likely show up for this ludicrous thing...I could go on forever here, this ball will be the death of me."

    "Sir Alec again, is it?"

    "What! Ugh! Ew! No! That's not what I meant! I just don't do well at these things and I don't want to look like an idiot!"

    "This is a masquerade ball, Tatania. Nora and I will disguise you so well that no one will know who you are; you will even fool Father and Eloise. Perhaps anonymity will allow you to dance more comfortably."

    "I hope so, but I doubt it," I grumbled.



    More coming soon! Read Chapter 11.1 here or more about my projects here.
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      comic,

      Holiday Giveaway 2016: Handwrapped Circlet from Refreshing Designs

      12/20/2016 Laura Watkins 3 Comments

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      I first met Heidi, of Refreshing Designs, at FanX 2015 (see cosplays and other awesomeness from our experience at FanX 2015 here).
      Jewelry by Refreshing Designs
      I kept asking people where they got their AMAZING circlets and jewelry, and they sent me to the most popular booth at the con (where I spent all of my birthday money!) I couldn't resist her gorgeous Elven circlets, bracelets, and necklaces. Actually, my daughter couldn't resist eitherI've had to fight her her for them ever since!
      Ariel cosplay by larissapaigecopslay with Tritan Crown by Refreshing Designs

      Daenerys Targaryen cosplay with circlet by Refreshing Designs at Salt Lake Comic Con 



      Simple and elegant Celtic headband by Refreshing Designs
      Elven bridal circlet by Refreshing Designs

      Lord of the Rings Arwen cosplay with circlet by Refreshing Designs at Salt Lake Comic Con 2016

      Gypsy circlet by Refreshing Designs
      Steampunk cosplay with circlet by Refreshing Designs at Salt Lake Comic Con 2016
      Sailor Moon Jewel Headband worn and designed by Heidi of Refreshing Designs
       About Heidi:

      I am a mother of two wonderful, active boys whom I love dearly. One of my favorite quotes says: "A mother of boys is on the go from son up to son down." Isn't that the truth! 

      However, when I do find time to unwind, those 10 precious minutes :}, I usually spend it making custom jewelry and accessories. It relaxes me and lets my mind wonder into a land where anything is possible. I look at a long piece of wire and become excited at its potential. I never plan out my designs before-hand, unless I am making a copy. It is usually a very organic, free-form process. The wire sort of shapes itself in a way. 

      I am most inspired by medieval Celtic design and the Renaissance period. Though I am a huge fan of Tolkien too and the world of the Elves.

      But when it is all said and done, hopefully, you enjoy wearing my art work as much as I enjoy creating it. 

      Go to Heidi's Instagram and see more of her amazing designs, like this crazy Loki cosplay wire work headdress! You can also find Heidi's Refreshing Designs on FacebookTwitter, and Etsy.


      This design is called "Isilme" which is elvish for "moonlight"! 
      Because she is so cool, Heidi is giving away a circlet (pictured above) to one lucky fan! The winner will be announced on New Year's Day. She's also giving us an exclusive discount: free shipping (in the continental US only) with any purchase over $20! Just use the promo code "THANKS2U" at checkout.

      Enter the Giveaway:
      House of Geekiness Holiday Giveaway 2016

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        3 comments:

        Arabesque,

        Arabesque Chapter 9

        12/19/2016 Laura Watkins 0 Comments

        We've moved! Read this post and more on my new website.























































































































        I will be sharing parts of my writing every week (alternating between Arabesque and Persephone) as I write them (with the exception of some parts of Arabesque, which were written previously), so please be patient with any errors you may find, as these are a first drafts.

        About the book


        Tatania is tired of living in her sister's shadow but doesn't know about Princess Anna's dark secret. Bound by a sacred oath, Anna's struggles to live a double life that can never be her own. 
        Described as "Sense and Sensibility meets Ever After with ninjas," Arabesque is full of action, romance, intrigue, and betrayal.

        Since I've always been super paranoid, Arabesque was officially copyrighted in 2009. Duplication or use of this work in any other form is prohibited by law.



        Chapter 9
        Tatania

        We caught our first glimpse of Acacia City in the late evening. We rode through the mountain pass, northwest of the city, and emerged to see familiar specs of civilization in the distance.

        By sunset, we traveled the north road which bypassed most of the city and lead more directly to the castle.

        As we drew near, the setting sun sank behind our backs, bathing the white stone of Acacia City, and the spire of Acacia Castle in ethereal tones of orange and pink.

        Home. I folded my arms on the pane of the carriage window, rested my head of them, watched the colors disperse as dusk descended and dots of lantern lights appeared.

        The closer we got to home, the less I felt the chill of the night. I was almost able to forget the dread of having to tell my family why I was back so early.

        A soldier had ridden ahead to announce us, so we were expected when we crossed the drawbridge, the grounds, and finally exited the carriage.

        Since there were dignitaries in our party, we met formally in the throne room. Hugs and such would have to wait until our guests were greeted with due respect.

        Our escort stopped before entering the throne room, bowing as we passed. King Nicholas stood and welcomed us. My father had dark brown hair and blue eyes like my own, but while he was moderately tall, he always seemed much larger than he really was. He radiated serene confidence and authority, born from years of experience as king. Gray hair barely touched his head, yet having been crowned as a child, he had gained age and experience much more quickly than others.

        "I will not keep you any longer," he said after greeting us. "You must be tired from your journey. You will be shown to your quarters, where hot fare and warm baths await you."

        Servants lead our guests away, leaving the cavernous throne room feeling even more daunting. I shifted nervously.

        As soon as they were out of hearing range, my father smiled and held his arms out to us. We ran to him. All fears drained away; I'd missed him so much! He held us just as he did when we were little.

        Eloise was next, and we were locked in a vice grip that wasn't her usual polite, but motherly embrace.

        We stepped back after a few more hugs all around, and Father said, "Now, tell us why you have arrived so soon when you were not anticipated for weeks to come."

        Fear and shame crashed down on me as I reluctantly handed him Lady Elena's letter. His brow furrowed; his smile hardened as he read.

        "I see," he said. "Lady Elena was wise in your discipline."

        Although I wanted to protest, I managed to keep my mouth shut and save a little face.

        He handed the letter to Eloise. She tsked as she read and murmured what sounded like, "Honestly Tatania, what were you thinking..."

        My eyes lowered naturally, threatening tears that would inevitably come once the lecture started.

        Father merely shook his head, and took my hand. "I doubt this experience will be an isolated incident. My daughter is as willful and headstrong as ever."

        I peeked up at him and thought I saw a gleam in his eyes.

        His face stern once more, he said, "I trust that my daughter will perform her duties as liaison with diligence."

        I curtsied, "Yes, your majesty."

        "In that case, let's have another hug and be done with this. It is not well to worry on such things and ruin such a merry reunion."

        He took us under his arms, and we walked to our family's sitting room. Servants brought food and we feasted, talking and laughing well into the night.

        I woke up in my own bed. I felt so good! I yawned and stretched. My soft blankets were so warm... It would've taken a lot to drag me out of there. I picked up my book from my night table and settled in comfortably.

        It had been such a good night! We told Eloise and Father about some of our experiences at Lichthaven, and they caught us up on affairs in the rest of the kingdom.

        Nora brought in a breakfast tray after it was obvious that I had no plans to leave my room.

        It must have been almost noon when Anna knocked softly on my door. She smiled at my book and held up one of her own.

        "Will you come join me in the library before you sprout permanent roots in that bed?"

        I frowned. Bed...so warm and soft...didn't want to move. But, the library... I'd missed our beautiful library. Licht Haven's library was elegant by any standard, but our library was...well, it was home.

        I've never considered visiting guests an imposition. I may not be as patient as Anna, but our family had certain obligations that I was used to. Catering to the needs of Alec's family was beyond my capacity. Anna chided me for my lack of hospitality, but hey, I was trying!

        My sister and I sat on a couch together, absorbed into the pages of the current books we had each been sucked into.

        The library was another favorite sanctuary. Thousands of volumes of every color and size consumed the grand room. Although the library was massive, the rich tones of the books imparted comforting warmth that reduced the glow of the hearth to that of a candle stick. The books chanted seductively of the adventures and knowledge they longed to share with me. My sister and I spent innumerable hours basking in the paradise of other worlds.

        I had retreated into just such a fantasy when I was yanked back into reality by a very irritated and booming voice.

        "Are you sure Alec said he would meet us in this room? Whatever would possess my son to enter such a place willingly!" Gerald's nose was scrunched up flatter than a piglet's. The large balding man began to wander throughout the room, criticizing everything in his view.

        My head shot up as I prepared to defend my haven from its unwelcome intruder. Sensing my immanent protest, Anny gently pinched my arm and motioned with her eyes that I should continue reading. She's probably right, I thought. No need to cause any trouble with the rest of that family too, especially when I was trying so hard to behave.

        I forced my eyes back to the pages of my book before anything was noticed by our guests. My mind tripped clumsily over each word. The book refused to speak to me, to draw my heart into its pages. I angrily plowed on, each sentence became a leaded burden.

        I was so focused on my task that I didn't notice Alec's father until he'd been standing over me for some time. My eyes burned craters into the pages of my book. I awkwardly tried to ignore that his knees nearly touched mine. I've never been comfortable in close quarters. I like my personal space to be respected. Gerald did not share my uneasiness.

        As I fumed in silent discomfort, he leaned over me to examine the painting that hung above my head. "Bah!" He exclaimed as he walked to the chair across from us. He shuffled noisily as he sat down, huffing a bit as he fell into the winged back chair. His wife joined him in an identical seat a foot away. "It looks like someone threw up on that couch! Isn't it ugly? This chair is much more comfortable than that couch could be. Don't you think so dear?"

        Although I kept my head down, I couldn't help but imagine the spiteful look he was directing at us on our favorite sofa. I'd never really noticed the décor in this room. If asked to describe the furniture I would say that it was comfortable. But was it really hideous? I slowly raised my eyes to check. No, it wasn't bad. It wasn't the prettiest pattern, but it was definitely not sickening.
        I carefully glanced at Mildred and Gerald. While Gerald was still glaring at different aspects of the room, his wife had settled quietly into her chair with a book. She must have been used to his personality. Poor woman...I wonder how long that took. I could never get used to a husband who was so awful!

        Speaking of awful...Just then, between the shelves we sat next to, I spotted Gerald's annoying son walk into the library.

        "Father, Mother," Alec nodded to them as he strolled carelessly into my library.

        Geesh! Won't we ever get some peace? I thought, rolling my eyes. I was seriously beginning to consider staying in my rooms until they left Acacia.

        "Alec! How are you this fine day, my son?" Mildred smiled sweetly.

        "About time you got here boy," his father grumbled, not bothering to look up from the book he'd found. "We've been cooped up in this old, musty place for hours."

        "It has hardly been hours, my dear. We can't have been waiting more than five minutes at the most, and in such splendid surroundings! Why, I doubt that our great library at Cloverfield Park contains even half so vast a collection of tomes and volumes."

        This lady might actually be starting to grow on me. I thought.

        Alec smiled and took her hand as she got up, then kissed her forehead. "Since Father is not complaining nearly as much as usual, I take it he actually approves of this library nearly as much as you do, Mother. Will you show it to me?"

        "Of course, I would love to, Alec," she said. "Princess Anna and the Lady Tatania are reading over that way, around that shelf, and I fear that we have quite rudely interrupted them. It may be impolite to trespass further." She finished nearly in a whisper.

        My eyes left the peek hole between the shelves and darted back to my book. Please leave us alone! Don't come back here! I thought desperately.

        The possibility of one person in that family actually being halfway decent didn't make me any more likely to enjoy being around Alec...not to mention that I wanted to hit Gerald for insulting my library.

        "Princess Anna, Lady Tatania," Alec said, bowing gallantly before us with his mother.

        Nooooooooooooooo!

        Anna got up and curtsied; I reluctantly set my book down and did the same, trying to put on a civil front.

        "I apologize for disturbing you, my ladies. Lady Eloise mentioned that you are both great lovers of literature. I, myself, have been known to pick up a book or two when it suits me..." Alec started.

        I snorted in contempt. I really didn't mean to do it out loud, but honestly, his type always said they loved what everyone else did, but it always turned out that they didn't really have a clue!

        Anna, as always, was quick to cover my rudeness. "How are you enjoying Acacia City thus far? Are you well rested from your journey?" She asked quickly. "I hope that your rooms are adequate."

        "The rooms are beautiful and quite comfortable! I hardly know when I've slept so well away from home." Mildred said cheerfully.

        "I am quite glad to hear it, Lady Mildred." Anna replied.

        "Oh, there is no need for such formality with me, my dear. Please, call me Millie."

        "Quite comfortable indeed," Gerald huffed loudly from where he still sat.

        "Yes, the rooms were fine, thank you." Alec said hastily.

        Fine? I thought furiously. Aside from the royal chambers themselves, there were no finer rooms in the castle! The spoiled brat! It's a wonder how he and his father survived the journey here, having to stay at inns if a palace isn't good enough!

        I was about to say as so when Alec said, "While I always do take much pleasure in conversing with you and your charming sister," he gestured to me, "I admit that was not my true purpose in seeking you out."

        Now there's a big surprise. I don't really feel like talking to you either.

        "When your aunt mentioned your love for literature, it was because I had mentioned that I was to meet my parents here. She suspected that you would be here as well, and asked me to carry this message to you."

        He handed a bit of folded parchment to Anna, their hands nearly brushing as he did so. I was suddenly grateful that decorum demanded the elder sister was spoken to and dealt with first, before the younger. I would never want to touch that slimy hand of his!

        "I thank you, sir." Anna and I curtsied, and they left us to explore the room.

        "What is it?" I asked, peaking at the note.

        "Father has requested that we attend today's session of the Council of Magistrates," she said calmly. "We will find that luncheon is set out in our rooms. We have less than two hours to prepare. So we must hurry."

        We returned to our rooms and ate a quick meal. Two hours wasn't much time to get ready for a formal session of the Council. We were expected to show up in full formal dress, hair, makeup and everything! And we still had to bathe before all of that happened!

        We were rushed through our baths. Alec must have taken his time getting the not to us because they were icy cold when we got in (no doubt that was his plan). Then we were forced into uncomfortably stiff, but I had to admit, beautiful gowns, and powdered and painted like dolls. The worst part though, was the hair dressing. Two girls worked on my hair. They pulled, poked, curled, and forced my hair into an elaborate style more fit for a ball than a stuffy political meeting.

        Poor Anna had it worse, though. As the princess, her appearance had to be even fancier.

        When we were styled, painted, and dressed, we were bedecked with jewels and tiaras, and sent on our way.

        I don't know if you've ever worn a tiara, but I promise you, they're sparkly but they are not built for comfort. Cold metal presses into your scalp while combs stab at you and yank out chunks of your hair if you bump the dumb thing even the tiniest bit! I've been told countless times that beauty is worth the pain. Yeah right.

        We were taken by carriage to the Council's assembly hall, south of the castle, nearly on the other side of the city. The hall was a very imposing building, made of white marble like a lot of the older parts of the city. Its looming columns and arches easily dwarfed us as we entered.

        The meeting was just as boring as I'd remembered. A hundred or two of the kingdom's noblemen and women were appointed to the council. Unless there was a critical vote or issue, it was usually attended by only half the members because of travel time and distance.

        Five men and women presided over the Council of Magistrates. Sir Rupert, Lady Elena's husband (and Genevieve's father) was one of them.

        Seating was arranged in a semi-circle, raised in tiers with the head of the Council above the rest and to the center, and royal seating just above them.

        The council voted on matters, the king (or queen) voted in agreement or disagreement. If agreed, then the vote passed; when there was a royal vote against the matter, it was returned to the Council for reconsideration. If the Council voted in favor three times, then the royal vote was overruled.

        There was, however, a balance to this. The king or queen (depending on who ruled at the time) could propose a vote themselves. As with council approved matters, if a vote passed, it was settled, if not, it was reconsidered three times before the denial was final.

        What made it all so tedious was that each proposal was usually considered, or reconsidered, for anywhere from a week to several months before it could be voted on.

        Thankfully, we'd been away from home long enough that they were actually arguing over a new topic this time, but it was still really boring and painful sitting there in a tight corset, uncomfortably fashionable shoes, and being stabbed all over my head with hair pins!

        I tried really hard to pay attention because Father always talked to us about the meeting afterwards. Somehow, from just sitting and watching politicians squawk at each other, we were supposed to be able to pick up on all sorts of weird subtleties which were beyond me. How was I supposed to be able to tell that two magistrates were in league with each other just because of how one sent a quick look or gesture, facial expression, or even by how they sat in their chair???

        I did a little bit better than usual, picking up the supposedly obvious time that Lord Fontaine shifted in his seat when Lady Olette said something.

        Father didn't judge me too harshly since I was "out of practice" but he must not have realized that it would only get worse the more often I was forced to attend. The more familiar the people, topic, and surroundings, the more boring it got. Politics just wasn't my talent.


        More coming soon! Read Chapter 10 here or more about my projects here.
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